Pitch 2 of "Dream of Wild Turkeys" 5.10a
Las Vegas is 1,793 miles from Milwaukee, and we left around midnight in a Jeep. We set out not for the lavish lights of Vegas, but rather the long rock climbs of Red Rock Canyon and the Black Velvet Wall. I've had my mind on the destination ever since my first visit here last spring when I lead all six pitches of my first multipitch route called "Unimpeachable Groping." It was a fantastic climb that provided me with a powerful escape from the conventions of the world around me. It was here when I took my first multipitch fall due to a broken hand hold at the top of the second pitch, and it was also here I didn't die. When I fell my belayer caught me, the rope didn't break, and I didn't need a change of pants. Everything went perfectly as planned. It was then I realized that all the previous years of climbing were really paying off, and all the years of practice were reinforcing the crucial skills for these exact unexpected moments. The rock climbing that day was arduous and at times, a new kind of scary, but the reward was more immense and unforgettable than I could have imagined. I kept this feeling of liberation and accomplishment with me as the seasons passed, and knew that I would soon return the tall peaks of Red Rock Canyon.
Self Portrait belaying Andy Hansen up to the anchors at Pitch 3 on "Prince of Darkness" 5.10d
I had talked about my idea and excitement to return to Red Rocks with my climbing friend Andy Hansen, and mentioned the idea of taking a trip there in the late summer. He was onboard for it, even if at the time he thought it'd never happen. We started climbing regularly together at Wisconsin's trad-climbing hot spot Devil's Lake, working our way through the list of classic lead climbs, as well as aspiring to lead every artificial rock climb at Adventure Rock in one day. Although some of our goals where a bit bold, some of them we successfully accomplished, and other ideas were only mentioned comedically ever again. Our aspirations were big, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
The day we left for Red Rocks our tick list of climbs to attempt was still growing, and it had already included five multipitch climbs including a 600' 5.7+ PG13 tradition/free climb called "The Black Dagger", the dubiously-classic "Prince of Darkness" 5.10d, and the most ambitious of them all being the ultra-classic 1000' exposed line of "Levitation 29" 5.11c. We hadn't decided which ones to tackle first, or exactly what the plan of attack would be, but we knew once we arrived that we'd try to start early. We had also planned to do at least one day of sport climbing, and I was excited to revisit The Gallery and Sunny and Steep, and certainly was not going to argue checking out some new areas.
Andy Regar and I on pitch 3 of "Dream of Wild Turkeys" 5.10a
Our home away from home was with a climbing friend of mine Andy Regar, who lived just between the strip and the canyon. We first met at Adventure Rock many years ago, and we've always talked about going out climbing together, but never managed it in Wisconsin. So I gave him a call and before I knew it, we had a solid place to stay. It was a perfect opportunity to hang in with and old friend in Vegas, as well meet many of his friends, and do some epic multipitching together.
Even before we got to Vegas the trip had its fair share of mini epics, and before we crossed the Wisconsin boarder we nearly hit a deer at 70 mph on the interstate. We were overjoyed the trip was collision free, but we still had a long ways to go. After being awake all day and driving all night, we were exhausted. I managed to keep the car on the road after the sun came up, but after an hour of alone time with Andy sleeping shotgun, I had to pull over and sleep. I stopped at the small mill town of Cassie Iowa, where our temporary sanctuary was a gas station parking lot. The nap went off with out any problems... until I tried to start the car back up. Being in a sleepy state of mind, I went to recline my car seat for a snooze and zonked out in no time. Evidently I had forgot to turn the lights off on the car while it was parked and the battery had died. But after the short delay, and talking with some friendly locals, we were back on the road.
Pit Stop in Castle Rock, Colorado just before dark for some impromptu bouldering.
We rolled into Colorado for some heavily anticipated rest at a friend's of Andy's. They lived in Castle Rock, and it was a pretty cool town with a predominant rock bluff that was visible from most everywhere in the city. It was here we decided to get out and go for a hike to go see the rock formation ourselves, and along the way we did some casual bouldering to get our climbing minds warmed up. The rock was pretty poor, but it was great to see new stone, and imagine developing new lines to climb. We got on top of the bluff with little more than some simple hiking and 30' of class four terrain. Once on top we had a great view of the mountain town, as well as the interesting christmas decoration style stuff they choose to stick on top of the bluff all year long.
The next morning we left for the second push of our drive, and the next stop was officially Vegas. We were both excited for this part of the drive, not only were we soon to arrive, but driving through this part of the country is really interesting when compared to the great plains. The mountains, wildlife, and lack of law enforcement made the drive pretty entertaining. Our sprits were high, and despite being pretty tired, we arrived at Andy Regar's around 9:30pm. We got to catch up with Andy, and met his roommate Lucas, who were both climbers and glad to have us around (so it seemed). We had plans to go out and do "Prince of Darkness" the next day, so after about two hours of getting adjusted, we were snoozing and ready to hit the Black Velvet Wall first thing the next day.
I will write much more in depth about the details of this trip, including a stories of the epic three hour night descent of Juniper Peak, a wind storm rappel leading to stuck ropes off the Black Velvet Wall, and the arrival of Jason and Jeni Corning into Las Vegas for our road trip home. Without a doubt I will have an entire post about our collective four day trip back home, including our underwear river PBR lounge day in the Virgin River in Zion, Utah, as well as three nights of tentless camping out west, and not to mention piano playing on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. Many stories to come...
I've been invited to participate in my first out of state show by friend and old classmate Aryn Kresol, who is organizing and curating the exhibit. I will have seven prints on display, including work featuring ice climbing, rock climbing, and odd city occurrences. The show is open two days only, and will be taking place in Rockford, Illinois as part of the Fall Art Scene.
stARTrevolution presents: 3 Cities
A collective exhibition of artists from Chicago, Milwaukee and Rockford including photographers Marta Shumylo, Matt Kuehl and Erin Kirkpatrick.
October 1 - October 2
5pm - 12am
515 East State Street
Rockford, IL 61104