Sunday, November 20, 2005

Naked Edge, Part VI: Working the Top

I raced my bike on Saturday and had planned on racing again on Sunday, but the weather was too nice and I called Stefan instead. He graciously agreed to accompany me on the Edge as a warm up to working his Clear Creek Canyon project Sonic Youth (5.13a). We agreed to meet in Eldo at 7 a.m. I pulled into the parking lot and found it covered in snow and icy. A stiff breeze blew through the canyon and the temperature was 28 degrees. Clearly, the Edge was out. Or was it? Stefan suggested hiking up to the top of the route and working the last pitch – the only unredpointed pitch. This pitch is the first piece of rock hit by the sun and it was a brilliant idea. I had to be driving to Sedona, Arizona by noon so I couldn’t wait around to climb later in the day.

Hiking up to the top of the Edge, I felt like some of my climbing heroes. Jim Herson, Tommy Caldwell, and nearly everyone who had freed the Salathe Wall on El Capitan had hiked up to the top of El Cap and rappelled in to work the headwall pitches. Here I was doing the same thing.

The temperature at the top of the route was a bit more bearable, but it wasn’t warm. Because of the difficulty in rappelling down this overhanging, traversing last pitch, we elected to belay from the top. I lowered in first, placing gear on the way down so that I wouldn’t swing out into space. Stefan lowered me to the base of the overhanging hand crack. I declined to go lower since I didn’t think I could stay on the route if I did. I was a bit intimidated by the immediate exposure and my hands got quite cold on the lower section. It was a brutal warm up and I hung halfway up the crack. I struggled mightily with the wide section at the top and felt it was 5.10+.

Stefan went down next and he slipped out of crack down low, where the climbing is most technical with marginal, tight jams. This fall was surprising, but mainly caused by numb hands. On his second trip down, it went easily. I asked him about the upper wide part and he said that he liebacked it and thought it was 5.8. I was worried about liebacking while on lead, but needed an easier solution to this problem. On my next trip down, I sent the entire crack without hanging. I used Stefan’s advice and liebacked the wide section, finding it embarrassingly easy. What was I thinking with my horrible, desperate solution?

After Stefan’s second trip down, I went down a third time. I really feel I’m getting this pitch down and feel there are adequate places to plug in gear. I’m confident I could lead this pitch now. The key will be getting to this pitch relatively fresh and not wasting too much energy on the opening, bouldery moves. The pitch goes like this for me. Just after the duck-around move to get to the base of the crack, there are a couple of marginal footholds. I can get a good rest here by underclinging the big flake. This keeps my arms low and allows me to relax and de-pump. I start the pitch by pinching the top of the block with my left hand and then reaching high into the wide slot and getting a reasonable jam. I get the feet up a bit and reach with the left hand for a marginal jam. Now I lean straight out and get my right foot on the triangle-chip foothold. Once on that I step up high, match my right hand by my left hand and then reach way high until I can get a good hand jam. At this point, I’d plug in the #1 Camalot. Now I use my feet on the left wall and jam the crack until my foot is on a good hold on the left. I’d plug in the first #2 Camalot here. More jamming gets me to another marginal stem where I can place the second #2 Camalot, though only about five feet higher than the first one. Now the endurance crux. Here I must put the left foot into the crack and smear the right foot on the wall. Shuffle up the jams and stay solid here. After five more feet I get another foothold and a reasonable rest and the heavy lifting is done. The rest is 5.9 or easier. I move up a bit, to the wide section, and place the #3 Camalot. Then swing into the lieback and do two moves before stepping onto a good hold with my left foot. Now I can pull out of the corner and onto the 5.6 lower-angled climbing.

As soon as I topped out the hard section on my third trip, I had Stefan lower me down to the base again. I wanted to simulate climbing the crack section with a bit of pump. I once again climbed the section clean and felt very solid. I’m anxious to get up here and lead this pitch, but I need to re-figure out how I do the opening moves. Chris Archer sent me detailed beta on four different ways to do this section, but I haven’t been back to try it yet. I have two months left before the Edge closes for six months, but December and January don’t usually provide many days for climbing 5.11. I need to be ready to go on any day with good weather. I can’t depend on the weekends.

I’m very close to finishing this project, but I’m already planning the next step. Once I climb it all clean, then I want to climb it linking the first two and last two pitches. Actually, I’m not sure why you’d link the last two pitches, unless a 60-meter rope can go clear to the unroping spot. I guess it can reach that far, but it seems like the rope drag might not be worth it. Then I want to see how fast and efficient I can climb it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Naked Edge, Part V: Progress

Tuesday I got an email from Dave Mackey wondering if I wanted to climb on Thursday morning. Silly question... I get to climb with a lot of tremendous partners, many of whom are local legends or even more. I pester them to climb with me, but when a legend, and make no mistake about it, Dave Mackey is a Boulder legend, asks me there is only one answer: Yes.

The high the day before was only 50 degrees and while the forecast was for a great day today, I expected cold morning temperatures and the ubiquitous wind. Neither was present when I pulled up next to Dave's car. I went in short sleeves, but wore my GoLite superlight shell on the approach pitches. I made up a huge rack - way too big, but I was planning to aid up the last pitch and wanted to be prepared. I threw some medium stoppers on the rack for the first pitch of the Edge, per Bill Briggs' suggestion, but I didn't end up using them.

We simul-climbed up the Ramp Route to the Cave Pitch with me leading. There I re-racked and stripped off the shell. I felt confident and strong. I knew this pitch so well. Today was going to be the day I got it, I thought. Dave sent a constant stream of encouragement up the rope to me. I've gotten to know the bottom section so well and love the flow of moves, back and forth from the arete on the left to the finger crack on the right. Fun climbing. I made it up to the sloping shelf, rested a bit and launched upwards on the familiar moves. This time the gear went in quickly and easily. The fixed blue Alien, then my green Alien and finally the black Alien just before I make the big reach left to the arete at the top. Got the left foot up, then the big stem to get the right foot on the triangle chip. I was in the nice stem and could have placed more gear here, but took Stefan's advice from last time and just finished it off. You get way above the black Alien this way, but the moves get progressively easier and I was still feeling strong. I grabbed the finishing jug and let out a whoop of joy! Sweet! What a great pitch. It didn't come easy for me, but I feel I really know this pitch now. None of the moves are that hard, but they are continuous and now I can move efficiently enough to avoid the massive pump. This was a huge accomplishment for me.

Dave followed the pitch so easily that it looked like it was 5.8. I could have let that bring down my accomplishment, but I knew the pitch was 11a and I knew how much effort it had taken me. Dave shook out only for a second before leading the second pitch. From my last experience, I know that the second pitch can feel 5.11 if you are pumped. Dave has power to burn, though, and he cruised the pitch easily and quickly. I had no troubles following, having had a good rest before doing it and not wasting myself on the first pitch like before.

Dave also led the third pitch, as I was planning on leading the fourth pitch and the fifth pitch. The latter only because Dave had previously said he didn't want to lead the fourth or fifth pitches. He had even offered a different route (Suparete/Superslab) as an alternative! The nerve of the guy! I have to stay focused. As far as I'm concerned Eldo has only one route.

Dave cruised the third pitch and I followed, already getting nervous to lead the tricky 4th pitch. I re-racked and peed before starting up the 4th. I had only tried to lead this once before, with Rolo, and had taken a fall and pulled a couple of pieces. Many Edge climbers call this the crux pitch and it depends on what your strengths are. Most still think it is the last, burly, tricky pitch, but this pitch, though short, is very heads up, tricky climbing.

I climbed the lower section into the dihedral and placed the bomber cam down low in the slot. This is really the ONLY bomber piece on this entire route, though the pin above apparently is good because many people have fallen on it, myself and Dave included. I barely pulled on the tricky, thin move up to a good hold and then move up via the undercling to the pin. I clipped it, moved up a bit and got into a reasonable stem rest. I placed two small Aliens in the weird slot above and left. Above here is the crux, moving up on tiny holds and trickier feet until you can get yourself into the Bombay chimney above you.

