After surviving the battle to travel across the United States during a severe winter storm, I arrived in Las Vegas and was greeted with sunshine, dry air, and cool temps. Though being stuck in a car for days wore me out and made me quite stiff, I couldn’t have been more excited to climb at the Kraft boulders for a couple days before continuing the journey to San Jose. I had never been to Las Vegas before, and my usual reaction to being in a new area with a high concentration of quality rock climbing is to geek out and try to climb everything in sight. While warming up, I noticed that the texture of the Aztec Sandstone was at times very sharp especially on the dark varnish, and overall, this type of sandstone of eolian origin was much different than the sandstone that I was used to back East which is the result of fluvial processes.
Before sinking my finger tips into some projects, I stopped at the clean, vertical face of the Pearl. As expected, there was a crowd of people working this classic boulder problem, but surprisingly, the right hand starting jug had just broken off. The starting hold turned into a flat crimp, and as I was putting my shoes on, we saw the first ascent of the Pearl in its new form. I jumped up next and stupidly tried a different foot sequence that did not work for the opening move. Still feeling mentally and physically lethargic from the long drive, I quickly tried the problem again and sent it easily using the “correct” foot holds. The problem is probably a solid V5 now, and because I wanted to spend some more time on this beautiful boulder, I did it from a sit-start. This added a couple more fun moves, but it wasn’t any harder than V6.
Because it was a nice, cool day and it was somewhat cloudy, I raced up the hill to throw myself at the Angel Dyno V6/8 and Progressive Guy V10 which are usually baking in the desert sun. On my first go of Angel Dyno I stuck the sloping and sideways chunk, but in a violent swing, I got spit off and belly-flopped onto a well-placed crash pad. It felt like I got punched in the face, but I gave the problem a couple more tries. I was unsuccessful, and then I continued to punish myself by working the moves of Progressive Guy. Hoping to finish the day with a small victory, I continued up the boulder field to another amazing boulder called $600. Once again, I failed to send anything. I couldn’t figure out the balancy moves on the face of $500 V8, and though I could stick the opening gaston move of $600 V9, I progressively got more tired and was unable to get any further on the problems.
The next day didn’t go much better. I was sore, and during my warm-up, I felt like I had gained about 20lbs. After I had finished preparing my fingers for another day of torture, I began working Slice ‘n Dice V9 on the Split boulder. I thought I had a pretty good chance of sending it because it is crimpy, slightly overhanging, and somewhat short. I did the second half of the problem with relative ease though the sharp varnished edges shredded a significant amount of skin off my tips. The remainder of my time was spent on the two opening moves involving a wide stem and some funky compression moves. Some progress was made, but ultimately, I failed and decided to move on to a slightly easier problem called the Mole V7/8. Just like Slice ‘n Dice, there were many sharp crimps, and I quickly did almost all of the moves for the problem. The only move that shut me down involved a dynamic catch of a sidepull crimp close to my chest. I was pissed, tired, and in pain, but most of all, I lacked power. It was quite obvious to me after these two days at the Kraft Boulders that the combination of sitting in a car for days and mostly hangboarding for the month of December sucked the life out of my ability to snatch holds quickly and use body tension on steep terrain. I desperately needed a rest day.
After a nice day of lounging in the sun and savoring some In-N-Out Burger, I had one last day in Las Vegas, and I decided to spend the morning at the Monkey Bar Boulder. Immediately upon reaching this perfectly sculpted orb of well-featured sandstone, I knew I was going to have a great bouldering session. First, I scanned the guidebook to get my bearings in the web of variations that are spun across the overhanging face, and then, I abruptly pulled onto the easiest and juggiest line called Monkey Bars V2. Next, I thoroughly analyzed the mess of holds up right side of the boulder and then flashed Monkey Bar Right V6. In my excitement from cruising up these steep problems, I proceeded to the Monkey Bar Traverse V7 and fell on my first attempt because I did not pay close enough attention to my foot placement on a polished edge. I relaxed for a second, and on my next attempt, I sent this pumpy traverse of positive crimps. For the rest of the session, I worked the most classic line of the boulder, Monkey Bar Direct V8. The moves and holds for this problem were amazing. It starts on a huge jug at the base of the roof with some good feet. The right hand is thrown to a somewhat painful two finger pocket, and then the left is brought the to starting jug before the left hand is matched to a pinch adjacent to the pocket. From here, I had to make long move with my right hand to a small and intermediate half-pad crimp. Taller climbers can usually throw all the way to a nice jug. I struggled the whole time to bump my right hand to the jug, but I could not manage to consistently stick the move. I tried every different foot sequence and body position that I could imagine, but holding the swing going to the jug was too much for my weak body to control.
It was 11am, and it was time to leave Nevada. As I was packing up, two guys casually rolled up to the Monkey Bar Boulder. One was spraying the other down with beta while he strapped on his shoes and laid his crash pads under Monkey Bar Direct. He was tall, lanky, and looked like a decent climber. I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I stopped shoving clothes in my backpack to watch. He crushed Monkey Bar Direct first try. Yup, time for me to leave. I was wrecked, yet highly motivated to be a better boulderer.