Doug and I had a very successful trip to CO last week where we climbed the Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak (our goal) and the Northeast face of Arrow Peak (bonus!).
The short version is that we had awesome weather, climbed two amazing mountains, and got back very tired. Long winded trip report follows.
This is the third summer that Doug and I have gotten together to head west and climb a mountain (due to the distinct shortage here in IL). This year neither of us had really trained and we thought something easier would be a good idea. Doug found some awesome pictures of the Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak online and given its mellow grade (only 5.4) and apparently easy
approach (only 8 miles) we had a destination for this year and were feeling confident in spite of our less than copious amounts of training.
We arrived in Durango on Sunday afternoon (after getting pulled over twice on the drive out, watch out if you leave the interstate in KS or CO) and picked up a few last minute necessities. One of the store fronts had a t-shirt with a climber that read: "Confidence: the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation." Funny because its true.
We drove up to Little Molas Lake and spent the night at the trailhead at a little over 10,000 ft. It turns out that this is a lot higher than where we have spent our first nights in the past. We began the approach the next day hauling backpacking supplies for four days of camping and technical climbing gear which makes for heavy loads (fortunately no crampons or ice axes this
year). While the approach is only 8 miles and we would be camping at an elevation only slightly higher at just over 11,000ft, it turned out to be aburly hike. The hardest we have done. You have to hike steeply down from Molas Pass to cross the Animas River and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad before climbing back up the Colorado Trail along Elk Creek.
The Colorado Trail is well maintained, but instead of just following along the creek it climbs up and down the side hill above the creek. After four miles along the creek you have to leave the trail to follow an unmaintained climbers "trail" and climb 1500ft or so into Vestal Basin. This is where the fun begins. Very steep, and lots of trees; not the nice wander through the woods trees (well there were lots of those too) but fallen on the trail trees. Stepping over and ducking under fallen trees with 65lbs gets old fast. And did I mention it was steep?
Anyway, after over 8 hours of hiking we made it into Vestal Basin Monday evening and found a great place to camp with great views of the mountains. We originally planned to do Vestal first to take advantage of the good weather, and beat any altitude issues. But, the combination of lack of training, the high first night, and strenuous terrain left us wiped out. So we declared Tuesday a "rest" day and decided to climb northeast face of Arrow Peak, a classic 3rd class scramble. Turns out the route is tons of fun and highly recommended. We intended to go "fast and light" but settled for "light" and carried only water and a few essentials. The route follows
a gigantic quartzite ramp that is solid rock, but low enough angle to be 3rd class for most of the way. It then becomes blocky easy climbing up to the summit with great views of the Wham Ridge and Vestal and back into the rest of the San Juan Mountains. No problems, just fun.
The next day we wanted to get an early start and tackle the Wham Ridge. Well, it rained that night and everything was wet. When the alarm went off we both grumbled and decided that an extra hour of sleep couldn't hurt, especially if we couldn't climb. We finally got up at first light, and things weren't too wet and the sky was clear. Late start, but we decided to go for it. We scrambled up the scree from our camp to the talus below the route in about an hour. We then headed up a series of grassy ledges to where the climbing starts. This is one of the most spectacular alpine settings I have ever experienced. Very remote and great rocky peaks with alpine lakes and grassy tundra with blooming wildflowers. Doug and I chose a line and started up the easy climbing. Doug got the first lead this year. The route is so low angle that he ran out the rope 100 feet or so before finding some pro and going another 75 feet to a tricky anchor. I took the next pitch and it was also fun and easy and long. Doug took the 3rd pitch,
but by now the clouds were building and we were starting to feel some urgency to get to the summit (and get off). We intended to shoot for a 5.7 variation well left of the ridge, but the anchoring options looked better towards the right side (easier) of the face. I took the next pitch and climbed a shallow dihedral and then a great hand crack on the face. As the terrain became blocky we each did a couple more pitches, and the route finding became tricky. Eventually we had to decide to go left or right around a large block that blocked our view of the upper mountain and we decided to go right. Wrong way. I led up some 4th class to a slightly overhanging bulge with a hand crack, the crack took a couple of good cams so I pulled over it and up into a little saddle where I set up a belay straddling a knife edge ridge. From there we could see that we still had a long way to go and the actual route was down and left from where we were. The weather was looking questionable. We were on the lee side of the mountain and couldn't see what was coming but clouds were building and many of the other peaks were getting rained on. After some debate we decided that rather than go up into uncertain terrain we should down climb to the left to get back on the 4th class route. Doug led the downclimb and then after a couple hundred feet of solid 4th class we made the summit at around 3pm. Much later than we wanted, fortunately from the summit we could see that the weather was going to be fine. We hung around for a while and then started the hike off the back side. This was a lot of loose 3rd class down climbing to the southeast followed by a westward traverse to the saddle between Arrow and Vestal. To get off the saddle we descended a scree slope called the "dues collector". I maintain that scree is named for the noise
you make as you fall down it. This one is a classic (I mean that in the worst way possible). About 1000ft, super loose, and so steep you can hardly stand up. Afterwards, there was plenty of boulder hopping on the talus back to camp to wrap up a tiring but successful day.
