Neither driving rain nor 60 mph wind could keep the more than 800 attendees of the second annual Red Rock Rendezvous off the rocks or away from the weekend's festivities.
Dreamt up by Paul Fish, president of Mountain Gear, and Dennis Gafvert, principal of Outdoor Adventure Sales, two years ago, the climbing festival offered everyday climbers the opportunity to interact with world-class athletes at Red Rock. Located about 15 miles west of Las Vegas, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers an estimated 1,700 different climbing routes of all grades and lengths, and is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
"The Rendezvous is something for Mountain Gear to give back to the climbing community, which is really our core customer," Fish told SNEWSÂ®. "The idea is to have an event where climbers can extend their abilities in a really fun environment."
For a mere $60, climbers of all levels learned technique from the 32 climbing athletes in attendance -- which included the likes of Conrad Anker, Kitty Calhoun, Greg Child, Jim Donini and Beth Rodden -- in two three-hour sessions over the mid-March weekend. Since its inception, The North Face has been the Rendezvous' title sponsor, and another 100 industry companies were event sponsors -- all of which send their "rock" stars to participate.
"The Rendezvous allows attendees to spend quality time with their idols and learn from the best," Aimee Hart, marketing coordinator for Outdoor Adventure Sales, said. "The athletes were so wonderful -- non-stop smiles and happy to be there. More than half of them said they were in for next year."
Fish added, "Our hope with the Rendezvous was people who had only climbed plastic would come out and learn how to trad climb. And people who had only sport climbed would try aid climbing. Really give them a chance to get a taste of all the aspects of climbing, especially outdoors."
When the more than 450 registered participants weren't attending climbing or bouldering clinics in Red Rock Canyon or Calico Basin, they were hanging out at the festival grounds. Sponsors set up booths that offered a multitude of events ranging from book and poster signings, to slack line and rock wall speed climbing contests, to slide shows, massages, yoga, silent auctions, and more. The North Face also sponsored the event's big party that included catered food, beer and wine, a DJ, and a slide show by Greg Child during a windy rainstorm. Â
"The star of the event this year was the winds," Fish joked. "What was amazing was the participants and the athletes had such a great attitude that no matter what got thrown at them, wind or rain -- and last year it was 90-degree heat -- they took it in stride and all we're getting back is great feedback."
In addition to bringing the climbing community together, a main goal of the Rendezvous is to aid various associations dedicated to the preservation of climbing. The associations received proceeds from a live auction -- about $1,500 was divvied up -- and each had an opportunity to meet with event participants from 42 states.
Beneficiary associations included the Access Fund, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and to conserving the climbing environment; the American Safe Climbing Association, which replaces deteriorating old fixed anchors with modern camouflaged gear; the American Alpine Club, a national organization devoted to mountaineering, climbing and the multitude of issues facing climbers in the United States; and the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council, a grassroots group dedicated to ensuring climbing access and encouraging stewardship of the environment in Red Rock Canyon.
"The beneficiaries had a chance to meet with their members and potential members from all over the country. It's great outreach and a little bit of money, and it fosters the relationship between the sponsors and the beneficiaries," said Fish.
Mountain Gear and Outdoor Adventure Sales also coordinated service projects that included graffiti removal inside the Red Rock Canyon and an area cleanup. This year, they set up recycling bins that produced 32 bags of recyclables and a slew of cardboard. "The main idea is to give back to those places we have an impact on," Fish said.
"The whole Vegas climbing community has been good to us," Fish added. "They welcomed us in and were really great to work with."
Next year's festival is planned for March 24-26, 2006. To see images from this year's event, click here.