Friday, July 31, 2009

At the Castle with Lord Byron

Years ago I made Country Club Crack (CCC) on Castle Rock a project of mine. The first pitch is a boulder problem face move rated 11b/c and the second pitch is a beautiful hand crack that passes a roof and pinches down to off-fingers at the crux (11b). I eventually got both pitches clean, but that seemed a lifetime ago this morning.

I met Byron at the Justice Center in west Boulder at 6 a.m. and we drove 12 miles up the Canyon to Castle Rock. It had been raining all week and I wasn't surprised to see the first pitch slab moves covered in water. This was my lead, as Byron wanted the crack and felt he was close to redpointing it. I stood in a sling on the first bolt, did one move, clipped and grabbed the draw at the second bolt and then made tenuous moves left and up over wet ground. This was a bit scary, but got to the crack without incident.

The crack itself is rated 5.8, but it's more like 5.9. It has a tricky, flared start and I was a bit desperate here and almost fell off. The rest of the pitch has some challenging moves, but interspersed with nice stances for placing gear. Fifty feet up I clipped the belay bolts and brought Byron up. Byron didn't like the wet slab below any more than I did.

Byron fired the crack pitch up to and over the roof to the leg-hook rest. He looked really solid, placing lots of gear easily. When I redpointed this pitch I had it down so well that I could go further between gear, but I needed to do that to save energy for the crux above. That doesn't seem to be an issue with Byron. He has power to burn.

At the crux Byron plugged a key jam with piece and had to downclimb, place a different piece, and remove the other piece. By the time he did all this, he needed a rest and hung on the rope. So close. After a brief rest, he fired the crux and up to the belay. He made the pitch look reasonable and since I had it down pretty well before, I figured it might go well for me also. Not so much.

The pitch has nice jamming, but it's tight in a lot of places and the crack leans a bit to the left, making it a bit more strenuous because of the difficulty with the feet. I barely made it to the stem rest below the roof and rested quite awhile. I pulled the roof with the thinnest of margins and rested from the leg-hook, though it isn't that restful, as your leg and abdominals are still working.

I climbed up to the crux, pumped silly and hung on the rope. After a rest, I climbed a bit higher and hung again. Finally, I was able to do the crux move and barely do the traverse to the right. I remember this was so pumpy when I first starting working this route and it eventually became really casual. It's back to be being really pumpy.

Ah, the memories... This is a great route. I should start working this baby again and try to get some fitness back. We rapped off and I was at work before 9 a.m.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bastille Crack w/Mark Oveson

Mark and I met at 6:00 a.m. and headed into Eldo to do the Bastille Crack. It had been ten years since Mark had climbed this route (I climb it probably five times every year) and really wanted to see it again. I led everything and we pitched it out as five pitches. Mark is trying to get himself back into solid 5.8 climbing shape, so I took the 5.8 right finish at the top. This proved to be a bit challenging for Mark and I believe there was some rope weighting involved, but it's a tricky, steep finish.

We had a great morning, as usual and were driving out of the park a bit after 8 a.m.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Outer Space w/ Buzz

Buzz had recently climbed Outer Space with Bill Briggs and done really well. He wanted to return and lead the first pitch (10a), so I led the approach pitch (Werk Supp). Buzz fired the pitch! I was shocked. That is a very tricky and pumpy pitch. He looked better leading than I felt following. I led the second pitch (10c), which was a nemesis pitch for me for a long time, but I've got it wired now...

Apparently I forgot the beta. I barely made it through the first crux and was baffled at an intermediate crux before liebacking it (a feared technique for me since I'm weak). Then the last crux - going left stumped me for a long time and when I finally tried something it was wrong and I came within an inch of falling off of it. I was so pumped doing the last easy moves that it was scary. Dang...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bastille with Tom

The Naked Edge is now open and I need to build my fitness to climb this route. I met Tom this morning at 5:30 a.m. to start this process. We did Hair City (5.9) with Tom leading the runout first pitch and I leading the surprisingly burly 5.9 roof second pitch with the massive, but easy, runout above.

We descended and Tom led Breakfast in Bed (5.8) and then descended again and I led the first pitch of Out to Lunge (5.9) and Tom led the second pitch above the walk-off ledge (also 5.9). That was enough and we headed to work.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Reggae and Tagger with Mark Oveson

Mark and I hit Eldo again to get in some more training for Mark. The goal is to get him back to solid 5.8 climbing so that he is comfortable to try the East Face of Mt. Alice.

We started on Calypso and I led the first pitch up to the anchors. Mark followed, but not in the trivial manner he used to climb this pitch. He paused at a couple of tricky sections. I then zipped up the very familiar Reggae (5.8). Mark followed easily up to the crux section and, after taking a moment to figure out how to start it, did great.

Mark then led clear to the summit of the Wind Tower and I followed. We downclimbed off the usual descent and back to the base of Tagger. I led this pitch and set up a toprope for Mark. Mark expected it to go rather well, remembering it as more technical than burly, but hand strength still comes in handy here and Mark was stymied by the first hard move. He tried a few different things before coming off. He climbed back and up and still couldn't do it.

