Getting Psyched for Indian Creek!

19 03 2008

I finished my last final of the term yesterday, which was pretty awesome. It’s always a huge relief to get even a brief reprieve from the work and stress of the term. This one was especially stressful at times with a certain neuro class that had WAY more work than the units I’m receiving for it. But that’s over now – back to English classes next term!

Anyways, we’re leaving on Friday morning to head out to Indian Creek! So while Luke still has to work through Thursday, I get the coveted task of taking some time off to relax and getting all our stuff ready to go. That and wrapping Luke’s birthday presents (it’s his birthday on Sunday, but we’re opening stuff early so we don’t have to cart it all the way to Utah). So it should be a pretty nice next two days.

We’re definitely really excited about this trip and have a HUGE list of routes we want to climb, but we could always use more suggestions (favorite IC route, anyone?) or ideas of places to go/things to see if we take a rest day. A friend has already suggested hiking to Druid Arch in the Canyonlands as a sweet activity.

And finally, a little update about this past weekend (sorry, no photos!). We went to Mt. Woodson on Saturday, initially planning on heading up to Crucible and the Test Tube, but upon arriving, we decided we were a little tired to walk all the way up the hill, plus the weather didn’t look super stable, so we decided to focus our attentions on two routes lower down on the hill – Hard as Nails and Hear My Train a ‘Comin. We went to Hard as Nails first. It’s a beautiful splitter thin finger crack, so a very different experience for Luke and I. We both toproped it twice with some resting for our fingers in between. I struggled with my feet the first time, wearing my still fairly new Cobras, but the second time, wearing the Katanas instead, was much easier – it never ceases to amaze just how good those shoes can be.

On our way back to the road, Luke decided he wanted to try Right Long’s Crack (an offwidth) so we headed up to that. Although he didn’t send, he definitely made some progress, figuring out that he needed to execute a kick-over move to be able to move his hand-stacks up the crack. It was pretty fun to watch (as the belayer 😀 ).

Finally, we stopped by Hear My Train a’Comin on the way down, by way of Blackfinger, which Luke sent twice. The funny thing about Train is that each of us requires a completely different sequence since the locks are so finger size dependent – Luke makes a long reach from his second lock to a crappy one above, which he has to trust to get to the jug, but I have to start out with a jab for a lock Luke didn’t even think existed (using a different foot on the starting foothold) and need to trust that to keep moving up, which I didn’t really manage to do that day. Luke, however, was successful in finally reaching the jug, so next time we can put up a toprope so he can climb the whole thing.

Sunday was my birthday, so we took a day off and did some fun normal-person stuff. We headed to downtown San Diego to “Extraordinary Desserts” which is pretty much the best dessert place EVER and had an amazing piece of cake, then went out to a movie – Vantage Point – which was pretty good, followed by a trip to the San Diego Zoo (which was fun! we hadn’t been in a long time), and back home to make dinner – attempting a recipe for homemade stuffed pasta using won-ton wrappers, which was only somewhat successful.

We’ll hopefully have tons of stories and photos when we come back from our trip!


Relaxing in JT

11 03 2008

Luke and I recently realized that before this last weekend, we had traveled at least 5 hours away for 4 weekends in a row. Needless to say, this has been pretty exhausting and we agreed that a relaxing weekend (including some rock climbing) was in order.

So we headed out to JT on Friday night. We got in a little late, around 10pm, to find that Hidden Valley and Ryan campgrounds were already full. So we kept driving on to Jumbo Rocks and cruised around until we spotted an unoccupied campsite wedged between several other filled campsites. It wasn’t exactly ideal. We were near 2 groups of people who found it necessary to have loud conversations while most likely high and drunk, so it was hard to sleep, even though we were both exhausted. Then, in the morning, our other neighbors watched TV at 7am. TV while camping?!?! We really didn’t get that.

But we got up anyways and headed out to go climbing. I’d forgotten the guidebook in Pasadena, so we went to Intersection Rock to find someone with a guidebook to get directions to Perpetual Motion, which was our first goal of the day. We headed out Geology Tour Road and hiked off in search of the route with a little map scratched onto a scrap of paper. But we went the wrong way, apparently.

