|Eight people and two dogs at the base of the west face of Der Zerkle on Dinosaur Mountain in the Flatirons|
It's getting warm in Colorado, though we just had a week of stormy weather that pounded the mountains with snow, and my climbing gym membership will be frozen on May 5th. I'll take my climbing outside exclusively now until I return to the gym in November. This year I want to taking my project-working mentality of the gym outside. I've done that stuff before, but not much. I projected the Naked Edge, getting the redpoint on probably my tenth or eleventh time up the route. I did it with Country Club Crack (only two pitches) on Castle Rock, too. I worked some 5.12 sport routes when I turned forty and again when I turned forty-ten. I ready to try again.
Not wanting to bore my partners or embarrass myself in front of them, I decided that maybe I'd work some routes by myself, on toprope. I know top climbers do this stuff all the time. Pros will rap off the top of El Cap to work the Salathe headwall or some other hard route. My buddy Chris Weidner did this on the Diamond when he was establishing Hearts and Arrows with Bruce Miller.
I talked to Chris about solo toproping and he told me to get a Petzl Micro Traxion, so I did. This morning I headed up to Der Zerkle to try it out on some moderate routes with easy toprope access. I parked at NCAR and hiked the familiar trail up Dinosaur Mountain to the base Sunny Side Two (a great 4th class scramble - highly recommended for kids) on Der Zerkle. I located the bolts at the top of What If You're Not (5.7) and fixed my 100-foot gym rope to them. I rappelled down to the west with my pack and unpacked.
Harnessed and shoed up, I clipped on my brand new Traxion and also a Ropeman, as I'd read that you should always have two devices when doing this, in case something goes wrong with one. The Ropeman didn't work out that well as I had to manually move it up the rope, but the Traxion worked great. I had it clipped directly to my harness with a locking carabiner and the Ropeman above that on a sling.
Just as I started up a party of four climbers arrived. They were nice enough, talking about warming up on these routes before heading off to some hardman routes. I chatted a bit but mainly kept to myself, a bit self conscious about learning my new system and wishing I had more privacy, but that's what you get if you go to the most popular sport climbing area in the Flatirons.
I did a lap on What If You're Not and it went well, with the pain of moving up the Ropeman. The rock was cold and subsequently my fingers too, but the climbing was reasonable and I made the top without any trouble. I switched to my Gri-Gri and rappelled back down. I did a second lap, this time without the Ropeman. I know this isn't recommended because if I fell and somehow the Traxion got wedged open, releasing the cam, I'd fall to the ground. This appears very difficult to do and I felt safe enough here, as I also didn't plan to fall. In the future, I guess I'll need something else. My inclination is to get a second Traxion, but best practice says to use a different device so that you can't make the same screwup with both of them. The second lap was much easier and I didn't have to touch the Traxion. I rappelled back to the ground.
The others were now done with the route on my right, Wing Ding Ding-aling Down She Goes (really? That's the name of this route? 10a), so I headed up that from my same anchors. I risked a swing at the top, but I wasn't too concerned. The route didn't seem a lot different from the first one, but I guess it was harder. Before I left the ground for this ascent a rude couple from Portland with two dogs arrived. Near the top of the route I looked down to see the dogs walking on my pack and sniffing around my food. I called down, "Can you keep the dogs away from my pack and food?" The guy just responded, "Okay." No "sorry" or any apology. He eventually tied the dogs to a tree, but much later. They they proceeded to bark up a storm. Chris was just telling me how he doesn't like dogs at the crags and I concur completely.
I rapped down again, packed up all my gear into my pack to protect it from the dogs and then did a final lap on What If You're Not so that I could retrieve my rope and move it uphill to the anchors for Bar None (5.9). I repeated my procedure on this route and on Der Fuhrer (5.8) ,which also led to this anchor. As I was doing this another pair of guys arrived. I suffer in this scene. I got my climbing done and packed up. I had planned a short outing anyway, just to see if this stuff worked. I consider this first trial a big success, but need a better backup plan. I also need to find a more obscure place to climb, though I think just about anything earlier on a weekday morning will provide solitude.