It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of clean climbing, it was the age of bolting debauchery, it was an epic of wind, it was an epic of calm, it was the season of sun it was the season of rain, it was the spring of Five Ten, it was the winter of Black Diamond, we had a sea of sandstone before us, we had no granite beneath us, we were all jamming direct up to heaven, we were all clipping direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted their type of climbing was the best, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
When Dickens wrote that famous and very long sentence, he had no idea how appropriate it would be to 2011 in Red Rock Canyon. And while the internet is abuzz with bolting vs. non-bolting conflicts and climbers getting on each other about route ethics, one event every year proves that climbers of all skill levels and all backgrounds can come together for a grand party.
The eighth annual Red Rock Rendezvous ran from March 18th through March 20th just outside of Las Vegas in scenic Red Rock Canyon. This was the sixth year that the American Alpine Institute participated in the event run by the internet equipment retailer, Mountain Gear.
Red Rock Rendezvous is an AWESOME event. Most consider it to be one of the biggest and best climbing events every year. Seventeen AAI guides participated in Red Rock Rendezvous this year and for those who had not yet participated in the event, or climbed in Red Rock Canyon, or visited Las Vegas, there was a little bit of culture shock. They realized just how spectacular the event and the place both are.
The very first day of Rendezvous is designed for beginner level climbers. AAI guides work with anywhere from eighty to a hundred first time climbers. We take them out into the field in groups of three to five and work with them to establish climbing movement skills, belaying skills, rappelling skills and any other skills needed to have fun outside with rocks and ropes...
At the center of the event is a fairgrounds at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. It is there that many of the non-climbing oriented elements of the event take place.
The Yogaslackers combine Yoga and Slackline to create a unique form of gymnastics
During the Rendezvous, sponsor tents surround the main event area. It is there that we ate most of our meals and prepared for our clinics. It is also there that many mini-clinics take place.
Our friends at Five Ten sponsored each of the AAI guides that worked the event. We all received a pair of Chase parkour shoes. And we all had the opportunity to work in this awesome footwear over the following days of the event, testing them out on the Aztec Sandstone of Red Rock.
The Mohave Desert has two very challenging elements to it. One of them you probably already know. It gets very very hot in the summer, with the average temperatures hovering between 102 and 108 degrees. The other challenging element is the wind. Las Vegas tends to get a wind storm once every two weeks or so. Unfortunately, one of these hurricane force storms made its way through the canyon just in time for Red Rock Rendezvous. Following are some pictures of the damage sustained by vendor booths and tents after the fifty-mile an hour winds ravaged the area throughout the night.
The clinics vary in subject matter. Beginners work in clinics with titles like "Footwork and Techniques," or "Trad Climbing for the Chicken Hearted." More advanced climbers tend to partake in clinics like, "Multi-Pitch Efficiency," or "Aid and Bigwall Climbing." There are literally dozens of different clinics to choose from and those who register early get the pick of the litter.
At each Rendezvous, a local project is selected for participants to work on in order to give back to the Red Rock climbing community. This year's project was the re-development of the trail that leads from the parking area to the Kraft Boulders bouldering area.
On the second evening of the event there was a major dance party on stage (Spring Mountain Ranch has a summer theatre outdoor stage). A few AAI guides like Dana Hickenbottom, Ian McEleney, Tom Kirby, Mary Harlan, Ben Traxler, Program Coordinator Dyan Padagas and former Program Coordinator Ruth Hennings were the first to take the stage and were responsible for getting that part of the party going!
To see literally thousands of pictures from Red Rock Rendezvous, click here. To get updates about next year's event, join the Red Rock Rendezvous Facebook page, here.
--Jason D. Martin