Red Rocks, finally!

Ever since I started climbing I’ve heard that Red Rocks is a world class climbing destination.  I’d been down to Moab once in July (bad idea I know – that’s what I get for being an ignorant Canadian who has NO idea how hot deserts can actually get!) and had a blast hiking on the sandstone.  I knew the landscape was similar around Las Vegas so Red Rocks was elevated to my fridge list of “Things to do & places to visit”.

First off, a short summary of the climbing in Red Rocks: IT WAS AMAZING!!!  It’s always so much fun to experience something for the first time and you can never recapture that same feeling so there’s a few thoughts:

Getting closer ...

Las Vegas.

We opted to rent a one a bedroom condo in west Last Vegas and loved it!  It was part of a condo/hotel so we booked through the management agency online.  Since we were staying on weeknights, it was dirt cheap for what amounted to having our own mini-house ($79/night).  It was nice to be able to eat breakfast at “home”, prepare bagged lunches, and enjoy the hot tub at the end of the day!  It would have been fun as well to rent a bigger condo with friends so we could have cooked dinners together.  Conveniently though, there is a Whole Foods on the drive back into town from Red Rocks and there’s also the buffet at the Red Rocks Casino.  And if you sign up for the free players card, you’ll get a discount on the buffet so it winds up costing$13/person!  I can’t say much about the camping but one of my friends who I met up with said that she was happy to skip the campground this year and stay in the condos.  I’ve heard the campsites can get quite windy.

Getting to Red Rocks from our condo was a straightforward 30 min drive.  That might seem far but given that I usually drive 1-2hrs to go climb, it felt pretty quick.

Flowers at our condo

Closer ...


The approaches to each wall turned out to be an adventure in and of themselves!  The first few meters out of the parking lot would be on the tourist trail but then you’d be into the sandstone mazes.  I felt permanently lost and it’s a good thing I wasn’t in charge!  There was a lot of scrambling up and down the sandstone, sometimes on ledges.  Even with a sturdy knee brace on, my husband had a hard time with the approaches and decided to rest at the condo on the second day.  I think for next time, I’d be happy to go with friends again so I can snap pictures and enjoy the scenery instead of trying to route find.

Almost there ...


I’ve heard a few people say that Red Rocks is the closest that the outdoors gets to gym climbing and I’d say it’s true. At least for the routes I climbed, the bolts were well spaced, the grades seemed similar to gym grades, and the holds were easy to find.  Any grade you can lead in the gym, you can probably lead at Red Rocks.  Best part was that the rock was so rough I didn’t need much chalk.  I’m not sure if it’s different for higher grades but it was at least true for the lower ones.  Here’s the walls I went to and some highlights from each:

Hunter S. Thompson Dome:  (Second Pullout) The base of this wall sits on a narrow ledge/rock fin which was a bit unnerving to get up to and to stand on.  Roped up, I’m ok with heights but just standing around drop-offs makes me uncomfortable.  I wasn’t planning on leading my first climb in RR but after a bit of friends pestering I was so glad that I did!  It was well worth the 5 stars that were handwritten in my friend’s guidebook.

First climb of the trip! That's me in pink. And I swear that despite the photo, there is a ledge we're standing on. Really, I promise.

Unknown crag to the far right of Hunter Thompson that isn’t in my guidebook:  I top-roped a really fun 11a and was surprised that I was able to make it to the third clip easily. Crimpy, balancy face climbing is definitely my bread and butter :)  The 10a beside it was similar but the overhung sections on both one were my undoing.

Unknown crag. I'm climbing the 11a on the right.

Sweet Pain Wall:  On the way out we passed this wall and wound up chatting with some Canadians who turned out to be the youth climbing team from Canmore.  They offered to let us use their ropes so I top-roped Sweet Pain (11d).  I fell off quite a lot on the first third of the climb but was SO proud that I finished the rest of the route without falling once!!!

No pictures from Sweet Pain Wall but here's a nice lunch view.

Panty Wall: (First Pullout) On our second day we started here and it is an awesome place for easy leads.  I lead all of the routes I climbed except for three which were either trad or top-rope.  My favourite lead was my last one.  There was a runout from the last bolt to the anchor and it was a real challenge to trust in myself and focus on the climbing instead of on “not falling”.  It was a good mental breakthrough.  I’ll have to write about it in a separate post because it was that satisfying to finish it!

Panty Wall is on the right. This is from the east end of the wall looking west.

Dog Wall:  It was apropos that there were several cute crag dogs at Dog Wall.  I top-roped Cat Walk (10a) and It’s a Bitch (10b) which both involve crimpy face climbing.  I was really happy to climb them both clean and I think it would be fun to try leading them next time.

I noticed that I was one of the few who wore my helmet all the time. I guess it's habit since several crags I go to at home have loose rock.

Front Corridor:  (Third Pullout) Before leaving, I had asked my friend’s boyfriend if he minded taking us to his project: Monster Skank (13b).  I usually climb with girls who are around my ability so I was super curious what a “hard” climb outdoors looked and felt like.  No one else was at the wall so I decided to try the first few moves out of curiosity.  I made to around the second clip (yay!) which was where the 5.9 climbing ended and the 5.13 started :)  It was really neat to see how hard climbing can get. I have a much better appreciation now for how hard 5.15 must be!

Monster Skank

Local flora.

This is around where the 5.9 climbing ended, as did my success. This was also the only climb of the trip where I forgot to wear my helmet. Coincidence??

I wish I had more pictures of myself but I was usually the one behind the camera since I had just gotten my new Canon in time to take on this trip.  The only time I passed the camera off was when I was climbing.  I can’t wait to take another trip down, this time when my husband has a functional knee and can climb as well!  After Red Rocks, the second part of our trip involved going mountain biking in Moab since biking is knee-friendly and we missed getting a chance to do that on our last visit.  Maybe I’ll get around to writing a post on that later …

Leave a comment


  1. Looks like a great trip, and you write up only increases my desire to climb there! :)

    • You should definitely make it out there sometime! There is so much variety in route choices and the rock is so much fun to climb on :)

  2. Awesome. Red Rocks is definitely one of my favorite climbing destination in the U.S.! Looks like you had pretty awesome weather, too!

    • Weather was great! It was a bit windy but all the sport climbing is tucked away so I didn’t notice :)

  3. Woohoo! Makes me want to go even more than I already did!

  4. Awesome Sarah! Like Josh, RR is one of my fav places to rock climb too. Be glad you weren’t camping…. :)

    • Well, now I am extra glad! I’ve yet to hear anything great about the camping other than that it’s cheaper than a hotel :)


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