|Patrick heading up the crux pitch on the Bulge|
In April I flew down to Las Vegas to climb the Rainbow Wall with Chris Weidner. I was really there to belay Chris on his free attempt and to have an adventure. I couldn't have climbed the route without extensive aid and that's how I climbed it originally years ago with the Toolman and Opediah. Following us up that route with John-Mark and Patrick. We hit it off on the hike back to the car, later that day, in the dark and met up once in Boulder for beers. Patrick and I decided to climb for a weekend in the fall that's what we just did.
Patrick climbs a lot harder than I do, but he also enjoys in cruising moderate pitches (my speciality), so we were compatible. I picked him up at the bus station and we went straight to Eldo, where cold temperatures drove us into the sun and we warmed up on the Bulge. The Bulge is only 5.7, but it's confusing, indistinct, slippery, and runout. This didn't faze Patrick and we led the first pitch, placing one piece down low, in about two minutes. He basically speed soloed it, onsight.
We swapped leads and were at the top soon after. On the way down, we threw my "intro to simul-climbing" link-up. Here Patrick led up the Boulder Direct (because Calypso was occupied) to the Reggae and then downclimbed the Bomb while I was climbing up. It was smoothly and we headed back to the car for food, water, and a bit more gear.
We then headed over to the Long John Wall where we found a couple of other parties. They had both started with the first pitch of Break On Through, as it seems most 5.8 leaders do not like the start of the Long John Wall. Indeed, that first pitch has a "no fall" section that is freaky, even for me and I've done it probably twenty times. The first pitch of Break On Through is better climbing, but because of the two 90-degree bends, it forces you to pitch it out. You can't simul-climb or combine pitches with this start. Of course, that isn't a drawback for most parties.
|At the crux of the first pitch of the Yellow Spur|
But the route was occupied and we were planning to use it as an approach to the Yellow Spur. What to do... We headed up Chianti with the initial hope that we could figure out a way down the backside. I also thought that we could climb that route, rap back down to the west and the climb Long John. Patrick led up the first pitch to the rotten band/ledge system, which is at the same height as the second pitch of the Long John Wall. I could see that the leader had just arrived there and figured, if we were fast, we could cut across and finish with the last three pitches of Long John. We did just that, with the permission of the other party, and simul-climbed a bit to the top.
At the top of the Long John Wall I gazed over at the Yellow Spur, expecting to find a bunch of parties, like we did on Long John, but only saw a single party on the fourth pitch. "Sweet", I thought. If we could only get over there before anyone else arrived, we'd be golden. The one strange aspect was that the party on the fourth pitch was belaying at the bottom of the V-corner in a semi-hanging belay. This is strange, as there is a huge ledge ten feet lower and a bit left - the normal belay at the top of the third pitch. Or there is a nice ledge forty feet higher as the normal fourth pitch belay. This was unusual enough where I remarked to Patrick, "I wouldn't be surprised if we caught those guys."
We downclimbed off to the east, crossed the gully and hiked/scrambled to the base of the Yellow Spur. We geared up here and I led the first pitch. Patrick followed and led the second pitch and half of the third pitch, as he wasn't sure where it ended and didn't want to go too high. I finished off the third pitch and then traversed left where I was shocked to find the party still at their hanging belay! They might not have been the slowest party ever on the Yellow Spur, but they'd at least have been in the discussion.
With the belayer's permission, I climbed by and up to the belay on the normal 4th-pitch-belay ledge. The other team consisted of John and Dave. Dave was leading it for the first time and John, presumably, was the weaker climber, as he wasn't leading anything. John climbed by me and soon Patrick joined me. Patrick wanted the pin-ladder pitch, so after a few minutes I headed up the fifth pitch with the thin hope that they'd let us by. I turned the roof on the fifth pitch and continued up to a small ledge down from the pedestal belay occupied by Dave and John. They hadn't started the pin-ladder pitch, but weren't offering to let me by and I just stopped and set up a belay from an old pin and a #3 Camalot.
I brought up Patrick and we spent a solid hour on this ledge. The weather was great and we took a siesta and chatted, but it eventually got ridiculous. Even John remarked about Dave, "He's kind of slow." Glaciers move faster. We weren't in any hurry, but we also weren't out to just sit on a ledge. We wanted to be climbing. Oh well. It happens. I surveyed the rock above me and figured that some Eldo hardman has put a route up this terrain, but I wasn't about to try it.
We waited until John was well up the pitch before Patrick led upwards. We did the Rearick Traverse instead of the direct finish just because it is so cool. I led the final arete and we caught up to John and Dave at the notch. Patrick and I descended back to the car once again for another drink and decided a quick simul-climb lap on the Bastille Crack would be the perfect end to the day.
