by Sage Clegg
This morning I woke up to a rosy calm Mojave dawn, purple volcanic mountains with a cactus bloom pink sun rising in to a few newly illuminated clouds. I dump some cereal into my bowl and sprinkle some powdered milk on top. I add water until my Rice Chex float and raisins sink, then shovel it into my face while studying my list of tortoises. Today, I’m searching for one in particular–Mojave Desert Tortoise 4047.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with Philip Swiny from Las Vegas. Read Philip’s account of climbing the desert classic, Frogland…
4:30 am came way too quick, I was not in the mood to get out of my comfy warm bed, but I knew the sky was going to be blue, the temps were going to be in the high 70’s, and there were 5 pitches of Aztec sandstone to be climbed. A quick breakfast and I was off to meet Gregg, the plan for the day was to climb the desert classic, Frogland.
Frogland was established by the Red Rock pioneers Jorge and Joanne Urioste, who almost single handedly established most of the classic long route in the canyons. Visionaries in the Desert climbing scene, they were not scared to explore the unknown and as a result plucked many of the gems that lay hidden in the overlooked Mojave Desert.
Frogland overview: Long, sustained, and deservedly popular, Frogland is one of the best of the moderate climbs in an area renowned for awesome moderates. Varied climbing, a bit of routefinding, and with a slightly runout slab crux, Frogland is a definite challenge for the 5.8 leader. As with other Red Rocks classics, the biggest obstacle is usually the crowds. Luckily, there are some great nearby routes that have long been overlooked, and one of them, an old, long-forgotten Urioste route, which has just been rebolted, is one of the best 5.7 face climbs around (courtesy of supertopo.com).
Being that it is spring break, Gregg and I decided on a 6 am start time, I met him at the gas station near the dirt road entrance which leads in to Black Velvet Canyon just as the sun was raising, and already I was feeling more energized for the day. All I was hoping was that even with our early start we were not going to be stuck in a line of other parties on the route. Only one car in the parking lot, good I thought probably a party on Epinephrine. Even though Gregg was giving me stories of being out of shape and having only climbed ice for the long New England winter, we flew up the approach and in just under 4 hours after leaving the car we were on the summit, basking in the sun and watching other parties, looking like ants approaching from the parking lot.
At 770 feet Frogland is not the longest route in the canyons but it is for sure one of the most popular, for good reason. It has a little of everything, the rock quality in Black Velvet Canyon is by and large of very high quality, desert varnish abounds resulting in great hold, but sometimes slippery feet. The first 3 pitches are primarily 5.7 cracks with the occasional face move thrown in for variety, the first 5.8 crux on the 4th pitch involves a very exposed traverse under a roof, which never seems to get less exciting, and culminates with some thin face moves and an awkward squeeze under a huge chock stone.
It was one of those great days where the weather was perfect, my climbing partner and I moved and worked well together and before we knew it the say was over and we were heading back into the madness that is Las Vegas.
For more information check out Philip’s bio page here.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 Osprey ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country over 2009, lands in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Red Rocks Rendezvous. Here is brand team’er Theresa Blake’s red rock review.
Thanks to Osprey Packs, I was among 1000+ other lucky climbers who got to enjoy the 6th annual Red Rock Rendezvous this weekend in Las Vegas at the Red Rock National Conservation Area. I have never attended the Rendezvous before and had only ever seen pictures of the area, so naturally I was stoked to be going. I signed up for a clinic and hit the road to Las Vegas with my tent and trusty Osprey pack.
I was pleased to find a nationally protected conservation area in the midst of the Mojave Desert rife with unique geological features and ancient desert culture (quite the contrary to what most people envision when you think of Las Vegas). The Strip is just 13 miles to the east but is definitely small and pale in comparison to this place. Views abound for miles along the Keystone Thrust Fault with dramatic red and tan sandstone mixed up with rocks from ancient oceans.
The festival itself, which benefits the Access Fund, was held at Spring Mountain Ranch with camping offsite at Bonnie Springs, and was nicely put together by a hard working crew who were super friendly and helpful to boot. A funky-looking solar powered generator that reminded you of the sun and its vast capabilities accompanied the stage.
Climbing, food and libation vendors were poised offering something for everyone to buy or enjoy for free, thanks to generous sponsors. The beer provided by New Belgium Brewing Co was delicious and was served in cups made out of corn instead of plastic.
The Rendezvous was highly organized and brought together an amazing roster of professional climbers like Joe Kinder, Sonnie Trotter, Katie Brown, Micah Dash and a whole bunch of other superbly talented athletes to teach clinics and offer resources to fellow aspiring climbers. I found most everyone I met to be down to earth, fun and really, really excited about climbing.
With over 1,000 routes available in Red Rocks, there was definitely something for climbers of all ability levels. Add good beer, friends and music to this and you really can’t go wrong.
SIDEBAR: I learned about a mishap that occurred last year that reminded me how personally responsible we are when we recreate not only in the mountains, but everywhere we go. Apparently an event attendee vandalized a historic building at Spring Mountain Ranch during the festival. As a result, area officials mandated camping for the event be moved from the green-ish field directly next to the event pavilion out to the dustier Bonnie Springs lot several miles away. This made for “special” camping quarters when 40+ MPH gusts kicked up.
I was surprised to hear that someone attending an event like this would do such a thing given the event is a benefit for the Access Fund, but bad things sometimes happen when you get a whole bunch of people around with alcohol being served. This gives the climbing community a bad name and as we learned firsthand this weekend, cuts off our access and takes away our privileges.