Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bolting for Glory to Anthill Direct

Mark and I got out to Eldo today to start our outdoor training. Mark and I have been training for an ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak this summer. Mark even put off doing Hard Rock Hundred, after getting into this exceedingly difficult race. He's been climbing at least two days a week in the gym and we were anxious to see how much of that would transfer to real rock. The answer: not much, but it doesn't hurt to be strong.

We going to be concentrating our outdoor training on crack climbing since almost all of the Casual Route is a crack climb, but I had a hankering to do Bolting for Glory, a really thin, greasy 10a bolted route. I don't know why. Perhaps I thought it would be an easy 5.10 to do since it was bolted. More likely I had just done Touch and Go with Derek and remembered this route.

We did the first pitch of Touch and Go to approach it. The crux move on Touch and Go is quite hard if you are expecting gym 5.8. It's really just one move but it involves pressing your right foot on a very small edge. I was fresh from a mentally humbling trip to Joshua Tree where I didn't even try anything hard, but now I was back on routes I had wired. My gym power made the crux of Touch and Go feel like...5.8! :-) Mark had a bit more trouble on it and didn't use my high right foot and instead used his reach. This pitch wasn't as easy for him, but it involves some crack climbing and he admittedly needs a bit more experience here. Nevertheless, he climbed it clean.

I then started up Bolting for Glory, expecting positive edges and 10a climbing. How naive of me... There really isn't a positive hold on this entire pitch. Okay, that's not true, but it feels that way. I climbed up and left just a bit to put in a small cam to protect the belay. I'm not sure how good it was, because I wasn't sure how solid the flake I put it behind was. I then took a long time to puzzle out the moves up to the first bolt. I didn't want to make a mistake and fall on the cam. I feared it would be difficult to downclimb from a mistake because of the insecure nature, though I did step and back down a couple of times before finally committing to the moves.

Once clipped into the first bolt, I faced what I thought was the crux. Thankfully the bolt was at my chest for the start of these moves. The second bolt is about fifteen feet higher, though, so it's committing to move on. I was wearing my son's TC Pro shoes and the rubber felt thick under my feet. I wasn't used to the shoes and had not feel for the holds. I clipped the second bolt and the climbing got less scary because a fall wouldn't put me anywhere near the ledge below. There is some dicey climbing to get to the third bolt and then I mantled up on good holds. Above the climbing eases. I put in a #2 Camalot between the third and fourth bolts and made the 2-bolt anchor at the top.

Mark followed with as much difficult as I had and I guess a bit more, since he pinched a couple of bolt hangers on the way to belay. Still, it was a good effort on extremely technical climbing. There is just no simulation for that in the gym.

Looking above, I noticed climbers on the Naked Edge and on Anthill Direct - two routes normally closed until August, but frequently opened early if no raptors have nested on the walls. On the spur of the moment, we decided to continue up Anthill Direct, four more pitches, to the top of the wall. I was in short sleeves with my long-sleeved shirt and jacket safely tucked in my pack at the base of the route. I opened if I'd be uncomfortably cold, as the wind had picked up and I was getting chilled at the belay. Mark was game, though, and we could use the mileage, so up we went.

High on the wall, Mark would give me his long-sleeve shirt. I was already wearing his helmet, having left mine in the car. He's a true partner and we share the exact same attitude about climbing, about adventures. We are a team. We are not two individuals. We will succeed or fail as a team. Once we leave the car, and until we return, nothing I have is mine and nothing he has is his. Everything we have is ours. Including "our shirt", which he happened to own, though that wasn't relevant, and he happen to be wearing, which also wasn't relevant. Same with helmet. We decided, as a team, that it was best if the leader wore the helmet. Yes, it was my mistake to leave our second helmet and we might have decided to go back for it. We might have upset at the sloppiness of one of us for getting it, but we weren't. We just made the right decisions for the team. I love the camaraderie and teamwork that climbing requires. This is why partners are everything to me - much more important than the climbing itself.

I led the rest of the way up the familiar route and Mark followed it, ascending this classic for the first time. He did very well on it, as expected, and he felt a lot better about being completely solid on 5.8, then desperate on 10a. I combine the two pitches out on the main face into a 180-foot monster, but the climbing here is so cool, so engaging, even though it is only 5.6 or 5.7. This because I'm almost constantly runout, moving quickly above gear and having to space it out considerably to make the full distance.

The last pitch is a 5.9- lieback that in the past has felt challenging. Today, it felt like 5.6. I marvelled at how weak I must of been to be desperate on that section, but a lot has to do with confidence. If you know it will be easy for you, you don't hesitate and just climb it. I placed a #2 cam before starting it and then just went all the way to the belay fifty feet up, as the climbing rapidly becomes trivial, but in the past, I've hung out seven or eight feet higher to place another piece. Doing this makes the pitch much harder. Ironically, you only do that when you are weaker.

