We packed up the car on Monday night and pulled onto the 15-North driving straight to Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. We arrived at the campground in five hours–it was empty–and didn’t even set up tents. We dropped our sleeping pads in the dirt under a beautiful star-filled desert sky–the alarm set for 4 a.m.–and slept.
We woke up early, no expectations, and set out for Black Velvet Canyon to climb Epinephrine. It’s a 13 pitch route with a tricky descent which takes a some time, but the main reason we headed out so early was to beat the lines. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case on this late season Tuesday morning.
We were at the wall by 7 a.m. and there was a party on route. They were just entering the chimney pitches, a 3 pitch gap between us and them, and there was nobody behind us. This theme persisted for the rest of the day. We climbed Epinephrine without waiting for anyone in front of us,and without worrying about people encroaching from behind. We enjoyed perfect conditions, and world class climbing.
Climbing is always fun, but it certainly seems less so when cramped by crowds, and waiting in lines. It’s always a bummer to turn a corner and see the route you wanted to climb swamped by a guided party of twelve. On a route like Epinephrine a slow party will likely ruin the day for everyone and put people in sketchy situations. Us for example, we only took one rope, so the only way off was up; it would have sucked to be stuck behind a slow party.
I only took a liter of water, so by the time we got back to the car I was feeling pretty sick. As usual, the next day I disregarded my hydration issues, and we broke camp headed for Dark Shadows in late morning. This is another route notorious for overcrowding.
Once again we were greeted with perfect conditions and only one party on route beginning the third pitch. Go figure we’d link the first two and still wait twenty minutes for them to finish the pitch they were starting when we arrived. I looked down and noticed the line forming and felt myself deflate.
That’s my problem–I get bummed out by crowds. The solution I’ve found is to just avoid weekends. Why go to these places on a Saturday or Sunday? There are just too many people who are trying to cram their experiences into these two days and the recreational areas get bombarded making for not such joyous conditions. I remember the first time I was in Joshua Tree on a Tuesday. It’s not even the same place and allows for an entirely different experience.
If you aren’t climbing above 5.10, it’s an option that you should seriously consider, because sub-5.10 routes are the ones getting the most traffic. If you are really about climbing and adventuring and want to get out on the classic routes find a way to make a few weekdays a month work. It’s even better if you can set aside an entire week or two, but I’ll be realistic. Not everyone is about that life.
I’ve never waited in a line to climb anything on Tahquitz, but I’ve also never tried to climb there on a weekend. I’ve climbed in Yosemite on weekends, and I spent more time sitting in traffic looking for parking and waiting at belays than I did climbing. That’s not what I’m trying to do. If I wanted to do that I’d go to Disneyland and eat funnel cake. I’m not here to socialize, or play suduko, or rage behind people who want to talk about the meaning of life at every belay, that’s not to say there’s a problem with that, but just multi-task and keep it moving if you’re on the wall!
That’s why I quit celebrating my weekends on Saturday and Sunday. I prefer to celebrate my weekends Monday-Friday when I can enjoy the places I love with room to breathe and play in the dirt with my closest friends in peace and together we make decisions that we’ll probably regret and we can be weird without an audience. That’s something that I can get behind. That’s something keeps me psyched to wake up everyday.