“Stop!” I barked out, startling Bill… who at that point had no idea what was on my mind. “Park over there, by that car on the other side of the road.” With an eye roll (I’m sure of it), Bill passed by the cliff, did a u-turn, and then pulled over in the spot I’d indicated. Read More
Having to turn back on Day One of riding in Moab, separating from the group, was disheartening. Nine kilometres into our ride, I was hacking away with my upper chest in a lot of pain whenever I breathed hard on uphills. Only a third of the way through the route, I was seriously holding things up. So Bill took one for the team and slowly rode out with me, back to the trail head and our car while the two other couples we were with rode on.
I’d fallen sick with a brutal cold that was fast developing into bronchitis. Day Two I sat out. Day Three, I wanted to ride something… anything. Surely it was just a bad cold, and that’s it. So Bill took me out to Dead Horse State Park, a place with some relatively flat trails that wouldn’t get me breathing too hard. Little did I know it’d be the last ride for me of the trip. Read More
At one time, riding horses in the Moab area, shod with metal shoes, was a treacherous thing. The horses would slip like crazy over the surface of the sandstone. And so the rock earned its name, “slickrock.”
Today’s modern steeds are sleek, two wheeled, wide tired, well treaded, swift, rugged awesome beasts with wicked suspension. Yup, I’m talking about mountain bikes.
Believe it or not, bikes take to the slickrock like geckos to an adobe wall, clinging to its impossible angles like no one’s business. The rock is abraded, like sandpaper, and so its grip is incredible.
Riding on the slickrock is such a fun experience.
The riding can be fast, with punchy ups and very steep downs, when you’re riding on the petrified sand dune shapes of the upper cliffs.
The riding can be dusty as you wind through cacti and snake through sand patches, created where erosion smooths the sandstone and gets trapped in ditches and gullies. Watch out for those sand traps! They get riders that are clipped into their pedals in spectacular, slow motioned, soft-cushioned falls.
The slickrock riding can be breath-taking as you struggle up long inclines… and breathtaking in an entirely different way as you take in views of mesas rising up out of a desert plateau or the Colorado River, like a snake, winding through a canyon far below you.
For every up, there is a super fun down. And so the trails can have tremendous drops and bumps that have you rolling over big rocks and ledges, and rattling down rocky inclines, thankful for the cushioned travel in the suspension of your trusty steed.
We’ve been to Moab twice now, to ride its fun and technically challenging trails. And we will be back again. Each time we return as better, more skilled riders, and so the fun that we have is different, and better.Sadly, I developed bronchitis during our Moab week and had to cut my riding short, so I need to return again. I will. Me and my swift fox (my trusty steed) will be back…
With my fingertips missing their defining ridges, my legs covered in a bevy of happy bruises, and my heart happy from a week spent outdoors, playing on rock, we headed toward Moab Utah for the next stop on our holiday.
It was a long drive and my mind wandered through what I’d seen and experienced in the Nevada desert, and what I was seeing before me, now that we were passing once again through a similar landscape in Utah. The crazy sandstone shapes: fingers, pinnacles, chimneys, columns, rounded mounds and arches. The strange colouring in the golds, pinks and reds. The striping and spotted, measle-like dimpling of red through rock. The cacti that lived and thrived through extremes of hot and cold, dry and flooded. The power of rainstorms that could create washes, the size we’d seen and hiked through. The power of the tectonic forces that can thrust sandy sea bottoms skyward, transforming what was once flat, soft and shifting into hard, near-permanent mountains. The power of water and wind, those erosive forces that wear rock into sand, only to be foiled by geologic forces that turn it back into rock, only to be eroded once more into sand…. Read More
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program once again…
Located high above Red Rocks’ popular Calico Tanks trail, the hike into this crag was my favourite part of the day. Part scrambling and route-finding, it takes you up a dry stream bed, along sandstone ledges, over water-sculpted mounds, past little “tank” oases (shallow rain catchment pools in the sandstone), over white and gold and red and pink sandstone streaking, and then it has a steep push up a rampart to get to the climbing crag. Once up there, there were two caves to explore and a wide, open area from which to watch the climbing… no neck craning necessary to get route beta! Read More
There’s more to Red Rocks than climbing. Come along as we go off on a little diversion from the main purpose of our trip to Vegas.
Blue Diamond is a little town, about 12 km down the Red Rocks Scenic Highway from the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This small town has made a name for itself with its awesome singletrack trails system of 33 trails.
You are not allowed to ride the trails within Red Rock Canyon itself, so the Blue Diamond/Cottonwood Valley option is an excellent way to get around this: you still have the incredible Wilson Cliffs of Wilson Mountain, one of the iconic mountains within the park, as a backdrop for your rides. Essentially, you’re biking in the desert area on the south side of Red Rocks, so it sure feels as if you are still in the park. Read More
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program… (we were in Vegas to climb, after all!)
This was quite possibly my favourite climbing crag. Perched very high up the cliff face on varnished walls, it’s quite the fun scramble to get up there, over the most bizarrely striped pink and red rocks… but oh-so worth the effort! In fact, the hike back down takes just as long as the hike up… that’s how demanding the scramble is! Read More
While there are plenty of hikes to do in Red Rock Canyon, we were after a long one that would give us a birds’ eye view of the climbing crags we’d been playing in… and Turtlehead Peak fit the bill. Its peak rises, looking a lot like a turtle’s nose poking up and out of its shell, from the desert floor.
Already on our “hit” list of possible hikes for our time there, it was recommended to us by a Vegas couple that we met while hiking in Zion. They belonged to a weekend hiking group in Las Vegas and this was one of their favourites. Read More
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. Read More
The Panty Wall is a very popular crag for climbers due to its proximity to the park entrance. Yup, “Panty Wall.” Climbing crags and routes have strange names!
Red Rocks has a lot of terrific crags and this is one of them. One disadvantage to climbing within the park boundaries is that the road through the park is a one-way, 21km long loop, and parking at the crags can be a bit of a problem. For this crag, you park at the first pull-out. As a result, it is quite popular. Read More
Red Rocks is an amazing area in which to climb. With thousands of established and well maintained climbing routes, there are plenty of places to go, plenty of routes to absorb the climbers that flock to this area in droves, and plenty of places to play. There you can hone your skills, relax in some lofty perches with inspiring views and foster that love of getting on rock.
With a little research ahead of time, it is not difficult to find climbing crags in the Red Rocks area that can meet the variety of ability levels in your group AND keep you in the shade or in the sun. On hot days, shade helps to keep the rock “sticky.” On cold days you are wearing puffies, and the sun helps to keep fingers with feeling in them. The desert is strange that way… it can be very cold in the mornings and evenings and very hot at mid day and in the afternoon. It’s a place of extremes. Read More