Rebecca’s Red Rocks Romp

29 02 2008

Two weekends ago one of my friends from college came west for a bit of climbing and a long weekend. Lizzy and I met Rebecca at the Las Vegas airport Wednesday night and took her to the 13 mile campground. We had driven out earlier that day from LA and had set up the tents and went food shopping. Luckily her flight from Detroit, which connected through the notorious Denver, was on time and we were asleep by midnight. It had rained a bunch on Wednesday but the night proved clear which we hope would give the rock some time to dry. A bit of a slow morning lead us to the loop road and on our way to Pine Creek Canyon. We choose Birdland for our first climb since it had decent sun exposure and was about the grade we were looking for. Lizzy got harassed by the climbing ranger warning of wet rock and danger conditions when she tried to apply for a late exit pass. Despite the warning we went forward to our sunny route which worked out really well.
Our aim for the day was to do Birdland 5.7+ six pitches and then rap the route and do Cat in the Hat 5.6 six pitches. We were looking for moderate climbs so that Rebecca could work on her trad placements and get to lead while multi-pitching. The hike to Birdland was nice and short and the wall seemed pretty dry despite mud on the approach. Lizzy lead the first pitch and our multi-pitch adventure began! Rebecca seconded and cleaned all the gear to give her a better feel for placements. I followed at roughly the same time since we were using double ropes. Lizzy linked the next two pitches, which featured a cruxy traverse that she led brilliantly, despite heinous rope drag from one of the ropes being stuck in a crack.

Next was Rebecca’s lead which traversed across the headwall (photo below) to a belay below the final and crux pitch. Rebecca was a natural at placing nuts and managed to find a few cam spots in the discontinuous cracks on her pitch. I linked the next pitch into the loose final pitch to lead us to the top of the climb. To save time and avoid the loose rock above we rapped the route instead of summiting the formation. Rapping provided more excitement than anticipated when we got a rope stuck on the second rappel. I had to re-lead and then down climb part of on of the pitch to retrieve the rope. Fortunately we were able to make it in only three rappels with 10 feet of down-climbing at the base. After lunch, and packing up all the gear, we hiked over to the base of Cat in the Hat to start our second route. Due to relaxed start and our trouble rapping it was a bit later than we had hoped. 3:30 pm mean that we did not have much time to climb but we decided to go up anyways. An earlier party was just finishing rapping the route and a local was rope soling the start to try to remove a cam. This added a bit more delay and confusion to the situation but worked out in the end. Rebecca opted to lead as much as she could and started climbing up the tricky first pitch. It had lots of fun water holds but was a bit polished from all the traffic. She linked the first 2 pitches in no time which brought us up to a big terrace.

