Thursday, January 3, 2013

Red Rocks

After my week in San Francisco for AGU, I rushed back to Eugene, churned out a 20 page report and packed my bags for a week in Red Rocks, Nevada.  Peter and I flew to Las Vegas on Monday, stayed in the Luxor, became immediately overwhelmed by casino sounds and made a run for it Tuesday morning.  We cragged at the Panty wall all afternoon; bathed in the sun that Oregon so lacks this time of year.

 The Panty Wall

 Peter before Panty Raid, 5.10a

 At the top of Panty Raid, 5.10a

 The Calico Hills

 Calico Hills

 Leading Sacred Undergarment Squeeze Job, 5.8

Climbing until dusk

We found some people looking to share a campsite, so we packed in next to their big red van.  Micah and Emily, a couple from Ellensburg, Wa, would be our camp buddies for the next week.  Emily is tiny, but climbs like a rockstar.  Micah has the most glorious beard in addition to humility when out climbed by his wife.  There was a lone woman sharing the campsite as well.  While chatting in the muted glow of our headlamps, Christie figured out that we worked together for a few years at the UW climbing wall.  The next morning, in the daylight, we recognized each other.  While making introductions, Micah mentioned that a huge group of Eugene people were camped just a few sites down.  We wandered over to investigate and found many familiar faces of Eugene climbers.  It was clear that the entire northwest had escaped to the desert in search of the sun.

Sunset at the campground

Campground in the morning

The next day, Peter and I hit up one of the classics, Cat in the Hat (5.6).  It was a windy day, so we skipped the top couple hundred feet of 4th class climbing to save ourselves some tedious rappels.  I had trouble climbing after freezing at some of the belays.  It's hard to hold on when you are shivering, but I adjusted to climbing in the cold eventually.  

 Moving the second belay before I lead P2, Cat in the Hat (5.6)

 Pine Creek Canyon

Peter Leading P3, Cat in the Hat (5.6)

Following P3, Cat in the Hat (5.6)

Leading P4, Cat in the Hat

Peter leading P5, Cat in the Hat

The forecast the next day called for rain, so we got two quick pitches in and made plans to hike to a hot spring on the Colorado River.  Around noon, we wrangled our group of ten into the cars and drove across the border to Arizona.  It was raining when we left the campground and the dark clouds hovered for the extent of the drive.  We parked just off the highway and walked down a gravel wash for over an hour.  The canyon narrowed as we descended, but just as we reached the Colorado it opened up into a sandy beach.

 A slot canyon off the wash

 Getting deeper

 I wouldn't want to be here when that got stuck.

After hiking downstream a bit, we headed up a slot canyon to find our hot spring.  When we arrived, we saw a tall ladder fastened against a drizzling waterfall of glorious hot water.  Further up the canyon, sandbags supported various pools.

 The first tiny hot pool

The ladderfall to hot spring glory

When it began to get dark, we packed up and hiked back to the wash.  It poured rain on us as we felt our way back up the canyon by the dim light of our headlamps.  That night there would be no campfire surrounded by laughter and riddles and debates about zombies.  Tomorrow there would be no climbing; the sandstone was soaked.  

We cragged on limestone the next day.  Just in the outer suburbs of Las Vegas there is a park next to a junky looking butte called the "Urban Crag."  It was tagged and dirty and sharp, but it was climbing at it sufficed for the day.

 Calico Hills, post rain.

The urban crag

Overnight it snowed almost as low as the campground.  We drove the loop road to take pictures and scope out the climb we were hoping to do the next day.  It was in the sun and snow free; we crossed our fingers that it would be climbable the next day.

 Peter and Christie

We ventured to the local rock gym for some bouldering and our first shower of the week!  Since we were clean, we went to the strip to eat ourselves sick at a buffet. 

 Fountain at the Bellagio

Boobies at Caesar's Palace

In the morning we headed for our climb, hopeful that it was dry enough.  At the base of Johnny Vegas (5.7) a group had already begun climbing (Christie and her friend) and two more were close behind us, but jumped on other routes.  The climbing was fun and dry, although finger numbingly cold.  Eventually we broke into the sun and had to strip off our layers.  At the ledge, we moved to Solar Slab (5.6), which was in horrible conditions.  The crack system that the route follows was a gushing waterfall, draining all the snowmelt from the higher flat areas of the rock.  Between the water, the time and a minor altercation with an agressive pair behind us, we decided to bail after 3 pitches.  It grew dark as we hiked back to the car, and we had surprising difficulty finding the parking lot with only the light of our headlamps.

Leading P1, Johnny Vegas (5.7)

Following P2, Johnny Vegas (5.7)

Leading P3, Johnny Vegas

Peter at the 2nd belay, Solar Slab (5.6).  Eating some lunch 

Our last full day we put in 7 pitches of sport climbing at the Gallery area in the Calico Hills.  The sun was out again and we worked through the .10's in the area.  That night we returned to the strip and spent all of $6 in the slot machines before passing out in preparation for our early flight. Despite the rain and snow, we managed to climb every day!  I wish it could have been a longer trip, but luckily amazing snow awaited our return to Oregon. 

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