When to Climb
Generally, October to early April is considered the best season for climbing in Red Rocks. September is still a bit warm, with highs reaching 90°F. December and January are rather cold, and storms periodically cover Red Rocks with a thin blanket of snow. During December and January, it is also common to have spells of beautiful, cloudless days with temperatures in the mid-60s. Toward the end of April, the temperature ramps up, and bouldering is often relegated to the dawn and evening hours with head lamps and lanterns. In the summer, dawn and evening sessions are still possible for those with motivation. In July, however, temperatures quickly become unbearable as the sun rises. Serendipitous for local climbers, just as Red Rocks becomes too hot, Mount Charleston comes into season.
When it’s cold, some warmer spots include: the Kraft Boulders, the Stick Gully Boulders until the afternoon, the Mud Springs Boulders at the mouth of Windy Canyon until the afternoon, and the Paiute Boulders at Keyhole Canyon.
When it’s warm, some cooler spots include: the problems in Black Velvet Canyon, Anthem at the Monument Boulders, which stays shaded all day, the Red Rock Wash with Ride the White Horse and Stampede in Willow Springs, and Gateway Canyon, where shade can be found when Kraft is baking.
The most accessible developed campground in the vicinity of Red Rocks is out of sight from SR-159, on the east side of Blue Diamond Hill. Managed by the BLM, the Red Rock Canyon Campground has a 14-day limit and sites cost $15 per night. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis; reservations are not accepted. Each site can accommodate two vehicles, has a fire ring, picnic table, and access to water and toilets. Showers and utility hookups are not available. Although there is a resident caretaker, theft has been a problem in recent years. For site availability and additional information, call (702) 515-5371.
Directions: From its junction with the 215 Beltway, continue west on Charleston Boulevard for 3.3 miles. Turn left onto Moenkopi Road (0.5 miles before Calico Basin Road),
Camping is not allowed along the dirt roads near Black Velvet and Windy Canyons or anywhere in Calico Basin. However, a small number of primitive camping options are available: Camping along Rocky Gap Road (a scenic 4x4 road that connects Willow Springs and Lovell Canyon), as well as camping anywhere above 5000' in areas south of the La Madre Mountains within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, requires a permit. Camping is subject to a 14-day limit, and fires are not allowed. Sites in Lovell Canyon (managed by the USFS) do not require a permit but are still subject to the 14-day limit. The easiest access is from Lovell Canyon Road, 3.2 miles west of Mountain Springs along SR160, on the west side of the Red Rocks Escarpment.
There are four types of rock that are climbed in southern Nevada: sandstone, limestone, volcanic, and granitic.
Aztec Sandstone, the rock of Red Rocks, exists in a variety of styles. At its best, the sandstone is exquisitely featured and offers good friction without being sharp. Red Rocks has vast amounts of varnished rock. The varnish is dark brown to black and forms a thin shell over the rock. The well-varnished rock of the canyons is generally considered to be the best rock in southern Nevada. When not varnished, the rock varies in color from white and tan to dark red, orange, and even purple. Generally, the Calico Hills tend to be of a softer, sandier rock that is sometimes "perma-sandy." The Propane Tank, for example, has been eroded naturally and by climbing, resulting in problems that have been constantly changing since they were first climbed in the late 1970s. An in-depth discussion of the geology of Red Rock Canyon can be found in the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Guide by Tom Moulin.
When wet, Aztec sandstone becomes considerably weaker, and holds that are regularly used on well-traveled climbs can break-off with little effort. To preserve the climbs, climbers do not climb on the rock when it is wet. Depending on the severity of the rain or snow storm and subsequent conditions, it usually takes a day or two for the rock to dry out. The canyons, which are of a less porous rock, are generally faster drying than the Calico Hills. When faced with a soggy Red Rocks, other rock types are usually still climbable.
Most of the rock on the east side of Las Vegas is volcanic. Wide variation in rock quality and type is found. Generally, lines are not striking, and holds tend to be sharp. Many find the volcanic rock of Arizona Hot Springs to be better suited for climbing than the areas around Henderson and Boulder City. This is likely because the area has seen more water polishing.
Limestone is the predominant rock type of the Spring Mountains. While lower elevation spots often have very sharp, fluted spines, the higher elevation rock on Mount Charleston is often too featureless to climb. Early in the season, seepage can be a problem; in certain spots, it persists throughout the year. The stand-alone boulders, of which there are very few, do not have seepage issues. In recent years, the Mosaic and Yeti Caves have been deveolped at Mount Charleston. These spots are somewhat akin to those found near Flagstaff Arizona and are great for problems in the V8 to V12 range.
Southern Nevada offers a small selection of granite bouldering, namely Keyhole Canyon, Knob Hill, and the Jean Boulders. Although the best rock at Keyhole rivals other iconic spots such as Little Cottonwood Canyon and Yosemite, there is only small amount of it. That being said, the newly developed Hillside Boulders at Keyhole are a great choice (especially when Red Rocks is wet) with a good number of problems in the V0 to V8 range. The rock of Knob Hill and the Jean Boulders tends to be of larger grain size, more akin to that found at Joshua Tree.
What's New in The Third Edition?
The third edition of Southern Nevada Bouldering has 72 more pages than the second edition. It includes extensively revised sections for the SR160 Areas, Calico Hills, and Gateway Canyon as well as numerous new spots at Mount Charleston and Keyhole Canyon. Overall there are some 3200 problems described (the second edition listed some 2400). Both new and established problems have been carefully reviewed and improved for clarity in their descriptions and consistancy in their grades. There are many new boulder photographs alongside and a great set of new action photographs. The maps have been enhanced and updated throughout the book. Additionally, the binding has been beefed up from that used in the second edition.