Climbing is a puzzle. A wonderful test of mind and body, it stretches your limits in highly satisfying ways. Unlike many other physical outdoor activities, there is a lot of mental work going on, whether it be conquering a fear of height or falling, or figuring out the puzzle of the climb.
I’ve always loved a good puzzle. And it is the independent nature of figuring out where to go next, what to do, what to grab, where to place those feet edges, and reading the formation of the rock, that holds the most allure for me, when I climb. I feel more satisfaction from figuring out a move than I do of getting to the top of the route. In fact, I often feel a little wave of disappointment, when I realize I’m at the anchor.
The name of this crag held great promise. Conundrum: a problem, a difficult question, a quandary, a dilemma, a puzzle, a mystery, a stumper, a cruncher. All great things, with wonderful promise, in my book.
Worth the search & effort, Conundrum Crag is a bit tricky to locate, so you may find it to be less populated than other crags in the area. It lies outside the park gates, in the Calico Basin area, before you get to the Red Rocks park entrance, coming from Vegas. Once you have hiked from the parking lot, past the bouldering area and turned toward the canyon, DO NOT GO UP THE WASH (though it’s a great canyon scramble when you’re not lugging gear). Instead, look for a dirt trail on the left hand side that slowly rises above the large boulders.
Conundrum Crag is perched at the entrance to a canyon with terrific views of Las Vegas in the distance.
It’s easy to make out the tall, glitzy hotels of the strip from there, in a vertical line that bisects the city.
[Dave Ply, if you’re out there… carrying on our conversation from the questions you asked on the Panty Wall post….Chris, in the foreground, is “lead climbing” a route in the foreground. He has his eye on the anchor just above him… follow where he is looking and you’ll see the two points of the fixed anchor dangling with their chains. Meanwhile Monika, down below, is “top roping” a route. Having just fallen off, she is working out the cruxes of something she will try to lead climb later on.]
What I love about outdoor climbing is the puzzle nature of it. This is not pulling on plastic in a gym, where the colour of the hold, or the tape below it, pretty much tells you where to go next. Outdoor climbing has lots of possible routes… with lots of possible feet and hand placements. What you have to do is figure out what works best for your body and your strengths (so to speak)… even when there seems to be nowhere to go! When in doubt, “Move your feet up!” seems to be the mantra of the day!
At this crag, I was able to climb “Family Circus” (5.9) and “Family Affair” (5.8). Many of the advanced climbers in our group spent time projecting “Drilling Miss Daisy,” a tough 5.11 that has a steeply overhung section that requires brute strength, tenacity, flexibility and endurance to work through its puzzle.
Not all of these photos in my Red Rocks climbing posts are mine. Some of the credit goes to Chris Schell, an amazing rope runner and inspirational, very experienced trad climber … and to Greg Funk, a most determined climber who can power up walls like nobody’s business with skill and an impressive amount of sheer force of will and determination! It was an honour to climb with, and be inspired by you both! Thanks for letting me share your pics!