July 8, 2012
Road Trip Wrap-Up

(Photos to come.)

After Yosemite, we hightailed it to City of Rocks, Idaho. It was about a 10 hour drive, and in that time, somehow all three cars managed to take a different route to arrive. We all made it (some having closer calls than others), and we ready for a new place to climb. We found a BLM campsite, and established home for the next few days.

The next morning, we all got up and headed to Parking Lot Rock for a few climbs. I lead Batwings, a 5.8+ that is classic for the area, and quite spicy at the top in regards to protection. It was quite fun! After that, I followed Ben up Norma’s Book, a 5.7 that involved a lot of futuristic stemming bro! (Inside joke about boulderers being boulderers.) Finally, I ran up a 5.8 sport climb called Delay of Game that was fun and technical for a 5.8. Once we finished those three climbs, the sun was really starting to beat down.  A few others did another climb or two, and some of us just called it a day. That night, we went to a pizza joint called Rock City for dinner, and met some guys from Salt Lake City that we had a blast chatting with. It’s always fun meeting new climbers and sharing stories, especially when pizza is involved.

The next day, we went to the Breadloaves area to climb. The first place we went was the Decadent Wall, where I followed Ben up a climb called Adolescent Homosexual, 5.7, and then lead a 5.8 called Carol’s Crack. Both were pretty fun, and I got to fish out a booty locking carabiner from a crevasse on the summit using my nut tool and the cordelette.  After that, we went around to the other side of the formation to the Super Hits Wall. Ben lead a 5.7 called Intruding Dike which had an interesting down climb descent. Then, Maeve lead Bloody Fingers, a really cool 5.10a that we all toproped after. After that, we called it a wrap.

The last day in City of Rocks, everybody went to go have a shorter day of climbing. I opted to find some internet service somewhere to nail down possible Grand Teton climbing plans for Pat and I, as well as get in a much needed shower. Unfortunately, even with the light snow year, it was still too early in the season to climb Grand Teton without ice gear, so we had to bail on that plan. That evening, we had quite the rowdy group of people make camp right across the road from us. There were probably 10 or 15 cars there, and maybe 30-50 people, plus two dogs. They had a gun of some sort (a .22 we suspect) and were making a crap ton of noise all night. I fell asleep with headphones around midnight, and was still awoken at 3am by their drunken screaming, singing, and African drum playing. That kept me up for the next hour straight, until I finally fell back asleep. The alarm went off at 6am, but I didn’t make it out of the tent until about 7 because I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep caused by Camp Fun n’ Gun. When I finally did get up, however, there was a little payback to be had. Just as they were all falling asleep/passing out for the night/morning, getting ready for their unavoidable hangovers that would soon overtake all of them, I decided that we needed a bit of our own music to put some pep in our step as we packed up camp. (I mean, we were all pretty tired after all their shenanigans and getting so little sleep!) Plus, we had a pretty long day of driving ahead. Let’s just say we had some fun with it, and enjoyed our own early morning sing alongs to go along with their late night sing alongs. *devilish grin*

The plan was to head off to Yellowstone for a couple days of touristy things, followed by the Cody Nightly Rodeo in Wyoming, and then off to Ten Sleep, Wyoming for some more climbing. Things don’t play out quite as planned however, but that’ll be saved for the next post.

June 24, 2012
Yosemite Recap

Well, Yosemite has come and gone, and I once again have failed in keeping the blog updated with any shred of frequency. I’m not sure what it is about the Valley, but when I get there, my desire to write drops enough on the priority list that I never seem to get to it. I’ll do my best to summarize notable moments, but there is plenty that will be omitted from this post. Almost three weeks in Yosemite is just too much to write about, period. Also, I find that it’s very difficult to do the place any justice. If you’ve been there, you know describing it’s beauty and scale is beyond words. If you’ve been there, and you’re a climber, you know that explaining the sheer amount of climbing, let alone the quality, is also borderline impossible. It’s worth a visit, climber or not. You definitely won’t regret it.

Also, quick disclaimer. I’m just going to sort of write what comes to mind, in no particular order. I’ll go through my photos after I write this, and add any photos or additional writing as it seems fitting, but there could be a scattered feel to this post.

So the most notable thing that comes to mind is the West Face of the Leaning Tower, my first big wall climb. I already did a post on it, so I won’t talk much more about it, but it is awesome to have broken into the world of big wall climbing. After experiencing what it’s like sleeping on the side of a cliff over a thousand feet off the ground, satisfied after a long, successful day of climbing and the most delicious dinner you’ve ever had (since you’re so damn hungry that whatever it is you bring tastes phenomenal), you can’t really turn back to “lesser” (I use that word reluctantly) climbing and get the same amount as satisfaction out of it. Wall climbing is just a whole different realm, and to me, a better realm, that is beyond comparison to anything else. I’m hooked, and I’m already excited to be back again with a new list of things to do.

