The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with Philip Swiny from Las Vegas. Read Philip’s account of climbing the desert classic, Frogland…
4:30 am came way too quick, I was not in the mood to get out of my comfy warm bed, but I knew the sky was going to be blue, the temps were going to be in the high 70’s, and there were 5 pitches of Aztec sandstone to be climbed. A quick breakfast and I was off to meet Gregg, the plan for the day was to climb the desert classic, Frogland.
Frogland was established by the Red Rock pioneers Jorge and Joanne Urioste, who almost single handedly established most of the classic long route in the canyons. Visionaries in the Desert climbing scene, they were not scared to explore the unknown and as a result plucked many of the gems that lay hidden in the overlooked Mojave Desert.
Frogland overview: Long, sustained, and deservedly popular, Frogland is one of the best of the moderate climbs in an area renowned for awesome moderates. Varied climbing, a bit of routefinding, and with a slightly runout slab crux, Frogland is a definite challenge for the 5.8 leader. As with other Red Rocks classics, the biggest obstacle is usually the crowds. Luckily, there are some great nearby routes that have long been overlooked, and one of them, an old, long-forgotten Urioste route, which has just been rebolted, is one of the best 5.7 face climbs around (courtesy of supertopo.com).
Being that it is spring break, Gregg and I decided on a 6 am start time, I met him at the gas station near the dirt road entrance which leads in to Black Velvet Canyon just as the sun was raising, and already I was feeling more energized for the day. All I was hoping was that even with our early start we were not going to be stuck in a line of other parties on the route. Only one car in the parking lot, good I thought probably a party on Epinephrine. Even though Gregg was giving me stories of being out of shape and having only climbed ice for the long New England winter, we flew up the approach and in just under 4 hours after leaving the car we were on the summit, basking in the sun and watching other parties, looking like ants approaching from the parking lot.
At 770 feet Frogland is not the longest route in the canyons but it is for sure one of the most popular, for good reason. It has a little of everything, the rock quality in Black Velvet Canyon is by and large of very high quality, desert varnish abounds resulting in great hold, but sometimes slippery feet. The first 3 pitches are primarily 5.7 cracks with the occasional face move thrown in for variety, the first 5.8 crux on the 4th pitch involves a very exposed traverse under a roof, which never seems to get less exciting, and culminates with some thin face moves and an awkward squeeze under a huge chock stone.
It was one of those great days where the weather was perfect, my climbing partner and I moved and worked well together and before we knew it the say was over and we were heading back into the madness that is Las Vegas.
For more information check out Philip’s bio page here.