Sunday 11/23: driving out of Bay Area
Monday 11/24: sport climbing at Dogg Wall
Tuesday 11/25: Geronimo, 4 pitches, 5.8
Wednesday 11/26: Crimson Chrysalis, 9 pitches, 5.8
Thursday 11/27: short trad stuff at Straight Shooter Wall and Brass Wall
Friday 11/28: Levitation 29, 7 pitches 5.11
Saturday 11/29: Driving back home
We left the Bay Area in the afternoon in Allen's Cherokee. His car had been leaking coolant, but after working hard on his assignments due before Thanksgiving for a few days, he couldn't wait to get out of the house, so we hit the road anyway. We stopped at a Chinese buffet in Bakersfield, and made it to Barstow around 10pm. My stomach was not feeling well, so we stayed at The Best Motel in Barstow.
We arrived at Red Rock Visitor Center around noon. After parking the car at the first pullout, we racked up and went to Dogg Wall, where we did a couple of fun sport routes (Cat Walk 5.10a and It's a Bitch 5.10b). It was overcast and the rock was so cold that I couldn't feel my fingers. On our way to the camp site, the engine overheated twice. I was scared, but Allen calmly added water into the radiator and continued driving. Thank god that the campground was not far from where we were, so we soon pulled in to group camp site E, which had been reserved by Rock Rendezvous starting on Tuesday. We had the whole group site to ourselves that night. The powerful light beam shooting straight into the sky from the Luxor Pyramid could be clearly seen from the campgound.
The rocks sure look different from those you see in the Yosemite Valley.
The sun came out. It was nice and warm compared to the day before. But on our way to the loop, the engine died due to overheating, which resulted in a loss of the brakes and power steering. Luckily we were right at a right turn pullout. My pessimistic mind kept on telling me that we were stuck in the desert…we would not be able drive back home in this car. But with real-time consultation from Allen's roommate, Steve, an ex-mechanic, Allen decided to down play the seriousness of the problem. We had about 5 gallons of water in our car, which he used generously on the engine. By the time the car could move again, it was almost noon. Allen maintained a high spirit, insisting that we should forget about the car problem and do some climbing. So we did Geronimo, a four-pitch 5.8 near Olive Oil. The climb was in the sun in the morning, but the shade moved in before we got there. We could still feel the warmth in the pockets though. Allen was right — I felt happy again as soon as I got on the climb. I would worry about the car some other time. It was a great climb. To me, route finding would have been a challenge even though the climb was not technically hard. I followed every pitch simply enjoying the great jugs and pockets. The rappel route was a rope eater. Allen had to climb 80 feet up an unknown crack/chimney to rescue our rope, which had hopelessly looped itself around a horn. When we got back to the camp site, it was still empty, but a few cars pulled in after we went to sleep.
We had the whole group camp site to ourselves last night.
A view from the top of Geronimo.
Again, it was a sunny day. We got up just after 5am, filled up the radiator with water, and set off to Pine Creek Parking lot. From there, we hiked for about an hour and arrived at the base of Crimson Chrysalis, a nine-pitch 5.8+ in Juniper Canyon. The route was in the shade the whole day, but we were prepared with lots of layers. My hands went numb immediately on the first pitch, but they warmed up gradually as I moved higher. There was no wind and we had the whole route to ourselves, so we took it easy and fully enjoyed the climb, every move. SuperTopo claims this route is "one of the best 5.8 multipitch climbs in the world." I could not have agreed more even though my experience had been limited to climbing around the bay area. Ok, try to picture this… when I was topping out into the sunshine, I had a big smile on my face, and the only comment I could make to Allen was "this route is just tooooo sweet!" Yep. That was exactly how I felt about it. We did the climb and rappelled in about 6.5 hours, which was not as fast as I had expected considering its low rating, but I guess we didn't really push ourselves to do it fast since we were the only party on the climb.
Beta:The lengths of the 2nd and 3rd pitch in SuperTopo were wrong. You could easily link them together with a 60 m rope. We also linked the 5th and 6th pitches with about 5 feet of simul-climbing. The 8th and 9th pitches were also easily linked.
When we were on the 2nd pitch, a few climbers walked by and then disappeared from my view. I could hear them all day, but couldn't make out where the voices came from. After we got down Crimson Chrysalis, they came back– they had just done a 7 pitch 5.11+ route called Cloud Tower. Was that impressive. Well, they didn't stop there… they (3 guys) racked up, and started simul-climbing Crimson Chrysalis at 3:30pm! Allen and I hung out at the base for a little while, and after we hiked down the ramp when we looked back, the three guys, 100 feet apart, were already almost half way up. It was an amazing scene.
We then went into town, showered at the local rock gym, did some grocery shopping at Whole Foods. We met Sue, a super sweet girl whom Allen had met in the Valley in the summer. She invited us to hang out with her and her roommates. We got back to the camp site around mid-night. The car broke down on our way back, but adding water again did the trick (the car was dehydrated).
Beautiful morning light.
Want some exposure? You won't be disappointed on this climb.
