Red Rocks – April 3-7, 08

Thought I’d post on my Red Rocks trip two weeks ago. Kevin, Dan, Paul, and I were in Nevada April 3 – 7, 2008. Stayed at the Bonnie Springs Motel (Kevin and I stayed there in ’07). It’s pretty old timey (lotsa weird character – Dan and Paul could talk about that) but pretty cheap by Vegas standards. You can find their website at http://www.bonniesprings.com .

Me finishing pitch 2 on Jubilant SongDay 1 we hiked out to Windy Peak. I had found a route on Windy Peak in the new guidebook that looked really cool. If you haven’t been to Red Rocks in a while, I recommend you buy the new guidebook. It’s not only packed with lots of good beta and maps and awesome photos, but it’s simply the best damn guidebook you’ve ever owned and makes for great bedtime reading even when your next trip is years into the future. Here is the link to the website: http://www.redrocksguidebook.com/. And for pics from our trip, check out KD’s album at http://www.slide.com/r/Zu21BNua1j-Tp9NtQdKiKGGlfROGf25J.

The route we picked was “Jubilant Song” – 8 pitches, 5.8. We thought of it as a warm-up because many pitches are easier than 5.8, and it’s always nice to acclimatize. Needles to say, when we finally reached the bottom of the climb after 1.5 hours of hiking mostly uphill, we were warmed up. The trail was fairly straight forward though. and is definitely off the beaten path if you don’t like crowded walls. (Picture: Me finishing pitch 2.)

I got to jump on pitch 1, a short crack/corner up through a roof, reminiscent of the Narrows all-time-favorite Dihedral, 5.7 – I think. From there, Kevin followed a similar crack/corner straight up a long pitch that involved a bit of face climbing around wide sections (all in all 5.7). Pitch 3 was easy, starting with low 5th class, then some harder face moves higher up that take you below a huge roof. I probably stopped too early to belay, but you are climbing around corners and begin feeling the rope drag. So I stopped and belayed up KD. Kevin got to climb the traverse under the roof and seemed to enjoy it. It’s got some thin feet but good hands and the exposure is nice. Kevin really pressed to tie 4 and 5 together but I had Dan leading up behind me and was worried about slowing them down. So Kevin relented and belayed me through the traverse and I started pitch 5 through a roof and then a supposedly 5.8 crux that we never really noticed. The roof move felt much harder – maybe because you think about falling right on your belayer’s anchor. Anyway, this pitch was short, too, and Kevin took pitch 6 through an ugly chimney into a smooth corner with little pro. Somewhere – while following on pitch 5 he dropped a cam, and that turned out to be the one he really needed in the thin pro section. So he tried one size larger and promptly got that one totally overcammed and stuck turning it into fixed gear. A major gear loss on Day 1. Pitch 7 was my favorite. Somehow I ended up leading the two 5.8 crux pitches this day. This one was a bit tricky and run-out. I was glad to have made a trip to Quartz 2 weeks before and felt pretty solid though. You climb through a fairly smooth water streak with only the occasional little pocket for a small cam – very nice. Pitch 8 was a one-move wonder and took us to the top from where you can hike a few minutes to a real summit with 360 degree views of Nevada. The hike down to the packs is only 30-40 minutes and as straight forward as the approach. For me, this was an enjoyable day on eas y-moderate terrain – a good warm-up, thanks in part to the hike in.

Day 2, we drove and hiked into Black Velvet Canyon, unsure what exactly we wanted to climb. There were only a couple of cars in the parking lot, and we figured we’d have our pick among the routes, with “Dream of Wild Turkeys” on our ticklist. But then the team hiking in in front of us decided on DOWT, so Kevin suggested “Sour Mash”, and – without knowing much about the route, I said “sure”. One look at the guidebook, informed me this was 8 pitches, 5.10a, with a lot of 5.9 mixed in, definitely a full day of challenging climbing for me. No doubt Kevin would have to climb the 5.10 pitches.

