Escaping the Grind: Climbing Red Rock’s Crystal Dawn

by Nik Berry

School had made me particularly antsy and I couldn’t wait to escape the safety and routine of school life. My day consisted of waking up early, driving to run on Bonneville Shoreline and sitting on my ass in school until all of the blood was pushed out leaving me with a painful numbing sensation. After school, I would go to the gym to climb and repeat, repeat, repeat.  This monotony drove me to the brink of insanity and at school my mind would wander and conjure up ideas of the next great climbing trip. For me, climbing a large chunk of stone offers an escape from the monotony by forcing the climber to be uncomfortable hundreds of feet above the ground.  I yearned for this feeling of freedom and lightness that climbing gives me and I couldn’t wait for my trip to Red Rocks.

The Summit Coil
Nik flakes the rope on top of The Buffalo Wall.

Red Rock State Park (RRSP), outside of Las Vegas is to climbers, as the Las Vegas strip is to gamblers. It’s a mecca of climbing with all styles and a broad grade range. Climbers of all ability levels can enjoy the various types of climbing and there is a challenge for everyone in Red Rocks from boulders to big wall free climbing. This diversity is what drew me to RRSP for my spring break and ever since I have heard rumors of Crystal Dawn from friends and fellow climbers. The routes is a 1100 foot stretch of immaculate sandstone on the Buffalo Wall. The climb offers various 5.13 pitches from roofs to slabs that demands a diverse skill set of any climber. The route breaks down to be 5.12a, 5.13a, 5.13c, 5.12c, 5.13a, 5.11a, 5.11a, 5.9.

13c Crux Pitch
The crux 5.13c pitch. Photo by Joel Unema.

My good friend Dave Allfrey was generous enough to allow me to stay at his place and hike up to the top of the wall to help equip the route. The first day left me feeling optimistic about the route with the crux moves feeling like they would come together quickly and the 5.13a slab feeling solid. The following day I attempted the 2nd pitch. This pitch forced you into precarious positions that led to a powerful large move to a poor slopper. This move required a great amount of body tension to keep your feet on. This final move thwarted me for many days while I was consistently sending the 5.13c pitch. My frustration grew as I was ashamed I may not be able to succeed on this route due to one move. This pitch not being the crux of the route exacerbated my frustration

Nik on the top of the 13c crux pitch.
Nik on the top of the 13c crux pitch. Photo by Joel Unema.

Rock climbing is interesting in this way, one move can be easy for a taller person such as the first ascentonist who is well over 6’ tall, however, can almost shut a shorter climber down. Finally after attempting what I believed to be every possible way of executing the move, a method clicked. This left me feeling overjoyed and confident that I could succeed on this incredible line.

My friend Joel Uma came out from Flagstaff, AZ to climb on the route with me. We began climbing at 12 due to the route being in the sun all morning. Joel and I swapped leads and enjoyed climbing together and sharing positive supportive energy. Feeding off each other’s energy is one of the most incredible elements of climbing that few other sports offer. Each pitch went smoothly as I was confident in my climbing and was able to move efficiently by executing each pitch with precision. The 5.13a slab, however, made me nervous with a move you have to place all your weight on a awful foothold and do a one leg squat. My left leg trembled and I felt it sliding off the hold due to my distressed shaking. With speed I quickly moved my right foot to the larger foothold ceasing my distressed state. After a few more insecure traverse moves I was standing atop a large ledge with water and food to reenergize my body.

13a Slab
The perfectly varnished 5.13a slab pitch.

I climbed the last pitch to the summit with a flicker of light left in the sky. Joel and I took in the incredible view of the summit then began our descent to a friend’s dinner party. I was able to return to school after being liberated from my feeling of angst.  This route taught me to not take easier pitches for granted.  Each pitch challenges you in specific ways, which may exploit a weakness in your climbing.  Being able to hang from this 1,100 foot wall gazing down the canyon offered the peach and tranquility I was yearning while in school.  This experience allowed me to return to school refreshed and ready for the monotony ahead.

FcDqV
The view from the summit

 

 

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