When the weather is nice it’s easy to love climbing. During the summer months it’s not difficult to find excuses not to climb due to heat, especially in the Las Vegas valley where temperatures routinely approach 120 degrees. Peak season for climbing in Red Rocks is undoubtedly the spring, but you will see crowds in the fall or winter as well. There is a reason for this!In the spring, the temperatures are generally pleasant outside and if you forget sunscreen or half your water your day won’t be entirely ruined. However, many climbers need their fix during the summer months and are searching for areas to climb here in Las Vegas at places such as Mount Charleston. Even more venture out to other areas of the country where the temps are relatively cooler, but still present their own set of summer challenges.
The following are some guidelines to help you enjoy your summer of climbing:
This seems like common sense, but you might not realize how easy it is to become dehydrated in higher temperatures especially at higher elevations. Be prepared to drink large amounts of fluids throughout the day. It’s commonly advised to drink both water and sports drinks (Gatorade, etc.) to keep your body’s electrolytes balanced, and to provide your body with the sugars and salts it needs to function properly. This is an effective strategy utilized by many outdoorsman and athletes.
You can replenish your body’s electrolytes by packing salty and sugary snacks to bring with you out onto the trail. Remember, there are healthy options if you’re looking for something salty (peanuts, etc.) or sugary (fruit, etc.) to substitute for candy bars, sugary trail mix, and energy bars found in stores.
The last thing you want to do is climb a route in the sun. It’s difficult to have fun on a sunny climb when the temperatures start to rise. The holds are sweaty, you may sunburn easily… you get the idea. Find out what climbs are in the shade and at which time of the day. Mountain Project usually has great information on which times are best to climb a given route or area.
If you’re not an early morning person you’re going to have a rough time trying to climb outside during the summer. Early morning is the most pleasant time of day in terms of air and rock temperature. As the day drags on the landscape heats up and the rock warms up with it. Generally speaking, climbing is better with cooler rock to avoid hands slipping off of holds due to sweat. Few people enjoy getting up early, it’s just a necessary evil if you’re desperate to get some outdoor pitches in.
Ambient air temperature has a significant effect on the human body. There is a plethora of scientific research that suggests higher outside temperatures decrease a human’s ability to perform prolonged exercise. For example cyclists riding in outside temps of 50.9 degrees Fahrenheit took an average of 93 minutes to reach exhaustion, when those same cyclists were riding their bikes in 87 degree weather they reached exhaustion in just 51 minutes (Galloway, 1997). For these cyclists, increasing temperatures by 35 degrees decreased athletic performance by a measurable 55%. This is for a number of physiological reasons that are beyond the scope of this article.
What this means as a climber is you can expect yourself to be capable of less when the weather is hot. That long hike you normally have no problem with might suddenly become an ordeal in the mid-afternoon sun. You might want to consider avoiding longer approaches and climbs until the weather cools off.
It’s entirely possible to enjoy outdoor climbing during the summer, you just need to be extra prepared for the day. Pack tons of water to keep yourself hydrated, only go to routes that are in the shade, get up early to hopefully avoid the worst of the heat, and recognize that high temperatures are going to slow you down and make endurance events more difficult.
Also remember that there is such a thing as gym climbing. You don’t have to get up early to hit the gym, and climbing in air conditioning certainly beats battling with summer heat and rain. Plus gym climbing will keep you strong and in shape for when the weather cools off.
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