Friday, November 15, 2013

Hey You! Get Off of My Cloud!

The Cloud Tower is one of Red Rock Canyon's mega-classic routes.  Jared and I ran up the route last week and needless to say, we agree.  Every pitch on this route is a classic for the grade and having them stacked one upon-the-other makes it a masterpiece.  Though this route goes at 11d (some say harder, but the crux is a lot easier than many RR 12a's) you can plug protection almost anywhere, making it a perfect route to break into the grade.  If you can climb within a grade of 11d, get on it, you won't be disappointed.

Make sure to pack the following: 2x 000C3-#4C4, 3x0-2C3, 3x#1-2C4, 4x#3C4 (Think about taking an extra #2 and leaving a #1 behind).  For the descent a single 70m works for all raps, but you'll need a second rope for the first rap (and to tag the pack on the crux).  I'd advise you stop at every rap station on the way down (rather than making longer raps) as the descent is a real rope-eater.

Jared leading the perfect hand crack on pitch 3.

Jared about to punch it on pitch 4.

Red Rock Sympathiomimetics

Jared entering the classic
chimney pitches on Epinephrine.

I'll admit it, I underestimated summers in Las Vegas.  They are unequivocally hot.

Needless to say, there aren't a lot of traveling climbers in the area during the summer so the classics are vacant.  But you still have to beat the heat.

Our solution to this problem was a 3pm start for the mega-classic Epinephrine.  We still suffered through triple digit heat and a sunny approach, but the Black Velvet Canyon was shady and offered a relative reprieve.  Unfortunately, the late start in the late summer meant that we were caught by night on the final ramp leading to the summit.    Fortunately for us, I think the reports of a difficult descent are generated by inexperienced climbers.  We found the descent very straight-forward, except below Frogland, and were back at the car in short order.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nouveau Classique in the Bugaboos

Blake and I had an opportunity to make a short trip in the Bugaboos at the end of July. While we had fantastic snow conditions and generally dry rock, an unsettled weather forecast kept us from going after our main objective on North Howser Tower.  Most days it snowed but we were able to continue climbing in marginal weather.  Though this is my third trip to the range, my future tick-list is a little longer than when I arrived.  Blake and I got on two newer classic routes, climbed one area-standby and got lost somewhere in the hinterlands between two routes.    

Blake coming up the fantastic second pitch of Divine Intervention.

Day one saw us on the new route called Divine Intervention on Bugaboo Spire.  The route climbs the left side of the face, as viewed from Applebee Dome, and then joins the NE Ridge to the summit.  The route’s name came after the first ascensionist fell while soloing high on the route and his certain demise was halted by a piece of gear errantly clipped to his harness happened to catch upon the rock mid-fall.  Most parties (ourselves included) climb only the initial five pitches (about two pitches from the NE Ridge variation) and descend back to the glacier.  The “easy” climbing on this route felt high in the grade, which took the sting out of the 11b crux.  For future aspirants, the 11b face climbing is well protected but you will have to climb mid-5.11 above your gear.  For something 30min from camp, this is a mega-classic that could be extended to a full-day if you continue to the summit and down the Kain Route.

Blake leading out on Sunshine Crack.
Lots of wide climbing...

We had a forecast for 70% precipitation on day two and decided to get on Sunshine Crack.  Sunshine Crack has a short approach, bolted rap stations for an easy descent and has absolutely fantastic climbing on every pitch.  This route is not to be missed but be forewarned there is a lot of wide-crack climbing.  You could easily bring three #4 camalots and not feel like you brought too many.  Thankfully, Blake conceded and allowed us to bring both of our #4’s.  With all due respect he did lead the sustained wide-crack pitch, so I suppose I can’t complain!

Blake about to start up the first 12+ pitch...
The amazing reverse split pillar pitch...

The best climbing on our trip was on the new route Sendero Norte.  While we did not get up the entire route, our two attempts were still worthwhile.  Sendero Norte is a proud, proud route on the E Face of Snowpatch Spire.  There are two 5.12+ pitches, one 5.11+ pitch, one 5.11b pitch, several 5.11a’s and many 5.10/10+ pitches.  We climbed the lion’s share of the difficulties on both of our attempts but bailed due to a storm and free-climbing meltdown/fatigue respectively.  Personally I was pretty fatigued on day-five, our second attempt, and wasn’t able to send my pitches.  I certainly climbed worse than on our first attempt.  I can’t say the performance was due to fatigue, a meltdown or it being generally hard but I will return to finish this route.

