TR: Eagle Dance, Red Rocks National Monument

TR: Eagle Dance, Red Rocks National Monument

Post by Sam Linzel » Sat, 26 Apr 1997 04:00:00

This is a report on a climb I did in March.  I tried to post it
before, but I don't think it ever made it.  My apologies if this
is a repeat post.

                          Eagle Dance (5.10 A1)
             Red Rocks National Monument, March 1997

  The alarm rang at 4:30; another early start.  Eagle Dance.  This one
has been on my mind for a year since my first trip to Red Rocks with
Jeff McCoy.  I think it was the position that most attracted me to this
climb.  The position and the length; 7 pitches.  Eagle Dance is in the
back of Oak Creek;  way back there. On the same wall as Levitation 29,
Eagle Dance goes through the neck of the eagle image on the wall while
Levitation 29 goes through the tail-feathers.  Brooke and I had racked
the night before so all that was needed to be ready were the morning
ablutions and breakfast.  Since we were going to be in the sun all day,
we brought a big tube of suntan lotion and extra water.  I figured we'd
easily drink one quart each on the climb and want another quart for the
walk out.  Brooke concurred and I packed 4 quarts of Gatorade in the
pack... well... I threw in another quart at the last moment; heck I was
carrying all the water anyway.  That done, we were on the trail at 5:30.

  We followed the obvious trail from Oak Creek Campground, our
home for the week, past Wilson's Pimple and into the Oak Creek bed.
Shortly after entering the creek bed, we picked up a trail of ***.
a few spots here and there, but a distinct trail nonetheless.  A little
unsettling.  Endless boulder-hopping led us past Solar Slab and past
Black Orpheus.  Still we followed the ***-trail.  It felt like we were
following in the footsteps of someone else's epic; the "***y guy".  I
don't know whether he (or she) was being carried out on a stretcher or
under his own power, but the *** trail continued deep into the
canyon; we lost it beyond the Black Orpheus descent ramps.  I paused
to identify the ramp system that Jeff and I had taken last year on our
descent from Black Orpheus.  "Was it this ramp, or that?  Did we rap
off of that shrub?"  Is this the spot where Jeff and I shared the orange
after finally reaching the creek bed?

  Suddenly I felt liquid running down my back.  Shit! The water!  I
stripped off my backpack as though it were on fire and rifled through it
for the water to try to save as much as possible. It was only the
bottle that Brooke and I had been hitting off during the approach. It
looked like I didn't***the cap on right.  Oh well, not much of a
We had a good laugh and I finished the approach with Gatorade-soaked
back and pants.

  Brooke and I started looking for the Eagle.  I was looking far too low
on the canyon walls.  Brooke shouted "There!" and I followed his
pointing hand high up on the wall, higher than the summit of Black
Orpheus.  My heart sank; we had so far to go.  The feeling of isolation
was setting in.  We hadn't seen or heard another soul since we left the
campground.  We were ascending deep into the canyon.  We were truly
on our own here.  To relieve the pressure, we reiterated to each other
that we could bail at any time.  We had brought two ropes and intended
to climb with them both so that we would have the option to bail if we
needed to.  The route could be rapped from the top of the second to last
pitch or walked off.  We would investigate the walk-off when we got
nearer to the climb.

  Further up the canyon, some water appeared in the creek bed and we
skirted it on water polished slabs on either side.  We started ascending
the north side of the canyon a little too soon, but realized our error
descended back into the creek bed and continued up.  Eventually, the
bed opened up and a clearly defined slabby ramp system (near two
large pine trees) led back and up the north side to the base of the
This is some very interesting terrain;  low-angled slabs which offer a
clear view of the climb.  Ahead, we saw two climbers; the first all day.
Well, maybe we wouldn't be the first on the route.  We looked up the
canyon to get a handle on the walk-off descent.  The upper part of Oak
Creek looked steep and choked.  It wasn't clear at all how difficult the
descent would be.  We made the decision to rap the route.  Later on,
from the route, we would see that the descent wasn't nearly as awful as
it looked from below.  OK, so when we come back to do Levitation 29,
we'll top out and do the walk-off.

  As we neared the base, we could see that the other party was headed
for Levitation 29.  That was fortunate.  We could enjoy the climb to
ourselves and yet the feeling of isolation had been broken.  I think
Brooke and I both were a little relieved to have some company back
there.  We chatted briefly with the other party as we readied to climb.
We had figured the approach would take 2 hours, as stated in Swain's
"Red Rocks Select".  We were wrong.  Either Swain is fast, or we were
just slow.  Either way, we had reached the bottom of the route at 8:30.
We flaked the ropes and I racked.  The plan was for me to lead the odd
pitches so that Brooke could do the A1 pitch.

