|March 30 - 31, 2002|
|1) Tunnel Vision||(5.7)||- White Rock Mountain|
|2) Olive Oil||(5.7 PG)||- Juniper Peak|
|3) Johnny Vegas||(5.7)||- Rainbow Mountain|
|4) Solar Slab||(5.6 PG)||- Rainbow Mountain|
|Additional photos to come.|
| 0) Introduction |
I had visited the Red Rocks National Conservation Area ("Red Rocks" for short) twice in the past, however I had never stopped by for technical rock. With Josh telling me that Red Rocks has some of the best climbing in the world and his winter "residence" there, I felt that I had to stop by and experience some of this rock before it got too hot for climbing. At the end of February I arranged to fly down during mid-March but then changed the date to late-March after finding out I could save $ on the air fare. From free-soloing many of the routes in Red Rocks, Josh recommended the following itinerary for my "Red Rocks Sampler":
1) White Rock Mountain - Tunnel Vision - March 30, 2002
I didn't sleep well the first night in the desert. At first I was too warm so I took off my fleece, but then I was too cold and too lazy to put it back on. I woke up around 2:10am and around 4:10am. At dawn, Josh and I drove to the nearby gas station to get some coffee and OJ before heading over to Red Rocks NCA around 5:55am. The gate opened at 6:00am and we were on our way to our first climb of the weekend, Tunnel Vision on White Rock Mountain's Angel Food Wall.
Tunnel Vision starts off under a short, but easy roof, just 15 feet above the ground. When we were there, the letters "TV" were actually written in the rock at the start of the climb. This is a fun climb because there is a good chimney on pitch 2 and then on pitch 3 it actually passes under some slabs and comes out the other side, giving credence to the "tunnel" in it's name. When I got to the tunnel part, I noticed that there is an angled traverse and that also Josh had placed no protection as there was really nowhere you could place any. Traversing up and left I got to a ledge that you traverse over to a "window" or notch that you can see from the approach. Here we found some booty in the form of a nut tool, before climbing up to the 3rd belay station. The last pitch was short and we finished in 4 pitches. On the way down there was one short rappel before we hiked out a class 3 gully. When we got back to the car we had to decide on Ragged Edges or Olive Oil since we wouldn't have time for both. I decided we should do Olive Oil since it was a longer route but we did stop over for Josh to do another quick free solo of Ragged Edges while I snapped many digital photos ;-)
2) Juniper Peak - Olive Oil - March 30, 2002
Olive Oil is probably the most aesthetic of the 4 climbs that I did over the weekend. Although the first pitch was very easy, it is still nice to look at and so was the other pitches on this route. Like Tunnel Vision, this one also had chimneys but I thought these were even more fun as I had to use both feet on alternating walls and my back. Unfortunately I don't remember much about this climb except for several views in my head and that I really enjoyed the chimney part 3/4 of the way up the route. We ended up doing this climb in 4 pitches before hiking down.
3) Rainbow Mountain - Johnny Vegas - March 31, 2002
Although not the tallest peak, Rainbow Mountain, capped with bands of red standstone, is one of the most striking at Red Rocks. On Sunday, March 31, Josh and I headed out to bag this peak via Solar Slab, 5.6 PG and 9-pitches according to Todd Swain's guidebook. Solar Slab is one of the most popular 5.6 climbs at Red Rocks so I was initially eager to do this one due to it's popularity. There are three approaches to the base of the climb: (1) Beulah's Book (5.9-), Johnny Vegas (5.7), and Solar Slab Gully (5.3). Climbing Solar Slab only gets you about halfway to the summit after which is a lot more climbing ranging from class 4 to 5.5. As we approached, we checked out the climbs. We wanted to get up to Solar Slab quickly so we wouldn't be behind any other parties, so it was to our dismay that we found climbers on Johnny Vegas and Solar Slab Gully when we arrived. As it turned out, however, there was only a group of 3 on each of the climbs. We decided to head up Johnny Vegas since it would be faster and I wasn't ready to handle 5.9-. Actually, Josh wanted to get up faster and I wanted to do another 5.7 ;-)
The first two pitches are along a crack in a fairly steep face and I was suprised at how small the belay stations were, though they would turn out to be a lot bigger than our rapel stations later in the day. I didn't find the pitches overly difficult but I found myself drinking quite a bit of Gatorade after each one. Looking out to the desert and down the face at the first two belay stations was quite exhilirating. We reached the top of Johnny Vegas about 10:30am. Although Swain's guidebook said the climb was 4-pitches, we had climbed it in 3.
At this point, I looked up at Solar Slab and thought to myself, "wow, that's a long climb" ahead of us, plus the additional climb to reach Rainbow Mountain's summit....