Reed’s Pinnacle was a pretty cool route that I did with Ben. It was four pitches, with the memorable one being the crazy, tunnel through, bombay into a scary black abyss, squeeze chimney on pitch 3. It’s a bit complicated to describe in words, hopefully the pictures will do it enough justice. Let’s just say that whatever goes down into that abyss is going to fall for a long, long way, and probably is never coming back.

Getting into aid climbing more was also a really awesome thing from my time in the Valley. I really never imagined I would enjoy aid climbing, but I really underestimated it. Quick primer for those non-climbers. Usually what we do is called free climbing, which means we use our hands and feet to grab and step on the rock to make vertical progress. Aid climbing is when you place a piece of gear into the natural cracks and grooves in the rock, and then clip a ladder of sorts to it, then walking up the ladder to make vertical progress. You use two ladders, and leap frog them from one piece of gear to the next, with only the gear and that ladder holding you up, not your own physical strength. This may seem less interesting or fun, which is what I thought at first, but it turns out that aid climbing is just like solving a big puzzle. You’re constantly problem solving the different gear placements, searching for something adequate to at least hold your body weight, and preferably the forces from a fall as well. Sometimes the climbing involves interesting sequences of gear placements to work out, and figuring it all out is a really fun test of problem solving skills. I did some other aid practice, besides the stuff on Leaning Tower. Church Bowl Tree, the LeConte Boulder Bolt Ladder, Stigma at Cookie Cliff, and the first pitch of Iron Hawk or El Cap Tree. They were all a lot of fun, and you’re constantly learning new little tricks to make sequences work. The learning experience is something I really am enjoying as well. It’s good to be learning.

View of the Cathedrals from the top of the first pitch of El Cap Tree

Looking down at one of two large bears at the base of El Cap from the top of the first pitch on El Cap Tree. It is in the center of the photo, with climbers in the upper left hand trying to fend them off.

I spent a lot of time at Glacier Point Apron on this trip. Running up the Grack was a lot of fun. Fooling around on the top ropes over at the Goblet was a good time. Harry Daley and the Chouinard Crack were classic and I was smiling ear to ear the whole time. One day, Pat and I went out to do a climb called Marginal, which was a four pitch 5.9R friction climb. On the second and crux pitch, at the last bolt before the anchors, I got suckered off route to a different set of anchors. From there, Pat and I had quite the adventure making our way up significantly harder and often more runout climbing that we initially planned for. The last pitch we did, I lead up about 35 feet above a bolt on what I would say was at least 5.10 polished friction moves, gunning for a copperhead in an impossibly thin seam, and then had another 10-15 feet of climbing to a bolt before the terrain got easier. Somehow I managed to keep myself from taking the 70 foot slide, which probably would have resulted in a cheese-grated Stefano hanging off the end of the rope. Somehow though, I was totally level-headed through all of it, and had an absolute blast. Finally, a few days later, I came back and climbed Marginal properly, and I danced up it with ease, usually singing silly songs as I went up the runout crux. I just feel very solid on friction slab climbing, and it’s a lot of fun for me.

Glacier Point Apron from the Trailhead Parking Lot

Laura doing some friction climbing on The Goblet

The coolest day at Glacier Point Apron, however, was the day Ben and I decided to climb Goodrich Pinnacle, and possibly extend the climb to a feature called The Oasis. Goodrich Pinnacle is a 6 pitch route that gains a nice ledge which is the summit of a pinnacle on the Apron. The first few pitches weren’t much special, and then there was some runout 5.9 friction again. The 5.9 spots felt harder than Marginal in comparison, but there were bolts at the tough spots, so it wasn’t really scary. After that, a chimney pitch got us to the top, and on that pitch, I happened to find a brand new carabiner sitting in a little pocket! Just my luck!

Ben leading the first pitch of Goodrich Pinnacle

Doing a bit of “route finding” on the second pitch. :)

Ben following the 4th pitch

The view from the top, or close to the top, of Goodrich Pinnacle.

