Mutli-Pitch Bliss at Mount Charleston

12 08 2009

Most of the time I think of myself as a sport climber but I really enjoy being high above the ground. Mutli-pitching takes one beautiful places but it is usually reserved for trad climbers. Two weekends ago we indulged and brought only quickdraws and slings while climbing Cathedral Rock at Mt. Charleston.  Despite the many other cool climbs we did during the weekend the three pitch Cathedral Route was the highlight for me.

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3rd classing up some loose choss.

Our weekend started on a negative but enlightening note. Despite arriving Friday afternoon and driving around for more than an hour to the five campgrounds we were unable to find an open. Most of the sites were empty but reserved for that night. In the future it seems that reservations are a MUST HAVE for the the summer at Mt Charleston. We pitched our tent at the free area near Mary Jane falls and took the short walk into the Mary Jane crag since we had lost so much time driving around.

The weather was perfect in the shade up at Mt Charleston and it was nice to be a bit chilly in August.  We both tried to warm-up on an awkward 5.8 and then started working our way through to some of the harder routes.  I soon got on the namesake climb, Mary Jane, and it was amazing. I thought that Lizzy might be able to flash it and so as I climbed I tried to let her know what the moves were like and where the holds were.  This added to the pump but I still managed the onsight. With all the looking up Lizzy was feeling a bit off and I’m sure the elevation (7000+ feet) didn’t help.  Lizzy decided to take it easy and we relaxed while I depumped. Up for a bit of adventure I got on a route that wasn’t in our guidebook and it was exciting with an awkward crux and a fun finale at 5.11-. I convinced Lizzy to TR this route which she sent with a few falls even though it was not her style. It was getting late but I had a bit more energy and did a few 5.10b’s at the end of the crag onsighting one and doing the other 2nd try.  Looking at the book  a bit later I realized I had misread the descriptions and the climbs were actually 5.10a (left) and 5.11a (right) which made more sense and I felt silly for misreading the book.

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Lizzy checking out the upcoming climbing after Pitch 1.

One of the big reasons for going back to Charleston was to give Lizzy a crack at her project from last season, Five Finger Discount.  She had done all the moves and linked different sections but could not get through the techy crux from the ground. Saturday we warmed up on an awesome 5.8 at Robbers Roost before I decided to give Future Days an attempt. This was one of the first routes bolted at Charleston and I had previously been too intimidated to try it. I soloed 15 feet to the first bolt doing multiple 5.10 moves on the way. Some tricky reaches got me to the 2nd bolt and the crux. I felt around for a while trying to find holds but eventually gave up, unwilling to set off  into the unknown and the distant bolt.  A few false starts later I figured out the tricky foot moves and made it through the crux and to the next bolt. The rest of the route was much easier than expected though I still hung at the last bolt before a final hard move and the 20 foot runout to the anchor.
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Looking out at the surrounding hills (The hood is just right of center behind an obvious yellow buttress)

With the crux sequence memorized I sent the route 2nd try and Lizzy climbed it on TR only falling at the first crux. With our warmup complete we left the sunny side of robbers roost (it was hot) and went to the main breezy corridor. Fortunately the project draws we had left on Five Finger Discount were still there and Lizzy was all set for the send! The first part of the route went very smoothly and she took at the crux to save energy and remember the complex sequence. The first few tries were unsuccessful but all of a sudden Lizzy found her zone and did the crux move easily, got the tricky next clip and went to the top!! On her next try Lizzy made the bottom section look super casual and sent the route without a problem!! It was cool to see Lizzy step outside of her box and climb a route that required bigger moves on a steeper wall. In between her tries I had given a burn to my project, The Burgler, but the final moves still seemed hard from the hang so I still needed to gain fitness before any real redpoint attempts.

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Lizzy follows the “alpine” like second pitch.

We spent a bit more time after lunch looking for a campsite for Saturday night but no luck! We were really hoping to move from the free lot since we had not slept well the previous night due to a group of screaming crazies from Vegas that were running around at 3am.

