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Trip Report: Climbing Starter Crag, Mt. Charleston, NV
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Trip Report: Climbing Starter Crag, Mt. Charleston, NV

Trip Report: Climbing Starter Crag, Mt. Charleston, NV

When? 2016/06/21

Location: Starter Crag, Mt. Charleston, NV

Conditions: Warm, slightly cloudy

Duration: 1 day

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid Friendly? No

Pet Friendly? Yes

Useful Links: Mountain Project

The Full Report

We arrived in Las Vegas to 115º heat and clear skies—not ideal climbing weather. The woman at the local climbing shop, Desert Rock Sports (I recommend that you stop in there if you’re in the area) suggested that we head to Mt. Charleston.

Just an hour outside of Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston is Nevada’s highest peak. Drive up through the dry, desert hills, and you will find yourself 7200 feet, amongst pines and beautiful limestone cliffs. Known for its steep, overhung, sharp limestone, Mt. Charleston attracts world-class climbers (Sharma and the like) to its numerous 5.11s, 12, 13s, and 14s. Most importantly, while Las Vegas and Red Rocks suffered through 115º heat, Mt. Charleston remained at a comfortable 75º.

mt charleston


As I scoured the Mountain Project, in search of a crag that would suit me and my partner, given her inexperience and the fact that I was regrettably out of shape. Starter Crag stood out. Just a five minute drive from the information center, Starter Crag consists of nine routes on a small cliff. To get there, one must park at a nearby pullout, then walk 100 yards down the road, then scramble up the embankment to the base of the cliff.

The crag has one 5.4, one 5.6s, two 5.8s, one 5.9, and four 5.10s. All the routes are over-bolted—forget the scary runouts that many of us are used to from Smith Rock. We started on Relax And Stem, 5.8, and the left-most climb on the wall. Protected by eight solid bolts, this route was a true delight. A moderate hand crack runs up a dihedral, aided by small pockets on the right-hand wall. The limestone makes smearing as easy as it could possibly be, and the sharp formations on the edges of the crack make chalk almost unnecessary. The two bolts at the anchor have rap rings, but they are placed so far apart that there was significant rope drag when pulling the rope. The view from the top was incredible, as it’s possible to see a lengthy valley out to the West.

mt charleston 3

After cleaning Relax And Stem, we moved right on the wall to climb Outrageous, 5.6. Protected by eight bolts, this route actually presented a fun, balancy start, which lead to a heavily pocketed slab face. From the top, I then dropped the rope right onto Egregious, 5.8. Contrary to what was posted on the Mountain Project in May of 2013, this climb does have rap rings.

After enjoying this relaxed slab climb, it came to what was the highlight of the trip for my partner—her first lead. “Ridiculous” lives up to its name. Only 25 feet in length, five bolts that lie to the right of a large flake protect the climb. Including the anchor, there is protection every four feet on this climb, making it an ideal first lead climb. After a quick lesson on how to clip a draw and setup a quad anchor, my partner began Ridiculous. And she completed it three minutes later.

Despite a bit of road noise, it was worth leaving the heat to climb at this wonderful little crag. Best of all, we had it entirely to ourselves (although it was the middle of the week). We camped at the Hilltop Campground that night, and hit Red Rocks early the next morning. If you’re ever in Las Vegas, looking to climb and wanting to avoid either the crowds or the heat of Red Rocks, be sure to checkout Mt. Charleston.

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