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Archive for October, 2010

I was going to the Flatirons, I’m not sure what I’m doing, I’m going to Boulder Canyon, nope – I’m headed to the Flatirons again. So went my planning as partners bailed then came available again. Jeremy was still nursing a shoulder injury, so we decided on the easy (5.3) Stairway to Heaven route in the Flatirons.

We parked at NCAR and hiked up into Skunk Canyon and eventually ID’d the base of Ridge One. Jeremy flaked out the rope while I racked up and shared some “send cookies” (spicy oatmeal raisin). I led up the first pitch, skirting the overhang then hitting the ridge crest and had Jeremy simul-climb a bit so I could reach a comfy pine-needle-cushioned belay spot.

We hiked a bit through a mini-forest to move the belay and I started up more easy rock rock and hit another little forest for a belay. I guess I couldn’t complain about the 70 meter ropes today.

The third pitch got a little more interesting until fading into a sea of knobs as I passed the “Like Heaven” sub-summit of the ridge and setup a semi-cozy belay.

While belaying Jeremy up, I watched some other climbers on “Satan’s Slab” (aka Ridge Two) who seemed to have taken my original idea of doing a Halloween-themed route. They were either on routes Satan’s Slab, Enchanted Devil, or 666.

The third pitch was our shortest, as I went over another sub-summit, through a few trees then partly up the start of the last steep to stop where I could watch Jeremy tackle the route.

I found the final pitch to the summit to be one of the harder and more-run-out portions of the route. I did stray onto the harder north side of the ridge where there was more protection available then pulled up just shy of the summit to belay.

Jeremy followed as he had for the prior 4 rope lengths.

I offered him the lead on the last 70 feet of climbing over the summit and down to a rappel tree.

Then we setup for the 60 foot rappel back to the ground and I let Jeremy go first so I could switch back into my approach shoes. My toes started to thank me.

To descend, we headed between the Ridge One and Hobo formations and stayed east of Ridge One for the whole descent back to the trail. My toes rescinded their thanks as I bashed them on the step and loose descent.

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Is this almost November? Sunny, no wind and upper 60’s in Eldorado Canyon. The stream crossing and hike up the West Ridge warm us up and I’m a bit surprised to find my first goal, The Unsaid (5.9-) open. I should probably warm up on something easier, but I can’t pass up the chance to lead this item on my tick list.

I think a while at the crux and find it hard to commit to the balance required until I slot in another nut and reduce any potential fall. Once at the anchors I hang out and watch the group next to us working on Washington Irving (5.6).

Piper follows the route and takes the more direct line around the little roof (5.10b) – an easy choice when you’re on a top rope and no a variation I’ll have to try to lead someday.

Once she reaches the top we rig the rope for the rappel and descend.

Washington Irving is now free, and Piper’s up to do the lead.

I had just done the route the week before, and didn’t need to repeat it, so she lowers off and cleans as she comes down.

Heading further up the hill we reach Sister Morphine (5.9-) and find a group just pulling their rope. Excellent timing, I jump on the lead and complete the pitch to let Piper clean the route. She takes a harder (and unprotected) face climb at the start, then works through the crux moves off the large block.

Piper’s turn to lead something, so we put her on Dandi-Line (5.7+), her hardest lead of that grade in Eldo. She goes great and again cleans the route while lowering.

My luck is holding, and the nearby route Pony Express (first pitch 5.9) is just opening up and was another to-do of mine. I find the gear a little harder this time, as I try not to block any good holds with nuts or cams, but work through it and am really satisfied with the day’s climbing.

Piper follows and cleans the route then we head back down hill and out of Eldo.

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The morning had started clear, but after breakfast the sky had clouded up again and Gary and I were unsure about climbing in Eldo. Somewhat surprisingly, there were a lot of people out this morning and we hopped across the creek and started up the West Ridge.

The air temperature felt warmer than yesterday, so I decided to start with a lead up the short Doctor Michael Soler (5.7) which Gary then followed. Not feeling too cold, I decided to lead the slightly harder Lunar Lander (5.8-) just to the right of our last line. I was thinking of tackling Positively Fourth Street (5.9) next, but needed a bit of a rest and another group arrived and started to climb the line.

Gary and I took a little walk up the rest of the West Ridge and were surprised to find shelter from the wind at some of the higher routes. Having rested and warmed up in our hike I was ready to tackle Positively when we came back down. I found the first part of the route pretty manageable, but started to run out the climbing between gear placements up high as the climbing got harder. I did end up finishing the climb without a fall, but wasn’t completely proud of how I’d climbed it. I’d have liked to been a bit more in control and able to place more gear.

