Vegas Vacation Day 4: Red Rocks Rendezvous, Multi-Pitch Clinic

Of all the places we could have gone for a rock climbing vacation, we chose Red Rocks because, mid-vacation, the Mountain Gear Red Rocks Rendezvous would be taking place.

The Rendezvous is a yearly, weekend long, outdoor climbing festival. The focus is on sharpening your rock climbing skills through clinics. These clinics cater to all types of rock climbers from beginners to experienced. There are also courses for trail running, yoga, and mountain biking. And many vendors (some of our favourites were New Belgium Brewing, and Joshua Tree Skin Care) are on site to promote their products. So many free samples!

We all chose very different clinics for our first day of the Rendezvous. A few went to an introduction to Aid Climbing, others went to Beginner/Intermediate Lead Climbing, and K in Ohio and I paid extra for a multi-pitch clinic!

Our poor group of friends had to get up an hour earlier than necessary this day because our clinic started earlier than the others. They had time to visit the Pancake Breakfast at the festival grounds, while we RAN to our meeting spot with the American Alpine Institute.

We were the last group to arrive for the clinic (woops). But our guide, Chad, was waiting with trad gear packed and a brand new rope all bundled up. We divvied up the gear, and away we went!

We hiked… and hiked… and hiked some more. This honestly felt like the longest appraoch yet. And I was carrying both my pack and a rope. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to make it without a significant break. I made the group stop for a water break at least twice. Water was helpful. But it gave me just enough time to catch my breath and adjust the rope.



We hiked from the festival grounds to the Lotta Balls Wall at First Creek Canyon. I think it felt like it took forever because we weren’t given a time estimate for how long it would take to get there. And because the rope I was hauling was a 70m rope (a HUGE difference in weight when you’re used to hiking with a 60m rope). Not to mention that my top walking speed – which isn’t quick to begin with – decreases as you add weight. So with a pack full of water, some Cliff bars and other snacks, sunscreen, and a rope, I wasn’t going anywhere quickly. Sorry friends.

When we arrive at the Lotta Balls wall, as we had guessed, the other groups had beat us there. I must have looked beat… one of the other guides joked that I should have made Chad carry the rope because he likes to be the pack mule (or something like that) so he can set a quick pace. It never occurred to me to ask for help. I guess I’m just stubborn like that.

We were hoping to climb Black Magic, but it was already taken. Lotta Balls was another option. Also taken. By process of elimination… Trihardral it is! Honestly, we were so excited to climb multi-pitch it didn’t matter much which route our guide chose. We just wanted to climb!

Before we started climbing, Chad informed us that there was a piece of trad gear, a cam, that had become a permanent fixture of the route. We were welcome to try to acquire some crag booty, but he had tried already, unsuccessfully. Then, the guide next to us chimed in, informing us that it was his gear and he’d be really happy if we managed to retrieve and return it. There was some friendly banter about who “owned” the cam if someone happened to retrieve it.

Chad lead the route. K in Ohio and I took turns simply following, or pulling the gear as we followed. This was super helpful because it gave me opportunities to look at gear placements for when I finally work up the nerve (and money) to get a trad rack of my own. (This has been on my mind a lot lately with summer vacations to Bon Echo and Sleeping Giant booked, where we currently plan to do a lot of hiking.)

With Chad doing all the hard work of leading, we did a lot of chatting. We made friends with the group and guide climbing next to us. We found out the other guide is a photographer on top of being a mountain guide. Check out Alasdair’s website. I also follow him on social media because photos of adventure (especially climbing adventures) are awesome and give me ideas of where I’d like to travel myself.

Eventually, we got to the cam that was stuck. I mean really stuck. It didn’t look old… but it was visibly older than all of Chad’s gear. I tried to get it. I really did. It didn’t budge. I yelled up to confirm that this was indeed the “permanent” piece of gear. Yep. That’s it. I gave up after a few minutes. I left it there. And we continued our climb. It’s probably still there. If you’re ever in Red Rocks climbing Trihardral and get the crag booty, good for you! I can point you in the direction of the original owner.

The view from the top of the climb was, as expected, spectacular. Desert as far as the eye can see. Although if you were here at night you’d be looking right towards the Las Vegas lights!

What crag booty have you retrieved over the years? Did you keep it? Track down the original owner? Or discard it?

Vegas Vacation Day 3: Black Corridor

Day 3 I was ready for a break from the sun. Seriously. As much as I couldn’t wait to get away from the cold, overcast days of March in Southern Ontario, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sweltering, unrelenting, sunny days in the desert.

So when we were sitting in our hotel room deciding what and where we would climb the next day I insisted on a shady spot. And turns out J and D knew just the spot for us. Black Corridor!

As advertised in the guide book, Black Corridor was a fairly narrow corridor between two red sandstone cliff faces decorated with black markings in the sand. It was beautiful, provided shade all day, and was full of single pitch climbs within our group’s ability.

What I disliked about this spot was that it was fairly crowded. It was obviously a popular spot with the local climbers. And that it was fairly narrow if you were to take a lead fall. If you swung out far for any reason, hitting the other side of the wall was a potential (albeit very unlikely) hazard.

