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Climbing in Red Rocks, Nevada

10/22 to 10/27/98

Author: Mike Sullivan

Participants: Mike Sullivan, Andy Grieder, Dave Henderson

Fresh out of Yosemite, I spent a day poking around Bishop and Lone Pine, CA, then headed for the warmth of southern Nevada. I pulled into the Oak Creek Campground (which, sadly, will be dismantled in the coming year to be replaced by a larger and more costly one) and quickly found Dave from Toronto as a willing partner.

The following morning, we went out to climb Tunnel Vision, a 6 pitch 5.7 in the White Spring area. The standard 40 minute Red Rocks approach led us to the base of the route. The route is named for the 5th pitch, where you tunnel behind an enormous flake for about 70' before emerging back in the daylight. The pitch was rated 5.3X, which may be pushing it a bit. The most challenging pitch was the third, which requires either grovelling back into a flare chimney for some pro, or doing some moderate, fun, and unprotected leg-scissoring out the wide part of the flare. I got about 40' straight over the belay before finding some stopper placements in the left wall of the chimney.

That night I picked up Andy, my buddy from Denver, at the airport in Vegas. The following day we started out on Lotta Balls, 4 pitches, 5.8PG in First Creek Canyon. A nice, kinda obscure route, good for a weekend when the popular routes fill up. After Lotta Balls, we hustled over to Black Velvet Canyon for a go on Frogland, 6 pitches, 5.8-. This was a really fun route! We eventually caught up to a party for the last 2 pitches, but it still wasn't too bad.

Crimson Chrysalis.....wonder why the name?
photo courtesy of Gary Clark

On Monday, we got a 7 AM start on Crimson Chrysalis, 8 or 9 pitches, 5.8+. Even though we were at the entrance station when it opened, we were still second in line on the route because the first party got a permit and combination lock code to drive in early. (Next time, so will we...) We baked on the approach hike, then chilled out in the shade as the first party zipped up the route. We got 4 pitches up when the weather deteriorated, and had to bail as a heavy rain drew in. After narrowly avoiding a stuck-rope epic, we hiked out through the rain and headed for Vegas. After showering at the climbing gym, we gorged ourselves at the International Buffet at the Rio Hotel/Casino. Mmmm...

Tuesday was our last day, and we headed back to Black Velvet Canyon. A couple of parties were headed out to the climbs on Black Velvet Wall, but Epinephrine (18 pitches, 5.9) was available. We decided to do the first 8 pitches, then rap. Click here for Jan Studebaker's description of his complete ascent of Epinephrine in May, 98. As Jan says, this is a stellar climb. We did it with no fanny pack, just a camera, water bottle, and rain shells clipped to our harnesses. This certainly made the chimneys more fun. We did it as 6 pitches by 3rd classing the two short scramble pitches, and could have done it as 5 if we had combined the last 2 chimney pitches. The chimneys were wonderful (OK, I was grunting in a few spots...) and the protection and belays were all straightforward. Overall, I'd say this was one of the five most fun climbs I've ever done.

Epinephrine beta: We brought double camalots up to a #3, and a single #4. All the belays are at good bolt anchors. The first chimney pitch is about 155'... 50-meter double ropes worked fine for us; I don't think 200-footers are necessary.

Our time at Red Rocks was way too short; I look forward to returning here many times in the future. There are still dozens of routes I hope to do... one day I might even try one of the sport climbs.

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