We drove across the frozen plains of Oregon. I had been anticipating this trip for months. I spent a lot of my free time pouring over the guidebook and researching areas on mountain project. I was pretty excited to try put my onsight hat back on and go for volume on this trip but another part of me was also agonizing over the fact that I had still been climbing with an injured forearm/bicep for the last two months. My time spent in the gym leading up to this trip was productive but every day after my training I felt that all too familiar ache and pain in the area of my right arm where my biceps meets my forearm. Still, I thought I could climb well enough to meet some pre-trip goals I had set for myself and in the end I was also just psyched to climb on sand stone and soak up some sun and most important of all spend two weeks away from my less-than-inspiring job.
Not exactly how you want to be greeted on your first day driving out of the park at Red Rock Canyon. Probably the most jarring thing I have seen in a while and I'm still kind of amazed I took a photo. This is a picture of a dying burro. While leaving the park on Blue Diamond we ran into a slow down and wondered what was going on, I had assumed it was some idiot driver. My assumption turned out to be horrifyingly correct. On the shoulder going the opposite direction was a black mustang with smoke pouring out of its mangled grill. And laying forlornly in the middle of the road was this poor animal struggling to breath, a solitary trickle of dark red blood stained its nose. I rolled my window down in shock and snapped a photo of it, one eye staring directly at me while its life slowly, painfully left its body. I was haunted not only by the way the animal was able to look at me and but by the rise and fall of its rib cage, the sadness that encompassed the scene was overwhelming. I immediately felt disgusted by my actions. I wanted to throw my phone out of the car window. This collision of the flashing trashy lights and shiny high speed vehicles of the human world violently tearing a small hole into the wild world of this solemn desert night air. Slow the fuck down assholes.
Our first day we ran around the second pullout area wondering where the hell we should start our epic trip. I was less than impressed with an area that seemingly held a vast variety of cool sounding climbs called the Black Corridor. We spent little time there before ending the day at the Sweet Pain wall which was like an outdoor gym with a multitude of very nice 5.11's. Or at least they seemed nice from the ground, it was hard to tell (or enjoy them much) while climbing them because of absolutely frozen fingers.
Our second day we decided to give up the quest of staying off the well traveled paths and ended up at the Gallery, probably the most well known sport crag in all of Red Rocks. It did not disappoint, much. While it was an absolute shit show, flailing gumbies, gear and back packs strewn about everywhere, and the occasional dogs, unsafe behavior abounded, but we kept our heads low and worked through some of the classics. I finally stepped up and onsighted a 5.12a called Fear and Loathing which I thought fun but underwhelming for the quality I had expected from this crag. I was in full on punt mode for the rest of the day punting on the very top of an onsight of Promises in the Dark (7b) and The Glitch (7b+).
Our third and fourth days were much like the second, punting, classic 5.11's and sunshine everywhere. I was feeling weak and timid when it came to trying hard and thus it set the tone for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately.
The Gallery (a.k.a The Shit Show wall) was definitely one of the best walls we climbed at. My only regret was not actually climbing a lot of the better/harder lines there. Pictured above is my short-term crag friend Ice taking a fall off a very good flash attempt on Where the Down Boys Go (7c). A spectacular route with some reachy moves but awesome holds. This would be our last day at the Gallery until the very end of the trip.
I think we had a 'sort of' rest day somewhere in there and then we decided to go to the Sunny and Steep crag pictured above. It wasn't so sunny, which actually turned out to be a good thing. This crag was FUN. Full of nice overhanging lines that are short and juggy. Which translates into = easy to onsight. But even with most of the beta being served on a platter to me from the ground I decided to punt again off the very top of Tour De Pump. I just couldn't get my shit together.
Pictured above a climber on Gimme Back My Bullets (7a+), a super fun route and pretty much exactly the same as its neighbor Steep Thrills. They both start out on huge juggy pulls into a very awesome bulging headwall on incut crimps and jugs. Wish there were like 10 more of these at this crag.
And, well, yes. There was beer drinking whilst climbing. A habit I thought I had broken until this trip. Oh well.
Red Rocks might be the trashiest place I've been too. There were multitudes of all kinds of garbage all over the place at each and every crag we visited. This one seemed nice though.
The rain moved in on us and with a high propensity for rules we tried not to climb. Until we saw this crag getting gang banged like the last cheap prostitute before the apocalypse. Cannibal crag is a sweet striped formation sitting atop a small hill. It had some very nice routes and again I punted on a 7b+ and didn't even try the most popular route at the crag New Wave Hookers. What the hell is wrong with me?
