A Weekend in the Mountains Sport Climbing, Trad Climbing on Lumpy Ridge, and Mountaineering on Longs Peak

Editor’s note: I shouldn’t tell you this, but there’s a huge picture gallery at the end of this post.

As someone that is supposedly occasionally good at writing (your words, not mine), I find it quite mind-boggling that I cannot come up with the words, written or verbally, that adequately elucidate my feelings of this past weekend mentally, physically, or socially.

Perhaps it’s still too soon, and I haven’t yet digested everything that occurred. Maybe I’d never find the right words. Or maybe there’s just so much that went on that I’d never be able to concisely summarize it all, regardless of time or concentration levels.

Nevertheless, if I don’t write this now, it will likely forever be lost, just like climbing trips to The Black Hills in South Dakota and summiting Cloud Peak in WY.

Minnesotans Come to Colorado

Leading up to the day of the first arrivals was quite hectic. People bringing this but not that but only if that person didn’t (or did) and rental cars and sleeping arrangements and not knowing if certain people were even coming until the day prior, and, and…. Thank goodness I live here.

The first person showed up on Tuesday night, two more on Wednesday, and the final two on Thursday. And just like they arrived, all returned on differing schedules as well: two driving back, one early flight, and two on a later flight. Thank goodness I live here.

But the time between the chaosii (plural of “chaos”, obviously) was truly unforgettable.

Tuesday Night

Snowshoeing in Indian Peaks WildernessThe first person arrived on Tuesday night, and I gladly offered my couch. I had to work the next day so we planned out a couple of different hiking options for her to experience on her own. Then we realized there would be enough time after I got done working to get in a couple of pitches before she had to pick up some other people at the airport.

The excitement of this night included lost luggage. We hadn’t gone to sleep until midnight as it was, but then she got phone calls at 4 and 4:30am, and I had to explain to the driver how to get to my apartment.

Wednesday was tired.

Wednesday

I had decided to take Lisa to the Upper Bihedral area after I got done with work. There is a good range of climbs in this area: sport, trad, mixed sport and trad, and easy-to-hard ratings. Admittedly, I hadn’t put in many leads yet and she hadn’t climbed outside at all yet this season so we weren’t real sure what we were capable of.

This turned out to be just the kind of evening I needed: no pressure, no expectations, bolted routes, and a few mixed if I was feeling up to it.

We started off with a 5.9 named Hold the Line that looked easy from the ground. They always look easy from the ground. I led it and thought it was a bit much for a first-time-outdoors-this-year leader so I had Lisa follow. She did it cleanly but agreed it was maybe too much. We moved over a couple of routes on the slab, and she led a 5.8 called Dan’s Line. I led it after. We moved on down the line and did Group Therapy, another 5.8, and finished off the night with Trick or Treat, a mixed 5.8, just as the thunder and lightning rolled into the area.

This short 2.5 hour trip to the crag really helped my head. My previous fears of leading disappeared (even though I have led numerous, numerous pitches in my short climbing career). I truly felt like I was ready to lead anything even though these grades are well below my ability. Doesn’t matter. Climbing is 85% mental (I just made that up), and this was a huge barrier of mine. The warm, summer-like storm was icing on the cake, especially watching lightning well off in the distance from the atop a cliff.

Rock Climbing in Clear Creek CanyonThursday

I didn’t get to do anything with the group this day. Work and getting ready for the 3-day weekend consumed my time, but I managed to get in a 16.5 mile mountain bike ride.

Everybody else spent the day sport climbing at Clear Creek Canyon in Golden.

Friday

Another mostly unadventurous day for me, but I did finally get to meet the whole group at the 2nd Tier of the Avalon area in Boulder Canyon. Probably most exciting was doing my first tyrolean traverse over a raging Boulder Creek due to the spring runoff. When I got to them, they had a 5.10b setup on top-rope. In the interest of time (it was already 5:00, we still had to buy food, and get up to our campsite in Estes Park), I didn’t lead it, but I did make it cleanly. And that was that for my day of climbing. Dinner and [mostly] beer at Oskar Blues in Lyons was a great way to get to know the rest of the group. (Beer > people?)