I have a cool sequence of foot movements here that worked for me last time (after the fall) and I used these without wasting too much time burning out at this "rest." Soon I pressed against the back wall and was precariously in the chimney. I moved up it cautiously with lots of effort so that my feet wouldn't slip off. Huffing and puffing, I finally got my foot on an edge and was able to clip another fixed pin and rest a bit. After my breathing recovered and I had backed up the pin with red Alien, I pulled out of the alcove and made the final 10c moves up and right to the belay. Sweet! Both the first and fourth pitches had now been redpointed. Every pitch is clean now except for the hardest one of all: the final pitch.

As I clipped the belay, Dave called up offering to lead the last pitch. You might think, "No! Lead it, Bill! If you get it clean, then you'll have redpointed the Edge and be done with it!" I took him up on the offer, though. I did horrible on this pitch the last time I followed it and would get a better free climbing session in following it, then aiding up it on lead.

Dave climbed up the tricky lower section to the stem "rest" before the crux. Following this pitch is a bit intimidating since the gear is off to the side of you while you do the crux and a swing right is inevitable if you come off. Dave cleaned the gear and shook his head a bit. This 4th pitch is probably the crux for Dave, when he is in climbing shape. It is just so weird and insecure. When Dave is in top climbing shape, he has the power and endurance for the last pitch, but this pitch takes something different... Foot trickery mainly. It's probably trivial for the master of foot trickery: Bill Briggs.

Dave called out that he'd probably come off before struggling upwards. Struggling? Yes, you read that correctly. Claiming to see Dave struggle on anything is akin to claiming a Bigfoot citing. Most will say that such a thing doesn't exist and want photographic proof. Alas, I have none. Dave once told me about bonking in an adventure race (Dave just got a fat contract from Spyder to sponsor his world-class adventure racing team for all of next year), but I had trouble even imagining it. Dave makes everything he does appear so easy and effortless and if he has ever struggled, he is so far out in front of anyone that no one sees it. Nevertheless, Dave was struggling and then he came off, swinging way to the right.

It was now going to be difficult to even finish the pitch, but Dave was able to swing back to the left and get back on the pitch. He climbed the rest of the pitch with one more hang on the rope and a pull on a sling, but only to save his strength for the last pitch.

At the belay, he racked for one of the steepest pitches in Eldo and then headed up it. Dave hasn't been climbing that much this year and didn't bother trying for the redpoint. He used some judicious pulls on gear and some resting on the rope to lead up the difficulties and then up to the end of the route. He did all this just to give me a chance to free climb it. I owe him. And will enjoy paying it off.

On my turn, I couldn't figure out how to go right, like Rolo does. I moved up a bit and pulled the first piece of gear, but couldn't reach far enough right to get the edge I wanted. I pulled on the next piece, just for a bit, to get the edge. I did this because I was too chicken to fall with this much rope out, thinking I'd swing out into space and have difficulty getting back on the route. Oh well.

I did the next move and got my butt into the rest on the ramp. Moving up this slanting, sloping ramp is so awkward and tenuous and scary. I need to find a better way to do this section. I didn't fall off, but it took awhile to get this done. I then ducked around the arete and faced the overhanging crack. There was fixed stopper here that wasn't there before and it wiggled. I wanted to get it up, so I clipped into the higher fixed sling and tried to get it out. So this was another taint, but I had already pulled on a piece. I couldn't even get the dang stopper out. I needed a nut tool and didn't have it with me. This wasn't our piece, though, so no big deal.

I then climbed the crack clean up to the belay. The last time I was up here the jams felt so much worse. I was definitely more tired then, though. I had fallen on the first and fourth pitches then and was definitely more pumped. This time I felt much stronger. Though I was pretty desperate, I made it. Also, I didn't lieback the crack, but jammed it. This is good because liebacking is a scary technique on lead. I think I could lead this pitch now. Probably not clean my first time or even my second or third time, but this pitch will go. I just need to be very quick and efficient with the gear, placing it at chest height and not above my head. Clipping above your head is too burning while hanging from one marginal jam.

I topped out and we coiled and downclimbed down the East Slabs. I was very pleased with my progress. All pitches have been redpointed but the final one and it felt better today. I need to relearn the start of this pitch and then just conserve my energy on the lower six pitches so that I have something left for this final test. Hopefully, I'll be back to try again soon.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Naked Edge, Part IV: More Failure with Stefan

Stefan and I were supposed to get on the Edge this morning, but he had a meeting that couldn't be avoided, so we met in Eldo at 2 p.m. Stefan was out soloing on the Wind Tower as a warmup, so we didn't leave the ground until 2:15 p.m. We simul-climbed the Ramp Route/Cave Pitch to the base of the Edge.

I felt confident despite the hellacious winds. I moved up the lower section, took a brief rest at the ramp and then started up the crux section. I placed my green Alien well above the fixed blue Alien and for some reason took a bit of extra time to place a red Alien slightly below the green, which I wasn't sure was bomber. I then placed the black Alien right in a finger slot. Not only did this make using that hold harder, but the placement wasn't any good, as I found out a bit later when I peeled off a bit above this piece. It pulled and I dropped onto the green Alien. I fell only about 15 feet. I was disappointed. I hadn't climbed it very smart or even very confident above the stem rest.

I climbed back up, placed the black Alien where it should go, above the finger slot, and climbed up nearly to the finish before peeling off again. Damn. I rested only a bit before trying again and just barely finished the pitch without taking a third fall.

With little time for the entire route, Stefan and I had planned for me to link the first two pitches. This is a fairly standard approach, but I hadn't led the two strung together before and now I was horribly pumped from the first pitch. I should have abandoned this plan right there, but I didn't. I continued onwards and I knew I was in trouble from the get go. I barely clawed my way up the 5.7/8 slab and then had a very difficult time clipping the high pin above the second bolt. I never knew this was a problem before. It took me three tries to clip it. I had absolutely nothing left in my right arm.

Every move was desperate for me now, as I clawed my way around the arete to the other side, barely getting in the #1 Camalot and the #4 RP. I tried to rest and relax for the next 20 feet to the belay didn't allow for any more gear and it was the crux of the pitch. I kept it together here mentally because I had nothing physically left and made the belay. It had taken me nearly 40 minutes to lead both these pitches and I was cooked.

Stefan followed easily and when he arrived it was only just 3:35 p.m. We probably could have finished the route, but I was in no shape to lead the 4th pitch and we decided to go down and work the first pitch. We did this and I toproped the pitch twice, both times without falling or getting even close to falling. After the first trip up, I lowered down to the top section and learned Rolo's cool move out to the arete and I now think this is the best way to do this part, though it involves a difficult stem back to the right. The feet are technical but the hands aren't too powerful. I did this section twice before lowering down and giving Stefan a go. He did the top part both with the arete move and straight on. I think he preferred the straight on method.

I went up again, using the arete move at the top, and using the arete a ton down below. I feel I'm really learning this pitch now. All I need now is a good head and a bit more endurance and this pitch will fall. I will now expect to get it clean every time. We'll see.

We rapped off and Stefan did a quick lap up the overhanging 11c start of T2, making it look like a 5.9 gym route. This start is super powerful and though I have done it, I rarely get it without falling multiple times. I decided not to bother today.

The quest continues... I hope the good weather will as well.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Naked Edge, Part III: Progress with Buzz

Well, okay, maybe saying that Buzz blasted the Edge is a bit of an overstatment, but he partnered with me this morning and we did the first two pitches. We met outside of Eldo at 7 a.m. and then I took awhile to get things organized before we started the short hike to the base of the Redgarden Wall.

We approached the Edge via Touch and Go to Jules Verne with Buzz leading the first pitch and I the second. Buzz did a great job on his lead and had no problems on Jules Verne's second pitch which is hard 5.8. This pitch had a disappointing amount of birdshit over it, but the climbing is stellar and still worth doing. This pitch didn't used to have so much of this. In the upper crack I think there was a dead bird as well.

We arrived on the ledge below the Edge and I re-racked for the lead. I still don't have a redpoint of this pitch and this would be my fourth attempt at leading it. Things went quite well and I had both hands at the penultimate hold, but was so pumped. I justed needed to bump up my foot a bit and then reach for the bomber lock on top. I fell off with my hands less than a foot from the hold that marks the end of the difficulties. It was my best effort yet. I rested just bit and then sent the rest of the pitch.

