Monday, April 5, 2010

Red Rocks Trip

It had been two years since I had last been in the desert. Over this past winter I began to want to go back. Also, I wanted to go to Red Rocks, which is right outside of Las Vegas, after reading an article in Alpinist. For those who have not been there, Red Rocks is a conservation area. It is here, a few minutes outside of Las Vegas, that you can find sandstone walls towering to over 2000 feet with white, red, pink, and black colors adorning those walls.A view of Mt. Wilson (left) and Mt. Rainbow (right) from the Oak Creek Canyon Trailhead

The trip to Las Vegas started with a rainy drive from St. Louis to Springfield, MO which Joe and I got through without a hitch. It was there that we would hook up with Joe's friends from Arkansas, Mark and Eric. Monday afternoon we departed Springfield's airport for Las Vegas. After arriving there, we had to wait for Nick who was flying in from St. Louis. After waiting a few torturous hours in the baggage claim, made torturous by the looped track of "Poker Face" and "The Phantom of the Opera," Nick arrived and we set out to find ourselves some wheels to use for the week. After paying for the vehicle, we walk out thinking that with the upgrade to an SUV we would be getting something large enough for all our gear and all five of us to fit. They take us to a Jeep wrangler sport, one of the Jeeps with 4 doors. We sit there and wonder if all of our luggage will even fit in the back. We proceeded to throw, push, shove, and jam our bags into the back, probably much to the amusement of the girl who took us to the car.

After getting everything in the car we head to the campground to find a site and set up our tents before we head back into town to gather supplies. This turned out to be harder than it sounds. The previous few days had been the Red Rock Rendezvous, a very large climbing event. With that, many people were still around and staying at the only campground in the area. We were lucky to come across a walk-in site that a group had left just an hour or so before we arrived. After setting up, we went into town to get a guide book and to go to a little get together that my friend Michelle was hosting.
The Red Rocks BLM campground

The next day, I got the chance to climb with a good friend, Calvin the director of Solid Rock Climbers for Christ. The six of us headed to the first pullout on the loop road and hit up a sport climbing crag there. We had a great time getting used to the sandstone out there.
Eric climbing a 5.10b

The next day was gonna be the first day we did some mulitpitch climbing. We decided to head to the Solar Slab area in Oak Creek Canyon. There we would be able to get 1800 feet of climbing in if we so desired. Joe and I decided that we would climb Johnny Vegas, a beautiful 5.7 that in four pitches gains 480 feet. It then shares a ledge with other climbs. From that ledge you can access the upper solar slab which has 1500 feet of 5.5 climbing. Well, the other three guys ended up getting stuck behind a party of two guys on a 5.3 gully. It took them longer to get up that gully, so we decided that we would just call it a day and have a relaxed descent and hike back to the car.

The next day we decided to try another area with some slightly more challenging routes that were all four pitches in length. The area was called the Lotta' Balls wall. It is called that because there are all these little balls of iron deposits that stick out from the wall that you use as holds. I climbed a 5.9+ called Bruja's Brew which goes up 490 feet. I teamed up with a neighbor at the campground named Eddie. I led the first crux pitch. It was probably one of the scariest pitches I had climbed to date. It was very technical with small and slightly run out protection. Plus there was a nasty cold wind coming through the canyon. A few times it nearly blew me off. Eventually I reached the first belay with very tired feet. After that, it was two pitches of 5.6 and a 5.4 pitch to the top.Belaying Eddie up to the top of the first pitch of Bruja's Brew. I was freezing at this point.

Eric and Joe did a route to our left called Lotta' Balls (5.8). Then Nick and Mark went off to climb at a wall that was in the sun. This turned out to cause some problems later on. After Eddie and I got down off the climb, I walked over to the wall where Mark and Nick were climbing. They had decided to do a three pitch 5.6. When I walked over to the base of their route, they were nearing the top, so i figured they would be down in an hour or less. At that moment, it was around 2 in the afternoon. At 4 Joe, Eric, Eddie and I decide to head over to the wall where they were supposed to come down and see if we could find them. We had no signs that they were on their way down. I then look in Nick's pack at his guide book to see if it had a different decent and it did. It told them to scramble along the top to the west and take the same decent that we used. At this point, we decided to take their gear to the bottom of the valley were the trail leads out. From there we could see both decents and easily head back to the car. At 5 we started to get very worried. We haven't had any contact with them since I saw them near the top of their route. Joe decides he is going to walk up the canyon to see if they went to a different decent. Eddie and I then began to rack up gear, a rope, and a few other items. We were going to climb the decent route, being that it might be the fastest way to the top. We thought that Nick and Mark may have gotten their ropes stuck or something worse.

