tldr; send, send, send. Also, giant calzones.
After two weeks roughing it out in nature in the Joshua Tree area, we were ready for some big city life so we headed to Las Vegas to hit the strip clubs and try our luck winning it big at the casinos!
We did head to Las Vegas, and we did get to experience some comforts of city life for the week as we split an Airbnb with two of our friends. However, we definitely did not visit any of the typical Las Vegas strip attractions. The clubs and casinos will have to wait for another trip.
On this visit to the Las Vegas area, we spent our weekends and Thursday afternoon climbing in Red Rock Canyon, a beautiful area just 20 minutes outside of the city, and our weekdays working from our Airbnb and from a local park with huge, green grass fields where Choi loved kicking around the soccer ball.
We arrived at our Airbnb on Friday evening and met our friends Todd and Will, who had already been in Las Vegas for about a week. We settled in to the apartment, enjoyed an indoor shower, and they showed us videos of the many boulders that we could check out the next day. We couldn’t wait to get out there!
The rock here is sandstone and much nicer on our fingers than the rough granite of Joshua Tree so we felt like we could climb for longer. On Saturday, we tried out 11 different boulders and climbed from 10AM until after 6PM. We thought we would just take it easy on Sunday but found ourselves inspired and climbed a long day again, from 10AM to around 5PM.
One thing that we really loved about climbing at Red Rock was that we got to try out lots of different types of boulders. We got to climb what is considered a “highball boulder”, Plumber’s Crack (V0), a ~30ft tall spherical boulder split down the middle to create a tall, thin chimney that you have to wiggle and shimmy up. Picture that scene from Emperor’s New Groove, climbing Plumber’s Crack felt a bit like that.
We also got to climb a “lowball” boulder, Oompa Loompa (V5), a short but stout climb which featured fun, technical moves like a double knee-bar, and a heel hook, and which topped out at just 5 or so feet off the ground.
We also climbed other “classic” climbs like Pork Chop (V3), Sorange (V3), Potato Chips (V2), and Monkey Bar (V2) and made solid attempts on some harder projects like Welcome to Detroit (Choi easily sent this heavily contested V5), Huck (V5), Prowler (V5), and Vino Rojo (V6).
After a long weekend of climbing, we were ready for some fuel and some rest. Todd and Will introduced us to Winco, an incredible grocery store with the low prices and warehouse-feel of a Costco but where you can actually purchase individual products, instead of only in bulk. The only catch is that everything has to be purchased with a debit card or cash (a little suspicious or just a great business model?)
After two ~8 hour days of climbing, we went all out on our Winco purchases and bought a 3lb bag of guacamole and two 2lb calzones. We devoured the calzones and a lot of the guacamole while watching the end to a very boring super bowl, resting up for the work week ahead.
Our weekdays in Las Vegas weren’t too eventful. I went on a few runs around the neighborhood in the mornings, Choi played soccer a few afternoons, and on Tuesday after work we went on a bike ride along the road heading towards Red Rock Canyon. It was a relaxing week with beautiful weather and we got plenty of work done from the comfort of our Airbnb. No complaints here!
On Thursday afternoon, we headed back to Red Rock for what is becoming a traditional post-work Thursday climb session. We met up with Todd and Will who had been climbing all morning for a quick session of rope climbing at an impressive looking area called Cannibal Crag.
After a few rope routes, we stashed our backpacks under a rock and scrambled up to find what Will had described as an “18-star boulder”, Cirque du Soleil.
Cirque du Soleil is a beautifully red, leopard spotted V3 boulder perched on the top of a sloping cliff overlooking Las Vegas. It’s a relatively new boulder with really unique movement. After a few tries, both Choi and I were able to send it just as the sun started to set. On the way home, we stopped by a nearby Korean grocery store to pick up some ramen and kimchi to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
On Friday morning, we checked out of our Airbnb, said goodbye to Todd and Will as they headed to Joshua Tree, and spent the day working from a park. That evening, Choi surprised me with a virtual Valentine’s-themed concert from one of our favorite artists, Allen Stone. We watched the concert from the park while we played Gin Rummy and then decided to try out a Korean Restaurant that we had spotted earlier in the week. It did not disappoint. It was a small place and mostly seemed to be frequented by regulars. As is our style, we got way too much food and enjoyed every bite of it. We spent the night parked on a pull off on the side of the road to Red Rock Canyon, next to around 15 other vans, school bus conversions, and small RVs.
We had more big climbing plans for the weekend but were also keeping a close eye on some looming rain storms. Unlike Joshua Tree, where we could climb on the hard granite even while it snowed or rained, Red Rock’s sandstone boulders are very fragile and climbing on them in or after rain can lead to erosion and holds breaking off.
Saturday morning started off warm and sunny though, so we headed to Red Rock. We repeated of a few of our favorite climbs from the past weekend and had just started to try out a new climb, The Pearl (V5), when the sky turned pretty ominous. A few raindrops splashed down onto the powdery sand and then, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in a sideways downpour of rain and sleet. The temperature dropped by at least 15 degrees. The wind gusted violently, and even starting to blow away our crash pads, backpacks, and shoes. We grabbed everything as quick as we could and ran towards the van with cold fingers and legs buffeted by blowing sand and rain.
We took shelter in the van, cranked up the heat, and recovered from what had been a really dramatic shift in weather. (Little did we know, even more dramatic weather was about to hit all of our friends and family back home in Texas.) As we waited in a long line of cars to leave, we ended up picking up a somewhat bedraggled looking young couple who were walking towards the road and, after asking if they needed help.
This couple became our first, and likely one of our last, backseat passengers we will have in Mr. Smee. We took a quick drive to Albertson’s, where we found all of the other “Red Rock refugees” also taking shelter. There were about 7 other vans parked in the parking lot and lots of dirty looking climbers wandering the aisles inside.
One of the best things about living in a van is that we are extremely flexible. Rather than staying another night in Las Vegas, we picked up some cookies at Albertson’s and then hit the road to Phoenix. Luckily, my cousin Brant and his girlfriend Candice were also feeling flexible and graciously welcomed us into their home Saturday night, giving us a warm shower and a soft bed, and letting us pet their cute little pup, Zoe. We’ve really been missing dogs on our trip and have found ourselves standing outside of dog parks longingly, wondering if bringing in a stick for the pups to play with would be considered creepy or cute, so we were excited for some cousin-time and some pup-time in Phoenix.
Red Rocks, we loved your soft sandstone climbs, your relaxing parks, and your surprisingly delicious Korean food. Along We Go!