Buzz followed, doing a great job for a guy who normally doesn't climb above 5.9. I kept a tight rope on him. He rested very briefly on rope maybe a couple of times, but did all the moves himself. I was impressed. This guy can climb 5.10 pretty much without any training, but he rarely does it because he likes moving quicker and more continuously. He wanted to do more mileage this morning, but he also wanted to support his friend in his quest to redpoint the Edge.

The morning was so beautiful, that I couldn't go down yet. I led the next pitch (10b) and really enjoyed the moves. This was only my second time leading this pitch, but I think I have it pretty wired now. Buzz did great until he got to the crux, which is definitely a bit baffling. I gave as much beta as I could, but he hung on the rope a couple of times. There is a bit of a trick to this pitch, but once you get the trick it isn't too bad.

We did five raps back to the ground and headed to work, much too late, but well satisfied. I don't know how long the nice weather will last, but I have three months before the Edge closes down until August of next year.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Suparete and Toys for Tots

I met Hardly in Eldo today at 6:30 a.m. and it was 43 degrees with a strong breeze. It was also pretty dark. The sun had risen and lots of clouds to the east would prevent sunshine when it did. We bagged our more ambitious plans for the Edge and headed to the west side of the Redgarden Wall. Yes, this wouldn't provide us any sunshine, but it wasn't there anyway and we knew from experience that things were much warmer on this side and out of the wind.

Without a real solid plan, we headed up the trail wearing tons of clothes. Sure enough, it was much warmer on the other side and I mentioned climbing Suparete (11a/b) the other day with Bill Briggs and how I had learned a few tricks while watching and following Bill. We decided it was time for me to redpoint that pitch. We did Mr. Natural (8+) as a warm-up and then I sent Suparete without any problems, doing my direct start as well. This climb is now one of my favorites. Done correctly, this route isn't so desperate and the climbing is so cool.

I used all my tricks to get up to the final bolt, where the climb traverses a bit left and becomes a trad climb for the finishing 5.10 section. It still took me quite awhile to figure out the best way to do this traverse and I found a key right foothold that I hadn't been using before and now I think this section is solid as well. I finished up the lead, placing a couple of small cams and belayed Hardly up.

Hardly froze his fingers solid going up/down at the start of the crux. He had forgotten about the completely hidden hold around the corner that allows you to get your right foot up high in preparation of going for the arete pinch. When he finally found it his fingers were numb and the rest of the climb proved pretty challenging for him, but he didn't come off.

We downclimbed the West Face of the Lower Ramp (5.0) and then Hardly led the marginal, finger-crimping route known as Toys for Tots (11a S). This has two bolts on it and the hard climbing is pretty well protected and then there is a freaky 5.8/9 slab move above where a fall would put you very close to the ground.

I followed without falling off and we traversed right to the tree at the top of Mr. Natural and rapped back to the ground. We were hiking out just as a couple more parties were hiking in. They'd have nice warm weather for their climbing...


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bastille with Mike Alkaitis

I met Mike in Eldo today at 6:30 a.m. I thought we were going to climb the Naked Edge, but when he asked "What do you want to climb?" I didn't suggest it. I said, "What ever you want." My hip was hurting, presumably from the fall the day before, and I wanted to get into work earlier. We decided on the Direct West Buttress of the Bastille (10+), which I had never done before.

Mike led the first pitch and made the crux 10+ moves look easy. He merged with the regular West Buttress route and continued straight up above there on some fun climbing, before breaking left and up to the first pitch belay. Following, I found it tricky just getting up to the crux move. There is a bolt here on a blank face and you have to lieback off a small hold and reach up and left for a very small hold. The feet suck here and matching on this hold and cranking up to where I could get some feet involved some serious effort and a little deadpoint. I was lucky not to have fallen off. The next hardest section is the crux of the regular West Buttress route. That is just one very insecure lieback move. Thankfully the hold you are doing for is a jug, though it doesn't look like it.

I led the second pitch up the offwidth/lieback to gain the pillar belay and Mike led the overhanging 5.9+ roof via the fingercrack. This is a burly little section. We descended down to the base of Sunset Arete (11b/c) and Mike fired up it easily. I accepted the toprope and was just barely able to claw my way up this continuously steep climb. That gave me a right good pump. I lowered off from the convenience two-bolt anchor and was driving out of the canyon before 9 a.m. Fun stuff.


Naked Edge, Part II: With Rolo

I was up way too late (12:30 a.m.) on Sunday night and when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I turned it off and decided to rest for just a few more minutes. Then next thing I knew was that it appeared a bit light outside. I had fallen back asleep and don't know how I woke up. I looked at my watch: 6:25 a.m.! I was supposed to be in Eldo at 6:30 a.m. Yikes!

I flew out of bed, grabbed my clothes, ran down stairs grabbed a drink and Poptart and jumped in the car. I sped toward Eldo, watching the clock intently, willing it to move slower. This wasn't just any partner I was meeting. It would be my first time ever climbing with a true climbing legend: Rolando Garibotti! I had met him last year and I had seen him a couple of times since. We talked some via email and the phone and even bouldered once at the Spot, but he didn't know me very well and now his first impression will be that I left him waiting for me in the early hours of the morning. I think it is rude to show up even a minute late when meeting my closest friends and in this situation, I should have been there ten minutes early, waiting for him, and ready to go. I was mortified. You only get one chance at a first impression, as they say, and I just blew it.

I looked at each car coming the other way, hoping that it wouldn’t be Rolo leaving in disgust. I pulled into the lot ten minutes late and there was one car in the lot. The trunk was open and a rack and rope lay draped across it. It was Rolo, ready to go with his harness on. I jumped out, apologizing profusely, as I struggled to get my harness on, bungling it once in my attempts to quick get ready. It was a bit cold and overcast, but Rolo was unfazed about our plans and I didn’t have time to do any rethinking. Before I knew it was we were hiking into the Naked Edge.

Rolo is an Italian born, Argentina-raised, world-class professional climber. He guides full-time, year-round, everywhere in the world. He is the foremost authority on climbing in Patagonia and has climbed there countless seasons since he got within four pitches of the summit of Cerro Torre when he was 17 years old. He is perhaps best known for his incredible, recording breaking time of 6h45m for the Grand Traverse. This is a full 90 minutes faster than the late, great Alex Lowe. How can anyone be that much faster than Alex, you say? Rolo talked about this a bit today. He is so modest that I’d doubt some of this, except that he even more scrupulously honest than he is modest. He claims that Alex made a couple of mistakes that more than cover the time difference and that Alex was definite fitter than he was. Alex didn’t take any water or food. Rolo follows a strict regiment of a GU every forty minutes. He calls it the “GU Police” and when they come calling every forty minutes, like it or not, you down that GU. Rolo also did the entire traverse in sticky rubber approach shoes while Alex did it in regular running shoes while carrying, and switching into and out of, a pair of climbing slippers. Regardless, they are both superhuman.

Rolo also climbed the Infinite Spur on Mt. Foraker in Alaska in a 25-hour push. The previous fastest time on this Alaskan Grade VII, 5.9, 90-degree ice route was seven days! He’s also soloed the Naked Edge a number of times, so he wasn’t here for any challenge. He was here to help me climb the route. Now why would he do that for me? I don’t know, but I’m not asking any questions. Maybe it sort of like a lawyer doing some pro-bono work.

We crossed the bridge a little before 7 a.m. We walked to the base of the Ramp Route at my suggestion. I didn’t want to hold him up any longer than necessary and it provides the quickest access to the Naked Edge. I told him that I’d usually simul-climb up to the base of the Edge, but I figured he wouldn’t be doing any simul-climbing with me, as he had never climbed with me. He suggested two quick pitches and I thought it was a wise choice. He led off up the ramp and around the corner and when the rope came tight I was already moving up.

