Climbing Red Rocks

Hookers, booze, gambling, and…

None of the above.

See, climbing is great. Climbing big multipitch routes is great. Climbing big multipitch routes, eating buffet dinners, and sleeping in a decent bed – that’s incredible.

And even though it seems like god is emptying his trash with every plane that lands in Las Vegas, the combination of convenience and route quality came together to make for a great three days of climbing.

This was my first time to Red Rocks. Bob-san and I had hooked ourselves up with a priceline special, and though a bit of planning gave me two months to get in decent climbing shape, marathon training was taking up weekends, while spending one of every few weeks in Minnesota was limiting my trips to Mission Cliffs.

My burgeoning yoga practice, though, seemed to do something – if not for helping me to keep a clear head on lead, then through increased core strength.

Weather was variable, with one day a bit warm, one day a bit cool, and one day right on the money (insert goldilocks reference), though we did have a day of rain which kept us off the rocks most of Monday – pulling on wet sandstone is a recipe for disaster – we got in our fair share of vertical.

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After a leisurely start to the day at the Palace Station Cafe (this place is straight out of the National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation), we found ourselves on Purblind Pillar. This route isn’t in any guidebook, but found on a few websites, and yet it was the single most popular route on a deservedly popular wall (Angel Food Wall, with Tunnel Vision and Group Therapy).

I managed to get skeeved on my first lead of the day (p1) after seeing bolts outside the crack. Why on earth, I wondered to myself, would there be bolts outside this crack if things weren’t going to get shitty in a hurry. Things did not get shitty, of course, as this is a 4 star route, and I was soon at the belay bringing Bob up.

Retrobolting routes borders on being a genuine problem at Red Rocks. I have no problem with retrobolting per-se. Routes are put up by different people at different times with different ethics, and sometimes a well-placed bolt is just what a route needs to bring a pitch in line with the rest of a climb, or to mitigate a dangerous runout, but Red Rocks seems to have a preponderance (sp) of REALLY unnecessary bolts (bolted cracks???). These same routes often then do you, the climber, an added favor by placing a bolt just AFTER the crux, or at an awkward stance.

Purblind Pillar is a great route, a fairly soft 5.8, but has a walkoff that I’d rather not repeat.

Sunday found me challenging the Palace Station Cafe’s Southwestern Breakfast Bowl and us getting out for Frogland. Frogland is supposed to be an ultraclassic moderate at Red Rocks, with the crowds to match. Incredibly we showed up at 9am and were the FIRST ONES to the entire wall, much less the route.

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Frogland is classic old-school climbing, very real at the grade – 5.8 – (5.6 on this route felt like east coast [Seneca] 5.6 [worthwhile]), with an awesome mix of crack (perfect hands in a corner/flake for 50 feet), face (spicy lead on p5), and slab (runout traversing lead with great pendulum fall potential on p4). Four Stars.

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Thankfully Bob-San pulled the crux pitch on this one and got the slab traverse. This was one of those times I’m very glad to be climbing with someone that pulls harder than me, and has the brains/guts to throw himself at something that looks, well, scary. Thanks Bob.

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Sunday night saw rain low and snow at elevation, which put climbing ambitions on hold. Hitting the Whole Foods and debating what hike to do (the Red Rocks flyer you get after paying your daily fee for the loop road is incredibly informative) killed a good chunk of the morning.

We ended up taking a hike in to Icebox Canyon – a really beautiful short hike. The Canyon lived up to its name, with temperatures about 15 degrees cooler than on the desert floor, and a great diversion.

On our way out happened upon 40 feet of offwidth. After a lunch and a few tecates at the car, we couldn’t keep ourselves off the rock any longer. We set off with a light rack to do some toproping. Pluses: I’m actually fairly decent at offwidth (if that can ever be said). Minuses: I’m actually fairly decent at offwidth; I think this means that I’m going to pull even pitches on Traveller’s Buttress this summmer. Uh oh.

This trip was a great reminder of how much I love the desert. Getting back up in to the really dry air and smelling the dew evaporating off the plants in the morning makes me wonder how I ended up so far from where I thought I’d be at this age: living in a mountain town, reading more Kafka than Wall Street Journal, and living for the day, month, or season, not thinking about a 401k.

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