What is up boys and girls apparently when I took up the role of tech chair and started doing trip reports to encourage people to write about adventures it actually meant I'm the only one who's actually gonna bother writing them but well here we go.
How in the damn world did I not visit this freaking amazing place for the raddest day of climbing and partying ever. Note that this trip report is gonna be about the competition (The Fifth Testament) but if you're looking for more beta on the climbing and camping etc I'm sure mountain project has more info.
So a bit on the history:
This past weekend I was down at the Holies for my very first time (but most certainly not my last) reppin the U of I with club members past and present. Along with Reuven, Lance, Conor and Paige, we loaded up sketchy van with 5 crash pads and drove down Friday night. The path in is much better paved than Jackson but take note of animals at night that like to live life on the edge by moving into the path of a 1 ton vehicle (we almost hit a hawk I say again a FLYING BIRD not some deer imagine having the ability to soar hundreds of feet in the sky and almost die on the road getting hit by a sketchy van). Note that the competition venue is not the same as the normal access so follow directions in accordingly. Had dinner along the way and got into the campsite around 11 to set up our tents. Fun fact sketchy van's rear tires got mud stuck in the threads and couldn't back out from the little slope on the grass so 7 guys had to push her back out to the straight path. Fun stuff. I hung out by the campfire to chat with a couple of people from Columbia, Missouri for a bit and went to sleep after I decided I smelled of enough burnt wood.
First thing I woke up at 7.30am and was confused why I ended up in Silent Hill but it was just a mist that was passing through. Quite the bummer for my first time at the Holy Boulders but still we didn't let that get in our way. Bagels were provided by First Ascent and coffee by Steam Shovel. After the registration admin and welcome speech, we were off to start the competition!
Some competition deets:
As per Reuven's recommendation I did Circuitmaster with him and it was awesome. Unlike the other categories, we got to try out a lot more problems (albeit easy ones) and still we barely got around half of the places we intended to do. Reuven got 24 and I got 27 total, mostly V0s and a few V1-3s. It's much less than expected but fair enough conditions were far from ideal and we ended up spending more time on easy problems than we wanted to. Highlights for me were Mollusk (V2), Lowrider (V3) and Sukha (V3, which I unfortunately could not send but will be back for). I believe Paige was doing beginner while Lance and Conor were doing intermediate/advanced on some crazier problems.
A cool thing about the comp is that there are so many people working on problems in the area so there was no lack of crash pads; everyone was super friendly and chill about sharing, not to mention very supportive to give encouragement and proper spotting for fellow climbers. A thing to note however is that if you are doing Circuitmaster, it's ideal for you and a partner to move together and each bring a crash pad, cause if you're moving around quickly, the less popular problems may not have people there and you'll need your own pads.
Around 4pm we got back and tallied up our scores and submitted them, then got ourselves some tasty dinner (pulled pork sandwich with sides ~$10). Everyone gathered around the stage area as prize presentation took place. For reference, Reuven and I scored ~4000 points, and the first place of Circuitmaster was 80 climbs with 15,000 points, so we were not remotely close. Next was the sweet raffling/schwagiving's where Lois snagged a stray bag of loose chalk while I managed to deadpoint the dyno for a Prana chalk bag.
Now for the best part - the after party. I am still disappointed that so many club members didn't come for the comp or at the least for the party but well they're the ones missing out cause it was dope. Won't say too much but there may have been:
A lot happened that night and I couldn't remember too much other than waking up like 4 times throughout the night to take a leak, but I reckon it was a wild party.
Next morning the rain began to roll in so we decided to bail and head home early. Driving out in the day was a treat though, with the road out looking like a yellow tunnel with the lovely fall colors at its peak. We stopped by Carbondale for some brunch at Harbaugh's Cafe and I highly recommend it. There's good reason why it was a full house; fantastic food and great service at a reasonable price. Highly recommend it if you're passing through (they're only open till 2pm though).
And that's a wrap! My first time to the Holy Boulders was fantastic and I can't wati to come back. I just want to end off with something that really stood out for me the night of the party (in my potentially less than sober state that I still remember). I was talking to Doug from the ICA board and he mentioned that more than a fund raiser, this is really just an event to get the tribe together and have a good time. And that word really struck me - 'tribe'.
Jackson and Holy Boulders aren't really premier climbing destinations; it certainly isn't up there with places like the Red or Yosemite. Yet there is that sense of attachment to these places beyond it's rock quality and familiar roads for me. The people who make up this climbing tribe here in Illinois, whether they still live here or have moved on, still continue to care deeply for this place that we treasure, and for the people who they share it with. At the Holies, it didn't seem like a gathering of a few hundred strangers who came to climb and win. Rather it seemed almost like a reunion of this massive extended family, who are all connected to one another in some way. This feeling of inclusiveness from the tribe, and at the same time, exclusiveness of being part of this unique tribe, is something that I have never really felt before, and I am thankful to have been a part of this.