We moved on to The Hood which had a few 5.12’s that I had not tried yet. When we got there the first 5.12a, Rappin Boyz, was wet so I attempted what I thought was Jazz Ma Taz. It had fixed chain draws so I knew I could always bail if it was too hard. The moves were really cool and I made good progress bolt to bolt until the 2nd to last bolt. The final boulder problem involved a powerful undercling sequence followed by a huge reach to a decent hold by the anchor. This section was a show stopper and I lowered off not sure what to do.

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Lizzy shoes a bit of attitude.

We found the other 5.12 that I wanted to try, I believe it was called Borne a Snake, and it looked really desperate and there was no chalk meaning it had not been climbed recently. After talking to a few locals I realized the route I  had just tried shared the start with Jazz Ma Taz but had a totally different finish. This explained the chalked 12+ that I had seen on the rock though the local told me he thought it was super hard and likely 13a. The final boulder problem had been really desperate and everything made more sense. With no other routes in mind I wanted to see how far I could link and gave it another go.

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Out of the shade for a summit shot!

My lack of limestone fitness showed instantly as I had to rework the sequence to the 4th bolt on the fly since I couldn’t hold on the same way as my first try. I thruched a bit got the clip and fully committed to the next sequence making a hard pull left to a sinker jug. My fingers stalled on the deadpoint just beyond the hold and I though I wasn’t going to be able to fall into the big pocket. With encouragement from Lizzy I made it a bit further but found another sequence where my beta was too strength intensive for the link. After a few falls I made some good progress on the top boulder problem but still couldn’t work out how to get my right hand in the last undercling.

Lizzy was a bit low on motivation, which often comes after sending a hard project, and we moved on to some easier climbs. I lead a painfully sharp 5.10a slab just left of the Corrosion cave which I knew Lizzy would not like and we decided to call it a day. The night seemed to be going well, at the free lot, until two groups of loud campers showed up and dashed our hopes of sleep. One memorable and loud saying from the group was how it “only midnight” and there was lots of night left (I assume to keep us from sleeping and continue partying).

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Trying not to get too excited by keeping it silly!

The next day I was not feeling up to trying any more hard climbs and Lizzy was not ready to start climbing on the hard routes at the Hood. I wanted to climb either the Imaginator (of which I had done the excellent first pitch) or the Cathedral Route. Lizzy chose to go to a new area and after a bit of a long hike for Charleston (45mins) we found our self at the very chossy base of Cathedral Rock. A few loose rocks fell from the summit while we were racking up and I was a bit anxious that I had left my helmet at home.  After some exploring the multiple ledge systems I found the bolted starting belay so Lizzy and I got ready to climb. The Cathedral Route is on a north facing wall and we both changing into pants and Lizzy brought her R1 and light windbreaker.

Cathedral Route TopobA topo I made thanks to Beta Creator.

The book noted the route could only be rapped with two ropes so we brought our shoes to walk off on the hiker trail from the summit. The book also said the last pitch was 120 feet which we though might be workable to rappel with a 70m rope. The first pitch was the crux and a brutal warmup. The start seemed steep and I had to fight the pump on the many reaches between flat edges.  A little over halfway up the holds ran out and I was faced with sharp quartz bands running across the limestone face. I was right next to the arete and had to make an off balance move to get established on the slab. The next 25 feet were full on and I thought I might fall off at any point. Luckily I made it, passing a sporty runout in some bad rock, to the final crux before the anchor. I must have spent 20+ minutes at a good stance trying three different variations before discovering a small sidepull. This tiny hold helped me get my feet up and I made a few laybacking move to the anchor.

Lizzy followed with only 2 falls some how avoiding the flash pump that plagued me. The 2nd pitch was much easier since the dark bands now stuck out a good ways from the wall leaving one to two inch edges. Pitch two was almost vertical and I thought it felt more like 5.10c/d compared to the 10b given in the book.  I made it to the anchor knocking off only one rock from the chossy corner that led to the anchor. Pulling hard got me through the funky first 2 bolts of the final pitch. The next section, to the 3rd bolt and above, was so fun with perfect jugs appearing at the limit of my reach. An exciting slab move with my feet noticeably far above my last bolt had me yelling with joy. A nice rest set me up for some more steep jug pulling and the crux of the last pitch. I struggled to hold on to awkward underclings while reaching as high as I could search for the next hold. A small crimp gave way to a series of triangular flat ledges and more slabby limestone. The last part was a bit less feature and I was moving as fast as possible pinching large limestone features trying to avoid the pump.

