The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun.
– Alex Lowe
When I started climbing 17 years ago my long term goal was to become a competent 5.10 trad leader (which to me meant that I could onsite almost any 5.10 route on gear regardless of style). This may not sound super ambitious, but keep in mind:
- It’s easier said than done when you live hundreds of miles from rock and have a family and demanding career.
- There are some really hard 5.10d/5.10+ routes out there!
I slowly worked my way up the ranks and just a couple years ago I decided that I had reached my goal. But of course that’s only the beginning – I already had my eye on bigger, harder objectives. Some of the most sought after multi-pitch rock routes are in the 5.11/5.12 range – almost within reach. I began to build a mental “bucket list”:
Levitation 29, Red Rocks, NV
Cloud Tower, Red Rock Canyon, NV
Drifting, Red Rock Canyon, NV
The Original Route on Rainbow Wall, Red Rock Canyon, NV
The Naked Edge, Eldorado Canyon, CO
Pervertical Sanctuary, Long’s Peak, CO
The North Face of The Rostrum, Yosemite Valley, CA
I’m not getting any younger and these routes aren’t getting any easier, so it’s time to start ticking them off. With that in mind, I recently met my friend Andy in Las Vegas with plans to attempt to attempt two or three of these bucket list routes. I’m pretty strict with style and ethics so I don’t consider a route completed unless I’ve led my fair share of pitches (and ideally the crux pitch) with no takes or falls. Realistically a fall or two is acceptable and inevitable on some of these routes and that’s OK but no hangdogging and no pulling on gear.
Here’s how the trip went down…
Andy leading the splitter crux pitch of Bloodline.
We were greeted in Vegas by cool temps and nuclear winds so we had to change our plans for the first couple days and stay low in an attempt to escape 40+ mph gusts. This gave us the opportunity to explore some lesser known, shorter routes.
- Bloodline – Destined to become a classic.
- The Next Century – Already a classic, and extra spicy in high winds!
Andy nears the top of P1 of Bloodline – a rope-stretcher with demanding and spicy climbing.
More wind, more cragging…
- Triassic Sands (P1/P2) – So good. I climb this route almost every time I visit Red Rocks.
- Ixtlan (P1) – Andy styled the crux pitch onsight.
- Delicate Sound of Thunder – Bold, but really good climbing.
Andy casts off on throught-provoking first pitch of Levitation 29.
Good weather at last! I had dialed in the “fast 5th class” approach to Levitation 29 on a previous trip (see my comment with beta here) so we charged the approach, making it from the parking lot to the base of the route in 80 minutes. The route lived up to the hype and I was psyched to get the crux pitch onsite. Cross one off the bucket list!
Looking down the crux pitch of Levitation 29 – my first bucket list route.
Because I have a full time job and a family most of my climbing trips are long weekend “business trips” – fly in, git’er done, fly out. On this trip, however, we had a planned rest day – and it was luxurious. We grabbed a huge breakfast at Baby Cakes. I went for a leisurely hike around Kraft Mountain, took a nap, caught up on email, and ran some errands. Our friend Kevin (another Kevin) flew in late that night to join us for the next day’s objective…
My favorite pic from the trip. Sleep deprivation and a nasty head cold can’t keep the smile off of Kevin’s face as he floats the dreamy fourth pitch of Cloud Tower.
Cloud Tower – it’s considered one of the best free climbs of its grade in the country. No arguments here! This turned out to be one of those magical days where everything clicked – splitter weather, great conversation, and incredible climbing. Every pitch is mega-classic – especially P4 and P6 (per Mountain Project). The 5.12- P3, which Andy led, is desperate – especially if you have sausage fingers like me. I took a fall on that pitch and another fall (due to lazy/sloppy footwork) on P6. But overall I was happy with my climbing – I feel like I’m very close to being able to lead all of the pitches. Another bucket list climb off the list!
Shuffling through the birth canal on P5 – a short but fun pitch.
This trip opened my eyes to new possibilities. I’m back in Texas training and setting my sights on the next one…