A huge shoutout to the ICA for organizing this amazing competition and beyond that, for the effective management and preservation of our climbing areas that we sometimes take for granted. Thanks to Philip and Kate for allowing all of us to access their private property and hosting hundreds of people for such a great event. And of course, thank you to the U of I fam, past and present, for continuing to support the Holy Boulders.
Callout weekend got rescheduled due to rain, so I (Marshal Herrmann), Shao, Ansel, and Melanie checked out Illinois’ newest crag on Sunday, April 23. Summarized into quick facts, the good, the bad, the (driving) beta, the verdict, and an outline of our day.
Quick facts about the park
The (driving) beta
Google Maps gave me 3 pretty different routes with virtually the same driving time. Taking I 72 past Springfield would definitely be the fastest way – you could go 90 mph if you wanted (pretty empty country roads). I57 and I70 is much more scenic however (follows Mississippi River, see something other than cows and cornfields); pictures below. This route also passes through Alton, IL which is a bigger tourist town on the river just past the park. Alton has a variety of restaurants and other accommodations. We took the quicker way in and the scenic way out, which is my recommendation.
The climbing lot actually shows up on Google Maps - click here for link. It is unmarked in person. If you look at satellite mode, you’ll notice there’s a much larger parking lot just down the road (it has a sign saying “Day Use Parking” – probably an extra minute hike).
We stopped at O Jans Fish Stand, a sketchy fish stand along the river with big portions for cheap! If you like greasy food and no frills, come here. Otherwise, drive into Alton for more restaurant options (fast food, ethnic, diners, burger stands, nicer places, etc).
You could do 75% of the park in a day with a 10c leader, a 35m rope, and 6 quickdraws. Maybe 95% if you bring a trad rack. It’s probably best for bringing newbs or single day trips. I would not recommend spending more than a day here, but it’s worth checking out if you can only climb for 1 day. The routes are fun and have some variety – it’s certainly a change of pace from Jackson.
I picked everyone up at 5am, and off we went! We arrived at the crag around 8am with just 1 other group already there. I had a GoPro I rented from the library to play with, and will probably add the video as an addendum to this later. We first walked into the Meadow Slab wall and warmed up on a 5.6 and 5.7+. I was feeling adventurous and along with Ansel, free soloed a 5.2. We found a solo climber with 2 dogs; coincidentally, also a UIUC student. We climbed with him for the majority of the day.
After this area, we kept following the trail and kept finding bolts. So we kept climbing! I didn’t keep good track of what we climbed, or what we liked, because well we climbed almost everything the place had. Shao estimates he climbed 14 routes (and we left with 2 hours of daylight left!). I can’t provide any recommendations on routes, just do all of them.
We were getting a bit confused about which route was what since there is no guidebook (but not a huge deal since everything sans a few routes are 10s or lower). The routes are well depicted and logged on Mountain Project though; any confusion was definitely user error. Case in point: Shao led a 5.11d, The Father's Gift, without knowing the grade until afterwards. Other people did tell us it was the best route in the park. I followed it on top rope like a true champ, so there’s my recommendation afterall: climb this route.
Shao clipping a bolt on The Father’s Gift, 5.11d, “best route in the park.” It traverses left near the top. Ansel on the right climbing Vista, 5.10c. Both at Ryan’s Balcony wall.
The last wall we visited was pretty crowded, but because of the short routes, it cleared out pretty quick (routes have high turnover). This area also has a nice picnic area.
A little busy at this wall, but cleared out soon after
We left fairly early since we experienced most of what the park offers (5pm or so, my guess). While the crag was very clean, the highway is full of litter: we packed out half a trash bag of cans and bottles on the way to the parking lot.
We voted on fish for dinner, and headed to the aforementioned O Jans Fish Stand (5 minutes from the crag). This place epitomizes no frills. I asked the lady at the counter what she recommended. She laughed at me, quipping that she eats everything. It didn’t help narrow down the menu options, but gave me a laugh. The lady was very obese and I can see why: the fish stand serves up huge portions of greasy fish for cheap! It would be dangerous living near here, and especially working here. To keep a balanced climber’s diet, you can round out the fat and protein from the fried fish with some carbs from their huge variety of pies. Somehow I managed to avoid that sugary goodness temptation. You better climb hard to earn dinner at this place.
Yes, they serve you in cardboard boxes that they reuse. And yes, those 2 big fish filets are a part of one $4.50 sandwich.
Afterwards we were on the road again. We took a 3 minute detour (calculated by Google at the time) and followed the Mississippi River for a bit eastward instead of heading straight north. Pretty nice views, breaks up the traditional Illinois interstate monotony. We were home by 10pm.
