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...

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