Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weather Woes

We planned to spend another couple of days climbing in Zion, unfortunately the weather had other ideas. But even though the forecasted rain kept us off any longer climbs, we decided to hang around and check out the boulders until it hit. Zion would not be considered a bouldering destination by any means, but there are some established problems, and we managed to get on a few cool ones. Here I am on one of the best we found, climbing up the left arete of this boulder right off the main road.

We also toured around the park, which is incredibly beautiful. Here are some bighorn sheep we ran across.

And for the climbers reading this, here is the iconic Moonlight Buttress.

From Zion we headed to the Saint George area to boulder at Moe's Valley, a sandstone bouldering destination litterally just outside of the city. After taking a forced rest day due to the rain, during which Kristal dragged me to the latest Harry Potter movie, we were able to spend a couple of days bouldering. Kristal snapped some pics of me on a few problems.

The fun warm up, Cornered V0.

And right beside it, the cool Hermione V3.

And the short, but super fun, Anviloid Left V4.

There is a wealth of climbing around Saint George, and we were hoping to spend more time in the area. But the weather would again alter our plans. The rain had passed, but a cold front had moved in to bring daytime highs to just below freezing. Despite the potential for unrivaled friction, climbing in sub-zero temps was not our cup of tea. After much discussion we decided to start the long journey back east a little earlier then planned and spend some time in the (hopefully) warmer south east. Alabama, here we come!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Unfinished Business

After nearly three weeks in the Moab area, we were ready to move on, but first we had some unfinished business. The Kor-Ingless route on Castleton tower had been on our tick list since we first got to Moab, but poor weather had kept us off it. Castleton Tower is an impressive skyscraper that dominates the desert skyline and I couldn't bring myself to leave without attempting it.

The downside to the Kor-Ingless route is that it's one of the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. Now, I know that sounds like it would be a good thing, but mostly it just means big crowds. We figured we'd be safe on a Wednesday in November, starting later than most reasonable climbers would be willing to start a four hundred foot climb with a hour long approach up a scree slope. Nope. There were three parties ahead of us when we staggered up to the base and then a crazy Swiss pair showed up half an hour later. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have the tower to yourself it you decided to climb it on a new moon in a January blizzard.

The climbing itself was pretty interesting, but made much more insecure by the slick coating of calcite that covered much of the cracks. With our late start we were a bit anxious that we wouldn't finish before the sun set. The Swiss pair behind us must have been even more nervous- I've never had anyone follow quite so closely. I was terrified to slip on top-rope, sure that if I fell I'd knock their leader off the climb. At times he was less than a couple of feet below me. As Jason followed the last pitch, their leader actually beat him to the summit!

Anyways, the tailgating Swiss party got a pretty good shot of us on the summit.

And the view from the top was definitely worth the climb.

Finally finished our business in Moab, we headed to Zion National Park. Zion has been called the sandstone Yosemite and hosts some of the world's steepest and tallest sandstone walls. The fist view of the canyon is awesome, and a bit intimidating. I feel like I'd need to spend a lot more time practicing in Indian Creek before I'm willing to attempt any of these walls.

Instead, we opted to climb a chill, slabby route called Led By Sheep up Aries Butte.

The approach itself was pretty cool. After passing a wall of petroglyphs, the trail led up steep slickrock to a saddle between two buttes.

The route climbs a gentle, but runnout slab. Here I am on the first pitch after clipping one of the few bolts.

With 13 bolts (and one marginal cam placement) in 600 feet, we were pretty glad the climbing was easy. It was a pretty nice change from all the steep crack climbing we've been on recently. Here I am, leaving our mark on the summit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mesa Verde

While at Indian Creek we took a rest day and popped into Colorado to check out the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park. Despite many of the areas being closed for the winter there was still much to do, and we went on a tour of Spruce Tree House.

It was fascinating to learn how these people lived, and even more so to see how well some of these dwellings are preserved after 700 odd years.

Below you can see a pictograph on the wall of one of the living quaters.

