Wild climbing and Wildflowers

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Following my partner on the second pitch “Drifting” (11c) on the Jet Stream Wall in Red Rocks. Photo by Harrison Teuber

 

“The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.”

Cormac McCarthy- All the pretty horses

Over the past three weeks I’ve ran along ridges in the desert, boulder-hopped through pristine canyons and slept under the stars. I’ve been 500 ft up on a clean sandstone face whimpering above some gear and took whippers off of pre-hung draws on limestone. I’ve seen big-horn sheep, had a kestrel fly by me on a hanging belay and have walked through what seemed like endless desert valleys flooded with the yellow hue of wildflowers. Above all, I’ve met excellent, genuine people with whom I’ve adventured, shared dinner and sung around a campfire.

After leaving Bishop I went to Red Rock Canyon, home to immaculate sandstone and climbing of all types. While Red Rocks is a destination for all disciplines of climbing, it is probably best known for its long multipitch routes. I came hoping to tick a lot of the multipitch classics within my grade range, but also wanted to try some hard sport and moderate single pitch trad.

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My partner descending along an epic ridge after we climbed “Drifting” on the Jet Stream Wall in Red Rocks. Out of all of the routes that I did in Red Rocks, Drifting was the most memorable. After an hour hike you get to the “Jet Stream Wall” and feel like you are isolated from everything, a familiar feeling once you hike out of the scenic loop of Red Rocks and into any one of the canyons. Drifting is a five pitch long, mostly bolted 11c. I lead the first and third pitch, the third pitch also featured a little bit of trad and the first was just hard, techy and though it was bolted it was heady. The climbing was nothing less than spectacular.

 

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A very crappy photo of an amazing animal! After a pretty long approach to “Eagle Wall” to try the classic “Levitation 29” I knew the day would go well when I saw my first big horn sheep at the base of the route!

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My partner approaching the Eagle Wall along the final steep slabs

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My partner following me on the crux pitch of Levitaiton 29. He lead the other 4 pitches, which we combined into 2- because he is a way better trad climber than me- and I tried the 11c (very well bolted) crux pitch.We ended up rapping after this pitch due to time constraints- we definitely hiked out in the dark but it was completely worth the adventure!

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My partner on the first pitch of “Triassic Sands” a very good 3 pitch 10b at Whiskey Peak

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Whiskey Peak at the Black Velvet Canyon- home to some very high quality short (and long) multi-pitch climbs

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Descending from Black Velvet canyon at dusk- something we did three nights in a row

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A climber starting up “The Prophet” (12b) at the Alternative Crag in the Calico Basin.

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The Alternative Crag. I tried “hotwire” a super fun 12c that runs along the rightmost arete. I gave it three solid burns but it was way too steep for me to successfully redpoint! Regardless I really enjoyed climbing at this small but superb area.

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Climber on “nirvana” (13b)

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My partner leading the Tunnel of “Tunnel Vision.” We entered this feature on Sandy Hole- a super fun five pitch 5.6 climb we did on a rest day just because the features were so damn cool.

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Rapping off of the third pitch of the excellent “Wholsome Fullback” at Whiskey Peak

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Me leading the third pitch of Triassic Sands (5.8)

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My partner finishing up the third pitch of Triassic Sands on an off-width neither of us expected to be there!

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“The Pier” a sport climbing crag with a 5 minute approach out of Sandstone Quarry. In general I wasn’t a fan of how short and how steep the single pitch sport was out at Red Rocks but to be honest I didn’t do enough sport climbing there to really get a good idea of what is out there.

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The pool at the base of “Dark Shadows” a very fun 5.8 classic mulitpitch in Pine Creek Canyon.

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Me rapping off of Dark Shadows

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Rapping off of Dark Shadows. Our 70 meter didn’t quite make it from the second anchor but instead of splitting it into two raps we stole the previous party’s beta and rapped until we got to the ends and downclimbed the last 10 feet, which was pretty damn fun

 

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A climber on Sonic Youth (11d) at the Sonic Youth crag. I was happy to have on-sighted Sonic Youth and get “Agent Orange” (12b) on my second go. 

