Rainbow Wall Approach and Rappelling Beta

30 10 2009

I hear that a lot of people get lost in Red Rocks. Often I will start wandering the wrong way only to have Lizzy call me back to the path. In the end it’s no fun getting lost and it takes a lot of time.  The Rainbow Wall is stunning and really not that far away. While it make take some people over three hours the hike should be doable under two hours with bivy gear if you don’t get lost.

One can either approach from Oak Creek or Pine creek. I am pretty sure the Pine Creek trail is shorter but it requires you drive in the loop road. This is the way we took so I will describe my experience.

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Starting out the hike from the Pine Creek Canyon parking lot.

If you have climbed in Pine Creek and done either the classic Cat in the Hat or Dark Shadows then the above photo should look pretty familiar. The small red capped tower/formation in the middle of the shot is named the Mescalito. You walk towards this formation passing three or four turn offs for nature walks, fire trails and other areas.  A good 15 – 25 minutes out from the parking lot there will be a homestead on the left followed shortly with a sign similar to the one in the photo below. This sign should have a leftwards arrow pointing to the Arnight Knoll trail. This is the trail you take to get into Juniper Canyon.

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Making the second turn.

One travels towards a ridge through some bushes and you will eventually encounter the sign above. It is pretty obvious but go left (the only real option).   This will quickly bring you to another junction where you stay left again. This is shown in the photo below. This left turn (the third from the main trail) will take you up a hill to the top of the aforementioned ridge which is really more of a plateau. The trail is pretty flat and you should make good time towards Juniper Canyon. Do not turn off this trail, trending up and right towards the entrance to Juniper Canyon. Be careful of the many types of cactus that line the trail.

Once you travel a ways across the plateau head towards the center of the canyon. The trail will split many times to the side areas, with Crimson Chrysalis and Cloud tower on the left. We stayed on the well cairned trail which led us up the right side of the canyon. Eventually you will work your way down into a wash which can be tricky to follow. Most of the way there are cairns but use good judgment to make upwards progress.

[Edit: So, Luke has oversimplified this a little, I think. The main idea here is that you start on official hiking trails – first the Pine Creek Trail, then the left turns get you onto the Arnight-Knoll Trail, then you stay right on the Knoll Trail when the Arnight Trail splits off, then you have to turn right-ish off the Knoll Trail to head into Juniper Canyon – if you stayed on the Knoll Trail it would take you to Oak Creek Canyon. As I recall, this turn is obvious and intuitive, but just realize that there is a point at which you go right, into Juniper Canyon, instead of bearing left (on the main hiking trail) across the plateau to Oak Creek. ~Lizzy]

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Make sure to go left and then up the hill!

After a ways in the wash the trail should get better and eventually head up a steep sandy hill. Make sure to follow the trail and stay a bit to the right. There is a well traveled trail after you get to the top of the hill. This will lead through some trees and eventually to a distinct Y with a cairn. This is the split for the Rainbow wall, left, and the Brownstone wall, right.  The left fork will take you to the left edge of the canyon where you can make good progress right next to a wall. Eventually you will break back into the wash and eventually come upon the slabs seen in the photo below.

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Roberto coming down the fixed line.

Hand over hand up the fixed line and make your ways up the slabs via the path of least resistance. We started up the left and did a lot of zig-zagging before finishing up the right side. At the very top you will need to stay right in order to get to the upper most ledge and the start of the Original Route. Ideally you approach to the base of Sauron’s Eye and the traverse left about 200 feet. There are two places to bivy at the base, one on a crazy stone pedestal and one in the sand directly below the base. There were a ton of bugs when we bivyed so I would suggest bug netting or buy spray.

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You top out here. The tree to the right of the rope has rap slings and biners. (Rap Photo 1)

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You make a short rap down to this tree. (Rap Photo 2)

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Just to the right of the tree, on a ledge, is a set of bolts! (Rap Photo 3)

Rappelling Beta for a 70 meter Rope.

Rap from a tree  (at the top of the final gully/pitch) with slings and biners (Rap Photo 1 above) or down climb ~50 feet of 4th and 5th class. This will get you to the  the bolts next to the dead tree in (Rap Photo 2 and 3 above).