  So, at about 8:45, I was off on the first pitch.  This goes up a
open book to a left-leaning crack that leads up to the top of a pillar.
Feeling a little intimidated at first, I over-protected the pitch and
very cautiously.  The first pitch in the morning is always the hardest
me.  It's a combination of physically warming up and getting my head
together.  I reached the top of the pillar in a 60 meter rope-stretching
pitch.  I clipped the bolt anchors (the first six belay stations had one
inch and one 3/8 inch bolt; the 7th belay is one 1/4 incher and a slung
chockstone).  At this point, we were even with the second belay of L29.
I felt grand.  The view was fantastic, the pitch had been great and I
started to feel really on.  Brooke followed and commented that the pitch
had been a little stiff for its 5.8 rating; morning jitters just like

  A quick re-rack and Brooke was off on the second pitch.  He started
with some delicate face and friction climbing past a couple of bolts to
left-slanting seam that took nice nuts.  In short order Brooke was at
belay and I was working my way up the interesting friction climbing off
of the belay.  I thought this pitch was the trickiest face climbing of
route.  The initial friction moves were thoughtful and fun.  The third
pitch goes through the eagle's neck.   I noticed the color change of the
rock from light to red-brown that must indicate that I was passing
through the eagle and so I stopped to try to make out it's features.
must be it's eye over there.... that must be the start of the wings.
wild!  I imagined myself in the campsite looking up the valley and
seeing the eagle and now here I was. Another pitch of face climbing
brought us to the top of pitch 4.  We looked up Oak Creek Canyon to
check out the walk-off descent.  From here we could see it clearly and
didn't look too bad.  Oh well, we'd already made the decision to rap
and had left our shoes at the base, so we were committed.

   The next pitch was a short (50-60 feet) strange corner which led up
the belay before the aid pitch.  It was obvious that this pitch could be
combined with pitch 6 (the aid pitch).  Brooke and I discussed it but
decided against it so that he could get the aid pitch and I could lead
5.10 seventh pitch.  I made quick work of the corner and Brooke was
soon setting up his aiders and daisies for the aid pitch.  I readied the
camera and settled in for the belay.  Some poorly protected
climbing led up to the first bolt and Brooke gladly clipped it and began
the process of aiding up the bolt ladder which led over a bulge to the
belay anchors above.  I snapped some pictures as Brooke stepped from
bolt to bolt.  I didn't bring my aiders so I seconded it by fashioning a
pair of "aiders" that consisted of one 48" runner and one 24" runner
clipped together; a two-step aider.  I leap-frogged this pair from bolt
bolt clipping into my harness and taking tension when it helped.  Pretty

  The next pitch, the seventh, started right off with a tough crack.
Brooke had clipped his aiders into the belay anchor, so to get started,
topstepped and placed a small cam from the aiders.  The jams and feet
seemed strange and I couldn't figure out how to make the transition to
free climbing.  A fall here would have landed me squarely on Brooke's
head so I pulled on the piece and clipped into the bolt above.  From
there, I was able to go free by stemming out on some edges and
jamming in a thin hands crack.  Moving up was tough.  I used opposing
hand jams to move my feet up and continued a series of strenuous
moves with good protection to a ledge above with a pair of bolts and
slingage.  Was this the end of the pitch?  Hardly 100 feet as indicated
by Swain.  I looked up at the crack above and it looked well protected
by gear and bolts.  I called down to Brooke that I was going to continue
up and started into the crack.  This was a strange crack, more of a
shallow groove in some places.  When the groove offered no natural
protection, there were bolts and in between natural gear protected it
well.  I found this part to be a little less strenuous than the moves
off of
the belay but continuous and tricky. Part way up, Brooke warned that
I'd passed the half-way point and wondered if I could see the rappel
anchors above, I shouted down that I couldn't see the anchors but I was
going to continue up and we'd rap off gear if we needed to.  This
climbing was too good to be missed.  There were many tenuous moves
where my hands were pulling on edges and my feet were smearing on
opposite walls of the groove.  I reached the belay anchor (one 1/4" bolt
and a slung chockstone) after using all (started with 18) of my runners
to protect the pitch.  Brooke left the pack at the belay and climbed up
me wearing the rope on his back (the second had  been trailing it for
other pitches) to keep it from snagging in the crack at the initial part
the pitch.  This got in his way a bit and he finished the pitch dry-
mouthed from the effort, just like I had been.

  The final pitch to the summit loomed above.  It looked attractive but
not as good as the pitches we'd led and although we'd have preferred to
top out and do all of the climbing, we'd already made the decision to
rap from here.  According to Swain, this was the last set of fixed
anchors.  We rapped with two 60 meter ropes and were able to descend
using only 5 raps, the last one landing us 15 feet off the ground with
some easy down climbing.  We finished off our water, ate a snack and
enjoyed the view and the feeling of accomplishment from doing this
great climb.  At 4:45 we started the descent and reached the
campground at 7:30.  It was an amazing climb and another no-
headlamps day!