Saturday, June 8, 2013

Days 11-15


The morning was cold, and a fog hung in the air. Through the dim morning light I watched as deer moved across the creek from our camp. This was the scene to which I awoke this morning. Having driven in after dark, I had no idea what to expect when I woke up. The land was so different from where we had been all last week: tall trees, babbling brooks, and greenery surrounded us.

We reloaded the car after breakfast and were on our way to the front of the park to climb when a red minivan with flames on the side caught my eye. This unmistakable vehicle belonged to some dear friends of mine I knew from back in Beaumont. Apparently they were back in the states and living out of their car as well. After spending a week climbing desert towers in Moab, they had come to rifle as well. We stopped by and had some coffee with them, and then the four of us set out to climb.

Rile is famous for it’s concentration of 5.14s and other hard routs… I am not a 5.14 climber! The day started with some 5.11 warm ups, which is really more in my project range, and moved into a day of 5.12 climbing, well more like 5.12 top-roping for me.

Even after six years of climbing I had never really done in climbing on fixed gear. After lunch, I found myself halfway up a 5.11 that was protected primarily with nylon leaver draws. Now, these draws were all in good enough shape, but I quickly found I harbored a rather serious selection bias against them. About a third of the way up I was petrified by the fear of climbing on gear I hadn’t placed. Luckily, Josh was on the neighboring 

The climbs here are hard! Not just because the grades are high, but because the moves are so full body. Just climbing 5.11 out here took every bit of core and major muscle strength I had.  By the end of the day I was shot…

We finished the evening with a pasta potluck that we scrounged up between all of our provisions. It was nice having a bit of diversity in my diet.


The next morning was cold again, and on top of this my body felt like it had been hit by a freight train! We hit the walls early, as Josh had to get back to town later that day. We spent the day throwing ourselves at some short but incredibly trying 5.12s. It was around lunch when Joe Kinder came by, and we were able to watch him “warm up” on one of the harder 5.12s… I guess when you are climbing in Rile that sort of thing is bound to happen.

Merritt's hands after jamming some crack!
We called it a day early, said goodbye to our friends, and went back to our camp for a nap. We may not have climbed long, but we climbed hard. Later that afternoon I took the opportunity to go for a bit of hike along the creek and took some pictures.


We slept in as late as we could today, which in the car means we made it until about 9:00AM. Earlier, we had received a call from a good friend of mine, Jane, in Moab inviting us to come crash with her at the white water rafting company she worked for! So we decided to pack up and make our way to Moab. While we were on the road we found out that she would be out on the river all weekend, but that we could still crash at the warehouse. With no need to get there so soon, we decided to head to Arches National Park and check it out.

We decided to head to delicate arch, the one from the Utah license plate. The hike was labeled strenuous, but in reality it was pretty innocuous, which made me feel a little silly for packing up so much water and such. Regardless, whatever the hike may be, it’s worth it. The arch was really cool to see up close! However, if you want a picture of the arch with no people in it you may have to wait a while.

Later that evening we made our way to the World Wide River Expeditions warehouse, where we met a few of the people who worked there. We were able to grab our first real shower in two weeks—a most enjoyable experience!


Because Jane was still out, she had arranged for us to meet up and climb with one of her friends who lives in town. Early Sunday morning we met up and she took us to a rather secretive local climbing spot with some wonderfully crimpy sandstone. We spent most of the morning and afternoon climbing and then decided to head back to the warehouse to wait for Jane to get back! By this point we had met many of the people who worked at World Wide; everyone is super chill and incredibly accommodating. If you are ever looking to raft in Moab you should definitely give them a call!!!


By far one of the greatest days of the trip, and we weren’t really even climbing! Everyone was upstairs eating breakfast when one of the guys announced that he was planning a trip to go swing one of the little known arches situated outside the park. About seven of us loaded up ropes and made the drive out of town to the arch. Upon arrival we were met with a towering wall of rock, no arch to be seen. It wasn’t until walking around the bend that the arch came into view.

After soloing a couple of pitches of scramble we were at the top!

A small split in the rock reveals a hole clean through the top of the arch and some bolt anchors. We set up a double rope rappel and everyone made the 120 or so foot descent back to the ground. After getting everyone down we each took turns hiking up the back of the arch and swinging out into the desert! This was some classic Moab fun!

