Friday, May 27, 2011

Birthday Panties

Rosie flashing another pair of panties
Today was Annie's birthday.  Since Rosie couldn't stand the rain in New Hampshire any longer, she booked a flight for the long weekend and we picked her up in the Las Vegas airport and showed her the Red Rocks way for the next 3 days! We started at the Panty Wall, a popular moderate sport crag.  Annie and Rosie onsighted and flashed all the panty routes in their reach.  We then chased the shade over to Willow Spring and climbed the fun route Tonto to round out the day.  An Italian dinner in town was most delicioso as well! Happy Birthday Annie!
The birthday girl onsighting a panty route

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dark Shadows

A hot day in Red Rocks makes for a great day to climb a route in the shade.  Nothing sweeter than a climb that starts right out of pools of water and climbs into deep dark corners on the north face of Mescalito - the classic line called Dark Shadows. We climbed the first four pitches, which is the the common way to do it as I understand (topping out is a longer affair). And it is 4 stellar pitches of climbing!  The first pitch is an easy romp up some slabby rock with huecos making for good hands and feet.  The 2nd pitch has you liebacking a steep right facing corner and traverses left to a large ledge. The 3rd pitch is the money pitch in my opinion, climbing 120 feet of a fantastic steep corner polished with black varnish on the right face - stemming heaven! The final pitch is considered the crux at 5.8, although I found it easier than pitches 2 and 3.  Keeping your rope dry on the final rappel rope pull is impossible as far as I can figure. But this route is one of the most memorable climbs I have ever done.
Heading up the steep corner of pitch 2
Looking back down the route to the sweet pools of water below (your rope WILL get wet). Yes, this is the desert!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Red Rock Remedies

Annie and I made it to Vegas in fairly short order Sunday. Finally dry and now climbing in the sun. Monday we climbed Cat in the Hat and Tuesday Olive Oil. Picture perfect days , but sorry no pictures!!! A little yoga and stretching at the campsite this AM then we sought out and found a new sport crag with some "mellow" routes. Well the grades may have been mellow but the rock is super sketchy as the routes were only bolted 2 weeks ago. The operative term here is "rock!!!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Camping in the Desert

Wouldn't be as comfortable in a tent especially with those high winds that fill the tent with sand.  Thanks to Blanche we stayed pretty comfy.  Getting a shower to clean up after a few days sweating in the desert is one of the bigger challenges.
Home Sweet Home in the Red Rocks Campground

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Delicate Arch

Fortunately it did not rain during our hike to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, but it sure was windy! After seeing this natural wonder in person, I was even more dismayed at Dean Potter's "stunt" a few years back. If you are a climber you likely know the story and controversy. I am of the opinion that he was way out of line.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Come Back Another Day?"

"Rain, rain, go away. Come back another day." How about come back another YEAR?! I have been unable to post for a while because I have been spending the past week with Annie, Lisa and Ellen dodging rain bullets in Utah.  Where drier climate is ostensibly guaranteed, there is clearly no guarantee.  Since the forecast for the City of Rocks in Idaho looked grim (cold and rainy) and the forecast for the southwest desert of Utah looked good (sunny and warm) we headed for Moab and canyon country.  The day we drove to Moab was beautiful - no fear the forecast looked good for the week.  We would be climbing desert sandstone before you know it! Or so we thought.  After hiking around looking for our first crag Monday, we found it a few hours later and got in about 3 hours of nice climbing on an easy going moderate wall in the Kane Creek area. The next day we rose not with the sun but with the raindrops. Ugh. The forecast changed - a huge low pressure system has been spinning around the region for days.  Needless to say we have experienced a lot of rainy day hiking.  Can't complain about the location - Arches National Park is a must-see as is Canyonlands.  But our skin looks like prunes and our tolerance for lousy weather is wearing thin.  Since the low pressure isn't changing and all of this coming week looks to be wet as well, Annie and I will change course completely. She has changed her flight to depart from Las Vegas instead of Salt Lake and we will head to Red Rocks next week for the sunny weather in the south.  Many mountain passes are closed due to heavy snow, so it's a no-brainer.  Thanks to Lisa and Ellen who toughed it out in less than ideal conditions.  when you fly west from the east coast wet, you expect drier conditions.  No go this time.  Lots of laughs, but no climbing.  My nick name is "Rainmaker."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Majestic Lands