I climbed up the ramp, around the corner and then up the steep 5.6 hand crack. Once I gained the ramp above, I could see that Rolo had continued clear up to the base of the Naked Edge. Cool. I was simul-climbing with Rolo! Rolo is also famous for bringing short-fixing to Yosemite big wall speed climbing and he and his partners, Aishan Rupp and others, claimed numerous Valley speed records in the early 90’s. He’s climbed the Salathe Wall in nine hours, with no simul-climbing! He climbed the Nose with Rob Slater in just five hours and 48 minutes.

I scampered up the ramp to Rolo feeling very self conscious about looking like a dork or doing anything wrong. He suggested we climb the Naked Edge after an email I sent out describing it as my current project. He just wanted to help me succeed, but I found myself wishing we had chosen a route upon which I was more competent. Alas, it was too late for that. It was time to lead the first pitch. We carried a small rack, but it was quite sufficient, even for me on the pitches I led. We had a single #2 and #3 Camalots, two #1 Camalots, five or six smaller cams and some nuts. We never used the #3 Camalot, which says something about how solid Rolo is on the final pitch, but of course we already knew that: he solos this route.

I climbed up the first 5.10 section to the sloping stance below the final obtuse corner. Rolo pointed out some tricks on this lower section and I tried them out with good results. He also gave me beta on finishing off the upper section before I left the belay. It was to no avail however, as I fell off early! I made a mistake low down and took a fall. I got back on and established myself on the rock. Rolo calls up, “That’s a no-hands rest there, so you can still get a redpoint.” He was just trying to be positive and encouraging and I appreciated the thought. I climbed up, desperately, to the crux section where I placed a marginal blue Alien. I tried Rolo’s trick of reaching out to the arĂȘte, but I had the feet wrong and it seemed so far. I struggled for a bit, searching for something that would work, trying to move my feet up, before I fell off. The blue Alien held and I took a small fall. I got back on and made it to the belay. Rolo followed with style and I watched carefully, hopeful to gleam some secrets. His move out to the arĂȘte looked effortless and I silently vowed to try it again next time.

Rolo led the second pitch and I followed without incident. I led the third pitch up to the ramp below the fourth pitch and Rolo soon joined me. He asked if I wanted him to lead the last two pitches. I hadn’t been on the Edge for two years and had never led the tricky, 11a fourth pitch and here I was with the biggest rope gun in the world. Yet I resisted the temptation and racked for the lead. Rolo prepped me with all the knowledge he had about how he climbs and protects the pitch. I followed his beta and got up to the pin. Enroute I had clipped a couple of fixed pins, placed a bomber .75 Camalot and what I thought was a good RP. I got into a backstepped rest and placed a tight cam in a funky crack off to my left. I then struggled to get up into the chimney and was nearly there when my foot popped and down I came. The funky cam ripped and I bounced off the wall with my shoulder. The rope pulled tight and popped the RP out of the crack because I failed to put a long enough sling on it. Thank god the pin held or I would have hit the ledge. I fell about fifteen feet or so.

I climbed back up, replaced the RP and added a longer sling to it. I then backed up the pin that held my fall with a green Alien and then replaced the funky cam placement, this time with a slightly different piece – a yellow Alien this time. I did the same, funky foot maneuvers, but when I got up to the same position as last time, I immediately pushed back into the chimney. I used a healthy amount of body scumming as I inched precariously up the chimney into I could get a more secure foothold. I stood up and clipped the pin. I backed it up with a small cam and then made the final 5.10 moves out right to the belay.

Rolo followed and racked for the final pitch. He performed the boulder problem off the belay in a very cool, unique manner. He climbed it further to the right than I’d ever seen before. It helps to be tall for this solution. Rolo is just six feet tall, which should put him only a half inch taller than me, but he walks tall. He appears two or three inches taller than me. He makes me want to stand up straighter when I’m around him. He stretched to the right and then back left. He walked up this boulder problem easily. He went up the ramp and ducked under the point and around to the other side of the edge. He calmly waltzed up the very overhanging, burly crux. He even stopped mid-crux to yell down the exact sequence he used. When he finished the difficulties he looked down over the edge and explained it all again. Then he ran up the easy stuff to the end of the route.

I did the boulder problem okay, albeit with lots of effort, but didn’t fall off. I ducked around the point and then proceeded to get absolutely crushed. I just didn’t have the power, strength, technique, endurance, right approach, whatever. I just didn’t have what it took. It was ugly and I eventually stood in a sling. It was a horrible performance, but I must start somewhere. It is hard to imagine me ever leading this pitch clean, but maybe by the twenty time…

We downclimbed the East Slab descent to the trail and were back at the bridge less than three hours after we left it. This is a reflection on Rolo’s speed and certainly not mine, as I fell and hung on every 5.11 pitch. It was a great morning, though, and a thrill to climb with Rolo. Now if I can just borrow his arms…


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Six pitches, five routes - a Tour of the Redgarden Wall

I met Bill Briggs at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and it was a bit chilly. We geared up and headed for Suparete (11a/b). Bill led this pitch and showed me all his tricks. Following, I used them all to good effect and climbed it clean for the first time. His tricks are brilliant and make this route seem quite doable. Now I need to redpoint it. The crux for me now is the delicate traverse to the left after the last bolt.

I then led the first pitch of Superslab. This pitch is rated 10c, but for me it is 5.11. There is no harder 5.10 pitch in Eldo and plenty of easier 5.11 pitches. The crux is short, but it requires some serious finger strength and good balance. Despite it being a short crux, I seem to go from feeling okay to super pumped in the span of just a few seconds. It is just a very hard piece of rock for me to climb clean. I've redpointed this pitch once and I've led it at least 7 times. I fell again on this attempt. I first grabbed the draw to clip the rope, thinking I couldn't clip without falling. Then, just above it, I bungled the next move and fell off. Ugh. It was ugly.

I finished the pitch, which has lots of fun climbing, and Bill followed quickly. He then led the stellar 2nd pitch of the Doub-Griffith route. This pitch is rated 11b, I think, but we both feel it is an easier pitch than the first pitch of Superslab. There is a runout to the first bolt, but the climbing is only 5.9. The crux climbing is well protected and really fun. I need to try to lead this pitch.

I then led the final pitch of Superslab - the super slab itself. This is rated 10d S and my neighbor had recently taken a 20-foot fall on it. But this is my style of climbing, meaning: not steep. I got up to the bolt, clipped it and then climbed up to where I needed to move left into the tiny dihedral. I felt around the corner and was able to place a blind black Alien (the smallest size). It went deep into the crack and I thought it was good. This was the same piece that pulled on my neighbor though...

I patiently figured out the footwork on this section and fired the crux. At the start of this section you use one of the smallest edges for a foothold I can imagine. It is so small that at first I dismissed it, but the angle of the slab allows this to work. The upper 5.9 section of this pitch is quite fun and the final, very steep and runout flakes are exciting on moderate climbing.

We were now on the upper ramp and Bill led us over to the base of the Direct South Face of T1. This is an old Chris Reveley route and rated 5.10 S. The climbing doesn't look too bad or serious from the ramp, but there is a very sustained 20-25 of 5.10 climbing that will certainly get your attention. Bill styled the pitch and I was able to follow it cleanly.

This put us directly under Smoke and Mirrors (5.10a). Mick Fowler onsight soloed this route and then got permission to bolt it. He put in just three bolts and it would be a very runout lead with just those for gear. I placed a number of other pieces and found the climbing to be at least 10a. It was fun, though, and I ran the pitch clear to the very top of T1, where the Yellow Spur ends.

We had climbed six pitches, all in a line, continually up the Redgarden Wall. Six pitches, but parts of five different routes. This is a nice linkup.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Yellow Spur

It was cold in Eldo this morning when I met Hardly at 6:30 a.m. We were the only ones in the parking lot, so things were back to usual. I had on three shirts and my shell, hat, and gloves. We decided to do something easier because of the weather and racked for the Yellow Spur. It was much warmer over on the west side and we almost changed to Suparete/Super Slab, but continued to the Yellow Spur.

Since I did all the leading on Wednesday, Hardly would do most of it today. He elected to do the 10b/c S direct start and had his feet slip off twice before he got in any gear. At one point both feet were dangling. I thought he was going to take a nasty groundfall, but he hung on. This section is very tricky and much harder than it looks to climb and to gear. Stiff and serious.