By now I have already switched into my Exum Ridge scrambling shoes, but I clipped into the rope and climbed the entire pitch again in these shoes (on toprope now, of course). The crux in these shoes was indeed the first move where good edging skills are handy.

Mark gave the move another try, but was done for the morning. We had met at 5:30 a.m. and it was just before 8 a.m. as we headed out.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Werk Supp and March of Dimes w/Mark Oveson

Now that Mark is done with his ultra-marathon, it was time to tune up his rock climbing in preparation for some alpine climbs we'd hoped to do this summer. We met at 5:30 a.m. and headed into Eldo. It was super windy, as usual, but not that cold. We were both in shorts and I put on a really light shell to block the wind.

We started up Werk Supp with the intent to climb the entire Bastille, if things went well and we had the time. I had to be back home by 7:30 a.m. I zipped up the very familiar first pitch (8+) and set up a belay. Mark made good progress to begin with but stalled at the crux for a bit. He deciphered it and started to move up. He thought he was solid, but his foot slipped off and he yelled up "Falling!" I caught him and he got the move the second try.

The rest of the pitch went slower as Mark was tiring and a bit rusty with this climbing. He didn't fall off again, though. At the top, without a watch, we were a bit concerned about getting down in time, so we opted to do two short rappels back to the ground. The last rappel was from the anchors at the top of the first pitch of March of Dimes (10c) and we decided to toprope it.

Mark gave me a belay first and I had no trouble at all on the pitch. A few years ago this pitch gave me fits and I worked it. I guess I remembered all the tricks, which seem obvious now, because it felt more like 5.9. Mark went next and did great getting up to the crux move and then he was just too pumped to complete it.

It was a good first training outing for Mark. Hopefully we'll be heading into the mountains in a couple of days...if Mark's confidence isn't too shaken.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bastille Woes for Derek

Last night Derek and I went back out to Eldorado Canyon to try and get on the Bastille again. Sheri came with us to hike/run while we climbed. The Bastille was wide open - no one on the entire rock. I led it with a Gri-Gri self-belay and that sucked. The rope doesn't feed, of course, by design. I need to work on a better method that doesn't involve buying a giant Silent Partner for $220. I think I'm better off soloing this pitch. Maybe I'll do it with a couple of tied knots...

I clipped the rope through the snaplinks at the top and rappelled off. I know that toproping off of these snap-links is frowned upon, due to anchor wear, but I figured one lap by a 75-pound kid wasn't going to hurt anything.

Derek climbed up through the crux, which is stepping left and then going up the first 5-6 feet with some difficulty, but cleanly. Above there he stalled on the more pure hand-jamming section. He got frustrated and eventually came down. He decided to rest a bit and then give it another go. The second try ended a bit lower than the first try. He just didn't have the energy today. He had already down a bike ride and played a match in the local open tennis tournament. I think he was a bit tired.

We pulled the rope and headed for home. I hope Derek isn't too discouraged. I'll guess we'll soon, as we've now climbed three days in a row.

More photos here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Calypso with Derek

Today was a great day. During lunch I went over and watched my son win his first round match in the MOJO tournament by a score of 5-7, 6-2, and 10-6 in the tiebreaker (they don't play a third set). Then he came into work with me because Danny, at 14, now works at Tendril! He's an intern programming for us. Cool. After work, Danny and I drove home. Here I picked up Derek (age 11) and drove to Eldorado Canyon intent on climbing the Bastille Crack for the second day in a row. Of course, it was queued up with two amazingly slow parties (as we'd observe later), so we immediately changed plans to Calypso.

We hiked up to the start where a woman was just starting to second the first pitch. I called up to the leader and found that they were rappelling after the first pitch. Great. We'd have the route to ourselves and not have to wait.

We geared up and I soloed the 5.6 pitch, trailing the rope behind me. I had never soloed Calypso before, but Derek is not ready to catch a leader fall with our weight differential. But I wasn't going to fall, so soloing was fine. We'll work on the belaying throughout the summer, especially as we start doing harder climbs.

I arrived at the belay just after the woman arrived. The guy sees my rope hanging unemcumbered and says, "You're first piece over here is going to be bomber!" I clipped into the anchors with them - they were really friendly and I had already asked if it was okay. Derek scampered up the pitch easily. Arriving just after the woman started to rappel. We waited for them to clear the station and pull the rope, as I didn't want Derek bothered by that. I then soloed the steep second pitch, which I have only probably climbed once or twice before and the last time many, many years ago. I went slow and solid over the first twenty feet, which is steep and a bit tricky. I wondered if Derek would be okay and I placed a piece with a long sling on it so that he'd have a handhold if he needed it.

I needn't have worried. For while Derek did think that section was the crux of the climb, he made steady progress up it and made sure not to pull on the sling. He's learning about liebacking and jamming and smearing and having a great time.

