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Camhead's Big Roadtrip: May-August 03
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camhead


Aug 28, 2003, 9:58 AM
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Camhead's Big Roadtrip: May-August 03
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hey all.
Since I'm back in Dallas, haven't climbed for a week, and am spending way too much time at my computer,I thought I'd start on a trip report about the multi-month climbing roadtrip that my girlfriend and I took this summer. It may take a while– right now I'm trying to do it in installments about each month, so we'll see. I've written a bit about it in a journal, but it's pretty long, so I'll try to condense it. so, yeah. here goes:

MAY/Moab Area

The night before I leave Dallas, I blow out a tendon in the gym. It is the worst injury that I've had, and normally I would stop climbing. Great way to start off the trip. The only consolation is that I'll be going to Indian Creek, and the cracks there aren't really tendon intensive. No bouldering or sport for a while, though.

I reach Indian Creek the nest day after a sixteen hour drive, and go directly to Supercrack Buttress, which is completely empty. It's great to be back. I walk past the old familiar routes: Painted Pony, Amaretto Corner, Supercrack, Fingers in a Lightsocket, Coyne, Keyhole Flakes, The Wave, Gorilla Crack, and stop at the base of the most popular line, Incredible Handcrack.

I’ve neglected to bring along my rock shoes. Got to avoid the soloing bug. I kick off my sandals, and plant hands and bare feet into the thin start of the route, balancing. One move. Two moves. Three. I hit the first good handjam, yard upon it, grab a lip, and mantle up onto the ledge, about twenty feet off the ground. No big deal– I’ve never placed gear at that first section anyway. Bare feet make for more sensitive foot cams, and I decide to try a few more moves on the perfect sized crack. Next thing I know I’m below the cruz roof, staring up the rounded crack. Nope, not going to do it. I downclimb carefully to the ledge, and then to the ground.

I meet my girlfriend Stephanie later that night. She has already been on the road for a month or so, living off of unemployment checks and going to Hueco, the PBC, and Joshua Tree. We spend a couple days at Indian Creek, Steph learning the whole jamming thing, before taking a diversion up to Moab to do Castleton Tower.

Castleton is my first real multipitch, and it is a near epic. We do the North Chimney, which is 5.8, but often called the best 5.9 in the desert. I'll agree with that. Despite some stupid route finding choices at the top of the chimney, and an even more stupid party that tries to pass us in the chimney amid loose rocks, the summit is great.

While up in Moab, we also check out the Crack house, an eighty foot roof crack boulder problem. I do the first sixty feet before falling, pumped out. I think that the reason this thing is v8 is completely endurance-specific. I cannot comprehend the final fingercrack that goes over a bad boulder landing before pulling the roof. I can do it, but not after seventy feet of strenous handjamming. They may call the Crackhouse a boulder problem, but it feels much more like a route.

Steph and I return to Indian Creek, and spend about two weeks there. It's great. For once, we've borrowed enough gear from our friends to feel comfortable (thanks, atg200), and my list of to-do climbs is checked off regularly. Steph is getting a little bummed on the cracks, however. As anyone who has learned to climb crack there can attest, after a day or so, your whole body is in pain, and you need a week off. Unfortunately, I'm too excited to even notice. Every day, I'm up at seven, excited to go see some new crag and try out some new route.

One day, while at the Blue Gramma Cliff, we meet some really cool people. Two Missourians– Stevo and Benny– are there. Steve is just learning crack, and can relate to Steph. I do a climb called Moon Goddess Revenge; it's my first 5.11 trad onsight. Way stoked. Later that day, a Valley bum with a white, windowless van shows up at the crag, looking for a partner. His name is Kevin, and it turns out that he is good friends with elcapbuzz from this site. He's a great guy, despite his fixation with 1980s climbing styles (boreals with socks, hawaiian pants, etc. hehe).

We all decide to go to the Pistol Whipped Wall the next day, since if we pool our gear, we'll have enough for the 150 foot route Spaghetti Western. The route is the most beautiful line that I've seen at the Creek: it looks like a big brother to Incredible Handcrack, and has everything from a fingertips lieback to a perfect roof, to a tiny bit of offwidth. It turns out to be the highpoint of this Indian Creek trip. Benny the Missourian follows it, and we are both just completely stoked.

