Olive Oil, Red Rocks, Nevada

May 12, 2003

Dave Svilar, Matt Alford


Our route, Olive Oil, was located on the Rose Tower which is difficult to see in this picture.  I originally thought the Rose Tower was the tower to the far right of the picture which led to us wasting two hours looking for the 'wrong tower' in the 'wrong canyon.'  Our climb the following day, Crimson Chyrsalis, is located on Cloud Tower.


Most of the route is visible and follows the red line.  Belays are marked by numbers.

Somewhere on the way to Red Rocks from Joshua Tree our road trip hit a significant, but unavoidable obstacle: Las Vegas.  Red Rocks is only a 30 minute drive from the strip, Matt had never done Vegas, and it was Saturday night.  I was the 'expert' on Vegas, so it was my job to figure out the logistics for the night.  Whatever we did, it was imperative to not spend money, and we certainly weren't about to pay for lodging, so the plan was to camp out in the MGM parking garage.  They have the biggest hotel in the world, so they must have a large parking garage too - or so the thinking went.  The parking garage was indeed large, but the night turned into a debacle and nearly led to our arrest.  If you'd like to read more about how not to do Vegas click here.

On Monday morning both Matt and I were trying to put the memory of Saturday night out of our minds.  In the city we had attempted to mingle with the superficial, high rolling crowd, but our $3 outfits and general lack of personal hygiene had made us feel more like fish out of water.  It felt good to be back on more familiar turf hiking up the trail to what we thought was Rose Tower. 

I must have still been hungover, because I was certain that I knew which was Rose Tower.  This was supposedly a popular climb, yet we soon found ourselves thrashing through bushes, cacti, and the dreaded yucca.  If there's something we're good at it's bushwhacking, but no matter how many angles we tried to look at the tower our topo of the route just never matched what we saw.  We stared up at a daunting, unfamiliar rock face yet I heard the familiar words from Matt, "Let's just climb it.  Give me the rack."  I wasn't about to just start climbing a random tower, so we kept bushwhacking.  Finally Matt ran into someone who informed us that not only was this not Rose Tower, but we were in a completely different canyon. 

A little embarrassed but glad to be heading in the right direction we hiked another 35 minutes to the real Juniper Canyon and real Rose Tower.  This time our topo made sense and we started on what was supposed to be a seven pitches to the top.  I ran the first length of rope out to a hanging belay just below a slow moving party in front of us.  The sandstone of Red Rocks was vastly different than the gritty granite of J-Tree that we had become accustomed to, but a plethora of positive holds made up for the loss in traction.  Matt ran out the next pitch that continued up a 5.7 crack, followed by a short lead to a ledge equipped with belay bolts.

Everything's cool.  Matt gives the peace sign while climbing the second pitch.


Looking back at the belay (and Matt) as I near the belay ledge.

The slow moving fellows in front of us kindly let us pass.  While belaying Matt I tried to strike up conversation with the slow fellows.  "So... are you guys on a father/son climb?  I like to hike with my dad too."  There was a long silence, until one of them said, "we're actually co-workers.  We're also the same age."  I tried to cover for myself by explaining that underneath my helmet I was bald and people thought I was old too.  When Matt was secure at the next belay I hurriedly climbed away hoping not to have to face the slow moving fellows again.  The fourth pitch looked like a nasty chimney, but turned into a fun chimney/dihedral (5.7).

The fifth and final pitch was short and when I reached the top I realized I was on the wrong summit.  I should have detoured the false summit (which I was standing on) to the right to the true summit.  We pretended it was the real summit before making a short rappel off an old rusty bolt and scrambling to the true summit.

On the true summit of Rose Tower with our climb the next day looming in the background on Cloud Tower.

The Rose Tower is a "walk off" so no further rappelling was required.  Even though we had become accustomed to the desert we began to overheat on the way back to the Nissan in the 90F+ heat.  Luckily the trail featured the only trickle of water we had seen the entire trip, so we took the opportunity to cool down.  Matt, who enjoys getting naked searched until he found a spot deep enough for a full body submersion, while I settled for for a full foot submersion.

Relaxing back at the Nissan Matt chases his sandwich with a shot of La Cadena.

We lounged on the tailgate of the Nissan eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches and formulating plans for the next day.  While climbing the Rose Tower we had a clear view of two climbers on the Cloud Tower climbing one of Red Rock's best climbs - Crimson Chrysalis.  The tower appeared to be impossibly steep and the climbers looked more like flies on a wall.  It looked downright scary to me, but as we sat in silence I knew both of us wanted to climb it.  Even though Matt had sworn off drinking just the day before, he took a couple of pulls off the La Cadena (cheap rum) and finally made his desire to climb the Cloud Tower known.  I was prepared for his suggestion, and even though it looked scary I immediately agreed.  We would be back the next day for Crimson Chrysalis.

-written May 2003

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