Frolicking on Limestone – A Long Weekend at Charleston

13 08 2008

It was another crazy, eye-opening excursion to Mt. Charleston. We left San Diego on Thursday, set up our tent in Hilltop campground (this time, the slightly less awesome site 27), and passed out.

View from the alpine woods of Mt. Charleston down into the Nevada desert.

On Friday morning, we headed to The Hood, which is home to several crazy limestone caves and many of the harder (and by harder, I mean 5.14) routes at Charleston. We decided to start out at Pine Tree Ledge, which has some 5.10s and 5.11s that would get us back into the swing of climbing on limestone. However, the routes at Charleston seem to give us something new every time. Our first route was a slabby, balancey 5.10 with a crux mantle to the anchors that involved standing on a smear with absolutely no handholds. Luke onsighted this and I decided to just follow it because it traversed a lot and I had a headache. Next, we tried a steeper, juggy and pocket-ed 5.11c called Heating Up the Hood. This was yet another experience. Luke also onsighted this and I decided to follow it to see if it was a good route for me to project. There was a tricky move at the first bolt that took me a couple tries to figure out and a reachy move to a small, 2-finger pocket that I managed to hurt my right middle and ring-finger tendons trying. Although the route was cool, my fingers really hurt and I decided not to push my luck and try to lead the route because I wanted to be able to send my other Charleston project from last visit. We were joined by some cool dudes from San Diego, who proceeded to climb Heating Up the Hood, while we tried out the route next door, a 10d called Witness This, which has extensions that go at hard and harder. Luke onsighted this also (we are pretty much the onsight masters…) and I followed it. It was a balancey route, but not quite as frighteningly bolted as other Charleston routes, so I decided to lead it, which was fun and entirely uneventful. I guess 5.10d is becoming a lot easier for me.

At this point, I was feeling kind of crappy with my headache and all, so after Luke redpointed a pocket-y 5.11d on Pine Tree Ledge, we took a break to check out the caves – Souls Cave and Compton Cave – and for Luke to flash a 5.11c traverse across the Corrosion Cave called Across the Galaxy. Then we headed back to the campground so I could take a nap and try to rid myself of the headache, which was worse than anything I’d had in years.

The next day, I awoke feeling a little better, so we decided to hike up to the Imagination Wall to try the Imaginator, a long, 3-pitch route (5.11c, 5.11a, 5.11a). We warmed up on Egyptian Sandfish, a 5.10b with widely spaced bolts that we’d done on our previous visit. Luke also redpointed Collective Peace, a 5.11b that he’d “wussed out on” (his words) on our previous visit. Then it was on to the business. I put all my jackets on because although it was shorts and tanktop weather in the sun, the Imagination Wall is windy and north facing – quite cold. Luke did well on his onsight attempt, but was shut down by some weird sequences at the crux. In our pre-climb discussion, he said it was okay for me to decide not to go through with the whole route as long as we could stay long enough for him to send the crux 1st pitch. My tendons and head were still feeling awful, so I told Luke to rap down to rest and try again, rather than belaying me up. He sent it on his second try and we headed back down to the car, deciding to head into town to get some cash (we needed more for the last night at the campground) and some oatmeal, making it a rest day for me so I could feel up for sending my project on Sunday. We had some extra time, so we caught a movie – the new Mummy – which was ok but not anything particularly special. That is one of the nice things about climbing in Charleston or Red Rocks – you’re never too far from civilization if you need it.

Crazy limestone at the Robbers’ Roost.

Sunday found us on the short walk out to the Robbers’ Roost, home of my project, Los Banditos (5.11c), and Luke’s project, a crazy 5.12c called The Burglar on a big yellow wall. We warmed up on a short, unnamed 5.10c that we had done before and Luke re-redpointed the crazy Rooster, which follows a waterchute past bolts that are a tad far apart for comfort. Then I went on an exploratory first try on my project, where I downclimbed from the crux clip a couple times before I could get the beta right, then took a break before climbing through the last, boulder part of the route to the finish jug. Luke made me redo this whole sequence from the crux clip before I lowered, which was probably a good decision because I got the moves really dialed and still did them (except for falling while lunging for the jug) even when tired and pumped. We then headed over to Luke’s project, where we worked through the tricky sequences through powerful undercling moves that lead through the opening bulge, as well as remembering the moves on the rest of the route. Then it was my turn again, so I got back on Los Banditos. Everything went perfectly until the 2nd to last clip, which took me a while because the carabiner on the chain-draw was upside down, and I made my life more difficult by causing the draw to start swinging in my efforts to flip the carabiner back. However, I made the clip and launched into the final, tension-y sequence to the jugs. I matched the final crimp, moved my feet up, and lunged for the jug with my left hand. I got the hold, but could feel my hand slipping, so I lunged with my right hand, thankfully held on to the jug, and made it to the anchors – my 2nd 5.11c redpoint, and only a week after my first!

The upper part of The Burglar (5.12c). After heading up the slabby section, the route traverses left under the roof on underclings, with some powerful final moves to the anchor.

The rest of the day found Luke giving a lot of effort to The Burglar, but he was worried about getting injured and perhaps needing to be stronger to send the route. I scouted out another possible project for me, Five Finger Discount (5.11c) and got the first 3 draws on it before getting mystified by the crux (and the crux clip, which could only be done before the crux if the draw was already attached… hmm…). So Luke helped me out and climbed the route, even though he was tired, to the top so I could have all the draws on and get a toprope to work out the crux moves, which I did. The route was very cool and had a tension-y, boulder-y crux involving a long reach to a non-hold in the bottom of a pod, which you then have to pretend is a hold to clip and move your feet up. Limestone can let you do some amazing things. After all this, we were pretty exhausted, so we headed back to camp where we read our books and ate some dinner before passing out.

On our last day, I gave Five Finger Discount three lead tries (we’d left the draws on), one-falling it every time, although I fell higher and was nearly through the crux on the last try. However, after these efforts I was pretty exhausted and decided the route will have to wait for my next visit. Meanwhile, Luke redpointed Five Finger Discount and worked, then sent the neighboring route, Shotgun, another 5.11c of totally different character with slopey holds and heel hooks.

Overall, it was a really fun and successful trip. It was great for Luke to try a harder project, although I think he’s still limiting himself by worrying about injuries, etc. I feel really psyched on climbing right now, more than I have been in a while (or at least since Indian Creek) and I hope I can keep my momentum of training and projecting up into the school year, since I really should start working on 11d and maybe even 12a if I can one-fall my “project” the third time on the route… Also, in case you didn’t notice, Luke was the 5.11c master this weekend, climbing 5 routes of the grade – 1 onsight, 1 flash, and 3 redpoints.

Anyways, now I’m in Washington for a couple days, so stay tuned for news about my upcoming brief foray up to Squamish!




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