Archive for May, 2011

Wind Ridge

Pitch one: I leave the ground without my camera and luckily have remembered the radios today. There’s no rope-tug communication for “root around in my pack and find my camera, bring it up with you”.

Pitch two: Tara is still screaming at me for making her wake up early, and gives me penalty rope-drag.

She arrives at the second belay clearly recalling that she hates this Eldo classic.

Pitch three: I haven’t done this pitch in a while, but pull up the crazy horn to the seated rest while Tara ponders why she’s awake at this hour.

Descent: I talk her through the scramble off the summit of the Wind Tower while she accuses me of enjoying scrambling.

It’s not yet noon, but we decide to bail after an interpretive dance with cam and get some coffee.

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After another night of camping near Turkey Rocks we decided to head somewhere new for the both of us, Parachute Rock off the Rampart Range Road. The wind at camp discouraged another pancake breakfast in the woods, so we drove into Woodland Park for a big meal then caught Rampart Range Road and eventually found the parking area for Parachute Rock. A short hike brought us to the base of the cliff.

We decided to start with something easy, so Jeremy led up a combination of the routes Being There and Pete ‘n’ Ben’s (both about 5.6) to a set of anchors.

After rappelling down I racked up for the climb Burgers (5.8) and enjoyed the initial thin crack section and remembered that I suck at slabs on the bolted face above. I lowered and cleaned and Jeremy showed me up by climbing Miss Bliss (also 5.8) with much more style.

We then traversed back to the first section of the rock we’d wandered up to and I jumped on Flake Route/Illegal Smile (5.8+) and completely enjoyed the jams despite a near slip at the vegetated finger jam crux.

Jeremy followed and cleaned while we watched another group start up the beautiful crack of Rip Cord (5.10a).

The wind had really picked up and we debated what to do and Jeremy nearly started up 5.9 Route (5.9) before deciding the wind had sucked out his motivation and made the start a tad too spooky.

It was my turn to fail at a route, so I chose the now free Rip Cord. Falling and hanging on gear at the crux start, I decided I probably could piece together the moves eventually, but that I didn’t have a lot of endurance this early in the climbing season to make the ascent more than a protracted epic. So I backed off the climb and we decided to take a scenic route home while making plans for the last day of our holiday weekend.

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The roads into Turkey Rocks are crowded on Friday night of a three day holiday. Luckily, not everyone is here to climb rock and Jeremy and I locate a camping site along the access road to Turkey Rocks. As the sun goes down we have a little long-exposure fun with a glowing frisbee.

The night ends and eggs, coffee and blueberry pancakes great the day as we hike towards another kind of Nighttime Madness, a 3 pitch route up Turkey Rock.

Jeremy refuses my offer to a game of ninja-grizzly-cowboy for the first pitch and lets me tackle it. I find some great jams and the Pikes Peak granite that I love. I setup the belay on the far edge of a spacious ledge, just below the crack that marks Jeremy’s pitch.

Jeremy leads up and eventually a little left to a smaller stance, but a helpful cable that he anchors to.

After following and taking the rack from him I ponder if I should go straight up, or traverse back right into another crack. I pick the straight up version and find some hollow rock but mostly a very off-width chimney that awkwardly bruise my knees ascending. Worn out I slowly tackle some easier ground to the base of another chimney. This one proves more protectable than I’d been led to the believe, and between rests I have a view of Pikes Peak to the south.

Completely worn out I finish thrashing my way up the chimney and onto the summit. Jeremy follows as I think how much he’s going to hate climbing with his pack through those chimneys. Sure enough, he ends up slinging his pack below them to tackle their awkwardness.

A bit of a scramble then walk leads us back to the base where we watch another group start up Turkey Shoot.

Turkey Shoot is a route I’d like to do, but don’t feel the energy to tackle another multipitch climb today. So we pack up and walk over to Turkey Perch, home of outstanding one pitch climbs. Home today to plenty of people, kids and dogs as well. Still, everyone is friendly and the route Gobble Up is open. Jeremy leads most of it before calling it quits and lowering down. I take over and gather enough pieces for the lead to the top of this granite crack, then do a single strand rappel down to clean. We decide to finish on one of the easier climbs at the crag, Honky Jam Ass Crack and then wrap it up as a light sprinkle comes in.

