Alex Honnold’s Guide to Rock Climbing in Las Vegas


When most people imagine Las Vegas, they imagine the Strip, the fountains at Caesars, or bachelor parties gone wrong. Alex Honnold only thinks of one thing: the rocks. “There’s the best concentration of rock climbing in the country around Vegas, which is why I live here,” Honnold says. The number and variety of climbs are breathtaking. According to the climbing guide website Mountain Project, Southern Nevada alone has more than 3,400 routes, from sharp limestone boulders to sandstone behemoths over 20 pitches. “Even on the worst days, in the worst weather conditions, you can climb outdoors if you’re motivated enough,” Honnold says.

For those who choose to partake in the more innocent recreational pursuits of Sin City, the choices can be overwhelming. Here, Honnold gives us the lowdown on the best places to hit.

red rock

Why go: According to Honnold, Red Rock is a “world class rock climbing destination”. With over 2,500 traditional, sport, rope and boulder routes, this is the kind of place that can make a climber cry. While many routes around Vegas are challenging, Red Rock offers a plethora of easier options, thanks to its signature sandstone, which breaks too easily to form smaller holds, making it an ideal destination for rock climbers. intermediates looking for a multi-terrain experience. .

When should we go: Fall, Spring or Winter

Difficulty: 5.5 to 5.14

What to climb: During the shoulder seasons (September to November and March to June) there are multi-pitch routes aplenty in the main canyons, with many moderate routes up to 20 pitches. But in the winter, when the big climbs turn into ice caps, bouldering and sport climbing in areas like Kraft’s Boulders (check out the photogenic plumber’s crack) and Calico Basin are your best bets. Honnold recommends not leaving until you have reached the original route on the rainbow wall in the shoulder seasons. It’s a 5.12 ten-step beauty that stands as the crown jewel.

Considerations: never climb on wet rock. The same fragility that makes climbing here easy will cause routes to crumble when wet. Also, like many popular sports, overcrowding at Red Rock is a problem – pack your shit, dirty bag!

The promised land

Why go: If you are a moderate to advanced climber who wants to escape the masses of Red Rock, head here. “It’s a hidden limestone gem,” says Honnold. The approach involves challenging four-wheel-drive road driving and a steep hour-long hike. But if you manage to do that, you’ll probably have the wall all to yourself.

When should we go: spring or fall

Difficulty: 5.11 to 5.13

What to climb: There are approximately a dozen sports courses spread over three walls. For a challenge, try Confrontation (5.13b), a classic cliff climb that starts on a steep, difficult slab but continues through a series of solid holds.

Considerations: The Promised Land is located in a wilderness study areawhich means that climbing near the petroglyphs and pictographs, as well as any alteration of the rock by chipping or sticking, is prohibited.

Mount Potosi

Why go: This secluded and well-developed area doesn’t see much traffic but is actively gaining popularity among the Vegas climbing community.

When should we go: Winter

Difficulty: 5.7 to 5.14c

What to climb: There are more than 100 sports routes, and more and more in development, most of them difficult. “It’s mostly pockets of limestone and a roof,” Honnold explains. “So you’re hanging on two fingers trying to mark out the holds.” The Clear Light Cave section offers the greatest concentration of routes for advanced climbers, such as Pranayam (5.13a), one of the “old school classic routes”. There are, however, a few easy to moderate routes; Lay It Down Easy (5.8) or Capt’n Stab’n (5.10c) are solid alternatives to Red Rock for intermediate climbers.

Considerations: To access to many rocks involves driving on unpaved desert roads. A four-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicle is highly recommended.

Virgin River Gorge

Why go: Although technically over the border in Arizona, this elite destination is still an integral part of the Vegas rock climbing scene. “It has already been described to me as the best limestone in America,” Honnold says. The sharp, painful rock and proximity to the highway scares off most average climbers, but if you stick with it, you might be able to count yourself among the pros. “You only climb it if you hate yourself a little bit and want to climb hard,” Honnold says.

When should we go: Winter

Difficulty: 5.11b to 5.14c

What to climb: For the real advanced who want a real taste of the VRG, Honnold recommends the legendary Necessary Evil (5.14c). “It’s the quintessential style and really defines what climbing in the VRG is,” he says. There are a few slightly easier routes, including the Mentor (5.12b), an overhang that requires big moves and offers a bit of everything: pockets, edges, side pulls and dynos. Honnold says it’s “pretty accessible to anyone climbing in a gym.”

Considerations: The VRG is not known for its landscapes. Located off Highway 15, noise can sometimes make it difficult for climbing partners to communicate verbally.

Mount Charleston

Why go: In the summer, 11,000-foot Mount Charleston can be an oasis in the scorching desert heat. “You’re climbing in the shade at altitude, and it’s quite comfortable,” says Honnold. It also happens to be a top destination for challenging limestone climbing.

When should we go: Summer

Difficulty: 5.8 to 5.14

What to climb: Charleston is mostly athletic, with sprinkles of trad, bouldering, and top rope. Honnold recommends the Roost area, which has a huge concentration of challenging routes, with pocked limestone and several caves. Generally, the higher the rating, the better the line. Mary Jane Cliff is a good place to find more moderate routes.

The gun club

Why go: If you find yourself in Vegas on a rainy day or have beginners in your group, the Gun Club is a solid option, with bolted routes that can be climbed even when wet. “I would never call it good rock climbing, but it’s super accessible and hits all the right notes – it’s like an outdoor gym,” says Honnold.

When should we go: Spring

Difficulty: 5.6 to 5.12

What to climb: For a fun 5.12, take a look at the High Caliber or Point Blank. The Bushmaster (5.8) is less sharp than some other beginner routes.

Virginia F. Goins