Hardly strung the first two pitches together and I followed, also finding the start hard. You really need to bear down on this. I zipped up the rest of the pitch and the 2nd pitch and grabbed the gear. I led the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pitches as one and you should never do this! The rope drag is ridiculous. The 5.8 moves at the top of the 5th pitch felt like 5.10. Stupid and slow.

Hardly led the 6th and 7th pitches as one, taking the 5.10b direct finish. I followed and found this section a bit trickier than the last time I was up here. There is definitely one hard move to reach a decent hold before you can turn the corner to the right.

After struggling and failing to remove an abandoned cam a bit down from the summit, we coiled the rope and downclimbed the East Slabs back to the bridge. We had taken it very casually and done the route, bridge-to-bridge in 2h14m. I've done this roundtrip with Hans, simul-climbing in 1h15m, but this seemed pretty good for a conventional ascent. This was one of my first attempts at speed climbing. Back in 1995 or 6, Trashman and I met at 4:30 a.m. to try and get this route down before work. We tried to go as fast as we could (though no simul-climbing, as we weren't into that at the time) and did the roundtrip from the bridge in 2h25m. Now a casual ascent is faster than that... Cool.

I was driving out of Eldo by 9 a.m.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Naked Edge Project, Part I: Getting Started

I've been talking about the Naked Edge as a redpoint project for a long time and it's time to make it a reality. Today I started on the project for 2005, but first a brief history of my experiences on this route to date.

The Naked Edge is probably the most famous Colorado climb and certainly the best line of any route in Eldorado Canyon. It was first ascended by Layton Kor and then first freed by Jim Erickson and Duncan Fergusson. The route starts 2-3 pitches off the ground and there are various approach options with the most popular being Touch and Go (5.9) to the ramp and Cave Pitch (5.8), but the fastest being the Ramp Route (5.6) to the Cave Pitch (5.8). Then the Edge consists of five pitches: a 5.11a finger crack, a 5.10b face/crack pitch, a long 5.8+ crack/face pitch with a tricky mantle move, a 5.11a corner/chimney pitch, and the final 5.11b boulder problem to overhanging hand crack. Most people combine the first two pitches into one and some hardmen combine the last two pitches as well.

In 1995 Bruce Bailey took me up this route, leading all but the third pitch. I fell on pitches 1,2,4, and 5, and grabbed tons of gear on the final pitch. Next I did it with Mark Hudon (2000?) in the same style. This time I climbed pitches 2,3, and 4 clean, but fell on the first pitch again and had a horrendous time on the final pitch. Finally, I climbed it with Hardly Manson (2002?) when he onsighted the entire route and I climbed all pitches cleanly, albeit just following. I went back with Hardly in 2003 and led the first pitch with a couple of hangs and TRed the crux a bit, and then rapped off.

Today I met Hardly in the Canyon at 6:25 a.m. Roger Linfield was there with his partner as well. We were both surprised to see another party there. Hardly was shocked to be the fourth car in the parking lot, as he is almost always the first car. Roger and his partner went off to do Neon Lights and we headed for the Edge.

Hardly led Touch and Go to the anchors and I followed and then the Ramp/Cave Pitch to the bottom of the route. Hardly joined me and I started up the pitch. I got up past the first difficulties (rated 10c in Rossiter's book) without too much trouble. There is a fixed stopper and a fixed Blue Alien on this pitch, which come in handy. I climbed cleanly through the last piece of pro before the finishing crux, but then fell off, hardly dropping at all since I filled a key fingerlock with a green Alien. We forgot the blue Aliens, but next time I'll have them to avoid filling this slot.

I hung briefly and then finished the lead cleanly. This pitch is continuous, but never desperate. The fingerlocks are uniformly bad and so are the feet. There is just enough to make this pitch go and I haven't figured out the optimal route yet and don't climb it fast enough. Placing the gear saps energy as well. It will go, but will take a couple more tries, I think.

The weather was absolutely perfect and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We decided to continue since I had never led the 2nd pitch before. This pitch is absolutely stellar! It starts with a runout slab, but the holds and friction here are great. I clipped two bolts and a fixed pin before ducking around to the left side of the arete, where you hit the crux: a tricky corner with marginal handholds and technical feet. The key is a nice hold above that is somehow easy to miss because it is near a very chalked slot in the crack. This slot is marginal, but the unchalked hold below it is great! I didn't use this hold my first two times up this pitch and I thought this section was very hard, but if you use this hold, the pitch feels 5.9 to me. When Hardly followed he failed to notice this hold, like I did my first two times. I suspect others might miss it as well. It is so big and so useful, but you get tunnel vision on the chalked up crack.

We rapped back to the top of the first pitch, as it was time to head to work, but then we couldn't pull our rope. Hardly re-led the pitch in less than 10 minutes and I followed quickly as well. I didn't have to follow, of course, but it didn't take long and it is so fun!

We got the ropes to pull this time (make sure you pull the rope next to the rock so that you don't pin the other end of the pin against the rock) and continued with four more single rope rappels to the ground. We were driving out of the park by 9:30 a.m. with plans to return on Friday morning. I'm not sure if we'll head to the Edge again. I don't want Hardly to get too bored. I told him we can alternate the Naked Edge with whatever he wants to climb.

So, progress was made. One hang/fall on the first pitch and the 2nd pitch is clean and basically wired. The third pitch is moderate and I've had good success following the 4th pitch. The 5th pitch is going to be a big issue, but I need to get up there and start working it.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Anthill Direct, with variations

I got out with Tony Bubb yesterday. We basically did the world's slowest ascent of Anthill Direct. I know Tony was a bit sore from the race and he has a dorked up ankle with doesn't allow him to bend it much, but it was quite a switch in speed. I guess I'm jaded now because of so much fast climbing. Fortunately, Tony goes about the same speed on hard ground as easy ground. He literally climbs 5.10- as fast as he climbs 5.5. I think his 5.5 speed is slow, but his 5.10 speed is fast. Yet they are the same speed... Curious.

I led the first pitch, which is actually a bit of an adventure pitch and involves some heads up climbing and gear placement. We did a variation (forget what it's called) on the 2nd pitch. It's rated 5.9+ and off to the right. It's got one hard section and it might be 5.10- to lead (only followed it). We then set and anchor and rappelled the second pitch so that we could do the variation to the left of the second pitch. This one is called Semi-Wild (5.9+) and I had backed off it before because of lack of gear and hard climbing. This time Tony backed off it because of some wasps, so we did the regular second pitch of Anthill Direct.

I strung the next two pitches together and these are super high quality, airy pitches. I'd rank these as some of the best moderate (around 5.7) pitches in Eldo. Stellar stuff. Tony led the final pitch up the 5.9 lieback exit. This is a cool, burly, committing exit, but is over pretty quick.

We downclimbed the East Slab descent and I went back to the base to retrieve Tony's back and shoes (I bought my shoes with me and left no gear). Tony had a very slow, painful descent in his climbing shoes. I've done enough of that and carried my shoes this time. It was a fun time out.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Vertigo with Stefan...again

Vertigo is such a great climb. Stefan had been on it twice before without a redpoint despite its pedestrian (by his standards, not mine) rating of 5.11b and he wanted to clean that up. I was game and we met in Eldo at 6:30 a.m. Well, he was there then. I arrived 5 minutes late.

We hiked up to the base of the route and I led the 5.9 approach pitch to the base of the classic dihedral. The guidebook describes this approach as two pitches, but it is commonly done as one and even then it is only about 120 feet long or so. We climbed this route back in March and I had really struggled with the overhanging crux on the approach. This section is a bit awkward, but I remembered the key, huge foothold on the left that is very difficult to see when in the midst of the struggle. I got us up to the ledge without too much monkeying around this time.

Stefan than sent the dihedral, looking pretty relaxed with the desperate fingertip/body scumming that is required at the crux. He cranked up the rest of the dihedral, finding a nice stemming solution to the final bit. He then linked it into the very overhanging Direct finish. This overhanging burly climbing is his strength and he made it look trivial.

