Friday, December 30, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
|Mounting the snow horse|
Sunday, October 2, 2011
[Disclaimer: I have had several major epics in my climbing career that have taught me many valuable lessons. My epic-ing frequency has drastically decreased due to completing several AMGA guide certification programs, and climbing with a female. I empathize with the people I write about below.]
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Will we go back to touch the top of this mountain? Maybe. I'd like to at some point. Its one of the most beautiful places I've ever climbed, at least when it wasn't raining. I would go back to climb a different route, to explore something else I have not seen before. There is so much untouched rock out there, and just looking out onto the horizon, seeing all the truly jagged mountains, how could you not want to go back.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Three weeks of planning, which included, reading trip reports online, upgrading gear to the lightest and warmest possible, packing, weighting everything, repacking, and repacking again.
Not wanting to waste any of this good weather we quickly buried our base camp cache, checked in with Lisa, and hit the trail. Not wanting to snowshoe, we had brought our rando skis and boots for the approach and hopefully the climb. Two hours of ski touring and we were looking up at the base of the route. Janelle was not stoked. This thing looked intimidating in photos and down right scary in real life. I was pumped though, so after a little persuading we started up the ridge.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The overused joke is:
Q: “How can you tell its spring time in the desert?”
A: “Cause all the license plates turn green.”
It’s true, Coloradians flock to the Moab area in Eastern Utah to make their goggle tans fade while biking, rafting, hiking, National Parking, climbing, 4-wheeling, canoeing, and RV-ing.
We had our eyes set on completing #28 of our quest, The Titan via the Finger of Fate route in the Fisher Towers group. At 900 feet tall, the Titan is the largest freestanding sandstone tower in North America. Utah is home to several different types of sandstone, all of which vary in hardness. The majority of the Titan is made of “mudstone”, and as its name implies, it is the softest, and scariest, type of sandstone.
Imagine God taking a big handful of extremely wet mud-infused sand, makes a fist, and lets the sloppy contents drip from His hand, creating this tower. The rock is extremely breakable, unconsolidated and crumbly….and we got to climb 700 feet of this stuff!
Many people aid climb up this route, taking two days to get the job done. I hate jugging ropes, and I do not own any aid climbing equipment. This led to the “decision” to do it in a day, and hopefully have enough gear to get the job done.
The waning gibbous moon was high over our heads, birds were singing, and my heart was pounding as we made our way along the well-beaten path at 5:30AM. The first rays of sun hit the top of the Titan as we came to the base of the route.
Gearing up for the first pitch I was kicking myself for not throwing down the money needed to purchase a set of tri-cams, which were “highly recommended” for the route. They work best for protecting the many piton scars on the route. Instead, I had a triple set of black diamond C4’s, a double set of C3’s, and a set of standard sized stoppers. I call this my “Im scared rack”. Its heavy, but I know I’ll have the gear when I need it…hopefully.
Pitch one was slow. Every hold had to be dusted off, tested for strength, and then committed to with a grimace. As I made my way up, little chunks of rock fell down the route. Janelle had to stand back from the wall to prevent getting pelted. I was placing gear like crazy, every 2-3 feet. I did not know if my gear would hold a fall because the rock was so soft.
Janelle hates jugging lines more than I do, so she decided to French-free as she climbed. The backpack was really heavy, and the first pitch is very vertical. The heavy backpack pulled on her while she climbed, making for a very unpleasant experience. She screamed for me to take up the slack as she desperately grabbed for the next piece, hoping it would not rip out on her as she pulled on it. I have learned over the years that when Janelle gets scared she tends to express that fear by screaming at me. Then I take offense and yell back at her for yelling at me, and then our happy-life-plane goes down in flames.
This time I remembered all those other bad experiences, and decided to learn from them. I encouraged her lovingly. Telling her that she could do it, and how much I agreed with her that the heavy backpack does suck. When she arrived at the belay ledge, I gave her space, then looked at her empathically. It worked! She said she didn’t want to lead any of the pitches, but she would follow. With Janelle back on board mentally, I headed up pitch two.
