This past weekend, I took a day off and shot out to go climb in Red Rocks, Nevada. My friend Michelle had grabbed a group campsite months ago and had invited friends out and I’d gone ahead and asked for time off to make a 3 day weekend. My goal (which had been stymied the last time we did a group camp here) was to finally finish Ginger Cracks (5.9, 955 feet, 7 pitches). Years ago I had been on it in a party of three but we had bailed for reasons based on weather and fatigue.
I’m happy to say my friend Eric and I pulled it off this weekend with relatively small glitches: had to wait for a party of three we had not seen waiting at the base during our approach hike and Eric at first took a wrong chimney but quickly realized it. The weather was overcast during our morning hike in which made it tolerable and rather pretty. We came upon a group of deer who didn’t seem too concerned about us. We found the trail easily enough by following our guidebook beta and it seemed to take us the predicted hour and a half to get to the base from the parking area.
The climb itself was fun and varied, requiring a variety of gear (cams up to a Black Diamond 4, and nuts) and techniques (crack, chimney, face crimps, and traversing skills). The movement was fun and interesting and the views spectacular. I had originally planned to lead some pitches but seeing as we had not just one but two parties of three ahead of us, and hopes to get down before dark, I talked myself out of leading (though I almost took a higher pitch we thought might be the 5.0/5.2 pitch but turned out to be the crux!). I was happy to follow though. As I climbed I thought about how fortunate I was to be able to climb; to have access and the ability to get on something this great even though it had been awhile since I’d been a multi-pitch this tall, this hard, and with this long (and tiring) of an approach hike.
All I could do was smile as I climbed higher, the shade following me up the pitches and keeping me from overheating. We did have to wait sometimes for belay stations to clear and as the day progressed Eric and I both put on light jackets. A very light sprinkle, and thunder accompanied our last pitch but both ended before we finished our descent rappels.
Though we finished our rappels while there was still light, our hike out was in the dark which made it more challenging in terms of finding the right way to go and in staying upright on the steep and sometimes loose terrain. We eventually made it with only a few, quickly corrected wrong turns.
As far as multi-pitch climbs go, it went incredibly smoothly and yet, I felt a great sense of adventure and accomplishment. We in the climbing community sometimes make a lot of noise about first ascents, speed ascents, free soloing, and pushing the limits but I think every climber knows what the public may not – that most every climb for us can give us a quiet pleasure and the enjoyment of experiencing a climb and touching rock. When we topped out on the last pitch and looked out on the wilderness we had hiked through, I smiled again. How fortunate we all are.