Rainbow Mountain 3x 52PC / DS / RS
Rainbow Wall 2x P500 LVMC / RS
Terrace Canyon Peak 2x 52PC / RS

Feb 17, 2018

With: Tom Becht
Scott Barnes
Matt Yaussi
Chris Henry
Jonathan Mason
Zach Moon
Adam Walker
Dustin Wittmier

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Rainbow Mountain previously climbed Mar 11, 2016
Rainbow Mountain later climbed Feb 17, 2020
Rainbow Wall previously climbed Nov 23, 2009
Rainbow Wall later climbed Feb 17, 2020
Terrace Canyon Peak previously climbed Mar 23, 2016


There is some confusion with the naming of Rainbow Mtn. The 52Peak Club and PB both call this summit "Rainbow Peak", while the USGS, LoJ and Purcell in Rambles & Scrambles prefer "Rainbow Mtn." I chose the latter designation. Further, there is another point west of Rainbow Peak that PB refers to as Rainbow Mtn, though it has little prominence. And so it goes.

We were in the Las Vegas area with plans to do some scrambling in the Valley of Fire east of town as well as some in Red Rocks on the west side of town. My interest in Red Rocks was to do the Cleaver Crack route on Mt. Wilson, something that had eluded me on my first effort a few years earlier. The second day was going to be a reclimb of the SE Route (aka, The Best Route Ever) on Rainbow Mtn which Tom was keen to do since he had missed out when I'd joined Courtney Purcell two years earlier. Our group of five had grown to a group of ten over the past few days and with Iris missing out due to Chinese New Year (which she had somehow forgotten about), we had nine when we started out from the Oak Creek TH off Scenic Rd soon after 7a, a large but capable group of scramblers.

We were hiking maybe 20min, having nearly completed the trailwork to get from the parking lot to the creek when Tom suggested maybe we could do The Best Route Ever today instead of Cleaver Crack. We'd been talking about the expected change of weather coming the next day with exceedingly high winds, and Tom really didn't want to miss the opportunity to do the Rainbow Mtn route a second time. I stopped the train and suggested we take a vote, though with little discussion beforehand, only some of us even knew what the differences were. Adam and Dustin had joined us for Cleaver Crack without even knowing what our plans were for the following day and were caught by surprise. A first vote was 3-2 in favor of continuing to Cleaver Crack, with a healthy number of us, myself included, abstaining. More discussion regarding the weather and the route choices had the vote change in favor of The Best Route Ever. It wasn't the best strategy-planning method, but it worked. We carried two 30m ropes with us along with a selection of harnesses, helmets and some slings & carabiners - enough, I felt, to get our party up the harder route we had now switched to. I had GPX tracks for both, so figured we could do either today. Off we went.

When they asked me where the Rainbow route started I pointed vaguely to the SE Face and waved my hand, "Somewhere up there." My strategy was pretty simple - look for ducks and follow the GPX track as needed. In the steep terrain the route goes through, the GPX track had gotten a little chaotic - not a true representation of the route, but I figured we could make it work if the ducks proved ambiguous or non-existent. Our conga line headed up from the trail soon after the second vote was taken, laughing and amusing ourselves and each other pretty much the whole day - this was a fun bunch of skilled scramblers so I wasn't worried much. We found the start of the scrambling marked by ducks and headed up the more technical stuff just after 8a. We would spend the next four hours making our way to the summit of this very enjoyable route. As hoped, the ducks were enough to guide us, though we periodically resorted to the GPX track when we saw the ducks branching. These were various options on the route, inevitably reconnecting higher up, but it didn't hurt to be a little cautious in checking. There were more than a dozen handlines encountered enroute - some thin steel cables, others actual ropes, none particularly reassuring. Talking with Dustin up in the front of the pack while we were searching for ducks, I came to find that he's working on making a career of mountain guiding and had already spent the previous summer working for RMI on Mt. Rainier. "Oh good! You're in charge then!" I joked in trying to remove myself from any sort of responsibility. This was the first time any of us had met Adam and Dustin, the pair joining us at the last minute via an email exchange I'd had with Adam. Dustin proved immensely capable, helpful and great fun, too. In a few sections, a couple of our party asked for a belay which Dustin managed with considerable skill and rather graciously. At the crux, a near-vertical, narrow chimney, we had to haul our packs up separately. Dustin was key in getting everything through in an efficient manner, directing operations from below while Tom hauled the packs from above before passing them to Scott and I nearby. Getting nine folks up such a complicated route could have easily taken hours longer. I was greatly pleased with the group as a whole. Often finding multiple ways around obstacles, they were a fairly confident and skilled bunch that made the scramble great fun.

