Bouldering in the Land of Fear and Loathing

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“I’m a man of constant progress. My life only moves forward, never in reverse. Oh, wait…” I thought as I struggled to back up my mini-van in the Las Vegas parking lot, “that’s just my broken transmission.” The taciturn mechanic needed a week and all my money to make the repairs, so with a bit of time and a lot more homelessness than normal, I let the boulders of Southern Nevada distract me.

Manny Barilow, Monkey Bar Boulder, Calico Basin boulderingI walked through the Kraft Boulders. There are hundreds of problems in the Las Vegas area, many of which are sandstone boulders sitting in the Calico Basin. I first bouldered in the area below Kraft Mountain over a decade ago. Since my first trip, boulderers have expanded the climbing there, exploring the surrounding canyons, and discovering gems in the backcountry. The quantity of problems there had increased significantly.

Around the winter of 2005, during an early trip to Las Vegas, I met Ethan Pringle below the Monkey Bar Boulder. He was hiking the difficult problems for his warm up while I could barely hang on the big holds. He was one of the best climbers in the US where I was recovering from an injury and felt exhausted. Our abilities contrasted greatly. I wasn’t really out of shape… as long as you consider ’round’ of shape.

“You got it, man!” Ethan said, cheering me on while I struggled on the V0. I appreciated the support of a climber that I looked up to. It helped me try a little harder. I topped out the boulder stoked.

I continued to climb on the other warmups. I stuck with it. Over the years, I ticked off classics around Kraft like the Plumber’s Crack (V0), Potato Chips (V2), and during one break from school, I fought through the slopers on the aptly named Slopey Traverse (V6).

In the past decade, Tom Moulin has compiled all of the problems in Calico Basin, in the surrounding canyons and in Red Rock state park into one of the best bouldering guidebooks available. The second addition of the Southern Nevada Bouldering guide contained the problems around Kraft Mountain, including the problems in the washes behind the Monkey Bar boulder.

Greg Kerzhner, Red Rocks bouldering, Calico Basin

Ten years after meeting Ethan, I met him again at the Monkey Bar boulder. He went through the classics, warming up on jugs and then crushing a few of the harder problems. He had explored the canyons further and wanted to try one of the new problems in the wash. Deep in the wash behind Kraft Mountain, just before the classic Sunny and Steep crag, sits Meadowlark, a difficult v14 boulder problem.

Ethan Pringle, Meadowlark, Red Rock Bouldering

“You got it, man!” I shouted, wanting Ethan to succeed. It started to rain. Ethan fought through the wet conditions, making solid links on the problem.

Progressing in climbing takes time and effort. I had been able to climb through the grades quickly initially but every year climbing a little harder became more difficult. Since meeting him, Ethan had also made progress in his climbing, moving forward.

The mechanics eventually fixed my van. In the past few years, my climbing had improved significantly. I was able to hike the Monkey Bar problem that had thwarted me. I had also become good friends with Ethan. I was able to drive in reverse again. Although I don’t think I’ll need that anytime soon…

By James Lucas. 

After years of contributing to the Touchstone Climbing blog, James has coaxed his van into crossing state lines, and set up shop in Colorado working for Climbing Magazine. Best of luck James!