We originally talked about climbing a traverse of the Trinity peaks further east in the range, but after three hard days we decided that we didn't have it in us and made a late start on the hike out. Turns out that the hike out is harder to follow than the hike in and we ended up off route
on steep slopes over cliffs. We eventually climbed back up to find the route and scramble back down over and under the trees to Elk Creek and the Colorado Trail. We hiked down and up and down to the Animas River and decided that we couldn't go any further if we wanted to, so we spent the night there in the grass by the river. The next morning we trudged up the switchbacks back to Molas Pass and made it back to the car in a couple of hours on our fifth consecutive day of hard hiking. I'm not sure how many thousands of vertical feet we hiked and climbed this trip.
Since we were out early on Friday, we showered at the campground and headed for Durango for Mexican food. We then drove up to Montrose on the "million dollar highway" and over to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This deep gash in the high Colorado Desert has to be seen to be believed. It's amazing to think about people climbing there, hard core. We spent the night along a random National Forest road near Colorado Springs and then had a long, but uneventful drive home.
Kevin and I just got back from the west. Here is the trip report for our Colorado climbing experience. We learned a ton and I hope others can learn from our experiences. Pictures are available on my Facebook page. Search for me as Marshall Kuypers.
This trip is best described as a learning experience. This was Kevin and my first real attempt at multipitch climbing, as well as any climb with a reasonable (more than a mile) approach. We studied extensively before the trip, consulting reading material and other climbers in the club. We brushed up and practiced rescues, anchor building, and both read Freedom of the Hills cover to cover for new topics such as mountain weather. We set out with high hopes.
We hoped to climb in Estes Park for a warm up on the weekend, then hike in 5 miles to the 5.8 8 pitch South face of Petit Grepon. We would hike in the day before and hit the climb early. The next day, we would hike the 5 miles to the 6 pitch 5.8 Stettner's Ledges by Longs Peak. After reaching Broadway's ledge, we would traverse to Keiners route and finish to the summit. We would then descend on the cable route and finish up with a few rappels. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) our plans changed.
We arrived in Estes Park on the 17th. We set out for Lumpy Ridge to practice some small multipitch before heading on to our bigger projects. Our problems started at the trailhead. We were afraid of running out of gear, and so we brought everything under the sun. We had doubles of cams and nuts, as well as plenty of lockers, some hex, and tricams. We were considering bringing quickdraws and decided why not? There seemed to be no reason to leave them at the car. We also had neglected to check out the skinny ropes from the club, and so we were off with 130m of 10.5 mm deadweight. We set off with too much water, gear, and not enough conditioning. We totally underestimated the effect the altitude would have on us.
We arrived at the base of the 4 pitch 5.7 Osiris. The first pitch was a beautiful climb up a chimney, with thick vertical granite ribs on the outside. Kevin geared up and had a beautiful lead, although the gear sling he was using impeded his progress, and the surplus of gear began to slow us down. He arrived on a ledge and belayed me up. There were many times I thought I was going to suffocate. The bulky pack prevented me from climbing the chimney well, and whenever I got a high foot, the heavy pack prevented me from standing up. I burnt out my arms in the first 50 feet of the 140 foot climb. I got to the ledge and we realized our predicament. I figured Kevin could lead the rest and I could follow, albeit slowly.
A half pitch later, it was too clear that we simply had too much gear with us. We decided to bail, but first, we managed to get a rope stuck on the throw down. I rappelled down, unjammed it, and jugged back up. We were then able to situate the rope safely and exit the climb. On the way down, we clipped some rap rings in order to top rope the next climb over (5.9 George's Tree), which turned out to be my favorite climb of the trip. It was a flared finger and hand crack, which slanted rightward. It took intense concentration and repetitiveness, but was well worth it.
We retreated back to town and called up a few experts to discuss our options. We decided we needed smaller ropes or a pull line, and we needed to ditch the gear sling in favor of racking the harness and keeping slings around the chest. After much more thinking, we decided we didn't want to do our next climb with only one rope, so we would brave the extra weight.
The next day, after nearly hitting a black bear on the drive in, we arrived at the Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked in the 5 miles to Sky Pond and bivyed under two boulders that formed a small cave. There were more mosquitoes than I have ever seen in my life. The hike up was steep and tiring, but beautiful.
