Joined: 28 Mar 2010
Posts: 432 | TRs
|Red Rocks, December 23-31
Our initial plan for this trip was to spend half the trip in Red Rocks then head over to Zion and Bryce. We ended up spending the entire trip in Red Rocks because the weather was incredible – sunny and high 60s every single day. All the locals said it was unusually warm and some cited a weather record of 100+ days without precipitation. Additionally, once we started climbing on the sandstone, it was too mind-blowing to stop. Prior to this trip, I finally abandoned my Windows Phone for an iPhone, and the Mountain Project app ended up being a great addition to finding all the routes and getting beta on them.
Saturday, December 23 – Calico Hills; Viagra Tower: Winger (5.6) and Woofer (5.8)
After a day and half of driving, we finally arrived in the late afternoon. The Red Rocks Scenic Drive Road (13 miles, one-way road) closes at 5pm every day, so we only had a small amount of time to start getting acquainted. We stopped at the "First Pullout" and walked about 5-10 minutes to the closest crag, Viagra Tower, for a nice quickie. We set up a top rope that worked for both routes and starting getting aroused. Then we headed out of the park to grab a campsite at Red Rocks Campground, which were going fast. From here, civilization is only 5 minutes away.
Winger and Woofer routes
Sunday, December 24
Tuna and Chips Wall: Calico Hills; Chips and Salsa (5.3) and The Minnow (5.8)
We went back to First Pullout for some more climbing. Chips and Salsa is a suggested first Red Rocks trad climb, 2 pitches. Radka led the first pitch and I the second. There isn't much to the second pitch and I was a little confused about where to climb. It ends up being 1 class 5 move and class 4 slabs. Then a walk-off back the base. Most people climb the first pitch and rappel from chains. Then we climbed The Minnow which we top roped. It's a nice a route and allows for many variations. We had the fortune of climbing next to a guide and he told us about the geology of the rock. All the black varnish is "Mother Nature's spray paint" and the rock is harder than the surrounding sandstone. As such, it erodes slower. It's weird trusting the spray paint rock at first, but soon we realized this is where all the good hand and foot-holds are often found.
The First Pullout
Chips and salsa, p1
The Minnow (5.8, TR)
Calico Hills; Panty Wall: Silk Panties (5.7), The Last Panty (5.7), and Panty Prow (5.6)
Then we took a little 20-minute walk over to Panty Wall. Here we climbed a number of moderate sport routes, getting used to leading on the rock at a higher grade. The wall is pretty popular and west facing. Panty Prow is a very cool route that follows an arete. I belayed Radka up, then we both rappelled off.
walking towards Panty Wall
Panty Wall in action
Chris on the Last Panty
climber on a route next to us
Panty Prow (5.6)
Monday (Christmas Day)
Calico Hills; Moderate Mecca: Penny Lane (5.3) and Abbey Road (5.4)
Since the Scenic Drive wouldn't open until noon on Christmas Day, we went over to south and east side of Calico Hills, which is accessed from a private road. We were attracted to Penny Lane because it was a moderate trad climb and described as chossy. Sure, it was chossy, but whoever wrote that, doesn't really know what choss is. The route is a full rope length, so we chose to walk-off. Right next to it is Abbey Road, another easy trad climb, that very closely resembles the first pitch on the South Face of Ingalls. This one ended at chains and we rappelled back down.
Merry Christmas in the trunk of a car!
rest stop views
Moderate Mecca ledge
Penny Lane (5.3)
top of Penny Lane
Abbey Road (5.4)
Calico Hills; Cannibal Crag: Cannibal Crack (5.4)
It took about a half hour to walk over to Cannibal Crag from Moderate Mecca. A nice single pitch trad climb is here surrounded by difficult sport routes. No one was on the trad route. The route ended up being a bit stiffer than 5.4, mostly at the start. It ends at chains and we rappelled.
Cannibal Crack (5.4)
climber next to us
rappelling Canibal Crag
Calico Hills; Jabba the Hut Rock: Hans Soloing (5.4)
The Star Wars fan in us wouldn't let us pass up a climb on this rock. The route ended up being more like 5.0 and very easy. We walked off.
Calico Hills; Red Springs Rock: Badger's Buttress (5.6)
This single pitch route was mixed, some trad and a few bolts where protection was not existent. Radka led up. I noted the route next to it had a #1 BD Camelot left behind. Radka lowered me back down but I couldn't work it loose, though I think I got pretty close. After chatting with a friend and seeing a video on getting out stuck cams, I think I could next time. We walked off and spent another 20 minutes getting back to the car by moonlight.
it's run out!
