Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ice-capades (or Craig know best)

I haven't climbed on rock for weeks, my memories of sun, sand and wine-red rocks are fading. My focus now is on a myriad of unlikely variables coming together to freeze water onto stone, moss and small shrubs. Forecasts are checked daily for any sign of a cold front, precipitation is both necessary and feared and the boots rarely have time to really dry out.

Yes, the Ice has arrived.

Why didn't I bring my rock shoes?

Thanks to Jens' limitless motivation and a few generous climbers (mostly Craig) posting their finds on the internet we've managed to swing and kick our way up several routes.

Looking up the Goatee. Jens and I failed to properly insulate our cameras, ended up with frozen batteries and therefore few pictures.

Looking down...

Pretty much all of these routes have been very moderate, our radically curved picks are over-qualified for ice that feels more like crawling than climbing. The few "hard" moves we've tackled, on the other hand, felt beyond my endurance and less than fun (ice climbing is fun, right?).

Mikey crawling up Grey Falls in a trippy ebbing fog.

In other words, I'm more than happy to crawl up "easy" ice and gain a solid foundation (It's good to be a gumby again, right?).

Mediocre ice in a spectacular setting. Warrior Wall looms above 'Consolation Falls'.

My ice tools, which seemed so futuristic and advanced when I bought them, remind me of a 2-year old computer, outdated just enough to be disappointing.

Jens on our second lap of 'Sword Gully' in as many days.

Wow, look at those fancy tools...

Can't really complain though, visions of piolets as tall as a man, hob-nailed boots and lederhosen bring my whining to a stop and force me to be thankful for what I have. I can tell though, it's just a little bit easier with those pinky rests...

Jens on Hidden Lake

Lake Wenatchee Ice. 'Timequake' and 'This too Shall Pass'?

Looks pretty mellow, right?

If it's warm enough to drink beer, it's not cold enough to climb ice.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Red Rocks part 2

Three days of late starts and disappointing amounts of daylight finally motivated me to get up early and do some real climbing. While the route we did only amounts to about 800 feet it provided a very satisfying day.

Black Velvet Canyon, BV Wall on the left

After poring over the guidebooks and rereading the Alpinist profile I knew I wanted to test my mental strength on this trip and hopefully sketch my way up a few of the classics pioneered by the so called Adventure Punks. As we all know they climbed in a style that contrasted sharply with some of the other climbers developing Red Rocks' unique sandstone walls.

The beautiful varnish of the Black Velvet Wall, Rock Warrior tackles more or less the middle of the prominent central shield

The logical first step appears to be Rock Warrior, a wandering face line with thoughtful protection and a handful of bolts. It lies on the left side of the Black Velvet Wall in the beautiful canyon of the same name.

Zach following the first pitch

Climbers on Prince of Darkness

Climbers approaching Fiddler on the Roof

As soon as we spotted the parking area we knew that the walls were probably crawling with climbers but it seemed like we had a good chance to be the only ones lined up for the Rock Warrior. The hike went smoothly, it seemed shorter than I remembered, and soon we were staring up at the wall searching for the first bolt.

Zach leading the second pitch

I was pretty sure that the only bolts I could see belonged to the neighboring route, Sandstone Samurai, an infamously runout big brother of Rock Warrior. Figuring that it would be more obvious from up close I racked up and ran up the initial easy ground. I placed a questionable blue Alien and smeared up the white slab, not entirely trustful of my feet. Still lost, a woman on Prince of Darkness took pity on me and asked if I was looking for the bolt about ten feet to my right. Yes, in fact, I was, thank you. Unfortunately those last few feet were the scariest of the route for me, laughably easy when well protected but rather unnerving twenty meters off the deck.

Zach following pitch three and getting psyched for the next lead

The next lead...

I finally manned up (personed up?) and clipped the shiny metal with a sigh of relief. A few techy moves got me onto the varnished face where I felt more comfortable and managed to find some decent gear. This style of Red Rocks face climbing is so unique and a real pleasure to climb, I had sampled such rock but never for so many pitches in a row.

Self portrait (duh), thanks Blake for the awesome windbreaker!

Zach following pitch 5

Zach wandered up the second pitch with confidence, slowly unraveling the sequence from piece to piece. There was a little chalk on the route (nothing compared to Prince of Darkness) which definitely helped with navigation. Many of the holds seemed impossibly fragile but the majority of those I tested were surprisingly solid. By the third pitch I started to read the rock more easily and found a smooth flow.

Zach leading the sixth and final pitch

The wind picked up and the feet started to hurt but before it got too painful we were at the last station and starting the mechanical process of rapelling. Before long we were back at the base slipping into our tennies and enjoying the sunset.

Another team on Dream of Wild Turkeys

Prince of Darkness

Our route came pretty close to the Prince of Darkness, a route of similar technical difficulty but completely different style. It looks like a lot of fun and I'd like to do it some day but I have to say that there's something much more rewarding about moving confidently far above your protection. Like I said, I'm no hardman. But it was nice, if only briefly, to feel like a warrior.

Red Rocks part 1

My trip to Vegas was pretty spontaneous. In the midst of this spontaneity I completely forgot how popular Thanksgiving is for travelling rock climbers. Our first day out climbing I found a crag pretty close to the road (very close, actually) that might be a good warm up to the longer "trad" climbs I'd like to check out. Unfortunately we did not get much of an alpine start and by the time we arrived at the crags they were swamped with what Zach so affectionately refers to as "Larries."

We managed to get up a couple moderate pitches (both classic) before bailing on the busy scene. In a last ditch effort to climb something I dragged Zach up some boulder problems and then called it a night.

Day two did not see us getting up much earlier but at least we were prepared for the crowds. Or at least we thought so. After much deliberation and scoping of pullouts we settled on First Creek Canyon, specifically the Mysterious Amphitheatre. What this rad little cliff lacks in width it more than makes up for in length. While we only managed the until then average of two pitches per day they were both surprisingly long, clocking in at 170' and 180'. So basically we doubled our climbing output, not bad.

On the hike out we ran into a handful of wild burros. I knew these guys were out there but had never seen them before.

Beyond the climbing I've been enjoying my stay at Zach's humble abode, a one bedroom cottage situated on an impressive half acre somewhere in the Las Vegas sprawl. After several less than satisfying experiences camping in this area it's a relief to have an alternative. Rusty is Zach's Heeler puppy, just another friend with a dog, seems to be in the air this year. While cute, Rusty is unusually suspicious and skittish, after three days he still refuses to get near me. Hopefully with time and exposure to more people he'll lose his fear.

Taking it pretty easy today, if James shows up soon we might get some cragging in. I'm a little tired from yesterday, I guess if I was a real hardman I'd be back on the wall today. Who needs to be a hardman though, I'll settle for Rock Warrior...