We got up at 4:30 the next morning to blue skies, and lots of wind. We geared up and started the 8 pitch 5.8 South face of Petit Grepon. We opted to scramble up a steep gully and traverse over on a ledge to skip the first pitch in the interest of time. I led the second pitch, which was pretty easy climbing,and brought Kevin up. Kevin began the third pitch, but 30 feet up, we noticed the clouds rolling in. At 8 AM, the sky was already thick with rain clouds. They came right over the mountain and we knew it would be foolish tocontinue. Despite feeling great about the climbing, Kevin backed off and we rappelled down. Just as we hit the talus field, the skies opened up and rain started coming down. We had a wet hike out of the park, but we were 100% confident we had made the right decision. The previous day, some climbers had narrowly missed a lightening storm near the top of the climb. The rain made it treacherous to scramble over the talus field, and we were glad we weren't on the rock.
We had a relaxing hike out and reevaluated our options back in town. Kevin wasn't anywhere near 100% with a terrible cough and a healing sprained ankle. We had planned to climb Stettner's Ledges, a 5.8, 6 pitch climb on Longs peak. The weather looked terrible and we were beginning to grow tired of our lessons. We needed more conditioning, less gear, and different gear (thin ropes). We decided to try and get some good climbing in, instead of hiking the 5 miles into Longs.
We finished by climbing some granite spires North of Estes in an area called the crags. Kevin had some great leads on sharp granite crystals. As we were climbing, we watched a storm envelope Longs peak and were glad to be dry. Lightening started coming down on our ridge just as we were getting to the car.
After coming back from the trip, we learned a few unpleasant facts. A hiker fell 200 feet to his death while trying to descend from Longs peak shortly before we arrived in Colorado. It seems as though he got off route, and possibly was suffering from high altitude sickness. Over the weekend, a climber was on Stettner's Ledges (the route we were going to climb), when he slipped on wet rock and fell 20 feet, badly injuring both ankles. He was eventually helicopter out. Furthermore, Tuesday night, a climber was rappelling off of the diamond on Longs peak. She got off route and was unable to ascend to the next rappel station. She built an anchor and braved a storm until she could be aided by 4 park rangers. She reached relative safely around 3 AM on Wednesday. Had Kevin and I gone up to Longs, we would have arrived just as she became stuck. We would have joined the several other climbers preparing to assist in an evacuation at the base of Longs. People who were there reported 39 degrees, wind, and rain throughout the night. It would have been an interesting night. A few days ago, 16 climbers were rescued in the Grand Tetons when a storm hit. Several sustained injuries from lightening. One climber died. These were all reminders that climbing is dangerous and solidified the fact that Kevin and I made reasonable choices. We backed off when things looked imperfect, and avoided the storms that pummeled others. Accidents happen, and we knew our limits. I'm not saying that any of those people involved in the numerous incidents didn't know when to back off or that they made bad decisions. I just know Kevin and I had our level of acceptable risk, and knew our limits. If we had gone through with Longs, we would have been climbing in conditions that were worse than the climber that fell experienced. Even if you do everything right, mistakes still happen. We were not blinded by lust, and accepted that although we drove quite a long way to get there, that the conditions did not merit the risk.
We didn't summit the climbs we wanted, but this trip was still invaluable. We learned lessons the hard way, and will be incredibly prepared for our next trip. We both stayed safe and had a great time. We learned to condition more for our next trip, take less gear, get the optimal gear, and to back off when we needed to. We also learned that a 35 foot 5.8 in the gym is much easier than a 140 foot 5.8 at 11,000 feet, with a pack on. Lots of things are different on bigger walls, and now we know how to best prepare for them. The trip was great and we had some awesome experiences. I'd encourage anyone who gets the chance to pursue Colorado climbing. It's a whole new beast.
Let Kevin or me know if you have any questions. Thanks to the club for the material support and encouragement.
I just send you this Email to share some pictures of our Yosemite trip. I spent the first 2 weeks of June in the Valley with Laurent and Xavier, 2 friends of mine from France.
During the first week, we climbed the Nose on El Capitan. We spent 4 days and 3 nights on the wall. It was a first real experience of big wall for both of us, and a great adventure! The route is superb, especially the upper part! While we slowly made our way on the wall, we were passed by some aliens like Alex Honnold and Ueli Steck trying to break the speed record on the Nose, or some others guys who did the route twice in a day......
Then Laurent had to go, and I stayed one more week in the Valley with Xavier to climb some moderate classics. We climbed:
- Royal Arches route, a 15 pitches not too hard route with a lot of scrambling and ledges (not my favorite route of the trip)...
- East Buttress on Middle Cathedral Rock, a really beautiful route on orange and grey granite, easy to protect: we loved it!
- Regular route on Higher Cathedral Spire: an adventurous short route (5 pitches) with route finding and some hard 5.9(!?!?!) variations!
- Freeblast, the first 10 pitches of Salathe Wall on El Cap, the best free route of the trip!
- Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral Rock, a short but really good route, with tons of cracks from finger to off-fist size!