The third pitch was an easy traverse across the Wind Tower to the walk-off ledge. We unroped, coiled, and hiked down and back to the car. What a day...

But the best part about it (okay, maybe Danny's win was the best part), was when Derek and I were walking back to the car and I was telling him that the next time we try for the Bastille if it was crowded we'd climb Tigger next and then we'd climb this other climb. I finish talking and after a short pause Derek says, "Want to try again tomorrow?" There are no sweeter words than my son asking me if I want to go climbing with him tomorrow. It's like at the end of the work day when Danny messaged me, "Want to go work on my serve tonight?" When sons ask questions like that of their dad, there is no one answer: YES!

Photos here

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Breezy and Bastille Crack with Derek

My son Derek and I are getting back into climbing together. When he was younger we did all the numbered Flatirons (1-5), the Front Porch, Royal Arch, and the Matron. I want to climb the Maiden and Seal Rock with him this year, but we're also climbing in Eldorado Canyon. Today we went and climbed Breezy (5.5). We did it as two pitches. There was a party on it when we got they. Two really nice guys from Minnesota. They were pretty slow, so I asked if I could climb up to the first ledge and they were fine with it. I scampered, unbelayed, up to the first ledge while the leader was finishing up the second pitch - they were doing the route as one pitch.

Derek followed easily and I then soloed up the second pitch to the walk-off ledge. Derek did great on this, the crux, pitch. I didn't expect him to have any trouble and he didn't. He just worked out the moves stemming between two cracks. He's still learning crack climbing.

At the top I saw a woman that know: Rhonda. She is a friend of Tom's that I met in the gym this past winter. We followed them down the trail back to the base. They were super slow walking down this trail and they never thought to ask us if we'd like to go by. This is bizarre to me. I guess they are just in their own world and not thinking about anyone but themselves. We weren't in a big hurry, but the pace was like this: take a step, wait 5 seconds, take another step. It wasn't long to get down and I found it more humorous than annoying, but I did find it annoying.

Derek and I grabbed our shoes and headed for Calypso, which was taken up by a party of three and they were going to toprope the first pitch, so we moved on to the Bastille Crack. Here I found Pemba Sherpa, a friend of mine, and Marika, who I didn't know, climbing up the Bastille Crack to the upper portion of Wide Country, avoiding the first 2/3's of the pitch. I didn't know it was Pemba up there at the time, or I would have asked to climb up over their rope. Pemba was having a tough time placing gear on the 5.10 section above and apparently he was setting a toprope anchor so that he could try Wide Country's lower part. Eventually, Pemba lowered to the ground, I recognized him and got Marika to belay me up the first pitch of the Bastille Crack.

I zipped up the pitch with two pieces of gear (twice my usual, but I didn't want to freak out Marika), clipped the anchor and lowered to the ground. I then belayed Derek up the pitch and he did great! He onsighted the pitch, though it took him quite awhile to work out the crux section. Like I said, cracks are still a bit baffling to him. He called it his favorite pitch, so far, in Eldo and he wants to continue to work on it. We might have to do the entire route next time, but the problem with that is belaying. He isn't comfortable belaying me and with good reason. The chances of me falling on that route are very, very low, but I probably shouldn't be soloing it either. We'll see.

I self-belayed myself up the pitch to clean the draws at the top and then did a biner-brake rappel since I only had a Gri-Gri with me. It worked great.

Sheri and Danny came with us and took some photos, hiked around, and read their books.

More photos here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

James Peak

Mark Oveson and I had planned a before-work ascent of Mt. Bierstadt this morning, but were dismayed to find the road to Guanella Pass closed. A lighted, flashing sign with a long message about the closure dates and times told us it was closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m Monday through Thursday. Bummer. We drove by this and up to where the road was barricaded (only a half mile up) before bailing.

Plan B was to go climb James Peak from the St. Mary's Glacier. Just under 2 hours roundtrip. Lots of perfectly firm snow for the ascent/descent. It snowed on us for the upper 20 minutes, but we had no wind and really nice conditions, though a bit foggy on top. It was fun. 7.7 miles, 3000 vertical feet up to 13,300 feet or so. Back in Boulder by 8:20 a.m.

The Super Star Couloir up there looks to be in great condition... I might have to dash back here soon.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Wind Ridge with Derek and Loobster

The Loobster and I hiked Estes Cone and then into Wild Basin at bit today, but were unmotivated for a big alpine climb. At 5 p.m. we headed to Eldo with Derek and climbed the 3-pitch 5.7 Wind Ridge on the Wind Tower. This was my first rock climb ever, back in 1980 and we only did the first two pitches. This was back before camming units!

This route is the best advanced beginner route I've ever seen. It has all different types of climbing packed into three short pitches: hand traverses, jam cracks, finger cracks, a chimney, face climbing, and even a very cool roof. The position is great as well, right along a ridge for the first two pitches.

