I looked at my calendar and the bright red rectangular banner that said “Red Rocks Tweetup Trip” it had changed a bit, gotten longer, gotten shorter, had names added, removed and added again; but it had been there for a while.
I looked at the weather report. Rain it said. Rain in Red Rocks, home of sandstone rocks. Guidebooks and websites said that one should allow 1-2 days of drying time for the rock after a rain, some said 3 days if it was a heavy rain. There was a chance we’d drive 5.5 hours one way and arrive in the rain. A 60% chance according to the forecast. And if it rained hard we could be spending our 3 days in Nevada on the Vegas strip or indoors until leaving on Sunday to drive back home. Our friend Katie (@katiebeth) would be driving even further as after our place she’d still have about 4 hours to go.
We decided to hedge our bets and get some climbing in locally while seeing how the weather panned out. This time the lie was on our side. We got one drop of rain and blue skies. We took that as a good sign that the rain in Nevada would be equally light. Thursday we left for Red Rocks, Nevada with a thoroughly packed car.
What’s a Tweetup? A meeting of folks who use Twitter is a loose interpretation. In the case of the climbing community on Twitter it has come to mean a climbing trip meet up. Our packed car with 3 passengers and a ton of gear of all sorts, was just one car in a small group. We arrived in Red Rocks in the late afternoon/early evening and looked around the regular campsite for Josh (@joshuamontague) and his girlfriend Sarah. No one in our car load had met them in person but we knew they were there as they had taken the whole week to camp. We failed to find them and also failed at first to find our group campsite. Eventually we found it, set up, went out for groceries, came back and then folks started arriving (including Josh and Sarah). It was a strange reunion for most of us, we had the feeling of meeting old friends even though many of us had only met in person one other time at the first #climb Tweetup trip. Of the Thursday night group we had only 4 newcomers, Josh, Sarah, Peter (@pwcarey) and Adrienne (@adrienneknits). Tacklehugs flew fast and furious.
Friday we hit the 2nd pullout of Red Rocks. Our objective: Magic Bus. Unfortunately I had left one of my rock shoes back at camp. K and I would have to catch up. Those who are familiar with Red Rocks know that this isn’t just a quick drive back to camp, once you get into the Red Rocks area you are on a 13 mile, one way scenic loop road. We decided to stop at one of the view spots so I could take some shots of the view as I could already tell I’d not get a chance to catch them with the right light the rest of the trip (I was right). So once I grabbed my other shoe we went back to the pull out and hiked in. About halfway in K realized he’d left his shoes in the car. I stayed with his heavy backpack (he’d brought the trad rack as well as sport rack) and he ran back for them.
Needless to say, we didn’t catch up to the group until they were nearly done with the climbs at Magic Bus. I was there in time to see Katie do her hardest sport lead yet though (go girl!). I got one lead, one onsight and some topropes in. Unfortunately we had both photographers climbing at the same time, so no pics of me on the sharp end. After K and I finished with Magic Bus we headed out to Stonewall, where we’d been told everyone else had been heading.
We found it after some scrambling and saw Josh and Sarah there, they asked us where the rest of the gang was. “We thought they were with you?” They were also leaving since Stonewall was in the shade and they had gotten cold. Kelly and I went up there to find a party of three just coming off of a 10d sport route and transitioning over to a 10c. We noticed they were all bundled up and one of them had gone off on top of a ramp to sit in the sun. Kelly set out to onsight the 10d with me belaying. It was cold in the shade and the little breezes were getting more frequent and colder as the sun headed down. We didn’t stay long.
We checked in at camp and found folks had already eaten, we set out to get dinner groceries and more water but ended up eating at an Islands restaurant. Great burgers. Sometimes it’s nice to have a camping area really close to a city. After burgers it was back to camp for campfire time.
K and I had discussed doing a multipitch route while at Red Rocks, since that’s what the place is really known for. However ones we had our eyes on were described as being in the shade. Fortunately Katie had run into a climber while we were at the super market on Thursday who suggested Ginger Cracks as a sunny, 5.9 multipitch trad route. We had checked it out in the guidebook Friday night between campfire hilarity and it seemed doable. Yet, Saturday morning we still weren’t committed as there was a question of who was going. In the end we went as a party of 3, K, Chad (@chadcat) and myself. Chad had arrived by himself in the wee hours of the night and was raring to go (he had multipitch experience).
On the ride to the parking area I checked the weather forecast, a high of 71 was predicted. It sounded like it was going to be nice! I also called the Red Rocks late exit number to leave our relevant information in case we weren’t out of the park by 8:00 PM. This option is only available for folks doing multi-pitch climbs (with some additional restrictions) and if you don’t do this you will get a parking ticket.