Beats the Interstate
Be sure to check out Melanie’s quality photo album (featuring high res pics and not stills from a GoPro, like my report). My GoPro video montage to be released at a later date (gotta make it gnarly!)
Marshal Hermann - April 2017
This weekend was the Badass Bitches Climber Crew climbing trip. We went out to Jackson Falls for the weekend with a crew of nearly a dozen women. We stayed up at the campsite near the dog walk which was a first for me. We arrived Friday night and just passed out.
Saturday we went down the dog walk to Snakes Roof where several of the ladies stayed to climb. My friends Lena, Natalie, and I went over to Spleef Peak to get on some different climbs. We started out on the 5.8 Blue Spark which was an okay climb. Followed up an okay crack in the wall but didn’t have much in regards to feet.
Next we did Through the Smoke (5.9). This was a tough one to the left of Blue Spark. I got two bolts up and was going for the third when I fell. I unfortunately swung and caught my leg on the side of the rope and got a bad rope burn on my leg.
Beautiful right? But I got back up and finished the route with no other issues. The top part was more pleasant than the bottom part. There is a frequent occurence in Jackson that the bottom part of the routes are tougher than the rest of the climb. (Not always though.)
Next we tackled the 10a to the right of Blue Spark. This route was probably my favorite of the three we did on Spleef Peak. It had a lot of interesting foot holds and the hand holds were clear to see. The moves were challenging enough for it to be enjoyable though. It was also my first on-sight 10 outside. So I was pretty excited. You can also see that there is a pleasant little sitting area at the top to enjoy the views of Jackson.
Paige Mundy on top of The Garden Route. Photo by Katie Konocel
Paige Mundy on top of The Garden Route. Photo by Katie Konocel
(Only photos of me during the trip. Enjoyed the view at the top though.)
After that Lena and I went to meet up with my friend Peggy who was crushing it on Feed the Rat. Our friend James Fran made the FA of this huge off-width that required Cams the size of your head and a lot of courage.
Peggy Flavin climbing Feeding the Rat.
At this point my leg was not in the mood to do anything else for the day. I had intentions of trying Wild at Heart (5.11a) which was opposite wall of Feeding the Rat. I had TR it the fall before but I just wasn’t feeling 100% for it. So I chilled for the rest of the day in hopes that I’d feel better.
We went back to camp and went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant about 30 min from our campsite. After stuffing ourselves full of delicious food we went back to meet up with some other friends who happened to be at Jackson that weekend. When we got there we saw glowing Easter eggs around the campsite and people wearing bunny ears around the campfire. I got to meet some UIUC alumni that are currently living in Chattanooga. There were great stories and company. Probably one of my happiest nights around a campfire I’ve ever had.
That night I tried my new blow up mattress and slept in my car. It was so much better than the dinky sleeping pad I had been using.
The next day we got up and went to go watch Peggy climb Off-Width Exam. Our buddy Alex crashed our girls weekend and joined us. Peggy has the energy of a goddess. It took her about an hour but after several dozen tough moves, two pigeons flying out of the crack at her, and some serious bad ass persistence she topped out of the climb.
Alex Bragg climbing Off-Width Exam.
Peggy Flavin on Off-Width Exam
After that three of the girls wanted to head home but I decided to stay. So I followed them to the falls where they climbed out on a 5.8 called Lovin’ Lizards after one last foot dip to the falls. Then I headed back to Exam Wall area to meet back up with Alex, Peggy and some of the people from the campfire the night before. Alex was trying to finish a route called Eminent Domain (5.12D) that had a bail beaner left behind. After several valiant attempts he switched out with Peggy who also gave it a go.
After that we could tell it was going to start raining soon so I wanted to get in one more climb really quick before we had to head back. So I did The Dagger (5.8) a few routes over and my leg was throbbing from the rope burn so I wasn’t on the top of my mental game. I managed to finish and get to the top where I found a tiny painting about 2″ x 3.5″ on a tiny easle. It was a nice scene of a forest, lake, and a little sun. I have seen several of these around Jackson now. They are apparently left behind by the cancer society. It’s super inspiring. I’d love to figure out the stories of those who put them there. Anyway…I finished the route and then Alex decided he wanted to give it a go too. I gave him a belay where he practically ran up the face of the wal, then we decided to head out due to the growing thunder.
We headed out of the canyon and went to clean the anchor for Off-Width Exam. It was then that the rain started to pour. The others told me to go on ahead to get out of the rain. So I literally RAN all the way back to the parking lot and threw my stuff in the car. First off…I haven’t ran in the rain in years. It made me feel so refreshed and like a kid. (Plus it kind of washed off the grims and sweat of the last two days of climbing.) It felt so amazing. Alex and Peggy came shortly after and after briefly saying we were going for food. We headed out of Jackson and stopped at Tequillas in Marion where we had well deserved Margaritas and food.
