I’m now in what most consider the “feel good” stage of my pregnancy. At almost 18 weeks, I am no longer exhausted like I was in my first trimester, but I’m not huge and cumbersome yet (just big enough to feel like a small whale at times…) So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a vacation! Steve’s company sent him to Vegas all last week for a Microsoft SharePoint conference at the Mandalay Bay. The conference ended Thursday afternoon, so I used some frequent flyers to meet him out there Thursday night. We spent the first night on the company tab, which was, ironically, one of the most expensive yet worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had at a hotel. Our next door neighbors were evidently going out all in the Vegas lifestyle, and decided to have a giant party in their room. Their music was so loud it felt like there was a speaker right beside my bed, and the vibrations from the bass was making items in our room shake (this is NOT an exaggeration…). Everyone at the party had to yell very loudly to talk to each other to get over the music volume. We called to complain and according to Steve’s spy tactics at our peephole, theywere told that there were NUMEROUS complaints, and if it happened again, they would have to leave the hotel.
But after a questionable start to our vacation in the land of excess, the next day dawned bright and cloudless, and all that was negative was lost in a sea of red rock in the Mojave Desert. Our first day was spent in the Black Corridor. We were the first ones there, but as the day progressed, the corridor got REALLY crowded – we started to wonder if anyone in Vegas had real jobs, but upon talking to everyone, they were all from out of town too – everywhere from Alberta and Quebec to Colorado and California. Even though there were so many people that at times it felt like gym climbing, there were so many good routes there that we never had to wait in line for anything.
Day 1 Routes ~
The CEL – 5.9
Bonair – 5.9
Vega Bonds – 5.10a – fantastic route – well deserving of the 5 stars the guidebook gave it!
Crude Boys – 5.10d – Steve’s first 10d onsight, woohoo! Reachy, technical crux down low led to fun, casual climbing up top.
Black Corridor Route 4 Left – 5.11a – Steve wasn’t up for leading this one, so we set up a top rope from the top of the 10d. My goal so far has been to get at least one 5.11 clean every week of my pregnancy, outside or in the gym if I couldn’t get out that week. (As my balance gets worse and I start to get huge, I’ll knock it down to 5.10, then 5.9, etc.) This day was my first at 17 weeks, so it was nice to check the 11 off of my list early on (and as it turns out it was the only 11 I got clean all weekend 🙂 )
Fool’s Gold – 5.10b
Texas Tea (direct start)- 5.10d – Steve was mentally done for the day so we set up a toprope on this and the following route from Fool’s Gold. We both opted for the direct start which was (a painfully crimpy!) 10d until the first bolt, then the rest of it backed off to 10a.?
Black Gold – 5.10b – The start on this one was pretty tricky, and we could both tell it was the end of the day on this one. Fortunately our day ended better than the French climbers beside us, who destroyed their video camera by dropping it from 30 feet up…Steve wryly commented to me under his breath – “thats why we have a neck strap…”
Evidently the jellybean is working up an appetite at the crag these days along with me, b/c I downed an entire 1/2 pound cheeseburger, french fries, and made room to split a pizookie with Steve, all without blinking an eye. No leftovers tonight, thank you very much!
Our plan on Day 2 was to get up at the crack of dawn and climb on a south-facing wall in the sun, hoping that the early morning and the heat would keep all the crowds away. Our plan worked out perfectly – there were two girls that were leaving right as we were arriving, and another couple that showed up right as we were leaving. The high was only in the 80’s but the sun was unbelievably intense! We brought 3 extra liters of water combined with what we usually bring, and we almost drank it all, even though we finished early. The routes here were all steep and pumpy, so they all felt very sustained for the grade. Fortunately we were able to find a nice shady spot to stow our packs, and hang out in between routes to rest and eat lunch.
Day 2 Routes ~
Sport Climbing is Neither – 5.8
Bucks Muscle World – 5.9
Gelatin Pooch – 5.10a – fitting name for me and the jellybean 🙂
Pump First, Pay Later – 5.10b – REALLY sustained and pumpy, I fought really hard to get this route clean
Running Amuck – 5.10c – tricky crux sequence!
Unknown – 5.11a – Steve was done for the day, but I wanted to try this one, so we set up a TR from the 10c. It was a really fun route, but I did have to hang a few times to rest.
