Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Break Bouldering at Red Rocks

We didn't want to fight weather over Spring Break, and the beginning of the week didn't look good in Wyoming or Utah. For nice weather, we needed to get to Bishop or Las Vegas, and this year we chose Vegas.

Heat might be bringing the season to a close, but we hit the jackpot, with unusually crisp temps and light breezes all week. We spent one session at Kraft Boulders, one in Oak Creek Canyon, and then two more at Kraft. The concentration, convenience, and quality of the Kraft Boulders kept calling us back.

The Monkey Bars boulder kept us busy for a session and a half, by itself.

We warmed up on the problem "Monkey Bars." Then we took a few tries working out and sending "Monkey Bar Right." After that, Ashley began working on the "Monkey Bar Traverse" while I climbed the exciting problem "Hyperglide." Ashley decided she needed to come back for a second session on the "Monkey Bar Traverse."

After day two in Oak Creek Canyon, we took a rest day, and then returned to the Monkey Bars boulder. It took quite an effort, but we both managed to hang on through the full "Monkey Bar Traverse." It climbs just like a line from Hueco Tanks.

Ashley taking a walk between tries.

It's strange that sandstone bouldering can be featured like Hueco, but the Kraft Boulders often are. Solid patina features you can crimp on with confidence.

Not all the holds are solid patina though. Occasionally we needed to trust hollow, fragile features, that made us think twice. But nothing broke.

Most boulders at Kraft are nicely sized and have a variety of problems. We enjoyed the problem "Jones'n" which ascends the central feature on the Burnout Boulder below.

No bouldering trip to Vegas is complete without an ascent of "The Pearl." The guidebook says to start with your left hand in the pocket, but this isn't good beta if you're short. If you're under 5'7'' try using a right hand in the pocket. This allows you to reach up with the left to gaston a slimper so the long deadpoint to the edge is a little shorter, and you don't need to cut your feet. If you're over 5'7'', left hand in the pocket, big deadpoint with the right, is more straight forward and probably easier.

"The Pearl" is a great problem, but "Blood Trails" gets my vote for the best V5 at Red Rocks.

The desert looks boring from the road, but there is a lot to see when you're out in it. Various species of lizards were everywhere.

And spring break is a great time to see abundant wildflowers.

I'm very excited to get back to Red Rocks next season. At the moment, it's my favorite bouldering destination. The bouldering itself isn't quite as spectacular as what you'll find at Hueco or Joes Valley, but it is still spectacular, and Red Rocks has so many advantages. Unlike Hueco, you can explore without a tour guide and be out from dawn until dusk. Unlike Joes, there are plenty of nice places to stay and things to do on rest days. The scenery is amazing, and the sandstone is easy on the skin so you can climb a lot more and have fewer rest days. We climbed so long each day, the easy problems began to feel really hard.

Ashley under "Potato Chips" at the end of the session.

This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning the new guidebook "Southern Nevada Bouldering" by Tom Moulin. It inspired us to make the trip, and it turned out to be the best guide I've ever used. Finding the boulders with the guide was easy, even in Oak Creek Canyon where many boulders aren't near trails. The directions, maps, and photos are so well done that each could be sufficient by themselves. Used together, I was always confident that I knew where I was going. I found the star ratings to be generally conservative. Some of the one star problems would get two or even three stars at other areas.

But the guide has one misleading feature that I feel must be mentioned. Tom appears in photos climbing many of the boulders, which is meant to show their scale. But Tom doesn't show himself next to a normal size person in the guide to give the reader a sense of his scale. I was tricked again and again. Every boulder we visited was one and a half times taller than I expected it to be. Tom must be really tall! Problems that look low ball in the guide photos are actually reasonable. Problems that look reasonable in the photos are actually highballs. And problems that look highball in the guide, are free solos. Now that you know, hopefully you won't be fooled like I was.

Buy the guide. Obsess for a while. and enjoy a trip next season.

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