Closing Out 2014 – Joshua Tree, Red Rock, and Zion


When I last left off, I was injured and had been pushing myself pretty hard. I’ve always been a full throttle kind of personality, it’s all or nothing for me…completely blasting or completely stopped. As my strained oblique began to heal, I visited the new climbing gym/fitness center in Vegas (climbrefuge.com) quite a bit, mostly climbing less-than-vert things so I didn’t stress the injury. My laundry list of injuries from the Fall and Summer were beginning to dwindle a bit, and not a moment too soon. I had an agenda and damnit, I needed to do my part to make sure that happened.

Just a few weeks after having to bail from Monkeyfinger due to aggravating my injury as well as the heat, Shane and I loaded his truck up and were northbound on I- 15 yet again to the sandstone paradise of Zion

Track 1:

First visit back to the rocks was a trip out to Zion to hop on Touchstone Wall, purported to be a super classic big wall. We did the first 5 or so pitches, and bailed due to quality. The 5.11 free pitch was fun, as was the 5.10 free….but it got sandy and uninspiring up high. Also add in the fact that we got only a few hours of sleep after a raucous campfire the night before with some friends from Vegas who were up to attempt Tricks of the Trade, and we got the classic/hard pitches in and boogied. One of the few routes I have bailed from that I have no desire to repeat. The position is stunning and the views just the same… Shane with the ERC (Euro Rope Cluster) seen in all its glory Me leading the 5.11 fingers free pich. Fun!

It also didn’t help that there was a cluster of fixed lines and stuck ropes festooning the lower pitches. We freed one nice party’s line which was stuck on P3, and the euro team’s cluster of ropes that were fixed on P1 and 2 (they were supposed to return and climb the route the day we did) were still there when we descended. Interesting. Shane following one of the 5.10 pitches up high

The upper pitches seemed to get progressively more sandy and I began to hear my friends’ commentary regarding the deteriorating quality of the route in the back of my head. Needless to say, they were spot on, but we still enjoyed the position greatly. Other worldy views

My partner for the route, Shane, had mentioned that the smaller walls in the Valley he had done were way more fun than this and we both agreed to go down. The injuries I had suffered in late October kept things pretty mellow, but that always provides the opportunity to share the stoke with friends who are new to climbing. Ty went to high school with Jon and I, and wanted to go climbing, so we took him out to the Civilization Crag at Red Rock to teach him the basics: Ty getting his first taste of that desert varnish

Me leading a REALLY fun 5.10- sport climb, probably the best route at the crag…and it is REALLY good

The next day Stephen and I went out to go for a cruise in the canyons. The route Stephen picked out was Ginger Cracks, one that is supposed to be a neglected classic. It lived up to the hype and was way fun and goes way fast: Stephen following P1 of Ginger Cracks
All smiles on Ginger Cracks for me, super fun cruise Views weren’t half bad Stephen following somewhere higher on the route Stephen leading the one pitch that has a couple of bolts on it up higher.

Ginger Cracks is a great half-day route, which faces North. Use caution on the rappel route via the bowl above Power Failure. Lots of loose rock present there. Also, this was the last route Stephen and I did together before he and his newlywed wife (Congrats Stephen and Jen!) moved to the Bay Area to pursue a job opportunity for Jen. Miss you bud, and am looking forward to some Sierra trips this summer!