Our only non-classic day was our fourth.  After a morning vacillating over route selection we headed for the North Tower Direct on the W Face of Snowpatch Spire.  I climbed about 60m of dirty, gritty climbing before deciding to bail in search of something better.  We recalibrated and headed up a route immediately to the left called Flamingo Fling.  What we ended up climbing, I can’t exactly say.   I’d call it type-2 fun.  It was dirty, gritty, grungy, adventurous climbing.  I’ve learned that this type of climbing is genuine type-1 fun for Blake (perhaps he just uses a different scale?). 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Riding The Rainbow

The Original Route on the Rainbow Wall is unequivocally one of the best routes I've ever climbed.  It has an easy approach and descent, the climbing is clean and enjoyable and most pitches would be an area classic even if they weren't stacked upon each other.  The grade should not turn anyone away.  If you even think you have a chance to climb 12a then you'll be able to figure it out.  The cruxes are short, could be avoided with french-free and interspersed with easier climbing.  This is a route that you want to do, and once you've done it, you'll want to climb it again.

Jared grabbing the finishing jug on the 11d eleventh pitch.  

Approach:  We had seen some reference online that said we could expect a 3-4 hour approach.  Even at a casual pace with several water stops and wrong turns we did the approach in 1:45.  On the way down, in the dark, we did it in just over an hour.  A lot of people seem to bivouac at the base of this route.  There is absolutely no reason to bivouac given the short approach and straightforward climb.  Call in for a late-exit permit and you should be able to do it in a casual-day.

Climb:  In early June, when we climbed, there is sun on the wall until about 1100, which is unfortunate in 100 degree heat.  If the temperatures are warm, I would definitely wait for the shade because the first three pitches go at 12a, 11d and 11b and there is some insecure friction climbing.  We found that it made good sense to combine the following pitches with a 70m rope:  1+2, 5+6, 13+14.  It might be possible to link more pitches, but there would likely be some extra drag and you'd want a bigger rack.

Descent:  This is how we rappelled using a single 70m rope.  From the top of pitch 14, rappel climber's right to the top of pitch 12 (red dihedral).  Knot your rope ends, I even joined them, because you need to pendulum hard to the right and nearly come off your rope ends.  Follow independent stations rappelling down the face left of the red dihedral for three rappels until hitting the major ledge system at the top of pitch seven.  Four or five more single rope rappels will bring you back to your packs.

Rack:  Single rack from #0 C3 to #2 C4 with a small rack of medium stoppers and larger rp's.  A couple extra finger sized pieces might be used on a pitch or two, but not needed per se.  Take about 8 draws, 4 runners and one 70m rope.

Friday, May 03, 2013

We Were Warriors Once and Young?

The Rock Warrior:  Probably the first time I could be called that.  I'm here just above the short 5.10 crux with 60ft ground fall potential  Each pitch of this route was memorable (read 30+ft runouts).  I can't deny the Adventure Punks had style...
Dreaming of Wild Turkeys.

Rodney and I finally connected for some Red Rocks climbing.

Rodney has been hassling me for years to come down and explore the amazing climbing in RR.  It took me moving next door to make the trip happen.

Resolution Arete, in particular is the carrot that he has dangled to tempt me into the trip.  We got the route done in a a casual (read:  limited headlamps) day last week.  I can't say the climbing was good and I'm not planning on a repeat ascent, but it was a true adventure.  The climbing was pretty sustained at 5.10 despite what the topo states and the 10d pitch was exciting with the limited rack we carried.

All-in-all this route went pretty well for us.  We only lost a half-hour or so in the morning looking for the route, and maybe an additional hour looking for the descent.  I (not so much Rodney) opted for a lightweight rack (taking just singles and few doubles in finger sizes.  Considering there is exactly one piece of fixed gear on this route, a few extra cams would have sped things up.

Resolution Arete is a full-on desert rock'aneering adventure.  Even though I'm a novice to Red Rock, I don't think you've climbed at RR unless you've done this route.