Mei leading the 7th pitch.
There it is, Las Vegas!
It was the Turkey Day. Knowing we should get back to prepare for the potluck Turkey Dinner, we decided to do some short stuff. So we went to Straight Shooter Wall and Brass Wall (they are neighbors) along with Adan and Diego. The routes we did included: Straight Shooter 5.9+ (a nice splitter finger crack), Lazy Fireman 5.11-, and Sidewinder 5.11- on Straight Shooter Wall, and Bush Pilot 5.8+ and Mushroom People 5.10+ on Brass Wall. I loved all those climbs, and we were in the sun until about 4pm, which was a bonus. When we got back to the camp site, it was full of people busy preparing the dinner party. We had delicious turkey and great fun sitting and chatting around the camp fire with the Rock Rendezvous gang.
Allen leading Lazy Fireman (5.11-)
Allen leading Sidewinder (5.11-) with Adan climbing Straight Shooter nearby.
Still concerned about the car condition, I urged Allen to go back home on Saturday so we would have some leeway just in case the car gave out on us on the long drive home. That meant Friday would be our last day of climbing at Red Rocks. We wanted to do something memorable… what could be more memorable than Levitation 29? It is a sustained seven pitch climb, and the pitch-by-pitch ratings are: 5.10-, 5.11-, 5.8, 5.10, 5.11, 5.10, 5.10+, 5.9, 5.8. It is Lynn Hill's favorite climb and Lynn Hill is my favorite climber. I had dreamed of doing this climb for a long time, although I had always thought the dream would never come true. Well, obviously Allen, encouraged by my good performance on the day before, did not think so, and he even convinced me that today would be the day my dream come true!
We got up around 5:30 and started hiking around 7am. After about 20 minutes of trekking on the flat ground, we came to the foot of a boulder wash down the Oak Creek Canyon. It was a long stretch of big boulders. Allen hopped at ease from boulder to boulder, but with shorter legs and poor balance I often found myself sliding down one boulder on my butt and clawing my way up the next one huffing and puffing. Finally we came to the tall pine tree that marked the turning point, from which one should make a sharp right turn and hike up the ramp that leads to the base of the clime. We started traversing too soon and lost sight of carins that had been abundant up to that point. There were some spots on the hairy traverse where if I had slipped, I would have gone for a 500 foot slide/fall. Allen made me promise not to slip, So I didn't. Oh boy, that was quite an ordeal to finish the 2.5-hour approach. I would never quit on an approach to a climb, but I had to admit the thought did enter my mind on that one.
We started climbing around 10am. The climb was definitely worth the hike. I only led the third pitch. It was a 110' pitch and I only placed two pieces and clipped 3 bolts. Compared to other pitches, it just felt that easy. The fifth pitch is the crux pitch, and some guide books give it a 5.11c. A fist jam helped Allen pull through the crux, but the crack was too wide for my small hand. After fumbling around, I found a crimpy under cling that kept my right hand in the crack just long enough for my left hand to reach higher for a better hold. I almost cried, with exaggeration of course, when I found out that the section after the crux did not get easy at all because the holds were very thin and sparce and by that time my forearms were already pumped out. I was disappointed that I had to hang twice on the rope to shake out my arms on that pitch, but later I was happy to find out that those had been the only two hangs on the whole climb. The seventh pitch, although rated only 5.10+, was the most burly and sustained.
Beta:Even if you can link the sixth and seventh pitches together with one 60m rope, it's not recommended because there are lots, I mean looooots, of bolts on the seventh pitch. Although the climb includes nine pitches, most people choose to do the first seven pitches and rappel off because the remaining two pitches are not as clean and the walk off is not very enjoyable (that's what I read).
We did the climb and rappelled in about 5.5 hours, which gave us just enough daylight to come down the unfriendly boulder wash. The car got us back to camp site without another breakdown, so we agreed it had been a perfect day.
Allen leading the first pitch. After these pictures, the battery of my camera died.
We broke down our tent in the morning and went to take a shower at Sue's apartment. We then hit the road back home. Driving through Las Vegas, I finally saw the colorful buildings and the famous Luxor Pyramid in the daylight from the highway. I wondered how the city looked at night. It must be a both beautiful and crazy scene.
Beta:There are some signs when the coolant is gone — the heater stops working and you start hearing a clicking sound under the accelerator. But the symptoms only last about 30 seconds before the engine dies due to overheating. It's very short notice.
We were lucky because the car broke down just like that when we were going from Route 58 to 99, so we pulled over by the ramp, doused the engine with water, rehydrated the radiator, and continued our journey. The headlights mysteriously went out too, so we drove with high beams on during the second half of the trip. Being nervous about the car suddenly breaking down on the narrow 152 where there were not many pullouts, I kept one hand on the fan on top of the dashboard hoping to catch the first sign of the engine breakdown. I got a sore arm next day. But the car got us home safely just past midnight.
One last look at the camp site where we've stayed for 5 nights
Diego and Allen. Allen loading the car for the long drive home