Ending the day after avoiding a wind storm at the Front Corridor crag. No I didn't try Monster Skank either. I did however send a very nice and crimpy technical master piece born from the choss called Megatonic. A beautiful line but not nearly as cool looking as Sunsplash or Monster Skank. Both of these routes would be the coolest looking lines I saw all trip, but I still didn't try them. I have no idea why. When your on such a long trip (two weeks, maybe not so long) and your at a new crag there is a schism that takes place inside of you as a climber. One part pulls you in the direction of projecting the coolest lines at the crag (if you are a strong and confident climber); the other part pulls you in the direction of wanting to sample everything, whether its at your level or 8 grades below it. The siren song of new routes and possible onsights can sometimes be too powerful.
And then we went bouldering.
I wanted to rest. I needed to rest. And I walked out there with full intention of resting. But...
It is so damn hard to rest when you're surrounded by that youthful, energetic, and most of all 'cool' energy of the boulders/boulderers. I couldn't help myself. When you see 10 different people trying a problem there is something inside of you that screams "I want in on that action!" and regardless of how sore your arms are, or how little skin you have, or how desperately you need to rest in order to actually climb well the rest of your trip, you just have to give into that voice and try a little bit.
So in the end I drank a beer and then strolled around the corner to this beauty of a boulder problem and ended up flashing it with no warm up. Ha!
We also ran into some Seattle friends Will and Hannah who were crushing. Will is pictured here working Progressive Guy (7c+) which he later sent with ease.
Ruth getting agonizingly close to sending the Pearl (6C). After making some amazing adjustments to her beta she started tagging the crux crimp rail over and over again. I was psyched for her and wanted this just as much as she did. BUT sometimes even if you are physically strong enough to send a route or a boulder it can be even harder to convince yourself that you are mentally strong enough. She made a very valiant effort but in the end she had to walk away.
Following our little bouldering adventure we decided to go to a crag we had checked out during our ambiguous 'is it too wet to climb?' quandary. The Trophy area. So glad I was feeling terrible the day we visited this awesome crag. I punted on everything, climbed horribly, but still had a relatively good time. The wind was howling all day and it literally blew the psyche out of me, as well as Ruth who spent most of the day huddled over in her parka.
Visiting climber and Canadian Eli Dusenbury getting oh so close to the OS of Keep Your POwder Dry (7a+).
A beautiful yet holdless piece of sandstone.
Eli going all superman on the crux.
Our last week in Red Rocks was somewhat of a weird scramble. The forecast kept changing on us, goading us along and kept us from taking rest days. One day it would say rain, the next everything was all cleared up. Then there was two days of absolutely unrelenting and hellish wind.
On top of that I was getting increasingly frustrated with my arm and my performance. In my head pre-trip I had built this trip up to be a veritable sending extravaganza but it just wasn't working out that way. Each day I felt more and more tired and frustrated and it was really sad because, as Ruth pointed out, 'If you keep depending on the next send or onsight in order to have a good time you'll always be angry and frustrated and you'll never be able to enjoy this moment and this beautiful place we are in.'
And she was right.
Our time trickled away. We moved into a new air B&B and suddenly what had started as an epic amount of time to tackle any challenge dwindled down to our last day. We drove to the park one last time and decided to spend the last few hours we had of our vacation at the Gallery. We hadn't been back in almost 10 days but damn am I glad we came back. The weather was literally perfect. Cold but warm in the sun, no wind, and a fantastic blue sky embraced us all day. And we also each sent our short term projects. The last time we were at the wall Ruth tried A Day In the Life and I tried The Gift. Upon our return we each dusted off our first burn beta's and then fired them. A perfect way to end the trip and yet also a somewhat cruel way to end it. The psyche was high and we were ready to get back home but also ready to spend another two weeks here.
Simon on The Gift after hi second go send of Where the Down Boys Go.
The sun went from one side of the canyon to the other and soon it disappeared over the shoulders of the distant red/tan/white mountains. We stared at each other in bewilderment, not sure we were ready to accept that the end had finally come. Regrets bubbled over and then were dismissed. We reveled in our late trip sends, drank one last crag beer and hiked out of the wash. The moon hung high and proud and as the rock glowed the redness of it all sunk in.