The A3 crux comes high on the second pitch. This is where I really wanted those tri-cams. With a #2 C4 cam slotted in vertically, with its outside lobes totally tipped out and barely touching the loose mud, I pulled straight down on it, which allowed me to see the next thin seamed crack up and to my right. I tried unsuccessfully to get in several pieces, and finally sunk a thin offset peenut (stopper). Now I had to commit to it. These two pieces looked horrible, and the one below that was not much better. Meaning if I fell, I would probably go about 40 feet! Carefully I pulled on the C4, then shifted my weight to the peenut stopper, and stood up. The next piece was a rusty fixed knifeblade piton that was bent over at its head. By this point I did not have many other options, so I clipped it, yarded on it, and was through the crux.
The rest of the climb was rowdy. Pitons coming half way out of the rock, 1/8th inch bolts that had been placed 50 years ago, 5 piece anchors connected by sun baked webbing, and a bolt ladder that was missing a lot of bolts. This bolt ladder was placed by the 6 foot 4 inch tall Layton Kor, back in the early 60’s. Standing in the highest rung of my aid slings I was still about 8 inches too short to reach the next drilled piton. After trying every way possible for about 10 minutes, I reached for a double-length sling. Putting on my mental cowboy spurs and wide brimmed hat I took the sling, whipped it around a couple times, then lassoed the piton 5 feet above my head….on the first try! I could not believe it. Amped, I pulled myself up the thin cord, clipped in a quickdraw, and the business was over.
The remainder of the climb went smoothly, and as we topped out dark clouds were on the horizon. Rain + Mudstone = Crumblestone, so we put it in high gear to get back on terra firma.
Back in the parking lot we lounged in Lulu and celebrated our adventure with cold drinks, chips, salsa, and a grand view of that amazing tower. Looking at the tower post climb was a different feeling from looking at it the many other times I had seen it in the past. My eyes could trace each part of the climb. Every aspect of the route now had a tangible feeling associated with it. I had experienced that rock, in a way that only other climbers who have touched the top can look at it. This was an amazing adventure climb.
That evening I told Janelle I would never do that route again. Now that a couple months have past, I would climb the route again in a heartbeat (equipped with tricams of course).
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
time as the climb itself.
Let me paint the picture. The walls of the Yosemite Valley are about 3000 feet tall. The Spire pulls away from the wall right at the top,
creating this 200-foot tall rock finger island that towers above it all.
Rope A = thickest, Rope B = thinnest, Rope C = medium.
1. Tie the end of rope A to the anchor on the Valley rim (this is the starting point).
2. Rappel down all 200 feet of rope A to the notch between the rim and the spire.
3. Tie the end of rope A to the end of rope B, and the other end of rope B to your harness, which creates a 400 foot leash, connected to the top of the Valley rim.
4. Use rope C to climb/belay like normal. Ropes A and B are being trailed by the climber as you make your way up the Spire.
5. Once on top, pull in the slack of rope B (the leash) to get to rope A. Rope A is now spanning the gap between the rim and the spire.
6. Thread the other end of rope A through the anchor on top of the Spire and tie a tied off truckers hitch on rope A to secure it across the chasm.
7. Climber 1 hooks up a mini-traction to their harness and the rope.
8. Rope B is attached to the climber 1, and put on belay by climber 2.
11. Climber 2 ties the end of rope A to the end of rope B and C (B was used to belay climber 1 across).
12. Climber 1 pulls rope B across, which gets the other end of rope A to the valley rim, where climber 1 is.
13. Climber 1 ties the end of rope A to the anchor. Now, both ends of rope A are on the Valley rim side and rope C is spanning the gap as well.
14. Use rope C to shuttle the gear (and camera) back across the chasm.
15. Rope C is then tied to climber 2 and climber 1 puts them on belay with rope C.
16. Climber 2 attaches the mini-traction and pulls himself across the chasm, while being belayed by climber 1
17. Once across, untie one end of rope A from the anchor and pull the other end of the rope, causing the rope to go through the anchor on the Spire and back to the Valley Rim side.
