Red Rocks

Apryle few out to LA for Thanksgiving, and we spent the long weekend at Red Rocks, a large canyon system 20 minutes outside of Las Vegas.  Red Rocks host a number of moderate multi-pitch climbing on less than confidence inspiring sand stone.  The approaches are generally long and the descents range from many rappels to endless 3rd class scrambles.

I picked Apryle up at LAX at 1:30am on Thursday, we headed strait for Vegas.  We arrived at Red Rocks at 6:15am, which was a perfect time to start a climbing (who needs sleep?).  Since Apryle had never been to Red Rocks, we decided to climb solar slab, a long, but easy introduction to the sandstone.  We arrived at the trail head as several parties we beginning their hike into the canyon.  Solar slab being a popular climb, we knew that we would have to move fast, as to not get stuck behind large slowly moving parties.  We arrived at the base of the solar slab gully (a 3 pitch 5.3 climb) in a record-breaking 25 minutes and quickly past a group of four who had just started the first pitch.  We simul-climbing the gully and reached the solar slab ledge, first in line for the climb.  The 6 pitch 5.6 climb went with out problems, with Apryle enjoying the occasional slabby run-outs typical of Red Rocks.  We opted out of the 7th pitch and scramble to the top, feeling the effects of 30 hours with out sleep, and began the rappel.  We passed many groups on the way down, most of who would not make it to the top by dark.  We were glad that we had moved quickly early on the climb.  We returned to the car around 3pm and headed to the campground, which was full.  After getting kicked out of the picnic area, we drove to the look out rest stop and prepared our Thanksgiving dinner.  We filled our selves with mashed potatoes, stove top, and green beans.  We then found a deserted area to sleep for the night.

After over-sleeping to the late hour of 6:30am, we headed to black velvet canyon, with plans to climb frogland.  When we arrived at the parking area, several groups we leaving in the direction of frogland.  We decided to change our plans and head towards Arrow Place, a climb that was sunnier and less crowed than frogland.  The three pitch 5.9 climb was great, a direct line, with varied climbing. The first pitch was a thin 5.9 dihedral with sand on several of the holds, adding to the difficulty of the pitch.  The second pitch was beautiful  5.8 corner crack climbing, with rests when you needed them.  The last pitch was a loose 5.7 face climb, not great, but finished the varied climb nicely.  We then rappelled to the ground and made our way back to the car for some dinner.  We setup the stove and proceeded to make some delicious refried bean quesadilla.  As climber returned from longer climbs in the canyon, they were envious of our feast. While talking to a nice group of climbers, we were offered their campsite since they were leaving that evening and had paid for an extra night.  After a mix-up with the site number, we were in the right site, sleeping in preparation for a long day on Saturday.


We woke up around 5am on Saturday, ate some PBH sandwiches and headed to the loop road gate.  The plan was Black Orpheus, an 11 pitch climb, which a 5.10a crux move, and several 5.8 pitches.  We were first in line at the gate, which opened 15 minutes late.  We drove quickly around the loop road, pulling off into  the Oak Creek Canyon parking area.  The approach took us into the canyon bottom, and ended with about 400 feet of 3rd and 4th class scrambling, which we did as a running belay.  We arrived and the base of the climb and quickly re-racked. The first two pitches followed a large left-facing dihedral with nice 5.8 crack climbing, lay-backing, and stemming.  The third pitch eased a bit, mostly 5.7 face climbing.  The next four pitches were easy placing us below a right facing dihedral broken with a thin hand crack.  The 8th pitch followed up the dihedral, 150 feet of sustained 5.8 stemming and jamming.  The 9th pitch began with a short 5.10 finger lock move with small feet, and then eased to a beautiful 5.7 splitter crack.  The 10th pitch reminded me of the dihedral at Stone Mtn, NC, with 5.6 slabby lay-backing.  The last pitch was 5.6 slab climbing ending atop a windy ledge.  The wind was gusty all day, but on the last belay it was so strong, I though it was going to rip my helmet off of my head.  The decent was long, involving both many rappels and lots of 4th class slabs.  Our last three rappels were in the dark, placing us deep with in the canyon.  As we began our hike down the canyon floor it began to rain.  The hard rain held off until we were out of the canyon floor, back on the trail from solar slab.  We got back to the car around 7:30pm, tired and wet.  We quickly changed into dry clothes and headed back to camp for some chili and more quesadilla.

Due to the rain Saturday night, we were unable to climb on Sunday, so we headed for Joshua Tree.  We did not have much time, but Apryle had never been and wanted to see what it was like.  We arrived around lunch time, quick racked-up and climbed double cross.  After a quick photo shoot, we were on our way back to LA, so Apryle could catch her flight back to Pittsburgh.  Although the trip was short, we made the most of it.  The highlight for me was Black Orpheus, which forced me to lead quickly, and tested my route finding abilities.  I think Apryle had a good time, despite being really scared on the decent of Black Orpheus.

Trip report and photos courtesy of Dan Anderson.

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