Overview. Red Rocks Canyon is located about 20 minutes west of downtown Las Vegas. The majority of the high-quality climbs near Las Vegas are located in this area, although there are limestone crags nearby that can be climbed in case of rain (Red Rocks sandstone should not be climbed for 24-48 hours after it rains or snows due to holds breaking).
Red Rocks: A Climber’s Guide (Handren) – You can purchase this book in Vegas at Desert RockSports. It is probably the best book. Costs $35ish. Here’s a review: http://www.rockclimbing.com/Articles/Gear_and_Reviews/Red_Rocks_A_Climber_s_Guide_Editorial_Review_744.html
Rock Climbing Red Rocks 3rd edition (Swain) – Available on Amazon for $15ish. Comprehensive guidebook. No color photos. I own this book but like the Handren one better.
Red Rock Canyon: A Climbing Guide (Brock & McMillan) – Supposedly has some inaccurate grading / info, but has more routes than the other books.
Red Rocks Climbing: Supertopos (Barnes) – Supertopo makes the best color topos. This one doesn’t have as many routes as the other books though. The PDF version is worth considering if you want to do long routes so you can just print everything out though. Around $20.
Weather. Winter temperatures vary from season to season so check forecasts. Typically, shaded climbs are too cold to climb, so stick to south- or west-facing and preferably wind-sheltered walls.
Access. The Red Rocks Canyon Scenic Drive (a.k.a. The Loop) closes at 5pm in the winter (holiday hours may be different). That means you need to be back at the parking lot by 5pm to avoid getting a ticket. For multipitch crags (Angel Food Wall, Ice Box Canyon, Juniper Canyon, Pine Creek Canyon, and Oak Creek),you can get a late-exit permit via phone ((702) 515-5050)or in person at the Visitor’s Center ((702) 515-5138), allowing you to leave at 8pm.On multiple occasions I’ve stayed past the official closing time without incident; but be warned, the fine can be $300 or more.Also, the speed limit is 35mph, and there is a speed trap near Ice Box Canyon. Finally, there is a $20 annual pass fee per party/car to enter the Loop.
Amenities. On the map below, you will be driving in from the East on highway 159, assuming you’re coming from downtown. About 15 minutes before you reach Red Rocks Canyon is Desert Rock Sports (http://desertrocksportslv.com/), a climbing gym / gear shop on the left on 159. About 5 minutes before you reach Red Rocks Canyon are various stores including a large supermarket on the right on 159. There is also an REI between these two areas, two blocks off 159 on the right.
Cragging info. Approaches for most cragging areas are on trails and take between 10 and 30 minutes. Use the bathroom before hiking in — all parking lots in Red Rock Canyon have some sort of toilet.Wind can quickly rob you of body heat so incorporate some form of wind-protection into your clothing system. A puffy jacket or thick softshell is great for staying toasty between climbs. A handwarmer packet in your chalkbag is nice for cold weather. The rock generally is good, but a helmet is recommendable.
Multipitch info. Approaches for most multipitch climbs are in the .75 – 1.5 hour range. Climbing times range from 2 – 8 hours. Rappel and walk-off descents vary in their time needs.Leave an itinerary of your climb with a responsible contact (also consider having an automatic search plan, such as having your responsible contact call local search and rescue if you’re not back by 11am the next day).
Essential gear includes a helmet, a headlamp, wind protection, enough water and food, at least one cell-phone per party, and a smallpack(15-30L).Some form of rain protection (shell, softshell, or emergency poncho) is advisable unless you’re absolutely sure of your party’s speed, the weather, and your retreat options. A balaclava is a good way to add warmth with little weight. Approaches are on decent terrain (at worst, rocky trails and some catcus spikey things) so lightweight footwearusually is sufficient. Plan to clip your approach shoes to your haul loop or pack on the climb as there are many walk-off descents.
Food- and water-wise, take between 2-4L of water per person depending on route length and expected exertion. At a high exertion level you will burn 400 cal/hr.; plan to replenish 100-200 cal/hr. in carbs.Drink up to an additional 4L of water after the climb if you lost a lot of fluids.
Clothing-wise, I (AC) usually wear lightweight wool or synthetic bottoms, softshell pants, and a lightweight long-sleeved woolor synthetictop. To this, I would add a windshirtif I expect to be mostly moving (e.g., easy climb / fast party). I would instead add a softshell and a windshirt if I knew belays would last longer (e.g. on a harder climb). Yet again, with a large party or when there would otherwise be long periods of not moving, I would instead take a big puffy jacket to thrown on whenever I wasn’t moving.
Efficiency is key in multipitch. Try to review / practice (or read up on) efficient belay transfers and rope management.
Crags and climbs. The first area you will encounter driving West on 159 is Calico Basin, where there are numerous 1-pitch trad and sport crags. South-facing crags include Moderate Mecca, which sports lots of easy to moderate trad and a short approach, and Sunny and Steep for 5.11-range sport, which you’ll approach via a 30 minute scenic hilly trek or a roundabout 1 hour hike. Other easier sport crags exist near Sunny and Steep.
The second area you will encounter on 159 is the 13-mile Loop (Red Rocks Canyon Scenic Drive), which provides access to the rest of climbs (labeled Entrance/Fee Station on the map). Parking lots 1 & 2 & 3 (S/W of Calico Hills on the Map) are for the First and Second Pull-outs and Sandstone Quarry. The majority of the sport climbs are in this area. Panty Wall, Tiger Stripe, and Ultraman provide good First Pull-out options. Second Pullout: The Gallery-Wall of Confusion has a good collection of sport routes from 5.9-5.13b and gets lots of sun; Black Corridor has a big selection of moderate sport climbs, but is popular and often busy.
The remaining areas contain trad crags and multipitch routes. Here are some long routes which should be sunny (details from memory; consult a guidebook):
Solar Slab Gully (5.3). This route provides access to the classic Solar Slab (5.6). It can be used as an introduction to multipitch for less experienced trad leaders.
Cat in the Hat (5.6). An easy 6-pitch classic with a rappel descent. There is a continuation to this climb that ends in a walk-off descent.
Solar Slab (5.6). An 8-pitch classic that requires climbing about 4-pitches to access. Rappel and walk-off descents. There is a continuation to the summit of Rainbow Mountain.
Birdland (5.7+) Superb 6-pitch sustained route that combines the lower pitches of Big Horn and final pitches of Spectrum. Convenient rappel descent.
Geronimo (5.6) Enjoyable 4-pitch route that’s steep, exposed and has big holds. Lot’s of sun.
Johnny Vegas (5.7). A 4-pitch classic that provides access to Solar Slab. Used for the rappel descent of Solar Slab.
Olive Oil (5.7). A 6-pitch classic with natural anchors. Walk-off descent.
Myster Z, 5.7
Windy Corner, 5.7
Jubilant Song, 5.8
Rainbow Buttress, 5.8
Beulah’s Book (5.9). A 4-pitchclassicthat provides access to Solar Slab. Bring a #4 Camalot for the chimney crux, or go out left to a line of bolts on the face to skip the crux.
Dark Shadows (5.9)
Hot Fudge Thursday, 5.9
Black Orpheus, 5.10a
Eagle Dance, 5.10c A0
A Song and A Prayer, 5.10a