Red Rocks – Tunnel Vision – Trip Report

Clare & Rachel White Rock Springs in the AM The Leader Racking up Rachel Looking Gorgeous at 6th Belay of Tunnel Vision

Rachel Chilly Willy on Top of Tunnel VisionClare Victorious on Tunnel VisionTunnel Vision Champs Clare & Rachel

On Cinco De Mayo, Rachel & I left her casa at 07:00 for the soft & supple sandstone of Red Rocks. We left the truck at 8:20am, were climbing Tunnel Vision at 11:00am, topped out at 4:45pm, got back to our packs by 6:15pm, and were back at the truck at 7pm.

The temperature was supposed to get up to 70, but the high felt more like 60 up there. With very brisk, gusty winds, and the occasional passing stormfronts we felt chilled all day. On one of the pitches, my fingers felt on the verge of numbness-but the warmth radiating inside the sandstone pockets kept me going.

Rachel & I were both psyched when we located the base of the route. Even though I had seen pictures of the start online, it took us an hour and a half to find it! The multitude of ledges and possible fitting geology to the description in the book threw us off. In the meantime, I put a bunch of small holes into my windbreaker, fighting through the scrub brush!

For future reference, it is important to hike up the RED colored path, leading to the right side of the cliffband…you can see the RED from the dirt road you hike in on. We went up the TAN colored path leading to the left side of the cliffband.

I was very very close to calling it a day. By the time we found the route, we were certain it was noon, and there was discussion about running out of daylight. We ended up deciding to go for it! Knowing that we could bail down low, if it turns out to be more than we were ready for that day.

Tunnel Vision - First Pitch Crux

Standing at the base of the route, we were very excited. The first 20 feet of climbing looked like quite a challenge. The crux is an unprotectable 8 foot traverse, with dire consequences (decking), if you slip before making it around the corner. You can see the traverse in the middle of the picture above.

Rachel finishing 1st Pitch of Tunnel Vision

The rest of the first pitch is awkward, some ledges and strange climbing involved. I was happy to reach the first belay. Oddly, there were some rap slings out to the right-Not noted in the book!

Rachel at 1st Belay

Next, I belayed Rachel, and she complimented me on the crux down low. Further stating, “I wouldn’t have wanted to lead that section!”. The above picture is of Rachel, happy to be done with pitch 1.

The second pitch was more fun. We both felt that it was more like climbing should be; the movement was more fluid and such we were blasting along at a fast pace.

At the second Belay, we again saw rap slings & rings out to the right!

It was a bit confusing at this point because we both wondered if we should go over there. Rachel even stepped around the corner and peered upwards, just to check it out. We both think this is the variation the book mentions, so we just continued straight up from my anchor.

About 10 feet up from the belay, we noticed a two bolts anchor (not in the book!). Furthermore, out on the face about 6 feet from the belay, there is another bolt. Crucial!

What we girls pieced together is the following: From the second belay you can go up this “5.4” chimney (yeah right! can you say sandbagged?) or out on the face (~5.8). I chose the face. The chimney looked wicked hard, and there was NO chalk in there, so I picked the face.

The third pitch was IMO a *super* fun pitch, challenging and ever so edgy. You go out on this face, and protect it by plugging stuff into a crescent shaped crack. I had pro about every 6-8 feet. There are more bolts out to the left 20 feet (which I believe is part of a 5.9 climb to the left of Tunnel Vision).

Eventually, the crack runs out and there is an overhangy section above, so before it got overhangy, I traversed right on vertical nubs about 8 feet (no pro!) back to the lip of the chimney. It was a nervy move, getting over to that spot, but once I was there, a big fat #1 cam got shoved in a crack. BOOYAH! A few challenging lieback and foot camming moves and I was on a much less vertical face.

We Rock! 3rd belay of Tunnel Vision Tunnel Vision gets two Thumbs Up

At the third belay, in an alcove out of the wind, I had a snack. When I brought Rachel up, she told me that a group of climbers had come up to the route while she was belaying me. She conversed with the three of them, none had the time or any idea what time it was! They did not do the climb, but sat there watching us for awhile before wandering away.

The 4th pitch bulge-FUN Artsy Shot of Clare Protecting the Bulge

The start of the 4th pitch was fun, much easier than the steep face I had just surmounted on the 3rd pitch. It’s a little overhangy bulge, easy to protect, and fun. After that, there is this amazing varnished face climbing. Hard to protect, unless you have tri-cams (maybe). But, the moves are no harder than 5.6, and fun. We both climbed this pitch quite fast, although it was a long one!

