A mere few hours before I was to leave for Horseshoe Canyon Ranch people in the group began to email back and forth about the horrible weather forecast. One person bailed and decided to just head up to Oklahoma (but they also ended up getting rain) and another jumped ship completely. As the trip coordinator I had to head down early to snatch some camping spots and pay our fees. By the time I was ready to leave I still hadn’t heard from everybody but ventured out on the road anyway, just praying at least one person would show up. Thankfully almost everybody decided to chance the weather, and we are all glad we did.
I arrived early on Friday afternoon (and the weather was gorgeous), anxious to climb I hoped I would be able to bum a belay from other climbers, but fortunately I ran into some other climbers I new from Dallas and was able to join up with them. I squeezed six climbs in that afternoon, most of them on lead. This made for a nice warm up for the next day, my 30th birthday and my “Birthday Challenge”. My goal was to climb 30 routes (plus one to grow on) by the end of the day.
Waking up early Saturday morning I was super psyched about the day and the sky was clear, so I just knew I was going to be able to complete my challenge, however I wasn’t confident the people in my group would be willing to continually belay me throughout the day. But to my surprise they were very encouraging and patiently gave me belay after belay.
However, my hopes were nearly shattered when it began to rain. All of the climbers in the area took shelter under a nice overhang and waited out the rain. It wasn’t too long and we were back on the rock sending more routes. At that point I was only around 18 climbs and had plenty more to go. At this point I knew I was going to have to start running laps on some routes I had already lead. My own personal rule was I had to lead the route first and could then top rope it again as many times as I wanted.
After running several laps on Sun Dial (5.7) I pulled the rope so I could move on to other 5.7 climbs on the same wall but the rope snagged in the anchor. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t untie the bite from my figure eight. So I once again jumped on the sharp end and lead the route again. I wasn’t excited about it though; this sand bagged route felt more like 5.9 at the start.
Once I got to the top of the route I saw the other end of the rope actually did not have the bite in the rope, it was simply kinked. All I had to do was give it a nice hard tug and the rope would have been free. After cleaning the route I looked behind me to see a sky full of grey clouds just laughing at me. I had just finished my 26th route and as I was being lowered the sky fell out. Once again we found ourselves under the overhang trying to wait out the rain, but there seemed to be no end in sight.
So, we had to leave the crag with only 26 routes under my belt. However, I am considering this a victory. I still completed my goal within 24 hours. I had climbed six routes the prior afternoon, bringing the grand total up to 32 routes. Although I wish I could have had them all done in the same span of daylight I know for sure I would have finished so I won’t be too down about it. Maybe I will try this again at 40.
Now, you may be asking yourself how I was feeling the next day. Well, honestly I felt pretty good. I was sore from fingertips to shoulders though, but overall I felt great. In fact I achieved my hardest trad lead to date. I lead Gilgameck (5.9). The morning had started off rainy, but once it let up we decided to gear up and head to an area called the Confederate Cracks because another guy and our group wanted to get some trad leads in. I had pointed him to Tree Beard (5.8) but after seeing the width of the crack he decided he wanted something easier.
As we headed down the train in search for an easier trad line the rain began to fall even heavier and it didn’t appear there was going to be any dry climbs. I brought our crew to an area called The Hanging Gardens were there was an overhanging 5.12. We contemplated stick clipping the second bolt and playing around on the route, but I wasn’t feeling up for it, my main goal of the day was to shoot photos. Naren didn’t really want to either.
Then we spotted Gilgameck – fifty-five feet of awkward crack and chimney climbing to an anchor. And on top of that an overhang protected it from the rain. Seeing how Naren was the one excited to trad lead I told him to rope up, but somehow he convinced me to jump on the sharp end. As I peared up into the crack it appeared to protect really well (and it did) and had plenty of rest stances. It didn’t take long and I was psyched to lead the climb.
What seemed like an hour latter I reached the anchors! I remember looking down at my belayer numerous times, seeing the rain pouring down on his face and apologizing to the group for taking so long to lead the route, but they just kept encouraging me on. The result was an onsight lead for my first 5.9 trad route. Never have I lead anything that hard, and will likely be a while before I do again, but on the bright side my confidence level is building. This was the only climb we got in this day, but it was well worth it.
I am very pleased with how the weekend went. I feel that in some ways I am more physically fit than I have ever been before in my life. I remember days feeling more sore after only climbing a hand full of routes. The fact that I am able to sit here and type this up two days latter amazes me. It also lets me know I won’t have any problem climbing for an entire week in Colorado. Now hopefully my partner will be in good enough shape.
Bellow is a list of the routes that I climbed for the challenge including the ones I had done on Friday. Most all of them I did at least twice (except for Friday’s) so I could clean the anchors.
In no particular order:
- First Normal Form 5.9+
- Green Goblin 5.8
- Summer Rain 5.7 (climbed it in Chacos)
- Cotton Candy 5.6
- The Controversy 5.9-
- Dancing Bears 5.7 (Trad)
- Strongman 5.9+
- African Herbman 5.8+
- Leonid 5.9+
- Girth Hitch 5.7
- Sun Dial 5.7 (sand bagged start)
- Tres Equis 5.8 (sand bagged, or very contrived route)
- Groovy 5.8
- Being lowered off the first climb only to discover the rope was not long enough. I had to climb back up, and set up a single line rappel, then re-lead the route.
- Dancing Bear 5.7, the one trad route of the day
- Taking a big whipper off a 5.8 that I actually thought was a 5.10 from just looking at it. It rattled my nerves a bit
- Having to re-lead Sun Dial (5.7) after I thought the rope was stuck in the anchor, but it actually wasn’t
- Sending Local Hebrew 5.9 three times. (one of my all time favorite climbs)
- Feeling the stinging/tingling sensation in my arms around climb 19. Shook it off and kept going though
- Horses trying to eat Candace’s tent on Saturday morning
- Horses trying to eat Candace’s tent on Sunday morning
- Number one highlight for me was sending my first 5.9 trad route
Well, I hope you have been enjoying the blog so far. Sorry if the current post seemed a little disorganized; the short time I have this evening is all I will have for the rest of the week. I have recently managed to get some work done on the new design though, but the process is coming along slow, but eventually the new layout will be here. In the mean time I will continue to post. Also, please send me ideas of anything you would like to see here.
And thanks to Jen for taking the photos of me on Strongman. She is a great photographer, check out her work. I am also jelous of her digital Leica.