On my turn, I fell off the crux a couple of times, but got it on my third try, though it was a very low percentage move for me. I then fell off the next section as well, which involves using some bad fingerlocks to stand up on a shelf. After falling off, I found a very cool way to do this section involving a handhold on the left wall that I had previously ignored and some cool stemming. I finished up to the ledge and took a rest.

I then started up the horrible roof that gives me so much trouble. I thought things were going well, as I got to the lip and, with Stefan coaching me, even got my left hand on the jug at the lip. At this point, the climb is over for Stefan, but it is the beginning of the crux for me. I just don't have the power to lock-off on this hold. I can't do anything, but hold on. I slumped on the rope and tried a couple of more ways, but I couldn't find a solution that I could do, even on toprope. I'm just too heavy and/or too weak. This is frustrating because it isn't just easy for Stefan, but trivial at this point. If it's trivial for him, I should be able to struggle through at my limit...Apparently not true. Dang.

We finished up and rapped off and then toproped Call of the Dodo (super sandbag 5.12a). Stefan had hopes of a clean ascent, but fell far short today, though he did finish it. I climbed up the lower section (supposedly 5.11-) clean, but didn't get far on the overhanging finish. This is very hard climbing here.

We headed back to the car, arriving a little past 9 a.m. Fun stuff, but oh so humbling.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Monkey Traverse - long time no do.

I hadn't been up to the Monkey Traverse for a long time, maybe all year? My Monday workouts of biking up there and doing the traverse didn't seem to happen this year. This was Eric Coppock's idea and we met at Chautauqua Park at 11:15 a.m. to run the trail up to the Monkey and then boulder a bit.

We ran up at a casual pace, but I was still breathing heavily and dripping in sweat. Eric seemed hardly fazed. This guy could be a monster on the trails if he wanted to and next year he wants to: he's signing up for the Pikes Peak Marathon with a goal of breaking five hours. Heaven help him...

We pulled on our shoes and Eric immediately and casually sent the first third into the rest. He said his fingers were screaming, but it looked effortless and he took his time doing it, as it pump wasn't a factor. Getting out of the rest proved troublesome for him, though, mostly do to his long legs.

I went next and sent the entire traverse, with the exit seeming to be particular easy. The final reach to the jug was so easy I wondered how it could have ever been a problem for me.

Eric climbed into the rest and this time wrestled with the second third a bit before coming off. I sent the entire traverse a second time. Now Eric started from the rest again and got at least halfway to the kneelock rest at the end of the second third. He'll get this entire traverse in 4 or 5 more sessions, I'd think.

I sent the traverse a third time and Eric did the opening third again before we put on our shoes and headed down into Gregory Canyon to complete our loop. That was fun.


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Genesis, yet again

The first pitch of Genesis is rated 11a and I've now led it at least five times, but still don't have a redpoint. I met Hardly at 6:15 a.m. today and it was 20 degrees colder than the day before. We stuck to the plan, though, and headed to Genesis. This time he went first and led the pitch cleanly. He pulled all the gear, including the bail biners on the pitons at the roof, while I lowered him - neither one of us is interested in pinkpoints, even on sport routes.

I went next and it went exactly as it has always gone for me. I get up to the roof, clip the pin and pump out before I can pull left into the rest. I hung on the rope and rested a bit, before making the move and resting before what the topo calls the technical crux at 11a. This move has never been that hard for me and I cranked it and then the rest of the wild, balancy, steep 10b climbing up to the anchors.

I threaded the rope and lowered down, pulling my gear. Hardly let me TR the crux section three times. I did it each time without hanging and I think I've got it down now. I should get the redpoint in two more tries at most. Hopefully just one more try.

We then headed to the Contest (11d) and Hardly led up to the third bolt before taking a rest on the rope. Then he went to the 4th bolt and the start of the crux. He tried the moves past this bolt a number of times without success before using the bail biner from Genesis to bail off the route. I didn't even bother to go up, as my arms were still pumped from Genesis.

Vertigo on Friday with Stefan... That's another brutal route for me. I've never even followed that baby cleanly.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

King's X and Northcutt Direct Start

I met Hardly in Eldo at 6:15 this morning and we went straight to King’s X (10d). I had led the first pitch of this route cleanly before, but I had never led the A-roof pitch. Now most people combine these first two pitches and that’s what I did this morning. I cranked the hard (10d) move on the first pitch and then moved up into the roof and it went very well. I was excited to get it the first time I’ve tried leading it. I’d followed it three times before, but fell off it the last time, earlier this year. It is way cool and I’d do it again if either of you wanted to try it.

Hardly led the second pitch (5.8/9) and we downclimbed the Bomb/Boulder Direct (5.5) back to the ground. We then headed for the Bastille. I redpointed the Northcutt Direct Start (10d). This was cool since the last time I was here I toproped the pitch three times and only got it clean once. I was feeling strong today for some reason. Then Hardly sent Derek-tissima (12a) on TR (the sane only way to climb it, as there is no gear) on his first try. I then went up and worked on it as well. I finally did get the crux move, but I’m a ways away from getting this pitch clean. It involves an undercling on tiny, sharp holds where you have to paste your feet up to within about 18 inches of your hands and then make a huge reach up to the key handhold on the Northcutt Direct Start. Now you just have to do the crux of that route.

Anyway, it was good to get in a few clean leads.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

TRing and Soloing

I met Hardly in Eldo today at 6:15 a.m. We were the only cars there, as usual at this time. Neither of us had any specific goals and Hardly mentioned that he was interested in TRing Derek-tissima (12a, no gear), which is a super direct start to the Bastille Crack. This route lies between the normal start and the Northcutt-Start (10d/11a).

Hardly led Northcutt with one fall (out of practice) and I followed on TR cleanly, but just barely with a number of deadpoints. Hardly then led Northcutt again (clean redpoint) and I followed again (no sack to lead it yet since I was still desperate). I followed cleanly again and with fewer deadpoints, but still wasn't feeling real strong.

Hardly then did Derek-tissima with a couple of hangs, but all at the same location - the crux move where it joins the Northcutt start. The crux of Derek-tissima leads immediately into the crux of the Northcutt start so it's pretty burly.

I took a run up Derek-tissima with many hangs. It's cool and would be fun to work on, but strictly as a toprope problem. The crux move involves a huge reach (deadpoint/throw, really) from small undercling holds to the key handhold at the Northcutt crux. Once you have this handhold, which is small, you still don't have any feet. Tough stuff.

Hardly took another lap up Derek-tissima and got it with one hang at the crux. I then went up Northcutt again and hung a couple of times as I was tired and tried to work out a better sequence. We'll be back to both of these.

A guide showed up while we were doing this to lead a 10-year-old boy and his mom up the Bastille Crack. The guide was belayed by the 10-year-old and the guide looked shakey leading the 5.8 first pitch. He put in 5 or 6 pieces (I generally place just one) and took a long time. If this pitch is tough for you, then you shouldn't be guiding it and you shouldn't be belayed by an unanchored 10-year-old. When the mom had trouble following the pitch, they thankfully bailed. They never would have completed this route safely and if they had, it would have taken a LONG time. They probably spent nearly an hour on the first pitch.

We pulled our rope and then went for a cool down up the Wind Ridge (5.8 start to 5.6). I'd never soloed this route before, but had thought about it. It went great. I felt really solid and we chatted the whole way up. We did all three pitches, including the Conner variation (named for Scott Conner who showed it to Hardly) at the end of the second pitch, which turns a small overhang via big, positive holds.

We were driving out of Eldo by 8:30 a.m. A fun morning.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Three-Two-One Flatirons, but no one showed...

I was surprised that not one Minion was there to scramble with me this morning. That’s a first. Stefan must still be on his honeymoon. Tony was be injured or out of town. Homie must think I’m too slow now that he’s crushing me. Oh well. I did notice that Hardly’s truck was in the parking lot. He didn’t get the email as he’s not on my morning list and I figured he was out running the peaks, training for the Pikes Peak Marathon. I jogged up the Kinnikinick road and was surprised to see it all torn up and turned into a dirt trail. I don’t know if they are going to re-pave this or return it to a more natural state.