Loobster climbed right behind Derek on the first pitch, but Derek needed no help and we didn't do any more simul-seconding after this. We climbed it as five short pitches so that I could always be within sight of Derek. He didn't need me, but I wanted to watch him climb and talk with him. The attached photo is Derek going through a significant overhang on the last pitch. He looks pretty frightened, don't you think? Complete photos are here:

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Climbing in Eldo with the Loobster

The Loobster was in town this weekend and on Saturday we headed out to Eldorado Canyon to do a little rock climbing. The Loobster hadn't done any climbing for a year or more.

We started on Allosaur (5.9) and I led it as two pitches, combining the 5.7 first pitch with the 5.8 second pitch. The 5.9 pitch went well, though the Loobster slipped off once. We had one 60-meter rope with us and rappelled from a two-bolt anchor just up and left of the top of Allosaur. I rapped on a Gri-Gri with the knot jammed in the rings. I had just read about this, now obvious, technique for rapping with a Gri-Gri on a doubled-rope. Unfortunately, I didn't know where I was going on the rappel and went down a chimney thing and then had to make a big traverse to a tree with slings on it. Then the Loobster didn't untie or unjam the knot and we couldn't pull the rope down. Bummer! Eventually, I tied into the rope and climbed the overhang above us to re-route the ropes and free the knot.

We hiked up to the Long John Wall and found a party at the top of the first pitch, but no one at the base. I led up the first pitch and before I got to the end of it another party came in from the right. Apparently it is common to climb the first pitch of Break On Through (5.8) and avoid the tricky and dangerous 5.5/6 first pitch of the Long John Wall. This created a bit of a cluster.

Thinking quickly, I told the Break On Through leader, "I always combine the first and second pitches. Is it okay to keep going?" Actually, lately, I've simul-climbed this 5-pitch route as one pitch, but the Loobster and I wouldn't be doing any simul-climbing today, which was a good thing as it turned out. Anway, the dude was really nice and let us go by and I followed the first party's second up the next pitch.

The party above us strung the next two pitches and I did the same, but when Loobster arrived at the ledge we were missing a yellow Alien. Bummer. I rapped down to the last belay ledge thinking that the Loobster failed to pull the piece out of the anchor. I asked a guy down there if he saw the piece and he said that it fell by him while he was leading the second pitch and that it fell all the way to the ground. Bummer.

I climbed back up to Loobster and we did the 4th class variation to the fifth pitch to pass the other party and then downclimbed off the back and over to the Yellow Spur. While the Loobster rested, I ran down the trail to the bottom, hiked west to the West Ridge trail and then hiked all the way back up to the base of the Long John Wall, retrieved the dropped Alien, and then returned to the Loobster.

No one was on the Yellow Spur and we had a leisurely ascent, doing it in six pitches and taking a couple of hours or so. The Loobster fell twice on the opening 5.9 roof, once on the 5.8 second pitch, twice on the 5.7 third pitch, and once on the hand traverse of the fourth pitch. On the pin ladder pitch I did the 5.10 direct finish and the Loobster availed himself of the numerous quickdraws for additional handholds. He did, however, completely free the final 5.6 arete pitch!

We scrambled down the slabs and headed for the couch. The Loobster's hands were not functioning as well as when we started and he requested a day of not climbing in Eldo on Sunday.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Stefan's 100th Ascent of the First Flatiron

Stefan's Photos
My Photos

Ten of us joined Stefan on his 34th birthday to climb the First Flatiron with him. It was his 10oth ascent of this ultra-classic rock above Boulder. I brought up some sparkling Grape Juice and plastic champagne glasses and Stefan brought chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts. Yum! We did the roundtrip in a very casual two hours, including twenty minutes on top. Amazingly, we saw (and were passed by!) another 5-person group of soloists. That's the first time I've ever seen another group. They were visiting climbers who do the solo once a year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One Last Eldo Tune-up

Buzz and I met at 6 p.m. tonight to preview a couple of more routes on the Bastille in case crowds force us to alternative choices on the big day.

We started with Hair City (5.9, S). I had no trouble with the infamous mantle, because once I get my leg up, I can easily reach a crimp and stand up. Buzz had more trouble here since he couldn't quite make the reach. I took my time above the mantle because some of the runouts are large and there is some smallish holds well above gear. I nearly got to the ledge before Buzz hit the mantle below (simul-climbing on a 100-foot rope, remember). I had previously placed a Ropeman, so I was okay on the final cruxy moves Buzz battled the mantle below.

I put another Ropeman on the bolt at the ledge, where I met a pair of women climbing the West Arete. They were doing the 5.8 finish, so I took the 5.7 finish to the left, not wanting to battle the 5.9 middle option. We simul-climbed off and then hiked down and did Breakfast in Bed (super steep 5.8+) to the second pitch of Out to Lunge (5.9 roof). We belayed both pitches.

That was it. We descended back to the car. I gave Buzz my food to stash near Rewritten and he planned on doing that tomorrow (Friday). We'll meet at 4:45 a.m. on Saturday morning and start climbing. Hopefully finish by 4 p.m. but we're prepared to go until dark or 50 pitches. A lot will depend on the crowds. We've done our homework and are climbing well enough. Should be a fun day.

