Trip Report
Red Rocks - Swiss climbers discover the wild west
Wednesday July 6, 2016 1:29pm
This is a report on the lessons learned by Swiss climbers on our first climbing trip to the far and wild west:

#1: American squirrels are VERY hungry
#2: ALL plants in the desert have thorns
#3: The REAL meaning of bushwhacking is that you get whacked by the bushes
#4: Always have a beer ready for after the climb

We learned this by real experience, not by intense study of books. Admittedly, for item #3 some more intense studying of books might have helped. We saw our chewed up packs, disinfected our beaten up legs, got whacked by bushes, felt the thirst and were desperate when all we had was cranberry juice. This was REAL drama, the cranberry juice part more than anything else; the ancient Greeks couldn’t have done better.

It all started with a trip to the Southwest with my wonderful wife. We discovered unbelievably fantastic places; I was totally blown away. When I got back home I immediately picked up the phone and called my good friend Stefano “We need to go climbing, get ready!”

Half a year later, we’re sitting in an airplane from Europe to Las Vegas. Most of the flight is spent studying the guidebook for Red Rocks and preparing a list of climbs.


Credit: monti

Considering that we walked off our first climb in the wrong direction, we should have spent more time with the guidebook.
Off the airplane the first stop was at 5 Guys for a hamburger, tune in for the haute cuisine of the coming two weeks!
Our haute cuisine
Our haute cuisine
Credit: monti
Next stop is at a random supermarket for food, camping chairs, other stuff, not enough beer.
Then, finally, the camping ground at Red Rocks. We had a plan to do our first climb on the first day in, but jetlag took care of that and sent us into unconsciousness soon. But jetlag also got us out of the tent around 6 the next day, and off we go towards Black Velvet Canyon. Frogland was our choice for first contact with American Rock.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti

The approach is straightforward and in no time we’re standing at the start. Rock paper scissors for who gets the first lead, and off I go. First pitch is good, there are a few bolts but they are not really needed. If I remember well, there were two more bolts on the entire rest of the route; that’s more like what we expected. Another thing we didn’t expect: we were ALONE on the climb. The higher we get, the more we’re excited, what a place, what a rock, what a climb!!!! Holidays!!!! We were a bit anxious about the traverse on pitch 4, which is the crux of the climb, but that went well and without drama. Squeezing behind the chockstone on pitch 5 was good fun and the last pitches were a good conclusion to our first climb of the trip. A good start and hopefully more to come.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
For the descent, the guidebook said something about East, we should have known that East was the other side and we eventually figured out that West could not be the good way down. That was when we were face to face with some guys on the second belay of some other climb. Except that they were tied into the belay and we were clinging on to some thorny bushes (learning #2) on what felt like vertical sand. After rappelling off one of these bushes, we eventually made it down and got back to our packs.
Credit: monti
“Stefano, is that hole in your bag new?”
“Why are there shreds of your pack lying all over the place?”
“Where is our food that WAS in your pack?”
“Why do all squirrely around here seem to be laughing at us?”

Learning #1: Those f&%*!ng squirrels tore our packs to pieces and ate our food.

Our plan: have squirrel for dinner, and breakfast.

Before moving on we climb one pitch just to the left of Frogland. A crack, a flake, some face moves, 5.9ish, we’re really starting to enjoy Red Rocks sandstone.
We get back to our tent, have dinner in town, have a beer, and get back to camping in time to beat jetlag.

Knowing how to find Black Velvet Canyon the next day is for Dream of Wild Turkeys.
Credit: monti
We’re smart this time: the pack with the food hangs on the face a few meters off the ground. Too bad the squirrels are smarter. They wait patiently for the leader to be at the first belay and the belayer to be well off the ground. That’s when this furry sucker gets into action and shows that Red Rocks squirrels can climb rock too. About half way up the pitch Stefano tells me there’s something on my pack. I consider throwing a cam at him but decide against that; a Superman-like stunt to grab him in mid-flight doesn’t seem to be the best thing to do either. So I have to finish the pitch and get lowered to my pack, yelling, the squirrel doesn’t care, chews peacefully. Only when I am nearly there does he finally let go. Furry little bastard! At least the food is saved and my pack has only minor damage. We leave it at the first belay for the rest of the climb.