From here you should definitely knot your ropes since you have to swing HARD to get back to the belay after the Red Dihedrals.  I had to swing way left and then back right to get to the belay. Since I was holding the rope I had to use my feet to grab the small foot ledge. Very close!

Next you can rap straight down on independent rap stations on the face.  Two raps will put you on the ledge about 40′ below the Red Dihedral and on the far side of the Over the Rainbow ledge.

Rap to a station on a small ledge in the middle of the face skipping an anchor about 25′ below the main ledge. From here rap again and with a 70m rope you will just make it to a ledge.

There was another rap anchor on the face that could be used if you have a 60m rope or don’t want to down climb. We opted to rap off the end of our rope and did  one easy 5th class move to get down to the gully/ledge with the fixed rope.

From the rap station behind a small tree rap the two 5.10 pitches. If using two ropes be careful of getting the knot stuck in the branches.

Rap each of the 5.11 pitches. Next to a bush below one of the belays there is a rope eating crack. I wedged a twig in here so our rope would not get stuck.

The final rap from the top of the blank 5.12 corner will require a short downclimb since it was about 40 meters to the ground.

Take a look at the photo topos below showing the rap stations that are mentioned.

60 meter Rap Beta

With a 60m rope I assume you would need to make an intermediate rap to the cave belay from the bolts next to the dead tree. From here you should be able to rap straight down to the Belay atop the Dihedrals and continue with the description above. It might be necessary to use one or both rap stations we skipped descending from Over the Rainbow ledge to the lower ledge.

Rainbow Wall - Upper Pitches

The upper pitches.

Rainbow Wall - Lower Pitches

The lower Pitches




A photo essay from the Original Route on Rainbow Wall

25 10 2009

They tell me fall is the time for sending, the best climbing time of the year. Well now is October and the desert is starting to cool down.  With these thoughts in mind I drove to Vegas.

This past weekend I had the chance to climb the Original route on Rainbow Wall. This experience flowed beautifully as I embraced a feeling of relaxation and avoided nervousness. I talked my self up, filled my coffer with positivity, and went to Red Rocks to climb this great multi-pitch.

This would be my second 5.12 long multi-pitch of the year but I was unsure how I would fare. My friends, Josh and Stein, had loved this route and recommended it highly. They gave me tips and I set out ready to slay the beast. I had to stay psyched because deep down I still fear failure.  I have come to learn that failure is not absolute and can even be acceptable. This allows me to climb more freely and I am a better climber because of it.

Roberto and I managed not to get lost on the hike in, despite hiking the final section in darkness, and bivyed at the base. We were helped out by a pair of Czech climbers who were rappelling by headlamp. Their lights on the wall helped guide us up the slabs to our eventual buggy bivy at the base. We had no tent and were tormented by gnats and mosquitos throughout the night.

The morning was spectacular and we were climbing around 7am. The first hard pitches were stunning and I crimped my way up, reveling in the technical climbing. The cruxes were many on these two pitches and I marveled how face holds would appear at the perfect time when the crack seamed out.  We were making great progress as Roberto lead the next two easier, but still 5.11, corner pitches to finish the first hard block.  In no time we had climbed the next two 5.10 pitch, linking them, and simuled and then re-belayed to get to the Over The Rainbow Ledge.

Overcome by our excitement we forgot to stop and eat although it was just about noon. Roberto led the exciting traverse, no falls please, and set me up at the base of the Red Dihedrals. The next few pitches were the final crux and I was stymied by a baffling stemming move. I was not committed and could not visualize the sequence. After a quick rest I magically stuck to the wall, made the tricky reach and finished the pitch. The next dihedral pitch involved a bunch of grunting, foot slips, and honest hard work. A onsight was in the cards for me with enough holds to pull myself to the next belay. One more 5.11 pitch and an awkward 5.10 pitch put us at the top.  The sun shown brightly and I was quick to lose my shirt. We had been in the shade all day and it was at least ten degrees warmer at the top.

The quality of the rock and the climbing was excellent and this route is a red rocks Must do! I’ll write another blog soon with approach and descent info for future parties.

Enjoy the photos from our crazy journey!

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PB and J for life!

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The Rainbow Wall. So tall, so beautiful!

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First pitch completed, oh man this is going to be a good day!

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Two pitches down, Roberto’s turn to lead.