After wandering around for a while, we decided we should just go to our real objective of the day, Equinox (which, in case you didn’t read my last post about it, is the the most beautiful crack in Joshua Tree). So we headed over there. It was just as beautiful and striking as I remembered it.

We climbed it on toprope since we’re still not awesome enough to try to lead it. We both worked on figuring out the right sequences and jams and I think we both made some good progress. We both managed to climb from the ground up into the steep section without falling!

On Sunday, after a late start, we went to climb Coarse and Buggy (5.11b), although we had to wait for a party that was toproping it to finish. Luke onsighted the route and we both followed it. I thought the steep exit moves were the hardest part, mostly because they were very awkward. Also, the climb and belay had gone into the shade by the time we got to start, so the belay was really cold!

Since the weekend was about relaxing, we decided to head home for dinner and a movie. We ended up watching a movie called Brick, which was very good.

Next weekend we’ll be headed to Mt. Woodson to do some more jamming before our big Indian Creek trip.

What is Trad?

11 03 2008

In late February Beth Rodden redpointed a new 5.14 in Yosemite. This 70 foot line is called Meltdown and features a thin finger crack that leads to discontinuous seams. Rodden placed all of her gear on lead after a winter of work on the line. Many think this is the hardest “trad” climb done by a woman and is quite an amazing send. The Alpinist has some info but better pictures and history about the route can big found on the BigUP blog. Beth will be featured climbing Meltdown and a few other hard climbs in Dosage V.

A Supertopo thread about Beth spurred a discussion about what is “Trad” and how you relate Trad to the rest of the categories of climbing. Does Trad imply that the ascent is done ground-up or does it just specify the style of gear used to protect a redpoint? While these markers of style are not essential to our sport it is interesting to see how they are interpreted. Does trad mean that there are no bolts on the line that are used for lead protection? I think that the meaning of trad has evolved since the original use of the word. I think that these days trad is most commonly used to mean something that is not a Sport climb. To me a trad climb simply implies you must place your own protection.

This makes me wonder where does mixed climbing falls? I mean mixed protection climbing which is not to be confused with mixed climbing that refers to a combination of rock and ice climbing where ice tools and crampons are used. A mixed route that offers both cams and bolts is some times referred to as a trad route since one must place some of your own protection. A good example of “Trad” climbing where bolts are used is seen in Red Rocks. Many of the climbs in Red Rocks have the ocational bolt when natural protection can not be found. I think of these as trad climbs despite the use of an occasional bolt for protection. These bolts are used when traditional protection can not be found and to keep the routes fairly safe. The safety issue comes in direct contrast to the bold bolt-free climbing style. In Red Rocks there is also an issue with some climbs that have been over bolted so that they are more accessible.

Beyond the type of gear used to protect a climb it is interesting that “Trad” can refer to the style of the ascent. Some say that a major distinction between Sport and Trad is whether the climb is done ground up or top down. “Traditional climbing means starting at the bottom and going to the top, without weighting pro. That, I put forth, is the traditional mindset.” This means that could you could climb a sport route in traditional style by sending ground up as opposed to rappelling it and inspecting it or hangdoging it and then redpointing it later. This seems a bit odd to me but it can make sense in the way climbs were established. A sport climb could have the bolts drilled on lead for a ground up ascent. I believe this was common practice before climbers started bolting on rappel. By establishing a climb top down you would eliminate the adventure by figuring out sequences in advance. I image this is why hang dogging was such heresy back when yo-yoing was the common practice.

Put in perspective of a traditional ground up ethic yo-yoing makes a bit more sense. By having to lower to the ground after a fall you would still have to be onsighting the upper most moves. Hangdoging allowed a climber to start from anywhere on a climb and slighted the ground up style. I can now see why there was so much debate on style and what is acceptable. If you fully believe in the Traditional spirt of climbing ground up without bolts then hangdogging while sport climbing (with bolts) is very much out of the question.