In the courtyard you can see the tops of the ladders leading down into underground meeting rooms, called Kivas.

And here is Kristal in one of the Kivas we were allowed to go into.

After the tour we went for a hike to check some of the local petroglyphs.

And then drove one of the scenic loops to see some of the other ruins. Here is the largest of the dwellings, Cliff Palace.

There are signs of ancient peoples all over the desert, and Indian Creek itself was no exception. Petroglyphs can be found near many of the climbing walls, and one wall in particular, called Newspaper Rock, was the most impressive collection we have ever seen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Otto's Route Video

Kristal and I decided to haul the video camera with us while we climbed Otto's Route up Independence Monument in Colorado National Monument.

Be warned this is not the most exciting climbing video in the world. Since it was just the two of us we were also trying to safely belay while shooting. As you can imagine this limited our options a bit.

Otto's Route from Jason Allemann on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sport Climbing on Gear

We were a little intimidated before arriving at Indian Creek. We had two major concerns. One, did we have enough gear to climb anything? And two, could we climb anything at all? Usually on our multi-pitch trad climbs we rarely climb anything harder than 5.9, and flipping through the guidebook there was very little in that grade range.

Thankfully the style of climbing at Indian Creek is about as far removed from trad climbing as you can get while still placing your own protection. Our normal trad outings are usually comprised of many of the following: sketchy gear placements, runout sections, route-finding, problem solving, uncertainty, and fear. Pretty much all of these issues are removed at the Creek. Climbing here is like sport climbing on gear. In some ways it's even easier than sport climbing, as you pretty much know before you start exactly what moves you need to do, and often times it will only be one or two different moves repeated from the ground to the chains.

Here is our friend Chelsea leading Generic Crack 5.10-, 120 feet of pretty much nothing but hand jamming.

You will rarely encounter a crux. Cleanly sending a route is more about endurance than figuring out any crazy beta or getting stronger. Gear placement is for the most part bomber and continuous (which also means you can easily hangdog your way up). Cams literally slide into the cracks. There is little need for slings. The documented grades are more an indicator of the size of the crack than anything else, and jamming cracks is so dependant on the size of your hands that the grades lose much of their traditional meaning.

Here is Chelsea leading Battle of the Bulge 5.11, 70 feet of thin hands, which can be climbed as a crack climb (the way she did it) or by lie backing the entire thing (which is how we did it). It's pretty amazing that an entire route can be climbed with such wildly differnt techniques.

As you can imagine, one problem with having such awesome uniform cracks is having enough gear to climb them. Some climbs require upwards of 8 of the same sized cam. Thankfully not all of the cracks are so uniform, and thanks to our good friend Karl back home, we had a full triple set of cams, and even quadruples of a few of the smaller ones. Although our rack was inadequate for many of the long uniform cracks, we had no trouble finding routes we could climb on our own.

Here I am leading Chocolate Corner 5.9.

And here is Kristal preparing to rap off of The Warm-Up 5.9.

As you can also imagine, not everyone visiting the Creek has an enormous rack of gear, so it is quite easy to join other parties on routes and/or share gear. We conveniently ran into Chelsea and Laura on our first day there. We had first met them bouldering in Joe's Valley and we had a great time hanging out with them again for a few days. Not to mention Chelsea is a crack climbing master, and she graciously led some awesome climbs so we could top rope them. We had the entire Blue Gramma wall to ourselves one day along with their friends Max and Dan.

One day we ran into a group getting ready to climb the impressive offwidth The Big Baby 5.11.

Kristal offered them some of our big gear to use, which the gladly accepted, and they later lent us some smaller cams so that we could jump on the nearby Cave Route 5.10+. Here I am about two thirds of the way up.

And if you look real close you can see Kristal in the next photo near the top of the cave preparing to rappel off.

And here she is on her way down.