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A stunning 5.11 corner (P3 as we climbed it)

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Pitch four with the scary loose pillar in the bottom of the frame.

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A cool little roof at the end of pitch four. Belay bolts seen on the right.

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Luke starts up P4 with the ground slowly growing further away.

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Such high quality rock and  very nice to be climbing without a pack.

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Killer fingerlocks and laybacking.

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Roberto placing a TON of nuts while  linking the two 5.10 pitches, our P5.

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Enjoying early lunch and some  shoe free time at the first ledge.

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Thanks to hauling a mini-bag we had lots of food and water!

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Looking down at the spectacular final corner pitch of Cloud Tower.

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Roberto still grinning ear to ear on the traverse pitch, P8 from Over the Rainbow Ledge

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Still smiling on the first Red Dihedral Pitch, P9… I must not have realized the next move was the trickiest of the route.

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Luke almost done with the business on the sustained crux pitch (the 2nd Red Dihedral Pitch aka P10)

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I’ve seen this look before, must have just tried really hard!

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Roberto is still psyched and ready for the crux tenth pitch!

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Strenuous steep laybacking with poor feet. Wow!

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5.11 is nice after 5.12  Lets go UP!

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Wahoooo! Sweet stemming rest! Thank goodness for all the face holds.

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At the cave belay. Holy crap we are almost to the TOP!

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Summit was so warm! Oh man we made it!

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Wow! Original route on Rainbow Wall – 12 pitches, 2 people, only 1 fall .

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Looking out at Vegas after signing the Summit Log!

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Roberto going down the fixed line below the slabs.

What an amazing route. Still hasn’t hit me yet.  Can’t wait to go back  the climbing is SOOO good! Rainbow Country next time!!!

– Luke

A Brief Alpine Adventure in Red Rocks

21 03 2009

Snow crunched under my feet. Where had I gone, the morning had been brisk but this was the desert.  The snow was wet, the temperature was above freezing. I went further  up the gully,  crawling around and through a hole to surmount the final chockstone. Everything was covered in snow now as I went hand over hand up a frozen rope. Were we lost? Could our route be in this frozen corridor. I kicked another step, trying not to slide back down the gully. Ice covered the mossy walls and was slowly melting as the day warmed up. The sun had risen over an hour ago and the upper part of the Aeolian wall was baking in the morning sun.  I stepped up and immediately fell through the icy crust up to my waist, a mix of snow and ice  now filled the narrowing gully floor.   I found a tree and a small  boulder and kicked out a small platform  so I would not loose my balance and tumble down the gully.

Scanning the walls I found our route. A Uristoe bolt followed by a long string of shiny hangers lead up the wally through a large smear of ice to a high ledge.  Lucasz now made his way up to my position; happy the mini cascades of snow and ice, I was causing, had stopped. The conditions were sub-optimal to say the least but the first pitch was mine and I hoped that if I could get up it using a bit of aid we would have a chance at the upper pitches, which should be in the sun and possibly free of snow and ice.

Thoughts of the previous night echoed in my head as I racked for the first pitch. When Lukasz and I drove in from LA he remarked on how much snow was on the mountains. I dismissed this, thinking there was always snow in February and thought nothing of his observation. Now as my hands quickly went numb I wondered why I had been so naive. I clipped the first bolt and thought about the out plan. Inti Watana was long, around 8-12 pitches depending on linking, but mostly bolted and all under 5.10 except for the 2nd and the last pitches. This was to be a recovery climb since my left hand has been functioning at only about 50% of its capacity.  I got the bolt clipped and was standing on good edges as I scraped ice off the rock with my nut tool. I found some decent holds and made my way above the bolt. Without the feeling in my fingers I resorted to aid and stepped on the first hanger but I was still unable reach the safety of the first shiny hanger.

I was warm but my fingers were wet and cold and I couldn’t feel anything. I had to leave my stance on the bolt and move up through a slabby section on some wet edges to get the next bolt. After much hesitation I made the few move sequence and clipped in. Just as the rope went into the quickdraw a loud echoing noise came from above that sounded like rock fall. Lukasz had been hit with small ice avalanches while I had been climbing  but this we though this could be a big one. He hunkered down as I sucked into the wall as baseball sized climbs of ice rained down into the gully.

