Best of the Best
Mt Wilson basking
in the morning sun
Red Rocks and Joshua Tree, New Years 2000
After a great fall here in Vancouver, the rains finally came a
couple months ago, so it was time to head south in search of dry
rock. The plan was to fly to Vegas on the 26 of Dec and climb
in Red Rocks or Joshua Tree until flying home on the Jan 6. Anyway,
here is a trip report:
Day 1: no more rain!
Having arrived late the night before, the something seemed vaguely
strange. Maybe it was all the tacky casinos, or the hordes they
attracted. More likely though, it was the fact that not only
was it not raining, but the good weather didn't come with the knowledge
that it would turn to shit again within the next few hours.
After a lazy morning in the 13 mile campground, we decided to get
our sport fix out of the way early, and headed off to the second
pullout. The day was spent casually scouting out lines with
no ropes on them, and clipping bolts on routes just the same as
the one next too it. Not to say it was a bad day, but I was
looking for something more.
Nearing the jugs
at the top of Topless Twin, Brass Wall area
Day 2: Brass Wall.
I wanted a bit more adventure, and a few less crowds, but no one
else seemed up for a long route, so we headed off to the Brass Wall.
After fighting the masses the day before to get on a route, we had
this entire crag to ourselves. The climbing was good, though
it seemed at the end of the day not enough had been done.
The highlights of the day were certainly Topless Twins and Black
Cactus in the Second
Pullout area at Red Rocks
Day 3: Beluah's Book & Solar Slab
It was finally time to get on something long. The Beluah's
Book & Solar Slab linkup looked good, as it offered lots of
vertical over mostly moderate climbing. In addition, as Jean,
my partner for the climb, had only limited trad leading experience,
it would give him an opportunity to get some mileage in. We
were at the trail head by 8 (too late) and on the climb by 9 (still
too late). Jean started off on the first pitch, and half an
hour later yelled down that he might be off route, had set up a
belay, and that perhaps I should take over leading. Soon I
was climbing past, and then looking up into the crux Bombay chimney
of the route. A little bit of thrashing, followed by a few
awkward grunts and I was up through the chimney and brief offwidth
(very glad to have just bought that #4 camalot!) and into the fantastic
finger crack dihedral which finished the pitch. Listening
to Jean wrestle the pack through the chimney, I was very glad to
have led and not followed the pitch. From here, 3 more pitches
over mostly easy ground led to the terrace below Solar Slab.
Before starting the climb, I had decided that we had to be at the
base of Solar slab by noon, or 12:30 at the latest in order to continue.
It was 12.15 when we got to the terrace, which I figured would give
us just barely enough time to finish before dark, as somehow I had
got it in my head that the descent would take about an hour (no
idea where that came from).
Climbing at the Gallery,
I quickly led the next couple easy pitches, occasionally looking
down to my last piece distantly blowing in the wind well below and
wishing I hadn't decided to let Jean carry the extra weight of the
#4, as it was now the only piece which would fit. The next
few pitches were a bit more interesting, though still fairly easy,
and flowed by smoothly. The guidebook seemed completely inaccurate
in terms of pitch length and belay stances however. After the nice
cracks of the crux pitches, the angle gradually relented, as the
sun dipped lower and we raced it to the top. At 3:30 we were
at the top of the route (having skipped the final pitch) and searching
for the descent. The guide said to descend the huge gully
to the right of the climb, but there were two huge gullies.
We decided to try the first, which luckily was the right choice.
The guide mentioned that a couple rappels might be used, but the
whole gully could be downclimbed. As it was we ended up doing
7 rappels in the upper gully, plus the regular rappels in the lower
solar slab gully. At about 8 pm, we finally reached the ground,
and began the trek back to camp. We knew our ride would be
long gone, but thankfully they drove up just after we began hiking
along 159 towards the campsite, saving us the last 5 miles of the
Days 4 & 5: mini-epic
So, how does one end up in an unplanned bivy on a 3 pitch route?
Well, here's our way: After the long day previous, I figured something
mellow would be in order, so we set off for the Lotta Balls area,
with my plan being to just set up easy routes for some of the less
experienced climbers in our group. After a couple climbs,
Yana suggested maybe she and Sarah and I do Algae on Parade, a 3
pitch 5.7. This seemed about right. As it was noon,
I figured this would give us a couple hours for the climb, and lots
of time to get back to the ground. The guide was quite vague
in describing the climb "climb the corner in 3 pitches to the
top of the buttress", and the descent "walk left over
the top of lotta balls then descend as per that route".
