Nov 12, 2014

Desert climbing - the sandstone way - Prodigal Sun

Many things makes me happy, but one top ten is flying in over las Vegas and its millions of lights
That doesn't only mean a crazy town, it means Red Rocks, sandstone and wild cracks
Just have a quick look at the topo over the area and it will make most of us realizing that life's to short. The holy bible is just its forewords!
And the add the Utah selected topo. Well, it's getting busy

Climbing, it's just the optimal satisfaction. But when it comes to areas witch are overcrowded, on bad rock and wet and rainy weather. Well then it takes a bit of fun of it, sort of.
Climbing on beautiful formations on the other hand, thats the deal.
Specially if it involves getting up on a summit and plus more when it's via a stunning splitter, a perfect finger crack and handjams. Or a full body workout chimney!
And if it also means that it's during a limited time foregone with a long flight, it's also a big plus if the weather always and every morning is blue sky

Easy? Well yes, there are places like that!
For an European it means a long flight, quite expensive as well. But the weather is there togheter with all the nice formations, just waiting to be touch, jammed and chalked up. So get the big chalk bag out, a pair of comfy frictions rubber and do the teip gloves on and go west. 
Desert climbing at its best, Nevada Red rocks and Utah with Zion and Kolob Canyons

Peter at one of the many climbs we did

For some full on concentrated climbing weeks, alternating between Vegas and Zion, Utah, the numbers of climbs are so great it's impossible to put in words. And if it by chance would rain one day, well it's probably just a good thing,because it finally means its possible to take a rest day

Peter in Red Rocks

An overall climber in Red Rocks can't be lazy though. The approaches are, to use small words, demanding, for most of the climbs. Specially when it's any of the longer and more interesting climbs that you want to do.
For any of the climbs like in Black Velvet or Pine Creek, expect at least 1-2h for the approach. 
On the other hand, there are climbs just minutes away as well. But then you won't be on any of the 10-15 pitch routes, or even longer ones, that is to be found in Red

Summit of Angels Lamding after Northeast Buttress

When the crack technique has gotten in to place and the sandstone feeling has entered, there is maybe time for a trip to Zion
The less spoken variation of Yosemite, the valley of the greatest sandstone walls yet to be found
How many places are there where you park the car or drop out from the shuttle bus a and walk a few minutes just to get at the base of a 10 pitch big wall climb, really?!

Chimneys and off width, thats the thing

Unimpeachable Groping 5.10b

The climbs around Zion is a bit more adventurous though, compared to Red Rocks. Just because the climbs them self are a bit more demanding. Most of the longer routes often involves some kind of off width or a chimney or two. Great pitches if your into it. But since it often also means unprotected climbing, it's a bit of up head focus
Also the sandstone is a bit softer so placing gear is a bit more demanding

Crack climbing at its best, Zion!

This area hosted a bigger sand desert than Sahara before it transformed into compressed sand and raised up to beautiful mountains with an elevation up to 8´726feet. Giving us climbing routes in a stunning environment
The Navajo sandstone shines like red gold and dominates the area. But often the softer whitish stone of Dakota and Carmel formations is to be found higher up just beware. It's like climbing on crackers! But, over all super friction, as long as the hold holds

So it ain't a place to learn how to climb this features! Even the single pitch climbs are demanding ones and there is no area where it's possible to walk around putting up a top rope
A couple of bolted routes are to be found but get ready for trad climbs with a range from Rp's to big bros. Sometimes needing the whole range on one and single route
But ones your into it, it's heaven
Just the pure satisfaction of having an easy uncomplicated approach like the one to Moonlight Buttress, a heavy classic, make a 12pitch, sustained one, climb to the summit. And then there is the most perfect trail all the way from Angels Landing  back to the bottom, which takes you back down in an hour!
Not a single rappel, no bushes just a pleasant walk on concrete!

Nothing to miss, Big Dog burgess and beer, Vegas

After a 10 days climbing around with a friend of mine he had to turn home
I on the other hand had almost 3 more weeks before my flight was booked aller retour
At first it felt like, well maybe it was a little to much…but it changed after the first days evening. With a cup of fresh coffee in my hand, sitting at the Red Rock view area after a nice day solo climbing
The night couldn’t pass quick enough to get on the next one and the next one and…
Soon the days came in to a pattern. I choose a route, went on it and had a kicking day climbing. Walked back out, found my coffee evening spot and did a bit of reading.
Cooked dinner and found out the next days climb…great living the life!

Me and my Partner!