Rachel's Belay Spot in the Tunnel Climber Clare, a Vision, in a Tunnel Looking Up Into the Bowels of the Tunnel

The 5th belay spot we moved inside *THE* Tunnel, in order to give Rachel a better view. We had no way of anchoring her down, but we were on completely flat ground, and with her wedged in the bottom of the tunnel, we both felt it was safe…See Picture above. We put our headlamps on, and I followed the chalk upwards. After about 30 feet of climbing (with 3 solid gear placements), I saw a ramp going left to some light at the edge of the tunnel.

I got on top of the ramp, and made my way leftwards. There was no spot for gear, so I just continued on the ramp (a veritable sidewalk). Eventually, the sidewalk disappeared and I was left with a choice:

1. To try smearing & stemming my way out of the tunnel aiming for a vertical crack (with a 20 foot drop potential if I mess up)


2. To go straight up from where I was, chimneying in a very tight space to a better spot (with a potential fall of 50 feet).

I tried #1 first, sticking my left foot out to the top wall of the tunnel. It was chossy as all get out! Smearing 6 feet on fairly steep & slick patina made me feel sick to my tummy. Especially considering the exposure of the 20+ foot fall! I couldn’t easily reach the top wall of the tunnel, and I didn’t think I had enough friction to do a body style chimney move. What to do?

I decided to go for # 2 (the runout but wedge-riffic body cam!). Upwards, it was. At first, things were okay as there was room to move. I followed the yellow brick road until my helmet prevented me from going up anymore. The chimney had constricted *so* much that my HEAD was not fitting! I wonder if newborns ever feel frustrated about that?!?

Turning my head sideways, and with great counterpressure, I inched my feet up to where my hands were. Thank goodness for flexible hips! I could feel my abdominals start to quiver. Pushing hard in a downard way, I leaned to the left where the chimney started opening up, gaining a precious inch.

Slowly and Tediously, I repeated this process until I emerged from the womb. Sweat was streaming down my face, and stinging my eyes, and my brain was screaming-runout, no pro, fall, slipping, etc. Then, I hear, “I believe in you!”. Was it the words of a Siren coming from the gut of the tunnel? Was I finally losing my mind? Would I emerge from my confinement in a straight jacket?

It was *Rachel* telling me the right things, helping my brain to switch back into kicka$$ mode. After 15 minutes of grovelling in that constricted position, I finally felt a knife-edge hold with my right hand. I did a pull-up, and brought my feet into two neatly carved soapdish like notches. It was all over, a couple easy face moves later, and I was back in a crack. WHEW! I plugged in a #3 and a #1 and let out some hollers! Yee-Effin-Haw!!!!

Top of 5th pitch, look back at the Tunnel from the 6th belay

I climbed the rest of the rope length out, until I made it to the end of the 5th pitch. Rachel soon followed, grunting herself through the slotted tunnel. She had to take the backpack off in order to squeeze through! We decided to move the anchor higher up, so the last pitch would not suffer rope drag. We were both relieved to almost be off this climb. The temps were dropping, and the wind was vicious.

The last pitch features two different crack systems, or you can traverse to the left and get off the route. We did the latter, deciding we had enough of the cold. When Rachel cleaned the last piece, and met up with me on the huge flat ledge at the top, we both shouted out and gave each other a hug. What a challenging climb! Our first adventure with just the two of us, and NOBODY around on the climb all day!

Our Just Reward for Climbing Tunnel Vision

The hike down the gully was a little tricky (mainly cause we were tired). There were cairns *everywhere*, so it wasn’t hard to find the right trail. And, contrary to what the book says, you don’t need to rap off anywhere if you just stay on the path. We made it back to our packs after about 45 minutes (we think).

As we packed up our stuff and hiked out, we were both revelling in the excitement that we had done this climb. For 5.7, it was a more adventure than what I was prepared for, but because we worked so well together as a team, WE DID IT!!!

Can’t wait to get back to Vegas and do another great multi-pitch climb with Rachel! We finished the day by celebrating with Papa Johns Pizza (which Dennis so nicely brought home) and also my all time favorite Salt N Pepper Potato chips! Yummy!

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