TR: Ginger Cracks (Red Rock)

TR: Ginger Cracks (Red Rock)

Post by WSJgrig » Sat, 18 Apr 1998 04:00:00

Here is a little TR I wrote about climbing Ginger Cracks at Red Rock this
weekend.  I did the route with Gary, a friend from Vegas (which I guess makes
him a Vegan, but he's not pushy about it ;-).  It was out first multipitch
climb together.

I would recommend this route to solid trad leaders who are comfortable with the
prospects of non-bolted belays, route-finding, and sections of questionable
rock quality.  In Gary's not-even-remotely humble opinion, GC is the perfect
antidote to the over-used, over-protected, and over-hyped Crimson Chrysalis
route. It's a challenging alternative to the risk-managed, take-a-number
pop-trad routes.

I have yet to do CC (Gary has done it twice), so I can't compare, but I can say
this was a hell of a fun route and that we didn't see another party all day,
save for those lined up 'round the corner.


Ginger Cracks (8 pitches, IV, 5.9)

Or: "A Good Reason to Leave the Crimson Chrysalis Queue"

Gary and I met up early on Friday to do a climb called "Crimson Chrysalis", a
5.8+ 9-pitch route with about a 1-1/2 hour approach. A *steep* approach.  When
we got to the base, there were 3 parties on the route, one party waiting to get
on, and a party on our heels up the approach path.  We thought for about 5
minutes and decided to go to Plan B, which was a nearby route called "Ginger
Cracks", an 8-pitch 5.9 that doesn't see much traffic since it is not in the
current guidebook.  We were a little hesitant because we had both heard that
there was a lot of loose rock at the top, but we decided we could handle it.
It was definitely biting off a larger commitment, because Crimson has all
bolted belays and a lot of intervening bolts for protection, plus the descent
is to rap the route.  Ginger Cracks has only one bolt on the whole climb (a
1/4-inch spinner protecting the thin-face crux moves), all natural-pro belays,
and the descent is a combination of scrambling, downclimbing and rapping off of
non-bolted anchors.

But we decided were up for the challenge, so we hiked over, looked at the route
description in the old (Urioste) guidebook, and decided I would lead the first
pitch so that Gary would get the 5.9 4th (crux) pitch (described as having
"fragile rock and thin protection"), what with him having much larger cojones

The first pitch started with a cruiser 5.7 wide crack in a corner, which took
great pro.  It then followed a large detached flake, on top of which was the
belay stance (fixed nut and slung flake which can be backed up with cams--the
only fixed belay on the route).  The moves over the flake were fun, as the
handholds were huge jugs, and I was quickly at the belay.  Gary led P2 (5.8),
which had a short chimney section then turned an overhang, ending at a***
belay.  I hung the small pack between my legs to facilitate the chimney moves,
as Gary had cruelly placed gear to prevent me from "missing all the fun" and
climbing around the chimney on the adjacent face.  (Hey--would *I* do that??  I
guess my reputation preceded me.)  P3 was a straightforward 5.7 crack followed
by a fun 5.7-ish corner.  The pitch ended, according to the route description,
"below the tree, near an aromatic plant".  What??  I don't think that plant
realized how important it was to route-finding, because I think it died about
10 years ago!  So did the tree!  But I could see where the thin face crux was,
so I put in a belay somewhere below.  Actually, I think I overshot the belay by
a bit.  I was placing a lot of gear (the runout queen I am not), so I ended up
with only one big piece left, so I just kept climbing until I found a 3-1/2
Camelot placement.  Finding that, I slammed in Big Grey, and backed it up with
a slung flake and a brass offset.

It took us a few pitches to get our system dialed, having never climbed
multipitch together before.  We forgot to have the leader trail the tag-line
twice, which necessitated some backtracking and wasted time, with Gary having
to lower off and re-climb quite a bit to retrieve the stuck tag-line, just
prior to his leading the crux pitch.  He arrived at the belay atop P3 with the
tag line coiled around his neck, wearing the pack and looking a little tired.
But he kindly kept his thoughts to himself about my faux-pas and racked up for
P4.  It looked tricky to me from below, but he sailed through the hardest moves
on the climb (5.9), finished the pitch, and brought me up to the belay.  We
were halfway done.

