“I think you can squeeze in between me and that guy over there. Hopefully having another car isn’t a big deal…” Within five minutes of arriving in Red Rock, Nevada I was already uncomfortable and anxious about the camping scene. It felt crowded. Where were the big, wild routes? We decided to park where Aki had suggested, and took the short walk to the camping to poach our other friend’s camp spot hoping to split the tab with them. I just wanted to go to sleep. “Everything will fall into place with sunrise,” I thought to myself.
Each morning I woke up it was a simple routine. Oatmeal. Coffee. Pack. Load gear into the truck and get the heck out of the campground as quickly as possible. The scene at camp never improved, but by midafternoon the campground and Las Vegas strip in the distance became an unimportant speck on the day’s horizon. Massive red and tan sandstone buttresses, thoughtful gear placements, an occasional bolt, gently in-cut edges, sand, sun, exposure, perfect climbing. I could put up with the camping for this.
As the sun set on our first day, we began to realize camping meant nothing. We were there to climb. Even me, a photographer, had managed to prioritize vertical fun over squinting down a viewfinder. I jokingly pointed out that this was the most climbing I had ever done on a “climbing” trip. Most of my trips involve ascending ropes, shooting around camp, and only a few pitches (if I’m lucky).
Something felt different. By the last day, I had rooted within me a deep insatiable desire to climb. I’d left my camera behind (impossible on any other trip, but something I’d done twice so far in Red Rocks). I wanted to climb all the pitches, every one of them in every canyon in Red Rocks. I didn’t think about camp. I didn’t think about my truck that had recently broke down in Boulder, or my dog that was staying with a (trust worthy) stranger. Just up. I just wanted to go up. It was our last day and I just wanted to climb.
For many years now, I have relied upon “photographer” to encompass my identity. This is how it must feel to be a climber. Most days I wake up with photos flickering through my head. By the end of this trip a new obsession had fully taken hold. Both climbing and photography require a certain level of focus. One mindedness. It’s a purifying feeling.
Before going all in on an early-season trip to Red Rock, make sure you've got these items in tow.
- 5 gallon water jug and a reliable refill spot.
- Lightweight pants to protect from prickly desert shrubs and the mid-day heat.
- Sunscreen. Trust us.
- MS020 Hooded Down Jacket for chilly desert evenings and shady belays.
- MS022 Performance Hoodie to climb in on early mornings.
- A stylish Mountain Standard Trucker to tame that sandy desert hair.
Seth Langbauer is a photographer and a rock climber (or is it the other way around?) Having traveled the world making images, Seth now settles for the landscapes in his backyard: the Rocky Mountains. Sounds awful, right? Check out his website and instagram for more of Seth's photography. For information on how to become a Mountain Standard Field Agent, click here.