Spur of the moment trips and destinations can yield some of the best and most memorable climbing. That was the case this week. After twice getting rained out of the Flatirons I stopped by the gym for a quick workout. There Ted Lanzano, noted Front Range first ascensionist and all-around good dude, asked if I was interested in making a weekend trip to The Monastery.
I had been to The Monastery several years ago, but since then the area has been off my radar. I remembered the beautiful Vestibule area, crystal-speckled walls and the tough, dicey sport climbing. How could I say no?
The Monastery route that most piqued my interest was Psychatomic (5.12d). The Tommy Caldwell climb has the deserved reputation of being one of the best at the grade in Colorado. Eli, Tommy and Ron did the line years ago, but at the time I politely declined getting destroyed by it. This time, I couldn’t wait to hop on.
I was very pleased with the onsight attempt, making it through the bottom crux and more than half way through the entire route before peeling. Working through the rest of the pumpy, deceivingly overhung line went smoothly except for the maddeningly thin and desperate finish after the last draw. I found at least three completely different sets of beta that worked, each of which seemed impossible to replicate on a redpoint attempt.
After giving the route a second attempt and getting even further before falling, I was more optimistic about my chances to send without making the line a full bodied project. Meanwhile, Ted was making progress on Dreamcatcher (5.13+) and was itching to return on Sunday. The prospect of making a return trip the next day while Psychatomic was still fresh in my head was irresistible. I gave Lizz, Kate and Tommy a buzz and the spur of the moment trip was on.
We camped and enjoyed a bottle of two-year-old blueberry mead while lightning storms decorated the cloudy night sky over the Fort Collins cityscape. Fortunately, the thunderstorms stayed at bay and we woke the next morning to perfect temperatures and overcast sky.
We began the day at the Outer Gates, home to numerous slab climbs in the 5.7-5.10 range. After one route, we were chased into the more sheltered Vestibule by thunder, threatening heavy gray clouds and light rain we feared were precursors to severe storms. Inside the Vestibule, some of the strongest climbers across the front range were busy sharing beta and working Tommy Caldwell creations.
Fortunately the rain once again did not materialize and we were left with cool temps and amazing climbs. To nobody’s surprise but her own, off the couch Kate onsighted Doctors, Lawyers and Indian Chiefs (5.11a).
Then it was back to Psychatomic. Though a bit sore from the previous day’s attempts, I felt great on Sunday’s first go, once again reaching my high point, but once again being thwarted by the quartz crystalline top. Even after three attempts and a bit of extra work on the top crux, I still felt like I hadn’t figured out reasonable or efficient beta. Thanks to a patient belay from Tommy, I meticulously sussed out a sequence that was still tough, but seemed to be more probable. Feeling pretty blown up, I lowered and we watched some of the action from a birds eye view of the hardman testpieces down the Vestibule.
One of the world’s best female climbers, Paige Claassen, who previously sent Grand Ole Opry (5.14c), was toning it down a bit to work on Third Millennium (5.13d). It was educational to watch her smooth, static style.
Meanwhile, Lizz hopped on Altar Boy (5.9+). Her technique and pure grit on routes has improved lately and it was fun to watch her have success smearing through some legitimately tough power slab moves.
Even after a long break, I felt sore and tired and wasn’t optimistic about my chances on Psychatomic. I was considering packing up when Dan Levison asked me if I wanted a catch. We had driven, camped and hiked to get there and I knew one more shot was in order.
I tied in, took a deep breath and started off. After fighting through the first three bolts, I milked a rest for as much as it was worth and kept going, pushing past the next three clips to my previous high point. To my surprise, I felt pumped, but in control and I got to a hand jam rest below the devious 10 feet that guard the anchor. Trusting my beta and bearing down, I let it fly. Horrible left hand crimp to leave space for a sloping right hand crimp; left foot on a chip and lock off to a funky left hand tringular pinch; right foot in a weird crevice and right hand up to a horrendous grease pinch. So far so gooOOH NO I’m slicking off! NO! Throw a desperate left hand and catch a miracle gaston; pull back in at the tipping point; breathe; work feet; chalk; one more move; Stick! Clip! Done!
If you’re climbing at the level, do that climb.
Meanwhile in the world of trad climbing, the raptor nesting closure of the Micky Mouse Wall just south of Eldo was lifted on August 1st. Tyler and I had never been there and decided to make the long hike (made even longer by a wrong turn). After an hour and a half of hiking we finally arrived.
The Mickey Mouse wall is like a mini-Redgarden wall and hosts one of the best 5.10s in the area, Captain Beyond. The 500+ foot line is continuous, tough for the grade and requires every technique in the book. The crux is a 30-foot #4 sideways offwidth. Like a sport climber, I laid back most of it, pulling back in to place gear when I got scary run out. Tyler took the last pitch, my favorite of the route, and we topped out to an amazing view of Boulder.
Our first rappel resulted in a stuck rope and some ascent trickery. No fun. But a stuck rope couldn’t dampen the fun and excitement of an amazing climb in a pristine area. If Captain Beyond were in Eldo proper, it would be one of the most popular lines in the area. As it is, we could barely discern any chalk marks.
The Mickey Mouse Wall has a number of fantastic, seldom-traveled 5.11s and 5.12s along with the well-known Industrial wall, home to many of Boulder’s hardest overhung sport lines. Now that we know the area and the hike, I’m looking forward to returning soon.