time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Epic Climbing Adventure #231

March 8th, 2009 by liz

After my failure to sound even remotely coherent at my Hertz interview the day after I got back from the South Pole (I blame jetlag–26 hours of flying), Dave arrived in Berkeley, CA to whisk me away on an epic climbing adventure. We started out at the crack of 10am on Tuesday morning with the mission to acquire delicious food and then drive to Red Rock National Conservation Area in NV. Unfortunately, the stop at the grocery store proved disastrous. When Dave went to shut the passenger door to my poor decrepit car, it refused to latch. A subsequent stop at the local mechanic confirmed my worst suspicion: fixing it would require ripping apart the entire door and ordering a new part. Since I didn’t want to delay our epic climbing adventure, we decided on a ghetto high school car fix. We stopped at the hardware store and bought a ratcheting strap and ratcheted the door shut from the inside. It worked great! The only problem was that now the only way to lock the car was to lock the driver door from the inside and then crawl out the trunk. A minor inconvenience–on with the epic adventure!

9 hours later, we arrived at the Red Rock campground and set up camp in the dark. (Note: Dave and I have never set up camp when it hasn’t been dark out.) The next morning we set out for some sport climbing at the Magic Bus wall. Despite having climbed there the previous January, we got lost and ended up scrambling around in the canyons for awhile. It was absolutely beautiful, and the weather was wonderful. We had a pretty lazy day which included a lunch of delicious cheese and avocado sandwiches and tangellos in the sunshine. It turns out that climbing in March was a lot warmer and much more enjoyable than in January.

Dave on the Solar Slab
Dave leading a pitch of Solar Slab.

The next day we decided to do a longer climb. We hiked into Oak Creek Canyon to the Solar Slab, which is one of the best and longest (1500′ total) 5.6 climbs in the country and is conveniently in the sun all day. We climbed the 600′ approach climb (which was also fun despite the hornet nest), and ended on a huge ledge where we had another delicious lunch in the sunshine. After lunch we climbed a few pitches of Solar Slab, but we couldn’t go all the way to the top because we had to rappel down and get back to our car before the loop road closed at 5pm. It was an excellent climb and I highly recommend it to moderate climbers who want to climb up something really tall.

Our last day in Red Rock we hiked into First Creek Canyon to the Lotta Balls Wall. This climb was unfortunately in the shade, but it’s a 600′ high 5.8 climb with excellent crack climbing, a bit of scary face climbing, and an awesome chimney section, so we did it anyway. The view from the top was amazing, and we hung out for quite awhile on the top belay ledge before descending. After eating the largest amount of food I’ve ever seen two people consume, Dave and I started driving to Zion National Park.

Upon arriving in Zion we set up camp in the dark (again) and finally climbed into our sleeping bags WAY after our bedtimes, or around 9 pm. The next morning we drove around Zion looking for a wall on which we could teach ourselves how to aid climb in preparation for a long aid wall we were eying for the next day. We found a few crack climbs that were way to hard for us, and set up for Dave to lead. We had fun top-roping the cracks after Dave setup the rope at the top, but we decided that aid climbing is really slow, and we just didn’t have enough gear to do long pitches of aid. We would have to find something else to do the next day.

Dave halfway up a really hard crack
Dave halfway up a really hard crack.

Day 2 in Zion dawned COLD. I stayed in my sleeping bag and pretended to sleep until I was pretty sure that Dave was finished cooking breakfast (thanks Dave!). After thawing a bit we spent the day hiking around Zion looking at pretty scenery until we decided to stop in Tunnel West for a bit of climbing. We found 2 really good climbs right next to each other, and while I was on the wall I noticed that there were 3 rangers standing down on the road staring at us. When we got back to my car a ranger was waiting for us. Apparently, that section of wall closed March 1 for peregrine falcon nesting. It was March 1, and the day before when we had stopped at the visitors center they had neglected to mention that that particular area was closed, despite telling us about all the other closed areas. Luckily the ranger was nice and just gave us a warning, while commenting that she couldn’t tell whether my license was real because Vermont doesn’t participate with any other states. This is perhaps good information to know.

Coolest bug ever!
We saw the coolest bug ever while hiking. It was HUGE.

The next day we packed up camp to head back to Vegas for Dave’s flight out. On the way, we stopped at Red Cliffs desert reserve and hiked up a narrow canyon with a stream at the bottom. There were all sorts of deep pools bathed in sunshine that looked very inviting for swimming. Unfortunately all the water in the stream was from snowmelt, so our attempt at swimming was quickly aborted.

Dave at Red Cliffs Liz at redcliffs
Dave and I along the steam in Red Cliffs after failing to go swimming.

Finally, we made it to Vegas, where we ate a huge quantity of Chinese food and went to see a Russian ice skating circus show called ICE: Direct from russia. It was insane. At one point they had a seesaw which one guy stood on in his iceskates, while another two guys skated up and jumped onto the other end. The first guy proceeded to do a triple backflip off the end of the seesaw and land on the ice. There was another guy who performed insane feats of balance while still wearing his iceskates. Overall it a pretty cool circus show, except it was also on iceskates.

This show was AWESOME.

The next morning, Dave departed. It was sad, but we’d had yet another awesome trip. I got in my falling apart car and set out for Pasadena, CA, where I would be spending a few days stirring up trouble with Tucker and his crazy roommates. That’s another story, but I’d say that that endeavor was also a success.

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