Saturday

We headed to Lumpy Ridge bright and early (by most climber’s standards) for a day of trad climbing. Chris (with a “C”, aka “Weiner”) had picked out a 3-pitch 5.7 called White Whale in the Left Book area. He had a team of three on his twin ropes, and I led all the pitches with a new-to-trad climber, Kris (with a “K”, aka “Schmitty” aka “Decaf” – I will leave that story out to protect the innocent).

This is where I start failing to adequately describe my thoughts.

Yes, this was only a 5.7, but I only had a handful of trad leads under my belt, I just met 4 out of 5 of these people for the first time the day before, and now one of them is trusting me with their life (more so than usual).

The climb itself was absolutely amazing: crack climbing, slab climbing in some spots, lie-backs, flakes, underclings, a lot of great movements. It was really easy and really terrifying: tenuous moves right off the belay stations where a fall was likely to take out the whole station (even with a “Jesus piece”); run out by choice in areas, run out in really sketch areas not by choice; and I even had to build an intermediate, hanging belay in the middle of a pitch due to rope drag.

Reaching the top was almost euphoric: I did it; I did it safely; I got my partner to the top in one piece; I got to “teach” him some trad techniques (just as all followers [should] do); we rejoined the group ahead of us on the “summit”; the missing member of the whole group whom was having car troubles joined us after hiking to the top; and the views of Rocky Mountain National Park were breathtaking.

Such a great, great day was celebrated as it should: sitting around a campfire, eating brats, drinking beer, and being completely comfortable with all of our new friends.

Sunday

After a day of single pitch sport (for them), followed by a day of multi-pitch trad, we were on the hunt for multi-pitch sport. We attempted to get on the main buttress of Mary’s Bust in Big Thompson Canyon, but since none of us were intimately familiar with the area, we ended up on Tick Rock, which only had a couple of 2-pitch routes. Nevertheless, upward we climbed.

Sport leading on Tick RockI followed up one of the 2-pitchers, a 5.9 slab called Nervous Tic, behind “Decaf”. From the ground, the route looks over-bolted. So much so that “Decaf” condescendingly says [to the route], “yeah, I’ll probably skip a few bolts.” I agreed. There was no need for a bolt every 5-6 ft. on this route. And then we climbed. Nary a bolt was skipped. It reminded me a lot of climbing in South Dakota: no hands except pulling on half-pad crystals and trusting your feet so as to not “cheese grater” down the slab if you popped off.

Lisa and Elizabeth (“Liz” aka “Bambi”) practiced their multi-pitch anchoring and rope management on a 5.4 called Arachnophobia before doing it for real on the same 5.9 Kris and I had done before.

Peter got his lead on, on Arachnophobia as well, and Chris was just chilling today, playing the part of safety instructor and rope gun.

At this point, everyone but Kris and I had done several routes and we had only done the 2-pitch, Nervous Tic. We decided we should probably climb some more. I led up a 5.8 off-width/slab called Barock first and Kris seconded. (Later done by Lisa and Liz too.) After that we were having a tough time deciding if we wanted another climb at all, and if so, a 5.9 or a 10d named Ixodes that had been calling Kris all day. Ixodes it was.

After taking a few just naaaasty 3 ft. whippers on the crux move, he finally made it. I had some apprehensions about trying to lead this, but since I can handle 3 ft. whippers and the way to get past it was to pull on gear, I decided to go for it. Yikes. My first lead of the season of any kind higher than 5.9 and almost two grades higher than that nonetheless. Surprisingly, the move before the supposed crux was a lot more difficult for me than the actual crux itself. I flashed it! Hot!

As this was our last night together, libations were more numerous than before. I think there were two trips made to Rambo’s Liquor, which has the coolest owner in the world.

The night ended somewhat earlier and more “serious” than one would like to celebrate an amazing weekend, but Lisa and I had an alpine start planned for 3:30am on Monday morning. I also had to say my goodbyes to Kris and Peter, whom were driving back to Minnesota at 7am.

Monday

3:30 is early.

Especially with only 4 hours of sleep. But hey, if alpine starts were cool, everyone would be doing it. We tore down our portion of camp as quietly as possible and got to the trailhead about an hour later. Which trailhead pray tell? Longs Peak.