TRACK 2:

T-Pain and I went to the monument sometime around Thanksgiving and climbed Handbone and Lizard Locks. Handbone was T-Pain’s first 5.10 lead (5.10b/c) and he crushed: T-Pain starting up his first 5.10 lead, Handbone T-Pain at the anchors of his first 5.10 lead, Handbone

Following this route, stoke was high (and temps were not) to go climb some other routes. We went and took a look at Seduction Line, but the start was kind of sketchy since the belayer was’t protected in the event of the leader falling (small loose ledge at base of route with precipice) and since the route was definitely at the very edge of what I am capable of flailing my way up, we decided that route would wait for another day. Instead we looked for something a touch more mellow (mellow being a relative term in this case) and went and climbed Lizard Locks, a classic 5.11 finger crack. Weston starting up Lizard Locks at The Monument, Red Rock Weston on Lizard Locks

After I lead the route, T-Pain ran a lap and realized his shoe had worn all the way through. It was also very cold and I gave a half-hearted attempt to start the nearby Chinese Handcuffs (5.12-) but with fingers numb and feeling like wood, realized this was a bad idea and down-climbed…we went and had some Roberto’s Taco Shop lunch and started to get psyched for the upcoming Joshua Tree trip.

I sent an e-mail out to the regular cast of characters seeing if folks were interested in going on a few climbing trips this Winter. Winter seems to be the best time of year for group outings and the long nights lend themselves to a raucous campfire scene – with both of these trips being the second annual iterations of their respective trips to Joshua Tree and Bishop.

First up was Joshua Tree… Aaron flew in from Portland on Thursday, I took the day off of work and we decided to get a crack of noon start on a route we had been benighted on our first year of climbing. The route? Solar Slab, a mega classic 5.6….last time we did Solar Slab Gully to approach it, this time we ran up the classic 5.7 Johnny Vegas to maximize the 5.easy fun. Photos courtesy of Aaron’s Instagram

We made it up and down the route in no time and only were coiling ropes in the dark after starting the climb around 11:30 on a short winter day. I also sprained my ankle pretty severely on the approach. My ankle after the climb, it swelled up the size of a softball prior to climbing solar slab

We were off to Joshua Tree with the crew the following day and caught an awesome sunset in the Mojave National Preserve… We were greeted to a dinner that didn’t suck, cooked by Jeff and Shane This trip was definitely more about the ‘hang’ than the climbing, especially with a larger group. After some beverages and dinner, we were off to do some rock climbin’ – Headstone in the dark! Party train ascent…heckling was necessary…. Shane Leading Headstone
Weston leading Headstone – note the ankle brace on L ankle

It was cold out and after a raucous evening by the campfire, those of us remaining squeezed into Shane’s camper to tell lies, half-truths, and slander one another The crew

The following morning it was cold, we were pathetic, and opted to go climb some easy friction climbs. Travis enjoying the morning sun

No pictures but climbed some 5.6 thing called Double Dip and I ran a TR on some “Battle of the bulge” route to the right, quite difficult but very good, and the others ran laps on some 5.10 thing to the right of that. They enjoyed. Following this, we decided that bouldering would be the best way for all of us to get some mileage, so off to Hidden Valley Campground we went to get our pebble wrasslin on… Some of us after deciding bouldering was a better idea that day…
Jon playing in approach shoes on White Rasta Weston playing on White Rasta in approach shoes Jeff…stoked….on something Aaron (R) and I (L) on top of the Pinhead Boulder, home to many fun easy problems Weston pebble wrasslin on the Pinhead

The next day we decided bouldering and scrambling were our best options, so off to some mellow fun stuff in the Real Hidden Valley area… Jon working it Jon airborn, myself and Aaron on the spot… Hero top-out shot of Jon Up close and personal with a Up close and personal with a downed Joshua Tree Aaron stoked on a cruisy top-out Elevated. The Crew Warming Up Obligatory Jon lifestyle shot Some fun scrambling after part of the crew had to bounce Family photo

The Joshua Tree trip was a great success. Maybe not the most climbing I’ve done on a trip, but right up there for most fun. The camaraderie among the great folks we assembled has assured that there will be a Third Annual gathering.

TRACK 3:

Back to Las Vegas, mountain biking conditions were prime… Without a double, top-three day as far as conditions on the bike trails CareFlight Helicopter

Following my ride, I arrived back to the trailhead to a very grim scenario. A motorcyclist had passed away on SR-160 with multiple motorcycles involved in a crash outside of the trailhead. My condolences to the family and friends, be safe out there.