As the skies began to clear the colors were enhanced
Ellen got some great photographs of our adventures in Arches and Canyonlands.  But here are a few from Canyonlands I was able to retrieve from my memory card sometime later. The landscapes in southern Utah are indescribable, and as usual, photos do no justice - standing in these places and exploring some of the backcountry is the only way to feel the full majesty.  What beautiful country we live in and how fortunate we are.  Let's never forget that.
An easy stroll to the rim for a breathtaking view in Canyonlands National Park  

Hold on tight

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guiding Gifts

Today the skies cleared and alllowed for my much anticipated day with professional climber, writer and guide Majka Burhardt. I hope to post more on the experiences of this day because I feel there is much to say. For now, typing and tapping out such details on my iphone just won't cut it. It was a great day for learning, climbing, imagining and working on my skills. Majka and I had a bluebird day and I have Annie to thank for such a generous gift. Thanks to Majka (AKA "SuperGirl") as well for opening my mind and heart to new possibilities in my climbing. I certainly hope Tori was paying attention!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

AAC - "All About Climbing"

American Alpine Club, Golden, CO

After a stellar day in Eldo Tuesday, Wednesday brought rain and snow to the foothills. Sometimes a forced rest day is just what you need, less this half-century old body wear out! The American Alpine Club (AAC) is headquartered in Golden, just down the road a piece.  It was a perfect day for a visit.

First stop: The AAC library. I met the staff there, got a quick tour, then got to work on a small project (I requested some volunteer work. Rosie, you would be proud!) This library is quite impressive and it would take no effort to indulge myself there for a few days. After finishing up the project I thoroughly enjoyed the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum. If you are ever in the Denver area, VISIT THIS MUSEUM! The sites are presented in spectacular fashion and there are several interactive components. I was amazed at how much detail was covered.  They have creatively piped in some type of surround-sound audio throughout the museum so that as you travel about you hear the thwack-thwack of ice axes and crampons, the musical clinking of carabiners and rock protection and more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eldo Rocks

Boulder, CO is a climbing mecca. There is rock everywhere you look. A climber could live a lifetime here and not experience a fraction of the climbing possibilities. There is so much good rock climbing here that often the difficulty lies in answering "where do I climb today?"

Pitch 4, The Money Pitch
Yesterday, I met up with a climbing friend who had moved here from Boston a couple of years ago. We chose Eldorado Canyon for our adventure.  The sun was shining and the temperatures pleasantly hovered in the mid 60s - perfect.  The route we climbed is a classic, first ascended by New England legend George Hurley (among others) in 1967 - "Rewritten".  Cheryl led the alternate fist pitch, an awkward and difficult crack out of a cave-like alcove.  I recalled doing this several years ago and really struggling on it, so I was happy to hand Cheryl the sharp end on this one.  The "money pitch" is pitch 4, considered the crux pitch (although the alternate pitches we did are technically a grade harder).  This tremendous pitch is rich - an exposed hand traverse to a beautiful finger crack and a series of interesting crack and corner systems above.  It has exposure and fun moves and I savored the entire pitch.  Cheryl had the pleasure of taking on the last "exhilarating" exposed arete pitch which is more about exposure than difficulty.  You top out along a knife edge with tremendous drop-offs and views in all directions. Welcome to Eldo!

Rebuffat's Arete

If you have ever climbed the Whitney Gilman route on Cannon Cliff in New Hampshire, Rewritten will feel similar. Lots of loose rock, exposure and a winding, alpine gully descent. I highly recommend this route - but then again, if you visit Boulder to climb you might get distracted by a few of the other climbing opportunities here - there are a few (grin).

Eldo view from on route

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are the Plains Plain?

