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Red Rocks, Nevada, November 9th - 11th, 2003
2:54:20 PM
Hi all,

Just got back from USA yesterday. This TR is kinda long, but I thought I'd share it with you all anyway, cos I've had so much beta and advice from people in the weeks before I went to USA. So here goes...

Eight days out from my trip to the USA, I fell in the bouldering cave at Vic Ranges and rolled my ankle. After a visit to the Royal Melbourne for an x-ray, I was discharged with no broken bones, but a badly swollen ankle. After three days on crutches, obeying doctor's orders to the letter, I was able to limp to the physio clinic. The prognosis was not what I was hoping for --- I sensed that the physio was trying not to laugh when I said I was hoping to be rock climbing in two weeks' time. Not to be discouraged, I asked how it was that football players recover so quickly to play again after an injury. The physio replied that "they don't recover, they just play injured". So off I limped to the airport, with a backpack full of trad gear, plenty of ibuprofen, and a roll of tape to hold my ankle together while climbing, if I was able to climb at all.

After a week at a conference in New Orleans, alternately resting my ankle during seminars and walking around the French Quarter, the limp had all but disappeared, and the swelling had reduced considerably. I landed in Las Vegas at midday on Friday the 7th, quite exhausted after 2 hours' sleep. After meeting up with some friends, I realised that a big night out was not just obligatory, but actually inevitable. We went out on the Strip at 4pm. After 12 hours of bright lights, slot machines, and c--ktails I piked on the others (who returned at 9:30am) and collapsed exhausted into bed. I woke up feeling a little hungover, and recalled that after several vodka-red-bulls, I had been dancing at Club Seven the night before. Yes, actually dancing! Clearly my ankle had sufficiently recovered and it was time to go climbing.

I packed my backpack, and with no idea how I was going to get to Red Rock Canyon, caught a bus north along the Strip, then west along Charleston, towards Desert Rock Sports, the local climbing gym and gear shop. I arrived there after dark, bought a guide book, then starting loitering around the gym looking for climbers. With some help from the friendly gym manager I met two German climbers, Felix and Thomas, who had dropped in to use the showers at the gym. As I didn't have a stove, and hadn't thought about what to eat yet, I ducked into a convenience store and bought a pile of junk food and beer, then hopped into F & T's car and headed out to Red Rocks.

The BLM campground at Red Rocks is in the Mojave desert, only 15 miles out of Vegas. The Mojave is dry and barren, with a few spiky plants, and surreal sandstone escarpments in ochre colours --- yellow, pink, red, brown, and black. The huge spotlight from the Luxor casino is clearly visible from behind the hill over the campground, sweeping across the sky. The campground was full, so I shared a site with Felix, Thomas, and a Scottish climber called Andy, who offered to show me some of the local sport climbing the next day.

So on Sunday the 9th, Andy and I drove the the "first pullout" on the loop road, then hiked through a few narrow, sandy canyons, and up a slab to the "Panty Wall", where I had my first ever taste of sport climbing. I led a 5.7 without tearing any ligaments, and also managed to get up some 5.8s and 5.9s, and I was quite pleasantly surprised that I could climb without pain --- the "reverse six" taping that the physio had shown me was working well. Later in the afternoon we went up to Dog Wall, where I thrashed about and dogged my way up some steeper stuff. Andy summed it up best when he said "no offence, but yer footwork is shite". Having not trained at all for over two weeks, I wasn't feeling very strong on the steeper stuff either.

Next day we went to the second pullout and up to the Tsunami Wall. As the name suggests, it was steep. I dogged a couple of 5.10s, and belayed Andy up a seriously steep 5.12 --- this guy could climb! I managed to find a 5.6 trad corner climb in the middle of the wall, and tried hard to ignore the strange looks the sport climbers gave me as I jammed up the crack, wearing a helmet and placing trad gear. I suppose I must have looked... quaint. They seemed to be confused as to how I would belay Andy from the top without a Gri-Gri on my rack! "VC? What's a VC?"

Next we went to a cool little crag called The Black Corridor. Quite literally, it was a black corridor --- a 2m wide canyon with a sandy floor and steep, high sandstone walls. The sun never gets in there. I fired up a 5.9, which could be the hardest number I've ever led, but it didn't feel that difficult. Then Andy climbed a gnarly 5.10d, with big orange scoops like Grampians rock. I went up to clean the route, came off at the crux, then tweaked something in my gimpy shoulder (a 7 year history of dislocation) as I topped out on the second attempt.

That night I met up with a bloke I'd contacted previously on, Peter. We decided to go for a big multipitch route the next day. So I was up next morning (the 11th) at 5am. With my shoulder feeling a bit "loose", I tried to tape it the way footy players on television do. The result was a huge mess of brown tape criss-crossing my shoulder, which was somewhat effective during the day that followed. By 6am we had parked Peter's van at the trailhead and were walking towards Oak Creek Canyon towards the base of Rainbow Mountain, to climb an 11 pitch, 4 star classic, The Black Orpheus, 5.10a. The route is 1000 feet high, more like mountaineering than rock climbing, but we had an early start and perfect weather ahead of us. The walk-in up Oak Creek Canyon was quite long, perhaps two hours. We racked up in the canyon, then scrambled up some 3rd or 4th class slabs to the left-facing corner where the climb starts.