Flagstaff/Monkey Again

This Sunday, after my 50-pitch day with Buzz, Stefan and I plan to climb the four sides of the Maiden. Since three of these routes are 11b or harder and the fourth is 10d, I needed to get in some finger strength training. My 50-pitch training isn't going to do me much good on 5.11. The easiest way to do this is to bike up Flagstaff and boulder the V4 Monkey Traverse. Today Stefan (who climbs 2+ number grades above me) joined me. Stefan, who is also much fitter than I am, rode his single-speed bike with tires about as fat as my legs. The thing probably weighed 30 pounds. I was on my all-carbon, 16-pound LeMond Tete de la Course. This made the 1000-foot ascent about dead even. I was hoping to just break 19 minutes to ease back into fast climbing, but with Stefan trying to break 18, I went a bit harder.

I mostly stayed behind Stefan, but would something take a turn at the front on the flatter section. I was working pretty hard, but trying to stay relaxed. I ended up doing 16:24 to the junction. My best time is 15:35, but I've only broken 16 twice. This is a really good time for me, especially considering I've only ridden less than ten times this year. Stefan was right behind me. He's amazing. I think he had to stand pretty much the entire way.

We descended to the Monkey Traverse where my goal was to get four laps clean, since my record was three laps. I did the first one quickly, but bungled the finish a bit and struggled. I went too fast for Stefan to see the beta. He had never done the full Monkey Traverse, only because he doesn't boulder. I don't really either, except for the Monkey Traverse, which I have ruthlessly wired. That's the only way I'll be able to climb V4 or 5.12a: by trying it a hundred times. Stefan got a huge flash pump doing everything wrong, but being too strong to fall off. I talked him through the finish and he got it clean first try. I was able to do it three more times, with the second feeling the easiest and the fourth really pushing me. Stefan just worked on the sections since he was still so pumped. This was a bizarre situation for me. At no time in the past have I ever seen him even struggle on a route that I'm falling on (with the single Vertigo exception). But if you have something wired, that makes all the difference. I'd expect by his third visit, he'll be doing this backwards and forwards until he's just too bored and steps off.

We biked back to work. What a great lunch-time workout. Next up: I need to finally climb this things backwards (left to right). I've done the sections, but never linked it. I'll start working on that now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Working out the Kinks

Buzz and I again met at 7 a.m. Today we weren't going to do many pitches since I have a big race tomorrow (Bolder Boulder 10K) and didn't want to drain the legs. We just wanted to remember some climbs we have scheduled for the 50-pitch day. The night before it rained an inch or more so things were soaked in Eldo.

We started on the Bulge (5.9, runout) and it was so slippery that I ended the simul-climbing after the second pitch and belayed the third pitch. While cleaning the Ropeman I had placed at the top of the first pitch, Buzz dropped it to the ground. Oh well. He retrieved it later. We did the 5.9 direct finish for the fourth pitch and it went nicely. I placed a Ropeman after the crux and we simul-climbed to the unroping spot. Buzz unroped a bit before the ledge and inadvertenly left a cam behind. We won't know this until the end of the morning.

We descend to find the usual zoo on the Wind Tower. The only thing open was Tigger to the third pitch of the Wind Ridge. Buzz led this and I simul-climbed behind him. We downclimbed off and hiked down the trail to find an even bigger zoo, but now Reggae was open so we climbed Boulder Direct to Reggae with me leading and Buzz simul-climbing behind. As soon as I topped out, I started downclimbing the Bomb while Buzz was climbing up Reggae. We downclimbed past a party on the Bomb and then unroped, coiled, and finished the downclimb down the Boulder Direct.

We were done for the day and re-racked the gear. I noticed that a 0.75 Camalot was missing. Ack! I told Buzz we needed to go back and climb the routes again to find it. He didn't want anything to do with that and offered me up his 0.75 Camalot. I didn't want to take it. It might have been my fault we left it behind. Besides I hate leaving gear behind. It's the mark of a neophyte and we were not neophytes. Buzz took the gear back to the car while I hiked back up to where we sorted gear. Nothing. I then hiked up to the top pitch of the Wind Tower and asked the belayer there if his leader, above, had found a 0.75 Camalot. No dice. I then climbed up to the top of the Bulge, via the descent route, hoping that we had left it behind there. But in the back of my mind, I knew that Buzz had unroped before pulling the last piece on the traverse at the top of the Bulge. I wondered if he had forgotten or didn't see that piece. I wondered what piece I had placed there. At the top of the Bulge I didn't find anything, but looking back across the traverse I spotted a sling attached to some piece of gear. I knew it was the missing piece. I found a safe way to get there by climbing up a featured gully and then down a crack, since I was only in my running shoes now. I retrieved the errant 0.75 Camalot and the sling and retraced my steps back to the car and a waiting Buzz.

