Red Rocks, Head Games & Gravity

Day 0

We got the campground 10 hours later, arriving at 4am searching for a campsite at Red Rocks Campground. There are probably a whopping 20 campsites available. All of them with multiple tents already in them or cars taking up the spots. We resort to looking at the walk-in spots in the dark. Luckily there was ONE campsite left! Wooo! We weren’t going to have to sleep in the car afterall! It was beautiful out as we set up camp and a few of us even slept outside under the stars. I slept without my rain cover.

It was going to be a glorious few days.

Day 1

Of course, Paul wakes up excitedly at 7:30am, full of energy telling us that we should get up, despite getting a full 3 and a half hours of sleep. You’d think he was going to Disneyland for the first time in his life. I guess Red Rocks is just that. I thought one of us might punch him, but I think we were all secretly excited too. We packed up, threw everything in the two tents that were up and headed out. It was so beautiful out that I didn’t think I needed to stake down the tent, but boy am I glad I did…

“Red Rock: a few thousand routes, generally warm weather, every kind of climbing from short sport routes to big 20-pitch outings, nearby Las Vegas for off-rock activities. Who could ask for more?” 
 — Description in Mountain Project.

The minute we drove in, the bright red canyons were calling out to us. They were streaks of red that slashed across the range of sandstone. We ARE in Disneyland!

We do some scrambling and head into one of the many canyons. Stretch out your arms and you can touch both walls. The sport climbing was amazing! I also learned that you shouldn’t forget about your phone on you when you’re 50 feet up the wall. :( Oops…

(In any case, I’ve been without a phone for 5 days. It’s not too bad…)

The first climb of the day still got into my head. Just stepping past my last clip makes me so nervous. But I have to push that out of my head and make my way to the next clip. Before I know it, I’m clipping in at the top. I can breathe normally again. Although I should be breathing throughout the whole route… It helps with the zen and om’ness of being on the wall. Sometimes I can see the chalk float off the wall because I’m breathing out so hard. It’s definitely a fun head game.

We start heading back to the car with ominous clouds above us. No! It can’t rain. We were praying for dry weather. Sandstone is like a sponge and if it rains, we probably can’t climb tomorrow! We headed to dinner and the wind was picking up. We checked out the forecast and it said 80% possibility of rain, 20 min later, it raised to 90%. Damnit. It’s raining.

We head back to camp while it sprinkled on us but it wasn’t the rain we were afraid of now… the wind was howling through the campsite. We were just praying that our tents are okay. (I had a brand new sleeping bag, for goodness sake, it better still be in one piece!) The wind was a roaring 45mph. We got in and the tent that wasn’t staked down (Tim’s tent) blew about 30 feet to the entrance of the campsite. We grabbed it back to the campsite and couldn’t find the stakes. Next best thing? Rocks! Big stone rocks. I helped keep that tent down, while also trying to put another one up! Mine was fine and intact because I thankfully staked it down and had 4 people’s worth of sleeping bags, packs and sleeping pads in there, so it wasn’t going anywhere. As we tried to put the tent up, Steph went into Tim’s tent and nearly blew away with it. At this moment, we couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at the situation. Everything was blowing over and nobody could find anything in the dark. The wind was coming in and out of huge gusts where you think it’s nearly going to blow you away, to being quiet enough to hear the crickets. It was crazy. We all sought refuge in our homes for the evening, laughing at each other through the walls of our tent.

Day 2

We woke up to blue skies and 50 degree weather. It was a perfect day to climb… if it didn’t rain much. To test out how badly it rained, you grab a pile of the sand on the ground and if it breaks off like dust and floats away, it’s okay to climb. Our sand was dry! We decided to try and make the most out of the situation. Head out and just try to see if we can get some climbs in. We headed out to Black Velvet Canyon. Drove about 20 min through rough rocky roads to find a climber van with all their gear out. We asked them how dry it was up in the canyon. He said he was coming down from the canyon last night and he left some stuff at the top of the climb. He put all his gear on a rock and parted ways with his partner to go grab his stuff. Ten minutes later, the howling wind roared through the valley with freezing rain. There was no way he was going to go back and find his gear, so he hiked down the mountain only to hike back up the next day to grab his gear. He wasn’t laying out everything to get ready for a climb, he was laying it all out to dry. We said thanks and turned the car around. Super bummed, we decided to try another canyon. It was definitely more apparent that the rain came down heavy in Black Velvet Canyon, but maybe 15 min north east would be okay. And man, were we right.

We did a multi-pitch route with 3 people. It was a 5.7, 2 pitches, trad route. I got to Jaclyn at the 1st pitch and said to her, “I forgot how f*ing scary this was.” She agreed. We got to chat as she belayed Eric, I was more comfortable with sitting there with my personal anchor, hanging out 100 feet up. Alright, it was my turn to do the 2nd pitch. Not only did I scare myself shitless, but I was talking to myself. “WHY did I put myself here?… I’m done, I don’t wanna do this anymore… This isn’t fun… Get me out of here.” More or less the same lines for the whole 2nd pitch. I forgot what kind of different head game trad was. I wasn’t used to crack climbing and being so high. At this point, I forget that I’m 100% safe and there is absolutely no way I can fall. And even though I trust my partners and myself with all the safety gear, I still triple, quadruple check my figure eight before I weigh myself on my personal anchor. This head game is so different than sport climbing. We were bouldering in Bishop a few weeks ago and that head game was also completely different too! Once I rappelled for the first time, we went down the gully and did some sketchy scrambling, we finally got back to the base of the climb. I took a deep breath, looked up at the route and thought… “I guess that wasn’t that bad. I can do it again.”

​Day 2 (pt 2)

Since we were a mere 15 min drive from Vegas, we decided to do the strip for our last night. There’s nothing like walking into the Venetian, without having showered for almost 3 days, and chalk and dirt everywhere. It’s quite the stark difference from where we were just a few hours ago.

This amazing climbing destination is just a rock throw’s away from Sin City. I guess it could be a good and a bad thing. In any case, Red Rocks is beautiful and so amazing. I can’t wait to go back and get scared shitless again.

** All photos courtesy of not my phone. Thanks to Paul’s Facebook album. :)

Originally published on 3/8/16 at