We got to the top of the climb and grabbed some snacks and water. The wind was howling pretty good which was a bit unnerving, but we still gave some thought about doing the extension to The Oasis, which was another 10 pitches according to the crude topo we had. I was bit unsure, but I went and looked at the first pitch of the extension, which was some more 5.9 friction and slab, and deemed it reasonable enough to warrant at least trying one pitch. After that first pitch of the extension, we never even once questioned stopping. The climbing was great, or adventurous, or both. The face pitches right after Goodrich Pinnacle were a blast, and after that, the climbing tended to get easier as we gained height, barring a few small exceptions. Our topo didn’t have pitch lengths or much detail, and was just downright wrong in a few spots, so it made good route finding ability critical to staying on target and safe. Fortunately, I did a pretty good job with that, and we were able to make our way up to The Oasis. The Oasis is a large system of mildly overgrown ledges with trees, bushes, grass, and a bit of water and mud. Water can be seen running down Glacier Point Apron from it, and it is the only real place where there are any trees or major plant life on the Apron above a couple hundred feet exist. The climbing the gains The Oasis is very overgrown, wet, and muddy, but it was all sort of a part of the adventure. When I got up to the ledge, I was quite pleased to find a rack of gear sitting there, prime for the picking! Since the climb, however, I have done some detective work to find the person who lost the gear, and am currently in the process of returning it to him.

Ben following the first pitch after Goodrich, heading to The Oasis.

Becks Bivy Ledge

Looking over at North Dome, Washington Column, and Royal Arches from Becks Bivy

Looking up at the wet and overgrown climbing to gain the ledge at The Oasis

The lost rack!

Half Dome and Nevada Falls from The Oasis

Close up of Half Dome

Close up of North Dome

Close up of Nevada Falls

All in all, we did the entire climb (base to Oasis) in 13 pitches. The guidebook suggests 18, but we were able to link a few things here and there to save time. We hung out for a bit before doing 12 rappels to get back to the ground, with only the last two being in the dark. It was a very successful day, and we made it just in time to the pizza deck to get some celebratory dinner.

Ben rappeling

Rays from the sunset striking Half Dome

We made it back just in time for victory pizza.

Some other fun things were swimming right near the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, which is probably not something you’d find in a brochure as a suggested thing to do. It’s a bit dangerous, but we kept ourselves safe, and had a fun time boulder hopping, swimming, and navigating rapids. I also did a bit of climbing at Swan Slabs as well as Sunnyside Bench which was all fun and pleasant.

Finally, the time in the Valley for me finished off with quite a cool opportunity. I was able to meet up with a well-known Yosemite big wall climber, “Pass the Pitons” Pete Zabrok. We met up with him on the bridge a couple days after he got down from his 14 day expedition up El Cap. He was a lot of fun to chat with, and had some great stories. I had plans before hand to meet up with him and hopefully climb together a bit, and so he invited me out to karaoke in Mariposa with his benefactors Brenda and Josh, as well as his previous climbing partner Mark. I met up with them that night, and we had a blast singing karaoke and just hanging around. The next night was my last in Camp 4 before I had to leave, but Josh and Brenda were kind enough to open up there home to yet another person, and allowed me to crash there for a few days while Pete prepped for the next wall. He and I had some good times jamming together, him on his keyboard, me on my guitar. We also were around for the new speed climbing record on The Nose of El Capitan. We woke up early Sunday morning and headed over to the Meadow to watch Alex Honnold and Hans Florine recapture the record, shattering the old one by about 12 minutes. The new record now stands at 2 hours, 23 minutes, 46 seconds. Watching it was unbelievable to say the least, and it was a lot of fun being apart of the small but energetic crowd in the Meadow cheering the guys on. After that, we began the process of getting stuff up to the base of the climb I was helping Pete and the other guys get started on. They planned to climb New Dawn to the Wall of Early Morning Light in roughly ten days. The organizing and racking alone took several days, but I learned a ton in the process about ways to improve some of my systems when I’m on my next big wall. It was also really cool to hang around with a well known, dare I say, “famous,” climber in the Valley for a few days.

Pete belting it at Karaoke in Mariposa.

After that, I headed up to Tuolumne Meadows to meet up with the group again before taking off to City of Rocks, Idaho. We arrived just after sunset, and are excited for our first day of climbing hear tomorrow!

June 4, 2012
Days 26-30 - Yosemite Updates

Day 26 - Church Bowl

Ben, John-Mark, Maeve and I went over to the Church Bowl area for a bit of warming up to climbing in the Valley again. Ben and I did a few routes: Church Bowl Lieback 5.8, Uncle Fanny 5.7, and Bishop’s Terrace 5.8. All were good fun, and Uncle Fanny was the only new route for me, but it was great to have a more relaxing day of climbing and to ease into climbing here again.

Day 27 - Glacier Point Apron

Maeve and I headed to go climb at the Monday Morning Slab at Glacier Point Apron today. We scrambled up the 3rd class approach until we found the base of our first climb, Harry Daley, a two pitch 5.8. I lead it, and it was a blast. The cracks were really good, and it was just great fun all around!

After that, we did a easy, two pitch 5.4 ramp to get some more pitches, rapped down to the top of the first pitch on Harry Daley and did the Chouinard Crack (5.8) which was a variation of the second pitch. That was also a lot of fun. After that, I set up a toprope on a 10b slab route, got the onsight on that, and we called it a day. Pretty great all around!

