Lumpy ate my rope
Late night under the moon light
Indeed, epic fail
It started out as a lazy day… our rest day. We slept in until about 7 p.m. Typical wake up time earlier in the week was 5-6 a.m., so sleeping until 7 was quite enjoyable but near impossible to sleep any latter. After waking up and milling around the campground a bit we decided to head over to The Stanley in Estes Park for breakfast. One of the girls from the group we helped out at Longs Peak the day before worked there; she ended up hooking us up with some great food at an amazing price. I had an awesome vegan burrito with the most meat-like “sausage” I have tasted since becoming vegetarian – it was delicious. After filling our bellies with food we made a trip to Starbucks in hopes of seeing an acquaintance from the Dallas area that worked there, we didn’t see him so walked around downtown a bit and then headed back to the campground.
Since this was our rest day I began spending some time reading, writing in my journal, reflecting on the trip and on things going on in my life. It wasn’t too long before we realized that it wasn’t going to be easy to take a rest day. So we brought out the guidebook for Lumpy Ridge and started searching for a climb we could do that was close to the parking lot since it was already around lunchtime at that point. After selecting a climb we hopped in the Subaru (in the land of Subaru’s might I add) and headed to the crag.
The parking lot was surprisingly empty for such a beautiful day, but this never bothers me, it just means we will have more solitude while climbing. As we made our way down the trail we saw that the number one climb on my tick list for that week, Batman and Robin (5.6) an awesome climb that follows cracks, slab and ends by spiraling up a juggy pinnacle was only .10 miles down the trail, so we shifted gears and blazed our way to the climb, but we soon discovered the .10 mile sign we saw merely referred to the distance to the trial head leading up to the climb – despite realizing our mistake we pressed on to what would eventually be our own demise.
After much difficulty, scrambling around and changing directions multiple times we finally found the base of our climb. John the first there and already had the rope flaked out by the time I got there. So I quickly got into my climbing shoes, racked up my gear and was ready to get my climb on. I was quickly slowed down though, for some reason my lead head wasn’t quite there. I timidly made my way up the rock, frantically searching for places to put gear, but wasn’t finding any. Eventually I got up just enough nerve to advance up the rock to a place offering a good gear placement which at this point was about 15 feet off the ground. Getting that first piece in gave me just a bit more security and finished the first pitch of the climb not to long after that.
However, I was still a bit intimidated by the Lumpy Ridge rock. I’m not sure why though, I had climbed with confidence the whole week up until that point, maybe it was the late start that got to me, but whatever it was it never left me the rest of the week. After advancing up the second pitch I came to a thin finger crack that for some reason scared the piss out of me. It’s not that the crack was that hard to climb, after all it was slab, and an easy 5.6 slab at that. But no matter how much I talked myself up I was hesitant! I even practically built an anchor to protect the start of the crack, which quickly came in handy.
During this whole process of trying to advance up the thin crack a storm was rolling in off Longs Peak. I knew we either had to finish the pitch and wait it out at the next belay or lower off. I wanted to finish so kept at it, but was still unable to move more than a few moves off the ledge at the start of the crack. Eventually I decided to lower off and rap down to the base of the route to wait out the storm. Just about the time we hit solid ground the storm had passed. It was all for not. Being frustrated I wanted to just leave and come back the next day for my gear, but with the encouragement of my partner John we pressed on. I tied myself into the rope and self belayed myself back up to the first belay station and brought John back up so we could continue the climb.
This time around I brought John up to the ledge under the crack I was having trouble at so I could receive motivation from John. During our first attempt we were trying to combine pitches to save time so bringing him up to the ledge was actually the way the climb was intended to be done. With John closer by I was able to press through and finish the crack section of the climb, but not without a lot of frustration and feeling like I was going to fall, especially during the run out section above the crack to the next belay station.
At this point I was so thankful our climb was nearing and end, but I began to get nervous as the sun was starting to get low in the sky. Neither one of us had a watch with us so we had no idea what time we started our climb, had we known the time of day we might have come back the next day, but we were already on the rock and had to finish our climb. After John reached the belay we had one pitch left before reaching the summit of Batman Rock. The final pitch was an easy 5.4 climb, but was overhanging in parts so it was a bit of a head-trip.
I wish I could have said the final pitch went smoothly. After placing my first piece of gear I realized I needed to go further left, so I placed my longest sling possible on the piece of gear to eliminate rope drag. Soon after clipping in I was above that piece of gear and about 15 feet to the left of it and was unable to advance. My rope was stuck. So I simply attempted to flake the rope out and pull it out from whatever it was stuck on, but the rope didn’t move. The cool, calm and collect climber would simply down climb at this point and get the rope unstuck, but I was tired and frustrated and far from calm and collect. I sat down on the ledge I was on and let out a yell of frustration that could likely be heard in Estes Park.