We were both fine but decided to reconsider our alpine adventure. There are many other places to climb in Red Rocks and it would be silly to get hit with ice when we could be wearing t-shirts elsewhere. I left a biner and lowered off so we could pack up our gear and do some climbing. Before leaving we got hit with an even bigger ice fall that validated our choice. Back at the car by 10:30 we had taken a bit less than 2 hours each way hiking. The majority of the approach is on the main fire road with a mandatory scramble up a gully on the way in. This is the 2nd gully you pass and is aptly named the white rot gully. It is a steep, narrow and sandy passage (of white sandstone) that ends with a bit of  tunneled under and then over a large chockstone.  We descended via the main Aeolian gully and rapped the final bit  with a 70m rope which just reached. To avoid the rap you must do a  mandatory 5th class down climb which looked bad and was wet. For reference we could have easily gone back down the white rot gully (how we approached) with 3rd and 4th class scrambling but I wanted to check out the rappel option.

This Approach photo is very useful! Thanks to  Eric and Lucie

We spent the rest of the weekend clipping bolts and enjoying warm February weather despite our out of place encounter with snow on Mt. Wilson. I should have realized that the north east facing Aeolian wall would be cold and could still be holding snow.  Despite my injured fingers I stubbornly tried a bunch of routes that ended up making things worse. I manged a few fun onsights at the sweet pain wall and Lukasz redpointed the namesake route. We also spent some time at the gallery where I momentarily dabbled on Fear and Loathing before turning the sharp end to Lukasz for a 3rd try send !!!(6 or so overall). He crushed the route and made me wish that I could crimp again with my left hand.

Overall I had a really fun weekend despite staying mainly at the Second Pullout. We climbed at the Sweet Pain wall,the Tsunami wall,  checked out California 12a, which was wicked steep, went to the Gallery and the Wall of Confusion.  This was only my third time or so solely sport climbing at Red Rocks despite many visits over the last 3 years.  I really prefer the longer routes in Red Rocks and look forward to some warmer weather where you can climb in the shade. Regardless the sport routes are well worth it and are fingery and pumpy though not always on the best rock. I guess I am just spoiled after climbing on the East Coast in places like Rumney, the New River Gorge and the Red River Gorge as well as the Obed in Tennesse.



Winter… in Red Rocks!

15 01 2009

This past weekend the weather was perfect and we had an amazing couple of days in Red Rocks. There were a staggering eight of the San Diego crew out at the Gallery on Saturday so Lizzy and I were able to take a bunch of Photos. Sunday Lizzy and I opted for some solitude and had a fun time at the Stone wall. While the rock is a bit soft the routes are longer and we enjoyed being alone while we were there.


Sonia on the super crimpy Minstral in the Gallery. 



Felix starting across the Sissy Traverse



Konstantine on Where the Down Boys Go



Felix making good progress on his project, the Sissy Traverse



Konstantine high up on Where The Down Boys Go


red-rocks-jan-09-060Leah on the opening moves of Nothing Shocking



Leah making progress on Nothing Shocking



Sonia on Fear and Loathing



Sonia gets ready for some hard clips on Fear and Loathing



Luke on the beginning moves of Fear and Loathing



Luke working through the left variation of the crux of Fear and Loathing






Long, Hard and Free in Red Rocks

27 10 2008

“Nervous?” Lizzy asked at the belay below the crux pitch. A whirl of thoughts flew through my head. I was distanced from my objective, an onsight of cloud tower, and was not feeling the stress. A little less that a year earlier Lizzy and I had climbed Levitation 29. On that route I had struggled with a fear of failure and had not given the climb my full commitment. While I was still able to do the route onsight I hesitated often and didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I had hoped. This year I was more detached from success and put everything on the line.

Staring up at the thin dihedral I was not afraid and was up for a challenge. After a funky start with some face moves and a couple of bolts (which should be replaced) you reach the base of the crux corner. The left wall overhangs slightly and the crack is THIN. I got a small nut in to back up the old bolt and used some face holds to get up a bit higher. A blue alien later I was standing on some good footholds. I worked my way up the face holds and found a good slot and was able to clip a fixed nut in the main crack. I made my way back onto the face and got a bomber Green (#0) C3. So far the moves had been hard to sequence and I was amazed to still be climbing. The crack was getting wider but far from my finger size. I could see a good jug on the left wall and made some tenuous stems to get there. Resting on this jug with an ok foot I was able to get in a bomber blue master cam (these are slightly smaller than the green alien which helped).