Again, I wish I’d written down the climbs that we accomplished, but I think we climbed:

  • 757 2×4
  • The CEL
  • Bon Ez
  • Lewd, Crude, and Misconstrued
  • Black Gold (this was wayyy too difficult for most of the group, we mostly just tried this on a top rope setup)

But the most unbelieveable (or “unbelayvable” if you read story of the day comes from a group we were climbing next to. This group seemed to be teaching a friend how to lead climb. Climber was obviously hesitant. Belayer and Observer (I can’t even bring myself to call this person a spotter) were over confident and not taking what, to our group, would have been obvious safety precautions.

Climber was clipped into the first draw and made it to the second bolt. Climber was NOT in a secure place. The “Elvis leg” was jittering. She was telling her friends that her hands were not feeling secure. She was obviously afraid.

What happened next shocked us. Observer starts yelling encouragement and beta. Belayer starts feeding more rope to climber. Meanwhile, climber looks like she could fall any second.

We wanted to look away. We didn’t want to witness a climber decking in the middle of the desert. There was no quick way to medical help. We debated stepping in. We wanted to tell the belayer to take in slack (the rope is dynamic after all, and will stretch if the climber falls), also, it’s better to have a hard catch then hit the ground. But it was like a train wreck or a highway accident — all we could do was watch, jaws dropped, and hope for the best.

I’m happy to say, things worked out for this group. Climber was able to safely clip the draw to the bolt. Then held onto the draw as she clipped in the rope. Again, not an ideal situation but much better than falling.



We ended up not saying anything to this group. Though to this day I want to educate them on safety measures while lead climbing. What would you have done? Would you interfere mid climb? Would you talk to them once everyone is safely on the ground? How do you advocate safe climbing practices?

No Butter, Dairy-free, “Butter” Chicken

I wish I had a good story to go with this recipe. Because I’m so excited to post about it…

A few weeks ago I started wishing I could eat Butter Chicken. I had made a recipe from the Cooking School Indian cookbook years ago, and LOVED it, but knew the recipe wouldn’t do this time around. No dairy. And the chickpea flour likely wouldn’t make me feel well. It was time to find some substitutes.

So I googled “dairy-free butter chicken.” I found a bunch of recipes that called for… you guessed it… BUTTER. So much for dairy free. So I kept digging. Nothing seemed quite right. Some of the curries seemed bland. Others too complicated. There was no consistency on what was recommended for the curry sauce.

So I compared my favourites by amalgamating the ingredient lists, picking the spices or foods that showed up most frequently, cutting the rest, readding a few I liked, cutting what I thought might not belong… it was quite the process.

Recipe inspired by the many many recipes I read ahead of time:

By no means would I call this a quick meal. It took a bit of work… and a lot of planning. But it’s sooooooo worth it. (I can’t wait to see S’s reaction to this meal. He doesn’t love curry, but I think this might change his mind!)


It’s all about the base

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken pieces
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil for frying
  • Basmati rice, naan bread, or roti


  • ¼ tsp green cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 1/4 lemon, sliced
  • 1 onion, grated
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup water (or just enough to cover)


  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp green cardamom
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric

Optional garnish

  • Fresh or dried cilantro

Tip: Mix all the spices at once, then divide the mixture in half. Half for the marinade and half for the sauce. There is a small variation in the spice mixtures, so this doesn’t make a big difference in the resulting meal.

  • ½ tsp green cardamom
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Bonus Tip: Make extra spice mixtures while you have them all out of the cupboard. This will significantly cut down prep time the next time you make this recipe.


  1. Make the marinade
    • Grate the onion, garlic, and ginger (or do this the easy way and put the ingredients through a mini food processor)
    • Slice 1/4 lemon.
    • Combine spices: green cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garam masala, paprika, pepper, salt, and turmeric
    • Chop chicken into bite-sized chunks.
    • In a shallow container, add chicken pieces. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with spices. Add grated onion, garlic, and ginger. Then, add just enough water to cover.
    • Let it marinate for at least an hour. I like to put the marinade together in the morning so there’s tons of flavour soaked in by dinner time.
  2. Make the sauce
    • Heat half of the coconut oil on low heat.
    • Add onion slices and cook until caramelized (about 20 minutes).
    • Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant (about a minute).
    • Remove garlic and onions to your blender.
    • Cook the roma tomato pieces on low heat until they are soft and the liquid is reduced/thick.
    • Add the tomatos to the blender mixture.
    • Also add the ginger.
    • Blend until smooth (if you have cats, the noise will probably scare them away at this point, mine were begging for chicken prior to the blender making noise).
    • Heat remaining coconut oil.
    • Add spice mixture: green cardamom, chili powder, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garam masala, pepper, salt, turmeric and lightly fry it until fragrant.
    • Add the tomato paste and the blended tomato and onion mixture.
    • Cook over low heat until bubbly.
  3. Brown the chicken over high heat.
  4. Put it all together
    1. Add the chicken to the tomato sauce and continue to cook until cooked through.
    2. Add lemon juice and coconut cream.

Serve hot with naan bread, rice, or roti! This makes lots of food, so share with your friends. But don’t share this with your kitties, even if they think it might be a good idea.