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Red Rock Canyon has been called the best climbing destination in the United States. With competition like Indian Creek in Utah, The ‘Gunks in New York, and Yosemite in California, that seems like a tall order, especially considering the vastly different kinds of adventures you could have in each place. So what about Red Rock makes it so special? Maybe it’s the seemingly endless list of epic, lengthy trad routes. What Red Rock is most known for is massive, low-difficulty multi-pitch climbs. It’s been called “5.7 Heaven”, with hundreds of easy, awe inspiring big walls to take on. There are also plenty of difficult routes, sustained at 5.11 or 12 over 5, 10, or more pitches! Everywhere you look, ominous mountains of sandstone rise up over the hot, flat pan of the Nevada desert. The high points, and ways to get to them, seem infinite; and the number of first ascents still waiting to be claimed around Red Rock would seem to confirm this. The sandstone slabs go on forever, the protection is bomber, the season is long, and when you get too pumped to pull on rocks you can take a short drive into Vegas and try your luck pulling on slot machines. What’s not to love?
Itinerary For 57 Hours In Red Rock Canyon
It doesn’t take a whole summer sleeping in a van in the desert to see Red Rock. If you can duck out of work a couple hours early on Friday, you’ve got enough time to get a feel for what the area has to offer. That’s the philosophy behind 57hours.com, a service dedicated to connecting weekend warriors with certified guides so that you can carpe as much diem between Friday afternoon and Sunday night as possible. That’s where the name 57 Hours comes from – there are exactly 57 hours between 3 PM Friday (clocking out early and sneaking out the back door) and midnight Sunday (a late bedtime for nine-to-fivers).
Inspired by this “take the bull by the horns” attitude, we decided to create an itinerary for a busy weekend climbing the majestic sandstone of Red Rock Canyon. So if you feel like you don’t have the time, or the know-how, or the insider beta, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. With help from a professional guide you’ll get the skills you need to take on hundreds and thousands of feet of Nevada sandstone, and you’ll be back in time for work Monday morning.
This whole idea is powered by the adventures offered on 57hours.com. The first adventure offered in Red Rock Canyon allows for everything from a half day of climbing with a private guide to a day of multi-pitch climbing to a fully customized day of climbing with a private guide. The rates range from $260 to $370 per day, and give you ample freedom to see the classics or push your skills to the limit. Also offered on 57 Hours is a Women’s Weekend Climbing Camp intended for beginner to intermediate climbers. Over two days, you’ll learn the techniques and hard skills necessary for big wall climbing, and put them to use. At $380 per person for two days, it’s an excellent introduction to outdoor climbing.
Now let’s dive into our hypothetical itinerary and see how we could put those hours with a guide to use.
3 PM Friday
You leave home and arrive in Nevada. Maybe you took a cheap flight into Las Vegas, maybe you drove a few hours. Either way you’re itching to get some dirt on you and start seeing the sights. You head west out of town and see the rolling mountains of white and red rock looming in the distance. You stop on the way and check into your campsite at Red Rock Campground. Luckily, you planned ahead and got a spot in advance. This is the only feasible camping option nearby, and it tends to fill up, especially in the busy season. After getting your stuff situated, you drive into Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. If you were careful with your time, you might still have enough daylight to get a multi-pitch route done. For an evening introduction to Red Rock, take the scenic drive, park, and hike to Pine Creek Canyon with your trad rack (some pointers on what protection to bring here).
Beginners should be sure to check out Cat In The Hat, a 5.6 spanning six pitches up Mescalito, a prominent buttress in the canyon. This route tends to sit in the sun, so doing it later in the evening you’ll be more likely to get some shade. The climb ascends a rounded ridge over 650 feet with large belay ledges for resting in between pitches.
Intermediates should get after it on something more vertical like Dark Shadows. This route climbs 350 feet, following a corner that becomes a roof over the final belay station. The protection is ample and good, and the climb stays out of direct sun, which is a plus if you get there with some daylight to spare.
Experts who want a fun warmup could try something of a similar difficulty, but longer. One example in Pine Creek is Birdland, rated 5.7+ over six pitches. It ascends the Brass Wall, a varnished face with lots of features. The route covers about 600 feet of sustained 5.7, with a fun variety of moves.
Now that everybody’s got their hands good and dirty you can roll back to camp, crack a beer, make dinner, and get ready for the morning. Between the bright lights of Vegas and the darkening stone, you’ll find yourself contemplating all the possibilities this place has to offer. Let it sink in. Tomorrow, you’ll be taking an even bigger bite of what Red Rock has to offer.
Up and at ‘em! If you get an early start Saturday, you sport a better chance of being the first on the wall. Considering your options, there are a lot of ways you could spend your day. Pack up a lunch and hit the road. We recommend heading to either Oak Creek Canyon and Juniper Canyon (next door neighbors), or Angel Food Wall for Saturday.