4) Rainbow Mountain - Solar Slab - March 31, 2002
Having climbed Tunnel Vision, Olive Oil, and now Johnny Vegas, I was fairly satisfied with the weekend already. Who needs to climb any more, especially a 9-pitch 5.6? Combining Solar Slab with Johnny Vegas would make my longest climb to date and I was primarily worried about the possible heat. I didn't want to find myself burning up on "Sizzle Slab" especially if I ran out of Gatorade (didn't bring any water). As we started heading over to Solar Slab, I considered heading down twice, however, finally I just told myself to suck it up and get it over with - that I'd regret it for a long time if I didn't do it now, afterall, it would suck to be "chickenshit forever" ;-)
Josh would free many of the pitches on this climb, placing exactly zero protection ;-) The first pitch leads up to a tree and was relatively easy. I was happy to find a huge slab to climber's left with a portion in the shade. I stayed in the shade while Josh climbed up the second pitch stradding the detatched slab and rock face. When he got up to the top of the second pitch I heard him conversing with some other climbers. When I got up there, I found out there was a group of 3 ahead of us. The leader in that group was making his way up the 3rd pitch, with his two companions below. As it turned out, this group was the one that ascended Solar Slab Gully and the other group on Johnny Vegas with us had decided to rapel down from the top of that route. Josh told them that they could combine the standard pitches 3 & 4 so the leader continued up over a rectangle shaped slab, shaving one pitch off the climb. The two followers were each on a 8.8mm line and belayed up with a Petzl Reverso device. Josh and I found some shade to wait in while the two followers made their way up. When all 3 of the other party had made it up to the belay station, Josh headed up, however, he ended up waiting quite a while just below the rectangle shaped slab for the other party to start climbing again. At this time, I laid down and closed my eyes in the shade, hoping not to fall asleep. Eventually I headed up the 3rd pitch, after which I would have my last sip of Gatorade for a while. For some reason, my mouth was very sticky and syrupy from the Gatorade and I was eager for some plain water but alas I didn't bring any. The 4th pitch for us was long a fun crack and then an easy 5th pitch while the group ahead of us began their rapel down on our climber's right. Josh found a cam and some other gear they had left behind and kindly offered it back to them. The 5th pitch was about 5.1, but given how high off the deck we were, I still preferred a belay, which Josh was kind enough to give. Near the top of the 5th pitch, I pulled on a small knob which prompty fell off. I didn't fall off but it got my blood moving. After some more hiking, we finished Solar Slab in 6 pitches. I didn't have any Gatorade for the last 3 pitches, but that was okay since the pitches were fairly short. Since we had to wait for the group ahead of us on a couple of pitches and since I wasn't the fastest climber, we decided that it would be better to descend now rather than push for the summit. I had no problem with this plan ;-)
Although the other group had rapelled down Solar Slab, our route required some more uphill scrambling and a traverse to reach the Black Orpheus Descent, a route involving 3 rapels and a hike out along a dry boulder filled North Fork of Oak Creek. There are two variations to the Black Orpheus Descent. There was one that Josh was certain we could rapel down and another that he wasn't so certain of. So of course, with our 60m rope, we went to try out the uncertain route. The first two rapels were no problem, however, the belay stations were exceedingly small, IMHO. It wasn't difficult to stand there but there wasn't exactly a belay ledge or anything, just some good footholds. We couldn't exactly see the bottom of the third rapel, though Josh thought it would be fine. He went down first to check out the route. Hitting bottom he said it was fine. When I went down this longest rapel, I could feel the rope physically stretch when I would pass a roof and swing against the new wall. Reaching the bottom, I found out that the 3rd rapel left only about 1.5 meters of slack on the rope before setting down. I coiled the rope and we changed into our running sneakers before heading down some class 1 slabs to the Painted Bowl for a hike out in the North Fork of Oak Creek. When we got into the bowl, we were in the shade for the first time in a while. On the way out Josh snapped some photos of Black Orpheus and we'd both end up running out the trail back to the parking lot. Then it was back to town to get some cold drinks, sort gear, and have some dinner before dropping me off at the airport for my flight back to the Bay Area.
Red Rocks is a great place with fun slabs, cracks and chimneys. Although I didn't summit any mountains, the primary point of visiting Red Rocks is for great rock climbing and with that, I was extremely satisfied. Out of the 4 climbs that I did, I enjoyed Olive Oil the best. I think it had some of the best views, looking up from the belay stations and offered fun challenges in the chimneys. Tunnel Vision and Johnny Vegas were fun in their own way while Solar Slab was the longest climb of them all. The rapel down the Black Orpheus Descent was also the longest rapel I've ever done. All-in-all, a great experience. Perhaps next time I'll be able to climb faster, reach a few summits, climb Raged Edges, and also do Epinephrine (5.9) on the Black Velvet Wall. It's good to have goals :-)