Trip Report: Red Rocks March 2014

Beautiful Red Rocks

Beautiful Red Rocks

I’m not a big fan of Vegas, but I *am* a big fan of the large rocks that sit just outside of its borders. That would be Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Red Rocks for short. This was my second trip out to the park and it’s becoming very clear to me why this is such a popular destination for climbers. There’s tons of sport climbing (that’s mainly what we focused on our first trip), and even more trad, of all kinds. Short approaches, long approaches, single pitch, multi pitch, easy, moderate, hard…. And there’s a LOT of it.

The crew.

The crew.

This time around we focused on traditional climbing instead of sport. In six days we didn’t even begin to cover what the park has to offer. As a group, our goal for the week was to seek out easy to moderate trad routes and improve our trad skills in general, including gear placement, rope handling, climbing as a team, etc.

There were five of us. Myself, Seth, Russell, Zack, and Paul. We flew out the 3rd week of March, rented a condo in Summerlin (only a 10 min. drive from the park entrance) cooked our own meals, and had a pretty fantastic week overall. We mainly used Jason Martin’s guidebook “Fun Climbs Red Rocks: Topropes and Moderates,” supplementing route info with the Handren guide and Mountain Project. Here’s where we climbed:

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Paul on “Chips and Salsa”

Chips and Salsa

This is a short, 3-pitch climb in the first pullout on the Tuna and Chips wall. The approach is only about 10 minutes.

We kicked off our week with this route, and it was a great choice to start out on. The climbing is fun and fairly casual, and it was short enough to take our time and work on our systems. At the top of the route is a big, beautiful area to hang out and have lunch, and the view is quite lovely.

I would have liked to go back and climb this again at the end of our trip, but unfortunately we ran out of time.

 

Sorting gear on top of “Chips and Salsa”

Seth leading Tonto

Seth leading “Tonto”

Willow Spring

We originally chose this area for its afternoon shade on a day when the temps climbed into the 80s. It ended up being the most frequented of our trip. There are a quite a few solid options for single pitch trad, and it’s a great spot to climb. Bring your long sleeves; it can get chilly when the sun tucks behind the rocks in the afternoon.

We climbed mostly on the Ragged Edges wall. My personal favorite route was “Tonto” (also my first lead of the trip, so I might be a little biased).

Other routes climbed were “Ok, Ok, Ok!” “Ragged Edges – 1st pitch,” and “Go Ahead and Jump.”

 

Seconding "Ok! Ok! Ok!"

Seconding “Ok! Ok! Ok!” (Photo: Zack)

Zack on Ragged Edges

Zack on “Ragged Edges”

Seth on Peaches

Seth on “Peaches” (photo: Zack)

 

We went back on our last day to the Children’s Crag and climbed “Peaches,” which was also a fun little climb.  The descent is a bit tricky; I’d recommend a double-rope rappel over the walk-off.

 

 

 

Paul on Peaches

Paul on “Peaches” (look closely, he’s up there!)

Rusty on Scramblers Wall

Rusty on Scramblers Wall

 

Scramblers Wall

Our group headed here for its low grade trad climbs. It was fun, easy climbing, but a bit chossy and very run-out. If I could go back in time, I’m not sure this area would be my first choice for the day (I’d probably check out the Romper Room Wall in First Creek Canyon instead).

That being said, it did end up being a full day of climbing, and the group climbed every route on the wall. Leading, following, working on skills… I think for most of the group it was a confidence builder. The very next day, Seth and Paul tackled “Solar Slab,” and Rusty, Zack, and myself headed back to Willow Spring, where I got my first lead of the trip.

 

 

Solar Slab

Solar Slab

Paul on Solar Slab – Pitch 3 (photo: Seth)

This is where our little family of five split into two groups. Seth and Paul took a day and climbed Solar Slab. I’m trying to get Seth to write a trip report, but for now, here is my second hand account of the climb

They approached through Solar Slab Gully (five pitches). That gets to the base of Solar Slab itself, which is another seven pitches.

It sounds like the first two pitches are pretty straightforward, and after that it gets more exposed with harder climbing for pitches three and four. The route then gradually eases up. Paul and Seth chose to stop at the top of pitch 7 (that’s the recommended way to do it). There’s an off-route rappel, which Seth really liked. It keeps rappelers out of the way of climbers and also results in fewer rappels than if one were to rappel back down the route.

Seth on top of Solar Slab

Seth on top of Solar Slab (photo: Paul)

 

This route does get very busy. Seth recommends getting a start earlier than the 6am park opening time. You can park at the loop exit lot, and there’s a trail from there to the Canyon. We heard from several parties that finding the way back in the dark is challenging. There are lots of braided trails, so its very easy to get lost and end up wandering through the desert. Another reason to get an early start.

Overall, with some waiting for others and route-finding, the day was 14 hours total for those guys. The overall report? Exhausting… but a very fun climb.

 

 

 

Solar Slab Gully

The hike in to Solar Slab Gully

Hiking in to Solar Slab Gully (photo: Zack)

That's me starting the 3rd pitch of Solar Slab Gully

That’s me starting the 3rd pitch of Solar Slab Gully (photo: Zack)

Seth and Paul needed a rest day after their climb of Solar Slab, but they recommended the Gully as a fun climb all on its own (and a good route for a beginning lead climber like myself). So, Zack, Russell, and I headed out the next day to tackle the Gully. It’s five pitches officially, but we linked the last two short pitches into one. I thought this was a very fun climb.

This is a very popular route, as it is one of the approaches for “Solar Slab,” and a route that folks climb on its own. We were behind two other parties when we arrived, so there was a bit of waiting. Something, maybe, to expect on this wall.

The first pitch is a bit tricky and exposed, and the crux of the route, in my opinion. Our fearless leader, Russell, rocked it (thanks, Rusty!). The remainder of the route has a lot of really fun climbing. Some chimneys, some run-out slab, and huge belay ledges. Advanced climbers may think this route is boring, but those climbers would probably continue on to climb the rest of Solar Slab. Personally, I thought the gully was great fun and the perfect way to spend a day.

Zack, me, and Russell on top of Solar Slab Gully

Zack, me, and Russell on top of Solar Slab Gully (photo: Zack)

A bit of rappel beta: from the hang out spot on top, look back down the slab towards the canyon and you’ll see a big rock perched below. Just to the left of this, looking down, are a set of chains. A double-rope rappel from these drops you down to the landing at the top of the 2nd pitch of Solar Slab Gully. From here it’s two more raps to the bottom (a single and a double). So glad that Russell and Zack scouted this out. Way faster than rapping down the route.

And… that was our week, with a lot of goofing around in between. We had a great time. I want to go back again RIGHT NOW, but alas, it is not to be. Aiming for a similar trip next March. Thanks again to my awesome crew for a great time.

Clouds over Red Rocks

Clouds over Red Rocks

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Other posts from this trip:

Diary of a Trad Leading Newbie: Part 1

Diary of a Trad Leading Newbie: Part 2

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