Standing in the Grand Rapids, MI airport I joked with my friends that I hoped something adventurous happened on our climbing trip to Red Rocks, because I needed some more stories for my blog. What we got instead was a whole lot of waiting.
It started the day we left. We met at 5am, with a 6:30am flight to Denver. It was cancelled due to a blizzard. They re-routed us to St. Louis, where we waited for over 15 hours. We tried to get on several booked flights to Vegas throughout the day, but eventually waited for our 9:20pm flight, which ended up being delayed 3 hours. We got into Vegas at 2:30am. Luckily the 6th member of our group had been there all day since he flew a different airline and avoided our troubles, so he had the groceries purchased and the room ready when we arrived.
We decided to forgo the alpine start the next day, but we were all up at 6:30am, so we got ready and headed out for our first day. We hiked into Olive Oil, a 4 pitch, 665 foot, 5.7 trad climb. As we scrambled up the canyon to climb we heard other people and arrived to 2 parties at the base, with a slow party on the route ahead of them. We decided to wait and just enjoy the nice sunny weather. All 3 of our teams eventually got on the climb, but we waited at nearly every belay for the parties ahead of us. We all had a blast though, especially since this was the first multipitch experience for several in our group. And we climbed well despite only having a few hours of sleep. We eventually all topped out and enjoyed the view before hiking down the gully.
The second day we slept in and split the group to do a few different short 2-3 pitch climbs. Steve and I climbed at the Fringe Wall and I totally got off route on this 2 pitch climb, but it was awesome because Steve led the wrong 2nd pitch, which he probably wouldn’t have if he would have known the grade. Sometimes that’s the best way to beat the mental aspect of climbing.
On Easter morning we got up at 4am for a true alpine start. We left the hotel and drove the short distance to the parking lot outside the gate, arriving at 5am. We started hiking in the dark, eventually watching the sunrise across the desert. After several miles and then an arduous scramble to the base of the climb, we finally arrived, only to have another party ahead of us in the Solar Slab gully. Duane and Tim were going to go up the gully, because they hadn’t taken that route yet and it was the quickest way to the base of Solar Slab. They were attempting to finish all 1,500 feet. They essentially tailgated the slow party all the way up the gully while the rest of us climbed Johnny Vegas, a 4 pitch, 450 foot 5.7, which was an amazing climb itself. It went pretty smoothly, even with Ben going way off route on the 2nd pitch and us getting passed by a quick climbing guide and his girlfriend.
Steve and I finally made it to the base of Solar Slab on this huge terrace. Ben and Shane were just ahead of us, but were waiting for the slow party from the gully. We only made it up 3 pitches of Solar Slab before our 2:30 turn around time came. Ben and Shane made it to pitch 4, stuck behind the slow party the whole way. As we were preparing to descend, down came Duane and Tim who had rocketed ahead of that slow party and finished at 1,500 off the deck. I was stoked for them, and proud we had made it 1,000 feet despite all the waiting around we did. A 4 hour descent took us to the base and we hiked out, arriving at our car as the sun was going down.
We slept in on our last day and awoke to 50mph winds, so we headed the Black Corridor to do some single pitch sport climbing. We had a blast, while being blasted with sandy wind gusts throughout the day. And I had a good moment of being shut down on a route, only to later find out it was 4 grades harder than I thought, which gave me a little comfort.
It was an amazing trip with some amazing people. We laughed a lot, climbed hard and made the best despite all the waiting we endured.
All of the waiting on this trip reminded me of a teaching I heard once about Easter, in that sandwiched between Friday (Death) and Sunday (Resurrection), there is always Saturday. A day of waiting in this space of not knowing what the future holds, but knowing you can’t go back to what was. For me that’s what this space feels like that I’m in. My marriage died and with it most of my thoughts and plans of what this life would be. I haven’t reached that next space yet, whatever that looks like, but I will say that I have found amazing peace and have been upheld by amazing friends during this time, much more than I ever thought.
So it was a fitting Easter weekend and was for me amazing to see how far I’ve come emotionally since my first trip to Red Rocks two years ago with Duane and Tim, when I was in the midst of that death (my heart breaking divorce). And because of that Red Rocks is a special place to me and will continually draw me back to the big walls and amazing climbing.