When Spring rains settle over the Cascades, it is a good time to head to Red Rocks in southern Nevada. With varnished edges, incut jugs, splitter cracks, technical faces, and fun chimneys, Red Rocks multi-pitch routes have it all. The rock is a very hard variety of sandstone known as Aztec Sandstone. The walls at Red Rocks reach up to 3000' high, providing endless climbing potential.
My friend Dave was an eager climbing partner for this trip. We decided to drive rather than fly, as we both enjoy the open road and the ability to experience the beautiful landscape of the West and the small townships as they pass by. The drive from NW Washington to Red Rocks totals about 1209 miles and takes about 21 hours. And that's just one way.
With two days of driving on either end, we had five days (Mon-Fri) to climb. The weather was hot and sunny on the first two days, but high winds and thundershowers caused us to bail off our climb on Wednesday. Good weather (albeit much cooler temperatures) returned for Thursday, but then rain settled back in on Friday. So even though the forecast wasn't perfect, we made good use of our three good days of weather, climbing three classic routes: Geronimo, Olive Oil, and Cat in the Hat. We also enjoyed an adventure to Las Vegas.
It's always nice to get away for more than just a weekend, so it was a fun trip full of good memories. This page gives photos from these climbs.
Gas was the main cost of this trip, totaling a bit over $400. (Prices ranged between $3.94 to $4.40/gal, but were as high as $5.79/gal in Death Valley which we drove through on our way home).
Driving southward through Nevada towards Red Rocks. No traffic jams out here.
Red Rocks Campground. $14/night (in April 2012).
Red Rocks Campground. I wrote a number of words in one exposure ('Vegas" "Red Rocks" and "Hi").
Since we only had five days to climb and only three of these had decent weather, we pretty much climbed in one area, out of the Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead.
DAY 1 - April 9
Dave and I decided that the 4-pitch Geronimo would be a good route for our first day. Although it is a relatively new climb, it has quickly become a popular route. (There were at least 4-5 parties on the route the day we climbed it, but we discovered that morning that thinking that Vegas is on Mountain Time is an effective technique to being first on route.) The climb has it all: face, crack, stemming, and exposed arete climbing, often with incut ledges and jugs that are a joy to climb. However, the rappel descent is notorious for snagging ropes. We got our ropes stuck twice, and even had to reclimb the final two pitches to unstick the rope. Fortunately the final two pitches are worth climbing twice.
Geronimo, Jackrabbit Buttress
Pitch 1: Juggy fun.
Rope scores in the sandstone at top of Pitch 1.
Pitch 2: More juggy fun.
Pitch 3: The crack variation start, yet more juggy fun.
Pitch 4: Wild airy arete.
On top of Jackrabbit Buttress (for the first time).
The descent requires a double rope rappel from the top. The descent is notorious for getting ropes stuck. Good thing the final two pitches are worth repeating.
A good reason to avoid off-trail travel in Red Rocks.
DAY 2 - April 10
Olive Oil is one of the best Red Rocks moderates with its excellent, varied climbing on great rock. Plus, the descent is a 3rd class walk-off, which Dave and I appreciated after the previous day's rope-sticking issues. It was a really fun route providing a spicy level of exposure and challenge. The only negative part of the awesome route was the fact that the final chimney was a bit painful to our freshly sunburned skin.
Olive Oil, Rose Tower
Pitch 1: Runout slab to the left of the chimney.
Pitch 2: Steep and fun.
Looking up the crack of Pitch 3 from gear belay.
We discovered that all of the bolts shown in the SuperTopo guide had been clipped and filled in. The bolts aren't really necessary anyway, but without them a party would need to leave a lot of gear behind in order to bail on the route.
Pitch 4 traverse.
Pitch 5: Chimney ahead....
Signing the summit register on top of Rose Tower.
The 3rd class gully descent.
Las Vegas Adventure
The Las Vegas strip is a mere 30 minutes drive from Red Rocks. Dave and I headed there the second evening of our trip for an adventure of a different sort. My friend had given me a $20 with explicit instructions to gamble rather than shove it under my mattress, so we headed to the Bellagio to test my skills at the slot machines. I soon discovered that the only skills involved in slots is an ability to sit for a long time and repeatedly press either the "Bet 1 Credit" or "Play 3 Credits" buttons. Somehow, I ended up getting up to $114 within a few minutes. Perhaps if I had more skills in sitting for a long time I would have either ended up rich or destitute, but as it was I decided to quit while I was ahead. My winnings were about the value of a new #4 cam!
-> -> -> -> -> = How to buy a new #4 cam in Vegas
A good way to escape the crowds in Vegas is to take the stairs.
Mario and Luigi
DAY 3/4 - April 11/12
Although the route sort of ends mid-face on Mescalito, Cat in the Hat is one of the more popular routes of its grade at Red Rocks. The route is full of good stuff: steep walls with awesome cracks, jugs, and a bit of slabby face; consistent climbing, big belay ledges, and an easy rappel. On our first attempt at the route, winds and rain encouraged us to bail when we were only half way up. (A testament to the route's popularity is that there were about 5 other parties on the route despite the dreary weather.) But the climbing had been so fun that we - and at least 6 other parties! - decided to return and climb the route in its entirety the next day. It was a great climb to end the trip with.
Cat in the Hat, Mescalito
The previous day we had climbed to the top of Pitch 3 before a thundershower forced us to retreat. We returned to climb the route in its entirety the next day.
Pitch 1 crack.
Pitch 2, short with a committing toe-on-knob at the top.
Pitch 3, short and easy.
Looking down Pitch 4, steep and juggy.
Another climber on Pitch 4. It's not often 5.6 gets to be this vertical. Fun!
Pitch 5 traverse.
Looking down Pitch 6.The exposure and runout of the final slab make the climbing seem more spicy than its 5.5 rating.
The descent involves rappelling the route (two ropes needed for a couple of the rappels).
What a fun trip! I'll definitely be back.
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: www.stephabegg.com.