A couple more mistakes today, but hopefully we are getting them all out of the way before the big day, which is currently planned for June 20th - the longest day of the year. I hope for cool weather, minimal crowds, and no mistakes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

22 pitches in Eldo

Buzz and I met at 7 a.m. and took things a bit slow to get started. In the parking lot we met a guy and two women who were headed for the first pitch of Rewritten and then cutting over to Icarus. Let left the parking lot at the same time we did. I started up Rewritten at 7:50 a.m. and we took 40 minutes to climb the route. We descended found our party of three just forty feet off the ground and two other parties queued up for Rewritten. It was nice to have that one out of the way.

I started up Great Zot / Zot Face at 8:47 a.m. and placed two pieces of gear on the first pitch, passing, feeling really solid on this pitch. We took 37 minutes to climb that route and descended again and started up Green Spur at 9:47 a.m. As we descended the trail to Green Spur I noticed a party climbing the second pitch of the Yellow Spur. I figured these guys wouldn't be a problem, but we'd meet these guys.

We took 53 minutes to climb the Green Spur and simul-climbed the entire route by using a couple of judicious Ropemans. We descended once again and on the hike down I could see the party on the Yellow Spur leading the 5th pitch. Alright! I thought. They won't be in our way.

We started up Yellow Spur and things went very quickly. I protected the roof with a Ropeman and was set to string the entire route as one pitch until we caught a party at the top of the 5th pitch! In the time it took for the leader to lead half of the 5th pitch and the second to climb most of it, we had descended to the base of the Green Spur, grabbed our gear, walked over to the start of the Yellow Spur, ate some food, drank some water, geared up and led five pitches. Oh well.

We waited 30 minutes for then to lead the last two pitches and then I led up about twenty feet below the second. Since I couldn't move fast with the party above me, this time I free climbed the crux pitch. This is really fun, balancy climbing. I cut left on the Robbins 5.8+ exit and after turning the headwall, I placed a Ropeman and continued up the arete to the summit. Here the going was extremely slow for me as Buzz went slow and cautious on the pin ladder.

Unfortunately, he didn't follow the route I led! He continued up the 5.10 direct finish despite the fact that the rope went left to the fixed pin on the Robbins Traverse. At that point he was royally screwed and I would have been too, except for two things. We had the Ropeman, thank god. Also, I had just barely made the summit where I was pinned for 15 minutes all the while completely baffled at what could be going on down below. The only thing I could think of was that Buzz couldn't climb the route, but I know he pulls on the draws and should have no troble. The traverse is runout and has to be free climbed, but it was just 5.8. I was very confused and more than a little bit concerned. I was trapped as well. I couldn't move up. At one point I knew he had weighted the rope and indeed he eventually weighted the route and did a hand traverse / pendulum to get back over to the fixed pin. This had to be terrifying for him because it was the first time he had to trust a Ropeman and if it didn't work or if I didn't have some slack in the rope or if I hadn't made the summit, he could have pulled me off. If that had happened, I could have died.

But the Ropeman worked as planned and we were fine, but it did concern me greatly how he could climb off route while seconding a route he has done so many times and an exit we had just talked about 15 minutes earlier. We decided in the future to belay all 5.9 pitches for him. In all the cases we have planned I'd be on easy ground anyway, so there wasn't much time to save. I'll just belay him on these sections and then two minutes later I'll be out a hundred feet.

We descended the East Slabs and were back at the car by 1 p.m. We plan to be back tomorrow to practice some different routes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Long John Wall and Yellow Spur

I met Tom in Eldo at 5:30 a.m. and we were hiking towards the West Ridge by 5:36 a.m. South Boulder Creek is really high now and we could barely make the traverse over to the West Ridge trail. Pretty soon Morning Thunder (5.9+) will be the approach to the West Rdige.

We hiked up to the Long John Wall with our 100-foot rope and I took the lead. I simul-climbed the 5-pitch route as one pitch, slung a horn at the top, and immediately started downclimbing the backside. I've simul-climbed this route many times. There is such nice climbing on it. I put in one Ropeman, but it wasn't necessary. Tom wasn't going to fall.

We cut across the gully to the base of the Yellow Spur and this time Tom took the lead. We had a rack of double units, but we didn't need them. Tom mainly clipped fixed gear. We placed no gear on the first pitch, two on the second, one on the third, zero on the fourth, two 0n the fifth, zero on the crux pitch, and two on the last pitch. Seven total placements. He did use 13 of the 14 draws that he carried as well.

I felt super solid on the opening 5.9 roof, but I knew I was protected by a Ropeman above. Tom climbed a variation to the second pitch, continuing straight above the tree instead of traversing left. It worked out fine, but following it took me a bit of time to realize that I needed to move right at one point.

I've simul-climbed the Yellow Spur many times, but always as the leader. This was my first time seconding. The pressure is on the second. He cannot fall. The Ropemans loosen this rule somewhat, but it still isn't a good idea. On the crux pitch, to keep things rolling and add a bit of security, I grabbed the draws on all the pins. It worked out well.

