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Red Rocks trip report


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Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,152

My wife, J, and I spent a week climbing at Red Rocks, NV during late October through early November for my 40th birthday week. We had a perfect weather, climbed some fun multi-pitch trad routes big and small, stayed in a cute AirBnB Airstream trailer, and generally had a great time. Below are some photos from the trip, mostly taken by J.

Monday - Epinephrine

This trip was J’s second visit to Red Rocks and my fourth. Neither of us had been to Red Rocks for a few years, but we had been climbing regularly in the intervening years. So I was cautiously optimistic about attempting some bigger routes this time.

Our main objective for the trip was Epinephrine. Besides being a Red Rocks mega-classic, it also would be the most committing, non-alpine rock route we've ever attempted. Ideally, we would first spend a couple days doing shorter multi-pitch routes to get reacquainted with the desert sandstone. But Monday was forecast to be the warmest day of the week with a cold front moving in on Tuesday, and Epinephrine gets almost no sun this time of the year because of its north-facing aspect. So we jumped into the deep end and settled on Epinephrine as the first climb of the trip.

I tore up my windbreaker, scraped up my elbows, and had a sore back for weeks because of the chimneys. Looking back on the trip with the benefit of selective amnesia, the chimneys were a textbook case of Type II fun.

 


The Elephant’s Trunk was our favorite pitch of the route. Moderate face climbing, great exposure, and a pure joy.


A party of three (from Spain?) arrived at the big pine tree marking the end of the route shortly after us. I asked one of the guys what he thought of the chimneys, and his response — “So f*cked!” — succinctly summed up how we all felt about having finished the chimneys and finally topped out. The slabs leading to the summit of Black Velvet Peak radiated the warmth of the afternoon sun, but a stiff wind reminded us to not linger for too long on the initial ridgeline descent.


Route finding was more straightforward after leaving the exposed southeast ridge of Black Velvet Peak. We scrambled down the steep but well-cairned trail toward Whiskey Peak and made it back to the car as the sky above the city transitioned from salmon to purple to pitch black.
 

Tuesday - Rest day

By the time we came to on Tuesday morning, daylight was seeping in from the edges of the window blinds. I slowly slid off the bed and touched down with bare feet on grains of sand covering the checkered vinyl floor tiles of the Airstream. My back straightened reluctantly, making it clear that this 40-years old body needed more than one night’s rest to fully recover from the previous day.


With the aim of having an active rest day, we settled on Olive Oil, a popular five pitch 5.7. Unfortunately, on the approach hike I veered off route coming out of the creek bed of Pine Creek and kicked a grapefruit-sized rock onto J’s right hand from 10-15 feet above. She couldn’t make a fist or hold anything without sharp pain in the hand. So that put an end to our climbing plans for the day, so we took a true rest day. We had a delicious early lunch and then relaxed at a Korean Spa. Afterwards we got some takeout for dinner and retired to the Airstream.

Wednesday- Johnny Vegas to Solar Slab

With muscles still sore but almost half of our vacation already behind us, we prepared for another long day on Wednesday. The goal was to climb Johnny Vegas then Solar Slab, and walk off via the Painted Bowl descent.

Sunrise over Oak Creek Canyon


Under a half moon, at sunrise, on Pitch 2 of Johnny Vegas


Stretching out sore legs on Pitch 2 of Solar Slab


Perfectly varnished plates on Pitch 3 of Solar Slab


The climbing was fun and mellow, and we topped out ahead of schedule at 1:30pm.

Praying for a safe walk off at the IBM Boulder


The descent into Oak Creek Canyon


The Painted Bowl descent turned out to be soul-crushing, partly because we stayed in the wash boulder-hopping for too long. After leaving the wash we briefly lost the trail and zig-zagged through the cacti. My shoelaces came undone but I was too tired to stop to retie them. We staggered back to the roadside pullout cold, thirsty, and hungry, but relieved and immensely content.  
 
Thursday - Olive Oil

Olive Oil was a natural choice for this day, since we didn’t want another long day and because we bailed on it on Tuesday.

On the approach to Olive Oil


The second pitch features a nice hand crack with many big face holds and ends at a tiny ledge.


We chased the sun most of the afternoon and stayed comfortably warm. The shadow of Rainbow Mountain eventually caught us on the last pitch, which had lots of fun stemming.  


Downclimbing from the summit of Rose Tower


Hiking back to the car


For dinner, we went back to the Airstream, cooked some pasta, and warmed up the leftover green Thai curry from the previous night.
 

Friday - Great Red Book

We had plans to meet a friend (BD) for lunch on Friday, so we decided to end our trip with the Great Red Book, a classic two pitch, 5.8 at Calico Hills Second Pullout. It turned out to be one of our favorite routes of the trip despite its short length.

On the approach hike to the Great Red Book


The first pitch had some fun laybacks and face climbing.


Second pitch had even better face climbing followed by an offwidth layback.


We topped out around mid-morning, the end of a very enjoyable and rewarding trip.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 210

Nice!!  That second pitch of GRB is no joke.

Nick Thomas · · Fargo, ND · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 35

Great report!  How warm was it the day you did Epinepherine?  Were you struggling to stay warm in the chimneys?  We are planning to do it right after New Year's and it looks like the weather is getting a bit colder.

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,152
Nick Thomas wrote: Great report!  How warm was it the day you did Epinepherine?  Were you struggling to stay warm in the chimneys?  We are planning to do it right after New Year's and it looks like the weather is getting a bit colder.

Thanks, Nick. The highs were around 60-65 (in the canyons) the day we did Epinephrine. I had a windbreaker over a t-shirt and didn't feel cold at all in the chimneys (and felt comfortable in just the t-shirt after the chimneys). We both packed puffy jackets but never needed them. It's probably going to be colder in a week or two as you noted. 

jay steinke · · Duluth, Mn · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 5
Fan Zhang wrote:

Thanks, Nick. The highs were around 60-65 (in the canyons) the day we did Epinephrine. I had a windbreaker over a t-shirt and didn't feel cold at all in the chimneys (and felt comfortable in just the t-shirt after the chimneys). We both packed puffy jackets but never needed them. It's probably going to be colder in a week or two as you noted. 


jay steinke · · Duluth, Mn · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 5

Do you have the direct number to the owners of the Airstream  

Aaron Mc. · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 65
jay steinke wrote: Do you have the direct number to the owners of the Airstream  

I think it's this one

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,152
Aaron Mc. wrote:

I think it's this one

Yep, that's the one. 

James Huang · · Ford Econoline · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 15

great photos!

Buck Rogers · · Germany · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 5

Super report!  Way to take full advantage of your week.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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