The proximity of Red Rocks to Las Vegas is convenient for amenities, but it gets old really quickly. The suburban sprawl, excessive lighting and – more than anything – the absolute ridiculously excessive amount of superstores began to really wear me out.  Want a mattress ,coffee maker, organic produce, donuts, matches, a cooler or an exotic pet? Or perhaps a laptop, a new car, an ATV or some plants? Maybe you just want to play slots (which are literally in almost every major grocery store and gas station) or see a movie. Just go to one of the three billion shopping centers that are all within a 2 mile radius of one another and you can get all these “needs” met and more. Oh , but be sure you  get a starbucks and Happy Meal to re-fuel you while you burn all those calories hiking around the parking lot trying to find your car.

But, I digress..

Unfortunately I never busted out my DSLR to take some quality photos at Red Rocks, which is a shame because it really is a spectacular place, especially when you venture into the canyons and away from the scenic loop. Hiking out after long days of climbing during the “golden hour” of dusk offered particularly memorable moments and plenty of time for reflection.

 

On a two-day break from climbing I did lug my DSLR to Death Valley National Park, where I heard a “super-bloom” was happening due to heavy fall rains and then some ample winter sunshine. I was absolutely blown-away by the diversity and density of wildflowers that I discovered.

If you are a weird human being and don’t enjoy an abundance of photos of beautiful flowers, please scroll through to the end.

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Caltha-Leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia)

Caltha-Leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia)

Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes)

Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes)

Turtleback (Psathyrotes ramosissima)

Turtleback (Psathyrotes ramosissima)

Purplemat (Nama demissum)

Purplemat (Nama demissum)

Broad-Leaved Gilia (Gilia latifolia)

Broad-Leaved Gilia (Gilia latifolia)

Desert Sand Verbena (Arbonia villosa)

Desert Sand Verbena (Arbonia villosa)

Arizona Lupine (Lupinus arizonicus)

Arizona Lupine (Lupinus arizonicus)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Desert Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma)

Desert Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma)

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Desert Five (Eremalche rotundifolia) spot being stubborn and not showing its five spots!

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Brown-Eyed Evening-Primrose (Camissonia claviformis) and blurred in the foreground is Scented Cryptantha (Cryptantha utahensis)

A flowering Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata)

A flowering Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens)

Rock Daisy (Perityle emoryi) and Scented Cryptantha (Cryptantha utahensis)

Rock Daisy (Perityle emoryi) and Scented Cryptantha (Cryptantha utahensis)

Exploring flowers near Shoshone (highway 178) on February 24, 2016

Barrel cactus near Shoshone (highway 178)

Desert rock nettle (Eucnide urens) appropriately growing out of a rock.

Desert rock nettle (Eucnide urens) appropriately growing out of a rock.

Exploring flowers near Shoshone (highway 178) on February 24, 2016

Brittlebush (encelia farinosa)

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Fremont Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii)

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Toothed Dodder (Cuscuta denticulate), which is a paristic plants that steal nutrients and water by tapping into the root system of a host plant, which in this case is burrobush (ambrosia dumosa)

Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris), not quite flowering yet!

Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris), not quite flowering yet!

Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes)

Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes)

Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris)

Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris)

Exploring Death Valley on February 23, 2016

Turtleback (Psathyrotes ramosissima)

 

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Bigelow’s monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii)

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Desert trumpet (Erigonum inflatum)- the swollen stem which charactierizes this plant is where most of the photosynthesis occurs- because it is swollen it has more surface area exposed to the sun!

I’ve moved on from Red Rocks though I definitely want to return to tick off a lot more of the multipitch moderate classics. The crowds, though, were getting a little bit intense and so my friend and I headed over to the Lime Kiln Canyon to change the pace a little bit and clip some hard bolts on limestone. After climbing on world class limestone in Spain and France, I was curious to see how the Southwest version stacked up. While it is no Margalef, it surely has not disappointed yet.

Stay tuned..

climbing in lime kiln canyon on Friday March 4, 2016 with Mark Sachs.

 

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