Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Mini photo trip report: Levitation 29

My favorite form of climbing is following multipitch climbs. The emphasis is on following. I love how I can be completely lost in the art of climbing, solving the puzzles that each climb presents, without needing to worry about the consequences of a leader fall. I’ll be happy to follow all day all the time. Well, that’s my dream anyway.

In real life, not everyone I climb with volunteers to lead everything. While I might drop subtle hints of nudge and encouragement to a few partners made of ropegun material from time to time, I find myself on the sharp end more often than not. Occasionally, I have to step up to be the ropegun when I want a climb bad enough. Some climbs, I guess I want them really that bad.

I have recently led every pitch of Astroman (special report) and got us to top in 8.5 hours. Today, I found myself in a ropegun’s shoes again at the base of Levitation 29, a climb at Red Rock made famous by Lynn Hill’s claim as her favorite climb. Not one of, but THE favorite.

The much dreaded approach turned out to be non-eventful. I attribute that 100% to my partner D.  You’ll see why below. Lucky me. He’s a willing photographer. Some of the photos below of me climbing were taken by him. And lucky us! It’s a beautiful day. Sunny with a mellow breeze. I was able to go up and down the route in just my T-shirt. I later learned from another climber who climbed the day before but bivy’ed the night prior that their bivy and climbing were hammered by strong wind, and other people on the route as well as a nearby route made the climbing stressful. We had the entire wall to ourselves all day.

We didn’t particularly go for a speedy ascent, but everything just moved pretty smoothly. It was a clean ascent in a good style on my part. Yaaaay! (Surprised that I can still pat myself on the back despite my negative ape index.) With the linkage of p1&p2, p3&p4, as well as p6&p7 (p5 was climbed as a single pitch so that when my partner fell on the crux pitch, he would not lose too much elevation due to rope stretch), we reached the top of the 7th pitch in 3.5 hours. Yeah, this IS a sport route. On the way down, we took our time to practice some cool rappel techniques I picked up from a recent Mountain Guide Manual clinic. I strongly recommend their clinic to everyone who spends a lot of time climbing outdoors.

Even the previously-dreaded descent (a longer route than the approach route) ended up not too bad with plenty of day light for easy navigation. We are back to the car at Oak Creek parking lot after 10.5 hours.  I was happy to win my own little game in which I did not have to break out my headlamp that day, but I hope they did not search for my car at the parking lot based on the Late Exit permit application I left on the BLM system.

Here is the photo part of the photo trip report.


1. My first day arriving in Las Vegas. I stopped at the climbing shop, located on the main drag through the city, Charleston Blvd aka Route 159, to pick up the Red Rock climbing guidebook. After I exited the shop, I had a certain compass in my head and started driving on the main drag towards Red Rock. I had the view of a bank of hills in front of me the entire time. Then, the road suddenly deadended on me. Puzzled, I pulled up the map on my smartphone. The blue dot was me, feeling stupid. But for all you nerds out there, on a two way road, the odds of driving in the wrong direction is always 50%, right? Right?

A Vegas local I interacted with for climbing at Red Rock stopped responding to my text after seeing this image (I provided it for full disclosure). I risk losing all my street credit by posting this, I suppose. Will anyone still climb with me?

Lost in Las Vegas


2. As for the approach, the guidebook has this image to go along with its description. Notice how it recommends the same route for both approach and descent.

guidebook approach

3. We followed the excellent “wily climber approach” beta posted on Mountain Project (link ) courtesy of Kevin Dahlstrom and Anthony Anagnostou. The red line (up the slab) is our approach track, along with the longer descent track. The descent follows a longer route because it avoids down climbing 5th class, which is only easy when you are going up. I like the approach because it avoids long ways in the very bouldery wash. Going down the wash is not as bad because gravity helps. This approach took us 2 hours from car to the base, with me being a not-fast hiker, and we leisurely stopped to look at cliffs and climbs along the way. I did not find the approach taxing because most of the elevation gain happened on the careful, slow-paced, 4th and easy 5th ascents. My GPS coordinates went crazy on the descent as you can see on the left side of the image. Oh well. The blue line in the image is from Supertopo user Paul B where he kindly shared his wisdom in his trip report.

gps tracks

4. The IBM Boulder is an important landmark. I wonder how it got that name!

IBM Boulder

5. The canyon is absolutely gorgeous.

Canyon view

6. I start up Pitch 1. This is the only pitch I used my trad gear (I carried 5 pieces per MP suggestion), and it was for the start before reaching the first bolt, where I found moves quite reachy and balancy. I linked it with Pitch 2, and the rope drag became heinous, which made pulling the 5.11 crux on Pitch 2 (seen near the top of the photo where a couple of icicle looking rock pillars hang) all the more exciting.

pitch 1

(Photo courtesy of D)

7. I here just pulled the mini roof on the crux pitch (Pitch 5) and entering the so called pumpy shallow dihedral. I found crack climbing skills quite useful on this climb. Except for the first 20 feet on Pitch 1, the entire route is extremely well protected with bolts. Even I (!) found leading not so stressful.

crux pitch

(Photo courtesy of D)

8. Looking up at Eagle Wall

Levitation 29


2 Responses

  1. Terryon 21 Nov 2017 at 11:17 am

    Great report, Mei! TFPU! A fun read. I hope someday I can climb this grade 😮

  2. mudwormon 21 Nov 2017 at 11:24 am

    Thanks Terry. Of course you can! After all, this is still mere mortals’ grade. 😀