The approach according to the guidebook was to be one hour. We started off in great weather, first downhill then on a flat sandy trail, then crossing a stream with croaking frogs before heading up hill again. It was warm and beautiful out. The trail kept going though and soon we had to pay close attention to cairns and footholds as we scrambled on small boulders and loose trail. Nearing the base of our climb we noticed a party of two on it, about a pitch up. Unfortunately we also heard voices coming from our left, possibly heading for Ginger Cracks as well. I decided to put on some steam and scrambled up a rock ramp and then up a steep hill to the base to claim it for our group. There wasn’t much need it seemed as the other group seemed to have veered off.
There was a slight problem though, the approach had taken us longer than an hour, so time was not on our side. We guessed that the hour estimation may have been for wherever that other party had started. It had taken us at least an hour and a half. In the interest of speed K proposed that he lead the first pitch instead of myself as I had been getting ready to do. I agreed though thought perhaps I could lead later.
The pitches were long. The first included hand sized cracks but also a strange person-swallowing crevice and a sharp flake. It was a pleasure to feel the soft sandstone with a hand jam. The belay had anchor bolts, something I hadn’t expected.
We were all climbing well but it was evident that we were going to be pressed to beat the clock. Unfortunately it was also soon evident that the climb was NOT going to get any sun on it. The rock was finger numbingly cold. And though, as the middle climber I ended up constantly in motion (either belaying or climbing and cleaning with a rope tail attached to me) I still shivered and thought longingly of my down jacket at the base of the climb. At least I had a Windstopper jacket and light wool shirt though.
The second pitch had what was described as a “step across” to get on another face. I made a mental note to not lead this climb unless I had a tall person with me, or perhaps a shorter 5.12 climber.
K ended up running parts of the third and 4th pitch together which included the 5.9 section of the climb.
The result was a very fun but long and tiring “pitch”. As a group we decided to bail from the top of the 4th pitch as we still had much to go and also because all we had left to climb was a 5.6 pitch, a 4th class section and a 5.8 pitch described as having something like “less than stellar rock”.
At that point I was relieved K had suggested going back, I had started to have uncomfortable flash backs to our East Face of Mt. Whitney climb. Apparently he had too and even brought up that he had said he didn’t want to cut it that close again. We were hardly in the same situation (and thousands of feet lower in elevation) but it was still the right move. We had all done the hardest pitches of the climb, and had a lot of fun doing it. The climbing had been varied, long and interesting. Aside from the parts I already described, there had also been a layback / chimney section and a face section which I liked.
We set off to rappel. Of course the very first rap, one of our ropes got stuck. We got it out and then continued down. It was a reminder though, that Red Rocks is known for problematic raps. At the base of the climb we had one last stuck rope but fortunately it came out with an additional tug.
We managed to do the most difficult parts of the hike out while there was still light, but did the easier parts by headlamp light. We got to the car just in the nick of time though, as the wind had started to really howl.
The temperature never did reach 71.
Sunday I had thought maybe we could get more climbs in. I was interested in more sport climbs, maybe getting more onsights in. The morning consisted of breaking down camp though. K and I had opted to sleep in the car as our tent was full of dust and the wind was fierce enough to collapse Chad’s tent. Then the camping group all went to Denny’s for brunch. After that it was time for us to head home in order to beat some traffic and get Katie back to our place in time for her to drive her own leg of the journey home and arrive at a reasonable hour.
I wished I had more time to climb and also hang out with everyone. I didn’t get to take nearly as many pictures as I wanted, give out as many hugs or pull on as much rock. However the winds picked up after we left making climbing conditions harsh enough that the remaining folks only got one climb in, so I guess our little car group did pretty darn good, weather conditions considering.
To all who went, it was fun to see you again and I wish I could’ve talked/climbed with each of you more! I also want to specifically say it was great meeting Greg, Christine, Josh, Sarah, Adrienne and Peter for the first time. I hope you guys become part of the “regulars” now. And to other #climb Twitter folks out there, I hope to see you in this list next time!
Link to my #rrtweetup photos on rockgrrl
Video from the Ginger Cracks day still to come.
“We don’t really need shoes for this climb” – K
“While the other kids climbed the streets pretending to be He-Man, I saw myself as Captain Bacon!” – The Group (via Denny’s Madlibs)
“I’m not bringing my down jacket up. I hope this isn’t the scene with the forshadowing music” – Me
“Click!” – Katie
EDIT: Added slideshow