I got the base of the Third Flatiron in 20 minutes, working far too hard for a time that slow. A pair of climbers were gearing up to climb the fast and I said hello as I went by. I climbed the face steadily, but not all that fast. I was sweating a lot, but it wasn’t that hot out. I think the humidity was really high. A few hundred feet below the top, Hardly calls down to me from above. Sweet! I scrambled up to the summit and Hardly climbed back up to the summit with me. It took me 12.5 minutes to climb the face.

We reversed the last pitch and then descended Slip Slide Ledge to the Southwest Chimney Route. Then we climbed north over the saddle and down the trail to the bottom of the Second Flatiron. We climbed up the East Face of that, escaping near the top to the First Flatiron Trail. We descended that to the start of Baker’s Way and climbed up the steep start to that route. Above the start we headed straight up. I forget what this route is called, but it was a fun scramble. We had to escape right over a short, steep wall at the top of our face and then we followed another system up to the North Ridge.

By now the fogged had moved in, engulfing us completely. We descended the Southwest Face to the ground and trotting back to the parking lot, taking a little less than two hours for the outing. Hope the rest of you had a great morning as well.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jules Verne

This morning at 6 a.m. I met Stefan in Eldo and we went and did the lower half of Jules Verne, just to the Upper Ramp. The first pitch of Jules Verne is really good, but it requires you to do the crux of T2 (5.11b/c) and this is a super burly sequence of moves that always stymies me.

Stefan onsighted the crux of T2 with aplomb. All the deadpoint points, he does casually by locking off with one arm. He then led a runout section, but it was only 5.7/8, though he was looking at a ground fall. Next is a cool, rising traversing section where you uncling along this mini-roof that is about 10 inches deep. He thought this section was 5.9, but it seemed more like 5.10- to me.

The final difficulties are surmounting this bulge, protected by a fat bolt. This section is rated 10c, Stefan thinks. I found this to be feel pretty reasonable and didn't think it was any harder than the traverse to get to it.

But the bottom section is different. This is just brutal. It is so overhanging. It starts with a couple of positive holds, but you have to pull up and pretty much hang from them, with your feet tucked way underneath you. Then a big move to this edge, which isn't that good. Now you have to do some foot shenanigans and it might be best to heel hook the right foot on a big hold to the right. Now the left foot is completely dangling and you have to match on the edge. This is the hardest move on the pitch. But the next hardest move is immediately following where you have to much a huge reach up to this flake that you grab in a lieback/undercling fashion. If you get high enough on this flake, you can pull up nicely and reach even bigger holds. If you don't get it good, you're off.

I fell off once trying to get the match and had to be lowered to the ground to try again. The next time I made the match and the reach to the flake. Now I was at the single piece of protection, a drilled pin. Stefan was able to clip this before making the next move, which is the 3rd hardest move. He grabs a small hold, then moves his feet way right and then reaches through with his left hand. I can't hold that tiny hold and I have to bump my right hand up to a better hold after moving my feet to the right. Once this is done, you're on easy ground and can shake out. I fell off once doing this move as well.

I followed the rest of the pitch clean, but found the traverse challenging with some big reaches. I led the beautiful second pitch all strung it all the way to the Upper Ramp and I belayed at the base of the Naked Edge. Stefan followed and we did three single rope rappels back to the base.

We TRed the start a few times. I got it clean from the ground once, but then couldn't do it again. It is so burly! I'm too weak and too heavy, but Stefan makes this thing look like 5.8...

That was enough humility for one morning. Great, fun climbing.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Two fast trips up the Bastille

I climbed with Ben Hoyt this morning after a long run. We simul-climbed two laps on the Bastille. One up Werk Supp/Bastille Crack and the other up Bastille Crack/Outer Space. Details are here: trip report.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More Wind Tower. This time with Tony

Last night at 9:30 p.m. Sheri said she was working at home and I could do something in the morning if I wanted. I was sitting at my computer and five minutes later I get an email from Tony Bubb about climbing tomorrow afternoon. I responded asking if he wanted to climb in the morning. He did.

We met at 6 a.m. and it was the same weather as yesterday. Very windy and 50 degrees so pretty unpleasant if in the wind and the shade at the same time. This wind seems to stop a bit after 7 a.m. We headed down to King's X again since I knew it was sheltered and I knew I needed to lead it. Tony mentioned a route called Futile Laments that breaks left after the first crux of King's X. This route was rated 5.9 and I viewed it as a possible bailout.

I tied in and led up to the crux move. I backed up the pin with a small Alien and shook out a bit, psyching up. I then proceeded to botch the sequence, wimped out, and called for Tony to take. I neglected to switch my right hand from the horn-jug hold ot the undercling immediately above it. The second try I got it right and completed the move.

Since I'd already blown the redpoint, I took the opportunity to wimp out further and explore a new route. I traversed over to the traditional first belay of King's X and then continued up and left into a cool dihedral and up to an intimidating roof with a hand crack in it. This is Futile Laments. I really enjoyed the stemming up to the roof and after locating the pin that was hidden behind my back, I got up to the roof itself. I jammed in a #2 Camalot and didn't even have to jam the roof at all. In fact, the crack is only about two feet long. I could just stem up high enough until I could reach over the roof to numerous jugs. Further stemming got me over the roof without ever really having to lean over backwards. This is a very cool section of rock and a pretty easy 5.9 for Eldo.

I continued up the easy fact above to the ledge at the start of the West Overhang and Left Out. Tony followed and led the West Overhang to the Lemmings (a short 5.8 wide crack variation at the top of the pitch) to the anchors. I followed and we rapped down to the ledge. Then I led Rastaman Roof, a 5.9+ variation of Reggae that goes right at the crux of Reggae and through a roof via a short crack. This section is considerably harder than Futile Laments, but is also very short. It is a bit contrived as you can easily tunnel under the boulder and avoid this roof, but it was a fun problem.

We called it a morning and headed to work.

Monday, June 06, 2005

King's X

I met Stefan in Eldo at 6 a.m. this morning and it was windy and cold (50 degrees). The combination of two was too much for us to try March of Dimes since it was fully exposed to the wind. Instead we went down to the base of the South Face of the Wind Tower did King's X (10d, S). My climbing in Eldo had been going quite well, but this route remains a nemesis for me. I've never led the second pitch, which is nearly always combined with the first pitch these days since both pitches are very short and link easily and naturally. I've redpointed the 1st pitch, which involves some tricky climbing to one very hard section that consists of only a couple of moves. This is rated 10d and is probably the burliest move on the route, but the real meat of the route is the very tricky, very Eldo, climbing above that goes through the A-frame roof.

Stefan geared and led this pitch combination nicely. He had to do a bit of a dynamic move on the first bulge, but was really solid on the upper section. This upper part is continuous and doesn't have any good rests or stances to place gear, at least until you get into the key stem that marks the end of the crux. Until there, you are hanging off one hand to place gear. The climbing is classic Eldorado: tiny holds, pinches, slanting holds, small, technical feet, smearing, complex. It's a very compelling problem to solve. The gear looks dicey when previewing the pitch from below, but some key fixed gear makes the lead reasonable safe. The problem is the gradual deterioration of your forearms as you place the gear and try to decipher the sequence.

Stefan set up a hanging belay about 15 feet above the roof and it was my turn. I cranked the difficult bulge and then shook out and tried to warm my cold hands. I then moved past a couple of pieces of gear until I couldn't get a yellow Alien out of the crack. I worked on it for about five minutes before I placed a red Alien and clipped into it to work the piece. The problem was that his red Alien made it impossible to remove the yellow Alien. I couldn't communicate with Stefan because of the roof and the wind and therefore couldn't call for tension. I could have just fallen off and got the tension I needed, but I decided to unclip the piece and continue up. Once I turned the roof and could talk to Stefan, I'd get him to lower me back down to get the piece.

