Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Red Rock Canyon with the Boys

Las Vegas, Nevada. What do you think of? Casinos? Flamingo dancers? Bachelor parties? Elaborate shows and magicians?  

Me, I think of spectacular desert rock climbing on giant sandstone walls, minutes from the city.

Approaching beautiful sandstone walls in the dawn light
The crew for the trip: Troy - speedy, alpinist/aspiring guide(?); Mitchell - photographer, psyched; Michael - boulder turned trad climber, rope gun; Me- balding, aged professor, can barely climb. Recipe for fun. I love climbing with these guys.

One of the cool things about climbing at Red Rocks, is that you can rent a condo in the city for super cheap, luxurious accommodations with wilderness climbing 20 minute away. 

Psyched for awesome accommodations!

Day 1 - 5 am start - Cat in the Hat (III, 5.6) - Mescalito

We decided to start with an ultra-classic easy climb - Cat in the Hat, a 6 pitch 5.6 that climbs a buttress on Mescalito in Pine Creek Canyon.

Cat in the hat - Climbs the left hand buttress on Mescalito 

Ready to climb! 
A short 40 minute approach had us at the base of the climb. Although I had heard this was the busiest climb in Red Rocks, we were the only people at the base. Sweet! 
On day 1 I was climbing with Michael and Troy and Mitchell were climbing together. Michael and I decided to lead in blocks, I would do the first 3 pitches, he would do the last 3. I racked up and headed up the climb. Ultra-fun easy climbing.

Racking-up. Photo credit - Michael Putnam
  After leading the obvious first pitch, I neglected to consult the topo and headed up an obvious wide crack for the 2nd pitch.

Obvious crack
The pitch was supposed to be only 5.3. I headed up the crack. Huh, that seems harder than 5.3, more like 5.7 or 5.8. I walked a big cam up the crack, jamming my fists until I reached some face holds. After belaying Michall up, Troy yelled out - " I don't think you went the right way! You were supposed to go over this boulder". Oops! Looks like I went up the wrong way :). We rapped off some tat on a tree, and got back on route. Well, we got to do an extra pitch. 

Michael - "Cory, you need to actually consult the topo and not just climb random cracks!"

Back on route, I led the correct 5.3, then let Michael take over the lead. I wish I had led the next couple of pitched because there were the highlight of the day.


The pitch was spectacular. Who know 5.6 could be so good.

Michael leading the first of 2 glory pitches

Troy looks for the right piece on a great pitch
Then an even better pitch! A short down climb, then up an exposed crack/face onto a slab to the final anchor. Amazing. I can see why this climb gets 5 stars, one of the better moderates I have ever done. We were all smiles.

All smiles

Teamwork. Outdoor research, where is the sponsorship?

Looking down from the belay

Cushing the final amazing pitch of Cat in the Hat

After the amazing climb, we rapped out. Feeling a bit tired from out lack of sleep, we decided to call it a day. We headed to REI for some gear shopping, then back to the condo for some board games, shower and beer. Life is good.

Hanging out in REI. 
Troy made us some kick ass vegan tacos, earning him the new nickname "Chef" Thanks Troy!

Mmmmmmm..... Vegan Tacos....
DAY 2 - 5 am start - Climbing Fail.

The plan - climb Dark Shadows, the reality - climb almost nothing and bail off a bunch of stuff. Day 2 did not go so great. We started super early, and blasted down the trail to try and climb Dark Shadows, an ultra-classic intimidating 5.8. We got to the base of the climb - 6 climbers waiting to climb it. Dang. 

We headed over to Birdland, a 6 pitch 5.7+, - 6 climbers in line. Alright, this is what I expected yesterday, giant crowds. None of us being particularly patient decided to go sport climbing in the Calico Hills, what could go wrong?

First we headed to the black corridor. Wholly crowded!

Is this a crag or a gym?

Crowds are not my thing. My stoke was a bit low. Micheal led a solid 5.10 which we top roped, and then he headed up another 5.10 sport climb. 

Troy and I were not so psyched, so I came up with the idea of climbing this 2 pitch trad route at the top of hills called the Great Red Book.

 Troy and I headed back to the car, grabbed the trad rack and then the 4 of us headed up for some trad climbing.

Michael heads up the Great Red Book

Although a fairly moderate route, the combination of sun, an early morning and getting shut down from a bunch of routes due to crowds resulted in a series of shenanigans, and several hours to finish a single pitch!

Troy made valuable use of the time.

Mitchell takes a crack.
We eventually got it done. Back to the condo for some rest, beer then to the strip to see the sights. I even won 30 dollars at the slots. Lucky me!

Day 3 - 5 am start - Dark Shadows (II, 5.8) - Mescalito.

Another early start, and another attempt at Dark Shadows, this time were were first on the climb, and no one else showed up! Woot! The climbs ascends a steep corner crack system underneath a massive roof on dark black rock. It looks improbable and difficult, but is surprisingly easy climbing. 

Looking up at the improbably steep Dark Shadows

Michael and Troy teamed up, Me and Mitch teamed up. Off we went. Spectacular climbing. I led the first three pitches of the climb, and linked the first 2 together. The climbing was easy, well protected, but steep and intimidating. A great experience, really different from the slabby granite I normally climb. 

Micheal climbing the 5.6 corner - Photo credit - Mitchell Quiring

Troy places some pro at the 5.8 bulge

Troy moves onto the face

Such a good climb. We rappelled the route. I watched a couple of dudes climb Risky Business (5.10c, R) - pretty bad-ass

Mitch on the way down

Dudes on Risky Business
We hiked out and headed home, along 6 hour drive back to Fresno. Such a fun trip, good climbing with good friends.

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