Red Rocks: Mountaineering, lead climbing, and government-ordered eviction!

By Steve Zekany - Posted on 07 April 2011

Another day, another set of stories! This update is a double feature, actually, because the scouts decided to turn their off day (usually spent sleeping in, seeing a movie, etc) into a mountaineering expedition.

Our dubious adventure began with an interesting trip to a Walmart to buy groceries. It takes three turns to get there, and the scout navigators managed to miss each one. Once we got into the store, the situation did not improve. A retrieval party had to be sent for Jackson and Nick when they were distracted by the extensive selection of frisbees and bouncy balls. But I digress...

We spent a couple hours back at the campsite practicing belay escape protocols, basically ways to rescue your climber if they are injured. That took until 1:30pm. If you're thinking that mid-afternoon sounds like a late time of day to be leaving to summit a mountain, you would be correct. 

The mountain in question is called Turtlehead Peak, and is a relatively measly (by international standards anyway) 6300 foot hill. It sounds short until you realize that you start from 4200 feet, and thus gain over 2000 feet of elevation as you walk the 2.5 miles to the top.

We had quite the adventure climbing up. Many paths all lead up the mountain, and route finding on desert trails is something of a challenge given the lack of signs. We mostly scrambled up doing our best to avoid the cactus and other spiky desert plants, and managed to get to the peak 5 minutes before our turnaround time! No minute like the last minute.

Wednesday we went to a place in the Calico Hills area of the canyon called Ultra Man Wall. Ultra man is a long climb, with a difficult hike up to a ledge to set up anchors. Lots of practice with various anchor and belay techniques. We set up a hanging belay for the first time, where the belayer hangs over the edge of the cliff to hold ropes for the climber. Lots of amusing communication issues as the scouts struggle with the issue of not being able to easily talk to each other from top to bottom. At one point this resulted in dropping a rappelling rope all the way down the entire 150 foot cliff. Oops! Good thing there was a way to walk down!

The long climbs made for a long but productive day. Max and Ryan ended up trying to do the climb as many times as they could to find new and interesting routes, including a bouldering problem at the bottom. In the afternoon Mark initiated a move to a few new, shorter climbs by volunteering to go set up anchors. Ryan proved his self worth by climbing one of them one handed.

Thursday we went climbing on a wall called Magic Bus. Climbing this one required setting anchors in 50mph winds at the top, and then doing the actual climbing and belaying in similar conditions at the bottom. The wind was so bad that much time was spent preventing ropes from blowing around and trapped on the rock. An amusing moment when Mark threw a rope from the top that went about 10 feet down before being blown directly sideways 30 feet into Ryan while he was trying to climb. 

In the afternoon some of the guys got to practice lead climbing for the first time, which is clipping in a rope as you climb up instead of anchoring it at the top. A big advantage when you don't have to climb to the top of the cliff first. They all did a great job, and we'll hopefully get the group doing some more lead climbing this weekend.

The first sign that our perfect climbing utopia was cracking was when driving back to camp. We saw some rain in the distance, but didn't think much of it. However, when we got back to camp we surveyed the full damage that the previously mentioned wind storm had on our tents. We had one tent collapsed from a broken pole (mine, lucky me!) and most of the gear soaked from the rain. Two other adult tents collapsed as well, cueing some jokes that perhaps the adults weren't as prepared as the scouts...

Just as we got that situation under control thanks to our monster pavilion, the camp host rolled up in a truck and informed us that due to the federal government shutdown, we're all being evicted from the campsite tomorrow morning, and the road leading to all the climbs will be closed as well.

So, will our Venture scouts get to do more climbing this weekend or be forced to wander the casinos aimlessly? Will we find another campsite or retreat to the hotel extravaganza of Las Vegas? And what is this about an indoor roller coaster? For answers to these questions and others, tune in next time! Good night! Steve Another day, another set of stories! This update is a double feature, actually, because the scouts decided to turn their off day (usually spent sleeping in, seeing a movie, etc) into a mountaineering expedition.

Our dubious adventure began with an interesting trip to a Walmart to buy groceries. It takes three turns to get there, and the scout navigators managed to miss each one. Once we got into the store, the situation did not improve. A retrieval party had to be sent for Jackson and Nick when they were distracted by the extensive selection of frisbees and bouncy balls. But I digress...

We spent a couple hours back at the campsite practicing belay escape protocols, basically ways to rescue your climber if they are injured. That took until 1:30pm. If you're thinking that mid-afternoon sounds like a late time of day to be leaving to summit a mountain, you would be correct. 

The mountain in question is called Turtlehead Peak, and is a relatively measly (by international standards anyway) 6300 foot hill. It sounds short until you realize that you start from 4200 feet, and thus gain over 2000 feet of elevation as you walk the 2.5 miles to the top.

We had quite the adventure climbing up. Many paths all lead up the mountain, and route finding on desert trails is something of a challenge given the lack of signs. We mostly scrambled up doing our best to avoid the cactus and other spiky desert plants, and managed to get to the peak 5 minutes before our turnaround time! No minute like the last minute.

Wednesday we went to a place in the Calico Hills area of the canyon called Ultra Man Wall. Ultra man is a long climb, with a difficult hike up to a ledge to set up anchors. Lots of practice with various anchor and belay techniques. We set up a hanging belay for the first time, where the belayer hangs over the edge of the cliff to hold ropes for the climber. Lots of amusing communication issues as the scouts struggle with the issue of not being able to easily talk to each other from top to bottom. At one point this resulted in dropping a rappelling rope all the way down the entire 150 foot cliff. Oops! Good thing there was a way to walk down!

The long climbs made for a long but productive day. Max and Ryan ended up trying to do the climb as many times as they could to find new and interesting routes, including a bouldering problem at the bottom. In the afternoon Mark initiated a move to a few new, shorter climbs by volunteering to go set up anchors. Ryan proved his self worth by climbing one of them one handed.

Thursday we went climbing on a wall called Magic Bus. Climbing this one required setting anchors in 50mph winds at the top, and then doing the actual climbing and belaying in similar conditions at the bottom. The wind was so bad that much time was spent preventing ropes from blowing around and trapped on the rock. An amusing moment when Mark threw a rope from the top that went about 10 feet down before being blown directly sideways 30 feet into Ryan while he was trying to climb. 

In the afternoon some of the guys got to practice lead climbing for the first time, which is clipping in a rope as you climb up instead of anchoring it at the top. A big advantage when you don't have to climb to the top of the cliff first. They all did a great job, and we'll hopefully get the group doing some more lead climbing this weekend.

The first sign that our perfect climbing utopia was cracking was when driving back to camp. We saw some rain in the distance, but didn't think much of it. However, when we got back to camp we surveyed the full damage that the previously mentioned wind storm had on our tents. We had one tent collapsed from a broken pole (mine, lucky me!) and most of the gear soaked from the rain. Two other adult tents collapsed as well, cueing some jokes that perhaps the adults weren't as prepared as the scouts...

Just as we got that situation under control thanks to our monster pavilion, the camp host rolled up in a truck and informed us that due to the federal government shutdown, we're all being evicted from the campsite tomorrow morning, and the road leading to all the climbs will be closed as well.

So, will our Venture scouts get to do more climbing this weekend or be forced to wander the casinos aimlessly? Will we find another campsite or retreat to the hotel extravaganza of Las Vegas? And what is this about an indoor roller coaster? For answers to these questions and others, tune in next time! Good night! Steven