Climbing is Community: Mountain Project Admin Meetup in Red Rocks

Leaving Las Vegas after four full days climbing on abnormally bomber red, black and tan sandstone, I found myself contemplating how special the climbing community really is. This trip centered around a meetup hosted by Mountain Project for Admins of their climbing areas. Here, I met climbers from the Gunks, Devil’s Lake, SoCal, Oregon and Quebec, route bolters out of Idaho, traditional first ascentionists from Red Rock, boulderers from Grand Junction, gym owners in Missouri and the people who started Mountain Project and Mountain Bike Project. I also climbed one day with a person sporting a Senior’s National Park pass and another with an existing friend I originally met online, trying to climb near Mt. Rushmore.

Dirtbag List

I also came to Las Vegas without hotel reservations or a rental car (Red Rock Canyon is not on the strip) but trusting I would get by through all these new friends I had yet to meet for sleeping, eating and getting between campsites and climbing areas. I was able to count on this superfluous support, without a plan, given our shared climbing culture was born out of dirtbags living in Yosemite. We are used to supporting others living simply, cheaply, modestly and alternatively, because most of us have been there ourselves. How else can the average person afford to build out their first standard trad. rack for nearly a thousand dollars… 😁

MP Admin badasses fire. Yeah, we go to bed at 9:30pm!

The biggest leap of faith, however, was coming on a climbing trip without a partner. This forced me to connect with Richard, a climber I didn’t know before I showed up to his hotel room late Thursday night while he was sleeping and climbed Ginger Cracks (5.9 900ft) with him the next day on Friday.

Plus Richard had beautiful color-coordinating ropes
Richard topping out on Ginger Cracks

This also forced me to ask around each night/morning at the MP campsite to team up other admins. Climbing in threes with a group out of Wisconsin on their 8th day here on Bourbon Street (5.8+ 710 ft) and Mountain Project Founder Nick at Lotta Balls Wall on Trihardral (5.8+ 400ft). 

James charging up the first pitch of Bourbon Street

Searching for partners among strangers though is not abnormal, but a constant experience among the travelers, gym climbers, weekend warriors, van lifers and Yosemite bums that make up the climbing community. Climbing is a constant combination of risk, technique, skill and injury that results in an ever flux of strengths, weaknesses and personal availability requiring us to be flexible and often find new people to spend our favorite pastime with. Climbing is a religion, lifestyle and culture that smooths over the things that divide most people these days (age, location, background, ethnicity, gender, etc.) in pursuit of living in the moment, outside, feeling alive and in flow. 14-year-olds climb with 40-year-olds, Missourians with Californians, and tech. workers with firefighters.

The whole WI crew relaxing at the top of Whiskey Peak. Ahhh, sun.

Finally, climbing is a partner sport that forges intimate relationships between participants that count on each-other to prevent injury and where trust is often the thing that enables high performance and large objectives. For this reason, long-term climbing partners are gold, special, trusting and supportive relationships. It is no surprise that the climbing highlight of my trip was hitting the classic, amazingly good Sour Mash (5.10a 600ft ⭐⭐⭐⭐) with 3x climbing partner Alec on a wind advisory day that gave us historic Black Velvet Canyon to ourselves in updrafts that blew ropes into my face against gravity.

Yep that is 5.10a balancy slab in 30 mph gusts
Saddle bags FTW, except they get blown into your face.

There are over a dozen reasons why I like climbing, but maybe my favorite is the community of people it connects me with. As a bonus, I didn’t even spend one night rappeling in the dark this trip. I’m either getting smarter or the days are getting longer.

I clearly like these feet on ledge belay photos.