I get to lead the second pitch, this fantastic right-leaning crack, 50 m of fun, we finally get to use our cams on this. Now THIS IS CLIMBING!
Credit: monti

We’re again alone on the route, there are some other people on neighbouring climbs, Prince of Darkness and further left. Stefano takes pitch 3 and makes it seem easy and I then start on pitch 4. A long crack, fairly wide, plenty of good holds, but steep, this is not the kind of climbing we’re used to back home, I move carefully, quite slowly, never quite sure if squeezing into the crack is better than staying outside, my arms get pumped.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Eventually I reach two old rusty bolts, which must still be there form when Red Rocks were formed a few million years ago, maybe the local Flintstones used these to tie on their dinos, when everything was still flat around here. That’s what the bolts look like, this cannot be the belay. Above me the crack goes on and all I can see is the crack, I move on a bit and can still only see the crack. That’s when I hear the voice from below: “rope is running out”, “WHAT!?!?!?”, adrenaline, sweat, lactic acid, panic, everything pulses through my veins in abundance, he must be joking, I basically freeze and spend the next minutes (which felt like hours) considering my options. There’s not much to consider, the pitch will eventually end and we have 60m ropes, and so it was. After 59.9m I got to the belay, totally exhausted. Stefano followed, reached me with a smile, “Where’s the problem dude?” The following pitches were outstanding, each one of them up to the beginning of the ramp at pitch 8.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Here we decide to go back down, since we just made friends with the guys on Prince of Darkness and don’t want to kill them immediately by dislodging all the loose stuff lying around up there.
Another great climb, our pack is still at belay 1 and the squirrels must be chewing on some other tourist’s bag. We enjoy the canyon and slowly make our way back to the car. And we even manage to resolve the beer shortage. The difference between ancient Greek drama and Swiss climbers in Nevada is that we can drive to the gas station and get the beer; Easy, we don’t even have to kill any Spartans for it.

So we’re tuning into holiday mood and rhythm. Climb, sleep, eat, drink, climb, eat, drink, repeat.

We want to check out another canyon the next day and head to Pine Creek canyon to climb Dark Shadows.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
As we get there we find another party on the route, but they’re well ahead of us. We take our time to rope up and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The packs are high up, hung between two trees. We hope we won’t miss gear on the route because we used so much stuff to get our packs out of reach of the squirrels…
Climbing finally begins and as we are at the first belay the other party is rappelling. Yet another gorgeous route, never too hard, never too easy.
The topmost layer of rock, this must be the desert varnish, makes for really good holds and interesting features.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
The climbs so far were perfect for practicing gear placements and we really enjoy that kind of climbing.
Since we’re down by the packs soon and the temperature is too high for another climb (or are we just too lazy?), we go on into the canyon for an hour or so and are amazed by vegetation and geology around here.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Then comes the last day in Red Rocks, we decide to close this part of our trip with Crimson Crysalis. All the good we heard and read about this climb is not exaggerated, it really is great. It feels the way climbing should feel, a constant flow of movements, the higher we climb the better the view is. There’s a fairly strong wind blowing and who would have thought that we'd end up climbing in a jacket in the Nevada desert? Anyway, we manage to get back down without getting our ropes snagged.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
This climb is really worth doing, and once again we were alone on the climb. After Crimson Crysalis we go for another climb nearby, which most likely is Spare Rib, an old Urioste climb. The still is an old bolt with JU engraved into it.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
All in all we spent a few fantastic days out here and plan to be back for some more climbing and just enjoying this great place.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
The next day we move on to Zion, but that‘s for another TR.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have climbing in Red Rocks and writing it.


  Trip Report Views: 2,342
monti
About the Author
monti is a mountain climber from Basel, Switzerland, and likes having a beer after the climb.

Comments
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Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jul 6, 2016 - 01:37pm PT
Nice! So much climbing? Were you too busy for even one game of Jass?
And now I have to go to Suisse in two weeks for three weeks of rain?
:-( :-( :-(
overwatch

climber
Arizona
  Jul 6, 2016 - 01:45pm PT
The Rock there is so beautiful. amazing that you got on those climbs without a crowd
labrat

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Jul 6, 2016 - 01:45pm PT
Nice! Thanks for posting. Red Rock is a fantastic place!
Erik
Levy

Big Wall climber
Calabasas
  Jul 6, 2016 - 01:48pm PT
Nice trip report. Lots like you had lots of fun. Too bad the squirrels tore up your pack. Hopefully you can repair it for future use.

