Monday, August 31, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park (Lumpy Ridge)

So, after 2 great days and nights in Boulder, CO, the super hero duo (Alex and me), made the 1 hour journey to Estes Park, home of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the famous EuroMan, a good friend and seasonal Law Enforcement Ranger.

We were scheduled to get to Estes by 8, pick up the local guide books at the climbing shop, and head to Lumpy Ridge. The mighty EuroMan got there around 8:30, but we didn't roll in to the climbers lot until about 9:30. We got up a little late and had breakfast at a cool coffee shop in Lyons, the Stone Cup.

Anywhooo, we picked out a cool climb on The Book called Pear Buttress (5.8+). The approach took about 1 hour, and then we spent at least 30 minutes trying to figure out the best way to start the climb. Once we got moving, the climb was really great. Nice crack climbing! Alex did a great job on the crux pitch, and I had fun on my 2 pitches. We were getting used to granite crack climbing, and trying to trust our feet to the great friction.

Afterwards, we met EuroMan for great Mexican at Ed's Catina, a famous climber hangout. Unfortunately, the EuroMan was called into work about the time we finished dinner, so we wandered back to the cabin, and pondered our next climbing adventure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rocky Mountain High - Part 1 (The Bastille Crack)

I've been waiting to get back to Colorado for some rock climbing ever since leaving here about 5 years ago. There are a few climbs that I've held in my memory banks...hoping for the chance to jump on them when time allowed. My old climbing partner, Paul (a.k.a. EuroMan) is a seasonal law enforcement ranger in Rocky Mtn. National Park this year, so that pushed me a little. My good friend and climber, Pam (a.k.a. GoBike), now lives in Boulder, and my cousin Paul also lives in Estes Park. Lots of friends to visit...I just needed to convince a climbing partner to join me. My main alpine climbing partner, Alex, was the man I wanted with me, and it didn't take much convincing to talk him into a big climbing trip.

We arrived at Pam's in Boulder around noon on Thursday. It was great to see Pam, and she took us straight off to a Vietnamese Soup (Pho) place for lunch. Yum! Afterwards, she gave us a tour of Boulder Canyon, and Alex and I were already itching to jump on the rock despite some serious jet lag. After circling back to Pam's to pick up our gear, we were back at the Canyon in sweltering heat, racking up for an easy 2 pitch climb (5.7). The climb seemed much harder to us than 5.7, but it was different rock and we're not used to crack climbing. Either way, we felt a lot better after getting a route under our belts and it definitely helped with the jet lag. After a nice dinner with Pam and her boyfriend, Steven, we planned to climb at Eldorado Canyon the next day.

Pam was anxious to join us on Friday, so we climbed as a party of 3. The plan was to get there early to see if we could get on Eldo's classic climb, The Bastille Crack (5.7-5.8). When we arrived at 7:30 there was already a party roping up in front of us. Bummer! It was too cold and windy to wait for them to get through the first pitch, so we decided to do a climb that I had been on about 8 years ago on the Wind Tower. I led the first pitch of Calypso with the thin 5.9 start, then Alex led the second pitch of Reggae (5.8), and I led the scramble to the top. The views were amazing and after a short walk-off and rappell, we were waiting to jump on the Bastille again. This is a shot of a climber (white dot near bottom) on the Bastille from high on the Wind Towers.This time, we were able to get on the climb and I was a bit shocked that I was finally leading the way up this phenomenal climb. I decided to combine the first 2 pitches to help speed things along. The guide book practically insists (IN BOLD LETTERS) that protection be placed before moving from the right flake into the left crack, and I can understand the logic. About 20 feet off the ground, the crux of the first 2 pitches is definitely a bit intimidating, and requires a cool head. After getting 2 decent pieces of pro in the crack, I made the moves and worked my way up to the first belay ledge. The second pitch was a blast with some really cool stemming moves through an overhang. At the second belay ledge, I set up an anchor and brought Pam and Alex up. Pam struggled a bit, but managed to get up the climb. I was impressed since she hasn't climbed in 2 years. Alex led the next pitch which was a long wandering pitch. It was reportedly easier, but seemed to have some very challenging sections. The last pitch was an easy chimney, and then we were done. Pam headed back to the house while Alex led the first pitch of WorksUp (5.8+). He did a great job with it, and I enjoyed following the climb as much as I did last time I was here.