After hanging out on the jug I knew I had to get going, the crux was the next 40 feet and I would have to go all out. I stemmed up got in a green alien and started making the hardest moves thus far. Making long reaches between small pods I was laybacking up the crack, fingers barely fitting. I gained an ok foot and a made quick green alien placement. Pulling as hard as I could I made it a bit higher and was able to get a good stem and a bit of a rest. I was pumped and shoved in my last green alien, wishing I had a blue tcu or master cam since the slot was a bit small. There were no more feet in the next section but I knew the crack was getting larger. I crimped and finger locked my way up the crack and after 10 feet got a bomber lock. Two more pieces went  in and I kept going for the ledge below the belay. Pulling into the alcove I had made it!! A couple more quick placements including the suggested #3 Blue Camalot and I was on the anchor ledge.

Lizzy following the crux thin corner.

This past weekend Lizzy and I were out in Red Rocks. An early Friday morning departure from Pasadena allowed us to climb Friday night. With the parking lot at Black Velvet now open we could access BV Canyon via the standard road. While the road is pretty rough it does not require 4WD which was shown by the two PT Cruisers we saw, I still think it is advisable to have good clearance. Our climb was on Whiskey Peak so we approached to Frogland and traversed across the base. This approach gave us a good overview of the climbs in the area since Lizzy and I had not been to Whiskey Peak before. While simple, the approach was a bit on the longer side and it was mid afternoon by the time we got to the base.

Lizzy gives her opinon on the small crimps of Only The Good Die Young

Only The Good Die Young starts in a gully on the far right side of Whiskey Peak. Even though the line can be seen from the Black Velvet Wall I doubt people realize it is there. The climb is 5 super short (50 – 75 feet) pitches with closely bolted cruxes. The idea was to a bit of a tune up and get ready for Cloud Tower on Saturday. I linked the first two pitches by using long slings and running it out a bunch. The first crux was sustained small hold pulling past 5 bolts with bad feet. Lizzy and I both found this section hard but neither of us fell. The slabby ramp of P3 set us up for the crux traverse. The rock on this slab was a bit hollow and I was happy to have bolts protecting the fun crux. The rock was at such a low angle that the tiny holds felt usable. Staring up at the crux I couldn’t see the holds. After a bit of a rest I set off and made my way up to the crux move. From a good left hand undercling you were supposed to get established on small crimps and then move right to some bigger crimps.

I was only able to hold on one crimp with my right hand and could not make room for my left. I spent about 5 minutes trying things out and then carefully downclimbed the 10 feet back to the belay. I was stuck and couldn’t figure out how to get my left hand onto the one hold. I went back up and spent another 5 minutes trying to figure it out but to no avail. I gave up on a match or a hand switch and decided I had to make a reachy cross to the next hold. I got established in a stem, grabbed the right crimp and turned my body as far as a I could and just made it to the next left hand hold! I quickly clipped the next bolt and made my way across to a large jug.

The following section was quite exciting as you moved across this large rail with insignificant feet. There was even a fun clip where you had to reach below you to clip the bolt. The holds were large and I made my way to the end and pulled up and around the corner. With a long runner on the first bolt and I made my way through two more bolts of thin slab to gain a ledge. The rock was quite rotten and did not inspire me to stop so I kept going and belayed much higher at a notch. Lizzy followed the pitch clean, using a bit of A0 to clean a draw, and was able to match the crimps at the start and make the reach with your right hand. After reaching my belay Lizzy set off across some 4 class ledges and after a rope length we switched and I led across and down to our rappel tree.

Lizzy rapping down into the gulley.

A short rap and we were in the gully on our way down. The gully split and we took the easier left branch which did not lead directly to the base of the route. It seemed a bit easier but required us to traverse right at a big cairn, which might have just been 2 random rocks on a big ledge, and make our way over to our packs. A more direct hike down to the wash saved us some time going back to the car but we still finished the hike in the dark.