We moved the belay and she climbed up to the 5.5 boulder problem. There was a bit of excitement despair and confusion when Rebecca initially thought it was a V5 problem. Yikes… wouldn’t that be a surprise when you are already 100 feet off the ground! After sending with little hesitation she raced up the rest of the 3rd pitch to a tree belay. Despite climbing quickly thus far it was starting to get a bit darker and the temps were dropping. The next pitch, Rebecca’s hardest yet, would chill us completely as the sun went down while Rebecca was searching for the belay boulder. In order to save time I climbed the pitch with numb fingers leaving Lizzy my vest to stay warm at the belay. We quickly rapped and luckily had no stuck ropes in the dark. The heat from repelling was quite welcome by my hands and when we reached the base I was warm again. A nice hike from the Mescalito led us to the car and then the campground. Sadly rain started falling right before we reached the car and it rained the rest of the night.
We got a late and soggy start on Friday bummed by the rain which had canceled our hopes of doing solar slab. After chilling in the gear shop we headed to the movies to kill some time in the hope that the rain would stop and the rock would dry by late afternoon. We saw Jumper which was hollow yet quite entertaining and almost opted for a double feature before getting the cold stare from the movie attendant. We decided to check on the Red Rocks weather since it was bright and sunny at the movie theater. A short drive and we were back cruzing around the loop road. We went to Willow Springs to check out Ragged Edges and show Rebecca some cam placments. We opted for this area due to the short approach but were punished for choosing an upcanyon location. After intermittent rain a serious cloud came in that dropped a ton of hail. We crunched under a small roof (photo above) to wait until the cloud passed. We then ran back to the car, soaked in our jackets, from all the stormy weather.
After our inability to find dry rock or sun in Red Rocks we turned our hope to the local limestone crags. We had been told to go to either the gun show or urban crag by gear shop dude and thought we might as well try. When we showed up at Urban Crag we saw a max exodus of people and so we just kept driving to the Gun Show. The Gun Show was clearly wet so with no more hope we drove back to the Urban Crag and hiked up to the rock. The rock was dry and Lizzy found a quickdraw so we deceived to go back to the car and get our gear. We did this one pokey route (photo above) that was fun and funky and then I top roped a much harder one the left. Rebecca tried it as the sun went down and we bailed soon after. We needed to get some sleep in the hope that the next day was sunny.
The next day was beautiful so we got up and got out to try and climb Solar Slab. We were a bit late starting and didn’t leave the parking lot at the Oak Creek Canyon pullout until nearly 8am. We got to the wall and had the place to our selves. Lizzy cruised up Johnny Vegas and we started seeing people show up at the base. We lounged in the sun giving the upper pitches more time to dry and Rebecca racked up for the first pitch of solar slab. In the photo above solar slab is the long white slab on the left side of the large formation.

Rebecca had a great lead with some tricky pro and she greatly improved her placements. Since I encouraged her to take some extra time and care we allowed a party of two to pass us at the big ledge after the first pitch. They had moved quite quickly up solar slab gully and did the first pitch of Sunflower/Heliotrope. They were a couple of guys who were from SLC and since they planned on topping out it seemed ok to let them pass. (Photo below is of Lizzy and I at the top of Johnny Vegas)
I was to lead next and get the two weird pitches out of the way. There was a bunch of hail on one ledge and a nice water streak down the face and in the crack I was supposed to climb. They guys from SLC did not link the pitches so we had some extra time to relax and eat some lunch. We were going a bit slower than we wanted but I did not want to crowd the next belay. After food I linked my pitches and set up a belay on some shrubs to the left of the bolts. The water streak had soaked the bolts and was coming out of the crack for the next pitch. Once Lizzy and Rebecca reached the belay I started climbing again linking the next two pitches and ending at a nice ledge with a puddle on it. To avoid the wet crack at the start I climbed patina off to the side which was not to hard and quite fun. These two pitches were very nice and I really enjoyed a full 60m of climbing.
We were getting pretty close to the top and Rebecca wanted to get in some more pitches. She led next up a long crack that was not to her liking. Unfamiliar with jamming techniques Rebecca carefully took her time making her way up the pitch. At one point she was supposed to traverse right to a bolted anchor but I gave her the wrong instructions and urged her to keep going. She had to build an anchor next to a bolt in order to belay us up. I had gotten confused by the way the previous party had gone and insisted she keep climbing past the correct traverse. Lizzy and I were quite cold at this point since we had been in the shade for a long time so I took back the lead. 2 more pitches, which I linked, lead to the last rappel station which was our summit.
I was able to get the girls on belay quickly and they raced to the summit, eager to get warm. We didn’t idle at all since we didn’t want to have to rap in the dark and I started my way down. Eight rappels led us all the way to the ground with a bit of walking to get to the Johnny Vegas rappels. We were super lucky and didn’t get the rope stuck and only had to our last rap in the dark! The hike back to camp was easy and Rebecca was super stoked for such a long day of climbing. It rained on and off Sunday morning and we did a bit of limestone climbing at the Gun Show. After a relaxing lunch at Pantera and some shopping we dropped Rebecca off at the Vegas airport and made our way home. It was a great bunch of climbing despite all the bad weather and I am sure Rebecca is psyched for some more trad climbing!
– Luke

ABS Nationals and Red Rocks!

