climbing general trip reports

the red rocks trip report


The Red Rocks Trip Report by Megan is a work of fiction.

Any references to real people, living or dead; and real events, businesses, organisations, and locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity.

All names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and their resemblance, if any, to real-life counterparts is entirely coincidental.

(and it’s also very long)

THURSDAY – In transit

Thursday saw me turning up to work, sitting and pretending to work until about midday, when it all became too much for me, and I had to head home and start packing for Red Rocks. ..

After an uninteresting stint of travel and loitering alone in the airport, I boarded the Independence Air plane and was greeted by rows and rows of royal blue leather seats. Oooh. But was less impressed when I discovered there were no blankets. And even less impressed when a couple came and sat next to me, and the man didn’t stop sniffing, coughing, and clearing his throat for the whole flight (despite some pointed glares from me – curses, my glares must be losing their power). I started counting the sniffing frequency, and near landing and take-off (where for some reason he seemed to be particularly excitable), he was sniffing about 10 times in a minute. Anyway, moving on from my obsession with the irritating sniffing man…

I had arrived in Vegas and was greeted by bright lights, rows of pokie machines (US translation = slots), and some scary scary people. I panicked, and started playing Australian music on my Ipod. After wandering around the terminal aimlessly for a while, I received directives from Tammy to find Oscar (Mr. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). I commenced a thorough search of the airport, and found him in one of the bars, surrounding by girls, holding a huge wad of cash he’d already won, and drinking two beers at once (how he managed that with only two hands I never managed to work out). With difficulty, I dragged him outside, despite the protestations of the girls. Once outside, we were soon rescued by Vegas and Tammy in the magical hire car, and we then set off to find Ben at the International Terminal. After watching people gradually trickle out of customs, Ben finally came out, and we headed back to the hotel. There was a marked lack of hijinks, as we all (Ben, Me, Jason, Opie, Oscar) collapsed into bed, thinking we were exhausted – it was nothing to what was to come.

FRIDAY – “It’s this colour, except brown.”

We opened the hotel windows to views over Las Vegas, with the rocks off in the distance. Excited (well, I was anyway), we headed off to the car, on a mission to meet up with the others at Starbucks. We scoped out potential chapels to get married in along the way, and discovered that meeting at Starbucks when in Vegas is a bit like meeting at the casino. Eventually the right Starbucks was found, assisted by Oscar’s special tingling Starbucks spider-senses. Vegas, Tammy, Ming, Todd, Suzy and Mike were located in the carpark, and after hauling everyone away from the coffee, we headed off to the rocks – to the First Pullout. The mission – the Black Canyon, and bolt clipping.

benThe walk-in was pretty uneventful, apart from the point when Ben was attacked by an enormous rattle snake. He grabbed it close to the head, and wrestled with it, Crocodile Hunter style. Using his snake wrangling skills (the ones Australians all learn in their first few years of school), he managed to tie it to a cactus, thereby rescuing us all from certain death.

benWe got to the canyon, people climbed things. The climbing was pleasant and cool, except for that hour when the sun was overhead, which caused everyone to mysteriously start removing all their clothes, except for Tammy, who had to hide from the sun. Vegas impressed everyone with his skills when he caught his contact lens during a lead fall, and proceeded to lower, replace the contact, then keep climbing. Ming cursed his new climbing shoes, as they compressed his feet so much that fusion was surely about to start.

As the day wore on, a few of us wandered to the end of the canyon and started trying to stick our head in a hole (yes, it really didn’t make much sense), and throw rocks in another hole, while the hardcore climbers climbed on. James and Julie wandered over towards the end of the day, but decided to keep on climbing, as we all headed off to book into the time share.

UTSAs we drove back into town, Ming and Opie became alarmingly over-excited in the car in front, and impressed us in the rear car with their funky dance moves. After booking in, we hit the timeshare, and the showering process of 10 dirty climbers began, as Crazy Gil and the minivan arrived. An enormous esky (US translation = cooler) of beer and soft drinks materialised in the kitchen, courtesy of James (and his work). We start making a dint in it. Meanwhile in the lounge area, trouble was brewing as Ming, Opie and Ben formed the Universal Tasting Society. They concurred initially on the tastes of some chocolates, and then Tim-Tams, and from then there was no stopping them.

at sensiWe were all getting pretty for a dinner at Sensi, in the Bellagio, where Oscar had lined us up with a private room, courtesy of his pastry chef friend, Kenny. Later that night, we were all to fall in love with Kenny. But first there was wine, and delicious food, and then falling asleep. And then the desserts came. We ended up with one of everything, and restraint was needed as we all shared between the 12 of us. The soufflé , the crepe, …. oh, the goodness of the food. But time for sleep and bed, home we went.

