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!