(This report is from the first few days of Dan and Netta’s climbing trip. They left at the end of December and were going to climb in southern Utah, Las Vegas and then Joshua Tree. (I have gotten two reports from them; this is the first one from about a week ago.)
The weather has been.. interesting. Netta and I left on the 28th; 15 hours to Fort Collins, CO. We stayed with an old college friend of mine in a real bed at her house. After a late morning we got on I-70 to head through the mountains, which is where all the fun began. Right around Vail, the snow started falling. I drove (Netta gets a little nervous driving in the snow) late into the night, arriving in Moab a little wet and very tired. The next morning we awoke to find two inches of snow on the tent. Castleton Tower: Bust.
Ancient Art: Bust. Wet wet sandstone= no climb. The new plan became: get to Red Rocks ASAP.
We hiked up to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. I guess it's cool that we saw it with all that snow. That's not something everyone gets to see, right? We drove through the snow as long as we could handle it and slept at a truck stop somewhere in Utah. The following day (the 31st) we had sun, and drove straight into Vegas.
Las Vegas! We spent New Years Eve with thousands in the streets. I spent a little time playing guitar for tips (gas money) and we did our best to stay out of trouble. The new year brought the first day of climbing! We set up camp in Red Rock Canyon, napped off the previous night, then headed to Calico Hills for an afternoon with sun and sport. The climbing in the hills I have found to be fingery and sustained.
Sunday the 2nd we set our sights on Birdland, a beautiful 5 pitch 5.7+ that gets plenty of sun. The morning looked great, and we took our time getting to the crag. I led the first pitch in sun, but by the time Netta got to the belay ledge we had some cloud cover. The climbing was solid, juggy face climbing with great pro. However, by the time Netta got to the second belay ledge, I was really cold. Shivering pretty hard. We discussed over the lack of sun and the clothing that we brought, and finally decided to bail. We rapped down after the second pitch and hiked out just in time to see snow flakes coming down on the car as we got to the parking lot. Netta and I just nodded at each other. Good call.
The 3rd was a coffee shop day in the snow. Uneventful. A woman there told us she had lived in Vegas for 20 years and had only seen snow three times. Lovely.
On the 4th the rock was still too wet to climb, so we went southeast on a tip about some Arizona Hot Springs. Another good call. We hiked into the White Rock Canyon, a beautiful 3.3 mile trek through a wash surrounded by 500 foot cliffs banded in red and white. There were bolted routes on one of the walls on the hike. The hot springs were too good to be true; Three pools of varying temps: mild, medium, hot. The hottest getting to about 110 degrees. Our muscles and tent-stiff backs simply melted.
Birdland, we're back. The day of the 5th, we made it happen. We and 4 other parties. The climb was sort of a circus of dropped carabiners, broken holds, and machismo. Luckily, none were a result of Netta or I. Amazing 5.7 face climbing throughout, and a fifth pitch that is not to be missed. The crux of the route is right around 500 feet, about ten feet from the final anchor on an ultra exposed slabby face.
Today we took it easy on sport over at the Panty Wall. Lots of moderates. We met a really cool couple (Steve and Charlotte) who talked us into seeing the boulder field by Calico Basin. An amazing number of boulder problems surround the Kraft mountain, but we got there late and only hiked around to check it out.
It's looking good from here on out! The weather is supposed to hold out for the next ten days, so I'll definitely send you some more updates. Pictures will be coming over soon, I promise. The plan for tomorrow is Solar Slab and Johnny Vegas. Netta is going to lead something on Trad for the first time. She's pretty psyched! Hope all is well in the North!