Today we're looking for an easy day in the shade. Even though we have already climbed most of the classic 5.8's at Red Rocks, we have never been on "Lotta Balls", a 3-pitch 5.8 route that is reputed to be very good.

We want to hit the route in the afternoon when it is in the shade so we take our time in the morning, leaving the campground just before 10AM. The trailhead for the "Lotta Balls" wall is First Creek, outside the loop. The approach is about 50 minutes long, on mostly level ground.

The climb is still partially in the sun when we reach the base so we relax for a while, waiting for shade. After a short while however, we hear people coming up the approach gully so we get ready and start climbing.

The first pitch starts with a stack of white blocks left of a small roof. The step from the top of the blocks into the roof looks tricky from below but is only rated 5.6, though it may be a little harder for short people like me (SuperTopo rates that move 5.8, a bit of an exaggeration, I think). There is very good pro before stepping across so it goes smoothly. Above the roof, I follow a right angling flake/crack to a bolted belay stance. A very good pitch.

The second pitch is the real business and climbs a varnished face on the small spherical knobs from which the route gets its name (I know, you thought it was something else...). I get a little tense at first - the bolt above the belay looks quite high. I relax when I'm able to get a tiny black alien in a small crack. I face climb delicately on the tiny knobs, clipping two bolts along the way. I finally reach big jugs and move into the left facing corner above. The corner has easier climbing and good pro in the crack. At about 150', I reach a big ledge with a bolted anchor. I put Eric on belay and he soon joins me, finding the pitch really fun to follow.

The last pitch is easier (5.5 or so). It continues up the corner (good finger crack) above the belay for 70' to a roof then steps and continues up the wide crack above. When I'm almost out of rope, I traverse right toward a ledge with a tree. I am not quite at the belay yet so Eric and I simul-climb the last few feet before I can reach the tree and belay.

When he joins me, we debate whether we should keep going for one more pitch or rap from a shaky bolted anchor on the other side of the fin (left of the belay ledge). One of the topos we have shows a 4th pitch followed by a scramble descent down a gully on the other side of the buttress. Another topo only mentions 3 pitches. Looking over the edge, the "gully" in question does not look that good. We opt for the rap. A full, double-rope rap brings us to a bush with slings around it. From there, two single raps bring you down, using another slung bush for the last anchor. Another possibility is to climb only the first two pitches of "Lotta Balls" and rap from the bolted anchors. The third pitch is good but may not be worth the unpleasant raps off the backside.

Back at the base, we chat with climbers from Jackson, WY who have set up a top-rope on the first pitch. After a quick lunch, we climb another fun route, "Romper Room" (5.7+), a crack/flake line up a smooth black wall located about a hundred meters to the right.

Note: Besides "Romper Room" There are other good single pitch routes close to Lotta Balls, such as "Kindergarden Cop" (5.7+) and "Dobbie Dance" (5.6). These are nice alternatives to "Lotta Balls" if it is crowded.

Lotta Balls, Red Rocks, NV

April 12, 2004 / 5.8, 3 pitches
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On the mostly flat approach (First Creek, outside the loop).
 
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Lotta Balls Wall (route shown in red).
 
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Lucie leading the 1st pitch (5.6).
 
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Traversing under the intimidating roof.
 
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The nice crack on the upper part of the pitch.
 
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Lotta Balls! One of them anyway...
 
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On the crux section (5.8), a couple of feet above the belay.
 
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Face-climbing on the tiny "balls".
 
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Higher on the second pitch.
 
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Typical Red Rocks knobs.
 
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Re-racking at the belay (top of pitch 2).
 
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Lucie on the easy corner (5.5) of the third pitch.
 
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Just before turning the roof on pitch 3.
(high res. images are about 300KB)