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Luke cleans up some trash from Cathedral Rock

At the anchor  the middle mark of our rope was at the 3rd bolt so Lizzy decided to carry our shoes on the final pitch. I confirmed her decision when I pulled up the rope and the middle mark was almost 10 feet below me.  For convenience someone could easily double up the final protection bolt to create a rap station which would allow the whole route to be rapped with a 70m rope. Right now the final anchor is in a very logical place since it allows you 3rd class access to the summit. We strolled down the hiker trail and then I hiked a very direct route back to retrieve our packs. On my way back  I filled  my crampon pouch with bottles and cans and saw so much trash that still had to carry the final cans to the base.  Check out those old Budweisers!!

We had a great weekend but it will sadly be a long time before we go back to Charleston.

– Luke

The Road to June and our Contest Winner!!

5 06 2009

It is June already and Lizzy will graduate in a week and then 8 days later I will fly up to Portland, Oregon for a week at Smith Rocks.  It has been exceptionally busy at work and we have been making the most of our weekends leaving little time to write stories and post photos. Climbing as been going well and I am finally starting to get back the the same levels from six months ago. My various finger injuries have been more bothersome than expected but I have been enjoying “moderate” routes at gym and have been mixing up my workout routine .

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Lizzy trying to catch up on sleep after our post midnight arrival.

First off we held a little contest for a SuperTopo shirt and despite our efforts its been over two weeks without posting a winner.  Via a random number generator we have a result and I will be sending John M from North Dakota the Shirt!! Congratulations to John and thanks to everyone who left a comment. Hopefully in the future we can give away something desirable to a large audience and perhaps get more then seven responses.

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All dressed up for Phantom.

As Lizzy already posted on Twitter, back in May, we spent our Anniversary in Las Vegas. We dressed up and went to a show between two days of sport climbing. Phantom was awesome and it was quite impressive to see how many people go to casinos. The show was a ton of fun and it was great to see all of the classic songs performed. Previously Lizzy and I had been through some of the cheaper, dirtier casinos that made me wonder why people gamble. This trip our show was at the Venetian and they had some crazy sights. The photo below was taken inside; needless to say I was impressed.

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A far too realistic scene inside the Venetian Hotel and Casino

We were able to climb before the show on Saturday and all day Sunday. The limestone at Robbers Roost did not disappoint and Lizzy and I checked out a few routes we had yet to try. The climbing varies greatly depending on the angle of the rock and it occasionally seems like you are climbing at different areas. We started on some slab routes with small sharp holds and features caused by drips. After a super fun 5.8 warmup Lizzy and I both lead this exciting 10+.  It was likely bolted on lead and often the climber was doing a cruxy move with a bolt well below their feet. I also tried a hard 5.11 slab which I onsighted until the final bolt. Unfortunately I was quite pumped and did not want to commit to a long fall while pushing into the unknown. I hope to keep a cool head and redpoint the route this weekend.

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Luke uses a double stick clip to put a draw on the third bolt.

After I tried Prince of Thieves, seen above, we moved back to the main area of Robbers Roost. The morning had been quiet and we had not seen very many people. The central section of the crag is in a tall canyon/corridor which really traps sound. We were impressed to see a decent crew of people with the occasional tourist. I had wanted to do the super extension of The Rooster and racked up 20 quickdraws for the 40+ meter pitch. The standard version of the route is 10c with 9 bolts in about 95 feet. It is sharp and a bit scary but a good mental exercise. The 1st extension is 11b and another 3 or 4 bolts. The final extension goes up steeper rock with an additional 5 or so bolts for a total of 17 (which I only figured out after climbing it). It was my first time on the extension and I made it to the 2nd set of anchors onsighting the 11b crux. However I was drained mentally and did not want to commit to the steep upper section and chose to rap off which just barely got me to the ground with our 70m rope.
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Stick clip magic!!

