I can't believe I'm missing the 8th Annual Red Rock Rendezvous this weekend. When I headed home from the Las Vegas climbing event last March I vowed this would be an annual kickoff to my rock climbing season. I'd go every year.
It's warm and sunny in Nevada. It's rainy and snowy in Utah. I haven't climbed since October and the three-day foray into Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a blast. And, no, I won't be there.
Red Rocks is about a seven-hour drive from SLC or a short Southwest flight into Vegas just west of the city. The spot is renowned for its world-class sport and traditional climbing routes for crag hounds of all abilities. Bouldering, limestone, sandstone and multi-pitch climbs. It's all accessible and the Red Rock Rendezvous corrals professional guides and fellow climbers to get you there.
I hear this year, Gregory Mountain Products is sponsoring the fest. They'll have a booth where you can get fit for a pack and enter for a chance to win in their backpack giveaways.
RRR was created to celebrate the climbing lifestyle. You know - where everyone converges on one place, pops up a tent, spends days on the rock with virtual strangers turned best buds who later retell climbing tales over beers and bonfires before snuggling into a sleeping bag.
Wish I had followed suit. Instead, Ryan and I drove down, checked into a nasty room at the chaotic Circus Circus Hotel and commuted every morning. This year, we had planned to camp. It looked so cool.
We threw all of our gear in my cargo box and hit the road. Totally blond, I forgot my chalk, chalk bag, hydration pouch and sunscreen; the most essential climbing gear outside of shoes and a harness. Fortunately, this was a weekend filled with more than 920 climbers from across the country and they have extras.
RRR is one of the largest climbing festivals in the nation and raised approximately $14,000 for non-profit organizations including: The Access Fund, a national non-profit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment; American Safe Climbing Association; American Alpine Club; Friends of Red Rock; and the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council.
For a nominal reg fee of $100, you're signed up for morning and afternoon climbing clinics, handed a bag of swag, and bracelet to access the festival booths, offered unlimited New Belgium beer, pancakes on Sunday, free samples and stickers, and morning Yoga (if you're a Yoga person).
The camping was at nearby Bonnie Springs but this year you get to be onsite at Spring Mountain Ranch. Just get ready for some serious lack of zzzz's as the campground fills up with people enjoying their free beer.
For newbies, the Friday beginners climbing package not only introduces you to the sport, it includes all of your climbing gear. The good clinics book out fast but once we were down there we were able to switch to the clinics we wanted to take. Pros like Chris Sharma and Matt Segal and guides from the Alpine Institute attend and coach some of these. Our first day out was the warm-up- tying Figure 8 knots, getting a belay refresher- on Tuna and Chips wall at the First Pullout to the Park. Wahoo, we were on vacation!
The guides set up four routes (two were 100+ feet high) and belayed us as we leisurely climbed in the rising sun, our pale winter skin crinkling under the rays. My goal was to glean a couple of pointers and climb all day. Mission accomplished.
The next day, we boarded our bus again for the First Pullout in the Park and hit the lengthy approach for the Panty Wall. It was another casual day on the red sandstone, toproping the routes set up by our guides. We got back to the Fest in time to set up our chairs for the climbing films and grab dinner. My toes couldn't take another minute in climbing shoes so Day Three involved a mountain bike ride and a geocaching clinic with loaner GPS units. We said our goodbyes in the afternoon and drove home.
I'm telling you, it's the greatest feeling to have ten routes under your belt before the snow melts back home. So why am I not in my car already heading to Vegas today?
There's a huge storm cycle dropping copious amounts of white stuff in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyon. I've skied 54 days so far and need 16 more to meet my goal. Climbing has to wait. I'll be thinking about my Red Rock Rendezvous brethren as I hike the backcountry at Eagle Point this weekend. I know they'll be having an epic time.
I'll go next year. Promise!