One of the best trips I’ve ever been on.
- Trip report by Paige Mundy, April 2017
It’s time for a well overdue trip report that all of us were too lazy to write about!
During the last week of winter break, a good number of us went out west in search of good climbing, less than freezing rocks, lots of good food, and maybe a chance to get lucky.
Yes we’re talking Vegas baby.
Our group comprised mainly of two groups, trad (local climbing legend Alex James and co), and sport (everyone else who wasn’t worthy enough for our local climbing legend). And Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, or Red Rocks for short, boasts quality trad, sport and multi pitch routes in a dry and arid desert (average of 4 days of rain a month), which was perfect for our group. With over two thousand routes just a few miles off Las Vegas Boulevard aka The Strip, this was the go to crag for our winter break.
Most of us flew into Las Vegas airport, except my MVP Ansel Higgs and gang (Eric, Dylan and Amanda) who decided that it wouldn’t be enough of a challenge unless you drove across continental US in the middle of winter (it was rad). Some groups of us arrived a few days earlier and got some climbing in at Red Rocks, while Kyle, Kirsten, Noah and I arrived on Saturday. Kyle rented a sweet SUV, and even with that amount of space, we barely fit all 4 of us with luggage, camping and climbing gear in, so in case you’re considering fitting 5 into a vehicle, I do not recommend that.
Team "Drive Across Continental US Cause I Can"
So now it’s time for some fun facts:
The catch? It’s in the middle of a dried up lake.
There are quite literally no roads there, so driving in at near 2am and shining our headlights in hopes of finding our group was a huge pain in the ass. After half an hour of aimless wandering at other groups of parked cars, watching the GPS jump around, and leaving tire tracks over half the damn lake, we found our group and finally caught some sleep.
The challenge was to identify our group, and the tents didn't help. So we used Ansel's car which had an Illinois licence plate to find everyone (P.C. Ansel Higgs)
The lake sucked, but the sunrise was gorgeous (P.C. Dylan Walsh)
Next morning, after hugging each other in acknowledgement that our friends are in fact alive, our group debated on what to do for coming days. Joshua Tree had a lot more trad and bouldering, and about half of us were there mainly for sport. So by the power of Mountain Project (go download it), we found this place called New Jack City about an hour from JTree, and our group split from there.
Now for the good stuff. New Jack City (officially known as Sawtooth Canyon) is the beautiful gem hidden in the middle of nowhere in Southern California with some 300 sport routes. The metamorphic rock looks gorgeous and while there are a few sketchy routes with choss (loose rock), most of the holds are solid and generally safe. Routes are well bolted and easy to find, even without a guidebook we got around pretty well with Mountain Project. Unfortunately because we didn’t have a guidebook, I did not keep track of which climbs I did, and we kinda just went ahead with whatever grade we were told the climbs were as long as they were within our abilities. On that note, gradings there are close to Jackson Falls, not too tough, but definitely not soft.
The crag comprised mainly a 5.10 and 5.11 climbs, so lucky for me, I managed to bag a few mid 10s which I was comfortable leading. That said, there are some good 5.7-9 climbs too, with the only climb I remember being Crooked Dick Spire (5.9), or as I like to call it, Poop Rock. There are also a few two pitch climbs, one of which I did with Ansel as our first sport multipitch. Unfortunately, it is chossy as hell, hard to find, and very exposed (lots of wind), coupled with some technical difficulties, ended up not being a great climb. But still if you’re looking to do your first multi pitch, there are options in New Jack City.
The pretty metamorphic rocks that forms New Jack City
Poop Rock in all her glory (Crooked Dick Spire, 5.9)
Other great things about New Jack City, camping is free, with vault toilets, a pavilion and fire pit for each, and while there is no running water, the town of Barstow is only a 30 minute drive North on a straight road from New Jack, where you can find a Walmart, gas stations and restaurants.
Did I forget to mention that the crag is 100 feet from the car park?
That was literally my favorite part about New Jack City. It was so compact and accessible, with a bunch of climbs just a five minute walk from the campsite. I felt like I was in this playground that I never got to explore as a child, just that this was a playground for climber which was even better.
The sport group spent two days at New Jack City. The first night, it was forecast to rain so only my car camped at New Jack City while the others went back to the BLM lake. But well it rained at both places (in fact it hit them harder in the middle of a freaking dried up lake with no shelter), and they ended up coming back to New Jack City, so I guess we won that night. Also, we had breakfast at this lovely diner chain called Black Bear Diner, which was a little pricey, but had massive portions and was absolutely delicious so I highly recommend it.