We hiked out in the early afternoon and grabbed showers at our casino(***sidenote – despite everyone warning us not to stay at a cheap place off strip, the Fiesta Rancho turned out to be a FABULOUS hotel – it was clean, simple, MUCH quieter than the Mandalay, and was cheaper for the whole weekend than one night at the strip hotels). Since we had a couple of hours to kill before dinner, we cruised the strip and gawked at all of the “over the toppedness” that is Vegas, pointing out all the famous places we’d seen on TV and in the movies. We took a picture by the classic “Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, and who did we see getting into his truck talking on his cell phone in the parking lot – Elvis!!! 🙂 We drove all the way through the Strip to the old section of downtown Vegas, where we ate dinner at Uncle Angelo’s in the Jerry Nugget Casino. Uncle Angelo’s was GOOD!!! It appeared that the entire staff were all Italian and related to Uncle Angelo himself somehow. Steve and I each got strombolis, and mine was by far the best stromboli I’ve ever put in my mouth!!! We got back to the Fiesta Rancho in time to play the 7:00 session of Bingo – which seemed to have much higher stakes than the bingo I used to play with my Maw Maw every year at the Carolina Beach Bingo Parlor! We were able to figure out what was going on without making any dumb mistakes, but we evidently weren’t too lucky, b/c we didn’t even come close to winning squat. (Although I will admit that I felt my heart rate sped up a bit when playing the “grande” round – jackpot was $14,400…)
Since I was still on east coast time, I woke Steve up before 5 on Day 3, and we arrived in the canyon just as the sun was coming up over the city in the distance. We climbed at the Mass Production Wall in the Calico Tank area. Most of the approach to the cliff was along a popular hiking trail, so throughout the day, we saw lots of hikers (and waved at the ones with cameras taking pictures of the crazy climbers!), but only one couple hiked up through the gully up to near where we were (a really nice older British couple that lived in Vegas). What a difference the shade made! It was several degrees cooler, and the wind had really picked up. We found ourselves going out onto the slabs to soak up the sun in between climbs to warm up, which was quite the contrast from the day before!
Day 3 Routes ~
Parts is Parts – 5.8
Battery Power – 5.9
Trigger Happy – 5.10a – really fun! This route was really intimidating from the ground, but ended up being a lot easier than it looked. Really fun moves kind of “hugging” your way up the black patina through the crux.
Foreman Ferris – 5.11b – It was easy to set up a toprope on this route off the 10a. Steve didn’t want to do this one, but I’m really glad that I gave it a whirl. The first section, although technically not that difficult, was pretty hard to read, and I wasn’t able to make it through without a hang or two. However, I surprised myself at getting through the crux and the rest of the route cleanly. Really sharp, credit card size crimpers and sidepulls, with precarious balancy laybacks up through the patina – then it was a lot less sustained the rest of the way.
Hit and Run – 5.9
The rest of the routes on the wall had some significant runout sections, and Steve didn’t feel comfortable leading them, so we called it a day and worked our way down the gully back to the hiking trail. Since we had plenty of time and the weather was nice, we stashed our packs behind a cat’s claw bush and continued on the hiking trail away from our car to the Calico Tank, which is a giant natural reservoir (empty this time of year) on top of which you get a spectacular view of the Mojave Desert, with all of downtown Vegas off in the distance – definitely worth the extra mileage to see! It was a beautiful and casual hike back out to our car, but despite all of our squinting, we never did see any of the wild burros that the area is known for.
On our last night we used our 2 for 1 coupon at the Fiesta Rancho Buffet and DEFINITELY got our money’s worth out of it! I told Steve before we went to bed that night that I felt like all we did all weekend was climb, eat, then sleep. 🙂 Who needs the bright lights of Vegas when your needs are that simple I guess…
Our (unfortunately separate) flights back were both uneventful, but it has taken several days to feel like we are caught up. All in all, FANTASTIC weekend! Vegas a truly a unique place, somewhere everyone should see at least once. We both decided that it is not our style at all – great place to VISIT, horrible place to LIVE! We also decided that its a shame that there are such fabulous recreational options right outside of the city that most people aren’t aware even exists, let alone try to tap into. Oh well, I guess thats more open space for the rest of us!