We were informed that summiting Longs Peak via the Keyhole would be very risky without technical ice gear. Dratz. In that case, we never intended on summiting. Instead, we planned to get to the Boulder Field below the Keyhole and planned several options depending on how we felt when we got there. That is, until we met two people on the trail that said, “What?! Who told you you need technical ice gear? You have an ice axe and crampons; that’s all you need!” Oh really?!?! Welp, looks like we might get to summit Longs Peak after all.

We made it to the Boulder Field in about 2-2.5 hours, if I remember correctly. This includes watching the sunrise over Twin Sisters Peak East. Since this was my first time in crampons and holding an ice axe with real intent, we practiced ascending direct, descending, traversing in both directions, and self-arrest at the base of a very small slope. Luckily the snow was extremely good for most of the bowl, perfect for n00bs such as myself.

Sunrise over Twin Sisters Peak East as seen from the Longs Peak trail
Sunrise over Twin Sisters Peak East as seen from the Longs Peak trail

We ascended from the Boulder Field up to the Keyhole. Before this, the views of RMNP we obstructed for one reason or another. What I saw at the Keyhole left me grasping for words, yet none came. You could see the entire Western side of RMNP and beyond: Hallett Peak, Otis, Chief’s Head, McHenry’s, Mt. Alice… I was in awe. I had never seen, or was able to comprehend, the vast expanse of the Rocky Mountains until that moment.

I might bleed to death later, but I think I would have won with that blow.
I might bleed to death later, but I think I would have won with that blow.

Lisa is a more experienced mountaineer than I so she went to check out the Keyhole Route to see if we could pass without a rope and ice screws. The snow was still incredibly icy and we decided not to risk it. To be honest, even if the snow was as good as it was on the North Side, it was still too steep and too exposed for me.

We were still feeling good so we decided to hike down a bit and traverse over and up to the chasm view. Before we left, we observed a moment of silence in recognition of Memorial Day, in honor of our fallen soldiers. What a cool place to say thank you to my uncle I never met.

On our way up to the chasm view, we noticed two skiers about to ski down the North Face. Are you kidding?! After the upper portion, they could either continue on left or right. I had my GoPro in-hand and gambled they’d go right so I moved to capture the entire run. Only one of them actually dropped in and ended up going left. Damn! He made it look smooth and easy, but it still blew my mind that anyone would do that, probably because it’s about 10 levels above where my own snowboard skills.

Above this point is where the snow turned truly vertical, before needing other gear. The snow wasn’t quite as good to boot. But just like lead climbing, once you mentally cope with the conditions and gain confidence, making it to the top was just a matter of getting there. Once again, we were not disappointed. We could see the entire Diamond Face of Longs Peak, top to bottom. It is a truly magnificent piece of rock. We looked for climbers but no dice. We did see the rap station right next to an intimidating looking cornice.

Standing at The KeyholeBy this time, we had but one of our original “options” left to achieve. Although we were higher in altitude at the chasm view, we still wanted to summit something. We had two choices: Mt. Lady Washington or Storm Peak, both of which were over 13,000 ft. We were still feeling good but didn’t feel like walking all the way across the Boulder Field again so we decided to follow the ridgeline down and up to summit Mt. Lady Washington.

The views were nothing we weren’t used to at this point, but it was great to get on top of something (doesn’t it always?). We both seemed to have hit a wall at the same point and were more than ready to get off the mountain. It was at this point where I decided that walking was too hard, and thankfully there were ample snow paths on which to glissade (slide down on my ass). I was wearing my Arc’Teryx Alpha SV jacket and Arc’Teryx Beta AR pants all day to withstand the sustained and gusty winds in alpine conditions so I knew they could take the abuse. I can’t even guess how much time that cut off of our descent, but it was a LOT, and it was incredibly fun at the same time. Eventually it became flat again and we had to use our legs for the rest of the way. How disappointing.

All in all, it was a 14 hour day from alarm clock to parking lot, with 8 hours of that spent above treeline in alpine conditions. What a spectacular way to spend a day.

