Friday, December 25, 2009

Week 22: Red Rocks Part 2: Nov 28

Day by day our party increases, from our initial 2 all the way up to 11 at one point. We have quite the tent ghetto occupying one site. Luckily given the fullness of the campsite we are not hassled too much by the camp staff.

We do an enormous amount of climbing. The daily routine is to wake up at dawn, split into parties determined the night before, and climb till dark. We rarely see the camp in the daytime.

Enumerating such an outpouring of climbing would be only slightly more interesting than watching grass grow. So ill uncharacteristically stick to one story. Suffice to say the other climbing, both done by myself and by the others of the group was spectacular.

After my initial day on Solar Slab, the doubt i thought I had banished still nagged my mind. Aided by a bought with some sickness early in the trip, my foot still injured from the hike with Nate, and the running dialogue in my head, I had climbed quite well, but not led much.

Towards the end of the trip we had decided to do a day at Black Velvet Canyon, home to some of the best climbing but dark, shady and cold. It was also home to my favorite climb of that trip Triassic Sands. With a 10c crux down low and then endless 8 handcrack up high it is a climb to dream about. The only thing I had regretted last time was that I had not led the climb besides the easy first pitch.

Having not led anything harder than 5.6 and that almost a week ago, leading 10c seems ill-advised at best. Its the first climb of the day, and it is not warm. The crux comes as soon as you leave the belay. Tricky finger locks though 3 small roofs. I place 5 pieces in 15 feet of climbing, and just over the crux I get a decent jam to shake out. My arms are tired and with the cold I can not get the blood to leave my arms. I switch arms for 15 minutes trying to shake out.

Pulling over the roof at the crux

Things arent improving so I take a look at the gear i still have to finish off the pitch. To my horror it looks like I have 1 piece left that will fit the crack which is almost identical in size for the next 120 feet.

This puts me in quite the predicament, as leaving that piece behind after say 30 feet will mean that I would take a 180 foot fall which is clearly unacceptable. With few options I decide to use a technique that only works when the crack remains the same size. After climbing up 5 feet, and the piece is at my feet, I reach down and slide the piece farther up the crack. This works pretty well, but wears on the mind.

Nearing the belay as I take out the piece and replace it, I am for a brief instance exposed to a very very long fall, the threat of which goes away as soon as I replace the gear. With my forearms still tired from the climbing down low, being honest with my abilities becomes paramount. It is exactly these situations which provide the crucible through which I extract the mental benefit of climbing.

The last 25 feet are too wide to protect with my last cam, so I bid it farewell and climb the last bit to the anchor. The wind blows, i cant feel my hands due to cold and overuse, but it is impossible for me to fall off, and i soon clip the chains. Even the long belay in the cold does nothing to deter my mood.

Ok thats all contemplative stuff. The rest are just a few of the better pictures from the trip.

Sometimes photos are more than they appear, and other times they actually do an amazing scene justice.

Road Texture at Pine Creek

My favorite picture at the trip. Jeff boiling water at daybreak.

Thanks to Katie from our Phoenix contingent we celebrated Turkey day in style... some of the real pies

She both is both an explorer and a destroyer. Dora shows off her love of purple.

And I just cant resist the tick list at least of the big stuff

-Solar Slab
-Cat in the Hat
-Triassic Sands
-Scaeffers Delight
-The Fox

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