It took two days to drive from Baraboo, WI to Boulder, CO.  I've driven south of here across Kansas and Missouri, but this was my first time through Iowa and Nebraska. I expected pure boredom. However, while the plain states are a bit plain as compared to places like Vermont or Colorado or California, they weren't as obtuse as one might guess.  Of course I am whizzing through at 65 MPH, so who knows what slice I am getting a taste of. But other than the towns I didn't see, I imagine life is based on farming corn or beef cattle. What strikes me is the immensity of these corn production farms - mega farms - huge, goverment-subsidized farming for ethanol and corn syrup/sugar additives (I presume).  At this moment I do not have the energy to tackle the controversial topic of farming subsidies, the obesity epidemic and farm welfare projects. But short story: When striking up a conversation with a well-dresssed businessman at the gas pump next to me in Nebraska, it became more clear. In these corn-rich states, they offer ethanol blended gasoline at only one grade - mid-grade 89 octane.  If you want 87 or 91 octane gas it won't have ethanol in it.  But guess what? The price of the mid-grade blended product is up to 15 cents/gallon LESS than the lower octane regular unleaded.  I find it interesting that in the east there is no longer an option to purchase any gasoline product without ethanol in it (did I mention it is ruining our engines?) But in the corn-rich plains states it is incentivized. I asked the gentleman if he always purchases the ethanol blend or does he ever get the more expensive unleaded fuel.  His answer? "Always. I was a farmer for years and now I work for an agribank so I support the corn farmers." 'Nuff said? Yeah - good old USA economics.

Mega Corn

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Devil Made Me Do It

My destination from Gaylord, Michigan became Boulder, Colorado. To get to Colorado from northern Michigan there are ostensibly 3 choices:
1) Head back south through central and western Michigan to go around the lake to the south (blech!)
2) Take the 4-hour ferry across Lake Michigan (not an option – the ferry isn’t running yet. I wouldn’t do this anyway for the $100 fare)
3) Drive north to the Upper Peninsula (UP), then back south on the west side of the lake. 
I selected Door #3, a much prettier drive and only 50 miles longer.  After the pounding preaching I received in Michigan, I felt an intermediate destination was called for:  DEVIL’S LAKE, WISCONSIN.

The March issue of Climbing Magazine featured Devil’s Lake and I was intrigued to hear so much about this unique place.  Despite the slightly pricey camping and park fee (the park is a beauty so once there I am happy to support it), I found the climbing well worth it.  I would go back to climb at this place for a full week if I could.  It is truly a unique experience – if you are a climber and you pass nearby Madison, WI, be sure to stop here.

Thanks to the Mountain Project online community I was able to secure a local to show me around.  Well, he wasn’t just any local – he is the unofficial tour guide of the climbing at Devil’s Lake – Nick Rhoads.  Nick is the manager at the climbing gym in Madison – “Boulder’s”, not to be confused with “Boulder” as in Boulder, CO (you following this?) Nick and his sidekick Buckey treated me to 5 classic routes on the East Bluff.  My favorite was a climb called (I think) “Double D” – a striking diagonal crack with better than expected feet and bomber hands, including a “bat hold.’ That’s right, there was a bat in the crack about half way up the route and I had the pleasure of touching his (or her) soft little nose!  The boys had warned me about the bat, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Clearly that bat was much more afraid of me than I was of it!  I found the bat and the plentiful bees waking from their winter slumber to be enjoyable bonuses to my experience climbing here.

It didn’t hurt that Nick and Buckey were also beer aficionados as well.  We shared a Rock Art Vermonster at the tailgate before saying farewell. With their advice I was able to stop at a package store down the road and pick up a six pack of a local microbrew “New Glarus”. Sweet. Thanks Nick for treating me to a day at your local crags.
Nick on Brinton's Crack, Devil's Lake

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Family First

My first true stopping destination is Gaylord, Michigan.  My oldest brother lives here with much of his offspring and their families. My father and his wife moved here a few years ago at the urging of my 2 brothers - my father is 84 and has slowed significantly in the past years.  His health is not great but actually he is doing quite well for his age.  Most 84 years olds with 5 stents inserted over 10 years ago aren't getting along as well as he is.

I have told close friends of mine that I believe this part of my journey to be the crux.  Unfortunately, my father and his wife are about as polar opposite as one can be from me when considering our belief systems, political affiliations and allegiances.  This is a very conservative and evangelical part of our country. My brother and their families are all employees or servants of the bible college and baptist church here.  Needless to say my lifestyle likely does not put me on the path to heaven.  While arduous, I calmly persevere - after all, family IS family. I love my father and my brother because I see beyond the preaching, moralism and castigation. We share many other wonderful things, mostly childhood memories and appreciations and that is enough.  Besides, my father's dog Winston provides much needed comical relief.
Sir Winston poses before his holy shrine