Eric and Dylan atop one of the two pitch climbs in New Jack City (P.C. Dylan Walsh)
I can probably unlock my car from the top of the route
After two days in New Jack City, we heard that there are some sport climbs in JTree so we headed there to regroup. Camping at JTree was apparently full, paid campsites nearby were expensive, and we were sick of staying in a dried lake. So we got two motel rooms instead (9 Palms Inn), which allowed for a good night of drinking and ice cream. Also, showers. It’s nice to be clean once in a while.
Joshua Tree National Park has over a thousand boulder problems and much more trad routes, known to be notoriously sandbagged (under graded). But with no crash mats we had to make do with whatever sport routes we had. Our group split into two, one group followed the trad group by top roping their routes (I only joined for one day, which I didn’t remember much of), and the other group sport climbed in this place called Siberia.
The approach to Siberia was flat but about 2 miles long along a well-marked path called the Boy Scout’s Trail. Getting near the crag was not an issue, getting to the actual climbs to find the damn routes was near impossible without a guidebook, because the main path kind of disappears and it becomes easy to follow a ‘stray path’ that guides you away.
When we first arrived at the rocks, we saw a few routes with the first bolt unreasonably high up (I swear some first bolts were at least 25 feet up, not a difficult route, but not some simple scramble up). Finally after Kyle went exploring a little we found the right place with a couple of good climbs. They were mostly 5.9-10a, with some questionable flakes, high first bolts, and very sketchy scrambles to the base of each route. But they were good climbs, with my second (or first proper) multi pitch Dos Chi Chis (5.10a, 2 pitches) that I did with Kirsten, a slab climb that that was very exposed (Noah apparently got blown off the route, literally), but very enjoyable.
The approach into Siberia involved a lot of scrambling
Eric and Noah atop Dos Chi Chis
Siberia boasts some stunning views, especially near sunset
Getting out of Siberia however, was much less enjoyable. On the first evening, Kyle, Eric, Noah and I had our little desert adventure getting lost, following a bunch of paths and misidentifying landmarks which guided us off track (though I have to say it was quite a scenic hike out in the moonlight). Thankfully Kyle had GPS on his offline maps which allowed us to find the trail after an hour of wandering. So go download offline maps, your life could depend on it.
Another highlight of our trip to Jtree was The Chasm of Doom, a mini ‘cave system’ of sorts that involves lots of scrambling which occasionally gets sketchy, as well as squeezing through cracks and up chimneys. It starts near the Real Hidden Valley loop trail, but honestly I’m not too sure where it really is, you can search online for more details. In fact we may not have done the ‘actual’ trail cause it’s supposedly a secret route but we did what we could. The best part of The Chasm of Doom was that we did it during a full moon, so we barely even used our headlights, relying on the bit of moonlight seeping through the cracks. Highly recommend doing this.
Other things to note about this part of the trip, JTree is a National Park, so you need a weekly pass ($25) or an annual pass (~$80) for each car. Camping in the park is not easy as campsites fill up fast, but we found a site at Jumbo Rocks campground, which was far from the crags we were headed for, but still a nice campground. Also, JTree has vault toilets around, but no running water so remember to stock up. Food wise, there’s a great pizza place called Pie for the People in the town just North (Twentynine Palms). Oh and the rocks in Jtree are quartz monzonite, an igneous rock which from far looks smooth, but up close it is essentially sandpaper embedded with crystals. In other words, don’t fall on the rock. It’s incredibly grippy, but it will grate off any skin you have if you grind yourself against it on a fall.
Our cozy campfire at Jumbo Rocks campgrounds
After three days at Jtree, our group decided to head to find out one more sports crag for our last day of climbing, this time in Phoenix, Arizona. The place we went to was called Camelback Mountain, and it is smack in the middle of the city. Because of that, we couldn’t find a campsite, and settled for a Motel 6 instead.
Camelback Mountain is more of a park, being very established in terms of its walking path, with a nice carpark at the base and a toilet with running water there. Getting to the crag was a little tricky. It’s very close to the carpark and you don’t have to run too far off. Mountain Project has more details on it. But basically there are two walls. Headwall is the base with 10 routes, and Gargoyle Wall is ABOVE Headwall. Yes, you have to climb up some route first before you arrive at Gargoyle Wall, which was why we got quite lost in the process.
All of us paired up and got on some sort of a multi pitch climb. I was with Kyle heading up this unnamed route, Unknown (5.10a, 3 pitches). First pitch was tricky, because the belay ledge was very far right, and I missed it which required some down climbing and quickdraw retrieval. Second pitch was where the trouble began. Kyle got pretty far up, and I was nearing the end of my payable rope. We tried shouting for him but the wind was strong and we couldn’t hear each other. Eventually Eric and Amanda who were climbing beside up got high up enough and he told us he was at the anchors, so I unclipped and started climbing too. Eventually I got up, met Kyle at the anchor and learnt that
That feeling when you sit on stable ground after a long run-out section
Panoramic views atop Camelback Mountain
With the sun setting in Arizona, we headed back to Vegas and caught our flights out of Sin City, marking the end of our climbing trip. Our grand plans for the week in Vegas never happened (I never got to eat my ramen), but I’m kind of glad we ended up straying so far from our original plans. The highlight for me was definitely New Jack City, which I would never have found had we not detoured all the way down to Southern California.
