The Woman of Mountain Dreams, Red Rocks

May 3rd, 2008 / 5.11a, 16p, mixed (mostly trad with bolted crux pitch).

After two weeks climbing at Red Rocks, we feel motivated to tackle a long route again. During our last bus trip, we had climbed the longest route on Mt Wilson, Resolution Arete. We had also taken a good look at another striking line on the Aeolian wall to the right. "The Woman of Moutain Dreams", takes a tremendous plumb line straight up the very middle of the Aeolian Wall, right to the very summit of Mt Wilson.

We've been resting the last two days and the forecast looks good for tomorrow: not too cold, not too hot and not too windy. We decide to give it a go.

The next day, we're up at 2:45AM for the usual routine: force down some breakfast, get dressed and sunscreened, recheck the gear and leave. After a quick drive to the trailhead at the old Oak Creek campground, we start hiking at 4:00AM. It's a long level hike down the old dirt road to the Wilson Pimple. Right after the dirt turns red and the trail crests the minor saddle between Mt Wilson and the Wislon Pimple, you take a left on cairned trails in red dirt, straight up the hillside. In the dark, we miss the turn by a hundred meters or so, and backtrack a little. No big deal. It's been a while since we were here last. The trail toward the rock bands is steep. Once level with the top of the first rock band and just under some dark red towers, we traverse sharp left, then diagonal up again to the entrance of the White Rot gully. A few hundred feet of scrambling (up to cl4) lead to the top of this gully and a short drop left into the main drainage. Then more scrambling and dense brush before we gain the base of Resolution Arete and Inti Watana. We've been on the move for an hour and a half when we pass this point. Both Lucie and I hear strange noises at least a couple of times coming from the vicinity of the ledge at the base of Resolution… a few minutes later, as we are making our way to the saddle at top of the gully, we see two climbers emerge on the ledge. They have apparently bivied there last night. We're not worried; our route of the day is not very popular.

A few minutes later, we reach the col and descend a short distance down the other side. We continue traversing along the base of the wall, then ascend a low angle groove in red rock which leads toward an obvious large pine tree on a ledge above. We reach the ledge and the base of the climb just past 6AM.

It felt pretty warm on the approach. Fairly dense clouds have kept us wondering but now appear to be dissipating. It's cool once we stop moving. We take a short break, eat some food (bagels with cream cheese and of course, GU), then rack up and get ready to go. I am carrying my small Mountain Tools pack with my approach shoes, a headlamp, a quart of water, and odds and ends. Lucie carries the same, plus some bread and salami, 20 GUs and 4 quarts of water! It's heavy, but we think we'll need it. We start climbing around 7AM.

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"The Woman of Mountain Dreams" follows an awesome line straight up the Aeolian Wall straight to the summit of Red Rocks' highest formation: Mt Wilson.
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On the approach hike before dawn.
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Scrambling up the low angle red rock band leading to the huge ledge with the pine tree and the start of the technical climbing.
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Getting ready at the base of the route.
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Dense morning clouds have been worrying us on the approach.

The initial 3 pitches of the route go up the right side of a huge buttress, following wide grooves and cracks. Cannot say it looks too good from here. The first pitch is pretty ugly, up flared grooves (not a ton of gear), and ends at an ancient looking anchor (three old bolts; two rusty ¼" and a better looking 3/8"). I sure hope the bolts are better higher up…

The second and third pitches are of slightly better quality, but somewhat runout, and in the same sort of awkward grooves. A crux move around a small ceiling in the third pitch gives it its 5.9+ rating. That pitch ends on a large terrace at the top of the buttress.

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Eric starting the awkward first pitch (5.8).
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Looking down toward the base of the route and the huge pine tree.
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The second pitch (5.8) is a little better but still follows an awkward groove in white rock
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At the belay atop the second pitch.
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Just below the small ceiling of pitch 3 (5.9+).

The sun is now shining, providing some warmth. We take the Puff Ball sweaters off, and enjoy a short break and some more food. The next pitch is the crux. The face above looks quite thin and steep. More worrisome: the first bolt looks extremely rusty…! A few more bolts are visible above. Some look OK, others a bit questionable. Oh well, we came this far…

Ready to go, I give the water bottle I was carrying to Lucie (I am a chicken!) and she moves the belay to the bolted anchor at the base of the steep wall. I am able to pre-clip the first bolt by standing in a sling clipped into one of the anchor bolts; this is not the place to risk a ground fall. It's rusty, but at least it's a 3/8" bolt. Back down and ready to go, with the safety (relative) of a top-rope on the crux of the pitch: moving off the ledge and up to the first bolt. A couple of quick thin moves of tiny edges and I'm past that bolt. The rest of the pitch brings unrelenting thin edging and some smearing past 12 bolts to a hanging belay about 10' below the bottom of a shallow, arching, right facing dihedral. Lucie follows. Her heavy pack is not making things any easier. She needs a couple of tries before making the first moves but makes it just fine at the end.

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Taking a break in the sun at the top of the buttress before tackling the steep wall.
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The bolted anchor at the base of the crux pitch.
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Eric starting the crux pitch (p4, 5.11a).
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Well-protected thin edging and smearing leads to a bolted anchor just below the shallow arch/dihedral.
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Views.

