Friday, March 23, 2012

Red Rocks and Zion

Red Rocks

The annual winter migration/pilgrimage from Montana to the American desert South-West occured recently. This year it was decided (in a large part because of the MSU climbing club- seriously many thanks!) to head to Red Rocks, Nevada, for 9 days. I have never been to Red Rocks before so I was excited to explore a new area, see some new sights, and climb some different rock.

Coleoptera fauna

Bridget and I fought the urge to veer off the highway near Hurricane, Utah, (i.e. Zion), and continued on the spectatular drive to Las Vegas. Las Vegas.... this place is the anti-apotheosis of humanity. What a cesspool. Well anyway, once past the glaring lights and distractions of sin city we found ourselves in the relative solitude of the desert.

Bridget Belliveau, Erik Johnson, and I decided to start small and climb progressivly bigger stuff in Red Rocks. We spent the first day sport climbing in Calico hills, a fun sport climbing venue!

The next day we geared up early and climbed "Ginger Cracks". This route proved to be my favorite route of the entire trip. We had the route to ourselves, the climbing was really fun (find the no hands rest on the crux pitch, I dare you!), and the exposure was thrilling.

Bridget leads the airy 5th pitch of "Ginger Cracks"

Erik and I following the 5th pitch of "Ginger Cracks". The seconds followed together which made for quick climbing.

Erik leads the last pitch of "ginger cracks". Photo by Bridget B.

After Ginger cracks we decided to climb what we had heard was THE moderate classic, "Bird Land". We leasurly climbed this route with 3 other parties, a bit crowded and a cluster at the anchors, but the climbing was worth it; it was an incredibly mellow and fun route. It's like gym climbing on the biggest jugs made on a vertical wall for 6 pitches. The guide book recommends not climbing the last pitch but Erik lead it anyway, and it was really fun, do it!

Bridget leads the 3rd pitch of bird land

bird land, 5th pitch


After three days of climbing in Red Rocks we needed adventure. Erik suggested something on Mt Wilson, one of the largest faces in the park. We decided to try and climb a route on the east face of mt Wilson nammed "Dogma". We packed water, sleeping bags, and food for 2 days in the haul bag and set off.

the massive east face of Mt. Wilson with "Dogma" drawn in.

The approach was heinous. We scrambled up to the base of the face then found the approach gully which turned out to have a bit of exposed, low 5th class climbing. Of course we didn't rope up and I for one was gripped climbing the sandy rock with a haul bag on. We did a rappell in the approach gully, then bushwacked through pissed-off scrub oak into the gully proper. While we were deep in the gully I saw something reflecting in the sun, it was a beer can. I thought it was empty trash so I reached down to pick it up and throw it in the haul bag to clean the litter up. To my surprise the can was full!! (we had packed no beer along) so we were psyched (thanks to whom ever lost it, your loss was greatly appreciated).

Erik and I approaching Mt. Wilson. Photo by Bridget B.

We finally found the start of the route and Erik lead off. The first 3 pitches sucked. Sandy, loose, full of scrub oak, and dangerous/ run out climbing. Luckily Erik excels at heady climbing so he lead the nasty stuff. The route then got steep and I set off on the crux of the first day, a 5.11 mixed bolt/gear pitch to a squeeze chimney. I fought up this pitch and was able to onsight it. The next pitch was Bridget's and she danced up the steep featureless slab clipping widely spaced bolts. A few more moderate pitches brought us to Sherwood forest half way up the wall, where we found a nice place to spend the night on a large ledge; and drink a skunky beer thats been sitting in the desert for at least a year.

Bridget coming up the second pitch of 'dogma'

Bridget leading on the first day

Erik enjoying the coors we found

View of Vegas from our bivy spot.

Bridget and Erik sawing logs

Sunrise from the ledge

We passed the sureal night with the lghts of Vegas reflecting off the surrounding cliffs. We awoke early and climbed the remaining few hundred feet to the base of the headwall where 8-9 pitches of steep free climbing awaited.

Erik heading up to the headwall pitches from the Sherwood forest bivy

Myself leading the technical crux (5.11c) of the route.

steep climbing on the headwall

Bridget hanging out with the mini-pig on one of the many uncomfortable hanging belays

Erik leading on the white headwall above the red headwall.

We continued climbing hauling the haulbag when needed and finally topped out in a howling wind around 4:30pm. We quickly packed our gear then ran down the backside of Mount Wilson to the limestone cliffs. We did a few sketchy rappels into Oak Creek, then did some canyoneering into the darkness. We ended up doing a few rappels where we threw the rope in the darkness only to hear it splash in a pool of water below. We made it out the canyon and were surprised to see headlamps on solar slab wayyy above us. We ended up missing the Oak Creek parking lot in the darkness and walked the extra couple of miles to the highway... it was a great adventure that didn't end till it ended!

The three of us on the top of Mount Wilson.

Rappelling on the descent at the limestone.

The next day we slept in and sorted gear. We had a few days left on the trip and we decided that day to head to Zion and try and climb a wall there. We arrived in the later afternoon relieved that Las Vegas was far behind us...
We awoke early the next day and climbed the "Touchstone Wall" in an 11 hour car-car trip. It was really fun doing some aid climbing and free climbing on this wide crack route.


The Touchstone Wall roughly follows this line. Photo by Bridget B.

Erik leading the crux (C2) pitch.

Bridget becoming corrupted from a free climber into a wall climber at Zion.

Getting higher on the route

Erik free climbing on the Touchstone wall

myself getting through the wide stuff. Photo by Bridget B.

Erik leading on the wierd last pitch.

Erik on top of the Touchstone Wall

Bridget on the descent

Bridget on the descent

Bridget and Erik soaking it all in.

What a cool trip, Cheers.