Beginners should head to Oak Creek Canyon to give the classic Solar Slab a throw. It’s a colossal wall, totaling over 1200 feet at or under 5.6. Be advised that to get to the start of Solar Slab there is a multi-pitch approach covering 500 feet. The easiest route to get to the base is Solar Slab Gully, covering five pitches at 5.3. Including the approach, you’ll do 14 pitches to the top of Solar Slab. As such, this climb could easily eat up a whole day for newbies who aren’t used to this much vert. Enjoy the views and take your time. This is one of the main draws to Red Rock.
Intermediates will enjoy taking the next step into Crimson Chrysalis at the mouth of Juniper Canyon. Over nine pitches you’ll get a wide variety of moves and protection, leading up the face of Cloud Tower. The route stays in the shade most of the day, which is helpful, but it can get busy. Another option for intermediates is Tunnel Vision, a 5.7 which ascends through an enclosed tunnel of rock on Angel Food Wall. It’s a very unique and cool climb, though shorter than Crimson Chrysalis. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have an outstanding day.
Experts who want to take on a real challenge and get away from crowds have two great options. One is Levitation 29, a 5.11b/c route that covers 700 feet over nine pitches. Lyn Hill, who famously completed the first free climb of The Nose in Yosemite, called this her favorite climb ever. It runs up the face of Eagle Wall in Oak Creek Canyon, with amazing views. Another route worth looking into for experts is The Original Route in Juniper Canyon. This wall will test you. It’s rated 5.12- and is mostly sustained at 5.11 or 12 over 14 pitches. If you want a hefty notch on your belt and some serious bragging rights to take back home, this is your guy. It was the route taken for the first ascent of the Rainbow Wall in the ‘70s, and is something of a rite of passage for serious climbers in the area. Many parties bivvy on the wall and split it into two days, meaning this may end up being your Saturday as well as your Sunday, if you choose.
Victory. If you played your cards right (pun intended), you took down a worthy objective today, and that calls for celebration. Whether your taste is hitting the blackjack tables in Vegas or making s’mores in camp, indulge. You could also grab a hotel room in town for the night if you’re in need of a shower and a bed. Las Vegas is only 20 minutes from Red Rock, so the commute won’t be much more than it is from the campground.
You haul yourself out of bed, grab a bite, and hit the road. There’s still plenty to be done, and the clock is ticking. For your final day before heading home, we recommend a trip to Black Velvet Canyon, the furthest south along Red Rock. Black Velvet is known for having some of the most visually stunning climbs in Red Rock Canyon. We have a few of these listed below.
Beginners should spend their Sunday on Frogland, an ascent of the Frogland Buttress to Whiskey Peak, totaling 700 feet and six pitches. It’s rated 5.8, though most of it is a shade easier than that. Frogland is lauded by locals and visitors alike as one of the best 5.8 climbs Red Rock has to offer. For “beginners”, this will be a fantastic capstone to your Red Rock trip.
Intermediates would be remiss to go home without taking a swing at Epinephrine. Many say this one is the best in Red Rocks (though if you’ve been reading along on each route’s post, this is a common theme). Epinephrine is a beast of a route, totaling 12 to 14 pitches over 1600 vertical feet. Be aware that Epinephrine may be a bit long for a single day. Some parties complete the route in around 14 hours, including the descent. Others bivvy at the top and then descend the following morning. Depending on your experience level, it may be prudent to start Epinephrine Saturday, and then take on a more minor objective Sunday after the descent. At any rate, it’s an unbeatable adventure that you should at least consider trying.
Experts who aren’t totally pumped from their major objective Saturday will have some nice options. If you want more flexibility in your schedule, you could go for Wholesome Fullback, a 5.10b covering 2-3 pitches. If you’ve still got time and gas in the tank check out The Delicate Sound of Thunder, which is a notch harder, but a little shorter. If you’re low on time, taking on just one of these would be a worthwhile goal for the day. If you’re burned out on huge multi-pitch climbs, you could do both of them back to back. But if you still have an appetite for more big wall climbing, you could dedicate your day to Triassic Sands. This route is less committing than the two we suggested for Saturday, which may be a relief. Triassic Sands is a classic crack route covering 700 feet over up to six pitches. Many groups just do the first two or three pitches before rappelling down, meaning you could tackle both of the aforementioned routes, and take a sizable bite out of Triassic Sands before you’ve got to take off.
The sun’s going down. You’re probably clambering down a walk-off somewhere in Black Velvet from your last conquest. You’ve got a few hours to get back to the car and get out of dodge. As you start the hike out of the canyon you look over your shoulder at the impenetrable maze of white and black sandstone that is Red Rock Canyon. You’ve seen a lot this weekend. Giant chimneys, slabs, finger cracks, and huecos winding a path up an ocean of rock. You’ve had moments to soak in the majesty of the desert, the awesome power of the landscape. Pat yourself on the back. You’re probably hurting for sleep, but you’ve got some amazing stories to bring to the office tomorrow. Now all you’ve got to do is get in the car and get yourself home.