Great photos too!
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Jul 6, 2016 - 01:55pm PT

Real, funny, and with great pics..., but one question remains: Did you have squirrel for dinner?
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jul 6, 2016 - 02:19pm PT
Merci vilmal!
spectreman

Trad climber
  Jul 6, 2016 - 02:33pm PT
Awesome!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 6, 2016 - 03:13pm PT
Nevada sure aint Switzerland!!!!
my wife and I scoping a line from Kleine Scheidigg (sp?) last spring
my wife and I scoping a line from Kleine Scheidigg (sp?) last spring
Credit: micronut

Tell me you boys yodeled at least a little up there!
I wear my hat from Grindelwald every time I climb now.
I wear my hat from Grindelwald every time I climb now.
Credit: micronut


Great report. See you in the hills!

Scott
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Jul 6, 2016 - 03:30pm PT
Monti, it was so much fun to read this and to experience those climbs, which I have done several times, through your visitor's eyes. All fantastic choices.

But I really have to laugh because in the approximately 50 times I have been to Red Rocks, I have never seen a squirrel there! Bighorn sheep, burros, owls, and other wildlife but never a squirrel!!

Come back soon!
Phyl
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Jul 6, 2016 - 03:31pm PT
Thanks for a fun trip report! It's always interesting to see our country through the eyes of someone else
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Jul 6, 2016 - 03:44pm PT
What a great trip Monti and Stephano! Thanks for posting that up.
Mike.

climber
  Jul 6, 2016 - 03:54pm PT
Solid. Nice going. TFPU!
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
  Jul 6, 2016 - 07:28pm PT
They're only pretending to be squirrels.
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Jul 6, 2016 - 08:09pm PT
Welcome to the U.S., lads. Nice report.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jul 6, 2016 - 08:15pm PT
Excellent TR.
W.L.

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jul 6, 2016 - 08:18pm PT
thanks for sharing! great TR!

the squirrels that live in Black Velvet Canyon are well fed, especially the ones at the base of Frogland and the base of POD/DoWT/etc
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
  Jul 6, 2016 - 09:30pm PT
A lovely report that reminds me of my trip out there five years ago http://www.supertopo.com/tr/A-Week-in-Red-Rock-151-A-Photo-Essay/t371n.html.

Y'all come back.

PS: If you stop over in NYC let me know, maybe we can do a few routes in the Gunks. No squirrels will eat your packs, and beer is almost but not quite at the base of the crag.
monti

Mountain climber
Basel, Switzerland
Author's Reply  Jul 6, 2016 - 10:47pm PT
Thanks for all the comments folks! This is encouraging to post more TR.

Reilly, if you're coming over now the weather is improving, you've chosen a good time. Let me know if you need information or recommendations for climbs and outings.
hamie

Social climber
Thekoots
  Jul 6, 2016 - 11:54pm PT
Nice report. Curious that you avoided the usual crowds. Which month were you there?
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 7, 2016 - 03:07am PT
Really nice job boyz!
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Jul 7, 2016 - 03:27am PT
Gotta love the Swiss,
they have a fabulous sense of all that's important.
chocolate, w/ coffee,
calling mountains; hills,
cliffs; rocks,
and walls home.

Thanx for sharing!


come to the east, USA September - December.
It is sticky with humidity & bugs in the summer,
but the climbing variety, the different types of rock within a
2 day drive makes (it also) a good long climbing trip.


O.D.

Trad climber
LA LA Land
  Jul 7, 2016 - 06:36am PT
What a grand adventure! Thanks for sharing it here.
monti

Mountain climber
Basel, Switzerland
Author's Reply  Jul 7, 2016 - 10:40pm PT
Hamie, we were there in mid-May. After RR we moved on to Zion and Moab (TR will follow) and by the time we got to Moab it was memorial day weekend and the place was packed
Micronut, you should hear us yodelling man, we tried it to keep the squirrels away, it usually works to scare people off...
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