Gary had photocopied the route description, so he read me my next pitch:
"Wander up the rotten face and crack to a large belay ledge.  5.8."  He said
"you sure know how to pick 'em" and handed me the rack.  I headed up and sure
enough, the rock quality was pretty suspect.  I wandered left to look for
better rock quality in another crack system.  I didn't find it.  In fact, I
snapped off a large handhold which fortunately missed Gary at the belay (and
increased my adrenaline level about tenfold).  I moved a little higher, testing
the holds more carefully, and came upon a lovely TV-sized block which was
completely separated from the face and quite delicately balanced atop a pile of
chossy rock.  I could not figure out how to climb around it without endangering
Gary perched below, so I downclimbed and traversed back right.  I headed up
cautiously, placing lots of pro, and made it to the large belay ledge without
breaking off anything else.  Once I got there, I breathed a huge sigh of
relief!  That was one of the scarier pitches I've ever done.  Then I decided to
play a little joke on Gary.  I tied off a bomber tree on the ledge for my
belay, and then sat down right in front of it, so it wasn't immediately visible
to Gary.  I then loosely slung a pathetic little dead bush and clipped very
obviously into that.  When Gary got to the belay and thought that bush was our
only pro, he got a little nervous about his partner selection.  I said--"no way
dhuuuude--it's bomber," tugged on the dead bush and ripped off a piece of it.
Then I showed him the real belay.  Fortunately, he thought it was funny, and we
took a picture of the sad little slung bush to scare friends.

The rest of the route was a little easier, and we combined the final 3 pitches
into two.  Gary led a wandering pitch that was largely 4th class (guidebook
says 5.4 and 4th class), but had a cool dihedral section that looked much
harder from the bottom but took good pro and had bomber holds only apparent
once you got to them.   I got to lead the last pitch (5.8 dihedral with great
stemming moves), which tops out in "The Gunsight"--a large hole in the tower
where the climb ends.

 It was getting late, and we wanted to try to rap off by dark, but we took a
few minutes to pose for some summit photos and appreciate the view before
leaving the belay.  The Gunsight opens up in the back to look upon a massive
dark face decorated with beautiful green lichen.  We dreamed of future first
ascents, as The Dean had told me this face was "uncharted territory".  Gary had
brought his headlamp just in case we ran late, and it was handy in finding some
of the rap stations.  We rapped down, scrambled, and rapped twice more to reach
the descent gully.  One rap was in the dark, but with the full moon, visibility
was not bad, and in fact the rap down a black waterstreak in the middle of a
smooth white face, with the full moon behind us and the lights of Las Vegas in
the distance, was quite awesome.  The rope only snagged once, and we were able
to free it.  Thank you WendyLuck (tm)!  The headlamp again came in handy to get
down the gully to the packs and my dog Zuma, who had waited patiently for us at
the base.

It was a beautiful night and we were too tired just then for the hour-plus hike
out, so we sat and ate "lunch" and looked at Red Rock in the moonlight for a
bit.  Then we packed up for the long, tiring hike.  The moon made the headlamps
unnecessary.  Plus, the WonderDog finds the trail by smell, anyway.  On the
hike out we heard the wild burros braying in the distance and the frogs
croaking in Pine Creek.  We got back to the car at 10:30, 14-1/2 hours after we
left it.  Not a speed record, for sure (I heard some guy named Tony did it in
42 minutes, car to car ;-), but a great day.

[Note:  We probably could have combined more pitches, as the Urioste guidebook
has pitch lengths of 100-150 feet for most of the pitches.  Gear was generally
straightforward and plentiful.  Even the "thin face" crux pitch was easily
protected with nuts and small TCUs.  There were no mandatory runouts of any
great length (spoken by a chicken, trust me), with the possible exception of
some 4th class ground.  Big pieces came in handy--we brought two #3 Camelots,
plus one each of #3-1/2, #4, and #4-1/2.  The #4-1/2 was probably overkill--or
at least it's so heavy that I generally place it within 10 feet of starting a
pitch just so my second can carry it up ;-).  The rest of the rack was a pretty
standard trad rack--#3 was the only double piece we took.  If you want more
detail, feel free to email me! ]


TR: Ginger Cracks (Red Rock)

Post by Darwin O.V. Alon » Sun, 19 Apr 1998 04:00:00

Nice trip report! My favorite in r.c in a couple of months.

oh, except for lording over those of us who live in colder and wetter climes.
As evocative as the moon-light over the desert images were (jeeze, being warm
in a T-shirt at 10 in the evening), I suspect it was a spurious addition to the story
only meant to torment us.  ;-)


TR: Ginger Cracks (Red Rock)

Post by SAMOR » Wed, 22 Apr 1998 04:00:00


>> oh, except for lording over those of us who live in colder and wetter
>> climes.  As evocative as the moon-light over the desert images were (jeeze,
>> being warm in a T-shirt at 10 in the evening), I suspect it was a spurious
>> addition to the storyonly meant to torment us.  ;-)

>T-shirt?!?!?!?  Surely you jest.

>As any of my trad partners can attest, I attempt long routes armed with no
>less than expedition-weight thermals, wind-block fleece, a pretty
>goofy-looking hat, and a chemical hand-warmer pack in the zipper pocket of my
>chalkbag (just in case).

>I may look like the Michelin Tire Woman, but I'm warm ;-)

Have you tried 'spooning' ?


"If I were still a member, I just personally could not get past the irony of
being complacent about foundational lies on a path of truth....."