With an early start to head out to the Hoover Dam. When I found out I was headed to Las Vegas, I knew I had to go and see it. I was excited to go and see this engineering masterpiece. What I didn’t remember was that it was the Memorial Day Weekend in the USA, similar to our ANZAC Day. The whole country is out and about commemorating the involvement of their families and loved ones in combat anywhere and everywhere.
When I arrived the traffic was epic and I was travelling ever so slowly towards the car park across the dam and up the next switchback. I had spied a great spot to park Audrey’s van that would allow me to walk back to the main dam without too much effort. I parked in Arizona and walked all the way back to Nevada………..took me about ten minutes. 🙂
The size of this structure is truly breath-taking. Nothing really captures the enormity of the hoover Dam and its surrounding sub-structures. There is an overflow vent that is about 70-80 feet in diameter below one of the bridges you drive over and it just makes you feel tiny when you stand near it.
The dam built between 1931 and 1935 borders Nevada and Arizona and slows up the mighty Colorado River is a true modern engineering marvel. The last photo was taken 880 feet above the river…….this thing is immense.
My missing host was supposed to be returning from Japan today and I thought the least I could do was tidy up the apartment and get it nice and ready for her return. It was a rest day so I vacuumed, washed , dusted the kitchen and lounge area and cleaned the bathroom.
The important thing about being in someone else’s house is to just do things and go un-noticed, but some people just don’t give a fuck that you have made an effort. This was not Audrey or Seth. They appreciated it greatly; 1) because they didn’t like doing it themselves and 2) its a shit way to spend your time when you would rather be climbing; as all rock addicts would atest to.
Following my enthusiastic start to the day I decided to go and do something I had not done for quite some time……..
Trying to take in events and adventures other than climbing, I decided to go for a hike this morning into Pine Creek Canyon. This is a beautiful trail through desert flowers and pines (hence the name of the place) The hike goes into the canyon on right of the middle mountain in the first photo. Hope you enjoy them.
The little fella above was the first sign of animal life that I saw and this was about ten minutes into the hike. The bunny was about the size of an iPad…….not big at all and for some reason not interested in moving on when a large predator (me) approached. I thought this both sad and courageous all at once. The creek bed was as dry as an Australians sense of humour and when it rained hard the deluge was both swift and large. Apparently the wash’s as they are known flood extremely quickly. It was still very lush and fertile although in the Nevada desert.
The canyon lands are not only beautiful, but immense and daunting to walk into. they are both beautiful and dangerous and the climbing on these walls is adventure packed to say the least. If you really want to find out where your heart is, climb in the canyon lands.
Today’s weather was brought to you by “Dazed and Confused”. It rained at Red Rocks, it rained in Mt Charleston and it rained just about everywhere else too. So off to the gym to train and then lunch with Phil Jones and Bill “Daddy Mac” La More at Wahoo’s Burrito Joint in Summerlin. All in all a great day.
Slept well for the first time since arriving in the US. Cant say it was the booze either. I had a great day out at a little limestone crag with Albert Torres. We just did all the easy routes as it was our first day out together and we were checking out each others belaying and comfort levels on the wall.
The Gun Club is in the La Madre South are of Las Vegas and is a brutal little crag with good fun routes for easy climbing. The rock is as sharp as I have ever felt and be sure you don’t come off on the easy routes. We did seven routes all up including an 5.11d that was really good fun climbing with a thrutchy little crux at the third bolt.
On one of the other routes I was about to clip the fourth and I saw this tail slither into the horizontal break I had my feet on…..I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was only a lizard of some sort but it made me jump none the less. Albert and I both laughed about it after he had cleaned the route and we moved on. This is the desert and there are some creepy crawlers that are indeed dangerous, so it is best to be a little cautious.
Albert had to work in the evening so at about 1:30pm we called it a day and went and had a couple of beers and lunch. Albert is a really genuinely good human and a great climbing buddy to hangout with. We are going to do a few more routes on Sunday 24th. Weather pending we may even get on a big route in one of the canyons. There is a bit of motivation to do a route called “Unimpeachable Groping” 5.10b on bolts for 7 pitches.
Met up with Dan Hart and Phil Jones at the local climbing gym and headed back to Dans to pick up his wife Alicia to go out climbing for a few hours up to Mount Charleston. Dans dog Hazel rode with us in the four wheel drive and buddy rode in the car with Alicia. We arrived at the car park and in was a little cool but nothing to overwhelmingly cold. As we hiked up to the crag I could feel the altitude kicking in.