That night, Steph announces that her hands can take no more, so we decide to leave the Creek after one more day. We spend our last day at Battle of the Bulge Buttress. On a dare, I lead Cave Crack barefoot, which is cool but kind of stupid. Earlier on the trip I had attempted the same thing with Coyne, which has a tough fingers start. I got it clean on TR, but never managed to redpoint it. Next year I'll get the first barefoot ascent, hopefully. hehe. Indian Creek is my favorite climbing in the world, but I guess it is time to move on.



next time... Colorado Front Range, Shelf Road, Eldo, Rocky Mountain, etc.


debsanders


Aug 28, 2003, 10:55 AM
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Dr. Paul,
So much fun! We missed you in Dallas. All that yelling and screaming you do when you miss a move.

I'm glad your summer met your expectations; perhaps even exceeding them, giving your enough memories to survive yet another year in dusty Dallas.

Hope to see you soon. Drew is ready for Columbia.

Deb


camhead


Aug 28, 2003, 9:14 PM
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what's up Deb? I haven't been in the gym too much lately. No car.

anyway, I think I've got time to add another chapter.

LATE MAY EARLY JUNE: Colorado.

Steph and I made our way eastward from Indian Creek and the Colorado Plateau. We stopped at Colorado National Monument and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison along the way, did the tourist viewpoint thing, but did not climb. We had no beta for the Black Canyon, and the place has garnered a bit of a reputation. Not a great place for multipitch gumbies like ourselves.

Steph was and is a little more into sport than I am, and we camped at Shelf Road that night, planning to climb. The limestone was all right, I suppose. It actually reminded me of the stuff that I learned to climb on three years ago in Logan Canyon, Utah. Unfortunately, my finger caught up to me the instant I started using face holds. Even when I taped up and stuck to the juggy .10a's it was miserable. Despite a steady diet of .11 trad at the Creek, I was getting shut down. Finally, I reserved myself to being Steph's belay slave. She deserved it after what I had put her through at the Creek.

One interesting thing happened at Shelf Road. We were lounging at the base of the cliff, eating lunch, when I heard the familiar "whoosh" of a small falling rock go past my right ear, followed by a "thud" next to me. I looked over, and there was a 10" baby rattlesnake about two feet to my right. It had fallen off of the cliff, I guess, and was PISSED. I lifted it out of the way with a small stick, which it struck several times. That would have been a hell of a climbing injury, though– bitten by a falling rattlesnake at a sport crag. That evening, we made the drive north to Boulder.

Boulder is a bit of a dilemma for the dirtbag climber. It has much more than its share of classic crags, but no public camping within an hour or two. You can't even camp at Eldo. Fortunately, Steph had a friend in town with a spare bedroom, shower, washer, and dryer. We stayed there for the next week. We bouldered– well, Steph and her friend bouldered while I watched in misery– at Flagstaff Mountain, Also did some sport in Clear Creek Canyon, which quite honestly is a very forgetable place. Sorry.

We also did Bastille Crack, Eldorado Canyon's mega classic. We figured we had to. It was awesome; the first two pitches were some of the best easy trad that I had done, and even the final chimneys (which I was coming to realize are a part of any multipitch) were fun. We stayed in the shade the whole time, and I was starting to get comfortable with the whole multipitch routine. Eldo is definitely a place to which I'll have to return.

Far and away the most memorable experience of Colorado, however, was the excursion to Turkey Rocks, which had just recently re-opened following massive forest fire damage. We met up with several people fomr this site while there: mtngeo, kcrag, atg200, as well as my Texas climbing partner clymbr_chk, on vacation from the evils of Dallas for the weekend. We began on some of the best moderate one pitch granite crack climbs that I had seen. Great day, nice and leisurely, until Andrew pointed out a very attractive and steep crack on a separate pinnacle.

It was Quiver and Quill, 5.10c, FA by the late great Earl Wiggins. Andrew said that he had seen it buck off numerous 5.11 climbers. In fact he had seen nobody onsight it. That was enough for me. Racked up, Steph on belay, I stepped up to the awkward start.

"You're going to get your ass kicked," said Andrew jovially. I then uttered the words that sealed my fate:

"three weeks at Indian Creek, no falls, tons of 5.11 onsights! This climb is MINE!"

Bad Karma. Clouds rolled in and around the pinnacle at 9500 feet. The instant I touched the rock, thunder hit. I quickly got into my hasty, dynamic mode, which has earned me the nicknames "cyclone", "caffeinated climber", and a few other less than flattering labels. The crack was steep, demanding, and pumpy. In my hurry, I would make large lunges to the good handjams, rather than spend my time in thinner sections. My feet were cutting frequently, and I felt like a boulderer. The gear, however, was good, and I felt in control. It was steep enough that I could not even feel the rain that was starting. I as going to onsight the thing, I knew it.

