The Fun Puzzles of Conundrum Crag

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.

Following the trail to the crag. If you’ve come to this point, you’ve gone too far!
Back tracking, we headed up through the boulders to the base of the crag.

Conundrum Crag is perched at the entrance to a canyon with terrific views of Las Vegas in the distance.

This rocky outcrop is the stoic sentinel that guards the entrance to the canyon, out of sight, around the corner.

It’s easy to make out the tall, glitzy hotels of the strip from there, in a vertical line that bisects the city.

You can see Las Vegas in the distance behind Nathalie’s head.
The routes here are nice and lofty above the canyon floor.

[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.]

Here, Monika heads toward a cruxy move where she needs to get over a bulge in the cliff face.
She pauses with good feet and hand placement to figure out her next move.

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!

One wall there has a neat line of pockets to use when climbing its routes.
There are routes at this crag with lots of solid feet placements for climbers like me!
DSC_1333 2.jpg
And it has lots of routes without, for those who are far better! Here Monika powers up the rock! Look how little the foot hold is that her toe is grabbing.
Donna has a look of focused determination, with an eye on the prize… the end of the route is in sight, where the rope passes through those carabiners clipped to the bolt above her head.
There are certainly routes at this crag to challenge everyone. Here Chris puts up “Drilling Miss Daisy,” a route for others to project. Looking calm and relaxed, he makes it look easy, doesn’t he!?
It’s always inspiring to watch others do the seemingly impossible on a route!

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.

I’ll leave you with this parting shot… the light of the afternoon sun shines down on some of the climbers of  group. What a fascinating rock formation… and what an awesome crag!

If You Go…

Greg and Chris

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!

7 Comments on “The Fun Puzzles of Conundrum Crag

  1. Pingback: The Panty Wall of Red Rocks – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

  2. I love the name of the crag, especially as it captures the puzzling nature of the climb. I’m impressed! I don’t think I’d ever be inclined to do a climb, but I’m certainly in awe of people who do!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: The Lofty Aerie of Coco Crag – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

  4. Pingback: The Mass Production Wall of Calico Tanks – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

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