A couple of days later I decided I was going to go rope soloin’ on a classic moderate route, Olive Oil, on the Rose Tower. The climbing went well, even if it was crowded. I kept pace with/was faster than most of the roped parties, which was cool. Had to wait at a few belays but everyone was friendly, if not confused at what I was doing. When I rope solo I lead each pitch, rappel back to my anchor, and re-climb/clean each pitch. The kind of rhythm you establish doing this is trance-like and quite enjoyable. Mid-route selfie

View from somewhere on the route, not a very sunny day. Looking South toward Mt Wilson Ice skating with Sam the night before rope soloing Olive Oil

A few days later, on Christmas Eve Day, Matt and I climbed the awesome adventure route “Fear and Loathing.” It clocks in at a very healthy 5.10+ and offers adventurous climbing, fantastic views, and an approach I felt was more burly than any other I have done at Red Rock. Matt lead the heady but easy first pitch that featured some iffy holds, after that I lead the crux pitch that included an unexpected run of the rope. That look after having to unexpectedly run it out (on terrain that wasn’t so trivial, for me, but I’m a weak ass) Matt following P2 of Fear and Loathing, a rather continuous pitch
Glorious views with flat light The enduro 5.10 third pitch with some of the most beautiful stone I have seen in Red Rock Total butt shot of Matt, but this pitch was so good. Definitely can throw your rack at it…bring lotsa gear! Matt, retrieving the rope I got stuck while coiling it (doh!) #SELFIE #OMG #LOL #LULZ #UHOH Fantastic top-out views

Matt and I were in full blown adventure mode on this route. Of the two possible sub-gullies you can choose to approach (I thought there was only one), we naturally took the one with some exposed scrambling and interesting rock. Thankfully it was well-cairned, but while we were climbing on a short day with a late start, the prospect of epicing in terrain that was unfamiliar to me was unappealing. The thought of getting off the damn thing dominated my thoughts while on the climb, even though the climbing was really good. Fortunately, the walk off wasn’t bad and we quickly got things turned around and Matt found a better descent gully. We still walked out in part by headlamp, but I made it home in time for dinner!  Christmas Eve Day was a success!

A wonderful Christmas Day was had and the following morning, way too early, Travis and I were loading up his truck and bound for Brianhead to go skiing. I hadn’t been lift-served skiing in several years, and hadn’t made any turns yet this season, so my legs got thoroughly fried. Temps were in the low teens at BH and winds were whipping, so no photos of actual skiing were taken, but pow turns were had, smile beneath balaclavas were unmistakable, and quads were burning Skiing lunch of champions at Brianhead Leaving Brianhead, makes me miss Tahoe

Nevadastan sunset on the way home

When I took Jon out for his first crack climb a few years back, he was just a boulderer – a pretty decent one. So by virtue of that, I took him up a classic, humbling crack climb for his first go: The Fox. At the beginning of 2014 Jon made a New Year’s Resolution to lead The Fox by year’s end. He finally agreed to give ‘er a go before the year ended. I agreed to fix a line and shoot him leading the route and the next thing I knew I was hiking to the top of the climb with a rope, a pair of ascenders, and my DSLR. These are a few pictures of what followed…

TRACK 4:

Seeing Jon follow his Resolution through to fruition, and what it signifies as far as his climbing, and being able to see it come full circle on a climb like that was truly special, and I am humbled to have been able to shoot some photos of him on this route accomplishing what he set out to.

The rest of the close of the year resulted in mucho sport climbing and bouldering. I am super fortunate to have such incredible and fun friends as well as access to a selection of active lifestyle choices, and while nothing I did in the final bit of 2014 was too huge, it sets a fantastic stage for what should be a tremendous 2015. Happy New Year and thank you for reading! The Kraft Boulders

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