Here is a video I made of our ascent:  Resolution Arete Video.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stepping Off the Ground

BJ and I connected over the past week to climb in his local crag, Zion.  We had originally planned to head up Moonlight Buttress but learned through the grapevine that five permits were given to climber's all planning to climb that route on our chosen day.

Plan B:  Touchstone Wall.

Though it lacks the aesthetic prow that MB takes, Touchstone has some pretty classic climbing.  A couple of initial aid pitches reminded me how much I prefer free climbing to aid climbing.  This point was driven home again as I tried to free climb 11- with etriers, jugs, daiseys, and static line hanging from my harness.

We ended finishing the climb in a casual day and rapped the descent route.  I would highly recommend the descent route vs. rappeling the route because it is very fast and straight-forward.  It took us 1h15min from the top of the 5.7 sport pitch (pitch 9?) to climb the ridge and descent the descent gully.  I'd expect it would take us almost twice as long to rappel the route proper.  Additionally, given that this route is all enjoyable free-climbing after the second pitch, doing this route as a fix-and-fire would probably make the free climbing more enjoyable without all the extra aid gadgetry.  

Thursday, March 07, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Life has drawn me away from the NW to the desert of Southern Nevada.  I can't say that I could have planned it this way, but let's say I'm embracing the change.  While in the NW, I was primarily focused on alpine climbs, manipulating my life to exploit narrow window of climbable weather and largely training for climbing.

While my passion is still alpine climbing (of the ice and mixed variety), the new focal point of my climbing is going to be sunnier, dryer and considerably warmer.  I have successfully avoided learning how to climb difficult rock climbs, as least by my standard, throughout my career through my constant pursuit of alpine and ice objectives.  This unforeseen move to Las Vegas will hopefully fill in some blanks in my repertoire and hopefully translate into gains in the mountains and on ice or mixed.

Change is hard.  I'm already missing the ability to connect with my usual climbing partners and charge after windmills   I'm sure I'll miss the winter routine of scouring NOAA for weather forecasts and, as strange as it may sound, the long drives to Montana, Wyoming and Alberta for ice trips.

Breaking the routine may prove to be the impetus I need to overcome some of the hurdles I consistently face.  A lot remains to be seen.  At the very least I'm embracing this change.  I'm resolved to develop my climbing in whatever ways I can from the Las Vegas area, even if that means I move away from traditional goals.  It looks like I'll be trading ice axes and crampons this Spring for what I've always disdained as...

...flip flops and bolts.

You can't find this in the NW...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reality Bites

In what will surely be the final trip of this abbreviated and mediocre ice season, Marcus and I once again ventured north to the Canadian Rockies.  We had an absolutely perfect forecast the morning we left.  However, by that evening the avalanche danger had picked up and two of our three climbing days were predicted to have substantial snow.  That's how it goes in the Rockies...  Thankfully, even though snow augmented our plans, we still had decent temps and could get on more protected routes.

Day one involved a run up Kitty Hawk and a recon of the Stanley Headwall for an attempt the following day.  Personally, I never considered the routes on the SH as possible objectives (other than Nemesis or Suffer Machine which are moderate by comparison).  Actually getting up near the routes and sussing them out in my head really opened up some doors and I'm ready to step through them.... but not until avy conditions stabilize.  We encountered a scary snow pack, turned tail and ran home.

The previous day we watched a couple Quebecois climbers on FR.  I can only assume they packed along a couple sets of brass balls on their rack to even contemplate that approach with current snow conditions... yikes.  In a completely unsurprising move, we ended up at Haffner and Marcus ticked Fight Club which he had been quite close to sending for a while.

The final day ended up being quite snowy but we managed to push the Subaru into the ghost for some low hanging fruit in the Valley of the Birds.  I can't say I will ever plan to go to the VOTB again, but with the 10-minute walk, its more than likely I will end up there at some point.  FWIW the mixed routes at the Bird Cage are not worthy...

Here's to a short season.  I can't say I climbed anything that great or even much of anything at all.  It was at times disappointing and frustrating and at others rewarding to get on some rare-formers.  At the very least I ended the season already excited for the next year... so how bad could it be?

Thankfully Kitty Hawk is NOT where Marcus was first to fly...