Special shoutout to Kyle for coordinating and taking charge of things with our car, always looking out for us, to Noah and Kirsten for being awesome car buddies, and Eric and Amanda for helping me get sketchy van back home from Oklahoma City. It was a fantastic trip, and I can’t wait to get back outdoors for more climbing.
Sup people! So it's been a long time since trip reports were formally recorded so I'll get the ball rolling! ***WARNING*** I’m really long winded so you can scroll to the bottom for a Too Long Didn’t Read Summary.
A group of 9 of us went to the Red River Gorge (the Red) over Fall break and it was freaking awesome. We had two cars and my campervan to get down from campus, which took about 6 hours. Stopped by Lexington for a quick meal before camping at Miguel's* on Friday night. It was forecast to rain at 3am on Saturday so we ended up car camping, a very wise decision on hindsight. Unfortunately for us, the rain caused the summer weather the Red was getting the whole week to drop to like 40 degrees in the morning, warming up probably to 50 during the day. Piss cold, but we sucked it up and got some great climbs in.
*Miguel's is a pizza shop that offers outdoor camping and unstable wifi. For $2 a night per person, you get to camp there, park, use the restrooms, get potable water, $1.50 for showers, and meet awesome people there. There's also a gear shop that you can visit for guidebooks, souvenirs and well, gear.
And just to get it out of the way, for accommodations, we stayed in a 8 person hostel style cabin* that was like 10 minutes from Miguel’s which was pretty nice. It came with hot showers and air conditioning/heating, and for sleeping there were 2 bunk beds (4 people total), two little ‘attics’ with one mattress each, and a sofa (which I think was a sofa bed but with very questionable cleanliness). We managed to squeeze some extra sleeping bags and mattresses to put all 9 of us in which was nice. The was rather bare; it didn’t come with pillows or sheets, it had no kitchen (only a microwave, mini fridge, coffee maker and toaster), and a TV which we didn’t use. But for the price we paid, we couldn’t really complain much. I brought a stove in and we managed to cook dinner using the two pots we had. There was a grocery store that was decently far away but it was still reasonable to drive there to buy food for dinners. But honestly with the company, the place was great cause it was really nice and cozy for some Cards Against Humanity and hearty conversations.
*Check out Camping Cabin A or C at https://www.redrivergorgecabinrentals.com/. You can consider staying in an actual nice cabin like what another larger group did.
Peter with A Late One
First day of climbing we headed to Muir Valley*! Driving to Muir Valley is about 30 minutes from Miguel's with a relatively simple drive there. Parked our cars** at the entrance and got started on our first climb of the trip! Started out pretty chill cause we had some first time outdoor climbers, so we began at Practice Wall. Really nice short climbs to get people on their first climb (Acrophobiacs Anonymous, 5.4, 25 feet high with like literally 2 bolts, and to the right is Yu Stin Kin Pu (that’s the actual name of the climb), a 5.6 of similar nature). It was a good place get people to practice cleaning, lead belaying, lead climbing, and just general feel of climbing outdoors, but if you’re experienced with outdoor climbing then pass on coming here. There are other climbs in the 5.9 and 10 range but in general they're pretty short climbs. I got on a 5.10b called Beta Spewer which was a short overhung route, a decent climb if you’re in the area. I think I could have sent it but god it was really really cold that day. Generally if you’re familiar with outdoor climbing you can pass on coming to this wall. Special mention goes to Peter's route Ai Bang Mai Fa Kin Ni, which is a 5.7 that is exactly what it sounds like.
*Muir Valley is a really established sport climbing area and it has nice guidebooks with plenty of info (supplemented by plenty of Mountain Project inputs). We used the Muir Valley Pocket Guide, a small book with maps, aerial outlines of each wall, and the names, grades and rating of each route. Little to no info on individual climbs but it’s sufficient to get you around. Approaches are decently long but well paved, though the uphill at the end of the day may not be to your liking (ain’t that right Mat)
1) It’s really well maintained, the paths are well marked and easy to navigate and there are vault toilets in the area. There is a fire escape road you can use which is less tiring than some of the other approaches if it’s applicable.
2) The climbs are mostly marked with a small circular plate at the base of each climb so it’s easy to find what route you want
3) Rappel rings are replaced often and from what I understand it is recommended to lower rather than rappel for safety reasons (do double check this claim)
4) Stick clips are available for the day if they are available, don’t hesistate to if you think you need it, some routes do have decently high first bolts.
