Our rescues at Red Rock

My friend Susan is thoughtful, moral, good. She was once a practicing anaesthetist, and her exit from that profession, choosing to some extent not to wait to be sued, was a great loss because that’s the kind of cautious person you want as a doctor. . She’s Susan the Good, and I feel like the dark side. At El Potrero, even in the deepest night, she would walk across the campground to the restroom, because cumulatively camping areas and cliff bases often start to smell of urine. Me, in the middle of the night, I come within 20 feet of my tent, max. Susan does not graze in Whole Foods bulk bins. I try to get more of my chocolate covered almonds at the cash register.

Last week, on another one of our many annual climbing trips, we were on the expansive six-pitch terrain Irreproachable trial and error (5.10) at Juniper Canyon, Red Rock, when held up by a group of three slow-moving people, one of the people carrying a huge bag. Of course this group said they would have been fine if it hadn’t been for the slow group (carrying huge packages) in front their.

When Susan had to wait on chocks 10 feet below their belay, they apologized, and I heard her say with a laugh that it was OK: “If we give you shit, we’ll deserve it. next time we’re the ones holding someone. up.” I smiled. Many of my friends would have betrayed their impatience, and my spouse said he would have climbed through people, but I could count on Susan.

We ended up rapping separately, thank goodness, and then with headlamps, Susan and I hiked the long approach, first over rock slabs, then amid braided trails and through sandy washes and sparse vegetation. Once we went up the wrong direction for 20 minutes. We stopped several times to look back for any signs of the other party. We also watched tiny headlights hurtle down the 1,000ft crimson chrysalis, on a nearby buttress, and I heard the chirping cries of this group; but no blemish emanated from the crew we had met.

Arrived at the parking lot at 9:30 am in trepidation over the $125 fee for parking after 7:00 am (we hadn’t applied for the late permit), we sang for joy to find a blank windshield. We were backing up the rental car when Susan said, “Ohhh, shit.”

Three big white trucks were driving towards us in the dark. One was a park vehicle and two appeared to belong to the police.

I jumped out of our rental, apologetically, clearly overwhelmed but still by nature willing to try and get us out of that $125 (which Susan would have agreed to because, as she later observed, “we had deserved”). Speaking quickly to the first uniforms I saw, I said I was so sorry but we had been held up by climbers now in worrying circumstances behind us. I didn’t know the ranger and the two cops didn’t need a diversion.

“He is the one we are looking for,” they said. “Their friends called for help.” Friends had said the climbers had no gear for the night. A helicopter, the kind policeman nearby told me, was on its way.

Suddenly, Susan and I went from chagrined miscreants and in my case accomplices to essential sources. We had seen the missing climbers for the last time, we knew where they had been and we were rappelling. We eagerly pointed; rushed to the car for the guide to bring out photos and diagrams. I smoothed down my tangled helmet hair.

Climbers in Calico Hills, Red Rock Canyon. Photo: Stan Shebs/Wikimedia Commons.

No one said a word about parking tickets.

People were OK, we admitted it. Or was the last time we saw them. They certainly had something in that big yellow bag. It never occurred to us until later that they might not have headlamps.

Did they need the helicopter? we were asked. I stopped. I asked if they would be charged for it, and the cop said a quick no. I still didn’t think it was necessary. But… they had struggled. What if someone was injured on the descent? Suddenly, it seemed like a crucial possibility. Susan and I nodded.

One of the cops saw a cell phone light flashing in what he thought was the correct area. The lighted lamp Crimson Chrysalis the crew rushed onto the track, much faster than us.

The helicopter appeared, reached the massif forming one side of the canyon, and sped overhead, casting an intense, wide and stunning light. From the ground, I played an exhilarating game of remote control, transmitting instructions to our cop friend with his radio.

“No, not up the cliff. Their route ended halfway, at the top of Ginger Buttress. Tell him to come down. The helicopter descended. “Tell him to go left.” It made. “Now a bit. The! …. OK, now look in the ravine just below. This is where they had left their other packs.

After a thorough scan, the helicopter decided to come back and talk to us. This bird in 15 seconds covered what had taken us nearly three hot and stumbling hours. We again produced our guide and diagrams, recited the names of the climbers for a ground crew to shout. I was torn between fervent hope and fear that we would be put in the helicopter.

But just as the helicopter was returning to the remote canyon and searching again, a call came in. The climbers had phoned their friends, they were fine, they were going out. We couldn’t imagine how this would be possible without headlamps, and I tried to imagine that all night, or as long as I was awake, while remembering the clean and airy pitches and the surreal moment we were in climbed high enough to see the towers and lights of Las Vegas from this vast desert of another planet. I still don’t see how without headlamps people could find their way. But I’m sure they’re gone.

IT WAS THE LAST DAY about our trip. The day before, we had done another long drive, again beaten in the dark, this time from Black Velvet Canyon, and this time because of us. We had first struggled to find the right start to the course, then up on another distant and brilliant course, late, we had wanted to finish: take that last step.

Now we were walking with sore feet down a rocky couloir, doing just a few moderate athletic fields before a meal at Whole Foods and the next morning’s flights. The narrow hallway was teeming with what looked like a rock climbing course, as we chatted with a trio near us, who had brought along a small white dog named Tofu.

Susan and I had picked up and were heading to an upper level, and I was staring straight ahead, when Tofu darted gruntingly to the shady side and bit my toe with his sharp little teeth. I was wearing trail shoes, and it didn’t hurt, but I jumped, startled.

The owner grabbed the dog and carried it away saying, “Bad dog,” without meeting my eyes or speaking to me.

When, an hour or two later, we came back through this canyon, I asked the owners to pick up the dog. Their friend laughed at me.

I said, “Well, he bit my toe when I passed before.”

The friend said, “Oh, well, that’s his thing.”

And Susan, courteous Susan, says clearly, “If he bites my foot, I could put it in his head.

We walked out in perfect silence.

Down the hall, I turned to her. I couldn’t believe she said it and I couldn’t stop laughing. He is a good partner who supports you.

The above is from 2009. Many of us have had unforgettable experiences in the vastness of Red Rock, a place that’s accessible but where you can feel like you’re on Pluto. This writer has been going there since 1987…at least.

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