14 02 2008

ABS nationals is this weekend and we are flying out to boulder to compete and to help judge the Youth event. Lizzy’s sister is competing and so is Dan Beall, one of my friends from San Diego. We will also be seeing the ClimbingNarc and his team out from Wisconsin. Lizzy and I will be competing at the late Friday session at CATS for the citizen’s comp. It looks to be a small comp but it should be fun regardless and Lizzy is excited since Bobbi Bensman is going to be in our session.

Saturday we will be up early to help out with the Youth qualifiers which will be a new experience. It is just the experience I want since I would like to learn how to run comps and what makes good comps. Saturday night will be Open finals where we will see a crazy showdown of the top men and women from the US! There is extra pressure this year due to the upcoming Bouldeing World Cup in Vail, CO. It is pretty crazy that both Chris Sharma and Lisa Rands are coming back to compete. It will be great to see how the new generation does against these two super stars.

Sunday we will be judging Youth finals and then heading back to San Diego that night. Lizzy will be sticking around since she has the day off even though I have to work. After only two and half days of working we will be off on another trip to Red Rocks. Rebecca, one of my friends from college, will be flying out for an exciting four day multi-pitch extravaganza.

I did a bit of prep for this trip by going to Red Rocks last weekend. Lizzy was playing Frisbee in Vegas so one of her friends, Sean, and I took to the rocks with a vengeance. The gorgeous weather at Red Rocks allowed us to climb all day Friday and Saturday. Friday was moderate climbing with nothing over 5.9+ so we were able to do~ 1800 feet of climbing. We simuled Johnny Vegas to get to the upper tier of solar slab. From here we started with Sundog which was a fun 5 pitches with a funky 5.9+ bolted bulging groove. After rapping the route and resting our feet we decided to try to keep to our goals and climb Sunflower. This climb was a good bit harder and had a great finger crack and a run out crux friction pitch. After many repels, the last 4 in the dark, we got safely back to the ground.

The next day, with sore feet, we decided on the long hike to the Eagle wall. We set our eyes on Eagle’s Dance and were prepared for a bit harder climbing. Taking a more direct approach allowed us to cut 45 mins of the previous time I went to the Eagle wall. With perfect weather it was amazing that we had the wall practically to our selves the whole day. Our only visitor was a Peregrine Falcon that would occasionally dive past us. The climbing on this route was very sustained with only two of the nine pitches below 5.10. With a bunch of linking we were able to cut the route down to five pitches of mainly bolted climbing. The crux came after a short bolt ladder in the form of difficult stemming. The first section, supposedly only 10b was quite tricky and it took me a good while to believe that I should start climbing and leave the belay. After getting to good jams in the crack there was a rest on a slab and another crux section. This part was even more fierce and had amazing palming and laybacking in a slabby groove. I got buzzed by the falcon while I was placing gear and nearly popped off.

This was the last pitch and a relief for Sean who had been suffering from 20+ pitches of climbing in fairly new shoes. You could see the grimaces of pain each time he moved up on this footwork intensive route. We decided to take Sunday off to enjoy the sun and watch our girlfriends play ultimate. It was a great trip and I am really excited to go back!

A few weeks ago I got a tip from SpliterChoss about a 2 for 1 special and picked up a few guidebooks for paces I want to visit. In addition to the good price and they also had a drawing from those that bought books for a new rope. Magically I won!!! So I will be getting a new Sterling rope in addition too two cool guidebooks. I had been looking at Sterling ropes recently and was interested in seeing how they climb.

This has been a great month of climbing and it seems to only be getting better as we approach March and our week long Indian Creek Trip!!


– Luke

Levitation 29

5 11 2007

So we just got back from Las Vegas and the ever-impressive Red Rocks. Overall it was a really successful weekend.