Gary was up to lead something, and the routes just downhill had freed up so he started up Dandi-Line (5.7+).

I followed and cleaned the line, then thought about trying Sister Morphine (5.9-), but another group was lined up for it. Instead we headed further downhill and hoped to get on Unsaid (5.9-) but were blocked on that one as well. I’d never climbed Washington Irving (5.6), and it was free so up I went.

The two bolt anchor at the top was horribly placed in a hard-to-clip and awkward spot, the route also felt a bit harder than 5.6 and wasn’t quite the walk in the park I expected after the other routes I’d done today.

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Was it really possible to get out rock climbing today? I’d spent the morning driving down from the mountains in falling snow and the clouds, cool temps and wind didn’t seem like a happy combo. Piper and I drove up Boulder Canyon to the Nip & Tuck crags where we wouldn’t have to commit to any multi-pitch routes and could top rope if need be. We were about ready to bail just after leaving the car and return to Boulder for coffee, but we should just hike up to the crag and look around.

At the top of the cliff we found some bolts and chains and decided to drop the rope down the Supremacy Slab (5.8) and Hare Balls (5.7), freeze our hands and then go back to town.

While cold the old handwarmer-in-the-chalkbag trick sure helped and we both top roped Hare Balls, then Supremacy Slab. I took a selection of nuts and cams with me to suss out what protection was available on this rated-R pitch.

By staying left of the true crux moves, I found easier climbing and some cracks that would sew up the climb. Piper decided to sport-lead the route on my pre-placed gear, then I followed and cleaned the route.

Piper’s turn to climb and she decides to lead Hare Balls – but finds it as run-out as Supremacy Slab. Kinda hairy for 5.7. By now Supremacy Slab has been getting a bit of sun and after two laps I feel more comfortable with leading it – or at least staying on our left side variation.

After lowering off a tree anchor and cleaning the route, it’s Piper’s route choice again. She decides to lead Dan-D-Line, the 5.7 right of the prominent dihedral.

Once again the gear turns out to be challenging for the 5.7 rating and she shows good form by working through the roof then reaching the anchors.

While belaying her, I’d been eying the classic 5.9 Classic Finger Crack to our left. It was one of my goals here, but I’d but it temporarily out of mind once confronted with the cold. Unlike these routes we’d been on so far, it would be well-protected. No reason not to try.

I found the route somewhat strenuous, but well protected (as advertised) and managed to climb it on-sight. What a nice crack! Several good finger locks, a decent hand jam and some face moves. Too bad it wasn’t longer. Piper top-roped and cleaned the route after me to end our day in Boulder Canyon.

We’d both been surprised by how much climbing we’d gotten in thinking that we’d surely end up in the gym by the end of the morning.

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Pete’s toe was finally healing up enough for him to feel a bit of confidence on rock. We decided for a long, mellow day in the Flatirons. The East Face (Standard) route on the Third Flatiron is supposed to be one of the best beginner routes on the planet – perfect for a return to climbing.

After making the hike up to the East Bench we were surprised to find that we were the first party on this busy route. Getting full right right from dawn, the rock was already warm as I set off for the first pitch. Most of the pitches are marked with a single large eye bolt used for the belays – for the first pitch I stayed too high and found a bit of climbing more at 5.6 than 5.4 and ended up setting up a gear belay. I then saw the bolt some 30 feet below.

Pete struggled a bit with the tougher-than-5.4 moves (my fault for being off-route), but cruised the rest of the climbing. Keeping my eye out for the bolts, and following the general line of some soloists who had cruised by, I managed to find the other standard belays.

It was a perfect morning and we were a couple pitches up before other groups reached the base so I didn’t feel rushed.

The guidebook was a little off on the location of the bolt near the “C” – I found it at the top right of the letter, and not top left. But other than the constant search for protection and bolts, the climbing was completely enjoyable.

Our penultimate pitch was a blast – easy climbing on very featured rock high over Boulder.

Stepping across the “Gash” was memorable, as that feature looked to be 15 feet deep or more. Some easy climbing and run-out slab led to the summit where we started the first of 3 rappels, right as one of the other groups started to catch up.

