Red Sandstone, Red Marble

“BURLY AND SUSTAINED” : Rainbow Buttress, Oak Creek Canyon, red rocks

Mike and I serendipitously timed our latest trip to Red Rock Canyon NCA near Las Vegas: last weekend was warm and springlike, but this weekend we’re seeing drenching rain and snow at the higher elevations — badly needed due to the drought, but making for poor climbing weather.

Red Rocks was 2 full-value days going into and out of Oak Creek Canyon, twice, to climb 2 long routes. Oak Creek is one of the larger canyons in the area and has many easier-to-harder routes in its upper reaches. Mike had the good plan of going up Oak Creek on Saturday to do an easier route and familiarize ourselves with the area a bit more, because we’d be returning the very next day.

Oak Creek Canyon after snow. We encountered springlike, snow-free conditions. (Wikimedia Commons)
Oak Creek Canyon after snow. Unlike this image, we found springlike, snow-free conditions. (Wikimedia Commons)

The approach totals about 3 miles to the upper canyon, including ~1.5 mile of trail and ~1.5 miles of boulder scrambling and hopping; and then several hundred more feet of slabs to the bases of the routes. We did Catwalk (5.6) on Saturday and stashed most of our gear up there, so we’d have lighter packs when we returned on Sunday to climb the classic 8-pitch Rainbow Buttress (5.8+). That made Sunday’s approach easier, but the approach and walk-off, combined with the technical climbing, make for full days.

Final pitch of Rainbow Buttress, a few pitches above the "burly and sustained" crux pitch. No photos of that pitch -- I was too busy belaying!
Final pitch of Rainbow Buttress, a few pitches above the “burly and sustained” (as described in the guidebook) crux pitch. And it was, as advertised. No photos of that pitch, or of most of the climb — I was too busy belaying!
Nearing the top of Rainbow Buttress, more than 1500' off the canyon floor.
Nearing the top of Rainbow Buttress, more than 1500′ off the canyon floor.

The walk-off was the same for both routes but longer for Rainbow Buttress — basically you end up almost on top of Rainbow Mountain and you walk back down beautiful, colorful slabs and chutes back down to Oak Creek, and then back out the bouldery canyon, about 3-4 hours for the full deal. Sunday was a full 12 hour day, and we got back to the Sprinter just as it was getting too dark to see. We never had to pull out headlamps.

A beautiful, light-filled afternoon descent along upper Oak Creek Canyon's colorful sandstone slabs.
A beautiful, light-filled afternoon descent along upper Oak Creek Canyon’s colorful sandstone slabs.

red marble: pat metheny at the smith center

Smith Center exterior evokes Art Deco architecture and the Hoover Dam era. (LA Times)
Smith Center exterior evokes Art Deco architecture and the Hoover Dam era. (LA Times)

Monday we did a few tired-but-let’s-go-do-something-anyway routes before heading into town and getting a hotel room in downtown Las Vegas. That night we headed over to the Smith Center for the Pat Metheny Unity Group show.

The venue is brand new and done in Art Deco with beautiful metalwork and red marble.

Red-marbled lobby of the Smith Center, with marvelous Deco metalwork. (NY Times)
Red-marbled lobby of the Smith Center, with marvelous Deco metalwork. (NY Times)
The Smith Center is a new performance venue in downtown Las Vegas.
We had orchestra seats about 25 rows back from the stage. This was a great place to see a show.

And Pat & Co. were amazing, as usual. Here’s a sampler from the new album, Kin:

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