Red Rock Majesty

By GearCooper Jake

I've been to Red Rock National Park less than five times, yet the stunning grandeur of ancient sandstone propelled skyward by underlying faults doesn't become any less incredible each subsequent trip, and I imagine it will always leave me speechless. The allure of this natural wonderland is increased by it's sheer proximity to something so vastly different: Las Vegas. Despite the relatively short drive from casinos to the park, the two places couldn't be any more different. While many people plan weekend getaways to the strip to break up the monotony of cubicle life, I prefer the feeling of awe that rises up inside of me when I stand below towering rock formations rising thousands of feet out of the high desert. Something about Red Rock seems old. Despite a plethora of climbing routes, the park still retains a feeling of mystery and depth. Wandering deeply into narrow, shaded canyons, I can't help but feel dwarfed by larger­than­life summits guarded by forbidding cirques and dense brush­covered embankments. These huge rocks don't care how much money you spend, what hotel you're staying out, or what club you get into, they are cold, unfeeling, raw, and natural. This arouses something in people that Vegas can't— apprehension, uncertainty, amazement. These feelings combine to give Red Rock a sublime quality found in few other areas, and one that I will keep coming back to trip after trip.

On this particular adventure, coworkers and friends rented a house just outside the park, enjoying the creature comforts of kitchen cooking and competitive games of pool between hard charging days of climbing in the park. Many in our group climbed together on Friday, enjoying a casual day of sport­climbing at The Gallery, located at the Second Pullout. Justin put in a couple of super close attempts at a sport­climb called The Gift, 12d crimping with a couple of large crux moves around mid height; everyone else fooled around on The Gallery's easier offerings while Kenny onsighted the Yak Crack with ease. Half the group finished the day with some mellow trad climbing on Birdlands, while the rest explored some sportclimbing areas near The Sandstone Quarry. That night, over dinner, beers, pool, and airless air hockey, we reveled in the day's climbing. Despite a midweek storm and some areas of dampness, the excellent climbing and enjoyable company outweighed any conditions deemed less than stellar.

Saturday broke sunny, and climbing teams steadily rolled out of the house for the day's adventures. Hayley and Justin were out the door to Ginger Cracks; Olin, Dana, Blake, and Mele headed out for Birdlands (later missing the trail and summiting a completely different formation); Hank and Nolan embarked for Levitation 29 and Tucker, Olivia, Jessica, and myself departed for Dark Shadows. With the recent rainfall, Pine Creek looked more like a river, contributing to an idyllic approach contouring around the north side of Mescalito. Following the meandering water, we ambled our way back into the canyon before finally depositing ourselves at the base of the very impressive Dark Shadows' corner system. The route literally starts out of the water and moves up into excellent and varnished 5.8 corner goodness. Rapping after the traditional first four pitches, I couldn't help but think about one day coming back and running the climb all the way to the top of Mescalito—a 12 pitch adventure involving an intricate and involved descent. Instead, our group strolled back to the car, a radiant sunset at our backs and the promise of beers and snacks ahead.

That night, the house was decidedly quiet, with many teams not returning until well after 10pm, the full day of adventuring having taken its toll on everyone's energy level. Early bedtimes didn't stop some from staying up, imbibing and recapping climbs to the melodic sounds emanating from Justin's DJ equipment. Olin, Dana, Blake, and Mele recounted their day, missing the trail for Birdlands and instead climbing an adventurous route called Myster Z. Rockfall on route confirmed that wearing a helmet is always a good call, and a confrontation with a large group of obstinate Big Horn Sheep kept everyone on their toes for the night hike out. Nolan and Hank reported an excellent day of climbing and lots of bolts on Levitation 29, so many in fact that Nolan almost z­clipped on multiple occasions. The word was great climbing movement, but way too many bolts; Nolan was mortified at the route's over­protection. Justin and Hayley added to their epic day, dealing with stuck ropes on the descent that found them and another party collectively anchored at one belay station and yarding with all their remaining strength on their persistently tangled lifelines. They finally arrived at the Pine Creek parking lot after stellar climbing and rope shenanigans only to realize their planned on ride was nowhere to be found. They walked the extra two miles to the park exit before flagging down a ride and officially ending their day's exploits. Despite long days, everyone made it back in good spirits with no more than scratches and sore legs to show for the day's epic adventures. Breakfast came early the next morning, and everyone schlepped to Baby Stacks, a local breakfast eatery renowned for dessert­like pancakes and scrumptious omelets. After breakfast, the group ventured to the Dog Wall for a mellow day of bolt­pulling before embarking on the traffic­ridden journey home. All in all the trip was a success, with 18 people showing up for a weekend of good climbing and great friends, definitely one worth repeating.

Jake is one of Gear Coop's strongest climbers and all-around athletes. When not at the Coop is he out nearly every weekend climbing in the Eastern Sierras, Tahquitz, or Joshua Tree, or out skiing the Sierra backcountry. To Jake, every passing season brings newer, bigger and grander adventures, and thus his stoke is always high. Learn more about Jake here.


Check out other epic climbing adventures in Red Rock National Park!

get out there!

Our Goods

Select A Category