Day 28 - Rest Day and Swimming in Lower Yosemite Falls

Chris, Ben, Maeve and I took a rest day today because it was pretty hot, making climbing sort of miserable. Instead, we went to the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls and went swimming in the pools and mild rapids. I’m sort of surprised you are allowed to do that, since it was mildly dangerous (not too bad though), but we had a great time hopping between rocks in the river. The water was freezing, which was sort of nice since it was so hot, but also made it a bit less comfortable to stay in too long! After swimming, we just chilled out the rest of the day.

Day 29 - Aid Adventures

Today, Ben and I went and had an aid climbing adventure day. We started off back at the Church Bowl on a climb called Church Bowl Tree. It goes free at 10b, but I aided it for practice at C1. I got to introduce Ben to a lot of new things, and he got his first pitch of jugging a rope in.

After Church Bowl, we went to the Le Conte Boulder bolt ladder and I aided that. It’s really overhanging, which makes the aiding much more difficult! Ben learned how to clean overhanging routes, and also got his first aid lead in!

Finally, we headed out of the Valley to Cookie Cliff, where there was a 5.13 called Stigma that supposedly could be aided at C2. We found the thin seam splitting the rock face, and I went to work!

I didn’t quite have the right gear for the pitch, so I used the two bots meant for people leading it as protection, but not for progress. After the two bolts, I had about 15 feet of nothing but cam hooks, before going to a marginal cam in a pin scar, and then finally a better looking small cam. After that, I had a couple more cam hook moves before the anchors. It sure was spicy! Felt a bit closer to C3 than C2 to me, but what do I know.

Day 30 - Reed’s Pinnacle

Today, Ben and I went to the Reed’s Pinnacle area to do the link-up of the Direct Route and the Regular Route. It was 4 pitches total, going at 5.9, and was quite an adventure. The first pitch was Ben’s lead, and was pretty straight forward 5.9 tight hands in a left curving crack.

The next pitch was a very wavering crack that was extremely sustained and pumpy! It went at 5.9, but I was exhausted by the time I finished the lead. After setting up a nice belay and getting some sun while bringing up Ben, we had the adventurous part of the climb.

There was a tunnel through, bombay into a deep, black abyss, squeeze chimney that we had as pitch 3. Ben lead it, and managed to worm his was through to the other side without being sucked into the bottomless void.

I was able to follow through with similar results, and we both made it to the other side safely. I was a bit concerned, however, when I had to take off my helmet because the chimney was so tight that it wouldn’t fit. If you ever started to slip, all you had to do was take a deep breath in, and the expansion of your chest would pin you in place.

The last pitch was a fun and pretty straight forward 5.9 fists to fingers crack and some easier 5.6 climbing to the top. The top out had a really nice view!

After a couple tricky rappels, we were back to the ground, safe and sound! A fun and adventurous day, for sure.

May 30, 2012
Days 22-25 - First Big Wall, West Face of the Leaning Tower!

Pat and I woke up, gathered our things, and took off for Yosemite. It was a 7.5 hour drive, and of course I got a ticket. (I got speed trapped, going 44 in a 25. My luck sucks.) Anyways, we got to Yosemite, and it was packed for the Memorial Day weekend. We stopped at the Mountain Shop for a bit of quick beta and some gear, then headed off to the Bridalveil Falls parking lot. We started the process of packing our stuff and racking for the big wall, as well as removing all scented items from the car because of the bears.

After getting everything taken care of, we took off up the steep, talus field approach. It supposedly gains 900 feet in 0.5 miles. It took us about 45 minutes, and we had to make two trips to get all of our stuff up to the bivy spot near the base of the climb. Here are a couple shots.

After all of our crap was at the bivy spot, we hung our food to hopefully deter the bears from ripping into it, and got to sleep. The next morning, we woke up to a couple people passing us to go do the climb. First, two guys went up that were planning on doing the climb in a day, and then another party came up, also with the same plans. The first party, it turns out, was two guys both soloing it in a day (not free soloing, solo aiding) but also somehow helping each other out. Either way, things were sort of slow with them, and that delayed the next party ahead of us. The next party was a party of three, and were also planning on doing it in a day, but I’m pretty sure that was either a lie, or just way too optimistic for them. They were sort of slow, since two of three were also brand new to wall climbing, and because of their slowness, we didn’t start climbing until about 1:30pm. Basically, the Memorial Day weekend crowds were in full swing. Here’s a shot of some of the line waiting to get on the wall.