As Eddie and I are nearing the point in which we will have to start climbing we see Eric, who we left at the boulder with the pack to act as a communicator, starting to act like he see the other guys. In time he tells us that they are over at the decent they needed to be at. This was a huge relief. I had started to mentally prepare for a possible rescue of friends. When they got down it was a huge relief. Then we got to hear their story. They had started off scrambling to the west toward were their guide book told them to go. They then came across a rappel station which they rappelled from. The only problem was that this didn't lead to the ground. They had to climb back up to the top after rappelling down. They then turned around back to their route in hopes of rappelling it. It was then that they found the decent they needed to use. Luckily, nothing bad happened and we got back to the car before dark.

Then the next day, Friday, we decided to have a rest day. We still climbed. We got on a beautiful two pitch route called Physical Graffiti 5.6 in the Calico Basin. This area has some beautiful rock. It is soft red sandstone. Nick and Eric take off first to do the route. After they get up, Joe, Mark and I start up. Joe leads the first pitch, then I follow with Mark bringing up the rear. Mark following up the first pitch of Physical Graffiti.
Then I lead up the second pitch with both ropes tied to me. We did this to speed things up. I was going to belay Joe and Mark up the second pitch at the same time. The second pitch was a great jam crack for 180 feet. Near the top, the two ropes started to weight me down. They made the 5.6 moves feel like 5.9 with all the drag and weight. But I made it up and then brought up Joe and Mark.
Joe and Mark on top of Physical Graffiti.

That night, the other four guys went in to the strip. I stayed at camp in hopes of meeting up with my good friend Carissa who had come up from Phoenix. She showed up at the camp late afternoon and we hung out in town that night. Then the next day, I had the pleasure of climbing with her, her fiance Carl, and Sam (a young lad from springfield, mo). We did the Great Red Book at the second pullout. It is a great two pitch 5.8 that goes up a huge dihedral. I got the lead both pitches since Sam doesn't lead on natural gear...yet. When I had topped out and was preparing to belay Sam up, I found out that he has started climbing before I told him to. So I quickly threw him on a hip belay once I made sure I was secured. Other than that, the route went well. After that we went to the Sweet Pain wall which was just down the hill to do some sport climbing. I ended up being the first to lead a 5.10a. While climbing above the first bolt, I neglected to take the easy path that went right and came back left. Instead i was going to go straight up. After reaching for a hold that did not exist, I fell. After Sam had locked off the belay device I stopped just in time to keep from hitting the starting ledge hard. I do remember my feet touching it softly from rope stretch on the fall. I then proceeded to redpoint the route. Next Carissa went. I clipped the second bolt for her so that she would not risk hitting the deck like I had. I was able to get some good pictures of her on this route.
Carissa on the 5.10a Pain in the Neck

The last day of climbing, we broke camp in the morning so that we could go into town and chill before sleeping in the airport (we had a 6 am flight). We went to a place called the Black Corridor. It is lined with sport routes that are a lot of fun. One of the best, and the one that I took pictures of was Need to Rest 5.10b/c. It had some long powerful moves that make it so much fun.
Mark on Need to Rest

That night, we wasted time in town until about 10 o'clock when we decided to go and try to sleep at the airport. Surprisingly, I slept great on the floor there. Then at 4 A.M. we woke up to check in for our flight. Out trip was nearing its end. I couldn't wait to get back to Springfield, where I had close friends to tell my stories to. Then at 530 we boarded our flight and said goodbye to the desert, for now.


Travis Weil said...

More photos of the trip can be seen here:

Anonymous said...

dude sweet pics! looks like ya'll had an amazing trip!