Red Rocks Select. 500 Selected Routes in the Red Rocks of Nevada. Todd Swain. Chockstone Press, Evergreen, Colorado, 1993. 186 pages, 42 black-and- white photographs, 20 sketch maps, numerous topos. $18.00.
The desert is a land of contrasts and Red Rock is a shining example. The extremes of sun and shadow, of searing heat and bitter cold are reflected in the climbs of the area. Classic thousand-foot climbs and remote committing wall routes neighbor convenient user-friendly sport climbs. In the north, the Calico Hills harbor the densest concentration of modern bolted sport routes in the area. On numerous accessible, well-equipped cliffs are found routes of every grade.
Easy-to-moderate, hard-to-extreme, there are tendon-wrenching test pieces to rival any area. In the southern canyons, many long adventure routes ply the steep varnished walls. On many of these climbs, arduous approaches and long convoluted descents become part of the whole experience of canyoneering. Although modern styles and technology have been embraced by many local climbers, a strong ethic of bold ground-up ascent still thrives here and, surprisingly, there exists a climate of understanding and mutual respect of these diverse styles. These contrasts were not lost on the author of Red Rocks Select, who approaches this project with experience and objectivity.
The presentation of this guide is in the usual high quality typical of Chockstone Press. The text and photos are crisp and correctly aligned. The layout is simple and logical with an attractive typeface. The book is of a manageable size and well bound so it shouldn’t explode in your pack. The guide is organized by canyons from north to south. Approaches into canyons and descriptions of individual features are supplemented with excellent sketch maps and photos. The verbal route descriptions are generally accurate and understandable, and they note any special gear requirements or peculiarities of the route. These written descriptions often contain interesting notes of humor or history that add to the character of the climb. A generous selection of well-done topos and photos accompany these descriptions. Instead of a separate list of multiple stars, a “thumbs-up” symbol denotes recommended routes. Where known or appropriate, the author has utilized the PG, R and X protection rating system. This might not only save someone’s life, but it also recognizes the risk/danger/boldness factor in climbing.
There are many positives to this guide. Swain did much research and contacted many first ascentionists to obtain a broad base of information from which to write descriptions. The numerous maps are well drawn and will be an invaluable aid to someone unfamiliar with this complex area. The author has struck an equitable balance of sport climbs and traditional adventure routes. The introduction contains some useful information about getting to Las Vegas as well as the usual ecology, weather, ratings, etc. There are also notes about some neighboring areas and a few maps on how to get there.
The principal shortcoming of this guide is that it only touches the surface of the southern canyons. Although many of the true classics there are listed, this represents only a fraction of the routes done. Remember that this guide is a compilation of selected routes and is not intended as a comprehensive historical tome. Invariably, there are a few misspelled names and incorrect credits, but these are minor points and detract little from the overall quality of this excellent guide. Buy it and enjoy Red Rocks, but please respect the area. Climbing here is a privilege and the rewards are great.