Trip ReportRed Rocks - Swiss climbers discover the wild west
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have climbing in Red Rocks and writing it.
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