Settling down for bed, Tammy, Ben, Megan, Jason and Opie were to be sharing the room. A non-snoring pact was enacted. It was that night that we discovered Jason was *queue sinister music* a snorer.

Quote of the day, courtesy of Tammy (pointing at her pale green top) – “It’s this colour except brown.”

SATURDAY – “I concur”

We attempted to rise early. Some people succeeded. Other people rose in a zombie state, ate breakfast, and returned to bed, unable to process the noises coming from other peoples mouths. A crew of enthusiastic happy climbers headed off to Panty Wall. Vegas wandered off to check his email, while the rest of us slumped in bed, attempting to pretend the world didn’t exist.

Eventually we managed to drag ourselves to a state resembling consciousness. Ben and I played the traditional “fit yourself in stupid small spaces into which you couldn’t possibly fit” game, followed by an impromptu wrestling match. We were all awake by then, so we headed off to Panty Wall to join the others.

We didn’t anticipate that on the way to the rock we were going to be waylaid by a gearstore though. Ben needs new climbing shoes. Ming’s climbing shoes hurt his feet… maybe he should buy new shoes too? And Vegas can’t resist trying on some approach shoes… they all walk away with a new pair of shoes. And I get startled by the pet rat that lives in the store, as it was running around on the counter. No, Mr. Shopkeeper man, I’m not afraid of rats, I just wasn’t particularly expecting one to be running around on your counter. They’re not exactly a common fixture in stores.

julieAs we arrive at Panty Wall, I noticed there seemed to be a suspicious number of people huddling under the tree by the cliff (the only shade available) rather than climbing. The enthusiastic new arrivals got harnessed up and started climbing. I top roped a 5.7, then had my arm twisted by Julie (well, sort of) into leading a 5.8, which was fun, and didn’t really require any moves with my left fingers. A crew moved to the upper wall and started playing on the silly slab climbs, including Ben’s friend Susan, and her friend Gabe. I watched Ben and Susan trying to lead up the hard 5.10c Panty-Mime on the left, and Vegas cursing slab climbs while top roping the 5.10 Victoria’s Secret on the right.

Wandering back down to the lower wall, Boer had arrived. He and a crew of enthusiastic people decided to head off to the Magic Bus and get some more climbing in. I decided to join the slacklining crew (Suzy, Mike, Todd and his son, Calder, and Vegas), but first had to get in a quick lead of the other 5.8. I flew up that, then Vegas and I headed off to play on the slackline in the park.

The grass under the slackline was green, and soft to land on. Which was convenient, as we were falling off quite a lot. The In N Out Burger was calling though… we pack up, and head for showers, then meet the other guys there. We were served by Michelle, who pulls some moves on Ben, forever impressing the rest of the crew.

Some of us head home for some sleep (getting up at 5am the next day for a multi-pitch will do that to you), while the others hit the town.

SUNDAY – Where we discover the goodness of the shrimp brownie

The new arrivals had pushed the number in the 2 bedroom timeshare up to 14. This made creeping out at 5am a bit interesting, as for some reason FIVE people were on the floor in the master bedroom. Nonetheless Boer and I manage to sneak out with our gear, and get to the park in time to queue for a 6am entrance (how hardcore are we!). The race was on once we got into the park, and as we pulled up at the Pine Creek Canyon pull-off, there was only one car ahead of us. Trying to be subtle, I enquired as to what climb they were planning to head up. It wasn’t Cat In The Hat. Phew. We headed off to Mescalito South, where Cat In The Hat was located. After a few wrong turns, which I prefer to think of as ‘alternate directioning’, we were at the base of the climb. Boer racked up to run the first couple of pitches together, while I found a cute mouse with large ears, that ate half of one of my cashews (ok, fine, I fed the mouse a cashew, I’m one of those evil people that feed wildlife. At least it wasn’t an m&m).

mescalitoThe climbing on the first pitch was nice, then the climb turned into a set of ledges, that we scrambled up to get to the next point where it was worth belaying. As a result I ended up with a short third pitch lead, that seemed like it was over before it began. Boer headed up pitch four, while I continued to find rodent wildlife – this one was small and furry, with some stripes on its head and a furry tail. Boer was greeted by the call of “Oh Boer, I can see a thingy!” (I’m sure he was excited as I was). Half way up the fourth pitch is a new and shiny DMM booty cam. I spend nearly half an hour standing there trying to wiggle the damn thing out. Change stance, wiggle cam, poke with nut tool, pull at lobes. Change stance. Wiggle cam. Repeat. I had to leave it there :(