Saturday morning we got going a bit after 7am and drove into the loop road and called in a Late Exit Pass. The hike to Cloud Tower starts at the Pine Creek Canyon parking lot and traverses on some good trails towards Juniper Canyon before going up a large hill to the base of Cloud Tower. A few false turns and we were trudging up the hill towards our route and Crimson Chrysalis. When we reached the base there were many parties on this classic 5.8, one on route, one just leaving the ground and one patiently waiting. We made our way past this mess to the empty Cloud Tower.

Lizzy starting out on the 3rd pitch of Cloud Tower. 

Lizzy lead the first 2 pitches which we kept separate due to a lack of gear. I was carrying a few extra cams in our pack so Lizzy was a bit short on hand sized pieces, which I thought were only necessary for the last pitch. Having the full rack and a few runners would allow you to link these two pitches. We brought the following gear: #00 C3, #0 C3, 2 Blue aliens, 1 Blue Master Cam, 3 Green Aliens, 2 Yellow aliens, 2 Grey aliens, Red alien, #.5 C4 , 2 #.75 C4, 2 #1 C4, 4 #2 C4, 2 #3 C4, 1 #4 C4. Even with this massive rack we could have used more. At a minimum you NEED a second #4 C4 for pitch 5. I would also suggest another #1 and #3. Having another #2 would allow you to really sew up the last pitch. On the Crux pitch as I said previously I would rather have had 2 green aliens and 2 blue tcu/master cams. I did not use the #00 C3 but there were places on P4 it would have fit.

Lizzy in the middle of the hand crack on the 3rd Pitch. The wide 5th pitch can been seen above the crux dihedral.

After the first two funky pitches Lizzy lead off on the 3rd pitch, a sweet hand crack followed by a face traverse to the belay below the crux dihedral. Lizzy styled this pitch and made it look easy. After reaching the belay I went about swapping the gear. All the large gear save a #3 went into the pack and the trail line came out so that I could haul the pack for Lizzy. The pitch was awesome and I was happy to have gotten the onsight. I hauled our pack on the trail line, using a DMM Revolver for a pulley and Lizzy got ready to follow the pitch. She climbed without hesitation and fell only a few times due to the pumpy nature of the pitch. With her little fingers she was able to avoid the face holds that I had found quite necessary. Happy to have the hardest pitch behind us we had lunch in the little alcove before continuing on.

The next pitch started with a fun hand crack through a roof and gradually became wider as you got higher. I stubbornly had only brought two #3’s and one #4 and had to do a bunch of runouts and leap-frogging and backcleaning my cams. At one point the crack became too big for my #4, luckily the climbing was not too hard (10-). Shortly I was able to get some 1″ gear in a hidden crack that helped my lead head after the 30+ foot runouts. I found one final placement, where you could belay, to the left of the crack before tunneling through to the other side. The chimney was easy and while you were a bit runout from your gear you would not fall. Even if you fell you would just get stuck inside the crack. I belayed below the final splitter and used a high cam to protect Lizzy on the final moves. Lizzy laybacked much of the wide pitch and after shuttling the pack to me made it across the chimney.

Lizzy pulls up into the good rest after the thin dihedral.

We were both tired and were running low on water. After the last pitch I was nervous about having enough gear for the final pitch. I aggressively back cleaned as I led and wasted a lot of energy placing, removeing, clipping and unclipping my cams. About half way up I was exhausted and hoped that I had enough gear to finish. In fact I though the bulge I was climbing up was the end. With the motivation that I could be finished I pushed hard only to find out there was still more climbing. Luckily there was a no hands rest before the final crux bulge. I still had some gear and had to try for the onsight. The climbing was steep but the holds were good. I placed gear quickly, sure that I would fall at any moment. At one point after placing a high cam. I was unable to pull up the rope to clip. It took me three tries alternating between hands before I got the rope in.

Luckily some foot holds appeared on the left wall and I was able to get in some more gear. “I may fall at any moment” I yelled to Lizzy from the final bulge. I was so pumped and the steep climbing was getting the better of me. One last cam and I was at the top of the bulge. I was jamming my feet into the crack and had my hand in the wrong position for the reach over the top. I switched to a different jam, almost slipping out of the crack. From this new position I was able to reach a good fingerlock over the lip. With no technique left I pulled as hard as I could, flopping my feet over the bulge. I grabbed the next jug and pulled myself onto my feet. I was almost dry heaving I was so tired. The experience reminded me of thruching up an offwidth in Indian Creek. My core was so sore and my arms were rubber, but I was done! I tied into the five crappy bolts and pulled up the rope to belay Lizzy. She lowered the back pack to the ledge below and climbed up with the trail line. The crack was all the wrong size for her but she still made it in only a few falls.

