Things To Do In Red Rocks When It Rains

The previous post left us high and ‘dry’, in position in Vegas but with Red Rocks sodden and off limits for the foreseeable future. Okay, off limits for two or three days, but that is long enough when you’ve flows transatlantic to go climbing…  Thankfully, we were rescued by a load of limestone, that neither of us were really aware of setting off.

Following a recommendation, we spent two days cragging at ‘The Gun Club’, La Madre. The venue is a small gully with north and south aspects. I guess that normally there is a choice of sunny or shaded climbs all day, but it was breezy and overcast the days we were there. The crag might not be ‘world class’, but it’s perfectly decent if the sandstone is waterlogged. We found plenty of fun routes all over the grade range, and enjoyed it enough the first day to return for a second. 


On day one, pure relief at finding dry rock chased me up ‘Clay Pigeon’ (5.11a) onsight, and then ‘Friendly Fire’ (5.11d) with a few goes to do the crux. Having not climbed for two weeks my hands were milky soft to start with and the tips quickly succumbed to the limestone razor blade crimps and sandpaper slopers! I kept climbing course, but I was pretty spent and didn’t really have much left in the way of gurn or fingertips by the end. It’s the only way I know to start a trip. 

Day two at The Gun Club was a bit of a different story. We set off in the morning and did a bunch of the easy climbs for a warm up, then set about getting up ‘High Calibre’ (5.12a) on the left wall. I have done a few routes at this grade over the years, but it’s a bit of a rare treat, so I started with fairly limited expectations. My strategy with harder routes is typically to top rope them a couple of times, then go for the lead. I usually spend a bit of time on the top rope figuring out the moves, then maybe go for a clean top rope before going for the red point. This time however, I found myself through the crux at the first time of asking, and decided to cling on for the top rope ‘flash’. This turned out to maybe not be such a good idea for a couple of reasons.

First, I was totally physically pumped and took a long time to recover. But, worse for me at least, it kinda set up the mind set that if I could do it first go on a top rope, then of course I could lead it. I’ve touched on this a bit in relation to fluffing boulder problems when I ‘assume’ that I should get them, and it’s no different with routes. I got on lead and climbed like a brick, offering little resistance to gravity’s charms. Sending nerves or performance anxiety? I’m not sure which, but I know that my ‘head games’ are definitely something that I need to work on.


I could probably sulk and write off ‘The Gun Club’ as a chossy pit. However, in truth it was two excellent days cragging, which looked like they had the potential to be days spent festering at the camp site. Maybe not world class, but ‘The Gun Club’ would be a up there in terms of Scottish sport. Regarding failing to lead ‘High Calibre’, I suppose it’s better not to define success or failure in terms of whether or not you made the top of the climb, but rather whether you progressed as a climber. I think it’s probably useful to have my weak head games hammered home early in the trip so that I can see about resolving them ASAP. Quickly getting ‘Friendly Fire’ was good for me, and making the moves first go – on a top rope admittedly – on ‘High Calibre’ was also progress of sorts. 

I think the moral to this story is don’t despair if you get rained off Red Rocks, there’s perfectly decent limestone right next to Vegas waiting eagerly to savage  your fingertips – and your ego!


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