I was doing an internship with Solid Rock Climbers for Christ in the spring of 2008. Soon after my arrival in Oregon, I was told that I would be flying to Las Vegas to join up with our on the road missionary Kristin. There I would be working the SRCFC booth at the Red Rock Rendezvous as well as volunteering at the event. I was psyched. I would get to check out a new place and attend a huge climber’s gathering. When the day arrived, I excitingly packed my bags to head down to the desert.
Once I arrived, I found Kristin walking around the airport looking for me. We soon became acquainted and headed to where she had been staying with some friends. We were close to the strip so we decided to check it out. You have to do it once if you go to Las Vegas. After a sensory overload, we retired for the night because we had climbing and rendezvous work to do the next day. Over the next couple of days, we worked at the Rendezvous, met tons of people, and got some great climbing in.
After the event, we retreated to the campground where we would spend the rest of the week. We had a few days of nothing planned but climbing. Kristin soon found out that I had not done any multipitch climbing before but was wanting to. What a better place than Red Rock to do my first multipitch climb. We scoured the guidebook looking for an appropriate route until we found one, Birdland.
Birdland is a 5.7 that is 6 pitches. I knew that 5.7 would not be that hard for me so it would be a good introduction to climbing longer routes. We plan our day and pack our bags the night before so that we can wake, eat, and get moving on the day. We arrive at the trailhead to find a few cars there already. The approach isn’t that bad. Most of it is flat and we ended up in a creek bed. Soon we realize that we walked too far. After we backtrack a bit we find the cut off to the route. Once at the base, we rack up and get ready to climb. Kristin was going to start us off by leading the first pitch and we would just swap leads. The first pitch is soon behind us. Now it is my turn to lead. I head up the second pitch and soon realize that wearing a watch while trying to stick your hand in a crack is not fun. I continue anyway. Higher up on the pitch, I am about to weight my left foot when it breaks. Luckily, my hand holds are both very good and I am able to recover. A fall there would have not been fun since I was slightly run out above my last piece of gear. A bit shaken up, I arrive at the belay, build an anchor, attach myself, and then belay Kristin up. I tell her what happened then give her the rest of the gear.
She ended up leading the rest of the route because I was a bit spooked by the hold breaking under my foot. The rest of the climbing was amazing. We stopped at the top of the 5th pitch because the 6th pitch reportedly has undesirable rock. We then begin out descent by rappelling. When we arrive at the top of the first pitch, we pull the rope which soon became stuck in a crack up higher. I elect to lead up to it via a chimney to the left of the route. Once I reach where I thought it was stuck, I free it only to find it was wrapped around something up higher. It then whips me in the face. Luckily, I shake that off and down climb back to the ledge. After one more rappel, we are back on the ground.
We hike out and I realize that I didn’t take any pictures of the climb with my camera, it just sat at the base in my pack all day. I try to snap a few on the way out. Later we go to the Oak Creek pull off so that Kristin can make a phone call before heading back to the campground. The only reason that I remembered stopping there is because I managed to snap one of my favorite pictures of a Joshua Tree blooming.
The next day, I had to fly back to Oregon to continue doing work with for the internship. While there, I was able to get out to Smith Rock multiple days a week to climb. I was also able to do more multipitch routes before heading back to Illinois. Now, I guide multipitch routes here in North Carolina on a frequent basis. Looking back it is interesting to see how far my skills as a climber have progressed. I am looking forward to continuing the process of progressing as a climber and guide in the future through more experiences and educational opportunities such as those with the AMGA.