have always been DD's thing, but I wanted to cross the threshold to senior-citizenship with a bang this year... 50 is kind of a big deal! We've been training all summer for the 24HHH so it seemed to make sense to do a challenge that I was already trained for: Climbing 50 different sport pitches in Red Rock. DD was psyched to be my belay slave, sherpa, and cheerleader, After the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, I took a few days' rest and started gearing up for "50 Pitches, 'Cuz I'm 50, Bitches!" I spent some time poring over the guidebook and clicking through Mountain Project. We previewed some crags we weren't sure about, and even timed some of them to see how long they would take. I knew from the 24 that the problem wouldn't be running out of steam, it would be running out of time. I even put together a spreadsheet, Dick-Dower-style!
As my challenge began taking shape, I decided on
1) 50 different sport pitches 5.7 - 5.10
2) 5 miles of hiking
3) 50 hugs from 50 different people (friends, family, complete strangers, whatever!)
4) 50 beers drank (by myself and others)
I wanted to do a challenge that tested me physically, that wouldn't be too easy. At one point DD tried to dissuade me from a plan that required us to do the sucky hike up and over the pass but for me the hike was part of the challenge! Also, I hoped to share the day with as many people as I could! Friends, strangers, anyone that could get psyched about it.
As soon as I put my goals out there, I got an enthusiastic response from friends who volunteered to be a part of it. That really got me stoked! I was ready to let the games begin!
The plan was to start in Calico Basin. That way we could park outside the loop and get started before the park opened. We would hit Cannibal Crag first, followed by Cowlick and Cut Your Teeth. That would put us at the top of the pass between Calico Basin and the second pullout crags. Then, down to the Black Corridor, up to Hunter Thompson, up some more to Meetup Crag, down and back up to The Gallery, down and up again to Magic Bus, down and up again to The Hamlet and Panty Wall, down to The Amusement Park, then hike/run back to the car. The loop I wanted to do came up about a quarter mile short of 5 miles, so I would continue out to the wash on Calico Basin Road while DD would loop around to the car and drive up to the wash and pick me up, completing my hiking goal.
50 routes at 11 different crags, with 5 miles of hiking, including 2,000 ft. of elevation gain. The loop came up a little short on the mileage so DD and I split up where the blue line is, and I continued on to get 5 miles done.
We geared up in the house and left a bit after 5am. It was still dark.
Harness and draws already on before we leave the house.
The 2 routes on Cannibal Crag definitely got me warmed up! The 10a and that awkward 8 on the north side were spicy by headlamp.
On the rock by 5:30am
Cowlick Crag was easier climbing but it was harder to see the footholds by headlamp.
Two slabby 7's at Cowlick Crag
Then there was a tough hike up the pass to Cut Your Teeth Crag where we were met with a brilliant sunrise. I put away my headlamp and cruised through 4 routes there in the early morning light.
The photos do not do it justice. It was intense! I had to stop and stare in spite of my need to hurry.
No more headlamp!
With eight routes in the bag we headed down to the Black Corridor
. We arrived there at 7:30am, right on schedule. John Wilder and Adam Floyd were already there, and they went above and beyond! They hung draws on 8 routes in the Black Corridor so all I had to do was climb, clip draws, lower off, pull my rope and move on! Then they went behind me and cleaned them. Dakota Waltz and Matt Kuehl also set up and cleaned two more routes. I was able to climb 11 of my hardest routes in an hour and 20 minutes and get out before any other climbers showed up. That was AMAZING! I can't say enough great things about these guys. Matt rode his bike from the crag to work after he got done. Dakota met up with us later and helped me finish up. Adam came out just to belay. John went spelunking to retrieve our food bag that had slid down into the depths of the upper Black Corridor boulders. Our friends Wes and Kyo Stone came all the way from Phoenix to help out with logistics, like taking care of the pup, getting some pix, and helping with some rope management. When I left the corridor more than a half hour ahead of schedule, I was feeling pretty stoked, pretty loved, and pretty grateful to my friends for their support. Summary for the corridor: one 5.7, eight 5.9's, and two 5.10a's. I was already up to 19 routes by 9a.m.!
John saves our entire days' food after the sack slid down about 8 ft deep!
I had to go into Beast Mode with my helmet!
All the corridor routes were fairly long and technical and often stiff for the grade.
These guys rocked the corridor!
Wes and Kyo Stone showed up to help support the next leg.
Dakota and Matt gettin' er done.
Next we went up the Canyon just a little way to Hunter S. Thompson Dome for a 5.10a and two 5.8s.
The 5.8's on Hunter Thompson are 2 of the most fun 5.8 sport pitches in Red Rock, IMO.
After that, DD, Wes, Kyo and I did the steep hike up to the Meetup Wall, where I got more awesome support from Erin Shaw and Michelle Onsaga . You really know who your friends are when they do the suckiest hike to the highest crag on the list to hang some draws and clean routes for you in full sun! I loved hanging out with these fine ladies, but after checking off 7 routes there, I left them behind to finish cleaning and moved on.
Erin and Michelle hanging draws, makin' it easy for me!
Kyo got some good pix at the Meetup Wall.
We then headed to the Gallery.