 

A quick bit about the climb. It’s called the West Face of the Leaning Tower, and it rated 5.7 C2 Grade V (5.7 is the free climbing rating, C2 is the aid rating, and Grade V is for the length, basically meaning you’re going to have to spend at least one night on the wall to finish it.) The climb overall is 10.5 pitches (the last pitch is a very short bit of 4th class), but all the pitches can be linked. Our plan was to link 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8, and 9 and 10. Linking pitches saves an intermediate belay, which translates to saved time. Our first day plan was to do the first 4 pitches up the the Ahwahnee Ledge (where we’d sleep for the night) and then climb pitches 5 and 6, fix a rope, and rappel back down to the ledge. Unfortunately, since we didn’t get to start until 1:30pm, and the party in front of us was slow, we didn’t get a chance to fix 5 and 6. Anyways, enough about the slow downs, and more about the climb!

The climb starts after some exposed 3rd and 4th class scrambling, about 400’ off the ground. Getting the haul bag (aka the pig, or Miss Piggy) to the start of the climb was SCARY and really damn hard. It probably weighed at least 80 pounds, and climbing with it on exposed 4th class with only an old, core shotted fixed rope for your protection was terrifying. Some people say that’s the hardest part of the route. For some reason, I have a hard time disagreeing…

Anyways, the first pitch is a bolt ladder, and as the name suggests, it’s overhanging. Here’s Pat leading up the first pitch.

There was one spot on the first pitch that was C2 and required two hook moves. Pat cruised it, and had a blast.

Pat at the C2 section of the first pitch.

That there is Ben. He was behind us in line, and wasn’t able to get on the climb that day because of the crowds. However, Ben had a lot of insight to offer, and gave us the encouragement we needed to actually head up there. (After all the delays that morning, psyche was low, concerns and worries were high, and bailing before even starting was a big consideration.) “There are a lot of reasons to bail, but few good ones.” -Ben, the awesome guy at the base with us. After that, we just sorta said screw it, let’s do it.

After Pat finished up pitches 1 and 2, he set up the anchor, I lowered out the haul bag into open space, and started to clean the pitch. Boy was it steep! They say the wall is about 110 degrees, so 20 degrees past vertical. I don’t doubt it. Most of the time, I was free hanging in space with 500+ feet of air below me. The exposure was ridiculous! I got to the first anchor with Pat, which is pictured here.

(Hanging big wall anchors tend to be a bit clustered.)

We traded gear, and I prepped for pitches 3 and 4, C2 and C1 respectively. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any offset cams, which would have made the C1 feel more like C1, and less like C2. I had quite a few cam hook moves, and a couple regular hook moves on pitches 3 and 4, which for that being my second aid lead ever, was sorta dicey, but totally awesome.

Looking up at pitch 3.

Basically, I love aid climbing. It’s constant problem solving. Sort of like one big puzzle to figure out, except it’s adventurous and exciting, and scary sometimes. It’s a much slower process than free climbing, however. My first lead took about 3 hours, which was a bit long, but for my second aid lead ever, and it being C2, I was okay with that. Here’s a shot of Pat cleaning the end of pitch 4, which required a lower out.

After pitch 4, we arrived at Ahwahnee Ledge, where the slower party of three that was supposed to be done in a day also decided to crash for the night. This made the belay a bit tight, since it is only really comfortable for four. Either way, it was great to be done for the day and finally sit down.

One of the Chileans from the party of three hanging out on Ahwahnee.

Pat enjoying his dinner of cold Spaghettio’s.

James the Hedgehog and the can opener dangerously close to the edge.

Summer sausage and sharp cheddar on a sesame bagel for dinner. Delicious.

I slept pretty poorly, since I had about an inch and a half of leftover ledge on my side before the drop, and was pretty paranoid the whole night. I was tethered in, but the first time sleeping on a ledge, it’s hard to keep a cool head.

The next morning, I had the hard lead to start off the morning. After a pendulum off a high bolt near the anchor, I had a C2 angling crack. At one point, I was on a micro cam, placing a micro offset and starting to test the nut, when the cam I was standing on blew. I went swinging onto the nut, which miraculously held me, and I quickly replaced the cam. That definitely got the heart rate going a bit! After that, there was some really awkward free climbing on a ramp, followed by fix pins to a C1 crack. After that was an anchor, where I ditched the cams and hung out for a while, waiting for the party of three to get a bit further ahead. Once they were, I had some 5.7 unprotected free climbing where I half-aided off some fixed heads, used a hook for protection, and then reached the arcing bolt ladder that brought me to the top of pitch 6. Here’s a couple shots of me on pitch 5.

 

Next, Pat had a long C1 lead (Pitches 7 and 8) that he cruised up in very good time! Once he was done, I cleaned and jugged up to him.

Miss Piggy, with me cleaning the top of Pitch 8.

