Monday, March 22, 2010

Fear and Loathing in my Harness

Spring Break 2010 brought upon a most epic adventure. 31 rock climbers from my fair university piled into a few vans and headed west to wage wars of mischief and mayhem against the unsuspecting Red Rocks Canyon Park as well as the cities of Las Vegas and Moab.

After 20 hours of sleeping shotgun in an Element I found myself right outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Which happens to be the most desolate, trashy, over the top, wino filled crap hole that I would hope to be so lucky as to someday call my home. Anyways, after burning through that town we arrived at the doorstep of Red Rocks Natl. Park only to find that there were no camping spaces available! And just to add insult to injury the wind was whippin around 45 mph (which is the most painful thing in the world when that wind is laced with sand). Long story short, some fast shuckin' and jivin' was done by the officers. We were allowed to stay and a short trip to the bar kept us out of the wind.

The morning of day 1 bestowed upon myself the most excellent present a boy could wish for: calm sunny skies, dry dirt and warm rock. And with that day bestowed upon myself I took upon the conquest of slaying the first multi-pitch, free route of my life. Ryan Surface and I sent a mighty 600' 5.7 climb free and clean. Slaying this beast was quite possibly the most heady brew I have ever taken down. Sitting on belay anchor built with 2 smaller cams and a nut, on an edge roughly 2" larger than my ass in every direction, 500' in the air is one of the most intense, nerve racking experiences of my life. But also reaching the summit and then thanking the dirt for welcoming me back to the base at the end proved to be one of the most freeing feelings that I believe can ever be experienced.

View from the aforementioned tiny belay station.

Day 2 saw my first day of sport climbing for the trip. I hit up the Magic Bus Wall inside the park and immediately set up a slabby 5.6 warm up next to what was supposed to be "the climb" to make the day, a super slab 5.10d that looked like a sick cheese grater if my foot was to take a slip that shared an anchor with my warm up. Anyways the decision to leave the anchor and try it on TR before it was lead was made, and after that tr session nobody wanted to eff with that climb anymore. So we made our way over right and sent some cruiser 5.8/9 leads while letting the sun soak us up.

Somewhere along the next few days I hit up the black corridor and got on some semi-runout mid-high tens and hit the panty wall to throw down on even more 8s and 9s. Overall the sport climbing in Red Rock park was big, exposed and super fun. Although I can say I grew to appreciate Arkansas for having as diverse of terrain as it does. Every climb on a certain wall more or less was a different variation of the same features simply because of their height and wind exposure.

Day 4: A nice casual morning of bouldering in Calico Basin started what has to be the most mind blowing St. Patrick's Day that I will ever have in my life. Post boulder session we descended upon Vegas like the thirsty bunch of creatures that KURC is. The Sahara's pool was filled with filthified climber bums, the pre-game was rocked along with a trip to the in-n-out burger, post pre-game got rocked as well, the strip was taken with force, cops broke up a sidewalk dance party, beasts were shotgunned outside Circus Circus, things got peed on and the Belaggio horse statue may have been ridden by a German kid.

Sidewalk dance party.

Bleary eyed and dehydrated brought upon the start of day 5. I believe the events of this day went like this.
10:00 amish- Hit McDonalds for breakfast (walk since we may or may not be legal to drive) with a few of the boys that partied as hard...ish as me the night before.
10:30am - Bail on shirts and pray that the intense desert sun poolside at the Sahara can make us sweat this out.
11.15 am- Open new beers and start packing
12:00 pm-ride roller coaster on the strip
9:oo pm - wake up in Moab, Utah

So Moab went like this: It was raining and wet when we got up and sleeting shortly after, so we went into town to work up a healthy morning buzz off of Moab's own brewery while waiting for the rock to dry. Once it did dry I climbed a whole bunch of top-ropes on "wall street" and felt like I was in a gym. Super featured crack climbing right outside your car door in one of the most amazing cities in the world is pretty rad. I led another super easy crack climb just to practice my placements some more. This place literally took everything I love about climbing outdoors and mixed it with the convenience of the gym.

The next morning a big ol' lot of whatever climbers hadn't bailed on the trip yet went out to Corona arch and jumped the 'eff off the top. Not really but we rappelled off it which is almost as neat. After I did that I cruised up to the top of Portal Trail to enjoy one of the most scenic views Moab has to offer, hit the campground again, split a bottle of wine, packed camp and headed back to Lawrence.

Corona Arch adorned with our ropes.

So here's to my last Spring Break, Vegas, Moab, the KURC and the rock that keeps leading us back to these adventures.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cave Creek Craziness

Last weekend was the first warm weekend of the year for KS. Regardless I decided to get the eff out of dodge and head south to the great state of Arkansas. I think I'm just a few visits short of being able to claim dual citizenship between both forms of the Kansas.

So here's the digs. We camped at Sam's Throne but climbed at Cave Creek. I think Cave is becoming one of my favorite areas to climb "locally" since it has plenty of shiny bolts but is secluded enough with a hard enough approach that it still remains rather isolated. There definitely isn't the quantity of climbs that HCR has but seeing as how we only have the routes to share among ourselves it's pretty rad.

Saturday I really just wanted to play around on some easy 5.8-5.9 sport routes and kind of get my "lead head" back on my shoulders in preparation for spring break. That didn't work out as well as I thought it should. I did knock out a nice 5.9 to warm up on, so at that point the day was going as planned. As soon as we had rapped off the bolts from the warm up I decided that the slab to our immediate right needed to be put up. Problem: the first bolt was about 23 feet off the ground, talk about getting my lead head screwed on nice and tight.

View from the first bolt

After I scared myself witless on the slab I wandered a little further to the left and found a whole bunch of cams dangling from a tree. So what did I decide to do in this situation? Of course I racked up said cams and sent my first trad lead. No guidance, no top-rope mach-ups or rehearsals, just grab the gear and go on up.

Pluggin' my first cam on lead.

By this time in the day I realized that easing myself back into an outdoor season with a solid responsible head on my shoulders just isn't the sort of thing that I am good at. However running out my protection and praying that my gear will hold are two things I do seem to be okay at. So for my final climbs of the day I just hopped back on things that are on the upper end of my onsight level when I am in shape, and right now isn't one of those times. So I ended the weekend with two pretty flailtastic 5.10+ sport routes.

So here's to warm rock, dry dirt, and decisions that always seem to work out.