February 15, 2018
Vegas-people: everyone has at least a couple of friends that fall into this category. You know the type, hard-charging workaholics that struggle through the week by dangling the proverbial Vegas carrot just ahead of their daily drudgery. When Friday finally roles around they’re off, joining their fellow sin city aficionados speeding along highway 15 to a weekend of good times they’ll be lucky to remember come Monday morning. Were not so different as climbers, however the particular destination I have in mind has less to do with casinos and clubs and everything to do with Red Rock Canyon, the National Conservation Area and world famous climbing destination just outside of Las Vegas. I found myself making the pilgrimage a couple of weeks ago, joining the masses on a Friday evening with my buddy, a fellow weekend warrior. The rigors of school, work and recovering from ankle surgery conspired to keep me away from the sandstone paradise for more than a year, but after visiting recently I’m on the bandwagon again. Just another one of those Vegas-people, spouting off about the weekend the following week at work…so much for what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Here’s 10 reasons to get off your butt and get to Red Rock!
Photos by Jake Philpot
One: Lynn Hill
Lynn Hill says her favorite climb is in the park and no one believes her. “How can it be better than the Nose? Can it be?” Who cares. If Lynn Hill says a chunk of rock is amazing, chances are she’s right. Less time internet-arguing and more time getting your butt to the Eagle Wall to see for yourself.
Two: Tall Walls
Red Rock is like Joshua Tree, except that the rock is way different, the climbs are way taller, and the stars perform in high end clubs rather than across the night sky (actually there are still celestial sights to be seen in Red Rock but the Vegas glow usually drowns out at least some of the magic). Then again, where else can you go climb a ten pitch route and then drive 20 minutes and be on the strip.
Three: Winter Season
Too cold at your home crag? Not into sliding down frozen mountains on planks? The canyon provides winter-long climbing options for every type of climber, from sunny pebble-wrestling to committing walls, warm clip-ups to shaded trad enclaves, the park features something for every member of your group. Maybe you’ll even step outside your comfort zone and dabble in that other climbing discipline you constantly disparage, you know ___________. (fill in name of climbing subdiscipline you suck at and constantly put down)
Photo by Jake Philpot
Four: Rest Days
It’s the desert, and it’s usually dry and amazing conditions for pulling hard day after day. The caveat here is that unlike other rock types, sandstone must not be climbed during or following rainstorms. Do not be that girl or guy violating the community’s established ethic, instead take the opportunity to rest, bike, hike, gamble, eat, sightsee (really anything other than climbing) and give the rock MULTIPLE days to dry out. If you must climb, there are many other crags in the surrounding area comprised of rock other than sandstone.
Who doesn’t love a good campground scene? Climbers, mountain bikers and hikers come together to marvel at each other’s Sprinter vans and oogle the sunsets as they nestle amongst the brightly colored peaks just a few miles away. The community vibe is strong, and it’s usually pretty easy to share a site with fellow rock aficionados; bring your favorite beverage and meet new friends.
Six: Short Approaches
Climbing is way cooler than long walks to climbing and Red Rock hosts a variety of stellar crags within eyesight of the road. You know the approach is short when the ratio of rotund tourists to climbers is 10 to 1 and you’ll undoubtedly have an audience as you pull hero moves on your latest project.
Photo by Ed Ruiz
Seven: Crowd-Free Climbs
Likewise, earning a climb (or a long hike to a remote classic) is incredibly rewarding and Red Rock sports a multitude of stellar lines tucked deep in the recesses of various canyons. Free from the hordes, the feelings of superiority and exclusivity are included with your ascent, just make sure to drop some subtle spray about your rarified day back at the campfire.
There’s a reason you’re stuck behind that car going 10 miles an hour on the loop road when all you want to do is get back to camp and eat. Slow down for a second and appreciate your surroundings. The walls here are massive and the colors are majestic, reminiscent of some parts of Zion; it’s desert southwest abutting the mountainous west and the intersection is truly breathtaking.
Nine: Permit Situation
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the onerous permitting in California, be prepared for Nevada-style regulations. While the park does have an opening and closing time due to its National Conservation Area status, permitting for late exit (the park closes at dark) or overnight trips is stress free so long as your objective is at one of the many eligible areas. No quotas, no uncertainty, no hassle, simply follow the prompts and leave a message (late exit/overnight info).
Ten: Red Rock Rendezvous!
Photo by Ed Ruiz
Lastly, the annual Red Rock Rendezvous climbers festival is held here every March. Join this one-of-a-kind camp-out and hang with fellow climbers, expand your horizons by joining a clinic, participate in stewardship projects, and party in the desert. Have you always wanted to multi-pitch climb? How about self-rescue technique? Stoked on aid climbing? If you can imagine it, chances are there’s a clinic and a pro to help you learn. Featuring all the big brands, lots of the best climbers, and more beer than you can throw a stick clip at, the Red Rock Rendezvous has something for everyone.
This list only has 10 reasons to climb in Red Rock but I bet those who have experienced the exquisite rock can come up with some additional motivations of their own to make the pilgrimage. Grab some gear, invite a couple of good friends and get going; Red Rock provides ample climbing opportunities and adventures for all.