Next up was a SUPER steep C1F (F for fixed gear) roof section on Pitch 9 that was very strenuous. It was technically easy, since all the gear was fixed besides a handful of placements, but the overhanging nature of the pitch really kicked my butt!

After pitch 9, pitch 10 had some awkward C2 roof and traverse sequences that were quite interesting to figure out. Lots of back cleaning, some cam hooks here and there, and some swinging, high step cam placements all added to the fun. Once I finished pitch 10, all I had left was to haul once more, and we were done for the night. Pat helped me space haul the last one since there was a bit of rope drag, and I was exhausted from long, difficult leads earlier in the day. We got the bag up and got ready to crash for the night!

We built a cool little fort out of the haul bag to help block us in. This way, with the way the ledge was sloping, we could sleep untethered since we would have to roll OVER the large haul bag to get close to the edge.

I definitely slept much better the second night, sans tether and with more security since I wasn’t right next to the edge. After breakfast, we gathered up our things, and did the last few feet of 4th class to the top!

After the summit, we headed down the backside of the Leaning Tower via several rappels, and finally it brought us back around near our initial bivvy spot.

Shot of the Leaning Tower from one of the last rappels.

Overall, it was an absolutely amazing experience. There is so many different opportunities from problem solving when wall climbing, and aid leading is like one big puzzle to solve. I loved it all! The bivvies can’t be beat, and the feeling of satisfaction is second to none. I’m definitely looking forward to the next big wall, and am looking forward to more and more aid climbing!

May 30, 2012
Days 16-21 - Dream of Wild Turkeys, Revenge on Olive Oil, Rest Days

Okay, this one is going to be kind of quick. In short, Red Rocks was mediocre. I hate Vegas, as mentioned before. The climbing in Red Rocks is okay, and pretty good at best. The rock quality sucks, and gear is usually pretty bad. Hikes are generally long and annoying (steep, loose, sandy, scrambling, bushwhacking). Days 17, 19, and 20 were “rest days” mainly cause I didn’t have to psyche to go and climb. It was also very hot.

Another reason why Vegas is trashy.

The tow trucks slogan was “You blow, we come.” Yeah.

Anyways, on Day 16, Maeve and I went and did a climb called Dream of Wild Turkeys. It was 5.10a, 7 pitches, and we did it base to base in 6 hours. There was some 4th class to get to the base of the climb which was tricky with packs on.

Here’s the start of the climb.

Here’s Maeve following my lead on one of the hard traverse pitches. Supposedly 10a, felt a lot harder.

Overall, the climb was pretty good, but it didn’t blow us away. It also felt quite stiff for 10a, which is strange for Red Rocks, since Red Rocks tends to be soft in their grades.

Day 18, Ben and I went to go climb a 5.7 called Olive Oil. It’s 4 or 5 pitches, depending on if you link, and pretty straight forward. I was excited to get back to this climb, because back on my first trip to Red Rocks in 2010, I almost got benighted on the climb due to some rope tangle issues at an impromptu hanging belay, and having difficulties finding the walk off in the dark. We started the day at 9am and didn’t get back until 1:30am.  This time, Ben and I cruised it with no problem. We linked the 2nd and 3rd pitch to avoid the hanging belay, and all went great. Here are some shots.

Ben leading the last pitch.

The anchor and ledge at the top of the 4th pitch proper. My anchor was pretty interesting: two nuts and a slung chicken head/flake feature. I also had a cool redirect going when I belayed Ben up since the anchor was so far from the edge the climber approaches from.

View from the summit. The parking lot is basically indistinguishable.

Zoomed all the way in, the car still looks tiny.

Ben and I on the summit.

A lizard helping guide the way on one of the descent cairns.

Day 21 was a little adventure in which Pat and I went to go find a C1 roof crack called The Great Red Roof to aid. We found it, but the approach involved some exposed sketchy down climbing, and it was crazy windy, so we decided to bail on that and join everyone else in sport climbing. The rest of the day was pretty average. The sport climbing was pretty okay, and after that, we headed back to Maeve’s cousin’s house for some dinner and relaxation. That night, Pat and I started to iron out all the logistics of heading to Yosemite early to do our first big wall climb, the Leaning Tower. We were planning on leaving the next morning, after spending the night with everyone at Maeve’s cousin’s, and I definitely a bit of anxious excitement…

