Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Red Rock Canyon Rock Climbing

A few miles outside of Las Vegas, you'll find what I like to call the Disneyland of rock climbing. Red Rock Canyon is stunningly beautiful, and offers climbing for everyone from beginners to advanced rock climbers. With more than 2,000 climbing routes, it's in the top 5 destination climbing areas in the U.S. There's a 13-mile scenic drive through the National Conservation Area that attracts lots of tourists from Vegas, too.

The sun setting on Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area

We spent part of December and January learning to rock climb here. At first, neither of us were convinced we'd continue with this new sport. A few days in, both of us were saying, "this is kind of a silly sport". I mean, what's the point of buying all this special gear so that you can climb a vertical wall, all while risking your life? Imagine how far we could hike in the same amount of time!

Our beginner training ground

After a few days working through our beginner shit-shuffle, we started to really like it. We have finally purchased the last expensive bits of gear to make it real. Here's why I love it. First, getting to the crag (climber speak for "rock climbing spot") is an adventure in itself. It's just another way for us to spend time outside in beautiful places.

Walking into Calico Basin

Time for a lunch break

Taking a break at Civilization Crag

Next, the gear and knots definitely challenge (in a good way) the engineer in me. There's a never-ending list of knots and hitching methods - some that you MUST know, some that you should know, and some that would be really cool to have in an emergency.

Lead climbing on The Sun Never Sets

The best part of rock climbing is the zen-like focus you feel while climbing up a vertical wall. It's like meditation without meditation. The Colorado rock-climber, Pat Ament, once said:

"When you ride your bike, you’re working your legs, but your mind is on a treadmill. When you play chess, your mind is clicking along, but your body is stagnating. Climbing brings it together in a beautiful, magical way. The adrenaline is flowing, and it’s flowing all the time."

You know that saying, "the smell of fear"? Well, each day, Scott would get back to the camper and lament how his new "natural" deodorant wasn't working. It wasn't a problem with the deodorant, it was that his adrenaline-charged, fear-filled sweat was a little more ripe than usual. Seriously.

Fear-filled sweat on The Three Kingdoms

Viagra Tower (we don't name these things) crag

Besides learning about the physical techniques and gear for rock-climbing, we're also slowly working through the mental techniques necessary to climb. Until now, I did not appreciate how scared of heights Scott is. His mind plays tricks on him like I've rarely experienced. As an example, when I get barely near a ledge, he's convinced I'm going to somehow fall off, and that I need to be anchored. I'm so impressed with his perseverance in working through it. It is eerily reminiscent of how I acted during our whitewater kayaking days. I was completely irrational about the danger I was in. I was constantly scared. We even had a term for part of it - PKS (pre kayaking syndrome). I'd get a headache and become cranky before our kayak run. I would be convinced I didn't have the skill to run the river safely. In reality, I was pretty skilled - if only my mind hadn't held me back so much. With these memories in mind, I try to be patient with Scott when I see him succumbing to irrational fear.

My mind screaming "no" in 2003

Blue skies at the top of Civilization Crag

Rock climbing in the southwest is a great thing to do in the spring and fall (when it isn't so hot). We're excited to do some more as we head south this spring.

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