After ten days clipping bolts at the Owens River Gorge, we're almost back into rock climbing mode and we're eager to climb long routes at Red Rocks again. The cactus blooming season is in full swing - wonderful flowers everywhere.
For our first day, we choose Geronimo a wonderful, sunny and easy route.
It gets really hot over the next few days so we try to climb in the shade most of the time. We climb Y2K, an OK route that is shaded in the afternoon. It goes up a steep varnished face for 2 good pitches, then traverses around to an unremarkable corner with a few thin 5.9 moves.
We then climb Frogland, one of the best moderates at Red Rocks. We had climbed this route a long time ago but Lucie never had the chance to lead it.
After a day of rest, we have a bit of adventure getting completely lost on the approach to Inti Watana, a great 12-pitch line on Mount Wilson. The line is as plumb as they get. It follows discontinuous cracks and faces up the ledge edge of the Aeolian Wall. The protection is a mix of traditional placements and bolts. With a rappel descent off the all-bolted belay stations, it is an utterly uncommiting route.
We later spend a fun day at First Creek Canyon, an area we had never visited before. We climb Lotta Balls, a very good 3-pitch line, and "Romper Room", a fun single-pitch crack/flake route on a slabby wall. The second pitch of Lotta Balls goes up a face with delicate spherical knobs (hence the name) - a great pitch!
After two short days spent cragging on "The Necromancer" and Whiskey Peak, we climb Red Zinger, a hard, Indian-Creek-like off-finger crack in a smooth orange dihedral (very atypical of Red Rocks), and Beulah's Book, a Solar Slab area classic.
We have to leave Red Rocks the next day - at least for a while: the 14 day camping limit (in any 28-day period) is strictly enforced and our time is up! We drive back to the Owens River Gorge for more casual sport climbing.
We're back two weeks later to climb several lines in Velvet Canyon. We had climbed those back in 1997, '98, and '99 but the climbing is so good, they deserve to be climbed more than once. We start with Triassic Sands, probably the best crack climb at Red Rocks and a true classic. We then climb The Prince of Darkness and Yellow Brick Road, two mega-classics on the Black Velvet Wall.
We finish off with Resolution Arete, a 21-pitch line on Mount Wilson and the longest climb at Red Rocks. This route had been haunting us for several years but we'd never had the guts to attempt it. With a steep 2-hour approach and an interminable 3 to 4 hour descent, it makes for a very long day!
After that, it takes us a few days before we're motivated to climb again. By then however, the temperatures are soaring well into the mid-nineties, making climbing a pretty miserable affair. We manage one last short day in Calico Basin, climbing Atman, a very Indian-Creek-like but super short 5.10 splitter handcrack in smooth, red sandstone. We almost pass out from heat exhaustion on the way back to the car! Climbers have pretty much deserted the campground and the forecast gives no hope of any cooling trend. Time to move on north in search of cooler weather... We hit the road, direction Lover's Leap, California.
Save Red Rocks!
As a side note, new residential and commercial development in Las Vegas is totally out of control. The city is the fastest growing in the US and it shows. Even more disturbing is the fact that a large part of that expansion is creeping up Charleston Boulevard, and getting dangerously close to Red Rocks. From one year to next, there have typically been one or two new "mega-blocks" of cookie-cutter, fenced "communities" at the West End of Charleston. Developments now extend to the very edge of the Conservation Area. It does not stop there, however. Last year, a developer actually came within a few days from breaking grounds for a brand new 20,000+ people "neighborhood" on the Red Rocks side of the Blue Diamond mine hill. This would have increased traffic into Red Rocks tenfold and put a medium-sized town, complete with schools, supermarkets, etc. in plain view of most classic climbs at Red Rocks. The developer was stopped at the last minute after massive public outcry forced the county to refuse the necessary zoning changes. This battle is by no means over, however. Just recently, the property has been purchased by another developer at a cost of $50 million. Opposition to these development plans is led by several devoted volunteers in the small town of Blue Diamond. They maintain a web site with current developments at www.redrock.org. The logical alternative is for the BLM to purchase the land from the mine. BLM officials have so far refused to discuss that option. Attempts at passing state legislation that would prevent zoning changes are underway.
Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV
|The Red Rocks escarpment, one of the most beautiful desert areas in North America.|
|Camping at the 13-mile campground.|
|Cactus flowers ("Beavertail Cactus").|
|Flowering "Old Man Cactus".|
|First Creek Canyon.|
|Joshua tree at the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon.|
|More cactus flowers (Strawberry Hedgehog, I think).|
|Blue Diamond, the small community next to Red Rocks, has a post office, a small grocery store, a great library, and cheap gas.|
|Cholla or yucca?|
|And another pretty cactus flower.|
|One of the many very good local climbers.|
|At the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon.|
|Calico Basin (left) and the Blue Diamond gypsum mine (right), with Las Vegas in the background.|
|Beautiful "Desert Four O'Clocks".|
|"Atman" (5.10b), a short tight-hand splitter in Calico Basin.|
|Eric leading "Atman".|
|Overview of long classics at Red Rocks (©)|