18. Coil all the ropes, high five, walk back down to the Valley floor to celebrate and eat chips and salsa.
All that to say it's pretty involved. There are other ways to do it, but this worked for us. The exposure is amazing. We were there in the fall, so Yosemite Falls was more of a trickle. Regardless, it was beautiful.
That wrapped up our climbing season for 2010. 27 classic climbs completed, we were still married, and even enjoyed one another’s company!
After a winter of working hard in Crested Butte to beef up the bank account we started the 2011 season with a climb of the notorious mudstone tower north of Moab, Utah, called the Titan. 900 feet of crumbly mud up the highest sandstone tower in North America! That’s next…..
Friday, April 8, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
The next morning, after climbing Whitney, we drove up to Bishop, home of the Shat's Bakery, where they make the best bread I've ever tasted. We drifted down each isle ooggolling all the fat filled delights; danishes, huge gooey cinnamon rolls, sourdough bread, hard candies, doughnuts, and much more. $27.58 later we were on their front patio, filling our faces with several wonderful combinations of sugar, flour, yeast, and butter.
By 2:00PM we were still buzzing on the sugar high from breakfast. We went over to the Ranger Station to get the overnight permits and bear canisters needed for Kings Canyon NP. The disenchanted Ranger raised his eyebrow when I told him we were planning to hike the 13 miles to Charlotte Dome that afternoon. No matter, we still had half a dozen doughs, 5 hours of daylight, and motivation to get this route checked off the list.
13 miles is a long approach. Adding to the fun was our heavy overnight packs, and an 11,000 foot pass that we had to hike up and over. I think the trail could have been 7-8 miles, but the trail makers in California really like their switchbacks. The incline is kept at a mere 1% for the majority of the way. When we crested the pass, the sun was on the horizon, and we still had another 7-8 miles to the base of the route. It was a beautiful evening, so we didnt mind hiking until the stars came out. We found a nice place to camp by one of the many alpine lakes, made dinner, and went to sleep under the stars.
Leaving our overnight gear at our campsite, we moved quickly down the remaining 3-4 miles to the base of the route. The trail slowly deteriorated into nothing the closer we got to the dome. Often, we had to reroute to dodge the shrubby "ouchy plants" that grew everywhere (Im a botanist if you couldn't tell). Charlotte Dome gets bigger and bigger the closer you get. It is really impressive. We scrambled across the 20-30 degree granite slabs at its base and made our way to the toe of the 1,300 foot South Face.
4th-classing up the first three pitches brought us to a small ledge where we roped up. The climbing on this Dome is really amazing. Not a loose rock on it, many different features to climb on, from finger cracks, to open chimneys, to rock horns that beg to grabbed hold of, it has it all. And, keeping it at a 5.8 rating (old school 5.7), the pitches go by rather quickly.
Making it to the top in a few hours, we ate our summit sandwiches while we soaked up some warm Californian sun. The descent is a little tricky because you must walk down steep slabs. I can only imagine how high the pucker factor would be if it were wet, or even worse, icy! Thankfully, it was warm and dry as we padded our way down the slabs, back to our bigger packs. Now it was time for a long walk back to the van. When we stopped to pick up our bivy gear we treated our sore toes to a quick soak in the refreshing alpine lake. A billion low angled switchbacks later we were back to the van, and shortly thereafter, in bed. It had been a 17 mile, 1300 feet of climbing, heavy load carrying, 15 hour day.
Next on the list was the Traveler Buttress at Lover's Leap near South Lake Tahoe. This is one of my favorite locations to climb. The campsite is great, the approach is short, and the rock is fantastic.
Traveler Buttress is the name of the classic climb. It shares its start and finish with Corrugation Corner....we did not know this. So we proceeded to climb Corrugation Corner, think it was Traveler! Oops. It wasnt until the top that we looked at our topo a little harder and discovered our mistake. I knew the 5.9 off-width crux felt a little soft...that is because it was a 5.7!
So we went back to the base, ate some lunch at the van, and then went back up to do the actual Traveler Buttress. It too is a great route. You just cant go wrong at Lovers Leap, even if your not on the route you think you're on!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
“Wanna go climb a 14er with us this weekend?” I asked into the cell phone as soon as we got into cell service coming back from climbing the Petit Grepon. Jake, my good friend since 4th grade, was on the other end. “Of course” he said, “let’s talk more when you get here.”
