New Year, old tradition

We hope the New Year is off to a happy start for all of our friends and family -we pray that each of you will have an amazingly blessed 2010.

Josh and I were happy to start the year off with one of our favorite traditions, a climbing trip to Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area, near Las Vegas, NV. This is the 5th time we’ve started the year off in Red Rock, and the first year we’ve enjoyed the flexibility of being able to travel after the New Year’s weekend, avoiding the inevitable crowds.

For anyone vacationing in Vegas finding themselves in need of a break from the bright lights and noisy slots of the city, Red Rocks provides a welcome retreat. The landscape is dominated by sandstone formations, reminiscent of Sedona, but with a different feel. Where Sedona is puncturated by striking, fiery orange, angular towers, Red Rock’s brightly colored hills sits like short, squat bulges. But on the other side of the canyon stand Red Rock’s mountainous formations – more subtle and muted in color, but still imposing.

A loop road allows visitors to easily view the entire canyon, but it’s worth it to plan time to get out for a hike to stretch the legs and get some air. Through the shadow of the hills, the canyons are littered with colorful boulders in various shades and patterns: pink, mauve, burgundy – spotted, striped or striated.

Red Rocks ranks up near Yosemite as one of our favorite climbing destinations. In addition to the beautiful landscape, sandstone allows us to maximize our time spent climbing, being a rock that is less abrasive on the hands then those such as granite. This time of year can be a wonderful time but also a challenging season for desert climbing. It’s hard to get more perfect than a sunny winter wall – comfortably warm but not brutally hot. On the other hand, during the winter daylight is short and nights are cold.

Short days mean less opportunity to climb some of the longer, more interesting routes in the area. These can involve hikes of an hour or more each way just to get to the start of the climb, which really eats into the day. Occasionally we’re ambitious, setting the alarm to rouse us before dawn so we can hit the trail as early as possible, but this year we relaxed, enjoying some shorter but still fun routes closer to the parking lot. It just means we’ll have plenty to do when we return in the spring.

We entertain ourselves on these long hikes by reminiscing about our previous trips. There was the time we were surprised by a herd of mountain goats. The day we couldn’t find our route and ended up just hiking around with packs full of gear that we never got to use. The year that rain finally drove us to the strip for New Year’s night, where we could only handle the drunken crowds until about 10:30.

Normally on the cold nights we hit the tent early, bundling up in cozy down sleeping bags to talk about the day and plan for the next one before enjoying a full night’s sleep. We’ll remember this trip as the one of improvisation. We were less prepared & organized then usual, having forgotten to bring a few cooking and toiletry items And with our usual climbing shoes still being resoled we were both climbing in a back-up pair of shoes. We’ll also remember the impulse purchase of dozen day-old donuts which we unsuccessfully tried to savor beyond their shelf life. While we may not have enjoyed the donuts so much, we’ll enjoy a good laugh out of the experience for years to come – and that will be more than worth the $1.99.

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