Pete and I fled to the desert for sunshine and sandstone. I did my best Fear and Loathing impression before leaving Vancouver. Then we met at LAS on Sunday night.
A change of scenery is nice. But don't get it twisted all you smug Mariners: desert bushwhacking can be just as bad as anything in your backyard.
Our first route was an 11-pitch romp up the Dark Shadows Wall on a route called Heart of Darkness: a good sandstone warmup. We managed to cruise up the route despite several false starts that turned our day of climbing into an afternoon affair.
Dark Shadows Wall includes the big dark feature to the right.
Pete takes a second spin on the first two pitches of Dark Shadows. He forgot the pack the first time.
The third pitch is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the route. The crack has a nice fat handle inside of it at one point.
Pete takes a gander at the crux roof from the fourth pitch. At first he thought it might be easy. Lynn Hill and John Long and their inflationary grades and all that.
Pete gets all up in there after the hard move past the bolt.
A few pitches higher, this pitch consisted of discontinuous cracks that looked improbable from below, but it was all there. Moderate but very interesting climbing.
Pete enjoys some runout face climbing on the last belayed pitch.
That was a nice introduction. Being accustomed to Squamish granite, those sandstone edges require some mental reconditioning. The next day, it was time to get fully baptized and be done with it. We got the correct beta from Sir Michael Layton and found our way to Black Velvet Wall.
Black Velvet Wall
Our chosen route was Fiddler on the Roof. Mike's beta: it seems sketchy, but if you sack up and make the moves it's all there. All right! The route traverses along the top of the massive roof in the previous photo before climbing up and away to the top of the wall.
Pete on the first pitch. Really interesting bolted face climbing.
The second pitch was sweet: fingers, hands, then a dihedral to a chimney.
Here we go! Pete leads the namesake pitch.
Here's the beta: don't fall off the roof! Here's what I did: I fell off the roof! I was just hanging in space. But I had two prusiks and I made it over the lip of the roof and finished the pitch to the belay.
That did not help my confidence. The next pitch is supposedly the technical crux of the route. It's about 50m long. It starts at a belay above the roof. The first bolt is about 20 feet above the belay. So the potential for a nice 40-foot factor-two fall into space, over the edge of the roof, onto the belay is there. Pete asked me how I felt about it.
I gotta get back on that horse! FEED THE HORSE!
I didn't fall; at least not there. The climbing is awesome. It looks improbable and the varnished sandstone is slick, but there are little edges everywhere.
After a crux where the edges get quite thin, then one crack for a piece of gear, the pitch finishes with a nice 30-foot runout to the belay. At least the climbing is easier there. No rest for the wicked!
Pete's turn. Another 150 feet of stimulating runouts.
So it seemed like we truly had it in the bag. I was on the next to last pitch, getting there, when we called it. I had no headlamp and it was getting late. Here's a photo from my high point on the sixth pitch, which shows a runout typical of the route.
Look at the size of that roof!
I can't wait to go to Red Rocks again. The next day we would head for Zion....