We downclimbed the East Slabs and were back at the car by 7:35, getting both routes roundtrip in under two hours. We've done them considerably faster before, but we didn't need to push it today. It was a bit overcast, but still quite warm - well into the 50's. We both went in long pants, but shorts would have probably been fine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Flagstaff Bike Ride and the Monkey Traverse

One of the great Boulder lunch-time workouts has got to be riding up Flagstaff Road (1500 vertical feet from the Creek Path) to the Amphitheater Road junction and then descending to the Monkey Traverse for a couple of laps before heading back to work.

I've done this many times in the past and I'm resurrecting it now to try and get my fingers back into shape after being out of the gym for so long. It doesn't replace 5.10/11's in Eldo, but I can do it during lunch.

Two weeks ago I went for the first time (alone) and didn't even break 20 minutes for the time-trial course on Flagstaff. Then I was only able to manage 1.5 laps on the Money. A few days later I went again and rode a bit faster (19:40) and then did 2 2/3 laps on the Monkey.

I've now decided that I'll do this workout every Monday and this past Monday I just rode up to the Monkey (it was super hot out) and didn't go clear to the junction. Then I was able to do three clean laps on the Monkey Traverse. I've seen this baby rated V4, but it can't be once you have it wired. It's a bit pumpy for sure and a bit scary at the exit, but no where near as technical as say the Vertigo dihedral (11b) or as insecure as the first pitch of the Naked Edge (11a). But it's a good, quick workout.

Next time I'll go for four laps and after that I'll try to reverse it. I've tried this before and I've never been able to reverse the entire thing.

T1.5 and Werk Supp / Bastille variation

I met Buzz at our usual location outside of Eldo at 5:30 a.m. and we cruised into the canyon. It was warm and I went in shorts, but did put on a long sleeve shirt. We were hiking towards the start of Touch and Go by 5:45 a.m. We had a rack of double units and a 100-foot rope. Our intent was to climb something we call T 1.5. This is basically climbing T2, but avoiding the very hard and very dangerous 5.11 start of T2 and replacing it with the first pitch of Touch and Go (5.8). Then we substitute the very nice 2nd pitch of Jules Verne (5.9) for the less fun 2nd pitch of T2 (5.9, as well I think). Once on the Upper Ramp we just follow T2.

I led, as usual, and zipped up the first pitch of T2. A little ways above, I installed the first Ropeman to protect me in case Buzz fell off the tricky start to that pitch. I traversed left into Jules Verne and enjoyed the fun climbing up to the cool crack. Just below the crack there was tons of bird shit, but I could mostly avoid it. When I hit the Upper Ramp, I placed the second Ropeman and then moved up the ramp to the base of Upper T2. I stopped here and brought Buzz up so that we could re-rack.

Freshly stocked with gear, I led the 5.7 pitch with a single piece of gear, clipped the belay, and then clipped a high fixed pin with a long sling before making the very cool and delicate traverse left to the T2 fingercrack.

The crack went nicely and I continued up the leaning hand crack above to the ramp. I placed a Ropeman here and climbed up and right along the ramp with the tricky rotten band. I placed a couple of small cams and clipped a fixed pin here. After placing a high piece for Buzz, I continued up easy ground for a bit and then placed the second Ropeman to protect me from Buzz falling off the rotten band.

We simul-climbed to the top, doing the route in 90 minutes and topping out at 7:25 a.m. (10 minutes per pitch). We descended the east slabs and it was still early, so we went and did the first pitch of Werk Supp to Shadot's Revenge (5.8 pitch), to the 5.8 variation to the 4th pitch of the Bastille Crack, and then did the 5.7 direct finish to the Bastille Crack. I led the four pitches as one and Buzz simul-climbed behind.

We topped out, coiled the rope and hiked back down the base. The roundtrip on this climb took about 40 minutes (10 minutes per pitch). For our 50-pitch day we need to average 15 minutes per pitch if we want to get it done in 12.5 hours. That includes hiking, resting, drinking, eating, etc. So you need to keep the pressure on for over 12 hours. Right now things are on pace, but it's easy to keep on pace for 3 hours... Actually, we started at 5:45 a.m. from the car and got back to the car at 8:40, so call it three hours. We did 13 pitches, so just one pitch ahead of 15 minutes/pitch pace.

We've set our plan for the big day as well. We'll have to pre-stash water at the base of Rewritten the day before. Then we'll climb with a 100-foot tag line on our backs to use for rappelling. I'll probably also where a Camelback with more water and gels/bars. We'll meet at 4:40 a.m. Start hiking at 4:50 a.m. and start climbing up the Bulge at 5 a.m.