 

Standing on the summit of Mount Lady Washington with the Diamond Face of Longs Peak in the background
Standing on the summit of Mount Lady Washington with the Diamond Face of Longs Peak in the background

 

Goodbye

Photo by Chris
Photo by Chris

And like everything else in the world, all good things must end. Kris and Peter were already gone, Chris took a 5pm flight as Lisa and I were coming off the mountain, and Liz was the only one left. Lisa and I stopped at Larkburger in Boulder to replace some of our 12,000 calories we burnt on Longs Peak, and then met Liz at my place. We looked at some of the pictures taken over the course of the weekend, quickly repacked all of their gear, and said our hasty goodbyes so they could make their flight home.

I know I said I couldn’t adequately express how much this weekend meant to me, and I still don’t think I did. Just because this post is a monster does not mean I accurately portrayed all of my thoughts and feelings. It just means I typed an ass load of details.

I hope that some of my emotions and enlightenment came through, if not in my writing, then hopefully in the pictures and videos. I also hope to see all of these fine individuals back in Colorado ASAP!

And now for the rest of the pictures!

Featured Product Review: Climb On! Bar for Men

Willy and Poll, erm, I mean, Will and Polly, social media magician and creator (respectively) of Climb On!, foolishly put out a public tweet asking for volunteers to try their Climb On! Bar for Men, one of their new products. Little did they know that I am monitoring my timeline for freebies at all hours of the day. So of course I volunteered.

CO! founder Polly & professional climber Jonathan Siegrist - Photo courtesy of CO!
CO! founder Polly & professional climber Jonathan Siegrist – Photo courtesy of CO!

I’ve never been much for hand creams, lotions, bars, and goos, even back in my powerlifting days. Heck, for the first year of my climbing career, I didn’t rely much on more than just Cetaphil hand lotion on really bad days. But, when they asked for volunteers, I was at the peak of my climbing and training frequency. I was abusing my hands about 5 days per week either climbing or lifting weights, and I was seriously starting to explore the world of hand care.

Thank goodness they tweeted.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the small, tin container was the fragrance. It wasn’t girly. It wasn’t really “manly”, even though it’s designed for men, either. It absolutely wasn’t chemical-ly since it’s manufactured with 100% food grade materials. It just smelled “good”. Like when you walk into a Pier 1 or Bed Bath and Beyond. Not too strong, but strong enough to know it’s there. I really liked it.

Photo courtesy of CO!
Photo courtesy of CO!

Then, when I took the bar out of the container, I expected it to be the consistency of Chapstick. Nope. It was more firm, but still rubbed off on my hands easily.

How much to apply to your hands is really an exercise in experimentation. How damaged your skin is, the moisture of your skin when you apply, the moisture of the air…it all plays a part. Too much and it will leave your hands quite waxy for longer than you’d probably want. Too little and it doesn’t do much of anything (obv). However, just the right amount will leave your hands tacky for about 3-5 minutes and then fully absorb into your skin. It’s a glorious feeling.

My hands were quite beat up, and no, I don’t have pics, but just imagine dry, cracked skin, a guy that picks and tears his calluses when he’s bored, and daily abuse. Yes, that bad. Within a week, all but the deepest cracks were gone. The edges created from tearing calluses were softened, and even Anh could hardly tell I had “climber’s hands” anymore.

I now find myself putting it on my hands even when I don’t need it, just because it feels and smells so good. I liked it so much that I bought my dad Climb On! Bar for Men as a Christmas present. When my sample is finally gone, which it will be soon, I’ll be buying more for myself. Trust me, if I’m buying it, it’s worth the money…cuz I’m cheap ‘n stuff.

 

 

Climbing Competition: Passion for Flashin’ 2012

More than several weeks ago, I competed in my first climbing competition, Passion For Flashin’, at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul, MN. Let me tell you, I learned some things.

Since this was my first competition, I really didn’t know what to expect. I tried asking some of the employees at Vertical Endeavors how the competition worked and about the rules or anything else I needed to know. Turns out, the two I asked didn’t really know how to explain it either. Awesome. Guess I’m showing up to the competition blind. That didn’t bother me too much; I was pretty confident in my skills, at least enough to not be embarrassed.

Speaking of skills, I have only been climbing for a little over a year. At the time of the Passion for Flashin’ competition, I had only been for a year, almost to the day. Within that time, I progressed to the point where I was competing in the Advanced category, grades 5.10b to 5.11b. I can almost assure Adam Ondra has heard of me.