After five days in Red Rocks which sent me on solo tours as ”Tunnel Vision” and ”Dark Shadows" 5.8, 10 pitches*** to Rope solo routes as Walker Spur 5.10**, La Cierta Edad 5.10c, fem repl** at Icebox canyon, Edge Dressing 5.10b and Risky Business 5.10c
It was time to head on towards Zion again. My favourite place and second home
I made a couple of 2-3 pitch routes as "Cynthia's handjob" 5.10, and "the Gypsy Curse” 5.10
But I felt it was time for something bigger so the focus went for Equinox. A 9pitch 5.10
I felt good so I left most of the climbing gear, brought only the ropes for the rappel and a couple of mid and one bigger cam just in case to solo the thing
Turned out to be as big adventure as said. Crazy climbing with exposed climbing, with the chimney on the second pitch being full on climbing at 5.8!

Northeast Buttress, Angels Landing, Zion

Prodigal Sun

Next big one had to be the 50 classic route ”Prodigal Sun” at Angels Landing
A steep big wall at 5.8 C2. Not the hardest one to find but sure enough a stunning route
First climbed, also solo, by the Zion crag master Ron Olevsky in 1981
I went up to the wall one afternoon to fix the first couple of pitches

My only issue was that the ropes I had was a 60m lead rope and one 6mm tail rope..
So, the next day I went back early morning and jummared up on first the 6mill…over the roof, oh that was actually a bit scary. With a heart bit high and over rest puls I clipped in to the lead rope and continued up to yesterdays high point. Happy!!

Since I left as much as possible in the car, as my head torch (there was a perfect full moon though) the only thought in my head was 
-race towards the top

And with the same luck as on Moonlight Buttress, there was none around to slow progress. I could just climb without needing to bother about others
Still, the climbing isn’t super easy and with my minimal rack it was often a little to close, but the bolt ladders felt and saw good out enough so I just clipped one by one and pulled the rope with me to save time

And after what felt as a hard work out I stood on the Angels trail, gathering the rope togheter. Just happy and looking forward to an easy descent down the concrete back to the car. A 2h walk after an eight hour climb. No record I´m sure, but a great day out!’

close now, the last pitches of Prodigal Sun

"the Challenger" 5.10d

  In total I climbed 129 pitches during the 24 days stay, not counting the ones I doubled when rope soloing
So after the last day of climbing, at Pine Creek back in Vegas. ”the Challenger” 5.10d
Which I had the pleasure to do with two friends it felt quite ok to pack the gear up, kick back and relax for the flight back home...

When to go
For Zion I have found the best climbing temperatures in october/november. In December it can be a little unstable actually weather wise.
But overall it's possible to climb from September out to early spring
During the summer months it gets very warm
The same would be for Kolob Canyons, even though it's higher elevation

a bit tired after a long day on the wall, at Angels Landing

For Red Rocks it's a bit of same. The summer months is just to hot, but it's always possible to climb in the shadow. But in november I have experienced such cold days so I really want to be in the sun. I guess it feels even colder when you are suspecting the opposite?!

Gear and equipment
Compared to the well known Indian Creek, were its useful with same size on the cam devices and were it can be handy with 5-10 cams in the same size.
Red Rocks and Zion is more irregular and mostly it's ok with a rack that holds a set of two of same size. But come prepared with everything from small tricams to 6" or bigger
A standard rack holds a set of cams from 0.2" - 5" and a set of stoppers, best is to have offsets wires and a handful of quickdraws
A single 60m rope and a 60m tail line or twinn ropes works best

Where to stay
The hotels are  in general very cheap in Vegas during the weeks. Just have in mind that at most places there is a resort fee which wary from a couple of dollars up to 20 or more
There is also often good deals with the Motels
But this also means quite a long drive out to the climbing
Closer to the "loop" is the Red Rock campground
For 15USD/night you get a private spot to pitch the tent on, a campfire site and if your lucky even a roof. But beware if it's windy!
There is one place at the camping where there is water. There is taps all over, but 99% of them are dry
At the visitor center there is clean toilets and water as well
The water in Vegas is ok to drink, but it's a lot of semi taste

The Camping in Zion is right at the spot at the entrance to the park, two campgrounds which one is first arrive first served
The Watchman campground is possible to pre book. Which is a good thing to do if you arrive on a weekend in October or during a holiday
The park has about 3million visitor per year so even though there is a lot of suites and motels it's very difficult to get a place sometimes. And wild camping is very difficult with a lot of private land
Cheap deals can be found in Hurricane or st George, but its a 30min drive away, at least
Food wise there is a grocery store in Springdale, the town of Zion, but everything is much more expensive off course

There is a number of good restaurants and pleasant cafés. So a decent coffee ain't a problem. And don't miss the ice cream next to Pioneer hotel
For a good coffee the Cafe Soleil is a favorite
On the opposite from Pioneer is a very good Mexican restaurant
Cafe Oscar also serves very good food
For decent beer or a bottle of wine to be taken to the camp, there is a liqueur store at the Steakhouse on the right hand side when driving in to Springdale
And off course Big Dog in Vegas

//Work hard, play harder!

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