Red Rocks boasts great rock, endless multi-pitch routes to choose from, grocery stores close to the camping, cheap flights to Vegas, and reliably beautiful springtime weather. There are a few downsides, like crowded camping and occasional high winds, but we've learned to navigate them.
|I just love those pink flowering cacti!|
On the first day, we woke up at 4:15 AM, drove to SeaTac, and flew to Vegas. This trip was a bargain thanks to our $99 companion fare ticket and Alaska's free checked bag promotion - yes, this year I discovered travel rewards. We picked up our rental car (also paid for with rewards points), stocked up on groceries, and drove to the campground. And...no sites, not even in the dusty overflow area. Typical. After getting a map for some dispersed camping on BLM land, we headed for the scenic loop drive and were roping up for the first pitch of Tunnel Vision (5.7+, 6 pitches) by 2:30 PM.
|happy to be on warm rock!|
...Modern travel is insane, if you think about it. One morning we were in Seattle; a few hours later, we are tunneling through vividly colored, grippy desert sandstone. Oh, the tyrannical luxury of modern life. We have so much wealth that we voluntarily go on trips to arid deserts that really shouldn't really be all that populated. Then, we push our bodies to the extreme, sleep in the dirt, deprive ourselves of showers, and climb up huge cliffs, only to go back down them and climb another one the next day. [At least, that's what the Toners do.]
Jon had wanted to climb Tunnel Vision for awhile, and it did not disappoint - who can resist a dark, tunnel-like 5.6 chimney pitch?! I had never really enjoyed chimney climbing, but it began to grow on me this trip. For non-climbers: a chimney is a very wide crack in the rock into which you can fit your entire body. You can use any side of the chimney, and you often put your back or shoulders up against one side while you work your hands and feet up another. They can be awkward, scary...and surprisingly fun.
We topped out and enjoyed the view for a moment, then hurried down, knowing that we could get an expensive ticket for leaving our car in the parking lot past 8 PM. We drove off into the sunset, eventually finding the dirt road that led into BLM land. Groggily, we cooked up some spaghetti in the dark, slept fitfully in the car, woke up tiredly with the sunrise, made breakfast, and began the hiking toward the next climb only 12 hours after finishing the last route.
This climb-cook-camp-climb cycle repeated itself for most of the week. I began to feel as if I were on a treadmill. Thankfully, we did a good job of pacing ourselves over the week, and we kept up a pretty steady output of energy. By the end of the trip, we had completed five stellar multi-pitch routes and ascended about 5000' of vertical rock. By the end, I was very content and tired, and didn't want to do any more climbing, no matter how classic the pitch.
- Tunnel Vision (5.7+, 6 pitches)
- Black Magic (5.8, 4 pitches) and Romper Room (5.7+, 1 pitch)
- Frigid Air Buttress (5.9+, 9 pitches) - GREAT, comfy belay ledges! Highlight for me was leading the 5.9+ crux pitch, a fun finger crack.
- Olive Oil, first pitch - crowds were insane and after waiting for several hours we bailed and climbed Cat in the Hat instead (5.6, 4 pitches)
- Black Orpheus (5.10a, grade IV, 14 pitches, 500 feet of scrambling, 1500 feet of roped climbing). A big route and definitely the highlight of the trip! Jon was the hero of the day, leading the entire route. I felt sick from my period, and was content to carry the pack and follow all the pitches. No wonder they call it the "curse."
- evening cragging at the Panty Wall, home of many punny, slightly inappropriate route names, such as Panty Line, Boxer Rebellion, Panty Raid, Edible Underwear, The Lost Panty, Cover My Buttress, A Brief Encounter, Sacred Undergarmet Squeeze Job... We challenged ourselves to invent as many new route names as possible while we climbed.
The fun crux pitch on Frigid Air Buttress
|totally exhausted on the rest/wind storm day|
|Jon leading up Black Orpheus, with style|
|spectacular exposure 2000' up on Black Orpheus|
|Summit of Black Orpheus - it has a surprisingly easy descent|
We did take a few breaks from climbing. One day, we did a long mountain bike ride on rented bikes. That was fun. The best trails we rode were called Techno and Rubber Ducky. I got 2nd place on Rubber Ducky, according to Strava - oh yeah! Another day, it was really windy, so we made the mistake of visiting the strip. I hate museums, shopping malls, casinos, crowds, zoos, and commercialism. They drain and bore me to tears. So, logically, the Strip is about the last place I should go for a rest day. For some reason, we thought it would be fun. (?) I felt desperately exhausted after about 30 minutes of walking around, but unfortunately our outing dragged on for about three hours. I just wanted to lie down and sleep, but instead I was barraged by advertisements, lights, noises, and people trying to sell me something. While we were downtown, a big dust storm blew in and I started worrying about the tent. Sure enough, the MegaMid was half collapsed and full of dust when we got back. That thing is horrible in the wind. All in all, we should have just gone to a movie that day. The best, truest rest happened at Spring Mountain State Park, where we spent an afternoon laying around in the shade after eating a huge brunch, watching puffy clouds and rustling leaves. I am happiest in nature, I guess!
And then, suddenly, we were flying home to a sunny afternoon in Washington. The beautiful green of spring in Puget Sound was thrilling to see. The Northwest is where my heart belongs--even if I am stuck in Seattle for the time being!