During the last day, before driving back to Reno via Tioga Pass, we also gave some ridiculous burns on Midnight Lightning (the famous boulder problem in Camp IV) and Generator Crack (a classical offwidth/chimney along the road...).
In addition, I'd like to say that two things made this trip possible for me:
- The Club owns gears for this kind of vertical journey and easily lent them... It's a chance we have, and that it's not like that in every climbing club...
- Without the 2 cracks at the ARC, it probably would have been impossible for me to climb these routes full of cracks!... So yes, this wall is short, but they are some really good opportunities to get basic jamming skills on it. Don't miss them, climb a crack! :o)
I spent this weekend in Jackson with Jake (Hogan), and 8 of my friends and my brother (novice climbers at best). We spent Saturday and Sunday doing many moderate routes suitable for the moderate climbers I was showing around.
Late Saturday afternoon, Jake and I were walking through the parking lot at Jackson and I spoke with a lady crossing our path. She told us about a girl who had just slipped over the East Falls between Yos. Slab and the Dog Walk. Jake and I looked at each other as two dudes more than able to help and abandoned dinner to high-tail it to the East Falls. When we got there, there were 20+ people with what seemed like no one in charge and we learned that an EMT who had come to help the first hiker had ALSO slipped over the falls. The scene was catastrophic. Yelling, arguing, no directions, no decisions being made, slightly embarrassing, entirely frustrating. The EMT and girl were put on backboards. Nurses and a second EMT were present to administer first aid (most of which was done at this point). Jake, myself, and a few other guys then moved the EMT from the wet and mossy boulders under the falls.
I do not have details about the girl as from here on out I assisted the transportation of the EMT. From the East Falls, we carried the EMT on a litter to the 3rd/4th class access that is somewhere just before Industry (I believe, past Rainy Day Roof), to a waiting ATV atop the cliffs. The man was internally injured severely (with the addition of minor scrapes and scratches), delirious, and multiple times I needed to speak/yell/question to maintain his consciousness using his name, reassurances and simple questions. He was most definitely in shock, overheating, pale, disoriented, resistant, and complaining of abdominal pains and difficulty breathing. The second forest service EMT on scene followed a ways back with the group carrying the girl. She was bandaged, conscious, responsive and in stable condition (I believe, throughout the duration of her extraction). The haul to the access slope took (at best guess) 30-45 minutes, and the man weighed (at best guess) 220-250lbs. Thanks to all the climbers who dropped their ropes, packs and routes along the trail to relieve some of the other carriers.
From the base of the slope, the carrying group rested and some fresh hands/shoulders were brought in. Jake and I took lead and cranked this guy up the muddy, slippery rocks and out of the canyon. Another 30ft elevation and 50 yards later and we met up with the ATV. The ATV driver and I strapped the litter into the wagon with two webbing ratchets and some of the carrying group stayed with us to rip down logs and branches in the way of the ATV as the driver bushwhacked out to a deep extension of the field that can be found past the Pines campgrounds at the end of the road. Here we waited for a chopper air lift. It was hard for the chopper to find us, people with the radios had trouble describing the location until lat. long. coordinates were given. We heard the life flight chopper in the area and I snatched the blaze orange head bags from under the litter and ran to the middle of this prairie grass field waving the blaze orange over my head until the chopper saw us and circled in to land. The hurt EMT, in the meantime was cooled with ice packs and cold water soaked cloths. His co-worker kept him conscious from this point on.
The girl was carried to the additional mile through the field to the road and delivered to an ambulance team there. Jake and I rode with some of the other help back to camp in the back of the Forrest Service pickup truck. The temps were in the high 80's with wicked humidity and we were drenched head to toe.
From this experience I've learned how crucial it is to have someone experienced in scene management take charge of an emergency situation. If no one is experienced, someone must take charge and concrete decisions must be made. Valuable time was lost arguing at the base of the East Falls, no doubt.
The experience also reinforced what I already knew: routine injuries are catastrophic in the Jackson Falls canyon. There is little experience with these extractions and, in this case, the help of climbers was required to best navigate the trails and canyon access points. The incident also emphasizes the fact that complacency on approaches or descents is the quickest way to climbing or climbing related accidents. My best advice for future (god forbid) incidents is to stay calm and to assign someone to be making the decisions.
- Be careful.
- Don't get complacent, even around moderate heights.
- Learn wilderness first aid.
- Don't get hurt at Jackson.
My best wishes and prayers to the victims. My apologies for any comments (during the incident OR in this report) that may offend anyone. I am trying to be as accurate and truthful as possible about the event so that others can learn from this experience both how to stay safe, how to help in an emergency and options or examples of what may be needed in future emergency situations at Jackson or elsewhere.
Climb safe. Hike safe. Climb hard.
Feel free to ask questions. It's late, I may not be clear on some things or haven't elaborated, though that may be because of the one-dimensional perspective of my accident report.