Complete photo album

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Nine months ago Teresa suffered a broken leg in a backcountry accident in Wyoming. It may have slowed her down, but it hasn’t stopped her. Case in point: it’s not even 5 months into the year and she’s already climbed over 100 peaks.

She’s been out rock climbing a few times in the last couple months, but this was the first time our schedules aligned for me to lead her up a couple pitches in Eldorado Canyon.

We started on the mega-classic Wind Ridge (5.6) which was the hardest climb Teresa had done since the accident. She handled it fine.

The walk/scramble off was almost more of a concern, but she took that in stride and we arrived back at the base with no one else around. So we started up the parallel route of Breezy (5.5). From the top of the second pitch, I watched a soloist tackle Redgarden Wall’s The Bulge.

No surprise by now, but she handled Breezy with no problems, and in typical Teresa-fashion, she’s wondering how a couple 5.7 pitches might go.

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Lightly loaded and partner-less, I left the Chautauqua trailhead a bit before 8am and followed the Mesa Trail south until I stopped following the Mesa Trail. The trail kept going, but I needed to head uphill and west to reach the base of The Regency, and the El Camino Royale route. The third class rating is a bit of a joke, that or the way I went wasn’t the road of royalty, but the path of jesters. The route was fun regardless of whether or not I was on it. A short downclimb and scramble through some boulders took me to the base of the East Face route of the Royal Arch. This was pretty straight forward Class 4. For better or worse, no one below seemed to see me on my giant pedestal.

From the arch I headed further south, but stayed too high to efficiently reach the base of Anomaly, and bushwacked down the north side of the formation. This was the least memorable route of the day, 4th class, rather licheny and uh, I don’t remember any other details. Oh, there was a dead tree at the base. Did I mention the lichen?

The Buckets route (Class 4) on Ameoboid was a definite step up in quality. The whole east fast of Ameoboid was stripped with a line of pockets and was just a blast to climb. Unfortunately, the route doesn’t top out on a real summit. I walked the short canyon between the north and south summits, then looped south around the formation and back to Royal Arch to jog most of the trails back to Chautauqua.

I took very few photos, instead I carried a small HD camera (GoPro) with a mini tripod and set it up where I could on the routes. I ended up repeating many short sections of the scrambles to setup the camera, back down, then climb back up and retrieve the camera. The results of those efforts are below.

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If the Rapture was coming on Saturday, I figured I’d rather meet it out in the woods. With that thought in mind, I drove out 285 after work on Friday and connected with the Colorado Trail a little south of Bailey. A short hike through falling snow and I found a nice spot off the trail to settle in and relax for the evening while awaiting the end times.

By some miracle the world hadn’t ended with dawn came with a brief flash of alpine glow in the clouds. I brewed some coffee and hiked back to my car for the drive home and a stop at my local coffee shop (might as well load up on java if the life as we know it is about to end). Piper and I had briefly discussed climbing in the Flatirons for the better view of souls ascending to heaven, but of course, the best vantage spot would have probably been Garden of the Gods, it being so close to Colorado Springs and all. Instead we ended up at Rincon wall in Eldorado Canyon to work on a few routes and pretend nothing eventful was going to happen today.

I took the first lead on Five Eight Crack (rated 5.8, wouldn’t have guessed that, would you?) and found it’s runout reputation to be overstated. A .5 tricam and micronuts let me sew the pitch up. After lowering and cleaning the gear, Piper led the route as well.

Traversing up and left of the anchor bolts we put a trad anchor above Five Ten Crack (rated 5.10, but you got the hint already). Neither of us were feeling up to leading this pitch, so this way we could try it out on top-rope first. I was amazed to pull through the crux and reach the anchors without a fall or take. Piper went up, mock-leading (placing gear) along the way and looked solid but had some difficulties at the roof.

Piper then traversed further left and placed a directional piece somewhat above the first pitch of Rincon (5.9+). I started up and found this pitch more continuously difficult than Five Ten Crack and came off with a safe but long pendulum swing. That might be as close to ascending to heaven as I got today. After getting back on route, I ended up leap-frogging gear above me to keep the swing potential down. Fingers and forearms burnt out, I finally lowered off below the top and let Piper follow and clean the pitch.