5) Just take note that there are rules such as filling up a waiver that you need to take note of. Check out more info on Mountain Project and the official Muir Valley website (http://www.muirvalley.com/)
**Parking at Muir Valley is $10 a day (CASH), you will pay for a little tag you leave on your dashboard as proof of payment.
Lena on Yu Stin Kin Pu (5.6)
Exactly what happened to Peter
Second area was Guide Wall which was a short walk away from Practice Wall. A few 5.7s and 8s that are pretty nice. Again, good for beginners to come to get some climbs in, but generally pretty easy and nothing harder than 8s here. Mat got on Mona Lisa’s Crack and Peter got on Fear of Commitment. The former looked like a great climb while the latter not so great, but I can’t say for sure since I didn’t climb them myself.
Peter on Fear of Commitment (5.8)
We tried to go to Bruise Brother Wall which we heard was really good, but there were way too many people (literally every climb had a rope or someone already on it). So we ended up in Sunnyside, which was as implied pretty sunny and nice. The climbs there are mostly in the 5.10 range and not overly beginner friendly, but there are some really good climbs there. Kokepeli’s Dream is a great 5.9 slab. **Spoiler beta** (Watch out for the first bolt cause it’s the crux and falling there wouldn’t be fun, as I almost did). Another really good climb is Machete which is a great 5.10b, lots of fun on a relatively sustained route. Ended the day at Miguel’s eating some delicious pizza and I’d highly recommend just going to eat there at least once (though it can be a little pricey for us college students).
Poh leading Machete (5.10b)
Aww yea pizza
Day 2 started out at The Hideout and I absolutely loved that place. It got some nice morning sun which gave us a good start to a cold day. I got on 3 great climbs there in the 10 range. First was Boltergeist, a pretty long but well protected 5.10a (105 feet, 13 bolts). There wasn’t exactly a crux per say and honestly most of the climb was probably a 5.8 or 9, but still a fun climb, one of the classics there based on Mountain Project. While climbing there we met some students from West Virginia University (I think) and so we swapped our routes with them for convenience, and so I got on Crusin’ for a Brusin’, which was probably one of my favourite 5.10 climbs. It’s a 10d on the guidebook but it’s not sustained, only a few moves are pretty challenging especially if you’re a shorter climber like me. I’m pretty grateful that they suggested swapping our routes of I wouldn’t have given the 10d a shot, but thanks to that I became a little more confident about climbing the full range of 10s in Muir Valley. Last climb I did there was Pre-emptive Strike, a 5.10c which was really fun as well. Can’t remember too much but I’d say it’s not as challenging as I expected. Also fun fact I think my Gopro fell like 50 feet from the wall onto the soil from here but it’s working well so +1 for Gopro quality.
We then moved on to Animal Cracker Wall which is a section of slab. The routes are mostly 5.7s or 8s, including one called Harvey which is a 2 pitch climb if you want to get a little experience on multipitch, though we didn’t do that. I got on Sam which was a nice 5.10b slab, the hardest climb at the wall. Much more technical than I gave it credit for, and while softer than Jackson, it was still a decently challenging slab climb especially near the top. I believe that the others also got on Rikki Tikki Tavi and Panda Bear which I heard were not bad either.
Mat getting technical on Rikki Tikki Tavi (5.8)
Finished off the cold cold evening at The Boneyard. Unfortunately Peter didn’t manage to get his lead climb in, but I managed to get on Hijacked Project, a 5.9 which started out with an easy but pretty cool roof problem (which if you’re worried about falling, can take the ledge on the side), then onto some really big, juggy, but sharp holds which hurt like hell when your hands are freezing. Didn’t particularly enjoy the climb due to the cold.
