Las Vegas baby. Sin city. Home of gambling, opulence, gluttony, madness and world class mid grade climbing. No, really. Just 20 miles west of the strip lies Red Rocks, a 3000ft thick bed of multicoloured sandstone forming 10 canyons, with 1000s of routes from 30' to 1500' long. The climbing is hugely varied, but tends to be slightly off vertical and even though many routes follow cracks, these tend to be used for gear while face holds provide relief for those not keen on the dark arts of jamming.
|Not bad for a single pitch, roadside crag.|
|Fold Out on The Necromancer - great route, great name for a crag|
|Lotta Balls' eponymous balls. Fnar.|
|More top quality nomenclature - this is Rainbow Mountain|
After a rest day of hardcore gambling (I lost a whole $2...), the second week was all about getting up before dawn to go and do big cool stuff. Unfortunately the weather on the Monday was very windy and pretty chilly, so we had to postpone our assault on Crimson Chrysalis until the Tuesday. The wind had died down overnight, but it was still baltic in the shade. At least that meant we had the route to ourselves. This is something of a rarity apparently as it has a reputation for being the best 5.8 route at Red Rocks, which is full of brilliant 5.8s. With 9 pitches of brilliant sustained climbing up a very cool bit of rock it's easy to see why.
|Warm Claire, happy Claire - chilling out on the belay near the top of Crimson Chrysalis|
The next day was our last opportunity for a big route and there was one route which I'd wanted to climb more than any other during the trip. Being 10 pitches of 5.10a (that's about E1 folks) it was a significant step up in terms of difficulty from anything else we'd climbed, so I'd had my worries that nobody else would want to climb it. Luckily for me Claire was psyched, which was impressive given her previous total number of E1 leads stood at 0. Another pre-dawn start got us to the base of the route with the whole canyon to ourselves. Claire led up the easy first pitch before I got a bit of a rude awakening on the second. With a grade of 5.9 I was expecting something HVS-ish, but this was 40m of proper hard climbing. Brilliant though. I was a bit concerned about the 5.10 pitches above, but after a bit of a wobble on a steep little crack Claire waltzed across the traverse that was supposedly the first crux. The second crux came at the very end of my next pitch, with 40-odd metres of rope out. The crack I'd been climbing petered out and a couple of thin, smeary moves led past a pair of bolts to the belay. I clipped the first bolt and got a quickdraw in the second, but the holds all pointed to wrong way to allow me to pull the rope up to clip it. Then my foot started to slough around inside my shoe on the first thin smears. Eventually I realised that neither of these things was going to improve any time soon, so I tried to put them to the back of my mind and got on with it...
My luck was in and a few seconds later I clipped the belay with a sense of some relief. I'd brought a spare pair of tighter shoes just in case I needed to stand on anything small, so I deployed these. Even with the 2 5.10a pitches out of the way there was no place for relaxing as the next 3 pitches were all pretty full-on. After getting to the ledge at the top of the 7th pitch from which most people abseil off I was a bit unsure how much I wanted to carry on. My feet were sore and another 2 pitches of 5.9 sounded a lot like hard work, but the day was still fairly young and Claire was keen so we got on with it. I'm glad we did as the top pitches were both great and considerably easier than what had gone before. 1000' of abseiling later and we were back on the ground full of win (and in my case some demented fluorescent seaweed snacks). What a route.
|Pitch n of Dream of Wild Turkeys (for some large n)|
Now, back to the gritstone. Meh.