Gary on Spearhead Arete
Since I started dating my current fiancée we started off our relationship long distance, so my opportunities to go climbing had decreased since we were spending our weekends together. But, this past weekend we both packed up the Subaru and drove north to the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas for a weekend of climbing. It had been several months since my last trip up there; so needless to say, I was pretty psyched to get back up to the climbing area I had been helping to develop.
The biggest downside to the trip was having a nine-hour drive, as opposed to the five-hour drive from Dallas that I was accustomed to. But, having an awesome traveling companion helped the trip go by fast. We even had a dine-in rest stop along the way and still arrived at the mountain with plenty of daylight left.
Upon arriving at the campsite, we promptly threw on the climbing pack and headed down to the climbing area. Our friends Gary and Mark had already been there, and passed us on our way down. Gary was grabbing new batteries for the drill to install bolts at the top of a couple of new routes, so we waited at the top of the cliff for him to return and enjoyed the views. Despite the cloudy haze over the mountains it was an enjoyable sight, with crisp pine scented air. After Gary arrived back at the top of the cliff he drilled holes for two routes and installed the bolts on one of the routes. After he finished up we headed back to camp to set up the tent and make dinner.
Upon unpacking the gear to make dinner I realized I was missing the hose line to the propane tank for my Coleman stove, so we ended up having to use my backpacking stove to make our quesadillas. The two-cheese blend along with a Texas style hot sauce made for a scrumptious meal. My evening meals are typically my only cooked meal while camping. For breakfast I will usually eat fruit and sometimes pack a smoothie for the first morning, and I will snack on fruit and nuts throughout the day.
The next morning we arose early, Kristy hadn’t slept a wink so decided to go for a hike, rather than risk poor judgment on the climbing wall. This weekend trip to the crag was the first weekend we had newcomers come out to enjoy the fruits of our development. It was fun watching other climbers enjoy (and struggle on) our established routes.
Bear Belly Wall
Most people stuck to moderate climbs, I opted to re-climb a moderate 5.7, that was the first climb I established, but ended on a 5.8 climb to the right. I ended up failing on the send though. I couldn’t commit to the crux move. Even though it was well protected with a number six Black Diamond Camelot, my mental game was not there. Gary then finished the route for me and I cleaned on top rope, sending past the crux move without a problem. Had I been consistently lead climbing for the past few months I’m sure I would have pulled the move on lead.
After about a half hour of resting I ended up climbing an easy 5.6, mixed trad and sport route. It was a climb I had never been on before and is probably the most well protected climb at the crag. I sent the climb without any problems. Compared to the rest of the climbing area this one is over bolted, which was great for me seeing as how I hadn’t lead in quite a while.
The next climb I did was Spearhead Arete, an FA (as the second) for the trip. Gary was celebrating his 50th birthday and wasn’t going to let the weekend slip away without another FA under his belt. Having finished the route, his belayer offered me the follow. I respectfully tried to decline, but ended up being on rope. The climb was a 5.10a that was fairly sustained and started off with a heel hook move onto a ledge. After pulling onto the ledge you have to move around the corner of the arête and work your way up on delicate feet. After moving further up you can either move around the arête again and pull a roof using an under cling, or you can go straight up on small holds and no feet, only smearing. I made a few attempts at the overhang, but ended up going up the face, spearing on the lichen covered wall, just praying my feet didn’t slip out from under me.
Route finding on Spearhead Arete
Upon making it to the top Gary and I set up a top rope and let others be a part of the FA ascent. Three other climbers made there way up the route, thus getting their name in the guidebook as Gary’s Birthday Bash FA for Spearhead Arête. After finishing up this climb we made our way north to the most newly developed climbing area. While other climbers enjoyed a couple more hours of sends I decided to go back up to the campsite and join Kristy who was back from her hike.
Mark on belay!
That evening we enjoyed a “dump”, which was basically crab boil, shrimp, snow peas and venison all boiled together. I occasionally will eat seafood so took place in enjoying the dump, sans venison of course. I did end up with a small stomachache though, likely from the juices of the venison. The food was delicious though, and beers enjoyed by all. A lot of the climbers stayed up later into the night around a campfire, but Kristy and I retired fairly early due to a sleepless nigh for her. Sadly, that night ended up being somewhat sleepless for me, as I tossed and turned all night.
The next morning we got off to a late start and arrived at the base of the cliff around 9:30 a.m. after lots of bushwhacking through trees and bushes. It was hard for me to find my way around with all the overgrowth of trees. The last time I had been out there was during the late winter, so finding my way around was easy.
Upon arriving at the wall a couple of climbers were already on their way out but had a rope on a climb I had established earlier that year, so Kristy and I decided to make this our first climb of the day. Kristy made it up the route without a problem – not bad for a girl who hasn’t climbed in over two years. After finishing the route I jumped on and had another fellow climber give Kristy a lesson on belaying, seeing as how we will be climbing a lot more in the future.
The climb was slightly different than I remember, but the crux move was a layback with a toe jam into the crack. After making this move you sling a tree growing out of the rock, grab the tree, layback and pull a tiny roof. After this, the route is pretty much over, only two moves left to the anchors. The fist ascent was a ground up establishment though, so the anchors ended up being in a slightly different place than where the route actually finished.
After finishing this route, we move into the shade and watched others take turns climbing Natural Ice, a 5.8 dihedral with a V0 start. The climb got its name last January when we attempted to ice climb. The dihedral was iced over very well, but nobody was able to make it to the top. But, that is the reason for the climb’s name, “Natural Ice.” After the other climbers finished I had my turn and grunted my way up the sustained 5.8 climb. It’s definitely not something I would have wanted to lead that weekend. I’m just glad I was able to make it up and not be humiliated by a climb that is well under the grade I am capable of.
After finishing up Natural Ice it was time to head home, so Kristy and I made our way back to camp and broke everything down. Before leaving I took a “hobo shower” from the well pump next to camp. I always try to do this before leaving sense the rock here is so dirty; I always finish up with my arms and face covered in dirt and lichen. Cleaning up before leaving makes for a more enjoyable drive home.
The drive home seemed to take a lot longer, but perhaps that was because half the drive was after dark. It feels good to be back home in Austin though and getting back to work. Well, working on getting work is a better way to put it, but I’m really enjoying live here and I’m glad I can call Austin home now. Really, the only down side to living here is that I’m further away from some of my favorite climbing areas, but I’m sure I will grow to love the climbing areas around here, not to mention the great cycling routes, and greenbelt access