Back to Albuquerque

We packed out the house this morning and it looks admirably not like eleven climbers let a bomb go off inside of it. Small groups left, one at a time, until it was just me, my two passengers, and an imperial ton of luggage. We almost had to tie someone to the roof, but it all fits barely with just enough room to pull up one seat in the back.

Completely packed to the gills.

As we barreled through Henderson, Mike suggested we make a quick stop at the Hoover Dam overlook, which, well… I haven’t done since we tried and got kicked out back in 2017.

Lake Mead is incredibly low. But it did give a pretty cool view of the dam and the spill towers behind it. Mike put it interestingly, “even 100 years later, this still looks big.”

Hoover Dam was built in the early 1930s. So many engineering feats from almost a hundred years ago seem to have been dwarfed by what has sprung up since. And here it is, less than 50 miles from The Strip, a monument to colossal architectural absurdity that seems to bulldoze anything older than I am and replace it with something even bigger. And yet, Hoover Dam still looks really big.

The closest we got in 2017 when Evan M was sternly told to vacate the premises by security.

I didn’t realize you can drive over the dam, so we did! It looked like there was an exit from the park area back onto US-93. And… well… there is, but it’s barricaded and Google Maps seemed to not know that… (this is becoming a theme). So we drove back and out the Nevada exit to the highway. So while Red never got to drive over the dam, at least now Xterra the Younger and I have. Twice.

Anticlimactic, but perhaps a fair warning of how today would go: in Kingman, Arizona where US-93 dumps into I-40, we sat in creeping traffic for almost 45 minutes. Never again with this stupid route.

About ten straight hours later, we’re back in Albuquerque. But this time we’re at the Hampton Inn across the highway from the Armed Security Extended Stay, so it’s better. Unfortunately, tomorrow at work is already looking dicey. I feel a disturbance in The Force, but have yet to summon the courage to re-enable work email service to my phone…

Red Rock, Part Two

Photo from Lyndon C

Two more awesome climbing days. And something unusual happened — I didn’t really pick up my camera much. Thankfully, leaving it on top of a pile of gear meant that a lot of people moved it around. And, in the process, used it — for which I’m grateful.

Friday at Classic Rock Wall

After the big dinner, we went back to Classic Rock as a bigger group, a bit further down the area to a couple of routes in warm sun and a few in the canyon.

In which we learned belayers should probably wear helmets, too…

Evan and I started by putting up a slabby 5.8, which was a really fun route. At least, until I put my weight on what looked like a great foothold and the whole thing, about the size of a brick, broke off. These two pieces are just the largest that remained after it crashed down and shattered. I saved them to put on my bookshelf. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but this is the… “spontaneity” of a newly developed wall.

Some of us spent a while taking turns on a sunnny 5.8 and 5.9 with a great view of the canyon beyond. I finished up with a lead on a dramatic and fun 5.10c that went well, and then flailed my way up a crimpy slabfest 5.11b that I had no business playing with but had fun on. Thanksgiving leftovers and a hot tub to wind down.

Saturday at the Cactus Massacre

Sadly, we were down two people today — Evan G flew back this morning in anticipation of a condo closing; Lyndon was out with a pulled muscle. The rest of us went to a crag I’ve never been to before with ~80 foot walls around a large flat area perfect for lizarding in the sun.

But what was supposed to be a sunny day turned out to be quite cloudy and cold. The very first climb of my day was trading catches with McCracken on a 5.10d (soooooo not a warmup for me), which had a hard start but was a lot of fun. He made it look super easy. I made it look outstandingly difficult. But I finished it, and I had fun! Through the afternoon, I hit up a slabby 5.9, a crimpy 5.10c, and a fun 5.10a to finish out my trip. It seemed like everyone had a couple victories for their last day. It’s been a good week.

We did a little packing, cleaning, and way-too-late-into-the-night chatting back at Climber Mansion before we all head out in different directions tomorrow morning.

Saturday Update

Arrived at a crag without any shade in a bright warm sun. Jackets came off, sunscreen went on… Then almost immediately a cloud cover set in and it got cold. Current status: hiding hand warmer pouches in chalk bags.

Climbsgiving 2022

I figure the best way to break this up is “climbing before and after gorging ourselves with a huge feast.” Thus, a record of our Red Rock victories beforehand:

Crag snax of all kinds.

Black Corridor

Yes, I will clean my lens again. It’s a problem out here.

Figuring that Black Corridor, a very popular area, would be pretty packed later in the week, we hit it up Wednesday morning.

It went well. I grabbed a 5.10b lead I hadn’t been able to nail in 2020, did a few 5.8/5.9s, and finished the day cleaning a 5.10c on top-rope as the sun went down behind the far canyon wall and the chill set back in.

Classic Rock Wall

Thursday morning, a big group went into town for Meow Wolf’s new location in Vegas, the Omega Mart, just off The Strip. And while I do want to check that out at some point, a small group of us decided to hit up a newly developed crag instead. All the route names (and even some of the descriptions) are music puns — it’s great.

A pair each of 5.8s and 5.10as, with a little swapping of ground school for skills. This is a pretty neat area, and it is right off the first pull-out on the scenic drive — how has this area not been developed until now?

