February, '02



The Rainy Desert with Jason...




    In February, Jason and I set out in search of a warm escape from a mundane ice climbing season. The plan was to meet at Joe's Valley and then head to Red Rocks to climb some long trad routes.

     It was cold at Joe's but warm enough to climb in the sun. We had the place to ourselves and pulled until our fingertips hurt too much and then taped up and pulled some more. Two days later, under dark skies, we loaded everything into Jason's 1970 Dodge Van and rumbled west.

     It rained all the way from Joe's to Vegas. Intermittently at first, leaving us free to hope for blue skies in Vegas. In Saint George, it began to rain in earnest. As we exited the Virgin River Gorge, it started coming down in sheets and that continued all the way to sin city. We hit Desert Rock looking for a non-sandstone climbing alternative near Vegas. They sent us the Urban Crag which consisted of about 15 limestone sport climbs.     After two days at the Urban Slag the sandstone was dry enough to climb without the fear of breaking classic holds. Our momentum had shifted though and we found ourselves content to go sport climbing at the Gallery and the Black Corridor for a few days. Our evenings were as fun as the days spent climbing. We had made friends with our neighbors at camp and were sharing campfires and meals and belays and many beers. Truly great stuff! The people I met were the highlight of my trip.

    The next day Jason and I decided to do some cragging but we somehow found ourselves walking toward Mescalito intending to climb Cat in the Hat. There were three problems, we had two fat ropes, two racks, and no guidebook.  Of course, we hiked too far up the canyon and never found the start of the route. Undeterred, we picked a line that looked feasible and up we went, carrying everything. The climbing was fun and interesting and varied from 5.6 - 5.9. There were two distinctly terrifying sections involving things we named the Death Flake and the Death Block. The crux involved a spicy 5.8r traverse on crispy flakes that sometime crumbled. Wheeeee!    Eventually we reached easy ground and started 3rd classing. You know, Mescalito is a big formation. Had one of us remembered the guidebook, we would have know that Cat in the Hat only goes up 5 pitches. Somewhere around the 8th rope length we decided that if we didn't want to be benighted, and ticketed by the Burros of Land Management, we needed to descend.

    I don't like to think about that descent even now as I type this many months later. Stuck ropes... sharp rap edges requiring tape...bushes... it was ugly. On the ground, with both ropes in hand, our stress evaporated and we went from nervous giggles to relaxed laughter to shameless backslapping and congratulating. It was quite a moment. We gathered our things slowly in the failing light knowing that we were already late and would have a $50 ticket.

   At the van, fate smiled once again and we snuck out with no ticket. It was straight to camp for cold beer around the Duraflames with our new friends. As I listened to Jason's description of the climb that evening I knew we were of like mind. We had pulled off one of those days that are more fun to have done than they are to do. We named the route 9 Lives 5.9r. The rest of the trip was a blast. We climbed again on Mescalito. Once again getting off route and having a grand adventure. We visited a few other sport climbing areas and then, finally, it was time to hit the road.  Jason got his Zen thing going and steamed us all the way back to Joe's Valley and my truck, which we had left at the Orangeville Police Department.

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Before Jason arrived, this was my partner at Joe's Valley. He's huge, almost half the size of a dime. 

Picturesque rock at Joe's.

Jason cranking on a V4 crack in the Right Fork.

Jason topping out a 20 foot problem. "That's a spicy meatball!"

The Zen Master, rolling down the strip in the Napper van.

Our first morning at Red Rocks. It's been raining for two straight days!

The rain is bad for climbing on the soft sandstone but it can help the camera.

A young Joshua Tree standing proudly.

Jason's first lead EVER. This 5.7 at the Urban Crag is missing the bolts for the last 25 feet of the climb!  Nice lead. :)

Pondering what it must be like to actually climb steep rock without wanting to hang.

Jason cranking a 5.10 at the Urban Crag.

A nice 5.9 corner.

This is what happens when you ignore the fact that the leg loop is warn at the buckle. This broke while I was lowering off a climb.

Finally, we head to some sandstone climbing in Red Rocks.


An interesting pod along the trail to the Black Corridor.


Balance.... balance...


The Black Corridor.


Enjoying the novelty of a hand jam.


Amazing contrast between the shady bleached out rock and the sunlit red rock.

Somehow managing a 5.11 at the Sweet Pain wall.


Scott, Erik, Melanie, Phillip, Suzi, Julie, Jay, Jason, and me. The best crew you could hope to meet at RR.

Mile 13 campground is part of a wild burro management area.

Posing in front of Mescalito.

This is a good start to a new route. :)

The first roped pitch.

Protecting a 5.8 roof on the 2nd pitch.

Jason following a beautiful 5.7 corner.

Looking down into the canyon from a few pitches up.


Fun easy stemming on the 3rd pitch.


We stopped taking pictures here on the 4th pitch for a while because the climbing got a little hairball.

We started taking pictures here when we finished the hard climbing and were approaching the summit.

On the ground after a crazy descent involving multiple stuck ropes, building 4 rap anchors, and taping an edge so the cord we were rapping on didn't cut.

Yup, Mescalito is the small formation in the canyon in the left of the photo.


We did eventually go back and climb Cat in the Hat... Sort of.

Looking toward the Gallery from Mescalito.

This is what rapping into the unknown will get you when you get off route. AGAIN.

The long lonesome highway home.

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