Since many of the routes were rappel bolted, the routes put up in the early 1990s have long run outs between protection. The bolts on the vertical technical limestone of the Blasphemy Wall range from ten to fifteen feet apart. This means long falls on sometimes less than vertical terrain where your partner can’t see you. The intimidating style doesn’t stop climbers from trying classic routes including Fall Of Man (5.13b), Dude (5.13c), and the Chris Sharma testpiece Necessary Evil (5.14c).
While there are a few routes in the 5.10 to easy 5.11 range, the noise of the highway and the difficult conditions entice climbers wanting to project harder routes.
Climbers from Salt Lake, four hours to the north, and Vegas residents, two hours to the west, drive every weekend to numb out on their crimpy projects. The climbing season in the VRG goes from October to April with many of the hardcore climbers coming for the ‘sending temps’ in December and January. Which means they have to come prepared with three layers of pants, hand warmers, scarves and hats; and then strip down before each climb.
“This may be the most demoralizing crag in the country,” said Alex Honnold. We had driven from Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve to try our projects, and the conditions at the crag had varied from rain to snow, to blazing hot to horrendously cold. After numbing out while ‘warming up’ we walked to the base of our projects. A Utah climber was hanging on every move of Necessary Evil, Alex’s project. I still couldn’t feel my fingers. The sounds of semi’s pounded along the nearby highway. I wanted to tell Alex that we should bail, but he wouldn’t have heard me over the rumble of the freeway and the howling wind.
After a few more minutes of waffling, we headed to the sunnier side of the Gorge. The majority of climbers hang out on the south side of the gorge in the shade of the Blasphemy Wall or the Mentor Cave but there are a number of great climbs across the highway, accessed via a Tyrolean traverse. The Sun Cave and the climbs around it are significantly warmer but lack the rock quality of the Blasphemy Wall. Routes like the tufa infused Sunburst do provide a great option when you don’t want to wear a scarf, hat, three shirts, long underwear and four pairs of pants to climb on your sport project.
After sending Sunburst, we headed back to Las Vegas for a New Year’s Eve party. At the car, I waited for a semi to pass before I punched my minivan into the rushing 80 mph hour traffic. In the mirror, I saw the Blasphemy Wall. I wanted to come back. I had to send. The van shook as the truck passed. I accelerated away from the crag.