Then the crack got wide. Wider than fists, and steeper. I popped in a bomber blue camalot, retreated back down to the last good handjam, and rested. More thunder. I could see that I'd have to yard up, get an armbar, let my feet cut, and then do a kind of "beached whale" mantle up to where the offwidth became a squeeze chimey. If I could make it to there, I had it. More thunder. Better hurry.

I fell. I attempted the mantle, failed due to pump, and fell backwards, kicking my cam as I went past it. Luckily, its remaining two lobes held. I think that I let loose a whole bunch of profanity. This thing was hard for a .10! Two more shorter falls followed before I realized that there was a flake off to the right that would have made the whole thing, well... 5.10c. My crack technique, honed after three weeks in the desert, had zoned me completely out from the notion of using face holds. Luckily I did not have to use my injured finger, either. After a short rest in the chimney, I bouldered out, away from the crack, and mantled onto the summit.

More lightening. As I frantically struggled with my figure 8 knot (tightened well by three whippers), I heard my loyal "friends" yelling to me that they were getting the hell off of the mountain before they got killed. Thanks. Steph waited for me at least. I rapped, cleaned, and got lost on the hike back. I was way bitter about the climb. I still believe that it was the rain storm that mde me get nervous and fall. I mean, it was a fricking 5.10!

My mood did not improve that evening at the Bucksnort Saloon, where Andrew's friend Ben loudly informed me that my proudest onsight at the Creek, Spaghetti Western, was 5.11- at the very most. I refrained from throwing my beer at his Southern Engineer face.

The next week, me and Steph went on to Rocky Mountain National Park, climbed at Lumpy Ridge. We did a five pitch 5.7 called Osiris. It was fun, and again, I was getting more and more confident with doing multipitch. Aside from that, however, I was not that stoked on Lumpy Ridge. The place would be a lot cooler if it were not tilted to that less-than-vertical angle, and its cracks are a bit flared. Things were a bit tense on Osiris as well. We had gotten a late start, and the thunderheads were rolling in as we began the second pitch. I was in a hurry, Steph was climbing in her regular careful manner, and we were both just nervous about the coming storm. Luckily, the climb turned out really well.

To sum up the entire Colorado portion, however, I will just say this: I liked Turkey Rocks a lot. Excellent granite. Other than that, however, the climbing on the front range did not really appeal to me for some reason. Just not my style. It may have just been my finger, though. hehe.


moabbeth


Aug 28, 2003, 9:25 PM
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Later that day, a Valley bum with a white, windowless van shows up at the crag, looking for a partner. His name is Kevin, and it turns out that he is good friends with elcapbuzz from this site. He's a great guy, despite his fixation with 1980s climbing styles (boreals with socks, hawaiian pants, etc. hehe). .


Was it Kevin Conti?

Sounds like an awesome trip, I'm closing my eyes and imagining being at those places now. Ahhh...soon enough.


camhead


Aug 28, 2003, 9:26 PM
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Yeah. You know him? I hate to give away the rest of the trip, but we met up with him later in the Valley in June. I'd really like to try to do my first wall with him next year. Cool guy.


tenn_dawg


Aug 28, 2003, 9:42 PM
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This story has got me drooling!

What an awesome trip. I would LOVE to do something like this.

But then again...must...graduate...

Travis


camhead


Aug 28, 2003, 10:04 PM
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okay, I'm on a roll now. Short Chapter.

EARLY JUNE: Interim, back to Utah, prelude to Yosemite.

We drove north from Rocky Mountain to Vedauwoo, a cluster of granite on the high plains of Eastern Wyoming, just off I-80. I had heard tons about this place, and really wanted to check it out. Andrew lent me his guide to it, and for the whole drive up, I was just salivating at the potential crack routes. Unfortunately, upon pulling in and setting up camp, it started raining. It was not merely an afternoon rainstorm, and lasted for the next two days. After getting all the approaches dialed and gazing at the beautiful routes that were seeping wet, Steph and I gave up, and began the long drive to Logan, UT.

Logan is where I grew up, and where I was introduced to climbing about three years ago. The previous summer, I had gotten really excited about harder sport routes, and began probably half a dozen projects on the limestone escarpments of Logan Canyon. They were all way out of my league at the time, and I don't think that I sent one thing that summer. I was number chasing, and looking back at it, it was pretty pathetic.

However, I felt that I had gotten stronger on the Texas boulders, and my endurance was toned from the trad binge of the last month and a half. I had all the moves of the projects memorized, and was ready to give them another go. My tendon was also feeling a bit better as well. I was ready to return to the contrivance that is sport climbing.

It was a nice break in Logan. We just stayed at my parents' house, hung out with old friends, and went up the canyon every evening. I had really taken it for granted living five minutes away from quality rock when I lived there. In Texas, it is not uncommon to drive three hours for a day of climbing on what would be considered choss in Utah. But I digress.