After everyone got their fill of swinging, we made out way to a local eatery, Milt’s, and ate way too much food. I ordered a veggie burger melt, a large fry, and one of their famous milk shakes… It was amazing, and I regret nothing!

Despite the inevitable food coma that set in, Jane took us out on the river that evening to do a little white water kayaking! The water was cold and the canyon was beautiful, you could not have asked for a more adventure filled day! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Days 7-10


Well not too much to say about the 26th of May. We climbed today, that is to say, we fell off our projects over and over again. Other than that not too much exciting happened on the routes; I suppose when you are out long enough mediocre days are bound to happen.

We did have a nice evening with our new friends from Austin. The night was spent around the campfire swapping stories and telling tales of climbs past. 


The morning saw the departure of our camp mates, but we hit the walls with renewed fervor after hearing all the climbing tales the night before. However, just as we got on the wall, they came… Like locust they descended in a swarm upon the wall. No less than 45 children from a nearby climbing team had come to the shelf to warm up for a competition later that week. Every single rout on the wall had a rope up it and kids waiting in line to climb it. Now normally I would have reacted rather poorly to this kind of invasion, but honestly, the adult leaders were so kind and the kids were so well behaved that I couldn’t even be mad. 

After the invasion we decided to bail for another wall up the road. This brought us to an area called The Vault, where we met a lovely bunch of climbers from nearby. The routs up the wall here were stout—not tall like many of the climbs at shelf, but hard! I don’t think I have ever seen Merritt so shut down as I did on this techy face climb he jumped on. The moves were tiny and the feet were scarce, but after a few pulls on the clips, he was able to pull the chains.


We woke up this morning and were relieved to see the climbing team packing their bags and making for town. We made our way back to our projects and got to work. After a sketchy warm up on the aptly named “castrator,” Merritt took a burn at his project, falling at the penultimate bolt. I then took to my project and fell similarly. After a quick rest I jumped back on my route and was able to get the send! Merritt took this momentum to his own route, but lost his footing going for the chains! Frustrated, he rested while we ate lunch. Feeling rather tired after two burns, Merritt once again took to the wall, this time dialing in each move and successfully red-pointing!  

Later that day we met a group of guys who all guide for a living and did a bit of climbing with them. That night we spent the evening with those same guys, doing a bit of slack lining and cactus jumping (a new and painful game they introduced us to).


We slept in today, and then rather lazily made our way to Rifle via The Great Sand Dunes National Park. Now for anyone who has been following our trip closely, you will see just how inefficient our path has become, but I suppose that’s the price you pay for going places on a whim…

The Great Sand Dunes were amazing; the pictures will never do tem justice. Now, as for myself, Lawrence of Arabia is possibly my favorite of all movies so I couldn’t help but quote every line I could remember all the way to the top of the highest dune! This hike was only a little over a mile up roughly 750 feet, but being that it was sand, it was one of the hardest hikes of my life. It seemed every step you took forward the sand would fall and bring you back half a step, but in the end, the hike was totally worth it. If you get a chance check out the Dunes—even if Lawrence isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of Frank Herbert references ready to be made!

...there is nothing in the desert. No man needs nothing.

The drive to Rifle took us strait through the Rockies, and after spending the afternoon in the desert, we found ourselves in the midst of a snowstorm around Leadville. After a long drive we finally made it to rifle, found the right park, and made it to bed around 1:00AM. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Days 4-6

5/22/13 continued:

We rolled in in the wake of another thunderstorm, but again not much rain so everything was dry. We have really lucked out on this whole weather thing. The routes here look absolutely amazing—tall limestone and big holds, a welcome change from the Penitente slab… We went ahead and grabbed a camping spot here at Sand Gulch and settled in for the evening. That night there was a thunderstorm on the horizon, and I tried my luck at some lighting photography. They aren’t great pictures, but I’m proud of my first try.


We woke up early to a hazy and chilly morning. After breakfast, we made our way down to the nearest wall to start the day. Unfortunately, this would be the beginning to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, and Very Bad Day for me… After a mix up in reading Mountain Project, I ended up warming up on a much harder grade than I had anticipated. Having cleared up the debacle, I attempted to pamper my ego and tackle a juggy 5.10 a route over.

