'I can't wait to lose cell service and just get down to bouldering' said Andy as we drove towards Red Rocks for the first time. 'No doubt' came a reply from the back of the car. We all felt the same; we'd been waiting for this for a long time. As East coast city dwellers the American west and its national parks hold a special lure for us. There is nowhere quite like them; the history, the landscapes and the lack of cell service are the perfect escape from city life.
On every climbing trip it takes time to get used to the rock, take in your surroundings and gain confidence. This was a short trip, a weekend hit. We didn't have long and had to move fast. A morning at the easily accessible Kraft boulders to get some rock feel, then we were up into the canyons for the true Red Rocks experience and to escape the howling winds that were due to hit. An hour's hike found us at the perfect river-washed block to gain that confidence, plenty of classic problems to go at across the grade spectrum and just us alone. The perfect escape.
As we worked our way through the lines we couldn't have felt further from the world we had left behind. This was the experience that we had craved, an experience that couldn't be further from the City of Sin and 'the Strip' just visible in the distance from our walk out. As we made our way back to the car we stopped to take in our surroundings.
There is something special that occurs when you take in the desert, when you stop and view it for a period of time—it starts to move and comes alive. It's one of my favorite things to do in landscapes such as this. Wait a few minutes and you'll see something dart between the flora, then another and another. But there was something different about this time; as we looked out other things caught our eye, each a stark reminder of our close proximity to the urban sprawl outside the park - plastic. Bottles, cups, a half drunk smoothie left on a rock—none of these belonged in this place. As we moved back to the car we picked up those we could see and discussed the impact people were making on this beautiful spot.
Like those who had left plastic reminders of the city, we were just visitors in this place. But as climbers perhaps we have a deeper connection to the land than those who cruise the Scenic Drive in their cars, jumping out just to take photos. Our role goes further than just worrying about brushing tick marks and chalk from the rock we love. As our sport grows we have an opportunity as individuals to both mitigate our own impact on nature and use our growing force for good. Places like Red Rocks deserve respect, wild landscapes that must be looked after if those experiences we crave, those beautiful escapes, are to be preserved for generations to come.
Next time we'll be back with an empty bag for the walk out.