Lizzy enjoys projecting at Robbers Roost and after sending Los Banditos, her 2nd 11c last season, she turned to Five Finger Discount for this years project. This route is a bit harder and requires more power than endurance to complete its shorter steep crux. I put a set of project draws on the route  stick clipping through the crux to save energy. The 4th clip is fairly hard and having the draws on makes the climb more fun.  I taped the upper gates closed and hopefully the gear will still be there when we return this weekend.

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Lizzy skin is losing the battle against the limestone.

Lizzy made great progress over the two day weekend and relearned the beta she had developed the summer before. There was no send but hopefully this weekend we will have workable weather and Lizzy can nab another 11c.  With the help of some locals I was able to send Highway Man on my third try for my first 12a at Mt Charleston. I also climbed a very fun unknown 11+ route to the right of Five Finger Discount that had a very cool crux involving body tension on slopey holds. I was happy with my weekend results and to be regaining my sport climbing fitness.

As I previously noted we spent Memorial day weekend in Zion and had a blast. I think that my body is now recovered from our day on Sheer Lunacy and am excited for the summer season in the Sierra’s. The short and medium term effects of a very long hard day of climbing are curious and I am still learning how best to prepare and recover. We learned the hard way that it is best to budget for more water than you expect to drink even if it is heavy.

This past weekend Lizzy and I had initially planned to go to Idyllwild with some of our friends from Santa Barbara but a last minute cancellation left us with some free time. We decided to skip the trad climbing and clip bolts on granite at Keller Peak. Josh and Julie met up with us mid day and showed us some of the different crags. Julie took a few photos and I expect they will be on her blog at some point.  We decided to go exploring at lunch and somehow got caught in a impromptu rainstorm. This is pretty strange since Keller Peak is only about an hour or so east of Pasadena but I suppose that once above 7000 feet one can be subject to different weather.

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Plenty of tourists visit Robbers Roost full of misinformation from this sign.

We decided to bail since all the rocks were wet but while driving down the mountain the rain mysteriously stopped. In fact the road was bone dry meaning the the rain had somehow been stuck higher up. After reconsidering options we choose adventure and went to the Dinosaur Wall. This crag does not have a guidebook and we were a bit unsure of the approach. However we could see the rock from the road and made our way their safely despite an encounter with a sleepy rattlesnake.

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Lizzy cross the road to start the killer 5 minute approach to Robbers Roost.

The Lower Dinosaur wall had a few bolted routes and I was feeling good and jumped on the middle line with no idea of the grade. I was able to onsight the route and it was quite fun and easy until the last two moves which allow one to clip the anchors. I swung right and put a TR on a harder route that Josh had attempted in the past. This gave us two TR’s which was nice way to relax after escaping the rain. After a short nap the ladies did the left route while Josh and I worked the right route with a cruxy arete boulder problem start. I was able to do all of the moves and after getting to the top I re-tried the bottom crux and got ready for the lead. The bolts are a bit oddly space but I was confident since I had yet to fall on the moves.

On my lead attempt I must have been holding back a bit and my body was so tight that I could not reach a hold necessary for the tricky mantel. After a few tries I changed my sequence completly and managed to mantel using different feet  and make it through the crux. I found my self on the half way no hands rest much more pumped then on TR and was happy to hold on through the crimpy finish  trying not to pull the wrong way on a very low quality sidepull while clipping the anchors.

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Lizzy objecting to my morning enthusiasm at Mt Charleston.

We did one more route the front of the Dinosaur wall and moved to a corridor on the inside with a plethora of newly bolted routes. It was very nice to be in the shade and despite a previous to the area  trip Josh had not climbed any of these routes. We were both excited to have our choice of routes and I chose an easy looking line with two bolts to a flaring hand crack. I grabbed an assortment of cams from Josh and led up the grainy chossy rock. After making my way into the crack we could tell how new these routes were as lichen and rock cascaded down onto Josh’s head. I was not excited with the gear and ended up placing 3 pieces from the stance as Josh laughed at me from below. I moved up, adjusted one of the cams, and started face climbing now that the crack had vanished. While there were no more bolts but the climbing was easy and I made it to the top.