Today I found out the meaning of “Desert Alpine” climbing. The crag was called “The Hood” and the elevation was approx. 7500 feet (2286 metres); 78 metres higher than Mount Kosciuszko. It was 44 fahrenheit (7 degrees celsius) and you could feel the temperature dropping as we hiked in with the snow on the peaks . Dan, Alicia, Phil and I only got a couple of routes in before we couldn’t feel our fingers…………..but what a view! I really enjoyed the climbing and the limestone was slick and the routes were awesome. We went and warmed up at the lodge with a scotch.
We headed back to Dan and Alicia’s for a nice home-cooked dinner and a couple of drinks. I met the kids and they had a great time playing with the Australian that mum and dad had brought home for them.
In retrospect I would really like to spend the winter up there and just hangout in the mountains. It is a truly beautiful place and the town of Charleston is so incredibly picturesque and quaint it is remarkable. Dan drove through what is known as “Old Town” and showed me where he used to live as a kid.
I woke up at about 5.45am this morning with my body aching and feeling fatigued, the bouldering session at the gym yesterday with Dan and Phil and some of their local mates was one of the hardest training session I have done for a while.
The morning was a bit disorganised as I was so fatigued, so I decided to really rest up and go to the Zion National Park in Utah. This was a three hour drive, through three states. I got my pack organised and loaded up. My pack held three and a half litres of water, a rain jacket, lunch, and a micro down jacket. I had never been there and I had no idea what to expect from the weather.
I hopped in Audrey’s VW Eurovan Camper that she so graciously is allowing me to use whilst she is in Japan for a week and off I go on a road trip through Nevada, Arizona and then Utah up to Zion. It was a great way to see this vast and ever changing landscape that is the USA. Leaving las Vegas was and eye opening experience given that I did not know there was a prison just out of town, the thing that triggered this was a prison guard driving past me on the highway heading north to work.
I passed the prison about ten minutes later and I have never seen so much razor wire in all my life…..holy fuck!! If you wanna get out you’ll be bleeding to death doing it. The long and unwinding road that is Interstate 15 out of Sin City and heading north-west is as wild as the country side you are driving through. They drive like fucking lunatics, trucks passing you at 120kmh and cars tail-gating you at speeds that would scare the crap out of any conservative driver. I was not in my car and was to not about to jeopardise this lovely ladies van in any way shape or form.
The landscape was absolutely breathtaking for the entire trip. Driving through the canyon lands was one of the most amazing things i have ever done. It is just truly awe-inspiring. The variations in rock types, formations and the heights of these mountains were just mind blowing to me. The ever changing landscape was one of pure wonder and excitement and I wished my father was still here to be seeing it with me. Tears welled in my eyes as this thought ran through my head.
The Virgin River Gorge is the descent route down from 2000ft in elevation to the foot hills of Nevada before heading in to Arizona for a short stint on roads that are a little rougher. You can really see the changes in the landscape. I was only in Arizona for a short time however songs were flooding into my mind reminding me of my previous life as a musician……I could imagine Glenn Frey from the Eagles hitch-hiking down the road and hearing him sing……..”Well I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see. Its a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.” I also kept singing…keep on a rockin’ me baby………..gotta love the Steve Miller Band.
As I drive into Hurricane, an outlying town that surrounds the highway into Zion and I wonder how much longer before I arrive. I am getting excited about where I am and this is a bucket-lister in my eyes. As I travel through the country side I am impressed with the style of the architecture and the way the houses are not littered all over the place.
A few more miles and then it happens…….I am absolutely and totally dwarfed by the intimidating rock walls that Zion is known for. I pay my entrance fee and head into the car park. Not finding a spot I park on the side of the road, lock up the vehicle and walk back into the park. Opening the map I look at what needs to happen for me to get to Angels Landing and the logistics involved. The information counter is the best bet and the gentleman behind it was most helpful. He did say it was a four and a half hour hike. So I hopped on the bus and off I went.
Looking up totally mesmerised with the enormity of what I was seeing must have been a sight to see for other passengers…….my mouth agape and eyes wider than ever before, I sat in absolute awe. The Cardinals, Moonlight Buttress (I can’t believe Alex Honnold soloed the thing) and Angels Landing………my god!…..no more a majestic place had I been in my life. This was a dream come true for me.
