This year Jess and I went down for a few days of climbing to kick off my trip. Amongst other routes, we climbed Burlesque in Icebox Canyon. I have rapped down this four pitch route on every time I've guided Frigid Air Buttress, as it's part of the standard descent. The massive flake on pitch three has been something I've wanted to climb ever since I first rapped past it.
It was a rather windy Saturday when we left the truck, but the winds abated as we got into the amphitheater below the route, and we didn't have to worry about the crowds on an old fashioned route known for it's wide climbing. The route itself was a fun adventure. Pitch two featured some fun crack climbing on great varnish, and the flake didn't disappoint. It starts as an offwidth and widens to a comfy squeeze chimney. The belay has great views down into the chimney. All in all a good route for any crack climbing aficionado or connoisseur of Red Rocks trad.
Then Jess took off and I had a fun week of guiding that included The Rendezvous. It was while driving to the event one morning a number of years ago that I first noticed the Blue Diamond Ridge. Morning light accentuates this line on Mount Wilson; as the sun makes its way across the sky it blends in with the Basin Wall behind. There's not a ton of beta out there on this route but everyone I spoke to talked about the Equalizer pitch, a notorious 5.9 lead where the only pro is two cams that are equalized part way up.
This event always brings a lot of my colleagues to the area, and every year that route comes up in conversation. It always goes something like, "Hey I'm looking for a partner for Blue Diamond Ridge...but you've got to lead the Equalizer pitch". I may have even been guilty of uttering those words myself. Over the years I've learned that some legendary pitches aren't all they're cracked up to be and I started wondering if the Equalizer was really that bad. This year I talked to my colleague Chad about the route and when I asked him if he was interested, I made sure to mention that I would be happy to lead the Equalizer. He was interested, and also was interested in leading the famous pitch. We decided that we would take the route as it came and whoever happened to be in front would take that lead.
|Almost done with the approach.|
I found some beta written by the first ascensionist at rockclimbing.com. He mentioned a "40' splitter crack" marking the start of the route. Above us was 4th and low 5th class climbing with no splitter in sight. We put on rock shoes and got out the rack, but left the rope coiled and resumed scrambling. We spent the next couple hundred feet climbing easy terrain on the left side of the ridge, but looking for straightforward spots that would put us back on the crest. Before long we found ourselves at the base of an excellent handcrack in a corner just left of the ridge crest. Whether on route or not, there was no way we weren't going to climb this thing! So we roped up and sent it.
|Chad on a fun tight-hands crack part way up the ridge.|
|Getting fired up just before the tower.|
|Chad nearing the end of the Equalizer.|
Blue Diamond Ridge is a great route, but it's not typical Red Rocks fare. It feels a lot more like an alpine rock climb than say, Resolution Arete (also on Mount Wilson). The route felt fairly casual to Chad and I because we're both very comfortable climbing on 5.9 terrain and both have a lot of alpine climbing experience. We have a lot of experience routefinding on 3rd to low 5th class terrain and managing loose rock, which abounds on the route, particularly in the easier sections. Parties with appropriate skill and experience will find this is a really fun and rewarding route and shouldn't be intimidated by its reputation.