Posts Tagged ‘Elevenmile Canyon’

Hoot (Dave) arrived at the Springer Gulch campground to announce that he’d forgotten his sleeping bag and tent. Well, he says he didn’t forget them, since he’d set them out with the rest of his gear, he just didn’t move them to the car. With a low expected in the 30’s we cobbled together a few spare blankets and I lent him my down jacket for the night.

He survived the night and we tanked up on coffee and let the sun hit before we moved back down the canyon to Turret Dome. The rest of our group hadn’t shown up yet, so we hiked up to the start of the Guides Route (5.6) and started behind another couple.

After leading the first pitch, Hoot took the short second pitch.

The third pitch made some zig-zags back and forth to add some rope drag and connect the easier climbing but I reached the summit and belayed Hoot up.

Unlike last year, we decided to scramble off in a different direction and returned to our cached gear at the base of the route more efficiently. Rich and Brenda had now arrived and were doing their own climbs and Emily had also showed up itching to climb. We decided to head over to Elevenmile Dome.

Emily was interested in learning more about trad climbing and to start leading, so we decided that I’d lead up the 5.7 route Moby Grape, then Hoot would follow and clean the route.

Because the climb was longer than half a rope length, he’d rappel back down on the single strand, give the rack of gear to Emily and she’d tie in to both ropes. I’d give her a loose top belay, while Hoot belayed her from below as if she was leading on the second rope.

On the way up both Hoot and I encouraged her to place gear often and then after she arrived at the top we had both ropes to rappel on.

Doing a tandem rappel, Emily and I descended the route and I offered some pointers and reviewed her gear placements.

We had time for one more climb, and I wanted to try The Overleaf (5.8+). The climbing wasn’t too bad until just below the roof where I tried to move directly up to the roof on the left and took a short lead fall. Rich and Brenda drove by, stopped and having done the route before yelled up some beta – “Move right first, then back left”. I re-did a few of the placements to reduce the rope drag, rested and moved right to scrunch up beneath the roof. Traversing back left with some awkward fist jams and arm bars while hunched below the roof I placed a few cams then setup with a decent hold just below the roof.

Standing up I was able to slot my hand into a very secure jam, and place a .75 cam. Down below, Rich yelled up that I should back down and rest. No way – I was too tired and with the jam feeling secure, switched hands, made a small mantel with my right hand and a heel hook with the left foot. Exhausted, I pulled over the roof, moved up 4 feet and built a quick anchor.

Tired and with plenty of rope drag it took forever to pull in all the slack. Emily had to go, so Hoot followed. He had his own demons on this route – having backed off the crux move once before. Following he quickly reached the roof, struggled to find the right sequence, rested for a bit then he too flopped up and over to reach the belay.

I was a bit more rested now, so I grabbed the gear from Hoot, re-flaked the rope and set off on pitch 2. It seemed like fairly consistent, but very fun, 5.6/5.7 climbing until reaching some easy, but run-out bathtub formations, then a small headwall to pull over. With only a couple feet of rope left I thought I could pick out the walk-off to my left so built an anchor and Hoot soon followed.

Even if we had more daylight and time I doubt I’d have had the energy to climb anything else. So we packed up and headed to our respective homes happy with the day of climbing.

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Friday evening driving through Colorado Springs and west on US 24 eventually produces the traffic thinning we were looking for. Pink granite boulders sprout out of hillsides as we near Lake George and we know we’re close, even before the iPhone told us so.

Light fades as we setup tents in the Riverside campground and the air is chilling rapidly. No firewood. We drive back several miles to Woodland Park for dinner and to cell towers to inform a few others where we’re at.

22 degrees is the lowest I see on the watch overnight. I’m plenty warm in the tent and the sun is over an hour away but desire for coffee outweighs goose down warmth so I get up and prepare breakfast. Jeremy and I walk across the road into the sun and slowly warm up when Jonathan pulls up.

A little last minute sorting of gear and we’re headed down the canyon, trying to ID the formations on our first visit here, to Elevenmile Canyon.

I’m consulting a library of four different guide books, each with its own unique inclusion and exclusion of facts. The roulette wheel of flipping pages between text, maps and pictures and finally stops when we park at the Elevenmile picnic area. Turret Dome will be our first objective. We wander around the south side of the dome and scramble into a gully where the route Jaws starts. After gearing up (and abandoning the library under a large rock) I start up and quickly decide we should belay from out of the gully where we can hear each other. I build and anchor and belay the others up easy terrain then we restack ropes and I head up towards the overhanging arch.

I’m thankful that we brought a couple larger #4 cams as I try to selectively protect the traverse below the arch. Rope drag is going to be a problem, and I back clean the first piece to try to keep the angle lower. I hope it helped, since the friction was bad enough by the time I reached the crux mantle moves near the base of the water buckets. With two single ropes to pull through my arms get tried quickly and I end up using my leg as an additional lever to pull the ropes in.

Jeremy re-racks and leads up pitch two which was really fun, climbing over water buckets.

Jonathan and I follow up to the base of the roof above. Jeremy is interested in leading the 5.7 crack through the roof (really the route “Upper Lip”). After slotting a #3 cam in the crack he pulls the roof and moves steadily through the rest of the pitch.

While he climbs and Jonathan belays I admire the views up canyon.

I follow the pitch next and Jonathan works on removing the gear. Unfortunately, he can’t remove that first #3 cam, which has rotated and bottomed out with the non-cam portion of the head resting on rock. I finish the pitch and discuss with Jeremy and we eventually tell Jonathan to leave the cam and come on up.