I moved up to the crux section, which is so cool, but difficult to deciper. I eventually solved the first section and I knew I had to get my right foot high and right onto a good edge, but I couldn't figure out how to get this done and fell off. I was now high enough to talk to Stefan and lowered down, got the piece, and reclimbed up this section, only to fall off yet again. Dang, this is a tricky area. There is one good hold and that's it. One hold for one hand. The feet are terrible here and there is nothing for your other hand. You have to sort of lockoff on this hold and heave your foot out to the right. I'm sure there's a better way to do this, but I couldn't figure it out today. I eventually got something to work.

Once your foot is on this edge, you should have the pitch, though you still need to turn the roof. Some judicious chimney technique, complete with body and head (wear a helmet) scumming got me up to the lip, where I could grab a jug on the right. The key here is to not proceed upwards, since there still isn't much for feet, but to push out into a big stem and get your left foot out onto the lip of the downward sloping roof. Then you can grab another jug on the other side of the "A" and from there it is easy to finish.

I took over the lead and led straight above the belay, which was a different finish for me. I'd had previously gone to the right and to the left. This led directly into Left Out (5.8+, S) and I linked that pitch into a 160-foot lead to a tree. Left Out is an exciting, runout, exposed, fun climb that I highly recommend.

Stefan followed easily and we downclimbed the Bomb to the Boulder Direct back to the ground. It was after 8 a.m. so we decided to call it a morning and headed to work. I need to go back to this climb early and often. I want to learn it's secrets.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Speed climbing 5.10?

Okay, this wasn't exactly speed climbing since we didn't use any speed climbing techniques and just tried to move quickly through some classic Eldo 5.10's.

I met Bill Briggs in Eldo just past 4:30 p.m. We put on our harnesses and climbing shoes right there in the parking lot. Our first objective was Diffraction (10a/b) to Metamorphosis (10b, S). I led the first pitch in 11 minutes and Bill followed in 10 minutes. We re-racked and Bill was headed up Meta 3 minutes later. He led this tricky, scary pitch in under 17 minutes and I follow in 11.5 minutes.

It took us awhile to climb up to and over to the rappel anchors, rappel, and downclimb back to the ground and over to the start of Tagger. 14 minutes after I finished Metamorphosis, Bill started leading the first pitch of Tagger. He dispatched this with just four pieces of gear and in under 14 minutes. I had just climbed this route five days ago, so I zip up the first pitch in under 3 minutes, grab the rack, and head up to the big roof.

It probably only takes me 2 minutes to get up to this roof, but then I arrange a good deal of protection and then mess up the start once, having to downclimb back to a rest. The next time up I struggle mightily, but don't come off. I'm pretty pumped climbing the final 5.8 section. I set up an anchor and call "Off Belay" after less than 13 minutes. Bill follows in just over 10 minutes and we coil the rope and head down the trail, over the bridge, to the base of March of Dimes. At first we think we won't climb anymore and our pace over there is casual. We change our minds though and 13 minutes after finishing Tagger I head up March of Dimes. I led this 40-foot 10a pitch, clipped the top anchors, and lowered to the ground in 4m43s. We had only been climbing for 1h57m.

I want to link four, 2-pitch 5.10 routes in four hours and this first practice session confirms that this is possible.

As Bill cleaned March of Dimes, Rololando Garibotti stolls up the road. I say hi and we talk for awhile. Rolo is out for some casual, evening soloing. Bill lowered off and we packed up and headed for the car. There we meet Jim Collins and Jim Logan. Collins has been working the Rainbow Wall (13a/b) for the past five years. Today he decides that is it now too warm and too humid for this route. He'll call off the project until the fall. I've met Logan before, but this is the first time I've met Collins, the legendary climber who put up Genesis (12d) and unrope soloed the Naked Edge (7 pitches, 11b). He takes one look at my thighs and says, "Those legs were not built for overhanging sport climbing." I think he means it as an excuse for while I'm only climbing 5.10. Earlier that day, Steve Z beat me in a sprint on the bike and says, "Look at the difference in our legs. How can I be beating you in a sprint?" My quads are big, but apparently not very powerful - the worst of both worlds! :-)


Friday, May 27, 2005

Tagger, March of Dimes, Werk Supp with Warren

Warren and I met at 5:30 a.m. this morning in Eldo. It wasn't windy, but it was only 45 degrees. That made for a cold first pitch of Tagger, which Warren led for the first time today. He was solid, as usual, and in these temperatures that was impressive. My hands were freezing by the time I finished following this pitch. I led the next pitch over the big roof and I seem to have this pitch down now. That's the third time in a row I done it without weighting the rope. This used to be a nemesis pitch of mine. Warren flashed this pitch, following! That's impressive as most people find it pretty tricky. He did have a foot slip as he was pulling the foot and got a nasty scrap on this chest as a result. He didn't weight the rope, though, and caught himself.

We descended and headed for the first pitch of March of Dimes (10b/c). I led now because I'm a bit faster and we wanted to cram in a couple more pitches before Warren had to leave at 8 a.m. I led up March of Dimes and Warren followed, calling the pitch 10a. That might be right, but I've had trouble on this pitch before. Today it felt solid.

I then traversed into Werk Supp and led up the first pitch to the base of the fun second pitch. This only took me a few minutes and Warren followed quickly. I then went up the Yosemite-like fissure of the second pitch (burly 5.9) and it felt very reasonable and not even awkward today. I think I was doing it wrong before. This is a great little pitch. Warren followed nicely, but said he couldn't feel his hands at the top because of the pressure from jamming them.

We descended back to the car and were driving out of there by 7:59 a.m. Fun stuff!


Friday, May 20, 2005

Outer Space with Dave Mackey

I met Dave Mackey in Eldo this morning at 6 a.m. He led the first two pitches of the Bastille as one and then I led the first pitch of Outer Space (10a). I don't think I did the lower section right, as it seemed harder than it should have. This is a tricky pitch and getting the stemming just right makes a huge difference.

Dave led the crux pitch (10b/c) easily and I followed, feeling pretty solid. It was a good return to Eldo. Now I just need to get out regularly. We hiked down and headed to work.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Eldo with John Christie

After riding I went to climb at Eldo with John Christie. This guy has climbed Honeymoon Chimney with Conrad Anker, was part of the support team for Skinner and Piana's freeing of the Salathe (mentioned as "Scottish Big Wall Master John Christie"), is good friends with Rolo, has climbed Rainbow Wall (Eldo 13a) free, etc. He knows about everyone. Anyway, we went out and did Rincon. I strung the first two pitches together in a 200-foot 5.9 lead. The first pitch is pretty stiff for 5.9. Very technical, very Eldo. Pretty good gear but difficult stances for placing it, in general.

John did the heavy lifting, leading the 5.11a/b pitch and I surprised myself in following cleanly. The business is super short - it is really more of a boulder problem - and involves some cool, very technical stemming to a thrutching move over a bulge.

I strung the next two pitches together as well in another 200-foot 5.9+ pitch, though the technical bit is pretty short and this felt way easier than the first 200 feet.

We descended back to the base where we saw Bruce Miller (see Steve House's article in the latest Alpinist magazine for more on him) belaying Jeff somebody (Achey? But it didn't look like him) as he absolutely walked the Evictor on toprope. This route is rated 12c on TR, 13a R on lead. It is prominently featured in the film Front Range Freaks.

Next we did Over the Hill (10b). John strung the first two pitches (10 and 10b) into on pitch, as is usually done, and I led the final super classic 5.9 pitch. The climbing on this route is so cool and so non-burly. Very neat stemming on the first pitch and really technical footwork and small holds, but not that steep. We called it a day and headed for home.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Vertigo wit h Stefan

After skiing up to the Divide this morning with Bill Hansen, Stefan and I decided to make a duathlon out of it and headed to Eldo this afternoon. Stefan wanted to redpoint Vertigo and I was along for the tight toprope.

I led the first two 5.9 pitches as one long pitch and had a heck of a time on the steep awkward section. I wasted a lot of time here burning out my forearms before completing the pitch. Stefan led the dihedral, but took one fall on it. I had to pull on a piece to follow this section. It is so ultra-thin and ultra-technical. I'm still a long way from leading this pitch.

Stefan also led the big roof pitch, easily. I have never followed this pitch cleanly either, but I was maybe closer today. I got to within one move before flaming out. Oh well. It was a fun day.