Hey guys, this is my first trip report and I know it is just about Jackson, but I feel like it is important. My mind is still scattered after yesterday's events, but I thought a brief overview would be beneficial to everyone, and possibly help me organize all my thoughts. If all you read is this first paragraph, please remember to be super careful crossing the East Falls after a rain shower and to know when to step back and let EMTs do their jobs. I couldn't not say anything about what happened in case someone else got hurt the same way. I want everyone to have a fun, safe time.
Sunday was our second day of insanely fun climbing (Spiders from Mars 5.10b was by far my favorite from the day before!) and it started out fantastic. My goal of doing the 5.10 at Snake's Roof had been met and after slabbing it up on Five Nine we had decided to head over to Sleef Peak. We quickly set up a top-rope for the newbies in our group on Blue Spark and Through the Smoke, which were both fantastic climbs for everyone. Unfortunately, only one of us got to do the 10a, Rattler, before it started to down pore. The rocks (and us) were soaked and very slick so we decided to clean and call it a day. 4 out of the 7 people in our group were very new climbers and they were exhausted but definitely addicted. We had meet tons of people from a few different states and had a great time. It felt like the perfect end to a great weekend.
As the last person was going up to clean I heard people on the dog walk yelling for help saying a girl had fallen off a cliff. A group of approx. 10 people from Effingham had come to Jackson to hike around for the day and enjoy the views. I yelled back for them to dial 911 immediately and that we would go and find her. 4 of us ran down to the East Falls with our packs and found her 25-30 feet below the ledge with a severe compound fracture of the ankle and moderate blood loss. She had some cuts and bumps on her head but was otherwise okay except for the exposed bone. I couldn't believe how lucky she was... After a quick assessment and getting to know one another we elevated her leg because she didn't want anyone to touch her foot. I didn't have any sterile telfa pads big enough for her wound and didn't want to put a dirty t-shirt on it so it worked out best to not wrap it. She was just dripping a couple drops every once in a while by then so we focused on distracting her and keeping her talking since she was a bit shocked. It wasn't long before we were told the EMTs were there and getting set up. The next 5 minutes will forever be burned into my memory... I wish I would have looked away.
I heard the sound of running up above and then screams. The situation went from bad to horrendous. I knew instantly that someone else had slipped on the East Falls. Looking up in horror I saw one of the EMTs desperately trying to stay on the ledge and then slip. He landed on his back only 3 feet from us and hysteria broke loose. Luckily 2 guys from Indiana were there to keep the EMT from falling down the rest of the way past us and hurting himself more. By then his and her screams had gotten people running up from everywhere and people looking over the ledge at the scene. Guys were yelling and cussing at each other. Adding 20 gun-ho men to the mix was craziness and the EMT that made it down the gully safely couldn't control the situation very well. I was speechless and frankly didn't want to hear or see the EMT that was hurt... the blank stare after he hit will give me nightmares... I held the girls hand and told her to keep looking at me. I couldn't lose it in front of her.
Everyone was yelling and the situation was out of control. Thankfully another EMT arrived and took command. He ordered the injured EMT to be taken out first since his life was in danger and the female victim was stable physically. A climber I had seen on Morning Beers earlier had rigged an anchor above the falls in case they wanted to raise the victims (and I had everything necessary for a pulley system down below - thank you Andy P.), but they chose to carry the victims out the longer but safer way (which seemed very wise and they had a lot of willing dudes to help carry). After I helped strap her to the backboard and push her up the rocks to the next group of people, I sat and looked at my friend Jim in disbelief. Both speechless, we cleaned up the site and ourselves as best we could. All I wanted to do was get ourselves safely back to camp.... and drink a couple beers.
If you know me at all, my first priority is to be safe. I try really hard to never be in a situation like I experienced yesterday, but I'm glad I was armed with a little knowledge so I didn't lose my head. I found flaws in my first aid kit and will rectify them immediately - for example: always have latex gloves. I forget about the other people who share the land with us that might need help sometime. This was a terrifying experience for me, but I won't skimp on any first aid supplies or knowledge from here on out - I hope no one else will either. Climb hard, but climb safe everyone.
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,......
To more adventures...
This started out as a long Trip Report. Then I realized that there were enough things that happened that I could expound on, that I could make this a Very Long- but instructional- Trip Report.
Note that most the links wrapped. Do this: right click, then "open in new window". Then you can cut and paste the rest of the link into that new window. Werks fer me.
If you are new to climbing, there are multiple things in here that might be of interest to you. Feel free to read up, and ask questions about anything at tomorrow's meeting (Tuesday, 7pm, DKH).
If you aren't new, you can read anyway.
If wordy TR's aren't your thing, feel free to skip straight to the images. http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/Page.html -Andy.