Steph was pretty stoked on the vertical limestone of Logan Canyon as well. It is similar to the stuff at Potrero Chico– where we met, and where she has climbed frequently. We started out easy, as I was not sure how much I could push my injured finger. After five days of climbing, I was ready to try Tooth and Nail, a four bolt, gently overhanging crimpy 5.12c, which had been my nemesis last year. I toproped it once, cruised it, came back the next day, and sent it. Somehow, I did not feel that good about it. Sport was not feeling that great after all the traditional stuff that we had been doing. My finger did not hurt at all, though.

During our time in Logan, we also made the trip out to City of Rocks, Idaho, only a two hour drive away. Incredibly, I had taken this place for granted as well when I lived in Logan, and rarey went out there. We mostly did moderates out there, my cousin came with, and it was his first exposure to trad. I also convinced Steph to lead some gear roues, which was awesome. Just a really relaxing time. Until I started thinking about Crack of Doom.

The line that is Crack of Doom is awe-inspiring. It is a perfect, Indian Creek style crack that starts very thin, gets wide, and switches corners. The crux looked to be getting to the crack. It looked like a steep v4-ish boulder problem up to a fixed pin about fifteen feet off the deck. Not a lot of people do this route, simply because the moves required to get off the deck are so bouldery, so antithetical to traditional crack moves. The route goes at 5.11c, but most people agree that the crux moves are a bit harder, and the actual crack is a bit easier.

I had almost tried Crack of Doom the previous year. My friend Greta had been pestering me to give it a go, but I refused. An aquaintance of us had died recently in the Wind Rivers, I knew that I would be hangdogging, and just did not feel up to doing the route. It was then that I promised myself not to do it until I was sure I could flash it. It would be perfect.

So Steph, my cousin, and I looked at it. I decided to warm up on the sport route to its left (Fall Line), and see how I felt. Fall Line wound up getting me a bit more worked than it should have, and I instantly knew that today was not the day to do Crack of Doom. I did try out the first two moves while being spotted. They were bouldery, and I wondered if I had lost the opportunity for a flash by even touching the route. Oh well. We left the City.

The next day, Steph and I packed up her little Toyota Tercel, and we headed south to Maple Canyon. I was bummed on sport, but Maple is always fun. plus, the juggy holds would be good for my finger. We did a wide variety of routes: short, long, vertical, steep, hard, easy. I can never remember route names at that place. All of them kind of blend together in a haze of cobblestones. I surprised myself by flashing my first 5.12, a very long, slightly overhung jugfest on the Minimum Crag. Testament to the soft grades at Maple, I guess. We did not make the hike up to a certain 5.12d that had been my project the previous year. I knew it wouldn't go. After three days, we headed west, towards some place called Yosemite.


camhead


Aug 28, 2003, 10:20 PM
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whoa, I just noticed that I shifted from present to past tense in my narrative. lame. I like present more. that's all 'til tomorrow.


moabbeth


Aug 28, 2003, 10:28 PM
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Yeah. You know him? I hate to give away the rest of the trip, but we met up with him later in the Valley in June. I'd really like to try to do my first wall with him next year. Cool guy.

You'll have a great time with him. I saw him in the valley in April and June. I knew who you were talking about when you gave that clothing description. His favorite type of lady also would have sealed that it was him (:wink: if ya know him you know what I'm talking about hehe! :wink: )


Partner calamity_chk


Aug 28, 2003, 10:32 PM
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*jealous*


i wanna get out of dallas, too..ooooo..oooo


atg200


Aug 29, 2003, 7:59 AM
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hey camhead, a little edit. the "got lost" part should be more along the lines of "we headed down the wrong side of the mountain. clymbr_chk guilt tripped atg200 into running back up and over to the other side of turkey and then another mile or so down the trail to catch up with you and spare you a really long hike out."


Partner calamity_chk


Aug 29, 2003, 11:39 AM
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*sigh* .. it wasnt intended to be a guilt trip, i was simply concerned about my directionally challenged climbing partner and his SO.

and fwiw, i became concerned about the dashing young hero after he was gone for a while .. though, i thought i made up for any imposition later in the day .. ;)


camhead


Aug 31, 2003, 6:56 PM
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Yosemite: Late June, Early July

okay, one more installment. I'll try to stickin present tense this time, eh?