Tuesday – Cat in the Hat (5.6)
Pine Creek; Cat in the Hat is one of the classics. As such it is quite popular. It's a 4 or 6-pitch climb, depending on how you break it up. When we arrived, 3 parties were ahead of us. As we started the route, 2 more came in behind. We ended up climbing the route in 4 pitches, linking pitches 1-2 and 5-6. The route is a pretty sustained 5.6. It is probably the best route I have ever climbed. There is lots of discussion about how to descend the route – 60m ropes, 70m ropes, double rope rappels, walk-off. None of the discussion says team up with another group for double rope rappels. That is what we ended up doing. We were able to get back to the cars under moonlight again by 5:30. Fortunately, none of us had a ticket on our cars for late-exit. It is possible to call the Ranger Station and get a late-exit (2 hours after the road closes) or overnight permit for certain routes.
view of pitch one
Pine Creek Canyon
Chris is having a good day
new friends rappelling the route
our new friends at the second rappel
Chris rapping from the top
view of pitch 3 (steep!)
rappelling pitch one
Stone Quarry; Parking Lot Area: Fender Bender (5.6)
Fender Bender is a nice single pitch trad route. The approach is a little ridiculous though – 1 minute from the car. The crux about halfway up, getting out of the crack and on to the face. Rappel from the top off chains.
all of the approach in this photo
Willow Springs; Ragged Edges Area: Crooked Crack (5.6), Diplomatic Immunity (5.5), Revoked (5.5), Tonto (5.6), Go Ahead, OK? (5.5)
We spent the rest of the day climbing here and in the shade. There are lots of moderate trad routes to be had here. The rappel from the top of Tonto can be done with a 60m rope and it just barely reaches. A party rappelled Crooked Crack before us, off a 70m rope, but it got stuck when they pulled it, so we freed it for them when we climbed the route.
top of Crooked Crack
Thursday – Oak Creek; Solar Slab (5.6) via Solar Slab Gully (5.3)
Solar Slab is another multi-pitch classic. It's somewhere between 9-13 pitches depending what you climb to get to the route, how you link the pitches on the route, and how you want to descend. Given the short days, we started a little after 6am. Luckily, we had the route to ourselves the entire day. We ended up simul-climbing Solar Slab gully (3-4 pitches) in a little under an hour and a half. There were other parties climbing Johnny Vegas (5.7) to the base of Solar Slab but we arrived there a good 2 hours or so ahead of them. Then we climbed Solar Slab in 8 pitches to the top, since we decided we would do the "walk-off", which still consists of 2-3 rappels. As luck would have it, another party topped out on a different route as we were scrambling over to the walk-off. Once again, we joined ropes, and were able to do 2 double rope rappels, before walking the entire rest of the way back. The Oak Creek drainage is cumbersome boulder hopping experience though, so the hike out wasn't exactly a straight shot.
Oak Creek at sunrise
our route on the left side
Solar Slab Gully
Solar Slab, pitch one (5.6)
Chris squeezed to the top of pitch 2, success!
looking up pitch 5
ready to lead pitches 5 and 6
walk to the last pitch
top of route selfie
at the first rappel
walking to the creek
Oak Creek Canyon
Oak Creek drainage (no water)
First Creek; Romper Room Area: Guise and Gals (5.4) and Girls and Buoys (5.5)
We started a little later this day since the day before was pretty big. All the climbing was on north facing walls in the shade. Both the 5.4 and 5.5 were pretty stiff for their grade, mostly because the sandstone here is very polished.
Guise and Gals (5.4)
First Creek; First Creek Slabs: Rising Moons (5.5)
This climb was a very enjoyable 3 pitch climb with 2 rappels before a short scramble back to our packs. We again hiked under moonlight. It also shares a descent of the next day's objective, so we wanted to familiarize ourselves with the area.
monitor the growing beard
pitch 3 of Rising Moons
Saturday – First Creek; First Creek Slabs, Romanian Rib, (5.5)
This little gem sees very little traffic and as such there isn't a ton of information on it since it's not necessary. It is 8 pitches of choose your own adventure and at a very easy grade. It's mostly 5.0 and class 4, with a single move of 5.5 (through "The Wave"). We basically scrambled up easy slabs "class 5 hiking" for pitches 5, 6, and 8. Finding the standard First Creek Slabs descent wasn't too bad and involved 5 rappels back to the 2 from the previous day.
beautiful and fun!
looking down pitch 3
pitch 4 start
rappel off one NUT!
Sunday – Calico Hills; Riding Hood Wall, Physical Graffiti (5.6)
With back to work approaching, we had time for 1 final climb before starting the 18-hour drive home. This one is another classic Red Rock trad climb. There were 2 parties ahead of us. Next to it is a 5.9 classic sport route called Big Bad Wolf that is even more popular. The guide we talked to on day 2 actually put that route up. Graffiti is a 2-pitch climb, the second pitch following a crack with lots of nice jams. As the guide said, if you brought 100 pieces of gear, you could place all 100 on this pitch.
pitch one, zipped it up!
top of route
top of Calico Hills
the First Pullout is below
somebody free-soloing pitch one, getting stuck
routes at Riding Hood Wall
Bye, Red Rocks!
From the top of the route, we scrambled to the top of Calico Hills for 1 final view of Red Rocks. It was hard to say good-bye to the sun and sandstone. This whole area is like 10 Smith Rocks and if you lived in Vegas you could spend your entire life climbing here, a new route every day. I think for hiking, you could easily spend 2-3 days walking the main trails. After that, several more days depending on how many of the canyons you wanted to explore and boulder hop.
Photos: Radka & Chris (too busy climbing or belaying for photos on this trip)
The future is yard birds