Climbing Log – March 2008 Red Rock Canyon

prepare to climb at red rocks

I signed up for Red Rock Rendezvous 2008 and headed to Las Vegas on Friday March 28. Since I had a potential climbing partner lined up in Joshua Tree, I decided to give myself about three weeks to stay in the area. If I was not able to hook up with a partner in Red Rocks, I would just head to Joshua Tree after the rendezvous.

03/29/2008 –

Hop Route Direct (5.8)

Early in the morning, when I was just waking up in my tent, my cell rang. Jon, who was also a participant of the rendezvous, asked me whether I wanted to climb in the morning. Since my clinic was not until the afternoon, I sorted out my trad climb gear and headed out with Jon to a route suggested by a local climber, Fran. The route is located in Ice Box Canyon, and it matched its name – when we were not in the sun, it was freezing cold.

To the right of Hop Route Direct is Hop Route. The only difference between these two routes is the first pitch – Hop Route starts with a 5.7, Hop Route Direct a 5.8. I looked at both of them and decided to do the 5.8. Last time when I was in Red Rocks – it was about 3 months ago – I knew that I was capable leading 5.8’s. I wanted to lead as many 5.8’s as possible so that I will become a confident 5.8 leader and work my way up.

I climbed up in a very controlled version – even though I was confident, as a matter of fact, I hadn’t climbed trad for months. It’s always a good idea to ease into it. It was an uneventful lead; I clipped into a bolt anchor and let Jon lead the second pitch; we then rappelled down and headed out.

Chrysler Crack (5.9)

The clinic I signed up for at the rendezvous was called “The Tricks for Off-Width.” I learned some crack climbing techniques last August when I took the NOLS Backcountry Rock Climbing Course. Crack Climbing really intrigued me – the reasons are: 1) cracks are by nature astonishing rock features; 2) when you click with the crack climbing techniques, the climbing becomes surprisingly intuitive and fun; 3) crack climbing is a must if I want to become an all-around climber. Among all sizes and types of cracks, off-width cracks are the most difficult, which means they can give climbers tremendous fun and a great sense of accomplishment.

I missed the bus but luckily I caught the group in the parking lot in the 13-mile scenic loop. Instructor Joe De Luca took the group to this route called Chrysler Crack. I was stunned when I arrived at the site. It was a beautiful beautiful crack and I felt like I was in Indian Creek. The crack starts with a size for a climber to jam his thigh, and it gradually widens up and becomes a squeeze chimney around the top. A thin finger crack leads to the top-rope anchor. There are no features on the face, so climbers must climb the crack – there is no way around it.

Joe started to prepare everybody for the climb. Two concepts I felt the most useful before taking off are: 1) Relax and watch your breathing; 2) There is no way you can “move” in an off-width crack because by nature climbers can only “inch” up. Climbing off-width cracks can be strenuous, and therefore being on top of your breathing rhythm is extremely important. Otherwise one can exhaust oneself easily and huffing and puffing will be their destiny. In an off-width, one has to separate his body parts and move one at a time. The motion of any climber in an off-width will resemble that of an inchworm. So you have to be patient, and don’t think you are too slow. Once you’ve got the momentum going, you can be a happy, fast-moving inchworm.

Everybody started with a “knee bar,” in which a climber puts their knee into the crack and jams with the thigh putting the foot outside the crack against the wall. Knee bar is super secured and is a good rest position. Since the crack is at a right-facing corner, I had to put my left side into the crack. My left leg was doing a knee bar while my left elbow was against one side of the crack and my left palm pushing the other side of the crack with my fingers pointing downward or inward. My right foot was smearing the wall, and my right arm was perpendicular to the crack with my fingers grabbing the the right edge of the crack above my left palm. I started to inch up and my left foot started to do toe-to-heel jam and then my right foot joined the toe-to-heel club momentarily.

The crux for me was when the crack opened up to the point that I couldn’t do a toe-to-heel jam anymore. Joe instructed me that I had to jam my left leg by pushing the right side of my left knee against the right side of the crack and my foot the other side. Meanwhile my left arm should maintain the chicken wing (elbow and palm jam). I tried and the move resulted in a scrape on my left knee, but it worked; it just I had never thought that knees could be potential spots to put on some climbing tape. When the crack became a squeeze chimney, my whole body was inside the crack. I pushed my back against one side and both legs performed knee-to-foot jams and inched up.

Because it took so long for a climber to climb up, we didn’t have a chance to give it a second try. I felt a little disappointed by that because my experience told me that the second time on an off-width is always much smoother than the first time, and practice makes perfect. I looked at the crack and wondered when I would be able to come back because it looked like there was no way to hike up to set up a top-rope anchor. One has to lead up and I know it will take a long while for me to be capable.

03/30/2008 –

Cookie Monster Pitch One (5.6)

I have a history with Cookie Monster. The first time I visited the canyon, one day my partner Heather and I were about to do Cat in the Hat (5.6); however there was a long line so I suggested we do the Cookie Monster (5.7) instead. Heather agreed and we hiked toward the east face of Mescalito from the south face. We found a route which had similar features to Cookie Monster and started to climb. Heather led the first pitch and she did not think that was a 5.6. I looked at the second pitch and the route looked climbable; I started to lead and I didn’t feel it was a 5.7 as the book described. After this we bailed from a chockstone. We looked at the guidebook and we found out we were actually climbing another route called Black Widow Hollow (5.9) – The climbing log of Black Widow Hollow will appear in another blog entry.

I convinced Jon to do Cookie Monster the morning of March 30. When we arrived the base, another party just took off, so we had to wait. After the follower of the party took off, I started to lead and when I almost reached their anchor, it started to rain. I clipped into their pro anchor and yelled at Jon asking him whether he wanted to continue or bail. He wanted to continue; however, it started to pour and I was shivering so I decided to bail. I was lucky that I happened to drag a second rope up and the previous party let me use their anchor so I could bail easily. However my rope got stuck when I tried to pull the ropes down; fortunately the previous party helped me to untangle the ropes on their way down.

I guess the karma of Cookie Monster does not match mine, probably because I don’t have a sweet tooth, but somehow I lost my grudge toward the monster.

03/31/2008 –

Crimson Chrysalis Pitch One ~ Pitch Three (5.8)

I led the first pitch and third pitch. When Jon was leading the fourth, he took a 25-foot leader’s fall and dragged me into the belay anchor and I was injured. We bailed and obtained medical attention. For the complete accident report, please refer to “Climbing Accident Report – March 31, 20008 – Red Rock Canyon.”

Photo Credit: Ted Ullman

2 thoughts on “Climbing Log – March 2008 Red Rock Canyon”

  1. Pingback: Final Frontier: An Outdoor Blog » Blog Archive » Climbing Accident Report – March 31, 2008 – Red Rock Canyon

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