Pregame

I show up an hour prior to the official start. I can’t remember why. It was probably the best idea ever at the time. This did give me a chance to look at all the routes and try plan my strategy since you only have a set amount of time to climb as many routes as possible in your category. As I was looking at routes, I wasn’t overly confident that I could get any of them! Even the easiest routes on the card looked hard from the ground. Yikes! I went and looked at the boulder problems and at least the easy one’s there looked really easy. Phew! At least I can get some warm-ups in.

Did I mention how nervous I was? WOW! I’m no stranger to competition. In my previous lives, I was a 3-sport athlete in high school. I was “ok” enough at football to play at a small, Division 3 college. After college I have competed in numerous lifting competitions. Here’s the thing: if I actually care about my placement or the outcome of the “game”, I get super nervous. Not debilitating, can’t function, screw-up all over the place nervous, just heart-bursting, bowel emptying nerves. I was a wreck in hich school before a football game, but as soon as I’d step on the field for warm-ups, they disappeared. I was hoping that would happen here after the first route. Nuh-uh! The nerves didn’t completely go away until I was climbing my last few routes. Guess I cared about the outcome more than I thought.

Showtime

I warmed up with a super easy, juggy boulder problem. It incorporated some gratuitous heel hooks, but I experienced after the competition, when there were no judges involved, the whole route was easily campused. Then I went to the next, only slightly less juggy boulder problem. After that, I got some beta from Youth Female ABS Bouldering Champion Kyra Kondie on the boulder problems in the other area. She said the hardest one was pretty easy. Yeah. Easy. To the bouldering champion of the U.S.

I guess she was right. All-in-all, I flashed the first 4 boulder problems I attempted, which also happened to be the 4 most difficult on my card. It was nothing but super duper easy boulder problems after that, but I wasn’t going to waste my energy on those. I had some walls to climb!

Just as I was getting the nerves out of my system, they came back with a vengeance. I watched several people climb on several different routes before I finally chose my first route. It looked to be a pretty easy 5.10 (though, none of the route’s ratings were displayed) with one crux move, which was nothing more than having strong enough hands to support yourself on open handed pinches. I got this!

Then it was on to the passion route. Or maybe it was called the heart route. I don’t know. I literally made up both of those names as I typed them. There was a big-ass heart in the middle of the wall so I’ll let you come up with your own name. That route was a stemmy, scrunchy, Philly-fakeout, sloper kinda thing with a direct roof pull nonetheless. It was probably my favorite, much like smiling.

The route after that was on a completely angled wall with a traverse dyno right at the beginning. I made the dyno the first time, no problem because my calves get angry, but then I screwed up my sequence shortly thereafter. This was the first route I didn’t flash. No worries. I got it on my second try.

I’m not going to go through every route, but they were a lot of fun. My favorite was one that started out in a cave that put me completely inverted for the first 3 moves. After that, I campused my way down, almost back to the ground, where the route “restarted” on the climb up. There were some really fun moves and strong pulls over a small roof I had to make. In my opinion, a perfect balance of technique and strength.

Postgame Recap

All in all, I flashed all but 3 of the routes I attempted, and I flashed all of the boulder problems. Surely that will get me in the finals, right? Not true. The key word being “attempted”. Because I wasn’t completely aware of the strategery of this event, I ran out of time. I took some poorly placed breaks between some of my climbs. I didn’t realize that those breaks in addition to having to wait in line for routes really add up. I got 5 out of the 8 hardest top-ropes, maybe 4 or 5 more intermediate routes, and ended up skipping all of the super easy ones. And by “skip”, I mean “ran out of time”. DAMNIT!

I finished 18th out of 43. I’ve no doubts that could have been higher. Who knows, I may have gotten to the finals. But, if I had, I can damn near guarantee that I’d be too pumped out to accomplish anything good. This was by far the most routes I’ve climbed in a single day. I was sore for a week after. You can imagine my stupidity of trying to climb the very next day. Which was also humbling because I saw 8 of the 12 finalists in the gym that very same day climbing like it was any other day of the week. Guess that’s why they were finalists and winners.

