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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

Tiny Adventures: Searching for Ice

When the weather first turns cold, I always find that it takes a little bit of time before I realize that I can still go outside and do stuff. You’d think I’d remember from *last* year, or the year before, but I mostly just want to stay inside, in the comfort of a heated home, warm kitties, and blankets.

I snapped out of it last weekend, when Seth wanted to go searching for ice. I pulled on some baselayers, geared up, and headed out into the cold. We picked up a friend on the way, and went exploring!

The Mississippi River runs through Minneapolis, in some parts separating the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. We knew of one place across the river where ice forms, and I had heard of another spot, but wasn’t sure exactly where it was.

Our search for ice turned into a lovely little tiny adventure!

Ice

The ice is getting there! Just needs to stay cold….

One of my very favorite things about the Twin Cities is that it takes only a few minutes to feel like I’m *not* in the middle of a city. These falls are less than two miles from our house, and only a five minute walk from the busy streets above.

Listening to the ice

Listening to the ice

We continued our adventure from here, following trails down to the river, up little rock faces, down gullies and inlets.

There was one spot where plates of ice from the river were washing up on the shore. Among the sound of the waves was the delicate clinking of ice. Like little glass xylophones.

That was my favorite part.

From there, it was on to some climbing shenanigans. We tested our undercling traversing skills along the side of a wall:

Rob and Seth working on their undercling skills

A long ways to go.

A long ways to go.

 

And then headed out to find more ice.

This ice forms at the end of a city aqueduct that eventually drains into the river. When we climbed up top to check out potential anchors, we found some already there, bolted into the concrete. Yay!

 

 

A successful day of adventuring, only a few miles from home. The very definition of a tiny adventure.

Proof that we were still in the middle of the city? This graffiti, right above the anchors for that last ice climb.

 

Tiny Adventures: Hatching Praying Mantises

This is probably the coolest addition to our garden yet.

First off, the garden is looking amazing this year. It’s dense with goodies, and all of the goodies are really happy. Carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, beans, cabbage…. all sorts of yummy things. We do, however, have a few pesky visitors munching holes in leaves.

Enter, these little guys:

Praying Mantis

 

Praying Mantis Egg Case

Praying Mantis Egg Case

 

A few weeks ago, a friend gave us some praying mantis egg cases as a gift for the garden. The instructions said to hang up the egg cases, each of which contains an average of 200 eggs, and wait for them to hatch! The baby mantises thin themselves out (aka, eat each other), until there are just a few left in the garden, eating all of the bad guys.

 

So, that’s what we did. Yesterday, I stepped out to see this:

Hatched Praying Mantises

Hatched Praying Mantises

Those are a whole bunch of baby praying mantises, hatched from their egg cases, trying to get out. So, we distributed them around the garden, and hung the egg cases in case there were more in there. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, every time I go out to the garden, I’m not only pulling errant weeds and checking for ripe veggies, I’m looking for praying mantis babies. I love them.

 

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December Hibernation

I’ve gone into what I can only describe as hibernation mode. Not super inspired to go to kettlebells classes, not jonesing to climb, not wanting to do much of anything that involves leaving the house. It’s dark, it’s grey, it’s cold. Give me a warm beverage and some slippers, I’m staying in.

These guys know what I'm talking about.

These guys know what I’m talking about.

I remember this happening last December as well. I inadvertantly took three weeks off of kettlebells classes and just did other things. I think it’s a good thing to do every once in a while. Just take a breather from the normal stuff. Give my mind and body a rest.

We went to the climbing gym this week, my first time in almost three weeks, and I just climbed stuff that was fun. I stuck mostly to routes well within my comfort level, and then I worked on one challenging project with some of the climbing crew. It was fun and relaxed, and there was no pressure put on myself to perform in any way. We laughed and had fun. Continue reading

Tiny Adventures: Conrad

See that tree hanging over the falls? That’s Conrad.

We came across Conrad one day a few weeks ago. We had decided to take the bikes out with no particular destination in mind. We rode along the river and decided to check out the Lock & Dam on the Mississippi River near Fort Snelling. We rode down the ramp, locked up our bikes, and took a look around. Turns out it’s pretty cool down there. Continue reading

Our New Canoe

Minnesota has a lot of lakes. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least eight lakes within only a few miles of our house in the city. They’re everywhere.

Minnesota is known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes, but the official count of lakes more than ten acres (40,000 m²) in size is approximately 11,842. All but four Minnesota counties contain at least one natural lake. Minnesota’s shoreline from its lakes and rivers provide more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.

– Source: Wikipedia

So yeah. Quite a bit of water here. We’ve talked about getting a canoe for a while, but finally decided it was time. Seth found a used one for sale this summer and we bought it. It’s big, orange, and awesome. Continue reading

Simplify

I’ve been on a mission to simplify my life.

Making room for the important things

It started a few years ago with my time. I was busy. Stressed. Anxious. Then, one day, I realized that the way I spend my time is my choosing. So, I made some changes and simplified my schedule. Cleared out to the essentials. Suddenly, I had a lot of open time, and that time that had previously been filled with obligations was filled, instead, by the things that I enjoyed. I had time to take walks. See my friends. Relax. Smile. Continue reading

Car Free Musings

I’ve experienced some really beautiful moments while walking. Or riding my bicycle. Or looking out the window of a bus.

Three years ago, the engine in my car died a sudden, violent death. A spark plug basically exploded and took its surroundings with it. It was a cold, winter day, I was two miles from my destination, and I somehow was able to limp the car there and avoid making the walk in -20F temps. It never ran again. RIP, Saturn Wagon.

I didn’t look for another car right away. I decided to challenge myself and see what it would take to get around town without my own vehicle. I’d go two months, just as an experiment.

Three years later I still haven’t bought a car. Full disclosure: I share a car with my (now) husband, although at the beginning of the experiment, we had just started dating, so that hasn’t always been the case. Continue reading

Coping with Anxiety

I hear it a lot. Listen to what your body is telling you. It’s good advice. Usually, that advice is given in the context of physical activity. If your body is tired or needs a rest day, you can usually tell if you pay attention. If we are aware of how our bodies are feeling, it lets us know when to go and when to rest, and where our limits are.

Listening to our bodies isn’t limited only to physical activity, though. Our bodies and minds are connected. When something’s off for me mentally, it’s usually my body that tells me. Sometimes it’s subtle. I’ll be extra tired, or a little weaker than usual. Sometimes it’s not subtle at all, and comes in the form of intense anxiety. Feel that weight crushing down on my chest? That means I need to clear some things out or take a step back.

When I overextend myself mentally, it’s my body that shows it. There’s a whole scale of possible reactions,from simple tiredness and tears to full-blown panic attacks, left crouched on the floor gasping for air. Continue reading