As the Colorado ice has been quickly forming, I made one last-ditch effort to deny the approaching winter and headed to Nevada…and what better place to go than to Las Vegas?
I know I don’t exactly look like the Casino Royal or Elvis type, but I do love climbing at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area just minutes outside of Vegas. Red Rocks is composed of Aztec Sandstone, which is quite strong and makes for excellent climbing. Ease of access, cheap flights and the Nevada weather make this a world-class rock-climbing destination. Throw in a little bit of diverse climbing—bolted sport routes, high-quality crack climbing and your pick of single pitch routes to grade-V 14 pitch classics—makes this a great climbing area for all levels and abilities.
In fact, this area is so diverse that the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) chose this location out of all U.S. destinations in which to run their Rock Guide courses and exams. Basically, Red Rocks is big, diverse and offers insanely fun climbing!
On my last trip, I unfortunately had very little time, as I had business back in Colorado, but I did manage to squeeze in some fun climbing. And, yes, I allotted one night for a little Vegas strip gambling chaos (which, if you have luck like me, is usually short lived)! But when in Rome, right?
So, I wanted to offer a couple of recommendations and a little perspective for any climbers out there that might want to check out this awesome spot.
For those on a budget, there is a campground just outside the park entrance. It doesn’t offer much, but you can pitch a tent or camp in your truck, get water, sit by the fire and avoid the noise of Vegas. Some climbers opt for kicking down a few more dollars and getting a hotel room, which are quite plentiful in Vegas. Surprisingly, you can find some really good deals, as everybody knows—especially the casinos—that most people that go to Vegas leave a lot of money behind! By booking in advance and looking for online specials, you can find some sweet gems. We stayed at the 4-star Rio for $30 a night and I’ve got to say that a shower and cotton sheets after a full day of climbing hits the spot! Personally, my preference is to start out close to the climbing and camp, combined with a couple of nights of hotel stays to enjoy the rest days and a little bit of nightlife.
There are so many high-quality routes here it’s hard to know where to begin! A one-way loop road inside the park accesses the primary climbing zone. The first and second pull-offs offer a plethora of single-pitch climbing that are mostly bolted sport routes. Access is easy, routes are sunny and the quality is superb.
If you want to get away from the bolt clippers and check out some crack climbing, you can continue on the loop road to White Rock Springs and Willow Springs for some excellent moderate Trad/Crack climbing routes. Most of the routes here are shorter in length, usually in the 1-to-4 pitch range.
For those wanting to get out and sample the longer routes, the rest of the park is for you. Still along the loop road, Ice Box, Pine Creek and Juniper canyons offer numerous classics with many routes in the 8-12 pitch range.
Just outside the loop road off of Highway 159 are Oak Creek, First Creek and Black Velvet canyons. All of these canyons offer long and superb climbing!
Chad’s Select Picks:
Frog Land 5.8 6 pitches
Refried Brains 5.9 8 pitches
Epinephrine 5.9 16 pitches
Dream of Wild Turkeys 5.10 10 pitches
Prince of Darkness 5.10c 6 pitches
Lotta Balls Wall. Numerous high-quality routes all under 4 pitches
Jonny Vegas to Solar Slabs 5.7 13 pitches
Black Orpheus 5.10 11 pitches
Levitation 29 5.11c 10 pitches
Crimson Chrysalis 5.8+ 9 pitches
Ginger cracks 5.9 7 pitches
Cookie Monster to Cat in the Hat 5.7 7 pitches
Dark Shadows 5.8 10 pitches
Obviously, quality and route preference are extremely subjective, but all of these routes get good reviews and make for good climbing, in my opinion. So, if your jonesing for some sunshine and need to get away from winter, Red Rocks is a sweet spot!
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