We'll leave any extra gear at the base and simul-climb the 4 pitches (with the 5.9 finish) of the Bulge and then climb down the East Slabs back to the base, where we'll pick up our stashed gear and tag line. Then we climb T1.5 (9 pitches) and do the Vertigo rappels to the ground and then descend the trail to the West Face of the Lower Ramp, which we climb up to Ruper and do the complete Ruper (7 pitches with approach pitch, 20 total now). We do the Vertigo raps again and now hike uphill to Rewritten. We then climb Rewritten, Great Zot / Zot Face, and Green Spur, hiking off after each. These are all 5 pitches long, so we now have 35 pitches done. We descended a bit and climb the Yellow Spur (7 pitches, 42 total now) and descend the East Slabs. We then climb whatever is open on the Wind Tower and/or the Bastille until we're at 50 or more.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Training for 50-pitch day in Eldo

My buddy Buzz and I want to do 50 pitches in one day in Eldo. Many years ago I did 40 pitches with two different partners: Trashy for 25 and then Homie for 15. It was fun. This time Buzz has set some rules for us: Each climb has to be rated 5.7 or harder, though pitches can be easier. Pitch count is whatever is in the Rossiter guidebook. Downclimbing a route counts. We'll also probably limit things to 5.9 at the hardest.

To get a bunch of pitches we needed to get familiar with a couple of classics: Great Zot and Rewritten. One morning we went over and did the Great Zot on a 60-meter rope. I led the entire thing as one pitch with Buzz following. We did 5 rappels down the Dirty Deed Chimney. It went fine, but not super fast, as I was learning where to go.

Next we showed up late on a Saturday morning to do rewritten - bad idea! This area is super popular. There were two parties gearing up at the base for Rewritten and another party on the third pitch. This time we came with only a 30-meter rope and were going to simul-climb again. The party most ready go noticed that we had a short rope and asked if we were going to speed climb it. I said, "As a matter of fact, we did hope to simul-climb the entire thing." They offered to let us go in front and we took it.

I cruised up Rewritten's first pitch and into the second pitch. Buzz couldn't get my second piece out (a 0.75 Camalot) and had to leave it. Already we look bad. I got to the base of the third pitch and the party was still there. The woman belaying was freezing and her partner was nearing the end of the pitch. It would have been too complicated to pass them and I didn't even ask. Instead I moved along the rotten, loose, red ledge trying to climb up a big crack to avoid the Rewritten party and a party on the Green Spur. Even though I was moving slowly and very carefully, I dislodged a couple of microwave-sized blocks! I screamed "ROCK, ROCK, ROCK!!!!" It was a horrible mistake and I feared I had killed someone. I heard one person cuss upwards, as I would have done. Then nothing. I yelled down to Buzz, "Is everyone down there okay?" He said they were and I carefully moved left and joined the guy belaying on the Green Spur. I stopped and brought Buzz up. We were off to a horrible start and it put a damper on the rest of the climb.

We simul-climbed the next two pitches of the Green Spur and finished on upper Rewritten. We walked off the top and back to the base of the climb where I admitted my mistake and apologized to everyone I could find. I learned that one guy and fallen escaping the rocks and had a cut on his face. He wasn't hurt badly, but it ended his day. I never found this guy. Not our best outing.

The next week we met early in the morning and climbed Green Spur. Unfortunately it was 36 degrees out at 5:30 a.m. when we met and Green Spur is tricky, rated 5.9+ and fingery. We were on the 30-meter rope again, but the hard section of the Green Spur is shorter than this and we were fine and belayed this section for both of us. I backed down twice from the crux before doing it. My hands were numb at the belay and thawing was incredibly painful. I also did the right varation at the wide crack portion and after figuring out a key foothold, worked out great. This avoids and awkward, physical wide crack that I had always climbed before.

We did the third and fourth pitches of Rewritten as we hadn't done them before and then finished left of upper Rewritten (which I assume is the top part of Green Spur) to complete all pitches of both routes. By the time we got back to the base of the climb it was already 7:50 a.m. and we decided to call it a morning and go to work.

Finally, this morning I got out with Hardly. We headed to the Green Spur again, since I wanted to get this route wired. We only had the 30-meter rope, but I climbed with two Ropeman's and protected the lower crux and the upper roof with these so that I wouldn't have to worry about Hardly pulling me off if he fell.

This time the crux of Green Spur went nicely. Warmer temperatures and knowing the tricks helped a lot here. I put in the Ropeman above the crux and continued climbing. In fact, I led the entire Green Spur as one pitch (no re-gearing) and Hardly simul-climbed behind. We topped out, hiked down, and it was only 7:10 a.m. so we headed back to the car and then over to the Bastille Crack.

Here we found a party. The leader was about halfway up the 40-foot first pitch, which everyone combines with the second pitch. We didn't want to intrude so Tom led up Werk Supp's first pitch (5.8+) and then cut over to the Bastille Crack at the top of the second pitch. I simul-climbed behind Hardly and we did the roundtrip in 20+ minutes or so. When we hiked by the base of the Bastille Crack the second was still belaying and his leader was still 50 feet below the end of the second pitch (he was linking the first two, as usual).

We were driving out of Eldo by 7:50 a.m. The morning was a complete blast. Very nice temperatures, great climbing, and super solid partner.