Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Creek

Ah, Indian Creek, home to some of the most incredible cracks you will ever find.  We have been here for a week now, and are slowly becoming accustomed to the style of climbing required to make it up some of these beauties.  Here is Kristal at the top of her first clean lead of our current visit, an unnamed 5.10 hand crack.

Granted, we still have a heck of time getting up some climbs.  But we are well versed in all the tricks, from gratuitous hang dogging to flat out aid climbing.  Of course the most effective way of jumping on hard stuff is to get yourself a 'rope gun'.  It's pretty easy to make friends at the crags, many of whom are willing to climb hard stuff and leave a top rope for you to use.  So far we've had the pleasure of climbing routes that have been led by Mike, Scott, Emil, some Spanish dudes and Sarah.

Here is Emil leading Way Rambo, 5.12-.

The real crux of the last week though has been the weather, which has usually been at least one of the following: cold, windy, rainy or snowy.  And occasionally all of the above.

It hasn't actually been bad enough to prevent us from being able to climb on most days, but it doesn't really make for enjoyable conditions.

A day may start out nice...

View from Way Rambo, 10:00am

And end up like this...

View from Way Rambo, 4:00pm

We got off our climb just as the above storm hit us, and ended up getting drenched on the hike back to the car.  Thankfully the last two days have been really nice, and hopefully the trend will continue.

Regardless of the weather, this place is pretty incredible.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rest Days

We left Vegas to get away from the bad weather, but it turned out to be pretty crappy everywhere in this part of the country.  We decided a few days of rest probably wouldn't be a bad idea though, so we could be fresh when we started climbing at our next stop.

We spent a couple of nights in Moab, and though the weather wasn't really conducive to climbing, it was good enough to go hiking.  We checked out some cool areas we missed when we were in the area last year.  First up was the Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park.

It's a pretty amazing area, full of cool spires and narrow canyons.

Of course even when we are just hiking, we can't seem to stop doing at least some climbing.

Next up we went to check out The Needles area of Canyonlands National Park, another area with spectacular scenery.

We went on several small hikes, which led us through some of the amazing history of the area, including old cowboy camps and various relics of the native Pueblos.


We've been in Indian Creek now for a few days.  Despite the fact that the weather still hasn't been all that cooperative we have managed to get some climbing in.  The crack climbing feels as intimidating and burly as the last time we were here.  But oh so much fun!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Red Rocks

Red Rocks is a notoriously windy place.  If you spend any amount of time camping here you will see some tent carnage.  Getting stuck hundreds of feet up a wall when the winds start to howl is not fun.  Much to our surprise, our first week here was refreshingly calm, and we enjoyed many nice, stress free days on the rock.  All that changed a few days ago, and our planned climbing schedule was, pardon the pun, torn to shreds by the wind.

Thankfully we had one more day nice enough to get on a long route.  We decided to head up Dream of Wild Turkeys, 5.10a, which climbed 10 pitches and over 1000 feet up the almost vertical Black Velvet Wall. Here is Kristal leading the long angling crack of the second pitch.

Following up the fifth pitch.

And again coming up to the top of the seventh pitch.

It was an awesome climb, on a mostly overcast, barely warm enough day, which could have been miserably cold and unpleasant had the wind decided to pick up.

We had hoped to get on a couple of more long routes, but instead had to resign ourselves to go bouldering.  Which presents it's own challenges when the gusts start up.  Despite the many instances of having to scramble to keep the crash pads from blowing away, we still managed to get on many fun problems.  Here is Kristal on an unnamed V0.

Me on the cool Peruvian Flake, V2.

Kristal topping out the super fun Sorange, V3.

And me on an unnamed V1.

All considered our stay in Red Rocks has been awesome.  We climbed the two longest routes of our trip so far.  It's tempting to stay longer, but the forecast is not looking so great for the next few days (and it is currently raining).  We aren't patient enough to wait it out.  Tomorrow we leave.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Solar Slabs

For several months now, Jason and I have been talking about getting on a really long route. None of this measly 6 pitch, 700 ft stuff, but something substantial. Something tall. Something with thousands of feet. Leafing through the red rocks guidebook we found Solar Slabs, 5.6 and 2000 ft.

For weeks we've been considering it. Do we climb fast enough? Is their enough daylight to both climb up and manage the long, scrambly descent? We've been discussing tactics and carefully planning. One of our chief concerns was getting stuck behind a slower party. On our last rest day we hiked out to the climb to assess the approach and the crowds. On Sunday, we carefully sorted through our gear and packed our stuff.

Yesterday we woke up at 5:00am, ate a quick breakfast and headed out. It was still dark when we threw on our packs and started the hour long approach.

