Monday, April 18, 2011

Red Rock Rendezvous News Round-Up

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 Yoga Slackers Performing Feats of Flexibility and Balance at Spring Mountain Ranch
Photo by Jason Martin

The Yogaslackers combine Yoga and Slackline to create a unique form of gymnastics

Practice Aid Climbing on an Artificial Wall in Spring Mountain Ranch
Photo by Jason Martin

AAI Guide Mike Powers Teaching Rock Rescue at Spring Mountain Ranch
Photo by Jason Martin

AAI Guide Mike Pond Teaching Crevasse Rescue at Spring Mountain Ranch
Photo by Jason Martin

A First Aid Class Sponsored By TrailMed at Spring Mountain Ranch
Photo by Jason Martin

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.

AAI Guides Kurt Hicks, Andy Bourne, Jason Martin and Lyle Haugsven 
trying on new shoes. Thanks Five Ten!
Photo by Ian McEleney

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 American Alpine Institute Booth Pre-Desert Hurricane
Photo by Dyan Padagas

 The New Belgium and American Alpine Institute booths after a Windy Night
Photo by Jason Martin

  The Rendezvous Campground before the Storm
Photo by Jason Martin

Tents Crushed by the Wind the following Morning
Photo by Jason Martin

One of the Tents Crushed by the Wind and Shredded in the Barb Wire
Photo by Jason Martin

The second and third days of the event are dominated by a variety of different clinics.  Some of these clinics are run by world class climbing athletes like Beth Rodden or Peter Croft, whereas others are run by world class American Alpine Institute guides.

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.

A Climber on the Classic Sport Route, Caustic while working on skills at the Rendezvous
Photo by Jason Martin

Another major effort at Red Rock Rendezvous is to raise money for the Access Fund, the American Safe Climbing Association, the American Alpine Club, and the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council.  Each of these organizations has a positive impact on the lives of climbers and on the land that we spend time on.

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.

 Trail Construction Done by the Las Vegas Climber's Liasion Council (LVCLC)
Two AAI Guides, Jason Martin and Scott Massey, have served on the Board of Directors for the LVCLC
Photo by Jason Martin

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!

I will admit that I took the following short camera videos and posted them here to show that our staff really should not pursue careers as dancers. The problem with this is that some them are surprisingly good dancers.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any video of Mary Harlan, an AAI guide and former professional dancer, but she literally put everybody else who was making an attempt to dance to shame.

The Red Rock Rendezvous is one of the highlights of my guide year.  And I would like to thank Mountain Gear for inviting the American Alpine Institute to participate once again.  We are all looking forward to another great event next spring in Red Rock Canyon!

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


Mark Vander Pol said...

Thanks for the post! I am most interested though in the impromptu tent testing that occured in the "hurricane force winds." Which tents survived and which tents didn't? Any recommendations that you can make coming out of that experience?

American Alpine Institute said...

Four season mountaineering tents were universally fine. Big family camping tents were damaged or destroyed. And obviously, the Vendor Easy-Ups were hit pretty hard.