We head directly west in Steph's little Toyota, across the Great Basin on highway 50 from Maple Canyon. Pass the turnoff to Ibex (the mere thought of which makes my finger hurt), and make a slight detour into Great Basin National Park to camp for the night. The next day we make the long cruise across Nevada, past Mono Lake, and enter Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass. I'm blown away by the granite domes of Tuolomne Meadows; we park at the base of Lembert dome just to check it out. I run up it as far as I can go, scoping out the lines and experiencing a mildly skechy descent back to the base.

Steph, being quite organized, has reserved us a campsite about twenty minutes from the Valley. I'm bummed about missing out on the whole Camp 4 experience, but having our own site to spread out is nice, and it's cool, with no mosquitos.

The next day, we drive into the Valley, I get my first views of all the famous monoliths: El Cap, Half Dome, Manure Pile, Royal Arches, etc. Nothing has prepared me for this experience. I completely zone out the touristy shopping mall atmosphere of the Valley floor. We are actually in the Valley today to attend the wedding of a couple of Steph's friends at the Awahnee Hotel. No time to do any routes– I'm overwhelmed by the quantity in the guidebook– so we just hike up towards Washington Column from the Hotel. I find some excellent and difficult crack boulder problems to play around on. The granite is pretty slick.

The next day, nursing hangovers from the wedding party the night before, we join some friends at the Church Bowl for some mild cragging. I second our friend Ruben on Bishop's Terrace, a way fun 5.8 with just a touch of hand crack. I also lead The Church Bowl Tree, a 5.10a fingercrack. It's way slick, and I discover the secret of pinky locks in piton scars. I've never done anything like this before. It has good enough rests that I am able to do nearly all of it on passive gear (way good practice for an Indian Creek camhead). Clipping the chains is the crux: I've got to lock off on a left handed finger lock with bad feet and reach. The route is awesome, though, and I am starting to get way stoked on the slippery Yosemite granite.

Next day, Ruben and I decide to check out the Regular Route of Fairview Dome in Tuolomne. It's one of the "50 Classic Routes," and he's way stoked on it. He wants me to leading the crux first pitch, however, and I agree to do so. It is way cold. Tuolomne is still covered with a fair amount of snow, the line is wet, and there are thunderheads rolling in. My slab technique also sucks. The route follows a crack, but there is a flake that pushes your body away from the crack, making me splay my appendages across a bad slab with one pinky in the crack to offer security as I Elvis-leg my way up the route. It has good gear, but I'm still sketched. I even have to downclimb the crux to a stance once before committing to it, all the while thinking "5.9 my ass!"

When we get to the first ledge,Ruben takes over the lead on the 5.8 handcrack. The clouds keep getting thicker, the wind is howling, and I'm cold and still sketched from the first pitch. I don't want to get caught on slab in the rain. Ruben is having a little trouble on this lead, and finally we opt to bail from a tree, the only retreat option on the route. I lower Ruben back to the ledge, climb to his highpoint and then down climb the pitch, clean gear as I go. I think that Ruben is a more than a little bummed that I opted to bail– after all, he really wanted this route. As it turns out, it never even rains, so we're both pissed. We hitch to the Tuolomne store, buy beer, and get drunk on a picnic table as we wait for Steph to pick us up. Failure sucks.

For the next week or so, Steph and I do a lot of moderate stuff. Nutcracker is the highpoint of all the moderate multipitches that we've done, even though I leave my helmet at the top of Manure Pile Buttress. I joke that it would be easier to get it by just soloing the route. Steph does not laugh, and I run back up the descent trail.

A few days later, at the Cookie Cliff, I tell a local that if Outer Limits were to somehow find its way to Supercrack Buttress, it would not even get any stars in the guidebook. I'm not sure if he thinks that is very funny. Still, the route is awesome. I get to the first set of chains about 100 feet up, and clip them, balancing on a tiny ledge. Steph yells up that she is not feeling solid enough to second the line– it looks too jamming intensive. After pleading with her a bit, and not wanting to lower down, I opt to just continue on up the crack, linking the route's two pitches into one massive 200 foot pitch. Hell, if Potter can do it on Epitaph, I can on this thing. I run it out for the remainder of the crack, plant a bomber piece before the bouldery crux traverse to the right, and hit the anchors with the rope completely dragging. A minor semi-epic follows as I rapell and clean the route.

After a week or so in the Valley, we move back up to Tuolomne. I am half tempted to get back on Fairview, but the thought of doing the first pitch again keeps me away. Instead, we concentrate upon single pitch slab lines. I find that I can do slab way better if I drink only one cup of coffee in the morning rather than the regular three. It even starts getting fun. We also discover the sick pleasure of doing old-school runouts (albeit on easier stuff); of clipping anchors, and starting up into a sea of slab with no bolt in sight. The absolute tranquility of moving upwards forty feet above pro is indescribable.