Mt Charleston - May 09 008The summer air is cool at the high altitude Hilltop Campground

By the time Lizzy and Julie arrived in the corridor Josh was half way up the 50 ft “pitch” and we were both laughing uncontrollable. The rock was  not the best and Josh now saw why I had been a bit sketched out and placed so many pieces. When Josh had tugged on 2 of my cams the lobes had just continued to open in the soft granite. Not the best sight. Josh and I finished the day with a few more TR’s and are excited to go back with some pads to try and headpoint one of the TR’s that had not been bolted. It looked like the climb could be protected with a couple of cams in a horizontal that would keep you off the deck for the crux follow by some unprotected crimping before a final crack and mantel top out. Hopefully I will have time to go back before it gets too hot.

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Lizzy doing a final bit of relaxing before we went climbing at Robbers Roost.

We are taking Lizzy’s final weekend before graduation to do a last minute sport climbing tune up at Mt Charleston. If all goes well Lizzy will send her project and I will send the slab route and perhaps the Rooster super extension.  Lizzy is working on a blog with thoughts from Zion and I have a ton of photos to post in the next few weeks.



Memorial Day Update

27 05 2009

Life has been going full steam ahead as Lizzy approaches graduation and the summer climbing season kicks into effect.

We spent last weekend clipping bolts at altitude outside of Las Vegas at Mount Charleston and celebrating our anniversary by going to see Phantom of the Opera.

After a successful beta request for free climbing  Sheer Lunacy we went to  Zion for Memorial day weekend.

Despite a day of rain we managed an ascent after taking a day trip to Bryce Canyon to let the rock dry.

It may be next week before we get our photos on line so in the mean time check out these killer shots of the route.

Hopefully we will have the contest results posted by the end of the week.



Pushing Limits by Projecting

18 08 2008

In the past I have been hesitant to project routes because I would not have the time to return and complete them. However in order to start sending harder routes I believe that I need to try things that are above my current sends. Currently I have been plateauing around 12b. While i have yet to onsight the grade I have send a few 12b’s 2nd go and have onsighted 12a. To make matters worse I haven’t even tried very many routes harder that 12b. I think that I have lead less than 5 routes 12c or harder.

Over our long weekend at Mount Charleston I was trying to allow my fingers time to recover while gaining stamina. A hardcore regiment of bouldering had proved detrimental to my tendons and my fingers had been hurting for two weeks. 11c is a good difficulty for me and one of my favorite grades. While I did my first 11c way back in March of 2005 I am still entertained by the climbing. It is not quite 5.12 so there can be good holds and a 11c in my style can be a good onsight.

Lizzy wanted to go to Robbers Roost and I was happy to do a bit of hard climbing on The Burgler. At 12c I had jumped on it last time because I knew it was good for me since I would need to try hard. But back in June I did not think that I could send it even though it was within my phyical limit. Talking to Felix, one of my friends at the gym, about his send of the route raised my pyche and helped me see that the route was possible. The blocky start had totally shut me down on my previous trip and I got scared on lead and didn’t even finish the route.  This time was different and I was able to find a powerful sequence through the opening holds. Body tension and underclings allowed me to gain the crimpy mid section and finally the upper underclings. More tenuous smears lead to the anchors and I had fallen my way to the top.

A few more trys and I linked through the bottom crux and was at the no hands rest. Keeping my motivation high i worked my way up to my second crux. A tricky right hand gaston led to a full exenstion left hand stab into an undercling. With a grunt I was still going but my arms were turing into putty. Motivation sapped I lost my steam and gave up only two bolts before the anchor. Even without the send I was happy. I had pushed hard through the bottom crux and had made it higher than I ever expected. The end moves are still physical and I need to add some endurance before I try again.

While Lizzy was getting cooked up in the Squamish heat this past weekend I had a nice morning at the Riverside Quarry. While it was supposed to hit 92 in Riverside a 6am start and shade until 1pm allowed for a lot of climbing. It was a bit muggy in the morning but with a nice breeze friction was great by noon.

