When I left work yesterday in the pitch black it hit me that the outdoor season is rapidly nearing an end. The year was full of memorable days with great friends on the rock.
This season signaled a shift in my climbing priorities and philosophy. I always love a challenge and push to climb at my limit. Unlike in years past, in 2010 these challenges rarely included clipping bolts. Though we spent some great days sport climbing at Shelf and Boulder Canyon, most days we were plugging cams and sinking stoppers.
We spent several days exploring the Flatirons. The north, south and east faces of the formations offer unique, long and high quality lines, both sport and trad. There is much more to explore throughout the area. Bouldering in Flagstaff made for fun, social days early in the season. A few trips to Lumpy Ridge’s head-scratching massive granite towers were unforgettable days. Stopping at Oscar Blues for a pitcher of Gordan is the best reward I can imagine for living through a day placing RPs at Lumpy. We climbed at Mill Creek, Wall Street along Kane Creek and in Arches near Moab. Days spent climbing burly sandpaper cracks among the changing aspens at Vedauwoo always made the warm PBR taste like cold PBR.
Eli and my trip to Glacial Gorge and Spearhead was one of the the most intense and stunning experiences of my life. Navigating Spear Me The Details (5.11d) was a step up from anything I’ve done on the rock. It made the Naked Edge feel like a nice little romp.
But more than anything, this year was about Eldo.
I still love the movement, balance and intricacy of face climbing and Eldo has all of it. Scores of amazing lines there are basically face climbing on gear with a bolt or two to keep you sane. Along with the mental trials of protecting Eldo’s cryptic lines, cracking the lichen-covered crimson sandstone codes added another dimension to climbing.
I’ve now climbed more than 100 independent routes in Eldo, ticking the vast majority this season. Most of these climbs were fun, but some were more than memorable.
Ryan and I combined the first two pitches of Rincon for an amazing 55 meter “5.9+.” I brought a rack of singles. That will teach you how to manage a climb in a hurry! I then whipped all over the pin on the crux 5.11 pitch before pulling through. The PBR tasted like Budweiser that night.
This year I realized the North Face of the Bastille has some incredible link-ups. One of the best routes Ian and I (and Tyler and I the next day) did was a link of the first pitch of Wide Country (5.11) with the third pitch of XM into the first pitch of Outer Space (5.10a) with an amazing finish up the headwall on Hairstyles and Attitudes (5.12b). Do this line! The PBR tasted like MGD those nights.
Many days we had a blast cragging along the West Ridge. Pony Express (5.11c) and Foxtrot (5.11d) were two of the best and most challenging routes we climbed there. I spent a full half-hour on Pony Express, fighting to onsight. Pumped out of my wits on Foxtrot, I tried to place a nut in a pod at the crux. It didn’t fit. I alternated hands between a slopper and a crimp, shifting my feet among a variety of small edges and pebbles trying to get back anything I could. I then tried to place a different nut, again with no luck. After one more round of shaking out desperately, I sank a good #2 C3 – a tricky placement to recognize. I proceeded to whip all over the C3 working the crux sequence. Knowing the gear and beta, I later sent the route. The PBR tasted like Leinenkugels summer lager that night.
The Naked Edge was, of course, amazing. The second pitch of Ces’t La Vie (5.11) was one of the most intense lines of the year. The pins at the crux pulled a few years ago. Last year, a fixed nut protected the crux and I whipped all over it before bailing. This year the seam lay bare. Fishing in a small nut and sending the gymnastic crux was an absolute thrill. The PBR tasted like roast duck with a light marmalade sauce that night.
Of course, there are still hundreds of great lines left in Eldo. The guidebook lists 1,100 routes, many of which are classics and many more zero-star choss and historical scare fests. I’m amazed that the author, Steve Levin, has climbed over 90% of the routes there.
Now it’s on to pulling plastic for the winter. But hopefully we’ll see some sunny days in the next month. Even after such a great season, I still feel like we’re just getting started!