We were happy to have finished Cloud Tower but were both thrashed by the final pitch. Its steep and powerful nature was a hard blow at the end of the day. We quickly rapped off, drinking the rest of the water before reaching the ground. On the final rappel, after walking across a big ledge, we got our rope stuck. The suggested rap route, down the first two pitches, didn’t look so good but it was getting dark and I was worried that an alternate route migh risk a big swing or cause rock fall. We ended up getting the rope stuck, with the knot connecting the ropes securely wedged in a crack. Luckily we could still reach the ends of the rope so I reclimbed the pitches self belayed by my Shunt. Even though it was quite dark the climbing was relaxing after the hard pitches and I was having fun despite having stuck the ropes. I made my way up to the stuck knot and adjusted the ropes so the knot was below the constriction. I rapped down to the midway station and pulled the ropes. I got our new Ion down without a problem but when it came time to pull the trail line I had no hope. I pulled as hard as I could but to no avail. I was now feeling the effects of a long day and didn’t want to have to relead the pitch and potentially get the rope stuck again.

I had Lizzy tie my knife to the end of the trail line which barely reached the ground. My though was to cut the majority of the trail line and rap with the 70m rope. When I tried to pull up the knife it got stuck in a crack; honestly you can’t make this stuff up! I was done, I was no longer having fun and was now accepting that we had lost the rope. I coiled our lead line and attached the trail line to the quick link on the mid anchor. I single rope rapped the trail line and was able to free my knife and make my way to the ground. In retrospect we could have re-climbed and then downclimbed the first 2 pitches but it was late and we were pretty tired and a bit dehydrated. Leaving the rope was a small sacrifice to be safe so we left it.

The hike out proved fast because we were going downhill. We made it back to the car in 1 hour and 15 minutes, almost a half an hour faster than we approached. With no ticket on the car we headed into town for some fast easy food and went quickly to bed. It took a little over 11 hours car to car. 

Tired from all of the hiking and climbing from the previous two days we decided to do a bit of sport climbing. It was hot and the Black Corridor seemed like a good destination. Moderate sport routes were our speed. After leading a few routes Lizzy was feeling the effects of the hard climbing of the previous two days and deferred to belay duty. I sampled as many of the climbs as I could manage. The two sides of the corridor are vastly different. One side is steep with deep huecos and jugs everywhere. You can easily crawl inside to rest or get a variety of knee bars. The other wall was devoid of large features and was slabby with small incut holds. The climbing was interesting and the rock quality was a bit lacking. I managed to do 9 routes up to 10d in the 4 hours that we were there.

We were tired from a long weekend and by 3:30 were ready to go home. A bit of Starbucks later we hit the road and made good time to Primm. Whenever Lizzy drives she tends to summon wind or traffic. For some reason the setting sun was a bit too bright and brought traffic to a stop going up the big hill just after the California border. We sped up for a while before hitting a major traffic jam before the Agricultural inspection station. We lost more than an hour to traffic and made it home around 10pm with a Baja Fresh stop for dinner.

It was great to get back to Red Rocks and I look forward to future trips!



Letting the Fall Fly By

20 10 2008

The fall has quickly come and its gaining momentum faster that we can imagine. The stacks of three day climbing weekends have been amazing and this blog has surely been neglected. I have to pack all my work in to a four day week and then we are off on some crazy adventure every weekend. 

Wild Clouds in Idyllwild on Friday

I got a email from one of my cousins a few weeks back so we meet them out in Joshua Tree for some camping. While Lizzy and I were nervous for desert heat we experienced quite the opposite. All of California got hit with a cold front and it was beyond chilly. At the Owens River Gorge, the week before, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt climbing in the shade. In Joshua Tree we were wearing down jackets in the sun and were still quite cold. This storm signaled the start of the Santa Ana winds which were blowing hard on my drive down to San Diego the following Monday. We saw some crazy clouds in Idyllwild on Friday and were chilled by the wind on Saturday and Sunday in Joshua Tree. Our friends Julie and Josh even got some snow in Bishop. Returning to our cities has not provided much respite. San Diego is a bit chilly and parts of the LA area are on fire, fueled by the wind. 