I met up with Stein and Leah at Vertical Hold and we made our way to the quarry. We were climbing around 8am on the classic warm up, Original Sin. It felt much less pumpy this time and after everyone lead it we put a rope on the first part of Sky Pliot to the right. It was my first time on this route so I watched for beta. It was fun and despite mis-sequencing and falling it was a good time. Leah and I then top roped Sins of the Flesh 12d/13a to warm up our fingers for crimps. It was very fun and I climed it clean until the crux. A long lockoff from a good edge followed by some super small holds and then a powerful sequence on opposing side pulls to a jug. Stein skipped this one mentally preparing for his project, Control Freak 13a/b.

On his first try, this visit, Stein came close to sticking the crux deadpoint and then came down to conserve energy. The movement on the route was pretty straightforward but finding all the holds was tricky. A few easy moves lead off the ground to a tricky left traverse at the third bolt. After gaining the first ledge I got a good shake and then crimped up to a hidden left hand hold. This allowed passage to the fifth bolt and the best rest on two large jugs with good feet. Proper recovery was key because the technical first crux was next!

After manteling these two jugs you got a small right hand crimp and slapped out left to a poor sloper. Slapping up again gained a better sloper and allowed a crucial foot switch. Now well above the last bolt a high left foot allowed a cross off the sloper to a good crimp. It was easy to barn door off this move which would send you flying on lead. From the crimp you reached high to a good hold and the next clip. On this high left hand you recover best possible to get ready for the main crux. Directional crimps lead to the next clip and the crux deadpoint. From a good left crimp and a poor right sidepull you lunge for a diagonal edge just above the bolt. I was able to stick this move a few times but need to get it more dialed for the redpoint.

Once you stick the move you have to bring your feet up high on a bad right hand hold and do a dynamic left hand bump to a good edge before the next bolt. This leads to much easier climbing including a fun jump to a jug above the last bolt. A few quick moves on jugs and you are at the anchor.

We top roped this route a bunch of times and I lead it once with a bunch of falls. I was able to do all moves on lead and need to work on relaxing enough to link from the ground into the crux deadpoint. It was super exciting to be working on a hard route that was more in my style. Both Seduction and Sins of the Flesh had very small holds and I struggled to do many of the moves. With some more work I feel that Control Freak could be quite doable and hopefully I can try it again this weekend.

Even with falls it was very motivating to lead my first 13. The focus necessary for the first crux allowed me to move past my fear of being above the bolt. I was completely in the moment and had my cleanest link of the first crux on lead. I have been trying to get past my fears of falling and Stein has been very supportive. It was also helpful to watch him fall from the first and second cruxes without consequence.  Mentally this weekend was a big step and even though I don’t feel any stronger and didn’t send anything. As Stein has told me many times the key is to be relaxed. I agree and by letting go of my fear and just climbing I was able to perform much better.

– Luke

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!


Getting Psyched on Nevada Limestone

25 06 2008

With temperatures blazing in the 100s in the SoCal area last weekend, we headed out to Mt. Charleston, just north of Las Vegas, to beat the heat. Mt. Charleston rises above the glitz and garbage of the strip to over 10,000ft elevation – a tree-shaded, snow-covered (for part of the year) alpine oasis amid the southern Nevada desert.

This was our first extended experience sport climbing on limestone and we had some struggles with the many challenges presented by the rock – finding where the holds were, trusting the rock (especially when broken holds had not proven it particularly trustworthy), and (in some cases) dealing with the mental crux of distantly-spaced bolts.

By far the highlights of the trip for me were the campground we stayed at on Sunday night (Hilltop campground – absolutely beautiful) and the route I projected on Sunday, Los Banditos, 5.11c.

The campground was at fairly high elevation and our campsite was shaded by tons of somewhat stubby, twisted alpine trees – you could tell that they were covered in snow for part of the year. The views down into the desert, the sunset, and the sunrise were amazing. Quite a far cry from some of my less enjoyable campground experiences (Camp 4, I’m thinking of you here).