I was interested in doing Friday’s Folly, a 5.7 that would go part way back up towards the summit. Pete wasn’t sure he felt up to it, and the other group had decided to tackle a 5.10 climb that would end up at the same place. Instead, we decided to scramble over to the Second Flatiron and take the easy way up – the normal 5.0 descent route.

Another party had just topped out when we got there, then hesitated while the decided how to get down. They ended up rappelling from the top (there’s no permanent anchor) and we waited until they’d pulled the rope till I made the 40 foot climb.

Pete followed, just un-clipping the rope, but leaving the pro. Once on top I had him on belay as he worked on committing to the down climbing moves and reached the base again.

I now down-led the route, cleaning up the gear that Pete had re-clipped as I went. A quick hike out put an end to a beautiful October day on the rock.

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Saturday morning got off to a slow start with some sleeping in, a brunch, a bit of shopping (20% discount coupon at REI), and finally meeting Gary for the afternoon in Eldo.

He’d picked out the 5.8+ climbs on the Redgarden Wall of “The Flakes” and “The Whistle Stop”. You could do either as 1 pitch, but in the past he’d always done them in 2. I decided I’d like to take the first pitch – The Flakes and found layback moves to a decent ledge for belaying. Gary followed the pitch while a church group below held an instructional class.

The second pitch was Gary’s, but he was still feeling shaky leading anything 5.8 or above. After placing a couple pieces he decided his head wasn’t in it and lowered back to the belay ledge.

We switched ends of the rope and I climbed up to his high point, placed a questionable micro-stopper and committed to the moves. Protection was there, but I had to look for it, and even missed a few pitons. One bolt protected a blank section just before the ledge that contained the rappel anchors.

Gary cleaned the pitch and we rappelled back to the base.

We had some more time and decided to walk over to the Wind Tower, where a 5.9 (first pitch of Tagger) was calling my name. I’d previously top-ropped the route (14 months ago), and had been working up to the lead for some time. I felt like I climbed it fairly well and was able to hunt out a lot of protection.

After rappelling off Gary still wanted to get in a lead climb, so we headed to the first pitch of West Overhang (5.6). I’d previously done the 2nd pitch (which contains the overhang), but never the first part. Gary led up and while the pitch wasn’t consistently challenging, the first few moves were definitely hard and awkward for “only” 5.6.

After rappelling down we headed home, fairly happy with the routes we done for the afternoon.

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An early wake up had Piper and I seeing Chris (our campsite visitor) off for Astroman – a route the two of us can only barely fathom at this point. Coffee helped revive us as we slowly packed and admired the stars visible through the trees above.

We figured we’d use our early start to try Nutcracker – a very popular 5 pitch 5.8 route on Manure Pile Buttress. After displaying her parallel parking skills, Piper and I found another party already starting the route. Not feeling particularly committed to that line, we decided to start up After Six. A little easier (5.7/5.6), we’d be able to swing leads and get Piper a few more pitches on the sharp end.

I led up the first, slick and crux pitch, finding it fairly solid at 5.7. I was sorta glad that we weren’t trying Nutcracker since I seemed to have left my A-game back at camp. Piper followed and we enjoyed a little more of the cool morning as she started up the second pitch.

Her pitch ended in the sun and layers came off as I took the rack and looked up the 3rd, chimney pitch. Most of the gear went in will a hollow scraping sound against the rock, so I was happy to finally leave the chimney and reach something that felt more solid. Not exactly obeying the topo of the route, I went up the unprotected face to another alcove and belayed from there.

Piper may have been a little happy that I’d included the run-out face section in my pitch and she studied the route diagram while taking the pro for her next lead.

The first of two free solo-ers then passed by us, and once he was well out of the way Piper started up pitch 4.

A Swiss couple was climbing up rapidly behind us, so once Piper anchored to a tree, I followed her route and took the rack for the easier 5th pitch.

Piper followed, looked at the options for the final pitch and shuddered at the 5.8 roof. She took the more normal line up a sunken crack right of the roof and then on to ledges to the top.

Meanwhile, I belayed in the shade of a tree, willing my width to equal its trunk diameter, then followed her route to the summit. We admired the views but felt any will to do more climbing wilting in the heat.

After hiking back to the base we returned to camp, napped, showered and read until dinner time when we tried to use up the rest of our groceries in a final pizza dinner.

In the evening we meet back up with Chris, and had a long silence just staring at the stars, wishing we didn’t have to return to Colorado and dreaming of our next visit to Yosemite.

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