Peter led the first pitch, perhaps 5.6, then I swung onto a 5.8 pitch above, and after a somwhat hesitant start, fist-jammed, stemmed, and thrutched my way up to a nice ledge. We must have linked three pitches into two, as the way up from there followed some easier 5th-class slabs. We covered the slabs quickly, placing minimal gear, a total of three rope-stretching pitches, traversing up and left below a huge brown headwall. The 6th pitch started from an alcove on the left end of the headwall. As it was 5.9, I gave the lead to Peter. An amazing pitch --- a delicate step left, into a right-facing corner with an awkward start. Jamming, stemming, then chimneying, with a tricky, somewhat gymnastic exit onto a small ledge. The exposed, aerobic movements left my mouth quite dry by the time I reached the belay. The next pitch was 5.10a, so I let Peter have the sharp end again. The fingery crux was protected with two fixed hangers, then the pitch followed parallel hand/fist cracks up a slab.

The 8th pitch, graded 5.7, was mine. I'm not a big fan of laybacking, but I had to get used to it pretty quick, as the pitch consisted of a long layback section up a right-facing dihedral. I sewed it up with small cams, then left the security of the corner for a rising traverse to the right on a pink slab, with thin, sandy edges that felt like they were about to crumble. After a 15m diagonal runout, whispering mantras under my breath, I reached a double bolt belay. Peter swung past and continued up the slab past 4 more fixed hangers, then up a short corner to the summit, arriving a bit after 3pm. After a high-five, and a couple of snaps it was time to get down.

The descent was huge --- three single rope rappells, a long descent down the polished slabs of Painted Bowl to the canyon floor, then at least a mile down the canyon to our packs. We walked back to the van in the dark, then celebrated back at the campground with cold beers, sausages and beans. I slept like the dead that night, completely exhausted, but very happ

3:14:17 PM
Nice report! Isn't it great to be able to do moderate grade routes that are 11 pitchs long! Australia really lacks routes that feel like big adventures...

3:54:01 PM
hey great trip report and glad to hear the ankle didn't stop you from having an awesome time!

3:54:13 PM
Awesome report. Very jealous.
4:02:18 PM
Do you have photos vaughan?
4:42:58 PM
Photos are on the way. I'm getting them put on a CD-R when they are developed, so I should be able to get them on the net pronto --- will post a followup in this thread with a link as soon as they're ready.

RR is an awesome area, world class climbing, I'd recommend a couple of weeks there if you're ever in the USA. There's plenty more multipitch trad routes there, some really easy (like 5.6) and others harder. There's a 5.9 at RR that is 15 pitches long --- over 600 metres tall! Do a web search for "epinephrine black velvet wall"...

The area around Las Vegas also has some super-hard limestone routes, including several 5.14s.

Phil Box
5:38:48 PM
Nice TR.

For anyone else who gets a badly sprained ankle. Get it iced up as quickly as possible and start walking on it as soon as possible. Of course if it is broken then the advice to start walking on it is very bad. If it is broken then icing it up is still a good thing to prevent swelling of the soft tissue damage. Are there any doctors in the house, I`m sure they`ll correct me if I`m wrong.
5:36:43 PM
OK, photos are now online... check out:

I wish I had some more pics of the climbing there, especially the amazing dihedrals up on The Black Orpheus, but it's hard to climb in a party of two and take action photos at the same time...

Enjoy! :-)

PS. Regarding the sprained ankle, my formula for a quick recovery was: ice immediately, then stay off it for the first 3 days (ie. walk on crutches), get plenty of R.I.C.E., and use ibuprofen tablets, and Voltaren gel. Codeine/paracetamol are good too for pain and swelling. Walk on it a little each day thereafter, to strengthen it up, and do the exercises recommended by the physio. YMMV depending on how serious the sprain is. The reverse-six taping was *really* useful for stability while climbing and walking.

6:15:55 PM
Nice TR and pictures!

8:19:41 AM
9:57:32 AM
Vaughan, personally I would have like to see more photos of you posing. If computer science falls through for you, you could have a career as an outdoors catalogue model! :-)

1:53:06 PM
Can you please describe or link a picture of how the reverse-six taping is done?
(didn't have much luck with google myself)

3:29:04 PM
heres a few links that look pretty nifty maybe not reverse 6?.. ahh i really should be working. u comin bouldering tonight?

3:50:36 PM
Ooops confused myself, I was meaning whatever shoulder taping V was doing not the ankle one. Some of those links were interesting/useful though.

Dunno about bouldering right now, probably though (it might be raining...)
4:06:33 PM
The shoulder taping was a bit of a mess actually. I'm not sure whether it would have been all that useful in preventing an anterior dislocation or torn ligaments, perhaps I was just lucky... I just started adding strips of tape from the front of my shoulder around the side and onto the shoulder blade, then a few more strips over the top of the shoulder to anchor it in place. You'd be better off getting a physio to show you how to do it properly, or better still, do some exercises to tighten the ligaments.

G: I think you're more likely to see me posing in a software catalogue, but thanks anyway, I'll be sure and contact Vantage if I decide to have a "sea change" ;-)
4:24:25 PM
Alex: FYI --- I did a web search and just found a link that has some preventative shoulder taping, to support the "Acromio Clavicula" joint, whatever that means...

4:45:43 PM
I think that joint is the end of the shoulder-bone and not the shoulder joint itself. As far as I can determine there might not actually be a decent way to tape a shoulder that offers support and still able to do anything.
On method I have used before is this simple taping:

(from here) Which seems more psychological than anything else, but does help me avoid moving to positions that would put undue stress on the shoulder.

There are 17 messages in this topic.


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