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Prince of Darkness
1:14pm Thursday 3rd November 2011 in Leisure
Fake… real…. fake… professional oh, com’on who is she trying to kid.….
Vegas took no time to welcome us back with its iconic slot machines, cigarette smoke, and “remodeled” inordinately young housewives. The American Dream in action.
On the face of it Las Vegas is a strange place to find walkers and climbers but on the west edge of town just beyond the creeping housing estates lies the spectacular Red Rocks mountain range.
Far too hot to contemplate in summer, during the fall and winter months the stable dry climate provides ideal conditions for world class mountaineering. Yes love it or hate it you can’t ignore Vegas.
Unfortunately Halloween in Vegas just has to be seen or heard our first night in town was interrupted every couple of minutes by some idiot attacking people with a chain saw while his equally stupid mates charged round in monster trucks, the girls hired to scream did what they did best, way into the early hours.
To make things worse we had just crossed a time zone and my alarm got us up an hour early which turned out to be a blessing in disguise but not appreciated after only 2 hours sleep.
Today’s objective for Chuck and I was The Prince of Darkness (PoD) a 350 meter classic rock climb, graded 5.10c in the remote Black Velvet Canyon.
The approach involved an hour’s drive over desert tracks, wishing we could swap one of those monster trucks for our Toyota Corolla we eventually got to the trail head at day break to find several trucks already parked up.
One team just setting off confirmed they were going to the same place as us, so the race was on. Our approach was 2 hours up a very difficult dry canyon bed we could hear our competitors cursing and thrashing in the undergrowth so we sneaked past to arrive at the foot of route first.
Black Velvet is regarded as of the best climbing areas in the world, our route the PoD is rated as one of the top 50 climbs in North America involving 7 long pitches directly up a very steep wall that just screamed climb me. In English money the grade is E3 5c, too hard for Chuck, today I had to lead it all. As we finished the first pitch the second team burst out of the undergrowth. Peeved they opted for an easier route to the right leaving the main event to us.
The climbing was hard and sustained but just within my comfort zone so we made good progress and had rappelled back to the base of the cliff by mid afternoon. Several more teams had arrived and were at work on different routes across the huge cliff. Worryingly with only 2 hours of daylight left most of them were still at the early stages of their respective climbs.
Glad we had finished in good time we took our time descending the awkward canyon and arrived back at the car at dusk, where the real fun started.
This will forever be remembered as the day we got bum rushed by wild burros. Tell-tale snot smudges on the driver's side window, about level with a navel orange on the console should have alerted us to their presence and the shuffling in the sage brush... it was only after dropping our packs and rummaging around for snacks and beer that they began to stalk us. They had an eager, semi-rabid way about them and from the looks of their subtle yet converging offensive, this was not their first rodeo.
As we headed for the bright lights of Vegas we spared a thought for the others who would be following us, psycho burros coming at you in the dark would have been worse than that idiot with the chain saw, a real Halloween trick or treat.
Anyone wishing to take part in any mountaineering activities should be aware that they will have to make critical safety decisions based on their own judgement every time they climb outdoors.