I was fortunate to spend last week in Estes Park with my lovely pregnant wife. It was our final who-rah so to speak before the baby arrives in September. Since my wife isn’t in any condition to climb I meet up with my friend Ben from Boulder for an afternoon of climbing in Lumpy Ridge on our second day. It was the only day I had planned for climbing, so I wanted to soak it up for all it was worth.
Ben had a lot of work going on that day, so we ended up getting a later start than expected. Seeing as how both of us were busy and unable to research climbs I took the suggestion of a friend on Twitter and decided on a climb called “Magical Chrome Plated Semi-Automatic Enema Syringe.” We read numerous reports that stated the first two pitches were the only two worth doing, but the rest of the route looked pretty fun, so we decided to go ahead and do all five pitches rather than search for more climbs after finishing the first two pitches.
Our plans however, did not go as we expected. Although FAR less epic than my previous trip to Lumpy Ridge we ended up only completing the first two pitches of the climb. Mostly because Ben was in quite a bit of pain from blisters he got on the hike in, and wearing agressive climbing shoes. The climbing itself went fairly well though, despite turning a two pitch climb into three.
Ben started out leading first so I could take photos of him on the way up the second pitch. Despite not having trad climbed in some time Ben was feeling confident and only took about 3/4 of the gear we brought. We also started the climb lower to the ground that we were supposed to. The actually climb started on top of a buttress just 20ft right of the crack we actually started climbing.
Ben climbed confidently but quickly found himself running out of gear and had to build an anchor half way up the first pitch of the climb (mostly because we started lower than we should have). This resulted in my leading the second half of the first pitch from what turned out to be an nice belay station. I ended up bringing up the rest of the gear Ben left on the ground. Upon arriving at the belay we made an easy transition over to my lead.
I also hadn’t lead trad in quite some time but was still feeling very confident and was able to put some run out in the climb, but eventually came to a spot were I wasn’t sure which direction the climb actually went. As I moved above my last gear placement the crack appeared to disappear over a bulge. I ended up down climbing to a secure spot and Ben was able to check the guide book to see where the route actually went. It turns out I had to traverse left to an alcove via a horizontal crack.
The traverse over was easy climbing, but a bit of a head trip for the leader. A slip would have resulted in a big fall and pendulum over to the right – that is as long as the micro cams held. The first couple moves left were the hardest, but after that you get solid hand placement into a crack and are able to place another piece of gear. After finishing the traverse I build an anchor and belayed Ben up to meet me.
Typically we would have swapped leads and Ben would have taken the next pitch since he was geared up and on the lead end of the rope, but his feet were in so much pain from the blisters we decided I should lead the next pitch as well. It took as a few minutes to flake the rope and switch over the belay. The switch over was mostly difficult due to the newness of my rope and the rope clusters that formed. But after finishing the transition I was ready to lead again.
This was also when we decided it was going to be best not to finish the final three pitches. We had wasted a bit of time at the belay and breaking the climb up into an extra pitch. The second pitch of climbing was a bit run out due to not having large pieces of gear for the layback crack. I was however able to find some smaller points deeper in the flake, but the placements were marginal (meaning they likely would have not held a fall). The climbing was easy though after pulling through the first couple of moves. After the layback crack ended the trip to the large belay ledge was cruiser!
After reaching the top I set up a comfortable sitting belay and waited for Ben. It took him a while to break down the anchor because a Metolius Power Cam was stuck in the rock. After working the jammed piece for about 15 minutes I heard a victory cry from below. Soon after Ben was climbing and came to rest on the large belay ledge.
Despite not climbing the entire five pitches I had a great day. It felt wonderful to just be outside on the gorgeous bluebird day. The hike in and out were exciting enough themselves to enjoy the day, but the climbing just added some spice. It also felt good to know my trad skills are still in tact. I hope to get out to Enchanted Rock again soon before the summer heat explodes.
The start of our trip to Estes Park and the rest of the week included a lot of hiking, including an 11 mile run around Lumpy Ridge. I will be posting trip reports on those later this week.