The Stanley Headwall with French Reality on R

Friday, February 01, 2013

Every Dog Has Its Day

Had a quick trip to, ahem, Washington, for some ice climbing this week.  I think we nabbed the end of the good conditions (and I use that term loosely) having good days at Dog Dome in Leavenworth and at Banks Lake.  Overall conditions were fairly bleak.  Though there were some rarely formed climbs in, they were probably tougher than they would be in a good year.  Regardless we had fun and climbed several pitches each day.  It was certainly nice to not need to venture so far afield to go climbing...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doing the same thing, expecting different results

Haffner:  The Perpetual Checkdown Day.
Easy cragging...

I am part-way into an abbreviated ice season with an already diminutive amount of quality climbing.  Over the past two seasons I’ve climbed four quality ice routes:  Unholy Baptism, Redman Soars, Mean Green and Goatsbeard.  In the alpine realm it is a wash with a few quality local ascents and one solid trip to Alaska balanced against a lot of waiting, taking the tools for a walk and one lousy trip to Alaska.  I’m climbing the same grades on rock today as I did three-years ago.

After doing a cost-benefit analysis, it just doesn’t add up.  I’ve invested untold amounts of time, effort and money over the past three-years but haven’t seen the benefits.  That being said, I have had a lot of fun days repeating routes, mixed climbing, cragging or alpine climbing on easily tackled objectives. 

I’ll admit it; climbing isn’t just about having fun for me.  For me a big part of climbing is pushing perceived boundaries, working toward goals and doing things that I previously thought impossible.  There are easier ways to have fun than climbing which often, is at best, only fun after the fact.  Though I suppose diminishing returns should be expected, the balance is in the red. 

I’m sure I’m to blame. 

I haven’t changed my modus operandi in years though I haven’t progressed in essentially any facet of my climbing in the same period.  I climb the same rock, ice and mixed grades as I did a couple years ago and I’ve made no changes.  I convinced myself that people who were progressing or were having more successful days in the alpine were just lucky or in a better position.  Either may have been true at times but still I did nothing to change my station.  I have fallen into a rut and somehow I had convinced myself that I could keep doing the same things and expect different results. 

People make difficult choices all the time and those regarding climbing amount to the easiest among these decisions.  I’ve made choices that have pointed me away from maximizing climbing and I don’t regret them.  The dilemma is not about regretting the life decisions I’ve made.  The problem is that I have failed to allocate the time and effort I have available toward climbing in a way which is gratifying and reinforces what I love about this sport.

I’m breaking the cycle this year and I’m going to try something different.  I am refusing to take the consistent check down days and I am going to work harder to ensure I have higher percentage alpine days even if that means fewer days in the alpine and more at the crags.  I need movement and challenge somewhere even if that means climbing fewer days or climbing more rock and less ice (or visa versa).  I need movement and change.  At the very least I need different results wherever they take me…

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hunting Goat

This past week is possibly the first time that the route Goatsbeard in Mazama, WA formed as a complete ice climb.  The first ascent involved rock climbing and direct aid to reach the start of a partially formed pillar on the second pitch.  Needless to say it was in more favorable condition this week with mostly fat, soft ice.

Rumor has it that Goatsbeard may have received a second and aid-less ascent somewhere in the interim between the first ascent and last weekend when its first repeat was claimed.  That party also claimed it to be the longest continuous waterfall ice in North America at 420m.  We climbed the route in five pitches with a 70m rope.  I might be rusty and perhaps I forgot to carry a zero but that doesn't seem to add up to anymore than 350m. After climbing four rope-stretching pitches and one 50m pitch we estimate Goatsbeard's length as approximately 320m (given its wandering nature and use of the rope in anchors).  

Regardless, there is no prize for second place (or fifth or sixth in our case) and there are much longer climbs but not in Washington.  While it is one of the better climbs at the grade and length that I've climbed what makes it unique is because its local and elusive.  I feel pretty lucky to be on one of the half dozen or so teams that have completed this route.

Blake getting ready to "bring the psyche" at the base.

Looking down the first pitch at a cave on left side of first crux pillar.

Blake leading out on the third pitch.

"Crushing mind demons" on the last pitch.

Follow ice to trees, go back down the same way.
The climb as we did it:
P1 70m to a belay cave on left of crux pillar.  
P2 50m to a rock belay on large snowfield to right of climb.  
P3 70m to snowfield and belay in alcove on the right.  
P4 70m to a cave belay to the left.  
P5 70m to the trees.