Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Climbing Trip

In December I signed up for a trip on a whim. A club from my university was hosting a week long climbing trip to Nevada for $300. This included gas, camping, firewood, and a hotel in Vegas for one night. The best part was I didn’t have to take my own car and it was already planned out with experienced climbers leading the trip. I thought this deal was too good to pass up. We left on the 27th and began our 30 hour drive to Red Rock Canyon right outside of Las Vegas. The cars we took were very nice rental mini vans.

The whole group. Looking rough on the last day. 

The Long Drive There

On the way to Red Rocks we got stopped by a massive snow storm in New Mexico. Luckily my group stopped before we got caught in stand still traffic. We got a hotel for the evening in Tucumcari. This town was right along historical route 66. We stocked up on groceries for the week at their store and went to a mom and pop Mexican restaurant called La Cita.

Mural outside Lowe’s grocery. Tucumcari, NM.

We continued our drive at 2am since we figured that less people would be on the road and it would be safer to drive. We were right. The conditions weren’t the greatest but we made it through. Since the Grand Canyon was only a one hour drive off of our route and we knew we didn’t have time to climb that day anyways, we took a nice detour to the South rim.

Grand Canyon, South Rim. 

Despite being the middle of winter and a majority of the services at the park not operating due to the government shutdown, there was still a CRAZY amount of people at the canyon. I can’t imagine how busy it would be if we visited during the peak season. I would be miserable. At the canyon we hiked a small portion of the Bright Angel trail. We went about 2-3 miles down the canyon for a round trip of 5ish miles. I wish we had more time to reach the river. The trail was icy and the climb out of the canyon was difficult. This was my first time to the Grand Canyon and it was breath taking. I learned that some people hike the canyon rim to rim. This is a new goal of mine. While we were hiking we passed some backpackers going uphill. I was jealous of them but also thought about how incredibly hard it would be to hike out with a big pack on my back.

Canyon walls from halfway down the canyon. Looking at them made me want to climb badly. 
Sunset on the drive out from the canyon

Arrival in Red Rocks

When we finally got to the campground it was after dark and everyone was in their tents. A girl I rode with in the car, Emma, and myself were sharing a tent with a girl who was already there but we didn’t know which one it was. It was a hassle to find her tent and try not to wake everyone up in the campground but we needed a place to sleep. The campground was closed for the week due to the government shutdown and there were heavy fines in place for camping there. Since our group had prior reservations the owner let us stay as long as we chained up the gates every time we passed through. There was a “no trustpassing” sign posted on the gate. Yes, trespassing was spelled incorrectly as “trust-passing”. I wish I had a picture of the sign.

The campground was much more dustier than I had expected. All of the tents were spread out and the paths to them were marked with stones. For most of the trip the wind was very strong and I don’t think it got warmer than 45 degrees. Even though the temperature said it was in the 40s it definitely felt much colder the whole trip. There were many nights we sat in cars for a while at the campground just because it was so cold.

Day 1 of Climbing: Civilization Crag

The first day of climbing the van of people I drove down with decided to choose an easier crag to start with. We went to civilization crag at the first pullout of the park. I climbed two routes. The first was a 5.7 on slab which I top roped and then mock lead. In retrospect I regret not leading it. The second was a 5.9 which was super fun. The approach to this crag was pretty difficult. Lots of scrambling was involved. I would not have been able to navigate to this crag if I was here alone for the first time. Someone in my group knew where we were going.

View from the first pullout

The scramble to the crag.
Jackie leading a route. 
First climb. 5.7 in Civilization crag.

Day 2 Climbing: Kraft Boulders

Our second morning in Red Rocks felt like it was the coldest of all the mornings we were there. We could see some snow in the distance and on the tops of the mountains from the campground. We decided to go bouldering this day. It was my first time ever bouldering outside. I found it to be very fun and now I am  much more inclined to try bouldering inside. I believe the only boulder problems I completed were V0s. I was okay with that. I knew that I was very out of shape from not climbing much the previous semester. When I was bouldering I felt much safer falling several feet on to a crash pad with spotters around me than I feel when I am lead climbing and know I won’t hit the ground.

