Beating the Forecast at Red Rocks
By TMS Ambassador Johnny Lomas
Memorial Day weekend was fast approaching and the forecast was grim. The week was coming to a close and my adventure partners and I were freaking out about how to utilize our three precious days. The forecast was calling for heavy precipitation from and white out conditions from Shasta to Whitney; and it was even raining in Owens Gorge! Thursday rolled around and we were faced with the daunting task of making a final decision. North? South? Stay home and start re-watching game of thrones?
Then it came to us. RED ROCKS…
Sure enough, the forecast looked good enough to stomach the 7.5 hour drive and we were rolling out of Truckee at 7 PM on Friday evening, desert bound. We pulled over around 1:15 AM and crashed on a nice piece of BLM land until 6:30 and completed the drive the next day. Heads up, if you’re driving down to Red Rocks from Tahoe, don’t take 395 accidentally…I have and it adds about an hour of drive time.
Our first objective was an 8 pitch trad route (5.9+) on Rainbow Mountain named Black Orpheus. The weather was a cool 60 degrees when we parked at the Oak Creek Trailhead and started down the trail into Oak Creek Canyon.
After passing the popular Solar Slabs the trail gave way to creek bed and scrub oak. To reach the base of the climb, we scrambled up 800 feet of sandstone slabs to a prominent left facing corner. The first two pitches consisted of slightly awkward 5.8 that required mostly lie-backing with a bit of jamming sprinkled in.
The next pitches wander left to the bottom of the money pitches in a right facing corner. A spooky step around lead us to a beautiful finger crack splitting up the headwall (5.9+) and eased up after two pitches onto a 5.7 fingers lie-back crack (what?).
The final pitch was the spiciest 5.5 pitch we had ever seen on thin slab with run out protection. On top with 1500 feet below us, we rode the bull in victory!
The next day we set our sights on two shorter climbs on Mescalito. To access this crag we parked at the Pine Creek Trailhead and headed towards the obvious shorter buttress in the middle of the canyon.
First up was Y2k, a stellar route on juggy red rocks patina. The first pitch involves pulling a small roof 100ft off the deck with a perfectly placed bolt for protection. After the first pitch (5.10a), the route eases up for the next 150 feet of awesome 5.8 on huge face holds and the last pitch finishes on a stout 5.9 corner. Bring two ropes for the three long rappels following the route’s bolted anchors.
At 3 O’clock we started up Dark Shadows. I had never seen anything like the rock on this route. The patina has hardened into a glassy surface which interfaces with a sandstone buttress to form a crazy corner with face holds, underclings, and sweet sweet crack. The main challenge of this climb is not letting your rope fall in the creek below when you pull it from the rappel, although we were unsuccessful in this regard. With two good ones in the bag, we headed back to our walk-in campsite accommodations at the Red Rocks campground for a home cooked meal and a windy night.
On our final morning, we headed to The Gallery area to get some sport routes in before our long drive. The Gallery is excellent because the wall ramps evenly in difficulty from left to right. Starting at 5.8 and getting up to 5.13, there’s something everyone!
Satisfied with ourselves for outwitting the finicky weather, we returned to our wet mountain town with tender finger tips ready for spring skiing to resume!