— Ryan Kleman, a long-time member of our Jesse Brown family and a fellow Charlottean, is an inspiration to us all as a community member who dedicates his free time doing what he loves while climbing towards his dreams. Let’s welcome Ryan as he shares his account of his most recent adventure:
Having done most of my climbing in the lush forests of the southeast or high/cold alpine environments, the desert sandstone of Red Rock Canyon, NV was a new experience to me in more ways than one. Probably, the most striking is the fact that you can be in the bright, loud, crowded, drunken, over-the-top obnoxious indulgence of Las Vegas, and twenty minutes later be in the quiet solitude of the desert.
Most climbs I’m used to involve a long drive into rural, if not remote trailheads followed by miles of hiking before the objective can even be seen. The climbs at Red Rocks loom above the western horizon of the strip during the day, when there’s no light pollution. This can be misleading, though. Pulling off the road into the trailhead parking, you’re staring right at your objective with a flat trail leading straight to it. Coming from the east, I was fooled every day into thinking the approaches would be an easy and quick stroll through the cool desert air. Within minutes the sun becomes oppressive and after an hour of walking it seems like you’re as far from the rocks as when you started. The lack of trees impairs depth perception and the sheer size of the mountains makes them seem a lot closer than they really are.
One day we got up early with the plan of doing a longer climb but decided we hadn’t been early enough and didn’t want to be stuck climbing in the dark, so we changed our objective to something we thought would be more manageable. The guidebook stated the normal approach would take two hours but could be shortened by a half hour by scrambling up some slabs. After five hours and a possible first ascent we reached the base of our intended climb, out of water, with a rope full of cactus spines that easily pierce leather gloves. Compared to the approach the seven pitches of 5.8 climbing would be welcome.
We topped out very thirsty, just it time to witness the sunset laughing at us. The first half of the day was spent longing for shade while the evening chill had me wishing I’d brought more than a T shirt for the long, involved descent that we hoped we could de-cypher in the dark.
After fourteen hours from leaving, we arrived shivering at the car, threw our gear in the back, and raced to the nearest convenience store to chug two liters of sports drink each.
Lesson learned about Red Rocks Canyon – the rock quality is excellent, the routes are fun and aesthetic, but the approaches, sun, and dust are not to be underestimated.