Hopping off the bus at the starting point for my hike I looked up at what was ahead of me and watched as people were returning. I am considerably fitter than most people at my age and was very driven to give this hike a good shot. I filled my water bladder and had a banana before I took off.
Setting a pretty solid pace for the top I passed people along the way and continued skyward up this well kept and easy path. I was wondering when the hard bit was going to occur and then it came. 21 switch backs in a row at about 30 degree angle and it was about 32 degrees celsius. Holy shit!!………. but I kept powering along all the way up to the start of the west ridge trail. Walking the last twenty minutes along the ridge line to the top was an interesting experience. 1000 foot drop-offs , no guard rails, just chains to hang on to and people freaking out a long the way. I helped a young lady who was plainly very distressed and could not move fast at all. She held my hand all the way to the top of the first very steep and scary section and when she got there she cried with happiness as she didn’t think she could do it. A lovely thing to see. I had reached the summit in one hour and three minutes.
I sat and ate my lunch on the top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Nevada with a smile on my face ten miles wide. This was a life changing day and I was so present that I actually just stared, taking in the vast landscape and for about five minutes not thinking of a damn thing.
I woke up to find more coffee made and a woman ready for action, suitcase packed and hand luggage at the ready. This was the day I had to drop my host Audrey at the airport as she was heading to Japan for a week of holidays with her boyfriend. It was indeed ridiculous o’clock in the morning but the smell of coffee and a good night sleep made it bearable. I drove Audrey to the airport and dropped her off wishing her a wonderful trip and a relaxing time. As I drove off I realised that I was for the first time “Alone in Las Vegas!”
I headed back to the condo and got myself sorted for the day as the goal was to head to the gym and continue to train like I had before leaving Austin. I had never really considered the benefits of bouldering as a real training method rather than just a way to kill time while waiting on my climbing partner. Theoretically it is true rock climbing! You find a rock and you climb it…….no harness, no rope and no assistance other than your body being thrashed into a contorted mess of pain. Fuck yeah!!! I had started doing 4×4 circuits because I had read that for power and strength they were the way to go and on top of that Monique had said she had real improvement whilst training like this.
I head off to the Red Rocks Climbing Centre (R2C2) and pay my fifteen bucks and meet this nice kid Kevin on the front desk……..he was listening to Led Zeppelins “Dazed and Confused” followed by “The Immigrant Song” (Two minutes and thirty six seconds of awe inspiring bliss). If that doesn’t make you train hard nothing will and you are simply…SOFT!
I started with a good simple warm up to loosen up my muscles and then I was into it. Four V4 boulder problems climbed four times each with a five minute rest period between each set of four. Pebble Wrestling was always a secondary pastime for me…….I appreciate the people who do it, but it was never on the agenda. So my session went well and I have a good benchmark now to start with. I will see how this progresses over the six weeks I do it for.
Later that night I got to sit down and spend some time with Audrey’s flatmate Seth. I had been informed that he was quiet until you broke through the barriers. We started talking about a whole bunch of different shit but really the theme was Australian slang versus American slang and it was a total blast. Have you ever noticed that depending on the accent, certain words work better than others? Especially when you’re cussin’. This is what we were talking about and we got stuck into it in a big way. It was so much fun listening to Seth trying to get that Aussie accent into the phrase.……we talked for hours, laughed hard and drank bourbon. I think I stumbled into bed at about 2am and it was awesome………great to hang out with this guy. He is a bent human who appears to have a damn good heart, a truly thoughtful spirit who is just plain angry at shit LMFAO…….fuckin’ softcock! Seth really loved that term and took it on as a term of endearment at me and in true Aussie fashion as a standard reference to all people who pissed him off…….totally hilarious.
Not so alone really!!
Next morning I woke up feeling decidedly average and was welcomed with “Morning Softcock!” and the smell of coffee in the air……this I could get used to (except for being called softcock every morning, twice a week maybe?!) and thought coffee hmmmmmm………thats what I need, as well as two headache capsules of any kind. Panadol has never been heard of there and Ibuprofen is the secondary drug of choice. Acetasetamine or whatever its called is the way forward according to the Americans and its readily available at the gas station or drug store for your convenience. Seth’s dry, laconic delivery made me laugh so hard it hurt my head.I am so glad it was a training day and that I had plenty of nothing to do.