Always in search for adventure, it’s a challenge when you are married and working. Colorado is 18 hrs. North Carolina 10 hrs. Wyoming even further. What’s left? 40-60 feet of good old southern Illinois sandstone. That said, I really have been doing my best to jump on the natural lines and since there are not that many, I started looking for any unlisted feasible (which means with in my skill level) traditional cracks.
Last December, while Juliette and I were freezing, we wandered over to railroad rock at Jackson Falls. She nonchalantly pointed out a lovely wide crack. A check with the guidebook, VIOLA!!!! Unlisted unadulterated crack. I swallowed hook, line and sinker.
For the next 3 months, I got myself mentally prepared. I fancied myself in the tradition of the old school - One chance, ground up, onsite!
Gathered 2 big bros and 3 #6 camalots, I sauntered over to railroad rock. Looked at it and immediately wanted to top rope it or turn and run. Dave Kessler then said, "Go for it, you've got BD camalots". I looked amused and protested that it wasn't enough. Anyway, there comes a point when you get sick and tired of the worrying and just want to get it done and over. Did the initial moves, get up on a block, put a green big bro then the fun started.
Shimmy, grunt, breath. 2 inches up, slide down 3. Loose some skin. Repeat.
Dave then yells, "If you fall, you will hit the block". Looked at my rack, one big bro left and 2 worthless cams. Maybe 30 more feet to go. Anemic. Looking desperate, Dave Downey takes pity, offers to rescue me by running up the cliff and dropping a rope. I did not hesitate. By the time he got up, I was able to shimmy or rather scrape back down. There goes the onsite.... Oh well, it was an honest attempt. Top roped it once but couldn’t get it clean. Going to be a big problem on lead.
Mending my wounds in Champaign, I kept dissecting my failed attempt. Not enough skill? Not enough gear? Not enough balls? I decided it was all three. Gear can be fixed, so I ordered a valley giant (cams that can protect up to 12 inches). Skill, not too many wide cracks but Aha! Google wide crack technique. Balls, sorry can’t be helped without surgical intervention or massive edema.
Nothing to do now but wait for the valley giant. Andy being ever so supportive borrows a set of big bros. Now I really don’t have any excuses.
Again, at the bottom of the climb, armed with all the gear that I need, I start. This time I take a whipper. Thank god for a competent belayer, I don’t crater. Long story short. It was a scary, exhausting, blast. Juliette then went up and styled it.
For those of you who want to sample and learn wide crack technique. Highly recommended. Easily top roped with a solid enough tree above it. For the leaders, bring big bros and big cams. Unfortunately, there is no official grade, the wide part maybe 5.9? Roof start maybe 5.11a. Would love to get some input. Please, please, please, have fun on it.
Getting really long, but have to thank my climbing support group. Without them, feeding the rat would not be possible. Jinky, Rich, Andy P., Juliette, Dave Downey, Andrew Mcguinnes,......
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