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Climbers rolling into Vegas for Red Rock festival

WEEKEND EDITION

March 20 - 21, 2004

Climbers from near and far are strapping on their harnesses and taking a shot at the rock this weekend just outside Las Vegas.

Through Sunday Red Rock Rendezvous, a national climbing event, is giving beginners and climbing pros alike the opportunity of a lifetime to be led by expert climbers in a variety of on-site climbing clinics.

The event is taking place in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, an internationally known rock-climbing site on the west side of Las Vegas.

More than 200 participants from 20 different states have pre-registered for the event.

"This weekend is a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best," said Shelly Presson-Dunbar, one of the event's clinic instructors and a professional climber.

Some of the country's top climbers have trekked from throughout the nation to conduct clinics at the event, according to Paul Fish, president of Mountain Gear, who put the Red Rock Rendezvous together.

Athletes conducting clinics include Roxanna Brock, Tiffany Campbell, Jason Campbell, Tommy Caldwell, Peter Croft, Lauren Lee, Jared Ogden, Presson-Dunbar, Beth Rodden, Adam Stack, Mark Synott, Kevin Thaw, Heidi Wirtz and Cedar Wright.

"For climbers, this is huge," Fish said. "We'll have 20-odd climbers teaching the clinics and 10 of them are probably the top 10 climbers in the nation."

Red Rock Canyon was the logical place for the event, he said.

"Red Rock is a nationally known climbing area, it's easy to get to and it's one of the 10 most endangered climbing areas in the United States," he said.

Most Las Vegas residents don't realize how lucky they are to have Red Rock Canyon so close, said Presson-Dunbar, who has lived in Las Vegas for five years.

"A lot of Las Vegas locals have no idea that Red Rock is an international destination rock climbing area, and people from all over the world come to Red Rock to climb," she said.

Red Rock Canyon is also a great place to learn climbing basics, she said.

"If you're here in Vegas, Red Rock is a great place to start climbing," she said. "Everything from beginner-type climbing to expert-advanced, there's 100 different routes to take."

Since arriving in Las Vegas earlier this week, the event's coordinators have found "everything they could ask for," Fish said.

"Las Vegas has greeted us with warm weather, sunshine and a beautiful place to climb," he said.

The event, presented by Mountain Gear and sponsored by The North Face, began Friday with open registration and a slide show by climbing expert Mark Synnott.

Climbing clinics, taught by the experts throughout the canyon, begin at 7:30 this morning. Throughout the day, climbers can participate in two, 2-3 hour clinics, taught at the level they are comfortable with, Presson-Dunbar said.

The cost for the weekend is $50 per person, she said. To watch and attend the festival tonight costs $20.

A portion of the event's proceeds benefit The Access Fund, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment, Fish said.

The festival follows at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park near Red Rock Canyon, with dinner, prizes and a live auction to benefit The Access Fund.

The silent auction will feature a chance to bid for a one-on-one climbing session with world-renowned climber Peter Croft on Sunday.

A slide show presentation by Croft, sponsored by The North Face, will follow the auction at 7:30 p.m.

Pictures will feature Croft's climbing adventures in northern Pakistan, the coastal range of British Columbia, the Sierra Nevadas, Bishop and Yosemite, Croft said Friday between climbs.

Croft made his first venture to Red Rock Canyon 18 years ago, he said.

"I've come out almost every year since then," he said, and not always alone.

"About a month and a half ago, my wife and I came out here and did a little climbing," he said. "We had so much fun. Then I heard about the event here, and called to see if they wanted help."

Croft's slide show will be followed by live music and dancing, featuring Shotface, at 8:30 p.m.

Sunday morning will feature a free pancake breakfast and Starbucks coffee at 8 a.m.

After breakfast, participants will work together on a "Make a Difference" community service project in Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

Participants will help complete trailwork at one of the canyons, Fish said.

Tickets are still available to attend the festival. The $20 spectator ticket includes dinner Saturday night and everything but the on-rock clinics. Anyone interested can buy tickets at the registration table at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, which is 15 miles west of Las Vegas along Charleston Boulevard.

"There is something at the event for everyone," Fish said. "Even if you just want to watch, everyone is welcome."

For more information, call 1-800-829-2009 or visit the Mountain Gear website at mgear.com/rrr.

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