P4Pitch Five was mine, and a short traverse. Damnit, why am I getting all the boring pitches? I take this back as I hit the runout slabby section on the sixth and final pitch, with a fair chunk of rope drag to make life even more fun. There are some swallows around that seemed to be taking pleasure in whooshing past me noisily at full speed, as I try and stay attached to the rock. Then we’re both at the top – and we haven’t come across anyone else on the climb! Apparently this is highly unusual. We rappel down carefully, far too aware of all the horror stories we’ve heard of stuck ropes on this climb. The rope graveyard of all those old and faded tags of rope sticking out of cracks on the way down makes us even more careful. As we get down to the top of the fourth pitch, we run into some other climbers – Canadians. We wish them luck trying to get the booty cam out, and head on down.

Boer – “Are you doing a mountaineers coil?”
Megan – “No…. if by no I mean yes.”

the creekAfter most of the day spent in the sun, we head for the creek. There is talk about doing another climb, or at least the first pitch or two of another climb. But time flies as we lie on warm rocks in a creek full of cold snow melt, and in the end we walk out and head straight back to the timeshare. Showers are had, some of the guys hit the hot tub, then we head out for all-you-can-eat sushi. Things are relatively quiet as plates are stacked with food, and starving climbers are satiated.

After the initial starvation pangs had disappeared, somehow, and I’m not really sure how, Ben and I come up with the concept of sushi brownie. We were thinking of using salmon, but when Ming offers to eat our creation, he showed a preference for shrimp… sooo, shrimp brownie it is. Ben and I headed off, and created our food masterpiece – Ben was keen on adding some Wasabi, but I was pretty sure that the delicate flavours of the shrimp brownie are probably quite enough on their own. Ming went through with it and ate our masterpiece. And although I’m not entirely sure what sort of score it would have received from UTS, it was acclaimed as a brilliant fusion, a transitional dish between the main course and dessert. Ben and I retired from our roles as culinary geniuses – there was no way we could have beaten the high point we had reached.

By then, the tiredness was kicking in again, and everyone was beginning to find everything unusually funny. Silly conversations abounded:

Ming (to Megan) – “What are you doing tomorrow?”
(Megan gestures towards Boer (and Ben) to suggest that she is going to climb with them, but is too tired to explain this)
Ming – “You’re doing Boer!?”
Megan – “I was pointing at both of th… (slumps down with her head in her hands as she realises she’s only digging herself deeper)”
Ming – “You’re doing Boer AND Ben!”
(Ben’s esteem raises even further among certain members of the crew…)

Following dinner, the piker-crew (aka. the Monday multi-pitch crew, of Megan, Boer and Ben) headed off with Vegas to drop off Oscar at the airport, then go to bed. The others head out onto the strip, to do their crazy thing again.

MONDAY – “Like climbing on a sandcastle”

I awake to Ben hurling himself on top of the bed between me and Tammy. It’s not official multi-pitch time yet though, so I keep napping. Tammy and Opie tell us garbled stories of people going out on the strip and selling all of the beer (and the esky) and then gambling away all the profits in a dramatic fashion. Boer sticks his head in and tells us it’s time to get up. Booo! Mean Boer! We herd all of our stuff together – it’s check out today, so we need to store everything in the car. Another early morning drive out, but today we arrive at the park closer to 7am than 6.

megan and benWe park at Oak Creek Canyon, and start another long hike in. The rock seems so close, but as we keep hiking it just doesn’t get any closer. Some steep scrambling on loose red dirt and rock ensues, during which I manage to save Ben’s life. We’re at the base of the climb, and I’m incredibly disappointed as we find another party already on it – we have to wait, and nap in the sun. Curses. They’re finally clear and out of the way, and we send Boer up to lead the first pitch. Ben and I second up after him, one on each of the double ropes. We’re unimpressed by the rock quality; after losing two footholds at once and taking a fall, Ben says it’s like climbing on a sandcastle. I’ve already lost one foothold myself, and am inclined to agree with him (the quote from one of the Grampians guide books comes to mind, about a climb so hideous that if you woke up next to it in the morning you’d chew off your own arm to get away from it). Now we’re learnt the hard way what to avoid (pretty much everything), we manage to not break off any more holds. And despite the poor rock, the position is excellent, and we’re not getting too hot – if anything, it’s a bit cool.