On Friday morning we drove out to Vegas and after picking up the 2 new guidebooks (both of which are excellent and highly recommended!) and procuring a campsite (which was good because the campground was full when we got back that night) we headed out to Black Velvet Canyon. We’ve done a couple routes out here before – Prince of Darkness (5.10c, 6 pitches, lots of bolts) and Epinephrine (5.9, 13 pitches, lots of chimneys, we topped out after dark and nearly epic-ed the descent with tricky cairn-finding in the dark). So the approach was no big surprise. We finally got to climb Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a, 7 pitches), which was super fun. I followed the last pitch in semi-dark and we rapped and got back to the car safely, where we had some yummy breakfast burritos for dinner in the parking lot.

After passing out before 10pm on Friday night, we awoke early on Saturday morning to head out to Levitation 29. We left the Oak Creek Canyon parking lot at about 6:45am after lots of repacking of bags, breakfast, and the several miles of loop road preceding the parking lot. I’ve climbed Johnny Vegas, Solar Slab, and Black Orpheus before, so the first bit of the approach was already familiar to me. We made really good time hiking up the wash to the Black Orpheus approach, although we still had tons of wash to hike up. We had hoped to take a shortcut (approximately following the Black Orpheus descent I think), but due to a misunderstanding ended up hiking the standard (long) approach that goes up the wash to the really big pine trees. But it was ok because we were the first to the base of the route and actually had Eagle Wall entirely to ourselves save for two guys who climbed part of Eagle Dance.

Luke linked the first 2 pitches into one and I followed, unfortunately falling at the 5.11b roof crux. I lead the next two easier pitches (5.8, 5.10b) which were really fun, getting us to the base of the crux pitch, which Luke lead brilliantly 😀 I fell once at the crux of this pitch, struggling with a wide pod that I couldn’t even fist jam. The pitch was surprisingly sustained and I was really tired after following it. The next pitch was a little less steep, but still quite hard with many small crimps (which were very common on the route). This was followed by a weird, hard pitch with some rather crappy-quality white rock. I fell near the top of this pitch at some strenuous layback moves – my hands were cramping so badly I was losing motor control of my fingers – not able to keep holding on. Then there were just 2 more pitches, which Luke lead for me (and linked) to the top featuring some more sketchy rock. Hoping to use the remaining light to get back to the wash the faster way, we rapped immediately from the top of the 9th pitch (where we saw some climbers topping out Black Orpheus). We got to the ground with some light to spare, and started working our way down the wash. We ended up at some sketchy steep downslabbing in the dark, but found a rap station and rapped/bushwhacked our way back into the wash, making it back to the car by 8pm.

It was a great experience and a huge challenge for me and for us. The hiking took us about 2.5 hours each way, which added to the challenge of the route due to the shortness of the November days. The hard pitches of the route were a lot more challenging than I might have expected and I really struggled with keeping up my energy throughout the day. We left our sandwiches at the base to be lighter, so I ended up doing most of the climb on a package of shot blocks, a gu, and a clif bar, which considering the difficulty of the route was probably nowhere near enough food. We also only brought 2.5 liters of water, so I think both of us were also pretty dehydrated, which contributed to both of us getting cramps in our hands (which had never happened to me before). It’s made me think a lot about how we could have addressed this problem better – different food, more food, supplementing our water with some gatorade, or maybe even a potassium supplement to fight the cramps. These are really important things to consider and learn about because as we push ourselves more it’s only going to become more critical to be adequately hydrated and fed to be able to function and achieve at a higher level.

I do think all our efforts to improve our efficiency did help us out, though, because our belay transfers were in general fairly efficient and (due to the bolted belays) were able to keep the wasted or excessive gear to a minimum.

Hopefully this is just a starting point for us for climbing routes of this quality and caliber of difficulty. We were dreaming on the route back about future projects in Red Rocks, including Cloud Tower and the Original Route on the Rainbow Wall, both of which involve much harder cruxes and (in the case of the Rainbow Wall) long approaches.

I’m sure Luke will have more things to say about Levitation 29… what a day…