IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED - CUT YOUR APPROACH TIME Blog Feature

By: Brandy Cuellar

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IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED - CUT YOUR APPROACH TIME

Rock Climbing

 Red Rock Conservation Area is a climbers dream.  Seriously, people wake up hugging their guide books. Let me paint you a picture:

  • King of climbing variety: you name it, Red Rock has it - sport, trad, mixed, single, multi-pitch (hello 2,000-foot walls) and you’ll even find some destination bouldering!
  • Incredible sandstone-layered rock is often striped, spotted and even swirled in a Dr. Seuss fashion of red, pink and white colors.
  • Predictably dry and flat desert landscape lightly sprinkled with cacti, low shrubs and fun wildlife; tarantula, deer, burros, tortoise, big horned sheep and various lizard creatures.
  • The approaches vary from 10 min to 4+ hours and are typically a nice mix of gravel paths, sand trails, rock slab, river bed boulder hopping and likely a bit of bushwhacking.
  • It is breathtaking, awe-inspiring and always a humbling experience. I admittedly find myself exhausted, depleted, physically and mentally weak at the end of many Red Rocks trips, cursing at the thought of return…and yet always planning for when I’ll be back.

Recently, I was awarded the Earth Treks Avi Sengupta Climbing Scholarship and was ecstatic because it is meant to help me realize my vision. With this in mind, my climbing partner, Ryan Towne, and I set some pretty lofty goals for our trip to the climbing mecca of Red Rock!

GOAL 1: LEVITATION 29

We have attempted Levitation 29 twice before. Each time we were shut down for reasons in/ out of our control, but despite this, we’ve persevered and continually find ourselves back in Oak Creek Canyon.

  • Attempt #1: 4.5 hour approach, 2 pitches. Unexpected mental/physical fatigue; I had to rappel.
  • Attempt #2: 3.5 hour approach. 5 pitches, Extreme winds along the fully exposed rock face left us with the decision to safely head down vs. up further into the worsening conditions.
  • Attempt #3: 2.5 hour approach, 7 pitches, successfully climbing 880 feet, just 180 feet short of the summit. This was a huge accomplishment for us! I was once again able to get my crux 5.11 pitch clean and we were able to tackle the remaining crux 5.11 pitches and venture onto some exposed trad territory. It was sustained and beautiful.

Each time we try this route it gets easier. Shaving 2.5 hours off our approach from the first attempt and making through all the crux pitches felt amazing. We’re definitely disappointed by not finishing, things are always more intense in the moment. I know we could have finished if we just took a few minutes to gather our thoughts, but we learned from that experience and we’ll be ready for next time!

GOAL 2: EPINEPHRINE

I went into this trip confident I could do this route with the partnership of Ryan…but the idea of shimmy-ing up four poorly protected chimney pitches for 500 feet was already horrifying to me and after three days on of climbing (skipping our rest day…) I could hardly approach.

The weight of my pack pulled me down physically and mentally, so much so that by the time  Epinephrine day came around; I had nothing left to give. Attempting Epi would have been my ultimate challenge, but I wasn’t ready for it. Without the option to rap on route, we would have to fully commit and I wasn’t confident enough in my ability (nor my quad’s abilities) to safely suffer up the route. This remains a very “secondary fun” goal for me and is yet another reason to return!

Every trip to Red Rocks I encompass every emotion possible, often within the same five minutes; confidence, fear, excitement, strength, weakness, smiles, tears, hyperventilating (that slab!) and of course lots of laughing. Each long drive home is spent talking about plans to return stronger, more motivated and stoked to get scared and humbled again. (Now accepting offers to return this Fall ; )


Brandy Cuellar is a fitness instructor and a smiling face seen from behind the front desk at Earth Treks Golden. She has been climbing for 7 years and sharing her passion for climbing at Earth Treks for 2 years.

The Earth Treks Avi Sengupta Climbing Scholarship supports the climbing dreams of Earth Treks employees.  From a young age, Avi understood the incredible impact climbing can have on people, and unselfishly went about sharing his passion for climbing, and life, with anyone and everyone. It is in his honor that Earth Treks supports staff growth through climbing adventures.