Educator Expedition: A November Trip to Red Rocks

By NOLS Blog

Jan 7, 2016


Ready to Start Climbing Ready to start climbing. Photo by Hadley Warner.


By Roberta Schoultz, NOLS instructor

Climbing trips to Red Rocks, Nevada have become an annual November tradition for me. This year was my fourth trip, and the prospect of heading to Nevada still excites me.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area in the Mojave Desert outside of Las Vegas is home to more climbing routes than you could climb in a lifetime, including countless classics that are worth repeating.

In Red Rocks, the trek towards your objective climb can be an exciting and beautiful adventure in itself. I recall the cool canyon air saturated with sagebrush, the crunch of earth underfoot as we hiked past barrel and beavertail cacti, past Joshua trees, and underneath magnificent sandstone cathedrals formed in the Jurassic Period over 145.5 million years ago. Hiking out to our team of three’s first multi-pitch route of the trip, our senses reveled in all these canyons had to offer.

Standing at the base of the climb, called Geronimo, and looking up at the patinated sandstone wall that we were about to scale, I could not have asked for a better team. Our team included hiking and horsepacking instructor Hadley Warner, fairly new to climbing but super strong, perma-psyched and ready to learn as much as she could; instructor Alexa Rosenthall, a calm and supportive presence and competent climber; and me.

All three of us had recently completed the NOLS Women's Mountaineering Seminar in the North Cascades together and we were feeling strong. Hadley and Alexa had climbed a multi-pitch in a neighboring canyon two days before, and the three of us had spent the previous day warming up at the “Moderate Mecca” in Red Rocks, an area chock-full of single-pitch traditional climbs.

Finding the Route Finding the route. Photo by Hadley Warner.


Preparing to leave the ground to climb Geronimo, I felt excited, happy and competent. These feelings surprised me, but I welcomed them and took note, as this moment marked significant progress in my relationship with climbing. Before, at the start of every traditional lead, especially a multi-pitch, I would feel fear, dread, and doubt. It made me despise my time on the wall. And yet something has continued to draw me back to the sport. The combination of teamwork, individual competence, trust, communication, grit, and the confidence that is born from working at these components, all make a perfect recipe for a successful climb and happy climbers. These ingredients are skills that can be practiced and improved on with every climb, just as we practice “hard skills” like rappelling, rope coiling or setting up a 5:1 haul system.

We made the most of our short trip, climbing in areas that NOLS rock climbing courses frequent, practicing traditional climbing and the associated skills, and emphasizing risk management as well as hypothetical student management. We even had the pleasure of being stalked by a ring-tailed cat during a rappel down a slot canyon. 

Belaying in Red Rocks On belay. Photo by Alexa Rosenthall.


As the afternoon light faded on our final multi-pitch, a chill descended over the rock. We hastily pulled layers on as we climbed. At the top of the route, the three of us sat looking out over the red sandstone and tiny cars in the distance towards the nearby sprawl of Las Vegas. In that moment, we felt a sense of accomplishment and pride at having successfully planned and experienced this personal development trip, while having a little fun along the way.

We are grateful to the Instructor Development Fund for helping to make this trip happen. We are excited for the future and thankful for opportunities like these to build our skills.  

Roberta, Hadley, and Alexa Roberta, Alexa, and Hadley (left to right). Photo by Hadley Warner.


Find your own rock climbing expedition with NOLS

About the Team:

  • Roberta is a NOLS instructor who aspires to inspire the uninspired. She currently works wilderness courses and also enjoys working on the support-side of NOLS expeditions.
  • Alexa is a NOLS instructor who teaches yoga and does chemistry experiments while not exploring outside.
  • Hadley is a hiking and horsepacking field instructor who has worked at the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch and loves spending time in the mountains riding or climbing.

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