Finally, the last day in the Valley arrives. It's also me and Steph's last day together. I'm out of money, and have a couple of commercial trips to guide back in Southern Utah, where I have also left my truck. Steph plans on continuing on up to the Northwest to Smith Rock, and then hopefully finding work in Alaska. I'll miss her, I don't know when I'll see her again. I'm also kind of sketched about hitch-hiking across the Nevada Desert. We are leaving Tuolomne for the Nevada border, where Steph will drop me off at highway 50, when we get a call on the cell. A couple of guys have seen my plea for a ride on the Camp 4 message board, and are heading through Utah. No hitching necessary. The next day, I'm back in Utah.


strongerthanyesterday


Aug 31, 2003, 7:09 PM
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Nice TR. Very fun to read... congrats on scoring a ride back to Utah. Keep on adventurin', that's what life is for!!!


camhead


Sep 1, 2003, 2:23 PM
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Re: Camhead's Big Roadtrip: May-August 03 [In reply to]
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okay, I'm almost done with this novel of a trip report.

July: Back in Southern Utah, and very little climbing.

Through my undergraduate years, I put myself through school by guiding tourists through the incomparable canyons of southern utah every summer. I did jeep tours, raft trips, hiking trips, and horseback trips. Years before climbing had even entered into my mind, the deserts of Southern Utah were an obsession, and during those six seasons I managed to explore well over one hundred remote sandstone canyons, both on the job, and on my own time. I still have not even scratched the surface of this region, and my love of it probably accounts for my fanatic obsession with the Wingate of Indian Creek.

Anyway, around the first of July, I return to Torrey, Utah, a tiny town just outside Capitol Reef National Park. While there are a few dozen quality crack routes in the park, I put climbing on hold for a while. My employer is swamped with business, and for the next three weeks I do not have a day off, guiding and cooking for three five-day horseback trips in a row. I spend most of this time on the 11,000 foot volcanic plateau of Boulder Mountain. The views are extensive from up here– a panorama from the north rim of the Grand Canyon all the way to the Moab area. It is like looking at a three dimensional map. A few days into the first trip, I watch with helpless disappointment as a particularly secret crag, nestled in the canyons, goes up in smoke with a massive forest fire. I guess I won't be climbing there this year.

After three weeks of guiding, I receive a call from Steph. She has accepted a job on an ecotourist-oriented cruise ship that travels through Alaska's inside passage. It is a six month commitment. If she takes it, we won't see each other for a long time, and she drives from Oregon to Torrey for a final visit.

Luckily, I have a few days off from trips. We chase the shade in Capitol Reef, doing some of the crack routes that I'm familiar with. I also decide to check out Capitol Roof, which I have not done before (it was way beyond my level last time I was in the area). This beautiful crack starts out as a thin, edgy fingertips line, but is perfect hands width by the time it hits a ten foot horizontal roof. I'm out of shape form not climbing for three weeks, and pump out quickly on the roof, losing the onsight. I'm still stoked, though, and pull the rope to get it on the next run. Although loose rock kind of takes away from the quality of the upper portion, this is an awesome route. It is definitely less travelled than many of the lines at the Creek.

We also check out Big Rocks, a bouldering area west of Torrey that has just made it into the new Utah Bouldering Guide. It has a few good lines, but for the quantity of boulders, it is a little disappointing. The overall atmosphere of the place is not too cool either– Big Rocks is Wayne county's unofficial flesh pit. Locals bring unwanted dogs and livestock here to shoot them and leave the bodies to rot.

All too soon, Steph leaves for her job. I'll miss her. The only other climbing I do is up on Boulder Mountain. While hiking on one of the commercial trips, I found a beautiful handcrack, an anomaly on the mountain. Although the plateau is very rocky, almost all of its basalt cliffs are choss– it doesn't even have that many bouldering opportunities. However, this one line is quality, and I don't think that is has been done before. I return to it without tourists in tow, and cruise the first fifty feet– shoeless, chalkless, a perfect solo. It is a solid, vertical handcrack, completely straight and uniform, feels about 5.8+. I reach the point where the crack fades out and the rock becomes less than vertical, and am faced with typical Boulder Mountain choss. I don't want to die, so I simply climb back down the perfect handjams. I'm not sure if this counts as a first ascent, as I didn't top out, but it is a quality line nonetheless.

Around the end of July, I drive my truck the five hours north back to Logan.


camhead


Sep 1, 2003, 4:42 PM
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Re: Camhead's Big Roadtrip: May-August 03 [In reply to]
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okay, I think this is the last installment.

August: Logan, City of Rocks, Flagstaff...