We descended the familiar East Ledges in our painful climbing shoes. We didn't plan on doing this route, but getting it done felt good. It's just the first route of many to get us ready for the Diamond. We won't be running out of great routes in Eldo...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joshua Tree w/Derek - Day 4

At the top of Bamib Meets Godzilla

Our last day and it was going to be just Derek and I again, as Dave and his Chuckwalla Rope Caddy headed for the hills. I had hoped to get on a some 5.10 routes today, but I had also hoped to be more motivated, to be stronger, to be tougher, to be braver. None of that happened. Instead the heat and fatigue sapped the energy out of us. It didn't help that we forgot all our water, chilling nicely inside Opie's frig. We had a single 12-oz can of lemonade with us. Bummer. Initially we planned to just go retrieve the water at lunch time, but we lolly gagged enough to rule that out. We decided to go to the Echo Rock area and warm-up on some more routes from our Trad Guidebook. We started with Fun Stuff and it's 30-second approach. This route is rated 5.8 and starts with some very hard slab moves protected by a bolt. This move seemed 5.10 to Derek and I. The rest of the route was some more slab and then up a fun crack to brief slab finish.

Next up was Bambi Meets Godzilla - a 5.8 crack route that we also thought was a bit of a sandbag. The crux felt solid 5.9 to me, certainly harder than the 5.9 of the day before. This was a super good route, though. It starts with some low-angle chimney/offwidth climbing. Derek did well on this very unintuitive climbing. The crux was near the top of this long pitch where the climbing was hand jams, but at a steep angle and in a leaning crack that made it tough to use your feet for a few moves. Derek powered out this section to get the route clean. He's really taking to jamming and I think he learned a lot on this trip.

With the heat draining our enthusiasm, we downed our only liquid and hiked over to a shaded route called Funny Bone. We had fun climbing this very moderate 5.8 and then I TRed Humorous (10b), which felt hard and painful to me. I figured Figures on a Landscape would have similar painful holds like this route. Climbing at JTree takes tough skin. I'm not there yet. 

On the way back to the car we climbed Eff Eight a very short 5.8 crack that leans at an awkward angle. It was harder than it looked and I'm glad I didn't try soloing it. Derek  did better than I did, climbing it in his approach shoes as his feet were really killing him and he didn't want to crush them back into his climbing shoes. We packed up and headed out, but stopped at Intersection Rock so that we could do Upper Right Ski Track, which is rated 5.2, but looks much harder at a distance. We enjoyed it, but thought it was more like 5.4. I looked at Lower Right Ski Track (10c) and wussed out. I was too tired, hot, and dehydrated. Next time, I told myself. Next time I'll be bolder… We'll see about that.

Fun Stuff  5.8++ 
Bambi Meets Godzilla Echo Rock  5.8/9+ 
Funny Bone Snickers  5.8 
Humorous  5.10b 
Eff Eight Mounds  5.8 
Upper Right Ski Track Intersection Rock 5.4 

Day 4 Totals: 6 routes, 6 pitches

We headed back to Opie's pad, cleaned up and packed up. We drove until 11:30 p.m. and threw down the bags at a rest stop for 5.5 hours of sleep. As we snuggled into our bags, Derek says, "This is so fun!" What a partner. When he can be so enthusiastic about sleeping on the grass at highway rest stop, with the growl of the semi's and the wash of the lights. I could do a lot worse in the partner department. I couldn't do any better.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joshua Tree w/Derek - Day 3

On the crux pitch of Bird on a Wire (10a R)

Monday Derek and I went climbing with Opediah while Dave and Callie went birding. We left the house around 9.m. headed for the Lost Horse area. Our first route had an approach that was less than one minute and had the intimidating name of Granny Goose. This 5.7 route ascended a short crack up to an undercling traverse over to a wide crack. The wide crack wasn't too bad because of extraneous face holds. I scampered up to the top and Derek followed nicely. Opie climbed the route in his approach shoes sans helmet. He's too cool for helmets and too good for climbing shoes. We scrambled down and moved the car down a couple of turnouts to hike up a gully filled with a jumble of huge boulders. The hike/scramble to the base of the Shorter Wall was strenuous and took us 20-30 minutes. 