Third day our group shrank to just Mat, Lena, Poh and myself, and we left Muir Valley for Graining Fork Nature Preserve (aka Roadside). It’s called Roadside probably cause the approach from the roadside parking area* to the crag is like a 5 minute uphill approach. The routes at Roadside are probably still softer than Jackson but definitely harder than Muir Valley, but no doubt there are some pretty damn good sustained overhung climbs in the crag**. Started off all the way out right of the crag with probably my favourite name of a climb, You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish, a rather soft 5.10b that’s mostly slab. Couldn’t remember too much about this route other than the name but I enjoyed it. We then went to the middle for some classics. First was Pulling Pockets, a 5.10d that despite what it sounds like had more crimps than pockets than I remembered. At this point of the trip I was really pumped out (typical climber excuse heard at the Red “If only I had more endurance I could totally send this”) so I pretty much bolt to bolt the route. Would definitely head back to try and send that. Next was AWOL which was a 5.10a that I got stuck on at the end because I was being stupid and not finding a good hold further up at the anchor to secure myself for clipping in. Note to self, being a short climber doesn’t give you excuses not to reach far up to find good holds. But it was still a great climb and I’d recommend doing it. In my opinion, this route was pretty fairly graded. The last climb was Crazy Fingers, a 5.10c which I managed to do with I think two takes (a personal achievement considering I was expecting to bolt to bolt most of it). We had plenty of beta from a lady who climbed this route multiple times which really helped. It felt like a better climb than Pulling Pockets and I thoroughly enjoyed this climb despite not being able to send it. Ended off the day with a 5.9 top rope that Mat and Lena set up, Jump for Joy. You can recognize it by the lock in the first bolt, which leaves the second bolt (now the first) pretty high up. Lena and I both top roped it but it was clear that her having almost an extra foot of reach was pretty useful, cause I definitely found my beta to be more challenging than hers. Managed to get my Gopro up at the top for some nice panoramic views.
*There is a DAILY permit to fill up online, do that with stable internet (not Miguel’s). For money, there is no parking fee, nor is there a daily cost when filling permit, but there is a recommended donation and for maintaining such a great crag I think it’s only worthwhile that we make a fair donation to keep such climbing accessible and maintained for the community.
**Roadside has some really high first bolts and we only managed to get by because some nice people lent us their stick clips. I would highly recommend bringing a stick clip because taking a fall from the first bolts can be quite dangerous.
Poh on Crazy Fingers (5.10c)
Our final day was at Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Area (PMRP). We didn’t have a guidebook for this and got lost along the way but we eventually found the carpark* to begin our long hike in. By some good stroke of luck we met this pair who were going along the same way and they very kindly brought us to The Gallery where we spent the day. We didn’t really recognize which part of the wall we were due to the lack of the guide book (we wandered off way too far), but the furthest left climb in the main area is The King Lives On, a nice 5.10b on the left of the arete which Lena and I got on, while Poh and Mat did Murano, a 5.10c. We didn’t exchange routes but it seemed like we all liked the climbs we did so I would recommend them. Next up was 27 Years of Climbing, a 5.8 classic with plenty of amazing jugs up the route and good stances for clipping, great for a first lead climb. I then got on A Brief History of Climb, another classic that starts out with a easy run-out scramble of sorts, to quite literally a stair of jugs towards the top. I thought it was really softly graded for a 5.10b but nonetheless I enjoyed it thoroughly. And to finish off the trip, Poh and I got on Johnny B. Good, my first 5.11a which unfortunately did not manage to send (because I was at the anchors but my draws were on the wrong side, and I took a 30 foot fall when trying to match hands…). It’s mostly a 5.8 except for the roof which is rated 5.11a, though personally I think it was a 5.10b or c. A really fun climb and if you wanna feel good about saying you did a 5.11, this is it.
*Try to get a proper map for PMRP as we had troubles with Google maps directions. Also parking there is free, but there are two areas. The first is up on the hill which is probably where you’ll park. The second area is actually all the way downhill, past some really steep and pot-hole filled road that you should not take if you don’t have an AWD or 4WD. Though this means a long and annoying uphill hike at the end, it sure beats having your vehicle stuck in a ditch. Also parking at PMRP is free which is great.
Super friendly people <3
The staircase of jugs on A Brief History of Climb (5.10b)
And that concluded the end of our 4 day climbing trip! Lots of fun and laughter, with plenty of good climbing. For me it was a first for both being mostly in charge of a group of climbers, and also climbing for more than 2 days in a row. Honestly I think 3 days of sustained climbing is probably my limit, before I’d need a day with 3 or less climbs or even a rest day. But honestly I enjoyed the trip with The Red Squad, and I’m really glad that they trusted me to plan and lead this trip. Thanks again to Adam, Lis, Arif, Muffaddal, Peter, Mat, Poh and Lena for coming on this trip and I look forward to climbing with you guys again!
- The Red is freaking awesome for sport climbing, but by mid November it can also be freaking cold
- Miguel’s has great pizza and is a great place to camp if you’re intending to do so
- Muir Valley is super well maintained and easy to navigate. Highly recommend Practice Wall for beginners, and The Hideout for some 5.10 climbs (notable climbs: Boltergeist, Kokepeli’s Dream, Crusin’ for a Brusin’)
- Roadside is easy to access and there are some super cool overhung 5.10 climbs in the middle section (notable climbs: AWOL, Pulling Pockets, Crazy Fingers)
- PMRP is a massive pain in the ass to navigate especially cause of parking, but the Gallery packs some seriously good climbs (notable climbs, 27 Years of Climbing, A Brief History of Climb, Johnny B. Good)
Climbing Trip Report: China Version ‘16 (Nov-Dec)
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