Again, I requested pitch 1 which was short and looked easy. I forgot to consult the topo though. After an easy slab, I was confronted with some steep liebacking and couldn’t find anywhere for a solid piece of gear. Somehow I was expecting 5.7 and doubts started creeping in. But like you do when you are told “It’s only 5.7!”, I just ran it out and finished the pitch. Hours later – when we were back down – I looked at the topo and realized that pitch 1 is actually rated 5.9 R. 🙂 Kevin made pitch 2 look easy. More lie-backing, now at 5.10 with good pro and bolts and a bolted traverse over a face, finishing off with low-5th class to an anchor. Slightly pumpy but not too scary. Pitch 3 goes out right onto a face/arrete, then through a roof and follows a leaning crack out right. Good pro and bolts everywhere, and exciting exposure, 5.8-5.9. All along this pitch you don’t really know wehre you’re going till you see the anchor (hanging belay!). Pitch 4 goes up and left on mixed terrain – 5.8, to a good ledge. From here, I led pitch 5 up an easy corner crack (5.7) which swallows ridiculous amounts of pro (too much according for Kevin’s appetite) and again reached a ledge. Starting with pitch 6 things got burly. Kevin led this long crack up and it took both of us longer than the earlier pitches. This is not a jam crack – the holds are all along the edges of the crack or on the face. But it’s steep and long. Protection is good but you don’t want to stop long to fiddle with gear.

Atop pitch 6, I explained to Kevin that pitch 7 (the crux pitch – 5.10a) was his as well, and he seemed to like that. Another long, steep pitch followed. Somewhere towards the end, I reached out to the right as far as I could and listened to my left shoulder pop like a big of popcorn in the microwave. It never hurt but sure didn’t sound pretty. So when I got to the crux, a high reach for a fingerlock with no feet at all, I smiled at Kevin who was only a few feet above wondering “What are you doing ?” and stuck a #1 camalot in the slot and pulled on that. To finish it off, I let Kevin lead the last pitch as well, a series of 5.9 face moves with a crux that felt harder but which I managed to pull off clean. (Picture: Me following on pitch 6)

To make a long story short, I felt really proud to get to the top, this having been my hardest,long multi-pitch climb to date. But what came next was just as good. To get to the ground, it takes 4 long 2-rope rapels, one of which sends you over a huge roof rapping in mid-air several hundred feet above the canyon bottom – very cool ! All the way up and down you’re watching teams climbing other routes on the wall – I had a chat with a guy a few hundred feet over who had just completed the chimneys on Epinephrine, a lot of socializing going on on Black Velvet Wall !!!

Day 3, we climbed “Diet Delight” back on Windy Peak. Kevin led the first 2 5.9 pitches which we both thought were some of the best climbing of the whole trip – lots of thin cracks, flakes and corners. I led the last two 5.8 and 5.7 pitches which were fun but not great.

By Day 4, my shoulder was definitely limiting my performance. We had talked about doing Birdland (6 pitches, 5.7) with Dan and Paul. Instead we chose the shorter “Dark Shadows” (3 pitches, 5.8 ) which was on my ticklist and I had to let Kevin lead everything. I was pooped. During 24 pitches of climbing, the only time I got scared and thought I might fall was on that last day, pitch 3 of Dark Shadows. The rock is steep and shadowy cold which makes it feel almost moist to the touch – totally different from the past 3 days, and I had no confidence in my left arm/shoulder. But the route is awesome, and I want to go back to lead some of it next time.

All in all, a great trip. I probably should have quit climbing after day 3 because my shoulder still hurts, but 4 days is much better than 3 which we did last year. It gives you that much more flexibility and rest and still lets you climb a ton !

Two things I had bought for this trip and which both were a success. New approach shoes – just picked up a pair of sticky rubber trail shoes on sale at Sports Authority that performed very well, and a 2-liter Camelbak from Sports Authority, also on sale. I actually climbed with plenty of water, food, first aid kit, and approach shoes in my pack for 4 days, and I hardly felt I was carrying anything !

Hope to be back at Red Rocks next spring if not sooner. Ok, now, I’ll shut up.

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One Response to “Red Rocks – April 3-7, 08”

  1. You forgot my best lead of the trip — Edge Dressing — http://www.mountainproject.com/v/nevada/red_rock/pine_creek_canyon/106053521

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