With winter setting in and the snow piling up on our back deck, we’ve been getting a little antsy to go climbing outside. For almost the last month we’ve been hitting the gym hard, training at the Front to work the raw power, and making regular trips down to Momentum to tie in and get pumped on the lead walls. Between the two facilities it’s quite possible to stay in pretty decent shape. However, it’s still not climbing outside! We’ve been checking the forecast for every climbing destination south of us, all the way down to Hueco. The massive storm that has come through though has deposited cold temps and some precip in every single climbing area across the southwest. Negative.
After short deliberation we came to the conclusion to head south to Las Vegas and the sunny confines of Red Rocks. Lin made a couple of phone calls and was reassured that if the forecast is 45 and rainy in Vegas, it was sunny and warm at a few walls in the park. That was all it took. We called ahead to Bonnie Springs (bring yer six shooters!) and loaded the car up with, well, basically every single thing we own... including the cats. Chevy Chase and the National Lampoon crew has nothing on THIS family vacation.
We had dry roads all the way so we made great time. Naturally, when we hit the VRG I was driving and rubber necking trying to check out the Blasphemy Wall. I felt like a dip shit since it was seven o’clock and blacker than the inside of a cow and obviously couldn’t see a damn thing, but Deadbolts “You Don’t Scare Me” was cranked on the iPod and the psych was high. After a quick stop in Vegas for some staples, we cruised through the Nevadan desert with wild donkey signs and soldier-like Joshua trees splattering the shoulders of the wandering high way. Our digs here in Bonnie Springs are pretty swank by climbers standards. We’re rocking two tele’s, a little kitchenette and a California King bed, not bad. It DID however suck when we got all the food inside and started to cook dinner when we realized that this is the one establishment that comes complete with a kitchenette but no dishes or utensils... shit!
I took one for the team and drove the 30 minutes back to town and purchased a sweet new set of Martha Stewart dishes from Albertsons... at least we have a preferred card.
Thursdsay morning we woke up to clear blue skies and lots of sun! We scarfed down some powdered doughnuts and a bowl of Cheerios and headed for the park. We opted to climb at the sun baked Stratocaster wall, a bit of a hike but not too bad. The dogs did great considering over half of the 30 minute approach is on sandstone slabs. They clawed and pawed and peddled their way up behind us, only requiring a boost once. We pulled up onto the large terrace that makes up the base of the wall and a curious head popped up over a bush in front of us. “Holy shit” I said, “that’s a fricken whippet!” As we walked around the corner to our surprise our friends from SLC Trent and Dawn were climbing there with their 11 month old whippet Epic. The boys were psyched!
The dogs got down to some serious rough housing and we set to sampling the fantastic red and black patina sandstone routes. The warm ups were terrific; one, a pumpy short route with big open handed sloping jugs, and the other, a longer technical crimp fest on a vertical wall of blackened edges. Neither of us has had much experience climbing on this type of sandstone and it definitely took some getting used to. Some holds are terrible hollow sounding (one rib of rock the size of a coffee table I could see daylight behind) but surprisingly strong. As I was gingerly pulling on the seemingly fragile holds, I voiced my concern for the friable holds and Trent reassured me that if his 200 pound frame could tug on them, so could my 185 pound carcass. I was comforted for about ten seconds and then I realized he probably just primed them all and the whole wall was ready to fall over on me... I began thinking very light thoughts, feathers... helium... feathers... helium...
After we felt good and warmed up, we got our game faces on and set off to try the walls test-piece, a .13b called Beyond Reason. WOW! What a perfect climb! This one goes on the list of greats and I’d recommend it to anyone climbing near the grade. Lindsay hung the draws and did a great job of deciphering the upper headwall, a cryptic series of moves through tiny crimps and edges. The bottom half of the route is a full on slug fest. Compression climbing between sidepulls, edges, and sloping crimps. The movement was the first thing I noticed, brilliant throws, lunges, and powerful lock offs between finger buckets and bad edges (one in particular we’ve dubbed “the turd”). We worked the route into the fading sunlight (and warmth). I was able to snatch the redpoint on my third attempt by the skin of my teeth. Having not climbed outside in a while, our endurance is a bit lacking. The gym sessions have definitely helped but they’re still no substitute for the real thing.
Lindsay came dangerously close on her third go as well but fatigue had set in and the cold temps were taking hold. She figured out a couple of better sequences on her next go and we’ve vowed to return again so she can finish the rig, truly a route worth coming back for. The forecast isn’t looking great (as I’m writing this the canyons and big mountains are engulfed in clouds) but we’re optimistic and will try and get in as many days as possible before we leave on Wednesday. It’s a real treat just to be down here and climbing in such a beautiful place.