Lizzy getting to belay me on Insomnia Crack

Lizzy did a good job summing it up and I will add some of my perspective. The following is a quick rundown of our weekend two weeks ago. My vacation hours had been burning a hole in my pocket so I decided to take Friday off to enjoy some of the fall weather. This started with a viewing of the Reel Rock tour in Riverside. This showing, at the Threshold Gym, was a bit unconventional and only featured part of the tour. Even though we were looking forward to seeing more films we still got to see the Sharp End and the Big UP dose from South Africa. I was impressed by the number of young people in attendance at the showing. It seems that Threshold, which is located close to UC Riverside, is able to draw a much different crowd than Vertical Hold. At Vertical Hold there seems to be a lack of college age students which is odd since UCSD is nearby. Perhaps they go to the smaller climbing wall at the university or the nearby Solid Rock gym. Before the movie started I had a nice chat with Louie Anderson who was in attendance and got some route beta for our upcoming Red Rocks trip which ended up being helpful.

The Sharp End was fun and it was great to see everyone putting it on the line. Like others have mentioned there was a lot of non-climbing footage and I would have liked to see more climbing action. Seeing Ammon on El Cap was nice but short and the section of climbing in the Czeck Republic really stood out. Overall it was a great collection of stories and I want to watch it again to see more of the details in regards to the specific climbs. 

Lizzy on the super thin crack of The Pirate 12c/d at Sucide

As previously mentioned the weekend at Jtree was cold. We did a frigid ascent of the Left Ski Track which was quite hard and a bit awkward. We hung out with my cousin, her husband and their two daughters and we spent a bunch of time out at Equinox.  I worked Equinox on TR and found a bit of an easier way to do my crux. I was able to re-sequence and do a series of smaller moves which should be easier when fatigued. Lizzy had a go and unlocked a bit more beta, finding a finger stack to get her through the wider top section. After doing the top section clean a few times I was able to do the whole route on TR with one fall, removing the gear as I went up. Since it was my third try my fingers were quite torn up and I was happy with my progress.

Luke and Cousins in J-Tree

My cousins departed after breakfast on Sunday to continue their road trip to Scottsdale, AZ so Lizzy and I relaxed, waiting for Equinox to come into the sun. We were a bit unsure of the correct time so we decided to hike out and see how cold it was. For reference the route came into the sun slightly after 2pm. The wind had picked up from the day before and it was really cold at the base of the route. Stubbornly I scrambled to the top and had Lizzy lower me over to work the moves and place all the gear for a lead attempt. While I was not quite ready to redpoint the route I thought that climbing it on pre placed gear would be a good first lead attempt. Lizzy suffered in the cold as she patiently waited for me to work out the moves.

Putting in some gear on Equinox.

After heating up in sun for a while we pulled the rope and I tied in. I had my best link on the first section and it felt great. I hit all the jams and in no time I was right before the crux. I was a bit intimidated so I hung and shook out to get the energy back. It took me a few tries to get through the middle section and I had to hang on gear to work through the moves. Eventually I made it to the last section but half way across the final traverse I ran out of confidence and hung again. Next try I committed to the moves, placed a few more cams and topped out. I felt good with the first and last sections but was pretty worried about the middle. Hopefully I can get a bit more confident by working more on the moves and try it again next weekend.

This past weekend we hit up Red Rocks for a few hard multi-pitch routes. We were afraid of cold weather but it ended up being perfect. We climbed in the shade in pants and had no wind. On Friday after our drive out we did Only The Good Die Young, 11c – 5 short pitches. On Saturday we had a long day on Cloud Tower, 11d 7 long pitches that ended in darkness and a stuck rope. Sunday we did a bunch of easy sport climbs in the Black Corridor. I was trying to work some endurance so I ended up doing 9 routes 10d or easier. It was a crazy gym like environment but the routes were quite fun.

We had a great weekend despite a bit of silly traffic on our drive back. Lizzy or I will have a formal trip report in a few days. 



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