That’s where it happened, a bolt away from the chains. I was laid back on a big crack going for the clip when I lost my grip on the polished rock and proceeded to take a rather egregious fall. The layback had positioned me over a ledge, which I fell into, sending me into a spin and slamming me back first into the wall! Luckily, I walked away from the incident completely unscathed, save a scratch across my back. Needless to say, my psych was shot for the day. Every rout I looked at after that made me a little sick to my stomach. The rest of the day was top-rope and cop-outs for me. Merritt, on the other hand, made the most of the day and got in some solid climbing. 

Shelf Road is not for the faint of heart! The routes are tall and if you are climbing on anything under about 5.11b the bolts are ruuuuuuunnnnnn out… The climbs are great, but they will test you mentally.


I woke up, having shaken yesterday’s funk, and hit the wall fresh. Today promised to be a wonderful day of climbing. After an eventless warm-up, Merritt and I set about climbing some quality routes on the back wall. The climbing today was so great it was hard to imagine how awful yesterday had been.

The sun was out in full force today, so chasing the shade was the name of the game. We started the day on a west-facing wall and held out to midday, catching a bit of shade in a dihedral to have lunch. By now we were out of water and there was no shade to be found so we headed back to camp to refill and grab a quick siesta. We finished the day in the shade of the opposing wall, burning out in anticipation of a rest day tomorrow.

Merritt trying to find any shade he can!

A rather large snake that decided to pay us a visit
Friday evening brought on excitement of its own. The camp area was beginning to fill up with a wave of holiday weekenders. Around 9:30 a couple of guys from, would you know it, Texas rolled in, and we ended up sharing our site with them. Turns out they even knew a friend of ours. It seems you can’t go anywhere without running into Texas climbers.


Another adventure in interacting with the real world! On our way into town we pulled over on the side of the road to do some washing up in the river. Clean—well, less dirty—we made our way back into CaƱon City for a little Internet connectivity. Took a chance of ruining my trip by checking my final grades, luckily everything turned out all right!

I think this officially makes us dirtbaggers... 
After some Vietnamese food for lunch we settled into a coffee shop at the edge of town, which is where I’m presently typing this update. Going to try and find something exciting to do for the rest of the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! If you are ever in the area we are, hit us up on the Facebook; we are always happy to have good company!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Days 1-3


We started early, around 8:30am. Merritt and I had spent the previous night packing so it was quick work to get on the road. The drive was un-noteworthy—we didn’t take any wrong turns, or run out of gas, or anything exciting like that. 

Penitente had been my first big outdoor experience. Sure there had been the numerous weekend trips to the local crag, but Penitente had been my first weeklong, out-of-state experience. That was near five years ago now. After recalling my wonderful time there, I had decided to revisit this place on this trip.

In my mind there were 90ft walls and every rout was a five-star classic… It’s funny how time plays tricks on the memory, especially one with so much sentimental value. The walls were much shorter than I remembered, and somehow I had suppressed all the memories of slab climb after slab climb (not a strength of mine).

We arrived around 5:30pm to the canyon in the wake of a thunderstorm. The valley was dry, most of the rain had missed us, and so we hopped on a couple of easy routs while the last few rays of sun lighted the valley.


The name of the game is oxygen! Having driven up from 3,256 ft in Lubbock, TX to 8208 ft here in CO, our lungs were a little less than prepared for the air here. About halfway up an overhanging 5.10 it hit me: my arms were on fire and I was panting like a dog. I kept pulling and pulling and nothing was coming out. I had forgotten how rough the acclimation process was. I finally finished the route and spent about 20 min. recovering on the ground. 

As the day wore on I got a little better at synthesizing O2. We finished out the day on a wonderful route with a nice layback crack!

The evening found us on a short hike to the top of a bluff to catch the sunset. It was here also that I found a small pine tree, which I potted in an empty Mountain Dew can for a little decor for the car. We’ll see if it survives the potting…


Having not had the opportunity to climb much before the trip, I was feeling the previous day. We headed out into the canyon early and warmed up a bit then climbed an awesome dihedral. I say awesome; I really enjoyed it, Merritt felt differently about the experience. Around noon the walls were all in direct sun, this and the fact that we had climbed most everything we were interested in, lead us to the decision to press on to Shelf Road.

We hopped in the car and set off northward. We stopped in a small town on the way and hit up a lovely little coffee shop, Sacred Ground, which is where I’m at now and making this post. The owner was super chill and the coffee was amazing. If you are ever in Salida, CO, I strongly suggest you stop by and get a Mexican Mocha! Onward, to Shelf Road!!!