A preview of what’s in store for the day.
I would like to offer some great route beta for one of my favorite 5.7s in Red Rock Canyon—93,000,000 Miles. I refer to the climb as such because if you push for the summit of Rainbow Mountain, you’re in for a long day with lots of climbing, scrambling, and hiking. Going for the long burn, as they say.
With that being said, this linkup of 3 different routes provides one of the longest moderate routes in Red Rock, at 5.7. Add to that what I feel to be THE most spectacular descent I’ve done in Red Rock and you’ve got yourself a classic adventure route. I’ve done it 3 times now!
If you plan to go for this route, you want to try to be first at the wall or at least first on the upper tier of Solar Slab. I hike in early from the parking area 0.5 miles past the Loop Road exit. You zigzag through the fence and follow a trail that joins with the main trail coming from the Oak Creek parking lot. The two times I did the route in November, we left the trailhead at 0530. The time I climbed in December, we left at 0600. You’re shooting to be climbing at first light or shortly after.
Make your way to the 500’ high upper tier by climbing Johnny Vegas (5.7), Beulah’s Book (5.9), or Solar Slab Gully (5.3) if you want to move fast. The one time I went up Solar Slab Gully, we were on the upper tier just before 8 AM. The other two times, we went up Beulah’s Book and were on the upper tier between 8 & 9. Next, head up the1300' Solar Slab. We topped out Solar Slab around 12 - 1.
Now, once you’ve topped out, you want to continue heading up the slabs, making your way towards the multi-colored headwall above. This is mostly Class 2 hiking, with a steeper Class 3 slab that should take you to a small arch. Go through this “black hole” and enjoy a good shady spot here out of the sun. Here’s where you leave everybody behind as you continue with upward progress towards the summit. Retreat from above this point almost necessitates going up and over, so commit to the big day and keep moving.
Head climbers’ left from the arch, staying close to the wall on what looks like a sandstone sidewalk. After a minute, there is a short scramble up to a nice bench of rock and the official start of 93,000,000 Miles. You’re looking for a left-arching seam that eventually turns into a protectable crack. Launch off on awesome moon-like huecos, join the crack, and build a belay in the "cockpit".
Photo of upper portion of route showing the top of Solar Slab and on. Photo taken from the summit of Cactus Flower Tower.
Looking out towards Mt. Wilson and Cactus Flower Tower from the “cockpit” belay on 93,000,000 Miles. The single rope or down-climb descent of Solar Slab is the gully directly below the pitch. The standard Painted Bowl descent is barely visible in the pinkish rock behind.
Next comes what may be the best pitch of climbing all day. It is also the last technical pitch of the day. You’re WAY up there at this point. The day is growing long. But you’re scrambling and hiking after this. Get to take the climbing shoes off soon. You’re almost to the top and will move quicker in the easier terrain. So here it is—Blast off up an incredible crack through a small bulge with great feet. It’s a little wide to start—a #4 Camalot works well here. Higher up, it turns into glorious hands, thin hands, and big fingers. I usually end the pitch in a nice alcove on a big ledge.
Scramble up and left to a huge tree. Walk back right into a corridor for shade if you’re still getting hammered by the sun. Switch shoes out here but keep the rope handy for some 4th class scrambling higher up. Continue further into the corridor and scramble and chimney up a rail that will get you out of the corridor. Head up the vegetated gully towards the saddle above. When you get there, head left and up, following the path of least resistance and sometimes cairns. Eventually this leads you to an easy chimney and the summit ridge. Follow the ridge and tag the summit! We summited between 2 and 3 PM.
Celebrate your achievement and get ready for the down. You still have 3 - 4 hours to go. All the gear goes back in the pack on the summit. Mostly hiking and easy down-scrambling from here on out.
Anyway, head away from the city, back towards the limestone. Off in the distance is a big butte. Pass it on the right and head through a wooded area. Contour across loose scree, slabs, and more vegetation towards another butte. This is where the Eagle Wall descent meets up. Pass the next butte on the right as well. You should pickup a trail around here if you haven’t already. You’ll drop down to the right a bit, then head back up left towards another saddle. Once at the saddle, you’ll head down a long red slab. Towards the bottom, you’ll pickup a dirt trail on the right. Follow the trail into a lovely swirled slab.
The swirled slab heads down towards Oak Creek Canyon. At the bottom of this slab, head into the trees and emerge on the other side on more slabs. This is my favorite section of the descent. Absolutely stunning. The rest of the route is fairly straight forward from here. Find your way down the slabs and into the heart of Oak Creek Canyon. Parkour your way down boulders, slots, and maybe a tree or two. This section is also a lot of fun.
This truly is an amazing adventure. The actual climbing is only a small piece of the big pie you’re eating. When you leave everyone behind after climbing Solar Slab, you enjoy the rest of the day in solitude. You’ll be wayyy out there as you descend smooth slabs like I’ve never seen before as the sun goes down. You’ll start to feel the whole day as you use your entire body to down-stem slots between boulders in Oak Creek. And lastly, you’ll enjoy a gratifying and reflective last hour of the day on a trail that gets easier and easier as you near the car. Beers and food awaits. And maybe a day of sport climbing tomorrow.