On Supertopo John Bachar goes on to specify the difference between Onsight and Onsight Flash. This was a distinction that I had never heard of and is way old school. In a way it does make sense in a world where when you fall you lower all the way to the ground (Yo-Yo style). Thus even though you have fallen you will eventually Onsight a climb since every move you will have at one point had to do for the first time until your eventual “Redpoint”. This seems strange in the current use of the word that is used to say that you did the climb first try all the way to the top without any beta.

It is odd that the distinction between Onsight and Onsight Flash seen above does not mention beta at all. I think this is a more interesting discussion. At what point do we cross the line from a Onsight to a Flash, in the modern sense of the words. Since climbing is just a type of game it is interesting that different people play by different rules. What I think is important is that you are honest about the style. If you call a send an Onsight but you had someone tell you about the climb then just be honest that your friend told you beta.

Style is important but it is more important to have fun and let everyone make their choices. We do not want to have anyone chipping routes or placing bolts right next to perfect natural protection. What has worked over the years is to allow different areas to feature their own set of rules and style of climbing. This can be a result of both the kind of rock and the mindset of the locals. So try to think outside the box and respect the traditions at the crags you frequent.

– Luke

Guest Blog: Visiting Vegas!

7 03 2008

It was a dark and potentially stormy night when Luke and Lizzy picked me up at the Vegas airport. After we calmed from the inital joy of reuniting friends, and successfully picked up my checked bag, Lizzy fearlessly negotiated her way through the grotesque neon signs of downtown Vegas (and past one gorgeous In and Out sign) to the Red Rocks campground. To my utter delight, Luke surprised me at the campsite with two bottles of Diet Coke!!! True friendship. Inspired by the outline of the mountains in the darkness, we quickly went to sleep in preparation for a long day of climbing.

The next morning, we jumped from our sleeping bags into the extremely cold but sunny mountain scenery. To a girl from flat Michigan the tops of the mountain spires making a jagged horizion were awe-inspiring. Nothing can be more energizing than naked rock cutting across a clear, blue sky. As we sped through breakfast, I was greatly relieved to find that Lizzy had brought sourdough bagels from Noah’s! How some people can suffer through an oatmeal breakfast (without any cookies crumbled into it, even!), I’ll never know.

We packed the car and drove to the trailhead. It was a very fast hike in, with my short 5′ 2″ (total height) legs moving as fast as they would hike. If someone was to describe the morning/hike as slow/leasuirely, I would not be in agreement with him. This girl was moving! Exhausted, I arrived at the base of Birdland. Thankfully, Lizzy was to lead the first pitches of this climb, and I got a chance to rest.

The rock was a gorgeous myriad of cracks, plates, and pockets. Climbing was especially fun due to the fact that we were using doubles. After Lizzy gracefully led to the belay, Luke and I followed and had the fun of carrying on a conversation while climbing a very easy pitch. Not a typical climbing experience, but very fun all the same! After Lizzy led a few pitches, I got a chance to lead! To my utter amazement and surprise, I found that I was not the least bit scared to be climbing. Usually there is a little bit of anxiety or fear, especially when on lead. However, somewhere along the way, 5.6 became incredibly easy and not fear-inspiring in the least. Due to this fact, I only placed 3 pieces of gear on the entire pitch. I was having so much fun climbing that stopping to place gear seemed quite unnecessary. Though, it must be said, that the nuts I did place were “bomber.” (straight from the mouth of the “climbing-god” himself!) I will choose not to comment on my cam placements at this time. Lizzy effortlessly led the rest of the pitches, and we rappelled down with only one small set-back when a rope became stuck. Luke climbed to the rescue, saved the rope, and down-climbed on lead to top it off!

Another, thank goodness shorter, hike led us to Cat in the Hat. With an awesome mastery of mental and emotional control, I climbed past a blank section at the beginning and proceeded to link the first two pitches. The third pitch of the route proved to be the crux pitch. However, after some confusion was sorted out between interpreting a 5.5 unprotected 8 ft section of rock as a V5 boulder problem (that would be 5.Fun, right?!), this pitch was completed with relative ease. The fourth pitch was somewhat of a mental game, as it was getting quite dark by then, and I was very tired. I climbed past a necessary traverse, and had to downclimb to get back to it, which shook me up pretty well. But I toiled on and reached a ledge where I thought the anchors were. However, to my great surprise, when I got there no bolts could be found! After a shouting match with the wind, I managed to communicate my troubles to Luke, who yelled up that I might in fact have to climb higher to reach the belay point. Yet again, Luke’s wisdom proves to be invaluable. I climbed 6 ft higher and immediately saw my goal! After making an anchor, Luke quickly climbed to meet me and we rappelled, met Lizzy, and continued on to the base of the climb. Yet another hike was needed in order to reach the car. Good heavens, I’m not in shape enough for this!

