January 10, 2007

High Rolling at Red Rocks

And yet again, I return from another trip to Vegas. For a place I describe so negatively, I certainly visit there often enough. The purpose of this trip, however, was not for any dirty hacker conventions, but for some rock climbing in (relatively) nice weather.

The first day, Peter and I walked almost the entire 3 mile stretch and back on the Las Vegas strip and finished the day off with a typically sub-optimal, super-priced buffet at the MGM and night's stay at the Tropicana. We also saw the Hot Babes truck go around about 5 times, with the girl on the side getting just a bit sleazier each time it passed. Outside of risking our good health and karma by being near so much glutton and greed, neither of us gambled. Or maybe we were held up by gunpoint on the shuttle to the Tropicana, forced to give the midget thief all of our $750 in spending money, and stayed up the entire night masterfully winning back each dollar on high roller blackjack. Believe whichever story you want, but in the end, we left Vegas even and headed to Red Rock Canyon to camp for two nights.

The camp site was only about 5 miles away from total suburbia and the Red Rocks Casino and Hotel, so we weren't exactly isolated from civilization. Also, each camp site had its own grill, fire pit, and picnic table and was situated near water pumps and outhouses with solar-powered light sensors. Being out in the fresh air made the two nights camping more enjoyable for me than our time in the smokey strip hotel, but again, not a very high standard to surpass.

Red Rock Canyon is accessed via a 13 mile one-way loop with a handful of pullouts for parking. We tried to find something to climb on Monday from the third pullout, but just ended up doing an unsuccessful approach and return after failing to find the climb.

On Tuesday, we set out to do the Cat in the Hat, one of the most popular climbs in this area located on the Mescalito Buttress in Pine Creek Canyon. The approach still ended up being a challenge since we weren't sure we had found the first pitch even with our noses right under it. The climb was a 5.6+ multi-pitch climb (we did it in 4) that got us pretty high up the canyon for some nice views of the area and the strip afar in the distance. The route was mostly crack climbing and a short slab crux at the end of the last pitch. We rappelled down and walked out just as the sun was setting and it started getting cold, then headed back to camp to make dinner and rest for the night.

On Tuesday, we thought we'd try to find sunnier climbing with routes on Calico Hills. Unfortunately, a 35 minute approach turned into a 3 hour canyon exploration after we got slightly off trail. We ran into a park ranger couple and their two dogs from Idaho on the Stone Wall, who kind of helped lead us in the right direction. The approach was more of a scramble than hike and we had to get over lots of huge boulders, slab, and tight spaces through prickly trees before eventually getting to the Great Red Book wall. We intended on doing the actual Great Red Book climb, but since it still wasn't really in the sun (despite the guide book's promise of all-day sun), we instead did Subject-Verb Agreement, a one pitch 5.8 named after our president, who often ignores this important grammar rule (e.g. "Whether they be Christian, Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu, people have heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like they'd like to be called themselves. - George W. Bush, Washington, D.C. Oct. 8, 2003 ). It's a 9 bolt sport climb that is totally in the sun, with the belayer left in the shade between the climb and a wall at their back. We each did it a few times and then headed back down to the car.

We checked into the Bonnie Springs Motel, a cute little stay on a Blue Diamond ranch a few miles away from Red Rocks. Each room there has their own theme. We stayed in the Indian room featuring an electric fireplace for an extra $10. I'd definitely go back to the hotel because it had that quaint small town charm to it and the staff were all genuinely friendly and concerned about our stay. We saw a few burros before getting up to our room at night, which I suppose are the Nevada equivalent of deer. We tried snapping photos, but they were camera shy and ran off into the night.

The next day we headed back to Vegas to return the car and wait at the airport. Something I should have learned from past experience, but will never again forget... do NOT take Las Vegas Blvd for any reason other than wanting to specifically drive on Las Vegas Blvd. We barely made the drop-off time at Enterprise and would have ended up paying an extra $50 because it took 30 minutes to get down 3 miles of road. We could have probably walked (on our hands) faster, but we eventually made it to the drop-off with 20 minutes to spare and plenty of time to waste at the Vegas airport.

Before getting on our plane to Calgary, we passed an older, disheveled hippie-type that asked the clerk at the information desk, "Hey maaan, I'm supposed to take, like an orange bus to the Mojave desert. You know what I'm talkin about?" The clerk responded with a pricelessly puzzled look, replied that he wasn't aware of an orange, desert-bound bus, and I just giggled as we walked off. If there is one thing to be certain of, there is no shortage of crazies in Vegas.

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