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!!!