At the base of the wall was a couple from Washington D.C. The guy was quite vocal about his mate's shortcomings with leading, belays, etc. Another couple from Denver soon arrived. The D.C. team went at Double Dogleg (5.7) while I started up Smithereens (5.9). This route follows a crack up a steep wall, but the profusion of face holds keeps the difficulty reasonable. I found a two-bolt rappel anchor on a great ledge at the top and Derek and Opie joined me. We rapped and repeated the drill on Young Lust (5.9), which seemed a bit harder. Then we moved to the far right, past the D.C. couple that were toproping a run-out face route called Rock Candy that had four bolts in 100 feet, but allowed for a couple of natural gear placements as well. We climbed Beck's Bet, a 5.8 crack, up to another bolt anchor. We then did Double Dogleg (5.7) and on rappel I thought Rock Candy looked really fun. We pulled the rope and I led the face. It was engaging because of the runouts, but no harder than 5.9. We all agreed that it was an excellent route.

Opediah Chuckwalla, the wizened desert sage and legendary hoary Joshua Tree rope caddy, handled the flaking of our route at the base of each route. Being a full-service rope caddy (legendary no less), he also pulled and coiled the rope after each rappel. He continued performing this service as we packed up and moved down the canyon to a route called Mr. Michael Goes to Washington. This was a fun route that went up a tricky crack and then traversed across a thin face and Derek got to use his recently-measured +2.5-inch ape index to span the gap.

We headed down to the car for a late lunch and then moved the car down a bit further. We hiked up to the Lost Horse Wall - one of the bigger faces in Joshua Tree - and Mr. Chuckwalla guided us to the base. Here we had planned on doing a 5.8 from our trad book, but Opediah sung the praises of Bird on a Wire (10a) and I took the bait. Derek was game and we started up while the OC hiked down to the shade to shoot photos of our daring exploits. I scampered up the first, low-angle pitch and set up a gear belay below the business. Derek followed and soon I was starting up the crux pitch. The first section has positive holds along the edge of a crack and it went nicely and protected well. I arrived at the base of an incipient crack and found two bolts. There was a 3-inch rounded shelf here and I elected to belay, though I had used less than half the rope. Derek followed, pausing at one tricky section but working it out and joined me at the belay. 

This belay was basically a hanging belay, as we leaned out against the anchor. I had the rope flaked across my tie-in line and transferred it over to Derek. He'd never belayed in such a spot before, but it didn't faze him at all and he expertly fed me rope on the next pitch. The climbing above was tenuous, using marginal crack holds and friction footholds, marginally protected by flaring cam placements. I was acutely aware that if I came off, I'd land on Derek. I tried to get him to lean right, out of the fall line, but at a hanging belay there wasn't much he could do. I moved up cautiously and twenty feet above the belay I finally sunk a locker stopper. The rest of the pitch followed a solid crack with good protection and the difficulties eased to about 5.7. 

I found a good stance at the top of the crack and rigged a bomber belay. I wanted to stay in sight of Derek because I figured he'd have some trouble with this bizarre climbing and didn't want him to lose much altitude due to rope stretch in the event of a fall. Derek cleaned the belay and started up. And he kept coming, with nary a pause. It was like he was climbing a ladder instead of the insecure 10a crux. He literally walked it, all the way up to the belay. I said "Great job, Derek," and he responded, "I'm doing the work. I'm not a slacker. I'm baby stepping." Movie/TV lines are his forte.

The last pitch was fun and easy except for one short section near the top. Coiling the rope my sore hands missed our legendary, though less than faithful, rope caddy. We found the scramble descent back to the base and when we arrived Opediah's voiced boomed from across the canyon: "Let's blow this popsicle stand!" We packed up and headed for base camp. 

Granny Goose  5.7 
Smithereens Shorter Wall  5.9 
Young Lust  5.9 
Beck's Bet  5.8 
Double Dogleg  5.7 
Rock Candy  5.9 
Mr. Michael Goes to Washington  5.8 

Bird on a Wire Lost Horse Wall  5.10a

Day 3 Totals: 8 routes, 11 pitches 

Joshua Tree w/Derek - Day 2

We just got back from another great day in Joshua Tree. Rick Accomazzo showed up just as Derek and I were heading out (10 a.m.). The others were supposedly right behind us and we expected to see them soon, but we didn't see them all day and they are not back yet. Strange. But we had a great time together.

Today we did two more chapters of our Trad Climbers in Joshua Tree book. We started on a 2-pitch 5.6 in the Real Hidden Valley area. This was cool as the crux was a slight overhang into a nearly vertical face. Derek went a "better" way and had to hang on the rope when he got himself into a bad situation. It is not a good route for the 5.6 leader. You should be solid on 5.8 for this route. I thought it was move like 5.7, but runout at the crux. The second pitch was fun and easy. 