Of course, the route was queued. When we got there two parties were at the base, but neither had left the ground again. I inquired about their intentions and were told rather brusquely "Your third in line." I didn't bother asking if we could go first, even though we'd have held up these parties by less two minutes total. Instead, I walked east just a bit and started up Werk Supp on our doubled 60-meter rope.
I led up Werk Supp's firs pitch with the intention to cut over to the top of the second pitch of the Bastille Crack and finish up there. When I tried this, I found a third party on it. I recognized this older couple from the gym. They climb hard 5.11 in the gym, but weren't too speedy on 5.7 trad. I backed up a bit and did the 5.8 variation to the left, joining the Bastille Crack on the fourth pitch, which I then followed to the top.
Patrick simul-climbed below me and we did the roundtrip in around 35 minutes, getting back to the base before the second queued party had left the ground. It was only four o'clock, but we'd had enough and headed for the showers.
|Soloing the Direct East Face of the First Flatiron with Stefan|
The next morning we headed out early for lap on the First Flatiron. Patrick had never climbed the First Flatiron and wanted to experience the full Minion-Style outing. Stefan at first said he wouldn't make it, but then couldn't resist the pull of the First and ran up to catch us at the base of the route. We had a great time climbing it and I had a chance to catch up with Stefan.
We downclimbed off the trotted back to the car and immediately headed for Eldo and the Naked Edge. I was a bit nervous even though I knew Patrick would lead all the hard pitches. I hadn't done much hard climbing since I left the gym in April. I'd done the Edge while out of shape before, though, and knew one way or the other (mostly the other), I'd get up it.
Since it was already 9 a.m. we found Eldo crowded. At the base of the Ramp Route we found two parties. One was in the process of climbing the first pitch of the Reguard Route and the other was waiting on them, enroute to the Edge. I found this curious with the Ramp Route right there, but didn't mention it, as it gave us a nice opening to get up there first. We shod up, I grabbed four cams off Patrick's harness, and I led upwards, telling Patrick to follow when I ran out of rope.
I went up the Ramp and around the corner and found a women at the base of the 5.6 crack, belaying. Thankfully her leader was nearly out of rope and I expected to follow her up shortly. Instead, though, the woman couldn't communicate with her partner, Wendy, and was reluctant to pull her belay and start climbing. I offered to climb by and act as an intermediary repeater to bridge the communication gap. She said, "If you're comfortable doing that, yes, that would be great." I led upwards until I could yell up to Wendy and confirmed her partner was on belay. I yelled down that she could climb and continued upwards.
When I climbed by Wendy and told her what I was doing, she thanked me not once, but twice. That's a nice pass, when the other party is thanking you. I stopped in the shade below the 5.8 roof pitch because Patrick was moving slower passing the two women and I forgot to pull the large cam off of Patrick to protect the roof. When Patrick arrived at my belay I finished off this pitch to the base of the Naked Edge.
Patrick cruised up the first pitch with remarkable ease, seemingly finding comfortable stances to place gear. I knew better. They sure aren't comfortable for me. I followed reasonable well, falling off once due to pump. Patrick zipped up the second pitch and I followed cleanly. I led the third pitch and then Patrick led the 11a chimney pitch so fast and with absolutely no hesitation that you'd have thought he had it as wired as speed-record-holder Stefan. I know this pitch well and that knowledge helped me ascend it without falling...barely!
Patrick dispatched the crux fifth pitch efficiently, though with a bit of effort at the boulder-problem start. I asked him to belay at the top of the overhanging hand crack instead of finishing it to the top in order to give me a tighter belay. Gratefully he agreed to this. Following this pitch was my usual combination of pulling on gear, hanging on the rope, and whining. While the other pitches are very hard for me, this pitch seems to be 5.12 for me. I just suck at it. I started off intimidated and mentally beaten and proceed to get physically crushed as well. I should start working this pitch again. There is obviously so much for me to learn here.
I finished off the 5.6 to the top and we headed down the familiar slabs. Patrick said he had enough rock climbing and wanted to bag a peak, so back to the Flatirons we went. We parked at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead and then went and scrambled the Second Flatiron via Free For All to the cool Tunnel section and finishing on the very exposed and committing Freezeway to the summit. We downclimbed off and then hiked up Green Mountain via the direct path behind the First Flatiron.
After a short rest on top to drink the water we carried and enjoy the view, we trotted down the Ranger and Gregory Canyon trails back to the car. Patrick packed up his gear and I dropped him back at the bus station 20 minutes before it was due to leave. It had been a great 36 hours with Patrick. We vowed to do it again in the Spring. It looks like I've gained another friend and climbing partner, so that was the huge win for the weekend.