As this is already getting fairly long, I’ll leave it to Luke’s good description to paint the picture of what our Friday was like. I will only pause to add that we also stopped off at Von’s to pick up additional cookies. We had already managed to put a serious dent in the first batch of cookies, and the Chewy Chocolate ones from Von’s were really necessary.

That night was a restless one, filled with fears of rain that might bar us from climbing Solar Slab. However, upon waking in the morning, we decided that we would go for it! We packed the car (and if I thought the first day was fast, it was nothing compared to the speed with which we moved on Solar Slab Day!), and ate breakfast in the parking lot at the trailhead. After double-time, heel-toeing it to the base of the climb, we quickly harnessed up. Lizzy beautifully led all three pitches of Johnny Vegas without any trouble. And then, the challenge began.
During Cam Lessons the previous day, Luke and Lizzy had decided it was necessary to strike the Fear of God into me about gear placements. All sorts of gruesome and grotesque images were floating in front of my mind as to what may happen as a result of bad placements or no placements at all. It was with great trepidation that I began the first pitch of Solar Slab. I scrambled up the 5.4 slab. I attained the first crack. I traversed left. I gained the second crack. I hand-jammed. I crimped. I swore. …And I placed gear.

With the Fear of God weighing on my mind, this 5.6 was not nearly as easy as the first climbs. It was with shaking hands that I placed cams, evaluated, readjusted, switched sizes (also dropped Luke’s yellow Camalot…oi), and finally secured a piece. This happened (with the exception of dropping the cam. That only happened once) about every 8 ft. Luke and Lizzy have the patience of saints. With crazy rope drag, I did run it out about the last 15 ft to the bolts. There, I made an anchor and belayed Luke and Lizzy up. My efforts had paid off when Luke pronounced my placements “much improved!” Even my cams (most of them) would probably have held in the event of a fall!

After Luke linked the next two pairs of pitches, I led another pitch where I got to back up a one-bolt anchor with a nut and a cam. To my great sense of gratification, both Luke and Lizzy trusted my anchor and climbed up immediately after me! With assurances that I had placed gear “very well,” Luke led our final pitch of the route. At the top of that pitch, we took pictures, ate a few Cliff bars, and turned our attentions downward. As he successfully (for the first time ever!) pulled the rope without any snags over the rappel of all the pitches of Solar Slab and Johnny Vegas, Luke proved himself a master rope-puller.

Upon gaining the ground, we celebrated with We-Made-It-Down-Alive cookies and began the trek back to Lizzy’s car. With a delicious stir-fry and more Diet Coke, we pronounced the day a success! Sadly, the next day we had to pack up. We climbed some more sport limestone (which left a very painful puncture wound in my palm), and among other climbs, Luke led (and I TR’d) an awesome 11a. Lots of side-pulls and angled holds. Very exciting.

Upon leaving climbing, we stopped at REI to secure a patch for my poofy which had ripped on the airplane ride out. It was a touch-and-go operation, but both my poofy and I have survived the patching procedure and are recovering tolerably well. At Panera’s we had a delicious lunch and discussed the relative risks of BASE jumping vs. rappelling. It was an arduous debate, but rappelling won out for most dangerous.

With a heavy heart, I said goodbye to Luke and Lizzy. What can be better than spending long days outside, climbing with good friends?! I spent the little bit of a wait for my flight talking to a few other friends from school, planning our next trip (Easter weekend anyone? The Red?). After all, the best way to end a climbing trip is to start planning the next! Red Rocks today, Owens River Gorge tomorrow!!!!(or, well, next year…but I’m excited all the same! 🙂 )
– Rebecca