Friday, May 15, 2009

Sun in Eldo, Whippers and FAs

So, I figured since this page is really all about climbing, and the crazy roadtrips it inspires, I should probably post something about climbing.

I've not been climbing very much for the past month or so, mostly on account of my injury a while back. My wrist has taken a while to heal, and it's still not quite 100%. Regardless, I've gotten in a few days of climbing this week.
Eldo is absolutely going off this time of year! Since February 08, when I moved to Colorado, I've maybe been climbing there 200+ times, all year round. This is definitely the most attractive climbing season, though. We spent many days chasing sun and shivering in puffy jackets all winter, and almost as many chasing shade and sweating in t-shirts all summer. Fall is super nice, but by then the days are shorter and the landscape browner. Right now the sun is high, it's not too hot, the canyon is beautifully green, and it seems like everyone is visiting Eldo.

Me bouldering on Pickpocket (awesome juggy 5.8)

So, back to me. Matt and his friend Natalie graciously invited me out for a day of cranking today, and we had a blast. Some of the coolest days are the ones where you don't really have an agenda, and everything that you get done is just icing on the cake (the cake being a beautiful day spent outside) So we warmed up on "C'est What", a fun steep route on the Whale's Tale, and then made our way over to "Breakfast of Champions". This is a pretty cool line right off the trail that I've walked by tons of times, but never gotten around to doing. It's really short, maybe only 40', but it makes up for it with interesting steep climbing and tricky gear. Matt got on it first, cruised it, and came down saying it was easy 5.10 (the book gives it 11a). Natalie cleaned it, and then it was my turn to lead. It wasn't a true onsight, since I had just watched Matt on it, but it felt good to send an "11" in Eldo that easily. The gear is bomber; anyone that has any endurance should have no problem dropping in more than enough good pieces.

Flashing "Breakfast of Champions" 5.11a

First Ascents really inspire me in climbing, even though I have never actually gotten one! (I've come close though...). I think a big part of getting FAs, especially in heavily traveled place like Eldo, is having the vision to see potential lines. That, or climbing super hard, death defying hairfests. After lowering off Breakfast of Champions, Matt spotted a few holds on the steep face to the right. The line he saw connected BoC to Captain Crunch, a 5.13 sport route (avoiding the crux of that route). After a burn on TR, Matt manned up and led it, and the result is a pretty cool variation, with a totally new and independent crux. We thought it was about 11+, and the gear is pretty sparse, consisting of 2 pieces in the BoC corner before the traverse, and then two small pieces on CC after it. There's a bolt on CC, but Matt opted not to clip it, keeping the new variation all natural. We used double ropes to maximize the gear that was there, but it still seemed possible to take a dangerous fall from above the crux. Way to go Matt!

Matt crimping, and probably FAing, on "Real Men Eat Eggs" 11+R

So after all the excitement of the wild steep climbing, we headed over to the Bastille to get one more pitch in. I had never done "Interceptors", and was psyched to try for the onsight. The route starts up "XM", with very little gear in the first 30' (my only piece would later clean itself and hit my belayer). Luckily, once the climbing gets steeper, plenty of good gear appears, and you climb an awesome hand-ish type crack (finding a handjam in Eldo always gets me excited). When the crack gets steeper, XM breaks off right to keep the pitch at 5.10, but Interceptors goes straight up. Just when the wall is at its steepest, the awesome crack disappears and you have to pull the crux (11b) moves with your feet above you last cam. I was glad that my head was in it and I was willing to go for it, but unfortunately my hand's weren't willing and I got to take a big whipper. The crux turned out to be hard to decipher, and I ended up logging some more air time (thanks Natalie for the soft catches!). Eventually I figured out the cryptic moves to gain the slab above, but that just leaves you even further from the gear with more not-so-trivial slab above. I got creative with a cool sling around a handhold, and then ran it out the rest of the way to the chains. Sweet route, I will definitely miss those awesome sequences that make climbing in Eldo so enjoyable. Despite the choss and the birdshit and the crowds, Eldo is FUN!

Catching air off "Interceptors" 11b R (thanks Matt for the drunken photography)

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