Me leading the first pitch of Wholesome Fullback (photo credit: Arne)
I’m back from a 4 day climbing trip to Red Rocks with Arne, Dan, and PaulT. Here’s how it went down…
The trip started with an amazing coincidence. We landed in Vegas around 7pm and took a shuttle to the rental car center. I lost my driver’s license a few weeks ago (and haven’t gotten it replaced) so the Hertz garage attendant wasn’t going to let me leave with the car. However, he relented after I promised to drive carefully (hint: foreshadowing). We tried a shortcut to get to the freeway and ended up getting a bit lost. While studying a map at a stoplight, I thought I saw the car in front of me start moving, so I hit the gas, and… wham — I rear-ended the car in front of me.
“Fiddlesticks,” I said (or some words to that effect). When the light turned green, the car I hit pulled to the side of the road and I followed. We both got out of our cars and I was shocked at what I saw. The guy in the other car was Larry D — my friend and occasional climbing partner. I was stunned — over a million people live in greater Las Vegas, and I ran into the one person I know. What a lucky coincidence!
There didn’t appear to be any damage to either car, but I told Larry to let me know if I needed to cover any repairs. With that, we were on our way to Bonnie Springs, our home base for the next few days.
We woke to perfect desert weather — sunny and dry with lows in the 60’s and highs in the 80’s. PaulT drew the short straw and ended up being my partner for the weekend. Lucky for me — Paul is an efficient, methodical climber and, like me, he likes to move quickly. We all decided to climb on Angel Food Wall and Paul and I chose Purblind Pillar (5.8, 6 pitches) as our first route. Arne and Dan climbed Group Therapy, just a few dozen feet to our left. Purblind Pillar was an OK route, but a little too relaxed for my taste.
One of the frequent topics of discussion on this trip was preferred styles of climbing. Personally, I prefer shorter (5-8 pitches), but technically harder routes where the primary challenge is the climbing itself. My rationale for this is three-fold. First, I’ve worked hard over the years to become a competent 5.10 leader. 5.10 isn’t a super-advanced grade, but it does take a certain level of skill and fitness to lead trad routes at that level. So when I get the chance, I want to put my years of investment to good use. Secondly, harder routes tend to be more aesthetic (prettier and better climbing). Finally, the only way to get better is to push your limits. It’s analogous to weight training — if you want to get stronger, more reps aren’t as effective as lifting heavier weights.
Unfortunately for me, the other 3 guys on this trip prefer a different style that focuses on longer, easier routes that are more adventurous in nature. This type of climbing is more about enjoying the journey and the primary challenges are moving efficiently (i.e. not getting caught by nightfall) and route-finding. This type of climbing is just as valid as the type I prefer, but it does make it challenging to agree on routes each day.
But I digress. After climbing on Saturday, we met my co-worker, Jason (who was in Vegas for a conference), at the Red Rock Casino to devour some Salt Lick barbeque and watch the Longhorns crush Missouri (Jason and I each won $90 on the game).
On Sunday, Paul and I decided to check out Brownstone Wall, which contains a bunch of highly regarded routes. The hike to Browstone is pretty brutal — over an hour and a half of continuous hiking up steep terrain. But the climbing made it worthwhile. We ticked Armatron (4 pitches, 5.9) and the first two pitches of The Nightcrawler (5.7, 5.9). We ran out of time, or I’d have taken a crack at the super-classic 10c third pitch on The Nightcrawler (next time). All in all, it was a big day — we were either climbing or hiking for about 9 hours straight. So our traditional PF Changs recovery feast was in order.
We wanted a little easier hike, so we headed to First Creek Canyon and climbed Black Magic (5.8, 4 pitches) and the first two pitches of Lotta Balls (5.8) — both excellent routes — plus a couple of bonus pitches in the Romper Room area. That night, we met Larry for dinner (I paid — it’s the least I could do after ramming him with our rental car).
After three days of moderate climbing, I convinced Paul to try some harder stuff in Black Velvet Canyon. We climbed Wholesome Fullback (2 pitches, 5.10a), a fantastic, sustained crack climb. Paul did a great job leading the runout and scary chimney on the second pitch. Then, while rapping down the back side of the pillar, we top-roped the stellar third pitch of Our Father (5.10d), one of the best single pitches I’ve ever climbed. I’ll be back to lead that one. Finally, we climbed Sand Felipe (5.10a), a single pitch sport route. We finished at 1pm, and still had to hike out for 45 minutes, drive 30 minutes to the motel, take showers, pack, fuel the car, drive to the airport, return the rental car, ride a shuttle, check in, clear security, and get lunch before our 4pm flight. In a mad rush, we made it with a little time to spare.
Overall, this was another great trip. 24 pitches in 4 days isn’t a ton of climbing, but when you add in the standard Red Rocks approach hikes (which start at one hour), we burned a lot of calories. As I often tell people, if you’re a rock climber in Fort Worth, you have to be willing to travel. With work, family, and other activities, I’m not able to do as many trips as I used to, but 3 or 4 long weekends a year is enough to keep me from going stir crazy (or at least justify all the gym time).