With all of us atop Rainbow Mtn by noon, we lolled around for about 20min, signing the register, having lunch and even posing for a group shot. With so much daylight remaining, we decided rather than taking the quicker descent off the east side of Rainbow Mtn, we'd extend the outing by visiting the higher Rainbow Wall as a bonus. There was some discussion as to whether we'd get back to the cars before the 5:30p closing time for the Scenic Loop. Dustin seemed the most concerned while I was at the opposite end, poo-poohing any suggestion that we'd get back late. After much back and forth, we agreed that calling in to the ranger station to report a late exit (perfectly allowed per the park rules, as long as you call in before 4p) was a safe bet and Dustin dutifully took care to report all three vehicles. The scramble to Rainbow Wall is a much tamer affair than the Best Route Ever, easy class 3 for the most part, with some moderate route-finding to be had. We spent just about an hour traversing between the two along the enjoyable, connecting ridgeline. We went up and over the PB-designated Rainbow Mtn, finding no register and not giving it much love or attention. The more interesting feature, I thought, was the dark-colored rock mass between PB's Rainbow Mtn and Rainbow Wall. I recalled climbing atop this with Matthew years ago when we were traveling the other direction, finding ourselves cliffed out and having to retrace our steps around the east side of the feature. As we approached it, I studied the side that had stymied us, wondering if there was a way up that had eluded us. Indeed, there was, in the form of a narrow ramp rising up through the cliff on the east side. It was a bit sketchy in one particular place but it worked, well-enough so that it enticed both Dustin and Scott to follow me. The ramp ends just below the summit mesa but it was an easy climb out from that point. Concerned that we might not be able to climb off it, Dustin ran ahead to check out the descent off the NW side. I didn't have the heart to tell him I already knew it would go and nstead turned to take a few more pics of Scott as he was exiting. Dustin had a smile and thumbs-up for us when Scott and I joined him a few minutes later - the NW side is a walk off. The others, with the exception of Matt who had paused to video Dustin and Scott from below on the ascent, were all well ahead of us on their way to Rainbow Wall and we hurried to catch them.

While we were hanging out on the summit of Rainbow Wall I began to think about our options to get down. The easiest route is to head west and descend the Oak Creek drainage from its head, class 2-3, the same route I'd used with Matthew when we first ascended Rainbow Wall. I wondered if there wasn't a rappel route that we could use to get off Rainbow Wall to the north to reach Gunsight Peak, visible on that side if one walks a short ways down from the summit. Tom reminded me that the rappel I had in mind was between Gunsight Peak and Ramp Peak further north, a route the two of us had used in 2016. Rats. I wandered down the north and northwest sides of Rainbow Wall to see if there was a scrambling route to be found, but it seemed mostly cliffs wherever I looked and I soon gave up that idea. After signing the busy register, we gathered our stuff and headed off the west side of Rainbow Wall in the direction of Oak Creek.

As we were about to drop into the Oak Creek drainage along the trail we had picked up after exiting the sandstone ridgeline, I paused the group as another option came to me. Only half a mile to the northwest lay Terrace Canyon Peak. Tom had not visited that one from the 52Peak Club list and was eager to pick up another bonus. As it wasn't yet 2p, it seemed we had lots of daylight and the extra peak would only add about half an hour's time. Everyone was game and off we went, going over the saddle between the Oak Creek and Pine Creek drainages, then along a sort-of use trail to Terrace Canyon Peak, almost a level traverse from the saddle with no significant elevation gain or loss. After reaching the summit I spied a few duck heading off the NE side of Terrace Canyon Peak and remembered a fun class 3-4 scrambling route that Patrick and I had used on that first visit two years earlier. "Anyone up for returning this way?" I asked after we'd signed into the register. Now 2:15p, doubt crept into the collective mind of the group. There were a few that had had enough but didn't want to exactly admit so, or perhaps just didn't like the prospect of descending the easier route down Oak Creek alone. Once someone announced they planned to take the easier route, there was a cascade of others expressing relief and agreeing to join him. In the end, there was only Scott, Tom, Matt and myself eager to do the descent down into Pine Creek and return via the longer route.

And so the four of us headed off with about 3hrs of daylight remaining. Easily enough to get off the difficulties and down to Pine Creek, maybe not enough to get back to the cars. I was happy to have let Dustin talk us into reporting the late exit to the rangers. The route is great fun, with sustained class 3 scrambling that ventures into some class 4 territory, particularly near the top where an exposed face must be descended. There is a cool, exposed ledge that cuts across a cliff face in the middle of the route and a tricky crack to be downclimbed near the end. The top of this crack has the only handline on the route - Scott attempted an old-school rap with it, wrapping it around his back and leg but mostly making it look more dangerous than it is. Below the handline, the crack drops through a chockstone that makes for a tight squeeze with a very reachy bottom to fall into - not all that dangerous, but it provided a great deal of laughter and chiding as we watched each other work through it. A little less than two hours saw us to the bottom of the route and down to the bottom of the Pine Creek drainage. We still had another hour to negotiate the boulder scramble that is Pine Creek, then a last half hour to return to the vehicles at the Oak Creek TH. The sun had set before we'd found our way to the trail system that would take us back to the TH, though there was still plenty of light to see by. With Matt out in front and myself in the middle, I happened to look back to see Tom and Scott behind me with their headlamps on, though obviously unneeded. I forgot to comment on this upon our return, much to their dismay, since they had only done it for my benefit. Some months earlier I had heckled Iris for using her headlamp unnecessarily on a Death Valley hike and they had not forgotten it. I'm happy to be able to provide so much easy amusement to my friends. And with that, another successful day in Red Rocks was in the bag...

Matt's Video


comments on 12/23/18:
The scramble route down to Gunsight Notch starts from the west side of the white-topped bump just south of Rainbow Wall. By ascending and descending to the east of the bump, you missed the turnoff to this route, which is easy class 3.
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