My original post was five pages long; I thought about posting it, but decided it would likely be best to post the short version. However, If you want to read the full unedited story of my day, you can read it here.
The stage of life I am in right know doesn’t allow for as much climbing as I would like, so whenever I get the opportunity for a long day of multi-pitch climbing I jump on it…or rather climb on it!
This past weekend I had just such an opportunity when I was in Las Vegas for a trade show. I allowed myself an extra day so I could get some climbing in at Red Rocks. I was fortunate enough to be connected With Larry DeAngelo, a local climber who has many FA’s to his name at Red Rocks, and has been climbing out there since 1975.
Larry was quite the character too. Prior to meeting to climb I received an email from him stating that he assumed I had been given all the appropriate warnings about climbing with him from Kevin, the friend who had connected us. I didn’t think much of it, but was pretty sure Larry was a solid climber with a taste for adventure.
When I met Larry at the trailhead he announced to me that we would be climbing on a 1980’s trad rack. I had no issues with this, as I had climbed with guys in the Texas Mountaineers that had gear this old. Another proclamation he made was that I was going to have a story to tell after our climb.
As we hiked off to the base of the climb the sun had still not come up but there was just enough light in the sky from the moon and stars that we didn’t need headlamps. Larry lead the way, and as we began hiking I noticed his pack was smaller than mine, which was strange considering he was carrying the gear. I knew at this point his ENTIRE rack was from 1980, not just a few pieces. The only food he brought was a plastic bag full of Peanut M&M’s and a 16oz bottle of water.
Once we got to the base of the climb we began gearing up and getting ready for the first of many pitches. Out of his pack Larry pulled out an orange Black Diamond harness that looked like it was 20 years old, and probably was. He stated that this was his concession over the swami belt, and proceeded with a rant about harnesses being for hanging and swami belts being for climbing.
The trad rack he pulled from his pack was about ¼ the size of what I would normally carry on a route. It consisted of 2 cams, a small set of wire nuts, a large hex, and a few dolt hexes, and a piece of gear I had never seen before that was basically a large metal T shape. I think there might have been a total of 10 pieces of gear in his entire rack, which covered a very narrow range, in terms of size. He even had a piton on the rack!
I knew before we left the parking lot it was going to be an interesting day, and this just confirmed it even more. We alternated leads on the first four pitches of the climb, with Larry taking the first lead. The belay he built on the first pitch left a lot to be desired in terms of comfort. He had simply wrapped a sling around a tree and was belaying off his 20 year old harness. Thankfully the climb we had chosen for the day was never harder than 5.6. The “don’t fall” mentality the leader always has to carry with him was just as true for the person following with Larry.
The 12 pitches or so of climbing went pretty fast, especially since Larry lead most of them. They all went about the same too….Larry would climb the 150ft+ pitch and only place a couple pieces of gear (a few more at on one pitch where he got nervous) then reach a belay ledge and sling a tree, and belay me up by his harness. I was even given a “hip belay” on one of the earlier pitches I lead, and on the crux move.
I would have lead more pitches myself, but I didn’t have a high enough comfort level placing mostly passive gear, and having very few options of what to place on top of that. We were also only using 50m twin ropes on a climb that required 60m ropes for some pitches, but we ended up only having to simul-climb on the fifth pitch. Once we ran out of rope, I had to climb up about 20 feet before Larry reached the belay ledge and was able to put me on belay.
The entire climb was about 12 pitches, which we finished in about 6 hours, but the climb was far from over. Since Larry considered rappelling back down the rock “retreating” we hiked off the back side of the mountain, which took an additional 5 hours, making our entire day a full 12+ hour day.
We were also far from done with the climbing. The hike out involved lots of 4th and 5th class scrambling, even over some short sections that I thought should have been roped. The walk off the backside incidentally involved several rappels, just not as many as going off the front side of the mountain. Oh, and not to mention what seemed like 40mph gusts of wind that nearly blew us over.
After lots of scrambling, rappelling, down scrambling and boulder hoping we arrived back at the main trail head and hiked back to the car. The hike back to the car seemed to take forever. I could see cars headlights going by on the road. They seemed MILES away, when in fact they were probably only about a mile away, but that portion of the hike seemed to take forever.
The long day was just the adventure I needed. It was refreshing being outside in creation, enjoying the mountains. I can’t wait for the day my kids are old enough to bring them out for adventures like this. Only difference will be is that I will bring a 60m rope, a new harness, a FULL trad rack, and will create belay stations with 3 pieces of gear in them. But even to my kids I will probably be a modern day Larry.