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Desert Gold 

YDS: 5.13a French: 7c+ Ewbanks: 29 UIAA: IX+ ZA: 29 British: E6 6c PG13

Type:  Trad, 2 pitches, 150'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.13a French: 7c+ Ewbanks: 29 UIAA: IX+ ZA: 29 British: E6 6c [details]
FA: Stefan Glowacz - 1987 (with credit to Paul Van Betten, Richard Harrison, and Sal Mamusia)
Page Views: 10,560
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Mar 23, 2007

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Psyched to finally send after many tries over the ...

RAIN AND WET ROCK The sandstone in Red Rocks is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. MORE INFO >>>


Desert Gold is perhaps the most striking, photogenic pitch in all of Red Rocks. Classic pictures of the likes of Paul Van Betten, Peter Croft, Brian McCray, Roxana Brock, Katie Brown and many others have adorned the pages of guidebooks and magazines for years. And there's a reason for this: The line features an unbelievable dead horizontal splitter roof crack; climbers are pictured hanging underneath this beast from jams, completely inverted - it's a mind-boggling sight.

The first ascent of the roof was completed in 1984 by PVB and Richard Harrison. Paul apparently had a shrine in his home dedicated to the amazing Separate Reality in Yosemite and was ecstatic when he discovered this likeness, here at his home crag of Red Rocks. Choosing to avoid the intimidating overhanging fingercrack splitter that led up to the roof, they aided in on two bolts (since consolidated to one) and climbed the roof only from an uncomfortable hanging belay. They rated it the same as Separate Reality: 5.11d which is a major sandbag unless you have massive mitts.

Three years later PVB returned with Sal Mamusia to finish what he started (or start what he finished rather) by climbing the finger crack directly up to the roof at 5.12c. This was named "Desert Crack".

A month later the great Stefan Glowacz made the obvious linkup by climbing this whole thing in one pitch. Really this should be considered the true first ascent and is now the way the route is climbed: Desert Gold, 5.13a.

Begin by climbing an approach pitch (5.9 PG13) on the left wall below the massive roof. This is actually quite enjoyable. Traverse right on a thin foot ledge towards loose blocks, or continue up a massive hollow flake and then move right. This leads to a bolted belay at a sloping stance. 90'. Alternatively, climb Clipper (best option) or West Edge Lane to this same belay.

Clip a bolt off the belay with a long runner and step left around the arete into a junky corner. Up this a few moves and then back onto the arete. Stretch right to the crack, place pro, and commit to the short but surprisingly steep finger crack. There is basically one move of each size - tips through hands - on the way to the roof, so no matter your hand size, there's a crux for you! Under the roof, cop a pumpy rest and avoid clipping the lowering bolt; instead launch outwards. #2 Camalots quickly widen to #3 Camalots at the lip where a jug awaits for pulling over to the top. For many this "11d" section proves to be the crux.

Upon finishing, most will down aid back across the roof to the lowering bolt. This bolt is a 5/8", 6" long monster and is absolutely bomber. From here lower back to the belay and rap.

South facing, but because of the roof it gets shade after 2 PM in the winter.


Desert Gold is the cobra-shaped rock scar on the Monument. Easily visible from the parking lot if you know where to look. Hike in the main BV trail, but break off right somewhere past the WAG bag dispenser and hoof it cross country, cross a wash (look for cairns) and then follow cairns up the broad ridge directly below the rock scar.


1 each 0.2 or 0.3 Camalot to #1 Camalot
3 each #2 Camalots
2 each #3 Camalots

Photos of Desert Gold Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Dustin sends Desert Gold
Dustin sends Desert Gold
Rock Climbing Photo: Desert Gold (5.13) Red Rocks. We were told we made...
Desert Gold (5.13) Red Rocks. We were told we made...
Rock Climbing Photo: Desert Gold (5.13) Red Rocks (1989)
Desert Gold (5.13) Red Rocks (1989)
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.8 crack to get into Desert Gold
5.8 crack to get into Desert Gold
Rock Climbing Photo: beautiful!
Rock Climbing Photo: Randy Leavitt on Desert Gold, July 1991
Randy Leavitt on Desert Gold, July 1991
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the 5.12 crack from the start of the ...
Looking down the 5.12 crack from the start of the ...

Comments on Desert Gold Add Comment
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By Cunning Linguist
Mar 23, 2007

Some might enjoy this random fact-Richard Harrison told me that Yaniro soloed this thing with the aid of a circus net for a video project. The story goes, Yaniro was helped by R. Grandstaff & co. to throw in a couple of bolts both to the left and right so the net could be secured. Hard to believe, but while resting at the stance before traversing into the business, I spotted a couple of old chopped bolts right where they were supposed to be. Wacky. Also, if you head up to do this route and are wondering about the two old homemade bolts on the left just under the roof-those were used to approach the roof pitch for the FA-which was completed independently before the finger crack.
By David Shiembob
From: slc, ut
Oct 4, 2007

Just out of curiosity, is there a way to approach Desert Reality without doing the .12d pitch?
By juancho
Apr 6, 2009

Yes but it's kind of a pain. Aiding the finger crack is probably easier
I don't understand the recommendation to downlead the roof crack. You can walk off the top, there is a rap anchor up there a ways.
By steve edwards
From: SLC, UT
Oct 6, 2010

Yaniro soloed it for an IMAX film. They didn't go through all that for free.
By Cunning Linguist
Feb 3, 2012

People down-lead the roof when their second isn't following free-a pretty common occurrance. I bought the Yaniro vid-he's "soloing" by swinging around a lot while clipped into a cam or two. Bold, yes. Sketchy, yes. Soloing? ehhh....
By Christopher Barlow
Feb 25, 2012

Are most free ascents done as one pitch from the base or from a belay on top of the 5.8?
By Cunning Linguist
Feb 25, 2012

The first pitch is trivial. Linking the top 2 is the business, and I'd imagine most people do it that way since the stance below P2 is decent. Avoiding superfluous rope drag and having your belayer close enough to keep you tight-ish on the steeps seem like good calls, as well.
By Muff
Jan 5, 2014

The 5.8 pitch is actually not trivial; the entire formation is less than solid. The entire 5.8 pitch is harmonic and most holds: flakes, blocks, etc make a lot of noise. It is apparent that rock comes off the first pitch regularly as there is a lot of scarring and compacted dirt where holds used to be. I highly recommend to keep all of your gear away from the fall zone of this pitch. We stashed all of our packs off far climbers right which proved to be very wise. Back up the summit anchor with a few cams as well. I used a BD .75 and a BD #4 but could have used a #3 or smaller as well. A bolted rappel is back and left of the summit anchor.
By Sean Nelb
From: Grand Junction, CO
Nov 30, 2014

I took a rack with a slightly smaller cam (.3 camalot) than the recommended gear above and was glad to have it. A blue metolius would work as well. I didn't think the rock on the 5.8 pitch was all that bad until the last 15 ft. The traverse left off the belay and then back to the .12d crack was truly exciting, since nothing seems solid and you have to climb a bit above the bolt before getting in any good pro near the crack.

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