And then the rock climbing. On Saturday afternoon, after a morning at the Imagination Wall, we headed to Robbers Roost for a few more routes. After re-warming up, Luke onsighted Los Banditos (11c) and I headed up on toprope, climbing it clean first try and only feeling pumped after I’d been lowered to the ground, which was pretty sweet. The climb had a variety of fun moves over slightly overhanging rock that still allowed me to get several no-hands rests and a lot of balancey moves. This was a pleasant surprise since I worried from the ground about the route being a pure grunt-fest.

It was so much fun that I decided to go for the lead when we returned on Monday morning. At first I struggled with the crux clip, but on my second try, I overcame my fear and figured out a key heel hook to make the clip more doable, although I got stuck on the moves right afterwards and made it to the top after hanging once. I don’t know what it was (maybe the altitude), but before my second try, I was feeling pretty exhausted. But after laying in the sun for a couple minutes and feeling the adrenaline of the second lead, I wanted a third go.

I made the crux clip without much trouble, although with a different (but better) sequence and launched into the last moves on bad holds before the series of jugs that led to the anchor (these are the most amazing jugs I’ve ever experienced outside – huge and wonderful). But my tiredness kicked in and I slipped from the last bad crimp below the jug – so close! I was a little disappointed, but also proud of myself because I had fully committed to the sequence and was pushing hard for the jug, above my last bolt, and took a small whipper when I fell. For a girl who has a tendency to downclimb instead of committing, this, I felt, was progress. Even as my hands shook, I was totally committed to the route, not thinking of falling or downclimbing once.

Also, this was the first sport climb of the grade that I’ve attempted. I’ve lead several 11a’s and an 11b, but I’d never really felt confident enough to step up the grades, which is really something I need to start doing to progress in my climbing. It was great to feel motivated and excited enough to push my limits and bring some of the motivation of my Indian Creek crack climbing (where I attempted to lead my first 4 5.12s) into sport climbing. I’m hoping this will be a good sign as I start to push my limits harder and make some improvements.

In other news, tonight we’re picking up Gordon, one of Luke’s friends visiting us for a couple days, and heading out to the Needles! For the first time this season! I’m super excited and can’t wait to get on the sharp end on some of that beautiful granite.



Alpine Retreat – Clipping Bolts at Mt Charleston

25 06 2008

I needed to get out, I just wanted to leave, go somewhere, change the flow of things. But I am not a spontaneous person, I like to make plans and follow them. This balance always strikes me and I don’t know what to do, which furthers my problem. I like doing things, keeping busy and chugging forward. I enjoy keeping my schedule full so that when I do have some free time I enjoy it and truly relax.

Friday came around and plans for the weekend were far from settled. Lizzy had been spending time in her Air Conditioned room away from 100+ degree heat while I had been plugging along at work. Even climbing in the shade we would be met with 90+ degree weather and would likely melt before sending anything. Our drastic times called for drastic measures and I came up with a plethora of plans. This can easily become a problem as Lizzy and I try to sort between the nuisances of each possible climbing location. The common theme was high elevation and camping. We would need to spend the whole weekend out of LA and somewhere cool. Fearing the hoards and with a slight dislike of the granite of Big Bear we decided on Mt Charleston.

Gas these days I at a premium and adds new words to the American vocabulary like “Stay-cation” but honestly who the hell wants to do that. I want to explore the world, I want to journey to new places and I want to get out of here. NOW! Adjusting to meet the best temperatures I worked on Saturday and we left for Vegas on Saturday night. The five and half hour drive was traffic free but required constant AC as we made our way into the Vegas heat. After passing by the strip we headed north on the 95 out into the unknown. A small turn off and a sign for Mt Charleston signaled our rise to elevation and a retreat into cooler temperatures. Reservations were suggested but required three days of advanced notice for the Kyle Canyon Campgrounds.

