Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Pink Cadillac heads to Vegas - Episode 8

We head north out of the rain; it looks good going towards Moab, 50 miles to the north. Maybe Potash road would be good? Lots of climbing there, too. We cruise into town and make a beeline for the Grand County Library, the "2007 Best Small Library in America." With free internet access, and even a list of showers available in town, it is a superb resource. The library also suggests we walk a block west to the city & county building; a free lunch is provided daily by the local merchants. Climbing bums never turn down free food. In front of the building is a wild sculpture of possibly a mountain lion. It's a wild looking piece of art, and I have to get a photo of Chris posing in front of it.

Chris and the blue lion in Moab

We check our email and the weather report: the West is wet...everywhere! Except Las Vegas! We're only about 8 hours away by I-70 and I-15. One email is from my friend Luzon, from Oregon, except that she says she is working at Arches National Park for the summer, and if I'm in the neighborhood, stop by. She has just written the note, so we decide to surprise her at the desk. It's a shock, but we have a great time reminescing. Tons of fun!!! Then the pink Cadillac is on the road again. Thunderstorms pelt the car the entire trip; I'm worried that Las Vegas will also be under water. Good thing we're in sort of an ark.

By evening we are in St. George, Utah, and I remember that my childhood friend Milt and his wife Tammy live here. Milt and I floated the Glen Canyon on the Colorado River when we were 13, before the dam. We started climbing mountains together at the tender age of 14 when we didn't know anything. Self taught, we survived childhood. Milt still exudes that same enthusiasm and curiosity I loved as a boy and still do! Tammy was so kind to us, opening up her home, taking us to dinner, filling us with fond stories. It's like we'd never been apart.

The next morning we arose early and hit the road, heading for Red Rocks Wilderness, west of Vegas. We decided to do a climb called "Frogland" in Black Velvet Canyon.

Black Velvet Canyon

The only little diffugalty was that the hike started down a very old, rocky, rough road. If we could nurse the Caddy down the road we'd cut off a couple of miles and spend the day on the rock, not climbing. The Caddy, bless her engine, was not designed for jeep trails, but she surprised everyone by dragging us in, mostly unscathed.

Red Rocks Wilderness, Las Vegas, Nevada

It was hot! We shouldered the packs and started up the trail. We? decided to put all the gear in one pack, so we took turns carrying it. I always worried that when Chris was carrying the pack, passers-by would think ill of me. Anyway, we had a system.

Our Goal

"Frogland" is at the entrance to the canyon; it rises straight up a beautiful crack system, around a huge overhang, for seven incredible pitches of climbing.

"Frogland" goes right up the middle of the cliff.

We left the pack and extra gear at the base, put our running shoes, water, and peanut butter sandwich in a small day pack and headed up. The first pitch was a nice jam crack, but since we had been to Indian Creek, it was a breeze. By the time we were at the first belay ledge, the sun was curling behind the peak, and we would be in the shade for the rest of the afternoon, a true blessing at this time of year.

Up the first pitch

across the smooth crux pitch

The crux is a smooth slab with no protection, then hump up a little overhang to a crack. Well, the move seemed quite reasonable, but the rope got stuck in a crack and I couldn't move, so I had to downclimb the pitch, jerk the rope out of the crack, then re-climb the hard parts. All in a day's work.

Your guide in desert garb

The climb went on and on. In front of us were two young doctors doing their residency in different cities, but meeting in the desert for climbing. Behind us a local with his girl friend. All were friendly and fun, so we seemed to flow up the climb as a group.

Chris relaxing on a tiny belay ledge

On the summit, the sun was still shining brightly, and we shared the sandwich, some water, changed our shoes and headed down the steep, scratchy gully, back to our packs.

Chris celebrates the summit

Las Vegas shimmers in the desert heat

As we rounded the corner, the two doctors were sitting by the side of the trail...waiting for us. They tenderly asked if we really did drive a Cadillac in; they had a Prius and didn't dare take it down the road, so they had hiked the several miles in. We admitted we really did bring the Caddy. Did we have room in the Caddy for them? Well, it was loaded to the roof; it bottomed out in many places. So we said: "Sure, we'll make room!" So...the Caddy crept out at low speed, avoiding the bigger rocks that would take out the oil pan.

The Caddy emerges slightly scathed from the desert

Margaritas and Mexican food sounded tempting; Chris knew a great restaurant. We headed into Vegas. After looking for mythical $19.95 hotels in town, we camped in the BLM campground at Red Rocks...way after dark. The next morning it was 85 degrees at 6:30 am. My Alaska blood was boiling, and I dreamed of climbing cool granite in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We motored north!

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