Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Red Rock Canyon

We’re here in Red Rock Canyon, and have been for 5 days. It’s a great place, with tons of climbing, perfect weather (most of the time) and some neat “attractions” nearby. The campground is situated just outside Las Vegas, between town and the Red Rock Canyon National Park. We’ve been to this park several times in the past for climbing, and always had great fun. Once you get used to the dramatic weather patterns (high winds mornings and evenings, with cold nights and hot days) you can find places in the park at almost any temperature you want.

To whet our appetites over the weekend when crowds were higher, we stayed out of the main park circus and hiked into the Calico Basin where some shorter, easier climbs exist. Hanmi continued her mojo by working a fun 5.7 for a while, learning how to deal with tricky placements without a solid stance and managing rope drag. I got a small meal of a mild 10 that had a “boulder start” – which means all the climb was in the first 5 moves. Red Rocks is notorious for the some climbs being a bit light, meaning the higher numbers are still easier compared to locations elsewhere. However, earlier in the week it was raining and snowing (sometimes without hitting the valley floor, which made for great curtains of rain that simply disappeared).

Yesterday, just to get a workout, I coaxed Han out to the front side to a short (45ft) crag called the Magic Bus. There, I ran up and down all the climbs, TR’ing ot leading whatever and even down climbing. They were 8’s and 10’s but they all felt rather easy, with some aesthetic moves on otherwise Smith-like faces. I got my heart pumping but they weren’t the best routes of the trip.

Las Vegas! Casinos! Every visit, we stop at the “Red Rocks Casino” and play a few games. The first year we made a few dollars, but this year was a bust. We skipped the weekend and hit it on the Sunday night, which was low energy and nobody at the table had any good streaks. Some dude next to us proceeded to lose about $1500 - he wasn’t in a good mood. I was content to lose what I brought, knowing that I could make it up when I get back.

Funny enough, the casino has a huge bowling alley and I played two games (159, 147) just to burn time while waiting for Han. The lanes are new and slick, but their ball selection is weak. I didn’t find grips or weights matched to really feel solid. By the end of the second game though, I thought climbing and bowling might be good combinations – both working the arm and fingers. I felt it.

The doggies have been having a great time. Their scrambling skill to the cliff bases is at an all-time high. Malo is hitting higher-angled stuff than ever, and Ellis can almost climb whatever we point her towards. On the ways home, they always get excited and climb best, whether up or down – they know when the food times are. Malo loves his full-body, balanced harness. When he feels me get ready to haul him, he leaps into a superman pose, holding it until he lands.

Yesterday we put them in the doggie daycare “evaluation” so that we could simply drop them off whenever we want. It worked out pretty well. Malo has a strong pack-animal sense (but certainly not Alpha-minded) – he holds his own when animals prod him. Ellis had a bit of separation anxiety but got over it (we were told). There were some fun dogs there, a friendly Boston Terrier and a huge black Great Dane stood out.

We’re spotted a ring-tailed cat, a few desert hares and one small coyote. We haven’t seen the desert tortoise rumored to be in the vicinity of the campground, but with these crowds I’m sure it didn’t stay long. So far, only one tourist has asked us about “this climbing thing” – pretty good. The dog celebrity continues, with people fawning over Ellis’s ears and Malo’s um, charm.

Today we went over to the Ragged Edges wall – which has some shorter classics. The route “Ragged Edges” itself is pretty great. There’s “Plan F” which we all thought was a good climb. Hanmi lead “Tonto” which she tells me is pretty easy. The routefinding was tricky though, which caused a bit of rope drag. She had to downclimb and pull some pieces. She has become quite a leader and while always progressing through the grades, is getting great experience with all the nuances about rope management and trad belay/rap stations.

We climbed with a great fellow Loren, who needed partners for his trip and was glad to take a “slow day” with us. Originally, we planned to split up and I’d climb a multipitch with Loren, but Han felt good enough to join in. So, we brought the whole family and just cragged 1 or 2 pitches. Thanks again, Loren. We’ll meet up again to do “Chicken Eruptus” soon!

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