May 19, 2012
Day 15 - Dark Shadows and Buzz Cuts

This morning, after getting a screw removed from one of the car tires, Pat and I headed off for our first day of climbing in Red Rocks. We had a short, pleasant climb called Dark Shadows, 5.8, in mind. After driving through the scenic loop, we found our parking lot, grabbed our bags, and headed off. After a bit of wandering to find the right trail to the climb, we found our start. There were a couple parties already on the route, so it was a slow climb for us. We spent at least half the time on the rock waiting. We watched another party make a mockery of the rappels, witnessed every party ahead of us drop the ropes into the pool of water at the base of the climb, and finished up with ease. On our way down, we were determined to keep our ropes dry. The two parties before us laughed at us as we put the effort in to keep our ropes dry, but they didn’t realize who we were. After simul-rapping the last rappel with our ropes in our lap, Pat assumed a position pinned between the rock and a small boulder to try and catch the rope, while I gave a sharp, particularly aimed tug on the rope to pull it away from the pool. The 200 feet of rope came screaming down towards the water, and gracefully draped over Pat’s outstretched arms, staying dry as a bone. The other parties were in awe, and Pat and I exchanged excited high fives. Keeping the ropes dry was a much bigger success for us than the climb itself.

Once we packed up our stuff, we headed out, and back into the city. We made a quick stop to grab some food, and I finally got myself a new rope after being fed up with the fatness of my first. (It’s also coming on 3 years old.) We then headed back to the hotel where we had some dinner, and decided it was finally time to buzz our heads.

(Apologies for the mirror shot.)

All in all, not a bad first day.

May 18, 2012
Day 14 - Goodbye Forks, Hoover Dam, Hello Vegas

This morning was our last morning in Paradise Forks, and everyone except Pat and I decided not to climb. We, however, had a cool 5.8+ on our mind called The Black Rose. You had to rappel in over a large pool of water (The Silver Pond) and then climb a jet black corner and roof system out. The rock was very slick, because at certain points in the year, a raging water fall is going over the rock here, but the river was dry as a bone today. We rappelled in, got set up, and took off. The climbing was very interesting, unlike anything else we had done in the Forks so far. The rock felt different, the features were different, and it was in a very cool location. Unfortunately, the combination of flare and possibly water droplets on the lens of my camera wrecked any chance of having pictures of the climb, so I will reference Mountain Project instead. 

http://www.mountainproject.com/v/the-black-rose/105792351

I took one last picture of the canyon with part of the Silver Pond in the bottom. Our climb finished up on the rock in the lower left of the picture.

Pat and I headed back up to the parking lot and discussed our plans for the rest of the day, and for lodging in Vegas, with the rest of the gang. We decided to pass up on the Grand Canyon since it was like 3 hours out of the way, and our drive to Vegas was only 3.5 hours. We also decided to try and find a dirt cheap hotel to stay in rather than camp since the price of camping had increased, and our Austrian friends from the Creek informed us of some great deals to be had in Vegas. Then, it was on the road!

During our drive, when we were just outside Vegas, we drove right past the Hoover Dam, and decided to stop. None of us had been before, and it seemed like a cool half hour distraction. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, a huge dam, lots of concrete, lots of water, but it was pretty cool! Here are some pictures.

Once we had our fill, we took off and got ourselves to Las Vegas. I’ll sum up the rest of the day before I rant about Las Vegas…

We saw a good deal online for a hotel room, but when we got there, that deal no longer existed. We did some more internet reconnaissance and found another deal, booked it, and headed off to our hotel. The place is shady. Not even a bit. In the few days we’ve been here so far, we’ve seen many call girls (most of which are probably our neighbors), pulled up with police cars outside the hotel, seen monetary transactions of most likely illegal goods, etc. But it’s home. Some amenities include a dumpster (we haven’t had a dumpster or trash can since the start of the trip), a well-lighted parking lot for our tailgate dinners, running water, electric outlets, continental breakfast, and a pool. Those are listed more or less in order of importance. The room is okay for being less than $40 a night. There are a lot of strange quirks about the room, though, like how the keycards consistently stop working every day or two, the TV randomly chirping loudly, even though it is unplugged from the wall, certain lamps not working, etc. Either way, it’s nice to be in “civilization” I guess, even if it is this vile city.

Vegas Rant: On.

Okay, so Las Vegas is more or less the epitome of the morals, tastes, and desires that I despise. The entire city (besides possibly the high roller rooms and mega luxury suites) is one big facade. Everything looks pleasant from afar, but on closer inspection, you start to realize everything is very cheap. The innards are crap, and have been dolled up to appear as luxurious or high quality. Things like astroturf instead of grass. The worst part is that they don’t even bother to try and do a good job to hide the cheapness of everything. It’s glaringly obvious.

Another thing I hate is the type of people I see here. You walk into almost any place, and there are slot machines with people gambling away their money, most of which I have a feeling shouldn’t be gambling their money away. It always reeks of smoke. Then there are all the homeless people everywhere, looking for handouts. It’s just a depressing place. Nothing like the movie 21 makes it out to be, at least nowhere I’ve been, that’s for sure. It’s a place of despair, disappointment, and false hope to me.

Vegas Rant: Off.

