Friday, October 10, 2008

pilgrimage to LoS

Jascha's birthday rolled around and I admit that I pushed for a trip to Vegas out of slightly selfish interests to climb at Red Rocks and to try out Lotus of Siam, supposedly the "best Thai restaurant in the North America," so says the almighty L.A. Weekly food critic, Jonathan Gold. I figured that I could compensate by booking a room at the ultra hip & Dwell-esque Palms Place and taking him out to dinner at Rosemary's.

We ended up getting in late on Friday night so we had an easy day of sport climbing in Calico Basin on Saturday. We found some routes that weren't in the guid
e book, one of which was a thin 5.11+ or 5.12- crimpfest that we toproped. As I was setting up a precarious TR Jascha was questioned by some family struggling down the class 2-3 descent as to whether he had taught me how to rig a TR. He politely told them that I was the experienced climber.

The main attraction of the day, however, was a trip to LoS. We were somewhat versed in Isan cuisine from our trips to our local Thai restaurants Renu Nakorn and Khun Dom. Isan is relatively hard to come by even in a city with a huge Thai population like L.A. We arrived at LoS at peak dinner time and were told that there was a 30 minute wait. We decided to take a stroll around the aging strip mall to kill time. The strip mall contained multiple Asian restaurants/clubs, two wig stores, a 420 cafe, a roller hockey rink, pentecostal and evalgelical churches, an Alcoholics Together meeting space, two gay bathhouses (a.k.a. health clubs/spas), a BDSM clothing/supplies store, and a swingers' club, all seemingly harmoniously coexisting. Only in Las Vegas. Sadly, the nam kao tod and kang hoh at LoS were both lackluster. Both appeared on our table too fast to not be prepared in advance of our order. The rice on the nam kao tod was slightly soggy and the dish contained cubed store-bought pork sausage, not the seasoned ground pork and pork skin we get at khun dom. We ordered the nam kao tod "medium spicey", but received a completely farangified bland version. The kang hoh, however, was less vinegary than Renu Nakorn (a good thing). I am anxious to try the real deal in Thailand in a few months.

The next day we headed back to Red Rocks to climb the classic, Frogland (5.8), Jascha's choice. Thankfully, Jascha agreed to drive because there is no way my Mini would have made it through the washes. Fall was in full swing and the desert temperatures were perfect. We noticed a party on the first pitch as we approached. It was remarkably uncrowded for a weekend day this time of year and this popular of a route, likely because the weather report was iffy about precipitation. We decided to carry our packs to avoid having to contour back around to the start of the route after the descent.

By the time I started up the party above us had reached the first belay. Frogland is one of the more continuous routes I have climbed and even on the second run in a year it did not disappoint. The amount of abandoned gear (no less than 4 cams) in the committing 5.7 lieback on the second pitch was both entertaining and slightly disconcerting. At the second brushy belay alcove we caught up with the other party, one member, Samantha, I recognized as a friend of my
other climbing partner, Miguel. I mentioned that I had seen her climbing with Miguel before at Malibu Creek and she said, "Aren't you the one that climbs fast and solos everything." I laughed. I set up a belay just below Samantha to stay out of the way. When Jascha arrived we climbed up to a higher ledge. I knew that the rope drag was bad on the next pitch (last time I lead some unprotectable slab with potential for a major pendulum fall due to my shoddy belay placement) so I decided not to wait for Samantha's partner to finish the pitch and I headed up to set up an intermediate belay below the roof where Samantha's partner was somewhat struggling.

The belay above the roof proved to be a bottleneck so we waited it out. I decided to try and bypass the next belay and go all the way up to the end of the technical section. I wasn't sure if the rope drag would be unbearable, given that the route weaves behind a chockstone, then around a roof/arete. Fortunately, it was fine. Supertopo calls the last class 5 section 5.4R. I find this hard to believe; it's at least 5.7. I was amazed at how quickly Jascha maneuvered through the chockstone section (with his pack) given that I'm ~2/3 his size and I found it grovely. We packed up our ropes and rack for the final class 4 jaunt to the top. On the summit we snacked on pineapple coconut pecan muffins, then we scrambled down the canyon to the car. We were looking forward to our dinner at Rosemary's.

Before heading to dinner we checked into the Palms Place, which was much more tasteful than I expected, plus it had an added bonus of being in a building detached from the casino
accessible by a separate entrance. The mix of dark wood/textiles and industrial materials were right up my alley. At Rosemary's we ordered our old standby, twice-baked parmesan souffle, plus panko-crusted crab boulettes, grilled flat iron steak, and baked Japanese sea bass. Something happened with our order to cause a major delay, so we were given another appetizer. We chose wisely, the daily special of squash risotto with basil pesto and goat cheese cream sauce. This turned out to be the highlight of the dinner, along with the pecan pie. The entrees and souffle were better on our prior visit.

All in all we had a great weekend and it was with great reluctance that we headed back to L.A.

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