Can’t wait for the next competition!

PICTURES OF ME (the best kind, right?)!!!1!!1

Trip Report: Climbing in Red Rocks, NV

About a month and a hafl ago (already?!?!), Anh and I took an extended weekend trip to go sport climbing at Red Rocks just outside Las Vegas. We left on a Thursday and came back on a Monday. I already wrote about our flying experience and getting 4 bags of climbing gear through TSA security without being checked. That was probably the coolest part of the whole trip. Errrr, maybe not. But still pretty cool. No one likes baggage fees.

Red Rocks is the Perfect Place for N00bs

Well, we’re not completely noobs. We’ve both been climbing for over a year, and have spent more than several days climbing outdoors in the Black Hills, Devil’s Lake in Baraboo, WI, Barn Bluff in Red Wing, MN, and Taylors Falls, MN. However, we are pretty noobish when it comes to sport climbing outdoors. Barn Bluff is really the only bolted sport crag within driving distance for us. It’s also so heavily used that the sandstone is polished to a fine gloss and on busy days, you may end up waiting for routes. There’s another sport crag just across the border from Minneapolis/St. Paul near Hudson, WI called Willow River, but all of the routes there are rated 5.11 – 5.14 and are extremely overhanging. I do not belong there. Yet.

When it comes to sport climbing indoors, well, it’s indoors. If you’re strictly a gym climber or just starting out and have never climbed outdoors, you may not know this, but there is a glaring difference between a marked route in the gym and real rock. Until you get used to climbing on real rock, don’t get your panties in a bunch if your climbing grade is reduced by 2 whole grades when heading outdoors the first couple times. I lead 5.11’s in the gym, but since I don’t get much practice, there was no way I’m warming up with a 5.10 outdoors.

Which brings me back to why Red Rocks is great for noobs.

Red Rocks is great for people that aren’t up to trad lead climbing yet. It’s great for people that can sport climb but are limited by their ability. It’s great because you can throw a rock just about anywhere and find a bolted route. If that doesn’t work, just walk along a trail and look for other people or a bolt gleaming in the sunlight. You can find just about any route rating you need, from scrambles to 5.6’s to 5.14’s to projects. You can look for super frictiony vertical sandstone or routes with more overhang than I’d know what to do with. It has something for the first time outdoor climber or uber-famous, professional climbers like Alex Hannold (whom left Red Rocks the week prior to us showing up; probably cuz I mentioned something creepy about stalking his van in the Whole Foods parking lot on his Facebook Fan Page.).

Red Rocks is a great spot for anyone, but especially new people that want to test the sport climbing waters with very nicely bolted and protected routes.

Climbing Red Rocks

Being that I’m somewhat of a cheap-a$$, I didn’t really want to by a guide book just for a 3-day trip and no immediate plans to return. So, I decided that I’d find all the routes we’d need with my Mountain Project app, henceforth abbreviated as “MP”. We managed ok, but it definitely made finding specific climbing areas a little more challenging than it needed to be. Also, our trip was actually 60% climbing based and 40% Vegas based. So, when you read the daily summaries, keep in mind we weren’t out there from sun up to sun down.

Day 1

On Day 1, we headed for the Panty Wall. It had a good mix of 5.7’s and 5.8’s, perfect for reintroducing myself to leading on real rock. It was also visible from the parking lot, making getting there a lot easier. But, just because you can see a crag at red rock, doesn’t mean it’s intuitively obvious getting there. MP said it’s a short 15 min. hike…if you know where you’re going. It took us 30 min. or more without a guidebook. That’s ok though. We got there early, it was a gorgeous day out, and we were still full of piss and vinegar.

Once we got to the wall, choosing routes was a little confusing. In guidebooks, they typically show a picture of the wall and draw a line where the route is and reference it by a number. On MP, you just get a list of routes, maybe sorted from left to right, and if you’re lucky, someone will sketch the routes on a picture. Not the case here. So, we guessed which routes were which. We played it safe by choosing a 5.7 that had another 5.7 and 5.8 to its right and left. I led the first two routes and it was glorious. I managed without too many nerves or Elvis leg. I set the top rope anchors and let Anh have her way with the rock.

