Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Not everyone knows this, but there is world-class rock climbing just Northwest of the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. The mountains, rivers, and forests are a stunning backdrop to Sin city. Over millennia, six Native American tribes utilized the area for its plant, water, and wildlife resources, with the Southern Paiute being the most modern.

We arrived in Las Vegas sooner than we had planned. We wanted to stop in Lime Kiln, AZ, on the way from St. Geroge, UT, but when we got there, we found mountains socked in with clouds and a fresh layer of snow. So we quickly bailed and headed for better weather.

Turns out, the same storm also hit the mountains outside Vegas. On our first morning in the park, the taller formations were glittering with an icy glow. And snow could still be found in the shady parts of the trails. We were the second car at the gate that morning. We thought we had perhaps jumped the gun and that the soft sandstone would be too wet for climbing. Luckily, the rock was dry by the time we arrived. We enjoyed a week of sunny, semi-cold, practically perfect desert winter weather.

To be honest, it was a dream come true for me. I had been reading books, staring at images, and entranced by videos of Red Rock Canyon since I started climbing many years ago. To be there amongst the world-famous sandstone walls and peaks was epic, to say the least.

A little too much happened for me to write about during our stay. So I will let the photographs do the talking. But I will share some statistics of our productive week.

All in all, we climbed 15 different routes. The majority were multi-pitch climbs, with the longest clocking in at just over 900 feet. And after the week was through, we climbed just over 5,000 vertical feet. It was one of the best stints of climbing Whitney and I have ever done together.

To top it all off, Whitney and I enjoyed a night in the city. With Whitney’s connections, we were invited to a free dinner at the Blue Ribbon Restaurant in the Cosmopolitan Casino. Afterward, we tried a couple hands of virtual blackjack and were quickly shut down. We stumbled around the slot machines, drank complimentary cocktails, and found a “secret” NY-style pizza joint buried down a random hallway.

We stealth-camped in the parking lot and didn’t pay a dime for a room. But did pay in the form of a stolen bicycle wheel. Fortunately, the thief took the cheapest wheel out of the four, and left the bikes (which were locked up) alone. It could have been much worse.

The morning after, blurry-eyed and disenfranchised with the city that stole from us, Whitney sternly informed the attendant that we would not be paying for the “secure and patrolled” parking lot that clearly was not secure nor patrolled. The gates flung open and we were on our way for Death Valley National Park.

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