I wind up back in Logan for my sister's wedding. There is plenty the regular project chasing in Logan Canyon, which I will not really go into too much here. I hate to say that sport climbing is rapidly losing its appeal. My finger is pretty much healed by this time, I've just bought a new pair of 5.10 Southwests, and many of my projects from last year get completed, but the whole process just feels a little shallow. Enough on that.

Much more importantly, I make another trip out to City of Rocks, and also manage to check out the recently opened and publicized Castle Rocks Ranch State Park. My cousin Mike, who is just learning to climb, accompanies me. Castle Rocks is nice; we find a handful of easy cracks that are in the morning shade, as well as the easiest 5.10c sport route that I've ever done. By the time we hit the classic Red Rib, I have been spouting off all morning about how soft the grades here are.

Red Rib is nearly an entire rope length of impeccable slab. It is also most definitely not softly graded. Though only .10a, it really challenges the "zen of slab" that I've been working on all summer. It is definitely the nicest route that we do at Castle Rocks. For some reason, there does not seem to be as much shade here as in the City.

We do some moderate crack lines that afternoon in the City, the names of which I can't remember. Although Mike is a great partner, he is still learning to belay responsively, and I use his inexperience as an excuse to stay the hell away from Crack of Doom. Maybe next time...

A week later, I am packed up, ready to head south, amking my way gradually back to Texas. The night before I leave, I hear that some old friends will be out at City of Rocks again. I figure it's a sign: no more procrastinating, I must send the stupid project. I spray to every one of my friends in Logan that I will do Crack of Doom, thus insuring that I cannot back out.

I stay pretty mellow the first three days at the City, doing nothing over 5.11a, and mostly toproping sport routes. We do Rye Crisp and Wheat Thins, two classic moderate crack lines that are way fun. The second to last day, I get on Bloody Fingers, a less than vertical 5.10a fingercrack. It goes pretty smoothly until I get suckered into going off route on some face holds. The next thing I know, I am twenty feet above my pro, feet pasted on a blank slab, and no hands. I'm only about ten feet from the top, but I start getting nervous. The right leg is on the verge of Elvis-ing. A whipper would be really bad on this slab. "It's only .10a," I think as I shut my eyes, exhale, highstep on nothing, and levitate my way to the top. I was most definitely off route, as the anchors are twenty feet to my right. As I clip them, I am loving life. Crack of Doom will go down tomorrow.

That night, I drink very little, and go to bed early. Can't have any excuses for failure. The next morning we get up early, and do one 5.9 as a warm-up. The people I'm with, while strong and competant, are not traddies, and they are a little apprehensive at my nervous attitude. We walk to the base of Morning Glory Spire to the route, which is still in the morning shade.

I love the feeling before you get on a trad route that is at your limit. The nerves and adreneline are at the maximum. What am I nervous about? Ceratinly not death or injury; the crack is very protectable, and the crux start has a good landing. I trust Marcello, my belayer/spotter, completely. The fear that I have is of failure, pure and simple. I have worked myself up for a year on this route, putting off doing it again and again, waiting for the "perfect onsight," whatever that is. Essentially, while I've never done the line, I've been projecting it mentally for the past year. I am leaving the City that afternoon, if I fail on this crack I will have to wait for how long to do it again? I may not even want to do it again, considering how much I have built it up for an onsight.

I rack up: everything from a blue Metolius TCU to a #4 Friend. Two quick draws for the fixed piton at the top of the boulder problem and the fixed stopper about four feet above that in the thin seam that will become the crack. I try to expell all doubt and negativity from my mind. Tie in, moccs on, chalk up.

"Climbing."

(do not read the following if you plan on onsighting Crack of Doom. hehe)

My hands are crossed on the two side pulls, since I'll need the left on the more positive one. I sag as if in a sit-start, and place my right toe on a crystal out right at shoulder height. Lunge, catch the pinch with my right hand. Pull up, cross left hand up onto a tiny crystal crimp directly above the pinch. Both my feet cut, and I re-place them onto the starting side pulls. Deadpoint out to a sidepull flake with my right, and clip the pin with my left hand, which then goes up to the seam in a really bad pinky lock. Move up on the pinky lock to a good right crimp, set my feet, and clip the fixed stopper. I deadpoint up to the next little pinky pod in the crack, and pull up, highstepping onto the crimp. At this point I can lean against a little corner, shaking out my right hand while hugging into the wall with a low fingerlock.

I feel pretty good, but the crux doesn't look over yet. The crack is still too thin even for my blue Metolius, and I'm going to have to crimp/layback it to get higher. I reach as high as I can with my right, searching for another fingerlock, a crimp, whatever. Nothing. I'll have to commit to the layback on what is obviously too thin of a crack. No pro yet. Oh well, I hope that fixed nut is good.