And at one point, I’d mentioned to Lyndon that I don’t particularly care for the “just got to the anchors, look back, and wave” photo — although I am always happy to take them for people who do — but when he did this, as much in victory as out of spite, I told him I’d be putting it on the Internet. Lol.

The Big Meal

And fortunately for the small climber expedition, by the time we got back to the house, dinner was nearly ready. Chris’s fried turkey, Mike and Evan W’s (so many Evans) honey ham, green beans almondine, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, vegan stuffing and mashers, roasted root veggies, and lots of pie. (Plus all the crag snacks.) I ate too much. Twice.

After dinner, in a stupor, we played games and floated in the hot tub until it was time for bed. Gotta get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Valley of Fire, Further Explored

After a long-delayed flight last night, which included a fire alarm at Austin-Bergstrom, a near-total absence of ground crew, and a large woman dressed as Piglet who single-handedly cleaned an entire plane — Evan (G) arrived! Tasked with both taking me on an explore and helping socialize with the mysterious AirBnB hosts, should they opt to show themselves. They did not, but the next morning, we did meet the fish during our stealthy exit.

We opted for a chill hike between the Dadadventure and Climbsgiving. I’ve wanted to go back to Valley of Fire since we hit it up in 2017 but never made time for the detour. And Evan needed to see “Veridian III,” as I continue to make him watch more Star Trek. We started on the same White Domes Trail, but headed south down part of the Prospect trail as well and scrambled off deep into rocky terrain.

And in fairness to the less sci-fi inclined, I learned that this trail was also the set of another movie, The Professionals (1965), which I suppose I should add to my watch list.

Evan also noted the promise of petroglyphs on the park map for Mouse’s Tank trail, so we stopped there on the way out. It ended up being a fantastic second little hike. Some of these date back more than 2,500 years to the Ancestral Puebloans — or the Pueblo or Paiute that followed.

And then we fought some Vegas rush hour out to Summerlin to join with our giant crew in the climber mansion B&B. Onward to Red Rock Canyon!

Back to Vegas

Admittedly, we weren’t in the park that long, but I did not see much evidence of the great flooding. As we left, I hit up the visitor center to pick up a new annual parks pass and confirm that the Beatty Cutoff bypass to Daylight Pass was open — clearing the path to Rhyolite and that Denny’s.

I’d like to think the placards are new, but more likely I just hadn’t stopped to read them before. Rhyolite was a much bigger operation than I’d realized.

It was poised to become the largest mining town in the state and had a whopping three railroads serving it. Unfortunately, the fancy train depot they built in 1907 to receive all these visitors only turned a profit in its first year, then started seeing more departures than arrivals. It ultimately closed in 1919 and the tracks were pulled up and transported elsewhere. The building went on to be several other things through the years as the town finally dried up.

Historic photos scattered around showed a town of many blocks in each direction, but so little remains, you wouldn’t know it. Was lumber precious enough in this region that they dismantled most of the town and took it with them?

And from there, in keeping with tradition, we made a brief fuel stop and photo-op at The Denny’s (and casino, motel, gas station, candy store, jerky and nuts emporium, and Subway) to prove we’d been there. Then it was time to book it for Vegas.

He misses his friends.

After I dropped Dad at Not-McCarran-Anymore International Airport, I went to pick up a couple things from REI and go for a run in the hills of Henderson at the edge of yet-another-obnoxiously-opulent “yield to golf carts” suburb.

And now I’m at a one-night AirBnB as a rented room in a house occupied by its owner family, which is not my usual arrangement. I received thorough instructions on how to get in and which room was mine, but the listing was clear that it is a “self-check-in routine” and the hosts respect guest privacy. All of which is to say… I feel weird that I broke into some family’s house to take a shower and I can hear them moving around upstairs but haven’t spoken to them.

Mount Perry and the Badwater

After we’d had enough coffee to recover from the Sin City 10k, we packed up the (surprisingly not-broken-into) Xterra and headed out. In honor of the moment, I broke one of my cardinal rules — Thou Shalt Not Drive on Las Vegas Boulevard — to drive us by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign on the way out of town. Dad wouldn’t let me stop for a silly selfie. Maybe Mom can talk him into it when they’re back in a couple months.

Dad finally got to put his Christmas present to good use! We took the south route through Pahrump and turned up to Dante’s Viewpoint and the Mount Perry trail when we entered the park. As clear and dramatic as the view usually is, there’s usually still a dusty haze in the air, but not today. Death Valley’s colorful desolation was on full display.

Even the wildlife was out today.

Almost as big as that scorpion.

And then we noticed the shade of an early sunset start to creep across the basin. Dad wanted to see the valley floor so we drove around to the Badwater Basin, 5,500 feet directly below Dante’s Viewpoint.

And more than 200 feet below sea level.

And in George’s absence, I tasted the salt flats because apparently he made that a tradition. Can confirm: is salty.

Then we went for a swanky, celebratory dinner at The Inn at Furnace Creek before retiring to our room at The Ranch for a roadtrip bourbon under the many many stars.