Twenty-three hundred miles I come,
To freeze my ass like a climbing bum.
Someone later told me that winds of 78 miles an hour were recorded near here. My expedition parka barely kept me warm as I heated canned stew over my Coleman stove. I retreated quickly into Ezzy and spent a fitful night listening to the wind and feeling my little “home” lurch and rock as the gusts hit her. Next morning, I asked three climbers how it had been spending the night in tents. Two tried to put a good face on it saying it had been “OK.” The third just said, “It sucked.” What was it about this trip that had seemed to me like a good idea?
Despite the wind and still cold temps, I set out Thursday morning to hike in to the base of Johnny Vegas, a four pitch 5.7 that gets three stars in the Hendren guide.
Marc, a local climber I had met through MountainProject.com., and I planned to do it on Saturday. It would be my first Red Rock climb. I had been warned that the approaches and descents at RR can be hard to follow, so I thought I would prove to myself I could navigate around the place. And, I might try the first moves on Johnny just to bolster my climbing confidence.
Well, the expedition can best be described as a fiasco. I managed to lose my new guidebook, strain a muscle in my left calf, and bushwack around for several hours without finding the route. That night, despite somewhat diminishing winds, I was wondering if, maybe, I should just turn Ezzy around and head back east. I persevered, though, and spent Friday getting clean and nursing my injured leg. Saturday morning at 7:30, I met Marc. Fortunately, he knows the approach route, so we headed out to JV.
It was wonderful! Given my injury and misadventures two days before, I asked Marc to do the leading while I “Got used to the rock here.” He agreed. As I followed the second pitch, it hit me: this is just terrific! The sky was bright blue, the sun warm, the rock solid and clean, and the climbing pretty easy. I was ginning, thrilled to be a few hundred feet off the ground, surrounded by gorgeous cliffs and peaks (photos coming when I get back home), with my hands and shoes on the rock. While we were transferring gear on the second belay ledge, my cell phone (which I had forgotten to turn off) rang. It was my daughter Valerie calling to tell me she had read my blog. That was a first for me!
We finished JV without further phone calls or incident (except for repeated exclamations from me about how “wonderful” it all was), and continued on up the first pitch of Solar Slab, which I lead.
We rapped off down Solar Slab Gully, a popular decent route (Gunkies: think Madam G’s, but without the exposure). A party in front of us got their rope stuck, so I rapped down it, and with the aid of a prussic sling, contrived to get it free. In all a wonderful day, one of my best on the rock.
Marc is a great climbing partner, safe and fun. He and I plan to climb again on Monday. Today (Sunday) is rest day for the Old Relic. Gonna take a shower, hit the Laundromat and hope my aches and pains succumb to extra strength aspirin.
Photos from top: Early morning views of the Red Rock Canyons; Approximate route of Johnny Vegas; Bill at the second belay ledge on Johnny V; Bill leading first pitch of solar slab; Marc belaying. All but first three photos courtesy of Marc Jensen.