The descents here can be long and tricky. One we did yesterday involved some 5th class downclimbing. In Eldo or the Flatirons these downclimbs would be routes. The one of this rock (the Sentinel) wasn't too bad, but it was exposed at one point and pretty involved.

We then went the nearby Thin Wall, which held four routes form our book from 5.6 to 5.9. We were going to start on the 5.6 route, but two old guys (by that I mean slightly older than me) were just in front of us. We decided to do the 5.7 just to the left while we waited for it to open up.

The 5.7 was really fun and not very hard. Good jams and good face holds. We scrambled back down around to the base and people were arriving in huge groups. The old guy were hanging on gear on the 5.6 route, so we did the 5.8 route a bit further left. This had one hardish move on it and then seemed easier than the 5.7. Super fun, though. Derek cruised up after me and we descended again.

The old guys were still busy on their 5.6, so I led the 5.9 route, which turned out to be super fun and didn't seem too hard. Fun finger crack but with tons of face holds. Steep, but juggy. Derek cruised it for his first JT 5.9. 

We descended again the finally the 5.6 was sort of open. The old guys had strung a toprope on it, but were scrambling down. I zipped up the route in just a couple of minutes and Derek followed. We got back to the ground about the same time the old guys did. :-)

It was now a zoo at this rock so, done with our four routes, we packed up and moved on to Hidden Tower to climb a classic 5.8 called Sail Away. I did the direct start to this route and it felt like a 5.10 move. Certainly harder than anything on the 5.9 route. The rest of the route is great crack climbing - remember this is a trad guide, so all are gear routes.

Derek decided to try the direct start as well. This wasn't required since I didn't place any gear on it, so that he'd have the option. He cruised it, though admitted it was a burly move. He did really well on the upper tricky-sized section as well. We had to rappel to get off this rock and Derek did this really solidly. I have him set up the rappel while I'm still up there. Then I tie a knot in the rope below where he's setup the rappel, clip that to the anchor, and then I rappel to the ground first. Then Derek unties that knot and he's ready to rappel. I give him a fireman's belay from the ground.

We headed back to the car for lunch and a rest. After that we drove over to the Hall of Horrors area and hiked into to do a really cool, steep 5.7 crack. At the top of this route was a bolted anchor off to the side. It wasn't mentioned in our guide,. but we traversed over to it and rappelled to the ground using our same technique. 

The rope was now over three different routes, all with the same runout slabby finish: a 5.9 traversing hand crack, a burly 5.11b crack/face route, and a super hard looking 5.12a route. I decided to check them out on TR. The 11b was way, way hard and I couldn't touch the crux move. I swung out into space and Derek lowered me to the ground. I then zipped up the 5.9 route, which wasn't too hard and Derek lowered me down to where the 11b and 12a merged. I climbed from there up to the 5.9 route after failing on a right option and then trying a left option, but this was above the crux of both routes. I messed around a bit more before coming down.

We then headed to the Planet X boulders and did the route called Planet X, which is 5.8+. I thought the crack part of this was pretty easy, but then the crack petered out and it went to some crimpy slab moves and my tips were a bit sensitive. Derek seemed to follow easier than I led. We rapped off over a 10a route that looked cool, so I led that. It was a burly move to get to an easy crack and then tiny crack climbing at the very top. Derek went up it as well and nearly got it first try. He came off and then finished nicely.

That was it for us today. We got in a bunch of good climbing and were quitting at the more reasonable time of 5:30 p.m. We came back home, showered, how chips and conversation with the gang, played some shuffleboard (I won!) and now we are headed out to pick up a pizza and come home and watch a movie. Fun times out here.

Fote Hog  5.6 
Almost Vertical  5.7 
Butterfingers Makes Me Horney  5.8 
Count on Your Fingers  5.9 
Ain't Nothing But a J-Tree Thing  5.6 
Sail Away Hidden Tower  5.8 
Lazy Day South Horrors R Sheep Pass Area 5.7 
Perhaps  5.9 
Cactus Flower  5.11b 
This is Just a Test  5.12 
Planet X  5.8+ 
Planet Y  5.8+

Day 2 Totals: 12 routes, 13 pitches

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Joshua Tree w/Derek - Day 1

On top of Intersection Rock

All Photos

Derek and I got here at 11 a.m. yesterday. We dropped gear at Opie's house, grabbed the guidebooks Opie left out for us (they were already in the park climbing) and headed into the park, buying a Golden Eagle Access Pass.