Many of the areas at Indian Creek have a 'sport crag' type feel to them, with people setting top ropes and working projects. It actually felt a bit strange after all the multi pitch climbs we've been doing lately. There are multi pitch routes up many of the walls, but most of the traffic they get is only on the first pitch. There are some impressive towers too, which we unfortunately did not get a chance to climb. We will just have to come back.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fisher Towers

Our next climb would bring us to the top of the wildest summit we've ever climbed. The Corkscrew Summit of Ancient Arts, 5.8 A0, at the Fisher Towers.

The Corkscrew Summit is the one in the center of the picture below. Note the sheer vertical wall of the Ancient Arts tower. We'll be coming back to that. The climb itself starts about a third of the way up, on the right side of the tower.

Here is Kristal (tiny in the lower right of the picture) at the top of the first pitch, with the summit up on the left.

The climbing to the base of the summit was pretty varied, highlighted by a long 5.8 chimney that was incredibly fun. This in spite of the fact that the rock quality was not always that great. They don't call these 'mud towers' for no reason. The best was saved for last of course. After 4 pitches of climbing you step onto the shoulder of the summit. Next up is a 20 foot walk along the 'sidewalk', which was one of the most 'exciting' things I have ever done. Remember the sheer vertical face? The other side of the tower is much the same at this point, and the sidewalk is a rounded ridge about 3 feet wide with 300 feet straight down on either side. Here is Kristal at the base of the summit, standing on the 'diving board', after walking across the sidewalk.

The summit is aptly named as you have to corkscrew up and around it to get the top. It also has it's fair share of excitement, with questionable rock quality and incredible exposure. Here is Kristal standing at the top.

The excitement didn't end there. Just as we got to the top we were surprised to here some yelling from above and spied two base jumpers floating down.

They came whizzing by about 20 feet from us. Super cool.

We also spent another day bouldering at Big Bend and had plans to climb another classic desert tower, Castleton Tower. Unfortunately some inclement weather rolled in the night before, and we decided not to wait it out. We might be back to try and climb it before we head back east, but for the moment it was time to move on.

Next up, the incredible, incomparable, and not to mention chilly, Indian Creek.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


On returning to Moab we decided to take another rest day before hitting the rock again. We went touring through Canyonlands National Park, yet another incredibly beautiful park in the area. We went on a couple of short hikes and did some sightseeing.

Here is Kristal standing on Mesa Arch.

We had put away our climbing gear for the day, but that never stops us from checking out any intersting climbing we come across. Here is Kristal on one of the boulders we encountered on the canyon rim.

We camped just outside of the park for a couple of nights, at a primitive campground with incredible views of the surrounding area.

Since climbing Tonka Tower in Arches, we figured it would probably be handy to have some aid gear of our own. Here I am putting together one of four Etries we ended up making.

And here is Kristal testing one out by aid climbing the car.

It turned out we would put them to use the very next day. We decided to climb Walden's Room 5.9 C1, up House of Putterman, just outside of Moab. At least that was the plan. With sub-par directions from the guidebook we spent over an hour driving around seemingly endless back country roads, not quite sure of where we were heading. Eventually we managed to decipher the directions enough to get an idea of where we were. Access to the area had changed a bit since the guidebook was published, so we parked the car and headed out, not sure of how long it would be, or even if we would be able to find the formation. With all the uncertainty we didn't start the approach until just before 1:00, and gave ourselves until 2:00 to find the climb, otherwise we would head back. The route was only 3 pitches, but with the increasingly short days this was still cutting it close. Remarkably, we made it to the base of the route at 2:05, after a 5.75km hike, and we were super excited that we would actually get to climb. There is nothing worse than taking your rope for a walk.

Here is Kristal at the top of the first pitch, which climbed a short but burly 5.9 hand crack, waiting to belay me up.

The third pitch involved some aid climbing and here is Kristal making use of our new Etries.

We were happy to get up and down before the sun set, and thankfully the approach was quite easy going, so hiking the last 45 minutes back to the car in the dark was a breeze. Here is Kristal at the top, with the low sun casting long shadows.