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.