Solar Slab, 5.7
Trad, 13 pitches, 1220′, Grade III
Red Rocks Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada
What makes the desert beautiful, is that somewhere it hides a well
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
On October 14th, 2017 my friend Graham and I climbed Solar Slab via the Johnny Vegas starting variation. Graham had never been on this route while this was my second time attempting Solar Slab. Last December, my friend Jesse and I had attempted the same route but had to turn around due to a multitude of reasons. Jesse and I had a late start and we were stuck behind a slow party of three. So in the end, we climbed till our turnaround time and then started to rappel down. We had a fun time climbing but we were leaving the climb unfinished.I have never liked leaving things unfinished, so I had to come back to complete this climb.
Hiking in to Solar Slab with Mt Wilson in the background
For my second attempt, I was able to incorporate a few efficient multi-pitch climbing practices that I had missed last time. I printed and laminated the route topo, which I then ended up clipping to my harness. This lets you take a quick look at the route whenever you chose to do so. I had also brought along a set of walkie talkies for better communication on longer pitches and if it became windy. This was very beneficial when we did decide to link a few pitches. We also made this attempt earlier in the year with more daylight available compared to last time when it was done in December.
Graham hiking in and Solar Slab is partly visible on the right
A look at Rainbow mountain and Solar Slab towards the left of the mountain
My car was one of the first cars at the park entrance and at the trailhead! Once at the trailhead we quickly hiked to the base of the route. We started from the trailhead just a few minutes past 7 am and reached the base of the route at about 8 am. We were the second party on the route but the people ahead of us seemed to be simul-climbing the whole route and had already gone past the first two pitches of Johnny Vegas. We never saw or heard from them again, effectively making us the first party and no one ahead of us to slow us down. We decided to start via the Johnny Vegas starting variation. Graham and I swung leads throughout the climb by 10:30 am we were already at the base of Solar Slab. In this way, we climbed the first 4 pitches in less than two and half hours.
Graham and I on the second belay station while climbing Johnny Vegas
Just like Johnny Vegas, Graham and I swung leads on Solar Slab, linking pitches where we could with the 70-meter rope. The climbing on Solar Slab is easy but many sections of the climb do not allow proper placement of pro leading to incredibly long run outs. On one of the pitches my first piece was about 85 feet above the anchor. A fall there would have surely been catastrophic! This route wanders all over the face of Solar Slab. This requires either the use of half ropes or extension of slings to reduce rope drag. In my opinion, the best pitch of the climb was a 170 feet crack which starts out as a perfect jam crack and widened as you climb up.
Me leading the second pitch of Solar Slab with my first piece being about 85 feet above the anchor
Following Graham’s lead on Solar Slab
At the belay ledge before the second to last pitch of Solar Slab
Graham showing off the battle scars
The jam crack!
By about 1 :30 pm we were at the base of the last pitch, topping out Solar Slab at about 2 pm. We then took a short break to take pictures, eat our snacks and enjoy the sun. We then started a series of rappels. Solar Slab, when done via the Johnny Vegas variation, is a 13-pitch, 1,200 feet climb and requires quiet a few rappels to get down. We made five, double rope rappels on the Solar Slab face and five single rope rappels through the Solar Slab Gully. In this way, the rappel business took us about 2 hours. We then hiked back to the car finishing the climb car to car in under 10 hours.
Vegas is the distance as seen from the top of Solar Slab
One of the many rappels on Solar Slab
Happy to back on the ground and put the rope away!
Graham looking back at Solar Slab