SPECIAL THANKS TO
DAVIS GERBER (@DAVISHARMON) / DavisGerberPhoto)
AND EMILIO RIVERA (@emiliooooo)
FOR THE CONTRIBUTION OF PHOTOGRAPHY
March 4th, 2016 with just a month away from Red Rock Rendezvous we set out to Las Vegas for a little pre-game. Per the usual, the plan was ambitious but the spirit and stoke was high. Emilio, Phillip, Davis and I met up at a walk-in campground at Red Rock Canyon Friday night. The objective was to combine two long routes in a day, the first one is called"MysterZ", it's 800' and 7 pitches (5.7YDS) , the second one is "Armatron" 500', 4 pitches (5.9YDS). This would comprise 1,300' of climbing, and not to mention probably 6+ miles of hiking to get there and back, a long day to say the least.
We crashed early on friday around 10pm, Saturday would require an alpine start, alarms set for 3:30am. There hardly even 12 hours of daylight this time of year and time is always of the essence on these missions.
Here's a 4am conversation over a breakfast of energy drinks, cold pizza and bagels.
We packed up our gear and our ropes and headed over to the parking lot of Red Rock Canyon's exit gate, this adds a small amount of mileage to the hike but in-turn gets you inside the park before the main entrance opens, upping your odds to be first on the wall.
Although the approach to Juniper Canyon is long (about 90 minutes), it's not a terribly treacherous hike. The ground is mostly flat with the exception of crossing a few dry washes, and the route finding is relatively easy because you have a clear perspective on the rocks.
Getting up that early is rough but being in the park during sunrise is amazing. We heard the sounds of some wild burros and basked in the alpine glow of first light. The whole park was tinted red.
When we got to the base of the route we started staging our climb. Emilio and I would climb as one team and Phillip and Davis as the second team.
The plan was Emilio and I would climb first on MysterZ and then Phillip and Davis would climb second on Armatron. Davis has brought along a hassle of an awesome camera, so he was going to dedicate some effort shooting the lead climbs. It's always a pain to capture really great photos while climbing, the logistics are dangerous at worst, and cumbersome at best. Sometimes having a party of 3 can prove the most efficient for photography sake, but has plenty of inefficiency points for climbing interests.
Above is Emilio leading the first pitch as photographed by Davis whose still on the ground (scrambled to a neighboring high point). The first pitch has a "squeeze chimney" right above where Emilio is standing, this proved to be an unfavorable (for me) theme to several of the pitches, but c'est la vie!
I followed Emilio up the first pitch. Our team plan was two swap every 2 leads. I came out the gate cold and of course tried to pull a roof to avoid the chimney, got pretty gassed out but made the move and kept going.
Above is Phillip looking at the next pitch, they were never too far behind us.
Here's Davis standing at what looks like the bottom of pitch 4 on MysterZ. He's exhibiting some rope management skills that look eerily familiar to my own when climbing multi-pitch! Ha! You can see Crimson Chrysalis perfectly behind him on the tower. Emilio, Phil, Ray and I have some sorted history on that project, needless to say that day didn't make it to Trip Report Tuesday, one day it will though, one day!!
Here I am leading up pitch 4, cracked looked great (from the ground) but most of the pitches on this route go R-rated for poor protection. The climbing isn't anything too difficult but prepare for some freaky run outs and suspects placements.
At this stage, I'm not sure what pitches some of these pictures are from. Here's a photo of Phil leading something, definitely getting to some higher ground at this stage. Maybe 500' off the canyon floor. The weather was getting a little wonkey. The forecast was 81 degrees and 0% chance of rain, we all (except Emilio) left our puffy jackets in the car. It started getting real overcast and windy, but then the sun broke, it was a bit confusing. I will always bring an extra layer moving forward. All I had was a t-shit and a wind jacket.
We were making great time, very efficient and on track to send both the routes. Our goal was to be on top of MysterZ around noon for lunch, then attack Armatron and hike out in the dark without worry. The descent on these routes is straightforward, but getting to the top of it all with some daylight was the intent.
Here's a bomber anchor Emilio built at the top of pitch 5. This perfect equalization would even make John Long blush. Good job buddy!
Below is me leading the final pitch of MysterZ.
And here comes Emilio over the top!
Some easy 5th class, lends to some easy 4th and then 3rd. The summit is rounded and huge, so at some point we just untied, coiled the rope and soloed up. Here I am having a bit of my own "Alex Honnold moment."
We all convened at the top for a much needed break. Kicked the shoes back, took the harnesses off, ate some lunch and studied the maps of for the next route.
Armatron starts just around the corner from the summit of MysterZ, linking these two routes together is quite common. You can hike directly to the base of Armatron but it would be a pretty long and painful march to get there. Using MysterZ as your approach creates a much more enjoyable day. We took our lunch perhaps a little too long (2 hours?!) and then staged our gear over to Armatron.
Here's Phil leading the first pitch of 4 on Armatron. Him and Davis would go first and we would follow behind them. Phil got to the top and belayed Davis up. Then David belayed Phil to the top of pitch 2. With Davis still waiting to climb P2 at the belay station, I belayed Emilio up to the anchors and David shot some amazing photos. This worked out quite well, sounds complicated because it sort of is!
Here's an epic photo of Emilio leading pitch one of Armatron. You can see me in the yellow jacket over 100' below. Also check out the amazing sandstone rock that looks just like a brownstone wall.
Perhaps my favorite photo of the day, here's Emilio clipping the anchor at the top of pitch one.
And here's where things go wrong. Just as Emilio and Davis share a selfie at the top of pitch 1, it starts to lightly drizzle. Davis starts climbing up pitch to meet Phil and I start climbing pitch 1 to meet Emilio and the drizzle gets worse and we freeze. I lower back to the ground and Davis lowers back to the anchor of P1. We decide it's time to retreat, and begin problem solving. Phillip cannot get down from where he is. So Emilio anchors in and Davis takes our rope and climbs up to Phil. They tie the two ropes together and Phil rappel's all the way to the ground, Davis follows. Emilio then raps from the top of P1 to the ground. I'm hiding under a tree just sort of happy I didn't get stuck waiting the rain or projecting some new unfinished business. My summit fever is regressed by my justification that I never really started Armatron, but we successfully sent MysterZ without a hitch, Ahhhh the human mind is a weird thing.
Below is a photo of David rapping from the half way point on Armatron.
Everyone gets to the ground safe, we pack up our ropes and gear and split. It's probably around 3pm. The rain really didn't last long, but it was hard, the rocks we're slick and leaving was the safest and smartest decision.
We headed down a gully which is the determined walk off for MysterZ, it was tiring, long and strenuous on wet rock.It added an extra hour at least to just get around to the base of where we started, then the other 90+ minutes to get back to the car. Probably 3 hours of hiking to get out of there.
The clouds broke for a real brief moment and we caught an awesome rainbow over the desert.
Taking a look back at Juniper Canyon and one could see the precipitation layer just taking over.
We hiked through sunset and into the darkness. Likely getting back to the car around 7pm. What a day! We headed straight to Islands to get some burgers and fries, had some laughs and discussed our individual climbing goals for 2016, the year is still young!
We went back to the campsite and passed out at about 10pm, that night a raging storm of wind and rain came in, although we didn't complete both routes, we had a blast and were blessed with the great climbing and company, good laughs and everyone returns in one piece! What more do you need?
See you in a month for Red Rock Rendezvous!