Red Rocks. Never Disappoints.
Red Rocks is where you climb. A lot. We have climbed at a few places around the world–Chamonix, the Tetons, Paklenica, Montserrat to name a few. So far, no where we have been offers the “mileage” you can get at Red Rocks. By mileage I mean the ratio of pure climbing to all of the other things that come along with climbing.
Between shorter approaches and descents, long routes, and the dense number of routes, you can climb a lot of vertical feet in a day. I think we averaged about 750 feet a day, over 8 days. For us, this is pure bliss. We like early starts, long days, and passing out by the campfire right as it’s turning dark (unless it’s summer in Europe, then there is no chance of us staying up ’til dark!) If long days aren’t your thing, there is plenty of cragging to be done in Red Rocks as well.
Enough intro, on to some of our favorite climbs of the trip…
Dark Shadows: 5.8, 350 ft
There is everything to love about this route. Short, straight forward approach, fantastic corner and crack systems all the way up, and a few variations on hand if you wrap up the four pitches early and are keen for some more great climbing. However, this ain’t no secret. This route sees a lot of traffic–we were the first ones on it, but another four parties came up after us.
After a 30 minute leisurely stroll to the base, you start the climb with a “good morning!” runout up to the first bolt 15-20 feet high. It’s easy 5.5 climbing but is still as effective a wake up as drinking an espresso.
The next three pitches are where the real fun is though. Finger cracks, stemming, and gear for days makes for an enjoyable jaunt. The route continues up another 6 pitches, and looks to be something we will definitely come back for.
Black Widow Hollow: 5.9, 400 ft
Even the name is a bit intimidating, never mind that this is a “Joe Herbst 5.9”. Strenuous, hard to protect in places, and incredibly sustained, this makes for a more serious outing than the 400 ft topout suggests.
The chimney, of which there is about 200 feet, is for the most part varnished and featureless. The guide book says it’s a good warm up for Epinephrine–the 10 pitch classic which we have been eyeing for years.
Jeff seemed to have little problem in the chimney, but I found it perplexing. Where were the nubs I could use to gain a decent foothold and push my body upwards? What resulted was an awkward, grunting, curse-filled shimmy of sorts upwards…inch by inch. I would consider this a “character building” sort of climb.
Ginger Cracks: 5.9, 950 ft, Grade III
This is a great climb, definitely underrated. It’s an all day sort of adventure that leaves you with that feeling of having accomplished something. A decent hour long approach takes you to the base, a few hundred feet left of the uber classic Crimson Chrysalis .
For the first thirty feet off the ground, struggle up a 5.7 off-width with no gear then continue up a short chimney to the belay. This sets the tenor for the climb, which is sustained throughout and spicy in places.
The 5.9, one of the best pitches, has you pulling a bulge and getting into some acrobatic stemming positions. Really all of the pitches were noteworthy and diverse; some face climbing, crack climbing, and laybacking.
Three to four rappels (depending if you have a 70m) gets you to the ground, then it’s a ten minute scramble back to the base of the route. We left our backpacks there and it was right on the way out and back to the car park.
The hike back turned into more of a run as we had not called for a late exit and 5 pm was fast approaching. After jogging back, tired and with heavy packs, we crested the ridge to the car park only to discover dozens of people lounging around, drinking beers, and generally showing no signs of hurry. This was a relief as the ticket for staying past 5 was 150 dollars, and we would rather spend that money on cams or sweet hoodies…But the sprint out did leave us wiped…oh and Jeff kicked a cactus which apparently doesn’t feel very good.
Armatron, 5.9, 680 ft
The crowds at the start were the most stressful part of the whole day. Armatron ended up being pretty cruiser, with very short cruxes and mostly just fun, easy climbing.
We decided Armatron would be a great climb for the weekend since it is tucked all the way back in Juniper Canyon, requiring a solid 1-2 hour approach with some serious elevation gain. Surely that would deter weekend warriors? Oh were we wrong. We arrived in the park a few minutes past 6am when it opened, then booked it on the trail, passing several climbers headed to Armatron as well. By the time we got to the climb and roped up, five other parties had arrived behind us!
The 5.6, 160 foot face section on pitch 3 is deemed the money pitch. Nut placements for days! Too bad we only have one set of small/medium nuts. #runitout. Once the technical climbing ends, there is some somewhat exposed scrambling to the summit. True summits in Red Rocks are a rare thing, so we made sure to enjoy this one!
One of the big highlights of the climb were the views off the summit of Rainbow Wall and the back of Red Rocks. Climbing a route up that is high on our list…one day.
Sour Mash, 5.10a, 600ft and The Gobbler, 5.10a, 200 ft
Black Velvet Canyon. This is arguably where some of the best climbing in Red Rocks can be found. BVC comes with the added bonus of being outside the park, and is not subject to the same restrictions on entry/exit. Driving a compact rental car down the 4 mile dirt road can be a bit dicey–on more than a few occasions I was sure that the car was on the verge of falling apart. But we made it this time. And it’s always worth it! Here is the wall where we have done most of our climbing in BVC.
We started the day with a 4:30 AM wake up, some cold brew coffee and a gigantic breakfast. THenheaded over to BVC to get on Sour Mash. I linked the first two pitches (5.8 and 5.9) of mainly crack climbing with an interesting thin traverse move and up to a not-so-inspiring tree anchor. The well-bolted crux of the climb is found on pitch 5 (in our case because of the link-up) and involves some excellent mainly finger/hand crack climbing.
When we got off of Sour Mash, it was still quite early in the day so we decided to hop on something else. The year before, we had done the first two pitches of The Gobbler as a group of three with a friend. At the time he was still a new climber and wasn’t up for some 5.10a after the first two hard pitches so we bailed. Now was the perfect time to take care of some unfinished business.
The Gobbler is a varied and quite sustained climb. First pitch involves some tenuous slab traverse climbing. Second pitch is a hand/fist crack up to a steep crack/corner where you make airy moves over a bulge and into a chimney. And finally, the last pitch is pure face climbing on small holds. What more could you ask for in a climb? This is definitely one of my favorites. The walk out at sunset is pretty awesome too.
Purblind Pillar, 5.8, 900 feet, Grade III
This climb brought us to a new area for us in Red Rocks — White Rock Spring. There are a handful of classic moderates here — Tunnel Vision and Group Therapy among them — which make for a nice half to full day of climbing. Purblind was more of an adventure climb than the other routes we did on this trip. Much easier climbing technically, and with some wandering, runout, and very long pitches (three pitches over 150 feet).
The descent is also pretty cool– a fun scramble down a ramp and back to the base. We usually prefer a walk off to rappelling…if you don’t get lost of course.
Two Weeks of Dirt Bagging
Here was the tent digs. And our live-in car. It was pretty awesome having so few things to manage. Life is simple when all you do is climb. eat. sleep. I could get used to this.
Maybe we embraced dirt bagging a little too easily… In the photo to the left Jeff is cleaning our cups via a sprinkler in a parking lot. Keeping it classy.
A couple times we managed to get up the energy after a full day of climbing to build a fire. Luckily the sun was setting around 5pm this time of year so didn’t need to stay up too late to enjoy the fire :).