When you look at the map of where we started and where we are now it really doesn’t look like we have gone very far. I mean we’re only 2 states over from Idaho but when you look at the odometer we could be all the way in Maine if you were going off that alone. We have officially broke over 3,000 miles on the Suzuki thus far going from climbing area to climbing area.
Luckily the goal of the trip isn’t to hit every state, but more like climb as much as possible. Thankfully, we got to do just that in our week in Red Rocks, Nevada.
Our first day of climbing in Red Rocks was on a Saturday. Which we quickly realized wasn’t ideal. Even though Red Rocks is only a conservation area it was probably just as busy if not busier than the National Parks we have visited so far. Packed with a whole slew of different people. From climbers, cyclists and hikers to your traditional tourists, kids running around on the slick rock to drivers with the most expensive cars I have ever seen driving around the scenic loop.
Even though Red Rocks was packed with people, we made our way into the park and headed down to our first climbing wall. We looked up to “Hamlet Wall” to see top ropes galore. But below Hamlet Wall there is a more difficult wall called the “J Wall”. Neither of us really wanted to wait to hop on and climb so Joe climbed the lowest grade we could find, a 10b. Not necessarily the most ideal grade to climb first with cold muscles but hey, if it’s there- climb it! Joe being much bolder than I climbed it with some difficulty but got it done, I on the other hand opted out.
Once we had finished with the big climb of the day, we just so happened to see that our objective wall was thinning out so we hiked up to the Hamlet Wall. At first the wall looked mighty tall especially compared to some other climbs we have been doing. We were assured by other climbers that our 60m rope would be plenty long and we climbed away. First climb of the day for me and second for Joe was a 5.7 called “Sweets to the Sweet”. Probably the best 5.7 I have climbed so far into the trip and a great warm up climb. By the time we had finished climbing this route, we had the entire wall to ourselves. We then hopped on two 5.8s called “To Grunt and Sweat” and “Perchance to Dream”.
Both were really good climbing and the second was quite technical to begin with but mellowed out in the end which was nice being that is was significantly longer than a lot of the other routes. The worst part though was the fact that as I was clipping into the anchor I thought I had my PAS in hand but really my belay device and dropped it and listened to it clink all the way down the rock to where Joe was belaying. Who then promptly yelled “that’s not good!”
No it wasn’t. With that being said we put it aside and opted not to use it until we could get some opinions on whether to retire it or not and finished our day with my first Onsight lead climb, a 5.9 called “Sea of Troubles”. Super route and it really helped my confidence leading something just above my comfort zone.
One of the best parts of Red Rocks though was the fact that my good friend from Boise was going to fly out for a day to come climb with us. I met George while at the climbing gym back home and he has so kindly introduced me to the outdoor world of climbing and even better- ice climbing. So the least I could do would be to share a bit of the road trip with him. He flew in Monday night and we all caught up over some pizza.
One of the things that both Joe and I don’t know how to do is trad climb. So George brought a whole heap of gear with him and the next day we headed out to a 5.8 multi pitch trad route called “The Great Red Book”. After quite the hike to the base, we geared up and George led away. He placed gear and then clipped into the anchor. He quickly hollered at Joe and me to climb together up after him and he would belay us from the anchor. I had cleaned gear before but Joe had not so he was behind me and cleaned the route. Not only did we get a glimpse of trad climbing but also the chance to do some crack climbing – which neither of us have gotten to do before! We got to the anchor and opted to just call it a one pitch climb rather than making it into a multi-pitch and rappelled from the first anchor.
We ate lunch and mozied down to the Black Corridor – one of the most famous climbing areas in Red Rocks. Vertical, shaded walls make for ideal climbing and gives you a very similar feeling to climbing in a rock gym.
Though busy, we were able to hop on a great 10a called “Vegabonds”. George led the way and I was able to top rope it after him. I was pretty excited not only that it was my first 10a outside but also the fact that I felt I had climbed it really well and had the confidence to do so. Joe climbed it after me and we both agreed that it was probably one of our favorite routes on the trip so far.
We left the Black Corridor and went looking for some more trad routes only to call it a day after not having much luck. Finishing off the day with a trip down the strip so George could see Vegas. The next morning we woke up bright and early to say goodbye to George and spent the rest of the day outside the library watching Netflix and enjoying a rest day.
Of course the sun comes up and a new day brings more climbing to be done. So we headed straight back to Red Rocks to another well-known wall called the “Panty Wall”. We were the first to arrive and after figuring out which route was which we were quickly joined by another party and both started climbing about the same time. Joe started the day out on a 5.8 called “Brief Encounter” which he quite liked. I was looking forward to hopping on it as well, but I noticed everyone’s eyes were on the first pullout where the Suzuki and the other groups’ car were parked. The only two cars that joined ours were construction vehicles and the workers were walking around our cars and had blocked off the rest of the parking area. After much deliberation we figured that it would be better to hike back than to get a ticket. So we packed up our gear and quickly hurried back to the car. The workers were incredibly nice and figured that the specs of dots they could see up on the rock were us climbing but even so asked us to move our car up to the second pullout. So we hopped in and moved our car ¼ of a mile up the road.
Knowing that no one would be allowed to park at the first pullout made the thought of climbing in that area even more appealing. So we packed up our garb and hiked all the way back to the Panty Wall to have it to ourselves for the rest of the day – which seems to be unheard of. So we climbed away, adding three more 5.8s to the list of climbs. We weren’t a huge fan of the Panty Wall, especially comparing it to the climbs on the Hamlet Wall. So we hiked back to the Hamlet Wall and finished the day on the one 5.9 on the wall we hadn’t done yet, called “The Die is Cast”.
Our initial plan for our last day in Red Rocks was to finish on our second multi-pitch of our trip on a climb called “The Big Bad Wolf”. A 4 pitch 5.9 with a wonderful combination of vertical juggy climbing and small tricky slab. I had read all about it the night before and we woke up feeling pretty excited to get on the wall.
The moment we arrived, Joe was the first to notice the other climbers. We pulled out his camera and counted. Two on the wall, one starting to climb, seven at the base and four sitting at the car next to us in the parking lot waiting to do the same climb. Bummer. Needless to say we would have been waiting around for quite a while. So with that we decided to put this multi-pitch in our list of “To Do Climbs” and packed up the car and headed out.
The next destination is Death Valley National Park, California. Though we don’t plan to do any climbing here we do plan to catch up on some hiking and most importantly, some photography. Will probably only be here for a couple of days before heading to our next climbing destination in Joshua Tree National Park! Fingers crossed for some good shots and good hikes until then!
Follow more of Katie and Joe’s travels on their blog – Miles to Go.