After the first climb, we met local climber “Kentucky Pete”. I’d link to his Facebook, but he doesn’t have a simple permalink established….that I can tell. He taught us some interesting new climbing techniques and totally threw off my mojo. As the kids say, LoL. But that’s a good thing. I’ve never been “taught” how to climb. I just watch videos and mimic the pros. Though, people tell me that will only take me so far. AnyHways, he told us of a newer area to check out called Civilization Wall that him and a buddy had just recently bolted up. It had some really nice 5.10’s he said. I was interested.

I led a couple more 5.8’s and ended up the day onsighting four 5.7’s or 5.8’s. Where’s my sponsorship, La Sportiva?

Day 2

On Day 2 we headed straight for Civilization Wall. Just like the first day, we could see it from the first pullout parking lot but could tell it was s longer, more convoluted walk. Again, a 25 min. walk turned into an hour. lolz. This place was kind of cool. Part of the wall was actually in a mini canyon. And just like the first day, it was hard to determine which routes were which. On the open faced side of the wall, there was anything from 5.7 to 5.10, but no row of intermediate grades that would allow us to guess wrong. On the canyon side of the wall, there was one 5.7 listed and then a row of 5.10’s.

I fgured, “well, I know the one furthest to the left is a 5.7; that’s a good warm-up to get rid of the nerves, and then we can do the 5.10’s if I feel up to it.” As I got about halfway up the first route, I started to get stuck. I thought to myself, “WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!?! THIS IS ONLY A 5.7!!” I was seriously doubting my abilities, especially since I utterly dominated the 5.8’s yesterday. I managed to finish the route without any falls or “takes”, but as soon as I got down, I stuck my nose into MP. As it turns out, my 5.7 warm-up was actually a 5.10b named Byzantium. Well! Good for me! I just warmed up with the hardest outdoor lead that I’ve ever done! Onsight, nonetheless! HOT!!

I set anchors for Anh and she made the rock her bitch.

After that, I led the two 5.10’s next to Byzantium. Those were also onsight victories for me. The funnest route on that particular wall was Mongol Hoarde, which Pete called “Mongoloid Whore”….something having to do with a recent break-up. On the 3rd 5.10 of that wall, I belayed Anh from the top as she cleaned the route so that we could sit on top of the wall and admire the view together. This is where I took the coolest picture of my life. See?

Ming Dynasty - Civilization Wall

Once we got down, I convinced Anh that she needed to lead a route and try overcome her fears. We finally found the 5.7 I thought I was warming up with and she thought she’d be able to handle that after top roping the 5.10’s. Turns out, fear is a bitch named The Sun Never Sets. I was proud of her for trying. She made it 3 out of the 4 or 5 bolts, but just couldn’t make it the rest of the way. The previous climbs had taken it out of her and coupled with fear, it wasn’t going to happen that day. No big deal. I led it, just for more practice, and we left The Civ for lunch.

Lunch was actually about 3pm. After eating, we wanted to go to another wall that was “just a short walk from the parking lot”. Not for us. By the time we got there, the sun was already setting. After we found a 5.10 for me to lead, I made it to the first bolt and then ran out of holds. This wall was very slabby and relied on friction. My nerves weren’t up for that and after a more strenuous than we wanted hike, I bailed on that route. Luckily the first bolt was low enough that I could safely down climb and collect my draw. We walked back to the car eating our Banh Mi sandwiches.

I ended up onsighting 4 routes, 3 of which were 5.10’s. It was a good day.

Day 3

Our third and final day. Unlike the previous 2 days that weren’t spent at the First Pullout, we wanted a different area. Wait for it…..the Second Pullout, specifically The Gallery. This was a pretty cool area because all of the routes went from shortest to tallest and 5.6 to 5.13 from left to right. I started with a 5.8 called Sport Climbing is Neither and worked my way down the wall to a 5.10b Pump First, Pay Later. The 5.10b was the only route the entire trip that I didn’t onsight. That made me a sad panda.

On this wall, we hooked up with a group from the Illinois chapter of Vertical Endeavors as well as some people from California. That was kinda cool to see fellow Midwesterner’s. As we were leaving, the CA peeps were doing the route to our right, which was a 5.10c called Running Amuck, and I really wanted to try it. But, after 3 days of climbing and a couple nights on the strip, we were beat. We called it a trip and went back to sit by the pool.

