If you have ever rock scrambled, you know how much fun it is. Red Rock Canyon is the Mecca for rock scrambling. Below are four tips that will help you become a better rock scrambler. If you want to hike to the peaks in Red Rock, you will need to be comfortable on Class 3 and 4 rock. Gaining proficiency at rock scrambling is the best way.
This is the biggest key. You need to believe you can climb the rock in front of you. Let me share a story that will help you understand.
Several years ago Davis and I were looking for a new route to Bridge Point. The old route traveled deep into Fern Canyon. We thought we could find a route that left the wash much sooner.
We found a route that departed the wash just after the seasonal waterfall. Once out of the wash we headed NE toward an imposing wall. We found several ledges that traversed the wall. Many of the ledges were dead ends, but finally we found a ledge that went across. It was airy; a fall would be fatal. There was an awkward move to get off the ledge and onto safe ground that involved stepping onto a scrub oak tree. Shortly after the traverse, we met up with the original route. This new route saves almost 30 minutes compared to the original route!
I was excited and wanted to show friends the new route. A few days later, Dave and Doyle met me at Red Rock. They had both hiked Bridge Point several times. As we approached the ledges, they looked at me like I was crazy.
They decided to try and find another way and I went to traverse the ledges. As I started, it seemed more difficult than the other day. It was getting thin and I knew a fall would be deadly. I continued to traverse knowing that I could do it; I had just done it a few days earlier. As I was hugging the wall one of my handholds broke. Yikes! I kept creeping toward the end of the ledge where I knew the scrub oak tree would be my exit to safety. When I got to the end of the traverse, there was no scrub oak tree! I was on the wrong ledge!
Looking back I should have fallen. That traverse was crazy, but I was so confident, because I had just done it the other day, even though I really hadn’t! Interesting how my confidence was based on the wrong information, but that did not matter. This is what I mean when I write you have to believe you can do it.
2. The Right Stuff = The Right Shoes
This tip will improve your rock scrambling by 25% immediately! You need to wear the correct shoes. What are the correct shoes? You need shoes that have sticky rubber soles. These types of shoes are called approach shoes on websites.
Currently (2017), most hikers are wearing the Five-Ten brand of shoes. They have sticky rubber soles made with Stealth Rubber. You won’t believe how you will stick to the rock and that will give you more confidence.
Update: Adidas bought Five-Ten and are now manufacturing approach shoes with sticky rubber soles under the Adidas name. The model I wear is the Scope. Watch my review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc8d1M7bT54
You get find deals on these approach shoes by joining the Facebook hiking group page: https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_68936636102
3. Confidence Builders
I call this technique: Practice without Consequences. Start doing tricky moves only inches from the ground. If you fall, you will not get hurt. This is the best way to get good at traversing. Traversing is moving sideways across the rock, something that is not natural. Since traverses don’t ascend, choose a traverse that’s only inches from the ground. Most hikers find they need work when it comes to traversing. Many of the routes to the peaks involve traverses.
You can try rock climbing gyms. I never really liked them, because I felt the holds did not feel real. I have never used chalk outdoors, but in the gyms I can’t stay on anything without chalk. A better idea is to do some top roping with an experienced rock climber. Top roping is much safer than traditional rock climbing and you get to climb a lot more. Once you are a 100 feet off the ground on small holds, 4th class rock will seem easy.
4. It’s All a Balancing Act
Good balance can save your life. It has saved mine! Balance comes partial from your core, so make sure to do ab exercises. To train for balance I use a Bosu at the gym, which has two sides. The blue side is soft and round; the black side is hard and flat. You can work with both sides.
Here’s my routine (blue side up):
First, I gently place one foot in the center of the ball and balance until I feel completely comfortable and hold for 15 seconds or longer. Repeat with the other foot.
Second, I walk toward the ball and jump on it with one foot. I am off balance initially and have to get my balance quickly or I will fall. I take it up a notch by jumping onto the ball from a brisk walk. This is much more realistic than just standing on the ball with one foot.
Third, once on the ball, I hop onto my other foot. Hold for a few seconds and hop again. This again is more like what you will encounter in the mountains.
Fourth: Now I turn the ball over so the blue (round side) is down and the black side is up.
I place one foot in the center of the ball and balance until I feel completely comfortable and hold for 15 seconds or longer. I then repeat with the other foot. Here’s a video of my routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh5N75IZZ9Y +
Hiking Resources for You:
The 52 Peak Club: Safe and smart group hiking: http://www.52peakclub.com/
Branch’s bio here: http://www.hikinglasvegas.com/about.html
Branch’s Facebook Hiking Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HikingLasVegas/
Branch’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BranchWhitney