boerBoer somehow ends up having to lead both of the next two pitches, while Ben and I sing (the Beatles, as well as various other random things – ‘One Way or Another’, ‘My Highland Goat’, ‘Magical Trevor’, ‘Charlie the Wonderdog’, that sort of thing). The third pitch provided some interest, as Boer disappears off the edge of an arête to the right of us, then reappears below us somehow. On track again, he sets straight up the face. Ben then bravely volunteers to lead the final pitch (10 metres of 5.0). He proclaims the rock and gear solid, and Boer and I head up after him in bare feet. Boer doesn’t deal well with the lack of shoes – I begin to have suspicions that he isn’t really hardcore at all. boer and ben

From there it’s an exposed walk to the base of Solar Slab. It looks much nicer than Johnny Vegas, but we don’t have time to climb it now, so we head off down the Solar Slab Gully. It’s an interesting rappelling journey down – it’s not what you’d call a vertical route. I think the rap was done in about 7 steps. It was scenic though. Most amusing moment (for me anyway, yes I know no-one else finds it funny), was as I was clipped into the fourth or so rap station, feeding the rope through the chains. Somehow I was blocking Ben’s view of what was going on, and he got the idea in his head that I had passed the half way point in the rope, and was in fact feeding the whole rope off and down the cliff. Boer picked up on Ben getting worried, and their looks of concern, and Ben’s panicked cries of “Megan, the rope!” as I flicked the end of the rope off the end of the cliff was priceless. But enough of that. We didn’t get the ropes stuck (hoorah!), and got back to the car after a long long long trek.

johnny vegas viewsThe climbing gym was calling us to shower, so we headed there and paid the $4 necessary to get clean. Todd, Susan and Mike were there too, as we said hi, before we disappeared again, to meet the other guys at the Buffet in the Bellagio. At the Bellagio, we joined the long queue. Thankfully we got our table reasonably quickly, and descended upon the food. Oh the food, so much food. So good. At this point we were all so tired that we’re laughing hysterically at everything – EVERYTHING! Except for Boer, who was looking at us all as if we’d gone mad (he claims he was too busy with the eating of the food to actually pay any attention to what we were laughing about – hah, why would you laugh, all that time spent with your mouth open, and no food going into it). Tammy can’t stop laughing at mine and Ben’s feeble attempts to tell our funny stories from the day. Ming was just adding a Viking hat to everything anyone said, and finding that hilarious. It really just degenerated from there, and I was laughing so hard I was crying.

We leave the buffet, say bye to Ben and Boer (who are going to be sleeping in the car overnight) and head to the airport. There are hoards of people crowding to get through security, and it was a relief to reach the relative sanity of our departure lounge (I say relative, as most departure lounges aren’t packed with pokies – this one was. Of course, it’s Las Vegas). Ming and I start pulling some yoga moves while Tammy reads. Vegas comes to visit, and I have one last play with his purple hippo (cloyingly cute little plastic things, you squeeze them and their eyes bulge out, and they say ‘I love you’). Then I sit and take the yoga guard position, as Ming and Tammy sleep. Finally it’s home time, we pour onto the plane, and sleep beckons. We arrive home to a DC that’s beautiful and warm… mmmm, warm. What sort of reality is this? I feel obliged to skip work.

PS Ben says that everyone is invited to Mexico

PPS If you can’t get enough of long, convoluted and excessively detailed Red Rocks trip reports, see Boer’s here. Oh, and my full gallery of photos from the trip can be seen here.

3 replies on “the red rocks trip report”

We need to find a place to put all the pics and trip reports together into one happy family. Great TR!

Excellent trip report and the vocab lesson really helps with my reading of Bryson’s book on Aus. Thanks! (PS I’m incredibly honored that I wound up in posession of the purple hippo AND that it is noted above). Next time I’m going too!!!

Oh, you ended up with one of those purple hippos?! Now I have jealousy.

And I just remembered one of the other amusing events on the trip that I’d forgotten to include in the report…

After Susan had given up on the slab climb at Panty Wall, she lowered and Ben had a go. He got up past the point where Susan had lowered, and finally made it to the next bolt. At which point he reached for a quickdraw – on one side of his harness… then the other: “Argh, I haven’t got any quickdraws!” (he then managed to downclimb to rest from the last bolt, while the person on the climb next to him put some draws on the route for him)

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