With the two main campgrounds full we headed to the Mary Jane Area. This multiple abuse site, once home to a historical ski tow, was a gravel parking lot near the Mary Jane trailhead. All of the “spots” on the periphery were taken so we parked near the center and set up our tent. Bugs instantly flocked to our headlamps but the temperatures had dropped and we were quickly asleep. With the sun rising around 5am, I was excited and anxious to go climbing. Getting up to go to the bathroom at first light I had seen towering limestone walls and had a hard time going back to sleep.Unable to wait any longer, I roused Lizzy and we packed up and had breakfast by 6:30. After a bit of confused driving, undoubtedly caused by our mere 6 hours of sleep, we wound up hiking up the trail next to the ski tow. Our trail led us to the base of the north facing Imagination Wall, 500 feet of glorious limestone. At the base of our warm-up the rock was intimidating and devoid of familiar features. Sharp crimps and runnels dotted the face and without chalk the sequence was far from obvious. The base of the Imagination wall is slabby and the rock offers excellent friction, the climbing requires subtle body movement and a keen eye for “holds”. After warming up I jumped on a 10d that might make a good lead for Lizzy. This however was far from the truth. After breaking a foothold, stick clipping the second bolt and shakely climbing to the 3rd bolt at 40 feet I decided to bail. The next bolt was 15 feet higher and I was not yet confident on this type of climbing. I had fallen prey to the Exacto Blade (the route’s name) and did not have the mental energy to complete this route that was undoubtedly bolted on lead.

Confidence shattered, we moved down the cliff to try a few of the other “moderate routes”. After bailing on three different variations of this 11a, I found passage on one of the harder neighboring routes. While not a clean lead I was finally able to make it to the top. The ending of this 11b had what I wanted, wonderful pinches and crimps, tricky footwork and tension moves, most importantly real HOLDS! Finally getting to climb after my flailathon Lizzy mad quick work of this balancey climb.

After one more fun 11b, evidently the good grade to climb at this wall, and a bit of heinous top roping we departed for Robbers Roost. The weather had been ideal and the wall was completely in the shade causing Lizzy to don all of our jackets. Even though we were a bit tired I convinced Lizzy that more climbing was in order and with the promise of a five minute approach we were on our way. The scene at Robbers Roost was the opposite of the solitude of the Imagination Wall. There were tourists and climbers sandwiched in the cave like venue. The walls were covered with fixed draws and chalk and most of the climbs were overhanging.

With some friendly advice from one of the locals we warmed up again and we did a few more climbs. While these routes had tricky cruxes they had nice holds and jugs and one even had a sit down rest. Excited by a more athletic style we decided to return the next day so Lizzy and I could work on some harder routes. Hilltop, the third campground in the area, was close by and we still needed a place to sleep. With showers and a toilet this was a big step up from the Mary Jane Area. Hiltop hade excellent views and is about 1000 feet higher than Kyle and Fletcher campgrounds. Since it was Sunday night we had no problem finding an excellent site in the shade. If you are ever there I suggest site number #21 despite not having a view it was fairly wind protected and had evening shade.

Monday we returned to the Roost and climb the namesake route (photo below). This climb, another lead bolted scare fest, was technical with bad falls on sharp rock. The movement and hold variety was classic limestone and excellent if you could move past a fear of falling. This climb had deep runnels and great pinches. I found the crux to be a tricky bit of stemming after a good rest about midway through the route. While this did not function as a good mental warm-up it got the blood moving and allowed me to focus on harder routes. First up was an onsight attempt on a route that had been occupied the previous day. After a bunch of tricky climbing I gave up a foot below a hidden jug. Lack of commitment and a bit of memory loss left me hanging but with no regrets as I made my way to the top I encountered a much more beta intensive crux that would have blown the onsight. Next go, much more relaxed, I sent Bubbleicous.

Lizzy was in the projecting mood and jumped on Los Banditos, an 11c that she had done clean first try on TR the day before. This would be her first of the grade and over the day she made excellent progress. Between my attempts on different routes she gave this route three good burns and on her final try fell one hold below jug at the end of the crux. She made good progress with each try and feeling fresh on our next visit I think this climb is within her reach.

I attempted some of the classic harder routes in the area but was stopped by tricky beta, fatigue and altitude. Leaving tired we made the journey back to San Diego happily avoiding Vegas rush hour. Despite a lack of hard sends I feel the weekend was quite satisfying and have a new respect for the complexity of limestone. I am excited to go back, since according to the locals you can climb there all summer.

– Luke