"How can I get those things *over* here and *in* my belly?"

Return to Red Rocks

All in all, I onsighted 11 out of the 12 climbs we did. The weather was gorgeous. We met some really cool people, AND WE SAW WILD BURROS!! I think we will definitely be coming back.

Just as we were leaving Vegas, it was announced that Spirit Airlines will be coming to our local airport, MSP. They offer flights that are something silly like $60 one-way, or something like that; I can’t remember exactly. This trip wasn’t really all that expensive to begin with and it just got cheaper if we could grab that deal. On top of that, my cousin lives in Vegas, and I volunteerd him to pick us up at the airport and drop us off at the park. I think if we were to come back, we’d probably bring some bivy’s and just sleep out on the rocks, foregoing the hotel room and rental car. Please, just don’t tell the park ranger that.

Pictures!

It wouldn’t be a complete trip review if Anh didn’t take at least a hundred pictures.

Flying With Rock Climbing Gear

Several months ago when Anh and I decided that we’d like to go rock climbing in Spain on our trip to Europe this spring, one of the first things I thought of was, “hmmm, I wonder if it’s safe to fly on an airplane with rock climbing gear?” After some internet sleuthing, I figured out that all of our gear should be fine as long as it’s checked.

Fast forward (or rewind, depending on which frame of time we’re in….or maybe we’re in both….I don’t know; ask Schrodinger’s cat) a couple of weeks and all of a sudden we were planning a semi-impromptu rock climbing trip to Red Rocks outside of Vegas over a long weekend. At that point, my question was, “hmmmm, I wonder what rock climbing gear is safe to put in our carry-ons vs. being checked?”

What Gear will get through TSA Security?

You can see a small sampling of the gear, all of which made it through TSA.

After looking over the TSA regulations for prohibited items, I decided that the only gear that we may have trouble getting through would be a nut tool and climbing chalk. Of course, a bunch of ropes and metal carabiners should always be assumed to raise an eyebrow or two (probably).

** Side note: I wasn’t sure about cams, but we had already decided we wouldn’t be bringing cams so it didn’t matter. **

Anh sent a picture of all of our climbing gear to her friend that works for TSA, and she said that it should all be fine…except for maybe the nut tool.

That still didn’t put my worries to rest. The TSA seems like an organization where one person might say something is “ok”, and then once you get to the airport, the person that actually checks your carry-on might say “no way, Jose; you can’t fly with that” depending on their mood that day.

My worries didn’t really matter though. We weren’t going to pay the ridiculous baggage fees. To mitigate the risk of getting too much of our gear split up if we were forced to check something, we packed all of high-risk items in one bag: chalk, biners, draws, nuts, and belay tools. All of the webbing, slings, and both of our ropes went in my rope bag. We decided to leave the nut tool at home.

TSA Likes Rock Climbers and Their Gear

Anh was so confident that all of this would pass through TSA security that we even planted a “test” in our bag. We had a bag of brand new, sealed climbing chalk and a plain ‘ol Ziploc sandwich bag with some chalk I just had laying around. We wanted to see which, if any, would be confiscated. (For this reason, we got to the airport 2 hours early, assuming we’d probably be searched quite thoroughly.)

As it turns out, Anh was right about everything. We made it through security with all of our rock climbing gear with absolutely no problems. We fit 2 ropes, assorted webbing and slings, 2 sets of nuts, lots ‘o biners, 18 draws, 2 bags of chalk, 2 helmets, 2 pairs of shoes, and enough clothes to climb and go out on The Strip for 3 days and 4 nights into 4 carry-on bags.

I’m not saying your experience will be the same as ours. I’m not saying every TSA checkpoint will approve of all of these items all of the time. All I’m saying is that if you’re looking for an experience of flying with rock climbing gear, here’s a successful one for you. We made it safely, our gear made it safely, and we didn’t have any problems with TSA security (in either direction).

Hopefully that calms some of your worries about flying with rock climbing gear. Now that Spirit Airlines is flying out of MSP to LAS for $28, I think we’ll be flying with climbing gear a couple times a year!