The move is not too bad. One move of layback gets me up enough to hit a good sloper. Two more moves, and I can place a yellow Metolius. Good fingers. At this point, the climb is in the bag. I cruise up the perfect crack (well, perfect by granite standards), and a few minutes later clip the chains. I haven't felt this good since Spaghetti Western at the Creek.

I try the route on toprope again, and can't pull the first moves. I'm not in it mentally. Were the first section to be a boulder problem by itself, it would be solid V4 or V5. Move for move, the crack is much harder than its 5.11c rating. To think that the Lowes did this thing back in the '70s really puts the whole deal into perspective.

A few hours later, I'm driving south towards Flagstaff, AZ, where I'm to meet some people and check the area out. I make it to the Colorado River before I pull over and camp.


camhead


Sep 1, 2003, 5:17 PM
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Re: Camhead's Big Roadtrip: May-August 03 [In reply to]
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Flagstaff:

I stop briefly in Flagstaff for groceries, and head west and south across the Ponderossa covered plateau to Paradise Forks. I've tried to call a few folks that I've met through this site, but not gotten in touch with anyone. I figure I can just link up with a partner at the Forks.

That evening, I walk along the rim of the two little basalt box canyons that are full of quality 80 foot crack routes. No bolts in sight, area ethics stress natural pro and/or toproping off of the numerous trees. I run into a couple, and introduce myself. I am so obviously scrounging for a partner. They are from Moab, and on learning the guy's name, I am fairly sure that it is the same guy I was supposed to meet at the Creek three months ago, but never did.

We climb all the next day. I start out toproping to get used to the rock quality of the area. I've never done basalt before, but the cracks are the best I've climbed outside the Creek. The whole area is just fun: rap down, climb back up, repeat. I confirm that my partners are crackwhore, and his wife. They came to this out of the way crag to get away from it all for a couple days. I'm kind of sorry that I ruined their attempt to climb alone, but not that sorry. Hell, I needed a partner. By the end of the day, I'm feeling good enough to try out Aqualung, an steep 5.10. The rain hits as I top out, and I have to belay in a downpour, shirtless. Life is good.

The next day, I do a 5.10+/.11-, the name of which I forget. I also toprope a few .11s, but do not get around to leading them. I'm still not super comfortable on this rock. I leave the couple to climb in peace the following day, annd head back to Flagstaff to check out some boulders. It is time to see if my tendon is really healed.

I do a bit at Priest's Draw, which reminds me of the limestone in Central Texas. M.O.A.B. (Mother of All Boulders) is classic. The following couple of days are very rainy, and I just hang out in my tent, catching up on school reading. On friday night, as I am about to make dinner and dwell upon the fact that I haven't climbed for two days, a car pulls up. It is Bob Van Belle (BVB from this site). He orders me to pack up and crash at his house. Then Curt (also from this site) shows up, and we proceed to drink a lot of whiskey.

The next morning is leisurely as we wait for the rain to stop. It finally does, and we head out to the reason that originally prompted me to come out to Flagstaff: the semi-secret Bachar Cracker of Flagstaff, one of Bob's discoveries. This limestone roof crack is close to perfect. Sit start, two good hand jams, one painful one, and then a finger jam over the lip of the roof. My feet cut, and in mid-swing I happen to hit another perfect handjam. I campus up two moves before hitting a jug and topping out. It feels a little easier than the Bachar Cracker in Yosemite.

Perhaps because I was a little too cocky in my flash, Curt takes me around a circuit of sharp,volcanic, not very steep boulder problems at West Elden and Gloria's. I proceed to get thoroughly whooped as he cruises every problem. Fortunately, it is only my fingertips that hurt; my tendon is feeling great. Curt makes up for the thrashing by buying me Mexican food. fieldmouse lets me crash on his floor that night, after more drinking.

I crash out at Next day I meet up with Meghan (lilred) and her boyfriend at The Pit. Limestone sport. I spend most of the day talking about how much I hate sport, and get whooped on my chosen project for the day. No sends, and a minor epic as I retrieve my quickdraws from the route. Meghan makes up for it by buying me Thai food that evening.

This turns out to have been the last day of my climbing roadtrip. I begin the sixteen hour drive back to Dallas that evening, and make it nearly to Amarillo before I have to pull over and sleep. The next day I can feel the humidity rising as I head east and south, deep into the Heart o'Texas. By Wichita Falls I have turned on my air conditioner for the first time in four months, and am seriously wondering what I am doing going back to this place.

The end.



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