The next pitch (10a) goes up past 5 bolts into the beginning of the right-facing corner, then steps left and climbs a slightly runout face past one more bolt, and to a bolted anchor in a scoop below the two huge chimneys that frame the Aeolian wall above.

Lucie comes up and continues up the short 4th class pitch (p6) that leads from here to a tree on the large ledge at the base of the steep upper wall.

Two steep face and thin-crack pitches (p7 and 8, 5.10a and a 5.9, although the 5.9 felt sandbagged to both of us) with only adequate protection lead straight up the wall.

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Starting pitch 5 (5.10a).
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On the runout face above the shallow right-facing corner.
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Lucie following pitch 7 (5.10a)...
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...and pitch 8 (5.9).
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Reaching the belay atop pitch 8.

The next pitch (p9) is really good fun; it joins a long, gorgeous crack (hands and smaller).

Pitch 10 (also 5.9) is nothing special. The book makes it sound loose and dirty; it is not. You don't actually climb the wide flare, but the face just to its left, on OK rock.

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Starting pitch 9 (5.9), a fun pitch.
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Higher on pitch 9.
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GU'ing up to keep the energy flowing.
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Starting pitch 10 (5.9).
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Stepping left into the left wide flare.

At this point, you are looking straight up at a clean-cut corner in smooth orange rock with what appears to be a wide hands crack. Surprizingly, the route does not go up that corner, but around the right to a face. This seems strange until you check out the corner crack from closer and find it to be wider than fist… The face is much easier, but really scary. This is the point in the climb where rock quality starts deteriorating very quickly.

The rest of the route is mostly on scary, brittle faces with only just enough reliable pro. On this pitch (#11), there is a severe (dangerous because of a ledge below) runout on a face while taking a detour to the left, near the top of a shallow dihedral.

Pitches 12 to 14 are unpleasantly loose and/or brittle. The traverse on p13 has one commiting 5.10a move to reach a bolt. That move is unprotected off the belay, unless one drapes the rope over the chickenhead which is also the hand hold for the move.

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View from the belay atop pitch 10, looking at the inviting clean-cut corner (the route avoids it to the right).
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Climbing the face right of the corner (p11, scary 5.8).
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On the loose 5.9 corner of pitch 12.
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All smiles at the belay atop pitch 12.
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Eric on the committing 5.10a move to reach the bolt (p13, 5.10a).

Pitch 14 heads up the obvious and very loose corner to the pine tree above. It's now just before 5PM. We take another well deserved break on the big ledge and have a late lunch (or early dinner?): bread and salami. Best salami we ever had!

From there, it takes us another 30-40 minutes to reach the summit. We short-rope and simul-climb the last two pitches. From the tree at the end of p14, head up the obvious through straight above, THEN (not at first, as suggested in Handren's new guidebook) climb a crack to another large pine tree on the arete to the right (~120'). From here, follow steps up the arete (scrambling with at least one 5.8 move) to a flat area with another pine (190').

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Completing the airy traverse after clipping the bolt.
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Views toward Calico Basin.
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The very loose 5.8 corner of pitch 14.
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Views of the Solar Slab from high on Mt Wilson.
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Taking a break at the pine tree.

A final 10' step (5.6) in red rock deposits you on the summit cairn.

We reach the top at 5:50PM. Slightly behind schedule. We found it hard to move very fast on this climb; the crux pitches are brainy face climbing, requiring some time to figure out, and the upper 4 or 5 pitches are so brittle that they require careful, deliberate climbing.

We find a summit register! Strange because on our first time on the summit, four years ago, we looked everywhere and couldn't find one. We take a 40 minutes break on the summit. It would be nice to stay longer but there is no time to loose. We have about 90 minutes of daylight left, and would rather be in the First Creek drainage proper before dark to minimize the chances of a routefinding error.

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The Horseshoe Wall (E Face) seen from the summit.
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Yes, we're at the summit.
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Signing the summit register.
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View of Las Vegas from the summit of Mt Wison.
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Summit shot.

We quickly hike back and left to reach the small saddle of red dirt that separates the First and Oak creek drainages. From here, we follow the fairly obvious way and some trails down to the head of the drainage. A trickle of water is still running in the drainage. We refill our water bottles (treating them with iodine). We have been completely out of water since we left the summit, and can expect another 3 hours of thrashing down the drainage…

The way down the drainage is just like we remembered it: interminable! It takes hours to scramble up, over, around, and even under boulders of all sizes for miles.

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Looking toward the small red saddle that separates the First and Oak Creek drainage.
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Red cactus flowers.
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A herd of wild antelopes.
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Going under boulders on our way down the interminable drainage while listening to singing frogs.
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A rock straight out of "Alice in Wonderland".

Eventually, we reach the trail, walk past the Lotta Balls area, and continue to highway 159. Unfortunately, the Jeep is at the Oak Creek pullout, another 0.5 mile up the road. We finally reach it around 10:30PM, after 4 hours of descent! We get back to the bus at 11PM, throw a frozen pizza in the oven and call it a day.

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Flowers on the hike back in First Spring Canyon.
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Back at the car after 18 and 1/2 hours on the move.
     

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