But after sitting for a moment and catching my breath I re-gained my calm and patiently worked at the rope until it was unstuck. Once that was out of the way I advanced to the summit without fear, but was greatly worried because at this point the sun was almost down. After belaying John up to the top of the summit we took a brief moment to rejoice, take a couple photos and drink a bit of water while soaking in the setting sun, but time was money so we began our rappel off the pinnacle without much delay. After getting down from the pinnacle we were not safe, in fact we were nowhere near, neither of us had a head lamp on and we still had to make it back to the car.
We received beta from some other climbers to just follow the cairns to the base, but we never saw these said cairns and we had a bit of a panic moment trying to find a way down. But I had remembered reading something about a decent gully in the guide books and thought I had found it. John and I began our descent and at this point it was almost dark. We eventually got to a point that the gully became too steep to scramble down so I decided to sacrifice a sling, wrap it around a tree and rappel down to the ground from there. This would have been a brilliant idea had the rope been long enough to reach the ground.
As I neared the bottom of the rope I saw another tree in the gully and thought this was just going to be a simple process of having John rappel down and then making another rappel down from the second tree, but I was wrong. The tree was actually a large bush and had a poor root system at that, there was no way we could wrap down by slinging a bush. I could tell at this point John was growing impatient and was worried, after all he was the one watching the sky turn black and the city lights of Estes Park appear right before his eyes. My next solution was to sling a rock horn that I found just a few feet below the tree. I yelled at John that I found our way down, so I stuck a cam between the horn and another rock to secure myself while John rapped down, but after giving the cam a good tug to set it, the rock moved. Another plan foiled.
At this point I knew we only had one option, but didn’t want to take it. It took me another five minutes of trying to think of another solution before finally deciding to rap off using a single line. After getting in a comfortable position in the gully near the tree I had John pull the rope back up to him and tie one end of the rope to the sling at top. Once the rope was secure we had enough rope to reach the ground, with about 20 feet or so to spare. The downside of this of course was my rope was fixed at the top with no way of pulling it down. My new double-dry, bi-color Mammut rope was gone! The bright side is, we still have our lives.
Being back at the base of our climb was an amazing feeling, but we still had to hike back to the car in the dark. Thankfully the moon was pretty bright, although it went in and out of the clouds during our entire hike back. After packing up our gear we slowly made our way back down the trail, but eventually lost the trail and found ourselves bushwhacking for a majority of our trip back. We often times found ourselves back on a trail and found cairns, but would lose them again due to the darkness.
My eyes did become somewhat adjusted to the dark though. I remember at one point making out what I thought was the large field at the base of Lumpy Ridge and a fairly wide trail. At this point we had been zig zagging our way down, partly mandatory due to running into granite bluffs but partly due to just not knowing where the heck we were; so I decided we were just going to head straight down a gully we spotted just to our right that seemed to lead right to the base of this trail. The gully was full of down trees, which deterred John, but being overly confident I spotted the main trail I lead the way and sure enough, we eventually came to the main trail at the base of Lumpy Ridge.
Despite being tired we both kicked it into high gear, hauling full bore across the meadow, eventually losing the trail again, but not caring just continued on towards the parking lot and eventually meet back up with the trail again. We had also been out of water for some time, I had been feeling parched for quite a while at that point and was happy to come across a water fountain along the trail on the way back to the car. I stood there and drank for what seemed like three minutes straight. That drink of water thought gave me the energy boost to pick up the pace even more to get back to the car.
Not too long after our pit stop at the water fountain we arrived back at the parking lot, at this point we were the only car in the lot and it was 11:15 p.m. Our epic had finally come to an end. I think somebody may have even alerted the Rangers of our presence in the Park, just before we were leaving a Ranger rolled through the parking lot and shined his spotlight on our car briefly and then drove away. Not sure what that was all about, but we were happy to be back on solid ground. Needless to saw our plans to meet one of our new friends at the local pub in town didn’t happen. I’m sure we could have still stopped by, but both of us were far too tired to say up a moment longer.
I find it strange how the mind can play such a huge factor in one’s climbing ability. The following day John and I meet a couple friends of mine from Twitter for some climbing, but due to various circumstances it ended up just being a nice hike. I had actually fully geared up for a very aesthetic looking route with called Oregon Pipes, and it looked just like a series of pipes running up the rock, but my mind wasn’t in it, so we packed up and headed back into town. The prideful side of me hates to admit that, but I’m starting to realize that this is just part of climbing, some days your on, some days your not.
For those of you longing for another food related post I won’t let you down. My next post will be about anti-inflammatory foods. What to eat, and why we should eat them