The rest of the gear removes okay and we rig a rope as a fixed line for Jeremy to rappel down. Once down a lot of playing and a bit of knowledge of how the cam was placed finally frees it. I rejoice since it was my piece of expensive gear. Using some of our skills from a recent guides techniques course, Jeremy sets his belay device as an ascender and with an additional prussik wears himself out scooting up the rope.

From the top of the formation we hunt around and eventually piece together the 5.0 down climb and slab walk-off. Jeremy and I comment how this felt like a Joshua Tree walk off.

Back at the car we enjoy lunch and views of Arch Rock when Jenn pulls up.

We can now climb in 2 groups of two, so Jonathan and I gather our gear and walk over to Arch Rock and find a group almost done with pitch one of The Staircase. Known as maybe Colorado’s best 5.5 climb it usually has a long line. Luckily, everyone else seems interested in the sport climbs nearby. I rack up while Jonathan flakes the rope and a small dog scampers up the first 15 feet of the route to say hi to the climber above.

I find the first pitch pretty mellow with lots of gear placements. The wide ledge at the end is occupied by the second of the group ahead, but I still find room to clip the rappel webbing and start stacking the rope as Jonathan heads up.

I re-rack when he arrives and apologize for switching his and Jeremy’s name for the umpteenth time today. Then I start up the actual “staircase” section. Past these horizontal bands the straight up route would be a 5.8 off-width crack. I take the normal tactic of moving off on a ledge to the left then flanking back right to end on a great platform for a belay. Jonathan follows and we coil the rope and wait for Jeremy and Jenn to arrive next.

The day is getting late, but we hurry back to the base of the wall and find a father and son just finishing up on the Hollow Flake route. After the pull the rope I start up one of the 5.7 direct variations and then find myself switching technique every 5 feet from crack, to layback, to face and back. After lowering off this one-pitch climb, Jonathan follows to clean the gear and rappel back down.

We head back to our camp where Jonathan leaves for home and Jenn, Jeremy and I decide to drive into Woodland Park for dinner rather than sit around the cold campsite. Of course, when we come back, we do just that as clouds have moved in and keep the night about 10 degrees warmer.

Desire for coffee gets me up at the same time on Sunday morning but the morning isn’t as cold. Once the sun gets near, Jenn walks off to the “burning bush” to take in the heat.

With just the three of us today we drive up canyon as it warms up to reach Pine Cone Dome.

Jeremy racks up to lead the first pitch, but something feels off about the start of “Stone Ages” so he backs off and explores some other possibilities.

Eventually he passes the lead to me and I decide to try the neighboring “Armaj Das”, to which I traverse off our belay ledge then practically bushwhack through an aspen’s branches as I move up.

The climbing is fun and I really enjoy the pitch before stopping below the big flake to build a belay anchor. Jenn and Jeremy follow with the yellow leaves below.

Jeremy leads up, following the undercling of the huge flake while Jenn and I admire the views and watch as two mule deer walk into the clearing below.

I see the first deer look up at us and I start talking aloud the conversation I imagine is going on below.

Deer 1: Whoaa, crazy, there’s people up there.
Deer 2: [obliviously looking dead ahead]
Deer 1: [puts its nose in Deer 2’s ear] No, look up, there’s people on the rock.
Deer 2: [obliviously looking dead ahead]
Deer 1: [jerks his head up as if pointing at us] No, to your right!
Deer 2: [looks right, but doesn’t raise head]
Deer 1: Uggh, look up!
Deer 2: [walks off]
Deer 1: I can’t show you anything

Jeremy calls off-belay and we follow the pitch after laughing at the deer.

From the summit we scramble up some slabs then locate a ramp that leads down off the formation’s back side.

Walking back to the front side we spot some climbers on “Roof Bypass”.

Then we head further left until we find the start of the route “Jolly Jugular”.

Jeremy gets to lead this first pitch as I belay amongst the aspens.

When following I find plenty of juggy handholds to warrant the name, then I take the rack for the second pitch.

I finish up in the same spot and we repeat the walk off to return to the car. Lunch back at the campsite where we break down the now dried out tents. Then we head back up the canyon and find ourselves at Arch Rock again because it’s in the sun. We decide to try a route called “Arch Rock Route” which at 5.8 is a little tougher than the rest of what we’ve climbed this weekend. I start up the first pitch after attempting and backing off the direct start (5.9+) and find some great hand and foot jams interspersed with a few face holds. I run out the pitch a ways past the normal belay ledge and find an okay stance with my last several cams as an anchor.

I start to pull up the ropes thinking I’m belaying both Jeremy and Jenn but then notice that the middle marks come up almost together. They’re either right on one another’s heels or something else is going on. Looking down I see Jenn on the ground waving up while I spot Jeremy’s helmet reaching the crux moves. From then on I just take up both ropes together.

Jeremy arrives and explains that Jenn just wanted to relax and didn’t need to get in any more climbing today. So instead of trying to shout out what was happening, he just tied into the other rope as well and started up. With the extra weight of the two single ropes it was “all the disadvantages of a double rope system, but none of the advantages”. I passed over what remained of the rack then Jeremy led up pitch 2.

Pitch two had a fun off-width crack that you crawled in until it constricted too much. Then you had to move up and on an arete of low angled rock that you could ride cowboy style to the top.

With shadows falling across the canyon we rushed back down and met Jenn at the base of the rock. Packing away the gear we started to drive home with a stop for dinner at the Trinity Brewing Company in Colorado Springs for some delicious sweet potato fries.

We were already talking about returning to Elevenmile in the spring for another long weekend.

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