Piper took another turn on Five Ten Crack, but felt she’d climbed it better the first time around when she was pretending to lead it. That, or she was now distracted by the imminent arrival of the apocalypse. Feeling a bit rested, I talked myself into one more lap on Five Ten Crack and was surprised to again climb it cleanly. Maybe when I’m feeling stronger (ie, climbing 5.8-9 trad regularly), I’ll have to come back and give the lead a try.

Before heading home I swung by Liquor Mart and picked up a few new Colorado beers I haven’t yet tried. I can’t drink them all tonight, so the world had better keep circling the sun for at least another week.

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Back in Colorado and time to get back into regular sessions of rock climbing. Gary and I head to Wind Tower where I hope to lead Reggae (5.8), even through it’s been weeks since I’ve rock climbed. Gary starts up The first pitch of The Bomb (5.5) to get us in position.

Unfortunately, two groups are queued up at the base of Reggae, so I decided to lead West Overhang, a route I’ve climbed but not led before.

The conga line hasn’t finished with Reggae yet, so we rap back to the base and decide to climb Tigger, a 2-pitch 5.5 route. It’s Gary’s turn to lead, so he takes pitch one.

I follow, re-rack in a tight little stance and start up towards the “stiff for the grade” and “awkward crux” at the roof. A little hand-sized arch provides a key hold to keep the moves at 5.5 and I join the line of “Wind Ridge” following another group to the rubble strewn ledge.

Another group arrives on the ledge while we’re packing up and tells us he’s part of a group going through rock instructor certification. He mentions the names of the guides leading the course and I recognize one, John Kear, as an instructor I had 9 years ago. After we scramble and hike back to the base I find John at the base of the Bastille and say hello.

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I was happy to be back home, even if it was raining and washing out plans to go rock climbing on sun-warmed granite. As Jeremy later said: “You have to do enough sports that you can pick the one that’s right for the day.” Today definitely wasn’t a rock day. It may be May, but it might just be a skiing day.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be just a skiing day, and so we were going for the trifecta: donuts at Donut Haus, skiing at Hidden Valley and lunch at Oskar Blues.

That always seems like a good idea, and that’s because it is a good idea.

Maybe a less-than-good idea was dragging my un-acclimated self up over 11,500 feet.

I was feeling okay, at least until we crossed a recently plowed segment of Trail Ridge Road. All those nights at 900 feet weren’t helping me out right now.

Past experience has taught me that I feel the worst around 11,500 feet when doing stupid things like this. Jeremy hadn’t left the state and of course was cruising uphill.

Our climbing for the ridge had the benefit of taking us above the clouds and into t-shirt weather. A pretty as the clear blue skies were, I could now hook up the “too warm” car to my growing train of excuses.

Before we reached the ridge I kept extending this train of thought with a growing line of excuses: “a thermos of hot tea that was obviously slowing me down”, “a new backpack I wasn’t used to”, etc.

Not that I wasn’t enjoying myself of course.

The excuse caboose (my last justification) left the train yard just as we reached the ridge crest. A break and the stripping of skins anticipated our descent down corn snow in the making.

A few turns brought us back to the road and into the clouds and the rime covered trees.

More turns deposited us back at the parking lot where we rushed on to finish our trifeca at Oskar Blues. We were back in the gloom, but smiling that we were some of the few that got to see the sun today.

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While back in the Mid-Wet for a couple weeks I had the chance to a recent urge to hike in the region’s diverse hardwood forests.

For hiking partners I had the Bloomington Hikers group to join for a 13+ mile loop around the Deam Wilderness.

Our route would follow a few current trails like the Sycamore, Axsom, Grubb Ridge and Martin Hollow trails.

However, we were really following the old Blue Diamond Loop, a trail that was decommissioned when the area was approved as a federal wilderness.

I hadn’t seen a morel for a few years, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across a couple this late in the season.

Water lilies were also getting ready to bloom.

An incredibly wet spring had the Monroe Reservoir up to record levels and we had to detour around the flooded end of the Axsom branch.

As always, it was a great group and a fun day in the woods.

For a shoulder’s eye view of most of our day you can watch the following video:

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Dark Lord Day marks the once-a-year release of Three Floyds Brewing’s release of their famous stout. Tickets sell out in minutes. The event needs no additional commentary.

Complete photo album

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