We have this book of 69 trad climbs of JT from 5.5 to 5.9 and started to knock them off. We started on a 5.5 crack called The Bong, which went easily and quickly. I left a trad anchor on top, lowered Derek down and then rappelled and pulled the rope. I then tried the crack/slab to the left and it wasn't nicely up to the runout slab section and I didn't like it and didn't feel confident. In fact, I was a bit scared. I tried a couple of options and didn't feel solid. I eventually committed to one option and moved up but then had second thoughts. I was way above gear and the fall would be  awful. It was just our second route of the trip. This was a mistake. I tried to downclimb and couldn't see my feet. I was stuck. I don't know how long I stayed up there. I wasn't panic-ing, but I was very concerned, wondering if the piece below me was solid. If it pulled I could hit the ground and probably perish. While that would suck for me, it would be traumatic for Derek. Seriously, that was my biggest concern.

It took me a long time, but I finally got the guts to blindly step down and hope the friction would hold me.I reversed back to my gear and then headed left on easier ground, clipped a bolt on another route and headed up a much easier slab. Derek followed and observed, "So, I guess you can't use your hands at all..."

We then did a tricky crack through a roof. It was rated 5.7 but it involved full-on jamming. I got out the Spyder Mitts for Derek and reviewed his jamming technique. I walked him through everything I was doing as I climbed it. He got up to the tricky part and paused for awhile. I asked how he was doing and he said, "I just am bad at this..." But he didn't get frustrated and he eventually got a good jam. His face lit up and he was psyched! He got another solid jam and he cruised the rest.

We then headed over to a leaning 5.7 route that I thought was 5.8+. The guidebooks call it awkward, as it leans hard left across a smooth wall and it is very awkward to keep hands and feet in the crack. It was greasy too. I thought it was challenging and told Derek to just move fast on the hard part and don't worry about the rating. Meaning I didn't want him to get frustrated that a 5.7 could be so hard. He cruised it easier than I did! He said the jams left solid to him. I thought the crack was too thin to be solid.

Next we did ToeJam, a 5.7, and we both thought it was pretty easy crack climbing, but super fun. We then went and did Double Cross a steep, wide 5.8 crack. I loved it and cruised right up. Derek paused at one wide section where he couldn't get a jam, but he worked it out and loved it as well.

We took a short break to eat/drink and rest and then headed over to another 5.8 called Hard Up. This was a very cool, tricky climb up a steep crack of all different widths, but with some face holds and stemming to ease matters at the worst widths. I really enjoyed it. Derek worked out all the crux sections until the very top where you have to get a high thumbs-up left-hand jam and pull it clear down to your waist. This was a new technique for him and it fell off briefly before getting it, but once he got it, he executed it perfectly. His attitude continued to be very upbeat and positive. We were having a great time.

It was pretty late now and the sun was fast going down, but we had one more route in our trad guidebook for this area. I wondered if Derek would be up for another or want to pack it in. He was all for getting it done! He had maybe more appetite for the climbing than me!

We raced over the base of the route, Overhang Bypass (5.7 R) and headed up. It is a two-pitch route and we scrambled up to the start, racing the light. I zoomed up the first pitch, which has a very inobvious section at the crux. As I completed this dicey lieback, I asked Derek, "Did you see how I did this?" He did. I set up a belay and Derek came up. He paused at the tricky section and I wondered if he'd figure it out. Moments later he was at the belay. I said, "That's pretty hard there, huh?" He said, "Once I figured it out, it seem pretty easy." Kids.

The next pitch has a burly hand traverse below the roof. It is very intimidating, despite the grade, and quite powerful. I put in two pieces and then cranked the traverse. Above is a slab move protected by a bolt, but it was easy and safe compared to the slab I backed off earlier. Derek followed nicely on the burly section and hardly noticed the slab move.

I lowered him from the top, only to save time, as Derek had been rappelled off Toe Jam and Double Cross without any trouble. He's getting solid on rappelling. There were three other climbers queued for the rappel anchor, so I could get Derek on the ground without waiting for them. The lead guy of the other group was super nice and let me rap their line, so I coiled my rope, put it on my back and zipped down line back to Derek.

We got to the car just before dark and headed to Opie's house. There we met Opie, his local friend Susan, and Dave and Callie from Boulder. Dave and Callie are from Boulder and are out here until Thursday. We ate some dinner, chatted and then watched "The Armstrong Lie," where I fell asleep for part of it and, amazingly, so did Derek! We didn't go to bed until 11:30 p.m. It's now 8 a.m. as I finish this and I've rousted Derek, but he is still prone. Day two starts now!

The Bong 5.5 
Ballbury  5.7 
The Hoblett  5.7
Buissonier  5.7
Toe Jam  5.7
Double Cross  5.8
Hands Off   5.8
Overhang Bypass   5.7

Day 1 Totals: 8 routes, 9 pitches