After finding our way home with Alex's new GPS, we had a great dinner with Pam, Steve, Chris (Pam's old boyfriend whom I remember from climbing back east and the Mighty EuroMan! EuroMan, my old climbing partner, went skydiving nearby and met us afterwards. After a great meal and a few beers, the stories were flowing, and a good time was had by all. Pam was a great host to us, and the next morning we were off to Estes Park. Our main objective for the trip was the Petit Grepon (5.8)...a climb I have wanted to do for almost 5 years now and one of the 50 Classics in North America.

Thoughts - Alex and I agreed that we were feeling more "human" after getting some climbing and fresh air. I was checking the blackberry less, and had a great nights sleep. It was good to see some old friends, and the adventure was just beginning!

That's it for now. Need to get caught up on other stuff. Stay tuned for Lumpy Ridge and Petit Grepon photos and more!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


How appropriate I thought when Goat suggested a climb called "Anguish". I thought it appropriate because it is a feeling that I have felt all too often lately. I won't whine about why I have felt that's just the way it's been.

After working 12 hour days all week, I sat like a Zombie watching the Red Sox game Friday night. Goat and I had tentative plans to climb on Saturday, and the weather was looking quite good (i.e. - No rain). We could have climbed locally, but the weather forecast seemed too good to skip a chance at climbing at the Gunks. So, we made plans for a 6:30AM rendezvous.

I was tired and dozed as the Goat drove toward the motherland. I was hoping a day at the Gunks would be what I needed to get my life back in balance.

Things started out poorly for me. Goat led a moderate climb called "City Lights", a climb had had lead many times. Today, I struggled to pull the crux move. I'm getting old...I thought. After several attempts, I finally figured out a way to make the move. I led the second pitch easy enough, and then we looked for another climb. Goat asked if I had ever climbed "Anguish", and I had to laugh. "Doesn't sound very inviting!", I commented. Goat told me how he had met Bert Angrist, the person who had made the first ascent and for whom the climb is named. Bert, evidently, had hit his thumb pounding in a piton and lost his glasses in the same move while attempting the climb. Sounds like a rough day!

After a bit of scouting, we thought we had identified the start of the climb. It didn't look like it was climbed much, but the book gave it two stars. I decided to take the first pitch. The climbing was moderate and seemed easy enough, but it was my first on-site lead (a climb I had never attempted) in awhile so I was cautious. We combined the first two pitches as the book recommended, and I set up an anchor below the crux pitch for Goat. It was very hot out and the pitch looked steep and intimidating, but the grade was moderate and Goat was climbing well. I figured we would get through it.

We talked about the easiest line and then Goat started up. He set in a few good pieces, and then went for the first overhang. After a second or two, he said he didn't feel good about it and was coming down. Before I could take in much line, the Goat was swinging about a foot above my head. Whoa! I lowered Goat to the ledge, and he decided to give me a shot at the lead.

The climb looked straight forward enough, but did look hard. I geared up and started to climb. I was able to get an extra piece of gear in below the first overhang to minimize the swing and length of fall, and then went directly for the move. After pulling through the first overhang, I realized why Goat retreated. There was no place to set in gear. I, then spotted an old rusty piton to the left under a big roof. This must be the famous Bert Angrist piton, I thought. It looked horrible, but I clipped it anyway. Then, I was able to get a small piece of gear (black alien) in next to it. I felt better, and looked up at the work still to be done. It looked hard, but doable. I thought about how I would approach this if I was 1,000 feet up, and decided to rest on the gear before attempting the next section. I knew I could have climbed it clean, but didn't really care if I rested. My main concern was safety, and I didn't really want to fall on an old piton and tiny cam, so I played it safe.

After a few minutes, I moved up to the next roof, and set a big cam in. Now, I felt confident, and pulled the roof move without any trouble. The climbing got easy until rope drag and a poison ivy patch made life interesting. Luckily, I rarely get poison ivy, and am not showing any signs of it right now :-)

Goat topped out, and we retreated to some shade. It was Goat's turn to lead, and I was happy to take a break for a bit.

The sun went behind the cliff, and we started feeling better. Goat led Snooky's Return and I led the first pitch of Columbia. We both started feeling better as the temps cooled. Goat then led Sente and I wrapped up the day on Absurdland. We both seemed to climb better as the day went on, and part of me wanted to keep climbing. It was getting late though, and there were other things to do.

We stopped for pizza on the way home, and life was good again. We worked through "Anguish" both literally and figuritively, and were back in balance again. I can't wait to go back and do that climb again!