"Mit-tens! Mit-tens!" We were planning for a chilly weekend in Southern Illinois. We had stopped by Rob's garage to pick up some club gear that he had set out for us. After grabbing the stove and tent, I recommended that Amanda grab the club's ridge rest that was laying across the wooden canoe that Rob had constructed by hand. After all, the closed cell foam pads insulate better than the inflatable therm-a-rests, and not having one could mean long cold nights. Since we had two nights ahead of us, we came prepared.
We'd even stopped at Champaign surplus so Amanda could pick up a new pair of gloves. I mentioned that mittens were actually warmer by nature, so she found a pair that fit her well and shelled out the forty dollars. Forty Dollars??! Jeez...
By the time Chris (Majerczyk) had picked us up and the three of us drove down to Jackson, it was about 10:30. We pulled into one of the lesser known, nicer camping areas at Jackson with time enough to set up a tent and crash. It was rather chilly already, so we bundled up before getting out of the car. Amanda proudly declared to noone at all, "I have new mit-tens." As we were planning to be there for two nights, I brought my climbing pack in the tent and unloaded the cache of cold weather clothes I had brought. Chris slept in the bed of his truck atop his ingenious construction that created a loft above two long drawers that carried all of his climbing gear. Amanda and I set the closed cell pad on top of the thermarests to create the most comfortable cold weather camping solution possible.
The next morning, everyone was feeling pretty lazy. We each woke up a few times, listened carefully for movement from others, and after hearing no sound, went back to sleep. By the time we got out and stretched in the brisk morning, grabbed some food, and were ready to go, it was 9:30am. I hate early mornings, so that was fine by me.
I was expecting the day to be frigid, but by the time we had walked to "the Vow", abandoned it as a waterfall, and back over to "Group Therapy" to warm up our arms, the sun was already shining bright and warming up the morning. Part of the art of being warm is heat maintainence. I remember Nathaniel expounding on this topic thoroughly when we were climbing in North Carolina. While on a NOLS trip, he informed me that when you feel yourself even start to sweat, even if it's cold outside, you need to unzip your coat a little. If you sweat, you'll moisten your clothes. When you stop working, and need warmth, you need to prepare for your body cooling off by adding a layer. If you've allowed yourself to sweat profusely due to too many layers, you'll only have cold wet clothes to put on. There is a delicate balance between too warm and too cold, and it takes some careful planning and layering to be able to regulate between them efficiently.
Chris climbed first, and hung the draws for me. He was quick to notice that climbing routes requires more endurance than bouldering sessions are likely to build. On my turn, I milked the rest at the fourth bolt as I always do, finishing the route and lowering off. The rope was running through the monster lobster claws that dangle at the end of the chains, as those are suitable enough to Toprope directly through. (Had there only been chains hanging, I would have needed to leave carabiners clipped to the chains, as excessive toproping through chains wears on them rapidly.) I left a couple quickdraws midroute, clipped to the rope Amanda was about to toprope on. This allowed her to fall off the overhanging wall without having to fight her way back to the climb. She would unclip those as she passed them. (Although she would also try climbing past one of them without unclipping, which doesn't work so well.)
As group therapy would prove not to be Amanda's "style" of climbing ;) she lowered off to let the quickly forming masses have a run, a most kind gesture. One of the guys volunteered to retrieve our draws for us, so we pulled the rope. He led the route, clipped the lobster claws, and proceeded to downclimb the route, cleaning his gear as he went. Downclimbing routes is a great technique builder. Downclimbing group therapy is just plain hard. He gave us our Quickdraws back and we headed over towards Railroad.
We ran into friends of Chris' all the way. He happened to know a guy named Kipp who was busy bolting a new route. Evidently, Kipp had found another rope to use since another one he was using for this had gotten stolen. It is common practice for people to leave ropes hanging as they are estabolishing new routes. These static ropes were likely fixed (ie, tied to the anchor with a knot) but somehow someone managed to swipe the rope and cam that was being used to protect a portion of the route as it was being worked. If that person were to be found, bad things would happen. Swiping fixed gear is not advised.
I immediately thought of one of my first times climbing at Jackson Falls. Someone had quickdraws hanging all the way up a hard route (Read: 5.13). That someone, who I'm now indebted to, though I never discovered their identity, was nowhere to be seen. My young climber's mind immediately assumed those draws had been abandoned. I reasoned that the climber had gotten in over his or her head, and was unable to retrieve the quickdraws. So another climber with the group and I began to stick clip our way up the route. I managed to swipe two draws, which I proudly proclaimed as "booty" before deciding that even stick clipping 5.13 was too much work and abandoned the efforts. It was some time before I realized that the draws were intentionally left hanging because the route was someone else's project. That someone else intended to come back and attempt the route on a day when they were feeling fresh and strong. I am forever guilty of snagging someone else's gear, an ethicly poor decision that is truly deserving of a butt-whooping. Unfortunately, I have been Unable to find the owner of that gear. Bad form Andy, bad form.