Even from the trailhead we could see headlights. Despite our early start, there were people already on the climb! Still, we figured it wouldn't be a problem. They'd be at least an hour ahead of us and there was little chance we'd catch up to them.

When we got to the base of the climb and racked up, the sun had just risen and the party ahead of us was only halfway up the 5.3 gully that lead to the base of the main wall. Still, we didn't think too much of it. We started up the alternate start, Johnny Vegas, a highly starred 5.7. The climbing was spectacular, steep and exposed despite the easy grade. The first 500 ft took us 1 hr 45 mins.

Then we sauntered over the rise to the base of the Solar Slab wall. And found 6 other people! The first party we had seen was only half way up the first pitch and two other parties had caught up to them. We sat down on the ledge for a long wait in the sun. The next seven pitches of climbing proceeded pretty slowly. We'd climb up one pitch and then chill out on a ledge for an hour chatting with the people ahead of us and basking in the sun. The next 1000 ft took us 7 hrs.

Because the walk off descent is long and complicated, most people choose to rappel after the seventh pitch. So after 7 pitches we had the climb to ourselves and quickly made our way up the last 500 ft. The view from the top was pretty spectacular.

Still, despite all our climbing, the mountains still loomed over us! Apparently, 2000 ft is nothing in Red Rocks.

The descent involved an few rapesls (one into a chimney and off a rather questionable anchor: a nut and a piton in a pocket) and a couple of hours of bouldering hopping through a wash.

We we both pretty happy to get back to the base of the climb where we had extra water stashed. We made it back to the car just before dark. And celebrated our success with a massive quantity of pizza and gatorade.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Death Valley

We decided to drive through Death Valley on our way to Vegas, and take our time to enjoy a few of the sights. It's an incredibly beautiful place for having such a morbid name.  First stop was the ever popular sand dunes.

Where of course you can't help but feel like a kid again.

Next up was Badwater Basin, which, at an elevation of 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in North America.

We went out and walked around on the cool salt flats.

Then a bit up the valley to the Devel's Golf Course.  It's a few feet higher in elevation than the basin itself and as a result the ground remains dry, allowing the wind to sculpt the salt into a seemingly endless sea of formations.

We've been in Red Rocks now for a few days, and are slowly readjusting to climbing on sandstone.  It feels a bit insecure, to say the least, compared to the bomber igneous rock we've been climbing on for the last couple of months.  Nevertheless, it's been awesome to get back into climbing longish routes.  Here is Kristal finishing up the last pitch of Olive Oil, which was a fun 600+ feet of climbing to the top of Rose Tower.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moving On

Sadly, our time in Bishop has finally come to an end.  Today we went bouldering in the Buttermilks one last time.

In the end we spent three and half weeks here, filled with good friends, good boulders and some awesome sends.  Not to mention a few good fires.

Kristal and I both pushed our limits, and sent many problems that we had left unfinished on our last visit. Of course it's still hard to leave. There is so much here that we still haven't done, but three weeks of bouldering takes its toll on the body, and the long moderate routes of Red Rocks will be a welcome change. We are heading there tomorrow.

Bishop, we will mis you!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will We Ever Leave?

Yup, we're still in Bishop.  The weather has improved considerably, making the nights more comfortable and the days pleasantly warm.  In the last few days we said goodbye to Karl, Phil and JM, who sadly had to head back to Ottawa.  But not before another couple of fun days of climbing with them.

Here is Kristal on the classic Heavenly Path, V1.

Phil, fully engaged on Toxic Avenger, V9.

And Phil and JM taking a break from said problem.

On their last day here we headed up to the Buttermilks.  Here is Kristal on an unnamed V0.

We all jumped on Bowling Pin, v4, with another large group of people.  The problem is pretty unique, in that it climbs about 10 feet of overhanging rock to a large comfortable ledge at the lip, followed by about 8 feet of thin, insecure, and somewhat scary slab to the top.  What ends up happening is most people hang out on the ledge for a while getting up the nerve to finish.  Phil was working the moves of a hard extension into it, and actually stuck the moves while one of the other climbers was sketching out before the slab.  Thankfully the other climber got up the nerve and topped out just as Phil was pulling on to the ledge.  It was pretty ridiculous, and somewhat frightening. Thanks to Denise for the picture!

For the last problem of the day, Phil and JM decided to pull on Evilution, V12.  Here is JM sticking the first move, with a lot of climbing left to go.

 It was really great to have the boys around.  We will miss you guys!

Incredibly though, the Ottawa group send fest will continue, as the day before the boys left, our friends Joe and Denise arrived from back home.  Here is Joe after sending the classic Solarium, V4.

Will we ever leave?  Time will tell.