This is one of the best known easier classics at Red Rocks. Somehow, in all our climbing trips to RR, we never got around to climbing it. This year, Lucie wanted to lead longer moderates, so we decided to do it.

The traditional approach to Solar Slabs involves climbing and scrambling up the Solar Slab Gully (5.3). We opted instead to combine Solar Slab with a 5.7 "approach" route called Johnny Vegas, a very enjoyable technical alternative. Combining these two routes makes for a 13 pitch adventure, followed by the notoriously long gully descent to the right of the route.

The first part of the combo - Johnny Vegas - starts just left of the Solar Slab gully, on fun steep cracks and faces, and reaches the huge ledge at the base of the Solar Slab route in 5 pitches. I would highly recommend that option. Another popular choice is to climb Beulah's Book to the ledge.

As the name does not indicate, Solar Slab follows a series of disconnected cracks and corners to the red rock band at the top of the buttress. The climbing is enjoyable and varied on excellent rock, and consistently in the 5.5 to 5.6 range. To our surprise, most belay stations are bolted. Above the 7th pitch, the angle mellows considerably. After a last corner pitch (#9), several hundreds of feet of class 3 scrambling in the red band lead to the top of the buttress.

There are several options for the descent (although some of those imply not completing the climb to the top). We opted for the traditional option, which consists of dropping into the steep, huge gully system to the right (SE) of the climb. We had already done this descent a few years earlier after climbing the Black Orpheus, an excellent 5.9+ located a bit deeper into Oak Creek Canyon. The gully is an adventure in itself, with never ending scrambling and downclimbing past various obstacles, and a number of rappels down narrow dripping chimneys. This made for a fairly long day. We got back to our packs a half hour before sunset (5PM or so).

Johnny Vegas & Solar Slab

March 3, 2003 - 5.7 PG, 13 pitches total, trad.
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The climbs follow a series of cracks and dihedrals.
 
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Morning light on Mt Wilson.
 
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First pitch of Johnny Vegas.
 
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First pitch of Johnny Vegas.
 
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Dihedral at start of the second pitch.
 
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Johnny Vegas, pitch 2.
 
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Johnny Vegas, pitch 3.
 
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The first pitch of Solar Slab (the only one with actual slab climbing).
 
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Solar Slab, pitch 1.
 
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Solar Slab, pitch 2.
 
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Solar Slab, pitch 3.
 
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Solar Slab, pitch 4.
 
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Solar Slab, pitch 5.
 
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The last technical section, pitch 9.
 
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Back to the packs after a long day.
(high res. images are about 300KB)