May 17, 2010 posted by

Rockaineering On Dogma: Mount Wilson

Here’s a slideshow and photo essay of our little adventure this weekend. It looks best if you click the slideshow option on the upper left, then hit F11 to make it full screen, then slow the timing down so you can read the captions. Enjoy.

Beta: below are some details on the route. Do not read if you’re one of those who don’t like Chris Mac’s guidebooks and think mountain route descriptions should be kept vague.

The route description in the photos from Mike Lewis, who did the FA with Brian McCray, is hyperbole to the degree that stacking Rainbow Wall on top of Levitation accurately describes the length of the route but not the difficultly. Dogma is easier than RW and harder than Levitation but not as sustained, percentage-wise, as either. It is a much bigger day than both. My comment that it makes RW seem like a sport climb is accurate as that route is very straightforward in comparison.

The route has a lot of bolts but isn’t a sport climb. You can fall a long way and if you can’t climb solid 5.11 you might want to bring a hook or two. If you can the rack is simple: 14 or so QD’s, 4 or 5 cams from a #1 Camalot down, and 4 or 5 small nuts. We probably placed less than 10 pieces total. The hard climbing is bolted but not in a way where you can cheat through the hard moves. You must be able to hang on. A 70m rope allows you to descend, so the route isn’t very committing. If bailing is an option bring some tat to back up the belays, especially on the lower half.

The approach and route description in the new RR guide is excellent (as is that entire guide). We parked at Oak Creek and walked in on the road/trail system. The trail up is marked with a cairn between Mt Wilson and the Wilson pimple. Follow cairns all the way (don’t get sucked up earlier gullies) to the “red band”.

Down and left of the red band you climb into White Rot Gully. There is a cairn leading up into it but also to a very sketchy traverse left. The left traverse ends at a fixed rope that leads into Willy’s Colouir. While shorter this option is dangerous on crumbly rock with a death fall. I don’t recommend it.

Instead of traversing left, we climbed up into White Rot Gully. A lot of 4th and easy 5th class scrambling lead under a huge chockstone. Climb above it to a point where you’re under Resolution Arete, then look for a cairn heading down the next gully. Scramble down this. There is a section, on the left, where you need to make a somewhat scary jump (easy but don’t fall), or you can rap further right from a sling. At the bottom you’ll head up into Willy’s. This up and down bit probably takes 30 minutes, though we did it in about 15 once we had it dialed. Totally worth not risking your life for the extra time, in our opinion.

Willy’s is tricky. Climb through a lot of bushes and stay mainly on the left, though you climb back and forth on each side. There is an odd 5th class move here and there and a lot of vegetation to deal with. Again, when you find the right way it goes quickly. The base of the route does not have a cairn (like the book says) but is pretty obvious. You look for a chimney with a fin on the right, which you climb, that has a wide crack on its right. You pass a couple of bolts that people must use to rap Willy’s (though it’s easy to down climb) and a couple of routes on the left. Plan on 2 hours on sight but, like I said, we did it in just over an hour when we knew the way (though we are ultra runners and sorta fast).

The route description in the book is spot on. It’s almost impossible to get lost. The first belay is a couple of slings are a small tree. Un-rope the third pitch traverse and for the Sherwood Forest, but that’s it.

Climbing tips:

The chimney pitch is great. I liked my choice to go left side in but Mick seemed happy right. It’s well protected on bolts where it’s hard, though the slab above is sporty.

Our friend broke a hold on the crux pitch and we both thought the resulting pull was hard for 11c (felt like easy 12) but good. After this pull don’t get suckered straight up toward the next bolt. Instead, look for some crimps out right to clip from. Then hang on for a sporty runout overhanging traverse where you can’t clip the next bolt until you’re above it. This section is the crux. Blow the last move and it’s 30’minimum, though safe. Good stuff.

The next pitch is tricky, also with fall potential, but you’re on your feet more as it’s vertical.

The next pitch is brilliant but does have a bolt placement out left where it’s easier, and obvious, to climb right and do a hard clip way left. This happens a fair bit on the route. The climbing isn’t always right over the bolts (like sport climbing). Either holds have broken or the FA team bolted it looking for harder sequences that didn’t happen (they were “disappointed” the route wasn’t harder).

The 5th pitch off the Forest has a crack, which is bolted on its right. My fingers didn’t fit in the crack and I climbed the face right of the bolts. Not sure if this is correct but it worked. The slab above is thoughtful.

The rock deteriorates after the final ledge. The 11 pitch is tricky and fun but the rock is bad. The 5.8 above is easy enough but you need to be careful. There’s enough gear not to die but no one wants to take a cheese grating 80 footer at this point. I was tapping on nearly every hold. These last two pitches can be combined with a 70m rope. Your 14 draws are more than ample.

We climbed the route in 8 hours with a break (to “kick back”) and without rushing, though our friends took 12. It’s a route that seems more fun if you’re not in a hurry. It could be done a lot faster but speed climbing would be rolling the dice a bit with the rock.

We opted to try the “fast but hard to find” Oak Creek descent. Here’s some key beta.

Walk past the limestone/sandstone break (where you would drop into First Creek) almost all the way back to mountainside. There is a trail but it’s faint and hard to see. Drop down nearly the last ridge line (after some rocks on the crest). The second to last ridgeline is best but the last works (we did). Looking down you should see some ponderosa pines between the ridge lines (in fact you can site these from the top before you descend, but then you lose them until this point). Head down the ridge, finally dropping into the pines and finally to the creek bed. At some point down the ridge you’ll see a rock with another rock sitting on top that “looks like a VW bus”. Follow the creek bed down and around this to its right, then back left into the LEFT drainage. From here on it’s a little canyoneering adventure down to Oak Creek. In this drainage you’ll begin to see cairns and all the raps are fixed (you don’t need a harness, they are short batman sections).

We did this in 3.5 hours totally lost. Not totally but unsure where we were going with some wrong turns. Get it dialed and 2.5 seems reasonable.


  • Awesome!I've been meaning to climb Mt. Wilson. Are you going to write up details in a later post?Approach Time, Climbing Time, Total Pitchs, Descent option, gear recomendations, etc.!?!?- Luke

  • Cool trip report, Steve!

  • Frickin Rad! Justin and I are hoping to make it out to vegas and so something long and tame at Black Velvet in June.

  • Wow, that was just really cool!

  • Nice effort. Sounds like a good day out.Is your description on photo one correct? Seems wrong to me, but I'm not that familiar with that stuff any more.~R

  • Hmm, okay, I'll add some beta to the description.

  • Micah, Reed,Yes, BVC has a much easier approach/descent but also some of the longest routes. Texas Hold Em might be next on our list.The description was from the FA guys to the American Alpine Journal. While it describes the length of the route pretty accurate it's a stretch to say the climbing is as sustained as stacking those other two routes on top of each other. The point he's trying to make it that this is BIG, though he's undoubtably trying to pimp his route, too,by combing the two most famous routes at Red Rocks.

  • OK, thanks for the details. I just didn't understand that the "Levitation 29 to Rainbow Wall" comment was hypervbole. I thought that was the route and it didn't make any sense to me since they aren't in the same canyon. Again, great effort and a nice day out. I'm mentally ready for some long days out but I don't think I'm any where near physically.~R

  • It's all 99% mental anyway. Get after it. I say birthday challenges all around this year. Like 2000.Oddly enough RW and L29 are back to back and, thus, a "popular" link up (at least done twice). You climb L29, walk over and rap RW. Climb it and walk back out. Pretty rad. Would be interesting to see how it stacks up with Dogma. A bit more hard climbing but way less approaching/descending/bushwhacking.

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