After 4 full rope length pitches, we finally arrived at the top
of the buttress at nearly 4pm, and set about to find the "walk
off left". Hmm, no walk off. A gully going up,
and a chimney going down, and nothing in between. After spending
a few minutes looking at the chimney/gully which went down, I figured
it could be the right way, but we would be committed once we started
down. The gully going up also looked like it could be correct, but
would be much easier to back out of, so we started up it. Scrambling
up the gully (definitely not a walk!) was slow going, and pretty
soon it was getting dark.
Trying to keep warm
in our “nest”
At this point we looked over our options: we could continue
up the gully into unknown terrain, try the chimney/gully below and
potentially end up stuck in a bad spot, try rapping the route, or
hunker down for the night. We decided we didn't want to play around
on the steep and unknown terrain, and rappelling the route would
have been messy, as there were only occasional chicken heads slung
with ratty webbing for fixed anchors, plus a single bolt half way
down. In addition, much of the upper 2 pitches was very featured
rock, which I figured would definitely snag the knot for a
double rope rappel. After a brief discussion we figured we
were best of to stay put. We had food, water, space blankets, shoes,
extra clothing, headlamps, etc. so we would have been fine, except
that these were all waiting patiently for us in our packs at the
base of the cliff. We managed to find a sandy spot in a gully
which seemed reasonably sheltered, and collected a bunch of leafy
branches to mix with our ropes and gear to make a nest.
Sunrise from our
In the end it was not quite as cold as expected (near freezing)
but by getting up and moving every hour or so we managed to not
freeze too bad. Yana somehow managed to sleep a bit, though
neither Sarah or I could figure that one out. In the morning
we had one of the best sunrises I have ever seen, and once the temperature
rose a bit we started again at trying to get down. We ended
up scrambling up the gully for about 200 metres until we managed
to do a couple long rappels down to the top of Lotta Balls.
After this point the descent was quite simple and well traveled,
but we took it pretty slow as we were all tired, dehydrated and
had sore feet (something about no sleep, no water and wearing climbing
shoes for 24 hours). In the end the descent took about 5 hours
(20 including the night), though I'm sure under better conditions
could have been done in perhaps 2 hours. As we neared the
packs, I was constantly debating which I wanted to do more: drink
some water or take off my shoes. In the end the water came
first, but not by much.
It was now new years eve, so I managed to cop a couple hours sleep
in the tent back at camp, before spending new years on top of the
hill beside the campground. We were kind of hoping to watch
distance as the strip went up in flames, but we got no such entertainment
(not even fireworks!).
Day 6: New Years Day
This was supposed to be my rest day, which would have made sense
as it was new years day with all the standard effects of new years
eve, and was running on virtually no sleep for the past couple
days. So instead we decided to sport climbing and there were
no crowds as apparently everyone was busy nursing hangovers or such.
At the end of the day we somehow managed to cram 5 of us plus 10
days gear into our rental neon and drive down to Joshua tree.
To this day I am still not sure how we did it.
Joshua Tree at dusk
from Ryan Campground
Days 7 & 8: Joshua Tree
What an awesome place! After 6 days straight I definitely
need a rest day, but I've only got 2 days here in JT so I guess
I gotta climb anyway. Spent both days climbing around Hidden
Valley and had a great time. Perfect weather, damn cold in
the wind but well worth it. Definitely have to go back!
Day 9: back to Red Rocks
Now I really need a rest day! So it's off to the Gallery for
some bolted boulder problems. What a horrible place.
The climbing sucked, I was sick, the sky was gray, it was way too
crowded. I managed to redeem the day by flailing around on
the Meister's Edge for a bit though, even if I did get thoroughly
spanked by the climb.
Rib at Chimney Rock near Hidden Valley Campground
Day 10: No more epics!!
I figured before we left, I had to get in at least one long climb
without some sort of an epic. I decided to hedge my bets and
go for a reasonably short moderate with a straightforward descent,
and opted for Cat in the Hat. Elise and I got an early access permit
in order to ensure we were first on the climb, and were back on
the ground by 1pm after spending a leisurely hour at the top for
lunch and waiting for the other parties on the route as we descended.
A great note to finish the trip on. Managed to finally get
my much needed rest sleeping under a row of seats in the airport
before flying out the next morning. A great trip, and I will
definitely be back some day.