May 17, 2012
Day 13 - Birds of Paradise

After another cool, clear night in the hammock, and the usual morning routine, we hiked over to the Sine Wall to start our climbing for the day. We rappelled in, identified our climbs, and took off! I lead Sine of the Times, a two-pitch 5.10. Right at the start of the second pitch was twin finger cracks that marked the crux.

Belay station at the top of the first pitch on Sine of the Times.
This is looking over at the Prow area from the end of the first pitch on Sine of the Times.
The moves were quite tough and a bit scary because of the ledge fall potential, but I managed to get up most of it before running out of gas and needing a take.  Just as I did that, I heard a loud chirping noise come from inside the crack. Turns out the crack I decided to use as a handhold also was home to a bird, which was a bit unnerving. I gingerly meandered my way around that part of the crack, and finished up the climb.
Top of Sine of the Times, belaying Ben up.
After that, we decided to head back over to Pillow Wall to get some more of the climbs in there. Pat and JM were having a mega-day running around doing as many pitches they could. I got a few shots of them throughout the day.
The rest of us finished up a bunch of climbs at Pillow Wall: a 5.7 offwidth called Pillow Stuffing, redid the 5.10 from the day before called Pillow Fight, redid Geekus Amongst Us 5.9, then did Pillow Talk and Pillow Case, both 5.9’s. It was a lot of fun, and made for another great day at Paradise Forks.

12:00am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Zs4YHyL_0Rfj
Filed under: Paradise Forks 
May 16, 2012
Day 12 - Birthday in Paradise… Forks!

After a delightful night’s rest in the hammock with towering pines above, silhouetted by stars on a clear night, we prepped for our first day of climbing in Paradise Forks. After breakfast, friends singing Happy Birthday (and picking me up and spinning me around), and racking up, we walked over to the cliffs edge and rappelled in. This was one of the cool and distinct characteristics of climbing at Paradise Forks! Very short approaches (couple hundred yards) to the top off the cliff, not the bottom. You can drop a rope almost anywhere, find your climb, and climb out! There are almost no bolts there, and I never saw any. The rock is bullet hard, and the cracks are pretty great, making for great gear and great climbing.

Ben rapping in at Pillow Wall.

Ben and I paired up for the day, and the first lead was Mayflower, a 5.9. It started off with a tough finger crack to a ledge, which was then followed by an exposed and exciting step across before gaining the final dihedral. Pretty fun, and the traverse got the heart rate going!

Start of Mayflower is the thin finger crack on the right.

The step across and final dihedral on the left.

Next up, Ben lead Fool’s Game, a 5.9 with the same start as Mayflower, but continued straight up instead of traversing with the airy step across. Also quite fun!

After those two climbs, which were at a section of the canyon called The Prow, we skirted down further to the Pillow Wall. First up, I did a 5.10 called Pillow Fight. It was quite hard, but I managed to get the onsight, and was quite excited. It was a crack that started as hand jams and narrowed down to fingers. The off-fingers section was the crux for me, but I was able to make it stick just long enough.

After Pillow Fight, Ben lead a 5.9 called Geekus Amongst Us. More crack fun to be had, and after that, we called it a day!

Once we topped out, we walked back over to our campsite in the woods, had some dinner, and relaxed for the rest of the night in preparation to do it all again the next day!

12:00am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Zs4YHyLsrGuc
Filed under: Paradise Forks 
May 15, 2012
Day 11 - Goodbye Moab, Monument Valley, Off to Paradise Forks

We woke up, packed up camp, and hit the road, saying goodbye to the Moab area for the trip. We drove for a few hours, stopping in a place called Mexican Hat for lunch, which was delicious, and interesting observing the cultural differences between us and the locals. After refueling, it was back on the road for a bit more before stopping at Monument Valley. Pat and I headed up to the Visitor’s Center, which had a great view of the Mittens, and read a few tourist plaques.

After getting our fill of the view, we hit the road again, headed for Flagstaff, Arizona. Initially, we were supposed to be going to Zion National Park, but the weather forecast warned us of ridiculously high heat, so we did some research, and came up with Flagstaff as a new plan. It’s much higher elevation (just shy of 7000 ft) so it stays significantly cooler than the desert.

After arriving in Flagstaff, we went to the local climbing gym to pick up some beta about Paradise Forks, which is the climbing area we had in mind, grab some dinner, get some groceries. After that, we headed out of town west for a bit until we found Paradise Forks, and the primitive camping nearby. The place is mostly pine forest, and very pretty. The primitive camping is getting a bit old, however. Things like running water and picnic tables are growing in status as wonderful luxuries that I look forward to having again.

Once we arrived, I set up my hammock, and enjoyed the cool night air and beautiful stars from the comfort and warmth of my hammock. 

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