It was 11am, an hour and a half ahead of schedule, with 29 pitches checked off!! This was the first crag where we actually encountered other people climbing, a nice couple who were kind enough to let me climb their route with their draws and anchors already hung! I had prepared "bribery brownies" in advance, not knowing how many other parties we would encounter at the popular crags. I figured I could offer birthday brownies and scamper up their routes while they ate them... and it worked! They were also generous huggers. By this time I was getting pretty nervous about achieving the hug quota since there just weren't that many people out there to hug on a Wednesday! Fortunately my volunteers are all huggers too. As a backup plan, I had posted on FB that I would be accepting 'virtual' hugs, and counting them as well!
3 pitches at the Gallery in full sun
My Super-Try-Hard Face! Yikes!
I picked up 3 pitches at the Gallery, then we headed to Magic Bus. On the way there, we ran into a group of climbers on their way to the corridor. One of them asked if I was the one doing the 50 pitches for my birthday... what?! One of my friends had given them the heads up in the parking lot! Hugs were had all around, and we continued. We reconnected with Dakota, who hiked with us for a bit before deciding to head back to his car and meet us at the first pullout... which meant he had to drive the loop road twice in one day! Oh, the things friends do for friends!
Kisses for support and hugs with random strangers.
Wes and Kyo headed back to the house to get stuff ready for the party
We arrived at Magic Bus just before noon. I was feeling optimistic about being ahead of schedule, but climbing in the full sun was starting to take a toll. It was ten degrees above normal, in the 80's, and hardly a cloud in the sky. Not what I was expecting at the end of October! DD and I had the crag to ourselves while the ladies were still finishing up at Hunter Thompson. All the routes had Mussi hooks at the top so I didn't have to clean anchors, but still had to clear all the draws. These routes seemed long but I was still having fun! I did the only trad route on my list there. I got 6 routes done but could definitely feel that I was slowing down. We hiked down through a slot that was a short cut to the homestretch at the first pullout crags, I felt like I was almost done with 38 pitches under my belt.
Kyo got some great shots of Magic Bus from the parking lot.
Magic Bus is high up in Calico Hills with a great view of the big canyons to the west.
The 9's at Magic Bus had some fun tricky moves at the bottom.
This was my only gear route, which actually had bolts at the crux!
We got to the first pullout area around 1:30. I had some decisions to make. I chose not to include Civilization Crag because it would cause us to backtrack too much on the way out. Also, my 38 routes included two 5.6's that I went ahead and climbed early on because they were right next to other stuff I was doing, and I thought I may need some back-up routes. If I kicked those off the list I would still need 14 more pitches. With 6 at Panty Wall and 7 at the Amusement Park, I decided to pick up one short 5.8 at the Hamlet Wall. It was quick and easy. We were headed to Panty Wall when we saw Erin and Michelle approaching. They had hiked from the 2nd pullout to the first so they could help some more! It was seriously hot out now, and with the arrival of Dakota, they got to work and so did I! And oh, boy, was it work! The rock had been sunny long enough to get hot. I was starting to get tired, and my fingertips were pretty raw. My toes were hurting too. The black shoe rubber was just cooking them. There were four 5.8's and two 5.7's that I thought I would scamper up in no time, but they seemed like the longest, hardest routes I did! I won't lie, I got a little whiney about it. I wasn't having fun any more but I was almost done!
These routes went on forever! I kept saying, "another bolt? Where's the anchor?!"
Dakota took lots of pix with his Go-Pro on a stick!
Almost done here and looking forward to some shady routes!
After what seemed like hours, I finished up there and headed down to the Amusement Park wall, which was shady! The ladies cleaned up Panty Wall and headed back to the first pullout parking lot, where they caught a ride to their cars at the 2nd pullout. Dakota joined us for the final routes, where he soloed every one and hung draws for me. He made sure he hung draws on ALL of them lest I decide to let the 5.6's stand and skip the last two! He knew I would regret it if I did.
Amusement Park was a bunch of short slab routes in the shade.
Tying in to my LAST route
DONE (with climbing) Now to get back to the car!
I finished the last route at 3:45pm. While I thought half way through the day that I may not have made it hard enough, by this time I felt pretty worked, and would not have wanted it to be harder! At this point we packed up and headed for the car! While I was pretty much hiking with my harness, draws and shoes, my water was almost gone so my pack was light. On the other hand, DD was carrying the rope, food, extra water and gear, for a good 40-50 pounds! He detoured up to the first pullout parking lot and dropped his pack. I could have gone up the hill with him and gotten tons of hugs from tourists! But I couldn't make myself do it. I waited at the bottom of the hill and when he returned we were able to run part of the trail with our light loads. We split up after we got past Moderate Mecca, where DD headed back around to the car and I headed to my finish line at the wash. I saw him running so I decided I better run too, or else he would be waiting for me at the trail head for a long time. Later he told me that he saw ME running and that made him think he needed to run faster, LOL!
Running to the finish line!
I got to the car around 4:40pm. In about 11 and a half hours I had hiked 5 miles with 2,000 ft of elevation gain, and climbed 52 routes which amounted to about a half a mile high - 2,865 ft! I also picked up about 30 hugs along the way. The hard part was done! We headed back to Casa Dower for the party where I hoped to finish the hugs and start on the beers! We had a celebratory beer, got a quick shower and ate some pizza. My friends did not disappoint me and brought on the hugs, and got to work on the beers! They really took a few for the team considering it was a Wednesday night! Between the party and my FB friends I overshot my hug and beer quotas by a few!
As we went along throughout the day, we tallied everything up on my T-shirt. This is how it turned out:
Thanks to all my friends near and far for helping me make this happen!!
Especially this guy!