Our Trio pursued onward to Railroad rock. Amanda wanted to lead a route today, so we walked through the hallway to the 5.8 route (name unknown) that ascends flakes to the anchor. She was a bit uneasy about heading up the route straight-away so for the second time, Chris played the role of ropegun.
After lowering off the two quickdraws he had clipped to the chains (with the rope end biners opposite and opposed) he untied the figure eight follow through and pulled the rope out of his harness. He then proceeded to sit down to take of his shoes, as Amanda began pulling the rope.
I looked more than halfway up to the route to see the tail of the rope dangling, with the first half of a figure eight still tied in the rope. "Ack! Stop!!" I blurted, fully realizing that at that point, there isn't anything you can really do. We all shared a still silence and our glances met as we all knew that this was not right. "Maybe we can just pull it through anyway," Chris offered. We tried, but to no avail. Now Amanda had to lead on the end of the rope that was coiled in the rope bag. She would have to unclip the snagged rope as she led, before she could clip her lead end of the rope into the quickdraw. In this case, it wasn't a terribly awful situation, but in other circumstances (like multipitch or climbs taller than half the length of the rope) this would have turned into an epic nightmare. Here are some pictures of amanda leading over the other rope. Notice how the other rope is clipped above her, while she has unclipped it before clipping her lead rope below her: http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/amanda% 20leading.jpg http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/amanda% 20leading1.jpg This one shows the knotted rope at the anchor: http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/amanda% 20leading2.jpg Here is Chris's look of "I can't believe we pulled the rope with a knot still in it, the sun is in my eyes, and you're taking pictures of me": http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/chris% 20belaying.jpg
While Amanda was on that climb, I was looking slightly askance at one of Jeff Frizzle's new climbs on the arete to the right of "Wild at heart." I pondered that route while cutting slices off of my enormous sausage (which for some reason bore the brunt of numerous jovial retorts this weekend).
I offered to hang the draws on that one. The sequence screwed me up a bit, and I ended up doing a powerful tall highstep arete move to get around it. Chris, on the other hand, being much wiser, evaded that little maneuver by discovering more delicate, yet surmountable face moves. http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Chris% 20leading%2011%20railroad.jpg However, he took a long fall near the top, which left him hanging near the bottom. He tried again, but the memory of that fall got the best of him and he favored saving energy for some great routes at the promised land. I was then honored with leading it again, and, upon using Chris's face climbing variation, redpointed the little bugger. Amanda got on it as well, and with the security of the Toprope, found the strength to push through its cruxes and get to the chains.
Then we bundled up for the hike to Promised land, and again Amanda got excited about her "Mit-tens! Mit-tens!"
After a stroll along the train tracks, we found the trail to the Promised land. I had no idea there was this much rock around here. It certainly is something to be seen. We hopped on one of the first two routes we saw. It began with some face climbing on positive holds, until it leans back 50 degrees to the 5.11 moves that Chris described as "Jug, crimp, cross through crimp, Jug" It is certainly worth repeating. Chris gave it a go as well: http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Chris% 20Promised%20land.jpg http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Chris% 20Promised%20land2.jpg However, Chris noted that the beta he was giving me has since required alteration. The "Jug" had broken off, and was now a marvellous crimp. He was sharp enough to notice "Yeah- that changes things." He was pumped from not having climbed routes in a long time (like a month) and lowered off the last draw. We left the rope hanging and would deal with it later.
I turned around the corner to find a 5.10 route that tends rightward, and also kicks back near the top. I read some of these moves well, hit the sequence, and nailed the dynamic throw. However, I was making noise on the rock, and it wasn't long before I heard, "ooh! ooh! Birds! Look at the birds!!" Apparently I had startled some wildlife that took up inhabitance on one of the ledges near this climb. Then Amanda looked more closely- "No! They're squirrels! Flying Squirrels!!" I glanced down to see her walking closer to get a better look, and Chris (my belayer) following her. "Hey!! Could at least One of you Please watch me?!!" The route finally fell, and I lowered off to untie, and quickly grab my camera. This is what a flying squirrel looks like when it isn't flying: http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Flying% 20squirrels.jpg
Amanda tackled that route after me, and began cleaning it. Meanwhile, I belayed Chris on the previous route, toproping through the last draw. His plan was to Down-Lead the climb, but after climbing the whole bugger, the plan didn't sound so cherry. While he was considering why it would be dumb to unclip the draw, and then fall onto the next one, I started to hear yelps coming from Amanda. As it turns out, she had clipped into the anchor (via cowtails) and threaded the rope. Only, she threaded the rope around one of her cowtails, and upon weighting the rope (on rappel), the cow tail was now pinched through the two strands of rope. She couldn't get it out. However, through all the cluster frigs, Amanda figured out whatever she was exactly doing up there, and Chris summoned the strength to pull the last couple moves and get to the anchors. Even though he clipped in to the rope with a quickdraw in order to "Tram" his way down, since the route was so overhung, that turned into an episode itself. Yet, all told, we escaped the climbing that day unharmed.