This route was on the back of a classic boulder called “potato chip”

It was new years eve and we had a night of drinking planned. It is tradition on this annual trip to climb the hill between our campsite and Vegas before midnight. When midnight hits you can see all of the fireworks over Vegas. Your entire field of vision is supposed to be filled with fireworks. I was so cold I ended up going to bed at 10:30pm. I didn’t care about having fun, hiking, or staying up till midnight. I couldn’t get a spot around the campfire and I had already been shivering since I woke up. I am so glad I went to bed early because when I woke up in the morning I found out that no one ended up going on the hike and most people went to bed ten minutes before midnight.

Day 3 Rest Day: Arizona Hot Springs

Since everyone was tired from the past few days of climbing we took a rest day as a group. We went hiking at Lake Mead National Recreation area about an hour from our campsite. This is another tradition of this annual trip. The hike to the hot springs was 3.2 miles but took forever since it was all in gravel. It went through a slot canyon which was a first for me. On the way some members of the group jumped off a cliff into the Colorado river. It looked fun but I did not participate. I knew that if I jumped into the water that cold my body would freeze up and I wouldn’t be able to swim. I am already hesitant to jump into rivers to begin with. As we got closer to the hot springs we started hiking through some shallow water. You could tell it was getting warmer the closer we got. We arrived at a metal later where everyone stripped to bathing suits and left our things. At the top of the later was the first hot spring. They were not what I had expected at all. The spring was somewhat busy for the amount of strenuous hiking we had to do to get there.

The Colorado River
Some members opted for a cold cliff jump into the river before we hit the hot springs.
Following Michael through the slot canyon to the spring. 
Emma, Lyle, and I on the hike in to the springs. The Colorado river is in the background. 

The first hot spring was pretty warm. I sat in this one a little bit to adjust to the temperature. Next I made my way to the second hottest tub area. I sat in this one for quite a bit longer. I was pretty dehydrated and hot tubs make me feel light headed to begin with. Finally I was able to make it to the hottest section of the spring which was really hot but it felt so good. The hot springs were definitely one of the coolest if not the coolest place I had ever been. I am glad that not that many people could bring their cameras up there. If they did I have a feeling the place would be ruined. I met the guy who maintains the springs by building the dams out of sand bags to make them every year. He told me he goes there about 3 times a week. He was naked which wasn’t super comfortable but I had expected there to be more naked people.

Ladder up to the springs

The hike out from the hot springs was ever harder than the hike in. It was back through the gravel but this time it was all uphill. I didn’t stop the whole way and I was one of the first ones out but not by much. I hiked all by myself and I was proud of myself. At the parking lot I saw two weiner dog pups who were hiking and it made my day.

Day 4 Climbing: Meet Up Wall and Black Corridor

The first crag we went to this day was “Meet Up Wall”. It was a longer scramble in from the second pullout which doesn’t have much parking. I climbed 3 different routes here. The first was a 5.6 called “Safety First” which I top ropped and then lead it for a second climb. Then I climbed “Message Board” 5.7. The last route I did at this crag was a 5.10a called “Upcoming Meetups”. Everything I climbed at this crag was slab.

After we finished up this crag we migrated closer to the parking lot to the “Black Corridor”. This was my favorite climbing area. It felt like I was in a gym, except outdoors. Here I climbed a 5.10c but I’m not sure what it was called. This was the hardest rated route I’ve ever climbed outside but I feel that I’ve climbed some harder 10as in other areas. The challenging part about this corridor is that a lot of it is in the shade all day making it very cold. We strategically planned some climbs based on where the sun was shining on the rock.

Message Board 5.7
5.10c in the Black Corridor

Day 5 Climbing: Black Corridor

We returned to Black Corridor for a second day. I believe I climbed 3 routes here ranging from 5.9 to 5.10. I was pretty lazy and cold  this day.

Day 6 Climbing: Kraft Boulders

For our last day of climbing we decided to boulder before going to our hotel in Vegas for the night. At this point my hands were exhausted from climbing but I tried a few different boulders for a while anyways.

The Long Drive Home

The drive home was uneventful. We made it home three hours ahead of the last car. Everyone just wanted to get home because we had our first day of school the next day.


Published by Deserrae Potts

Thru Hiker Blogger

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