Friday, June 06, 2014

Eldo. What Else?

Turning the roof at the top of the second pitch of Allosaur

Mark and I climbed in Eldo the last two mornings. Thursday was a bit chilly and we decided to head for Long John Wall. Of course, were stopped by the same high water that Tom and I waded through last weekend. Instead we scrambled up slabs to the start of Morning Thunder (5.9+ S). I failed to get very far on this route after three tries. I had an RP protecting the opening moves, but I wasn't 100% confident and the fall would be down a chimney and ugly. It's a serious route, but I've done it a number of times. I was surprised and dismayed I didn't figure this out sooner. Mark finally called "time" on me and rescued me from any further flailing, though it scar me with the scarlet letter (phrase) of "run away" that I felt was tattooed on my forehead.
A rare sighting of the leader, sewing up the third pitch of Allosaur
We scrambled down, over, and up to the base of Allosaur (5.9). I put the first two stellar pitches together into one and Mark followed nicely up to my ledge above the roof. You have to belay after turning this roof, as the rope drag is significant. The last pitch is the crux 5.9 section and I sewed it up with four bomber pieces before making the delicate moves to the top of the corner. 

Mark followed with increasing confidence. He knew he had some power reserves and could move up into a crux not knowing exactly how it will end. When he arrived at the belay he commented that it was the first morning he hadn't weighted the rope. I asked about our Calypso/Reggae/Wind Ridge morning and he further specified: first morning with 5.9 climbing. Indeed. Well done.
At the top of the first pitch of Werk Supp

Today we met again at 5:30 a.m. Actually, we were both early and driving toward Eldo from our dirt lot meeting place by 5:25 a.m. We left the car for Werk Supp by 5:32. The shocking thing was that we were the THIRD car in the parking lot. At 5:30 a.m.? Worse, one of the car's was parked in MY spot - the first spot. I really need to get the park to put up a sign or something as this abuse has become more common lately. I didn't let it ruin my morning though, and just trudged the extra twenty feet, which, while very short, is a significant part of the approach to Werk Supp since that is about 100 feet. Backcountry climbing  this is not.

The other part was on the Bastille Crack, big surprise. When we approached, the leader, who was only thirty feet off the ground, looked at us, then turned to his partner and said, "See?", as if we were justification for meeting so early. It was funny that both parties were climbing on the shaded, somewhat chilly north face of the Bastille with beautiful, sun drenched walls beckoning from across the bridge. But we had been avoiding the Werk Supp/March of Dimes combo for too long. I credit Mark with making this happen as I could have easily been talking into doing our scrambling approach to the much easier Long John Wall.
Cranking the hand crack on the second pitch

At the top of the second pitch

I led up the long first pitch of Werk Supp, reacquainting myself with the very cool climbing on this popular pitch. Mark followed nicely, though not completely unchallenged and then moved our belay to the base of the second pitch - a Yosemite-style, slanting, pod/hand crack. This pitch requires an intimate knowledge of crack climbing techniques. I demonstrated some jamming and chicken wings for Mark and spouted copious beta while I ascended. The last couple of jams are pretty burly and my wimpy hands were feeling the pressure. It was a bit painful, but I was completely solid. I knew to avoid the very tempting lieback out of the pod, as you can't complete the route that way and it is very difficult to get back to the jams.

I set up a solid belay and perched myself at the top of the wall in order to take some photos and help with some additional instruction. Mark started with a great handjam that worked well for him, but then he entered the awkward, slanting pod and when things got frustrating the cam in front of his face proved too tempting not to grasp. He moved out of the upper pod using the dead-end lieback. I had told him this was a dead-end, but that didn't concern him much. He gained some altitude and the problem of transitioning from lieback to jam was easily solved with some extreme rope tension. Mark executed the finishing jams nicely and joined me on the ledge.
At the crux of March of Dimes

Above us was the very short crux pitch of March of Dimes. Mark took one look at it and said, "That doesn't look too bad." He'll try to defend himself and say that he was looking at the hand crack slanting to the right instead of the finger crack slanting to the left, but I think he was just feeling confident after crushing the last pitch.  
I slowly worked my way up the lower portion of this crack, first placing a red Alien, then a blue Alien, then, with some effort, a stopper. Getting pumped I put in another small cam and started into the final, crux sequence. I remembered, mostly, what I needed to do, but didn't pull hard enough and fell off. Mark caught me and after I rested a bit, I went with more conviction on my second try and completed the crux traverse across the face and up to the two new (to me) bolts. This anchor allows one to rappel off instead of doing the involved downclimb, which is right above the road and ends in a loose, talus slope. This anchor is a nice addition.

Mark climbed clean through most of the pitch, pulling all the gear before he came off. The climbing here is very technical, with tiny footholds and tiny, slanting handholds. He swung over and gave it another try, getting higher but fell once again. He swung to his left this tiny and clambered up to the belay. We did three rappels, all from two-bolt anchors, back to the ground. Before heading out we toproped the first pitch of March of Dimes (5.9+, I think). 

While climbing I noticed that there were eight cars in the lot before 6 a.m. The third party in the canyon was on the Bastille as well - on Outer Space. A party was on the very exciting Blackwalk and a party was nearing the top of the Wind Ridge. People were streaming in when we left the canyon at 8:30 a.m. Indeed it was a great day to climb.

Note: One might wonder how I take so many photos. We have a motto: photos first! Safety is a close second, though. :-) Actually, I almost always belay with my device in guide mode and I can safely handle the camera and belay at the same time.

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