By the time we arrived at his place in Lafayette, CO, he was already trying to get out of his newly appointed fatherhood responsibilities for the next three days with his wife, Becca, and maintain a happy marriage. Their new twin girls were still the size of footballs. Since mother’s work is never done, this was a tough sell.
Becca is an amazing woman. The following day she cooked us breakfast and wished us well on our adventure. As we piled in the Sprinter, I’m pretty sure (but not positive) that she grabbed Jacob by the throat, pulled his ear to her lips, and said in a loud forceful whisper, “If you die, and leave me here with our babies, alone, I swear I’m going to kill you!” Then smiled, kissed him on the cheek warmly, and shut the door. You might be able to argue the logic, but you can’t argue the point.
We hit 25 minutes of bumper to bumper in Denver, which made me want to chew off my own hands and throw them at something. You see, we live in a small mountain town and the only traffic jam happens when the ranchers drive 500 head of cattle down the road to switch pastures. And that only happens in the Spring and Fall. So I have lost all patience for waiting on other cars. “How do people do it?” we wondered aloud. Our answer: Money, lots of money, and a health plan that includes dental coverage.
South-central Colorado is great. The mountains are tall, the ranches are big, and the people are friendly. We rolled into Westcliffe, where the elevation is 17 times greater than its population, and met up with the rest of our team. Janelle’s younger brother, Owen, came down from Aspen, and Steve and Melody Hanford came from Bailey.
The Hanfords worked as rafting guides in Buena Vista just after the turn of the century, and we have stayed in touch since then through various climbing adventures. It was great to see them again. We had dinner in Westcliffe and then made our way to the trailhead. Excited hunters, eager to get some meat early the next morning for opening day of rifle season, joined us at the trailhead “campground.”
At 3:00AM the hunters fired up their un-muffled four-wheelers and were off. We got up an hour later, ate some oatmeal, and continued up the too-rough-for-our-rig road on foot. The miles passed quickly as we talked to our friends, catching one another up with our current affairs.
Creston Needle is very striking. The Ellingwood Ledges route is visible from miles away, cutting up through the sky like…..something really sharp, and big. We rounded the alpine lake at its base and headed up the talus field to the base of the climb. There were already five other people on the route! I guess it was a weekend, and it is a classic route. Several rocks came shooting down, dislodged from the climbers above. So we waited at the base for them to climb much higher, thus eliminating the danger.
Janelle led Owen and Melody and I took Jake and Steve. Janelle climbed the first pitch, made an anchor, and started belaying her team up to her simultaneously. I started climbing right on the heels of Melody, clipped in to the anchor Janelle had made, and belayed Steve and Jake up. While I was doing that, Janelle started leading the next pitch. Soon we were on lower angle ledges (the name sake), so we coiled the ropes and scrambled several hundred feet.
The mountain tipped back again, and it was time to rope up. So Janelle and I went back to work. Climbing, trailing two ropes, and belaying our friends as they climbed at the same time. It was pretty cool to be right next to Janelle at every belay ledge. Normally she is either climbing or belaying me, so we don’t get to see one another very much during the climb.
At 1:00PM we arrived at our self-declared “lunch ledge” and busted out the sandwiches. We were livin’ the dream, soaking up the warm afternoon sun, laughing, and lazily enjoying the view.
The final section presented the crux of the route. The climbing turned out to be really enjoyable. We crested the summit ridge and touched the top at 14,197’.
The way down was sporty with several sections of scrambling and some exposed steps. This, along with general fatigue, brought the conversations to a halt. We made it down without any drama, and headed back down the jeep road to Lulu. A couple miles before arriving at the van we had to bust out the headlamps for the second time that day….indicating it really was a long day.
Back inside Lulu we brought forth the bounty and enjoyed chips and salsa, refreshing beverages, war-stories of the day, and ideas of our next adventure together. Hopefully that will be sooner than later.