We still had to hike out. It was dusk by now, and Chris told us it would be quicker to hike out past Groovy Marcia and up the dog walk, so we pursued that venture. I pulled on my hat and gloves, and Amanda donned her "mit-tens." The hike out was pretty straight forward, even though we weren't exactly always on a "trail" per-say, because two of the three of us had thought to bring headlamps. Otherwise, it would have been epic. Our second narrow escape.
When we got back to the parking lot, we saw that Tony's car was still there. I was shining my headlamp in it, commenting on how it didn't look disturbed from this morning, when I heard Tony shout, "Andy??" We were supposed to meet up with them that morning, and saw their car, but no sign of them. They had toured most of Jackson Falls looking for us and climbing whatever routes they encountered (though I doubt they quite had the cicumferential experience we did).
"I lost my mit-ten." What? "My mit-ten! I lost it!" No Way.
So as Amanda and I hiked back to the dogwalk to look for a "mit- ten", Chris, Tony, and Gabe, headed towards where we had left the tent that morning. I went down the dogwalk, but to no avail. The Mit-ten was gone. Amanda and I sat down and listened to somebody playing an acoustic guitar while the glow of their campfire bounced off the wall between the East falls and Yosemite Slab. I was bummed that we couldn't find Amanda's Mit-ten, but she said it was okay because, "We saw flying squirrels!"
And so we hiked down the road towards the campsite. We were walking along, everything being cool, when we saw a truck with a car close behind coming towards us. Certain it was the trio to supplement our quintet, we stepped aside and waited for them to pull up. Chris rolled down the window, and with angry incredulous eyes managed to spit the words out: "Someone stole our site!" What?!! "We got there and there were 7 cars there. There were tents on both sides of your tent. They didn't just take our site, they swallowed it!!" Squatting another's camping ground, like stealing someone's gear off a climb, is taboo. Dirtbag. Not.Cool.
Chris and Tony and Gabe had walked over, and picked up our tent from their midst, with all our belongings in it, and crammed it into the back of Chris's truck. They were kind enough, however, to take the poles out first.
We were going to find another campsite, when Chris asked if we wanted to just go to the bouldering area he would be showing us the next day. Sure. So we went through Murphysboro, stopping at the 17th street BBQ as recommended by Tony, a food connoisseur if there ever was one. When asked what was good on the menu, he said, "The sides are really good. I like the baked beans, but don't eat the chicken."
We camped at a campground in Murphysboro, but because we had another lazy morning (despite some goose honking at all retarded hours of the morning) the ranger found us before we got out of there. $10. Bummer.
Then, we went Bouldering.
Chris was the only one who had been to this area before, so he took the lead and showed us what it had to offer. It was some pretty decent bouldering. Chris showed us one problem that he'd been working on, and so we grabbed our shoes and gave it a go. On one of his later attempts, Chris fell off and struck his big toe directly into the ground. Through the rest of the day, he gave us reports on how green it was turning. I really felt bad, not because of his toe but because I sent the project on about my fourth try. We didn't have the camera out, so I got back on it and sent it again. It was one of those problems where you just really enjoy doing the moves. It just felt Good.
Most of the rest of the day went relatively incident free. Perhaps the one last thing worthy of commenting on was the presence of bad spotting. I didn't do this intentionally, but I've captured images of Good and Bad spotting. So for those who don't know, I'll walk through it..
Good Spotting: Here is one of me spotting Chris. My hands are open, I'm looking at his center of mass, and I'm ready to control his fall softly into the mat. I'm not trying to catch him, just slow him down. Notice that my fingers are open. Having closed hands will get your fingers Jammed, I've seen it happen. http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Chris%20(the% 20Red%20sea).jpg
Good (but weird looking) Spotting: Tony is spotting me here by watching my shoulders. This climb is close enough to the ground that there is no way he could support my hips in the event of a fall. Here, he can only try to stop my shoulders from striking and my head slapping into the rock. http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Andy%20(the% 20Red%20sea)1.jpg
Bad spotting: Here, Amanda has her arms in the air. Though beautiful, she looks ready to jam her fingers while catching me with her face. This angle doesn't show it well, but she's spotting a fall towards the right- the one direction I won't fall. http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Andy%20V2.jpg
Bad spotting: Gabe is not spotting. He should be. Amanda is 12 feet in the air. While he is behind her, for her safety from a fall, he should offer to spot. For his safety from me, he should stop staring at her butt. http://ice.prohosting.com/thebud/november2004/original/Amanda% 20bouldering3.jpg
Through it all, this was probably one of the most fun weekends of climbing ever. Perhaps even the best. Times like this are the very reason I climb. It was excellent.
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