Yey! I got my camera back! It was really cool to be able to check out all of those pictures that I took on Sunday, and thought I’d never see again. You, too, can see them in the photo gallery.
Wow, quite the story this week!! On Sunday night, after an exhausting but really fun hike up to the summit of Greyrock and back, I sat down in the grass next to our car and started digging through my backpack looking for my car keys. I pulled the camera out (which was the biggest thing in the pack) and set it next to me on the ground. As I was digging around, Mark showed up. He had the car keys.
Mark said “Hey, let’s jump in the car and go pick your mom up in the parking lot! That way she doesn’t have to walk down the steps again!”
I grabbed my bag, hopped in the car, and we drove off to dinner. Yes, I left my extremely nice, very expensive, Nikon D70 sitting in the grass on the side of the highway in the Poudre Canyon. And I didn’t realise it was gone for another two hours!
When we got home that night, my heart just about exploded when I realized what had happened. Mark and I got back in the car and drove all the way up to the Greyrock trailhead at 10pm that night, in the pouring rain. When we got there, it was completely dark, and we spent a half hour wandering all over the trailhead looking for a camera that just wasn’t there. It was gone. Completely gone.
The next morning, I started about trying to put my contact information out so that if a nice hiker had happend to pick it up, they could find me. I called the Fort Collins police department, and left my name and a description of the camera with their Property and Evidence department. The very nice woman taking the notes candidly told me “You know, chances are slim-to-none that you’ll ever see this camera again.”
I filed a report with the Larimer County Sheriff, and gave him the serial numbers for the camera and lens to put in the computer. I left a description and my contact information with the local office for the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. Then I left postings on Craig’s List, Summit Post and Mountain Project.
Needless to say, I was really upset. I kept randomly crying on Monday, every time I’d see a battery charger or UV filter and know that there was no camera to use them on. I talked to our insurance guy, and we could put in a claim on our home-owner’s. It would raise our rates by $77 a year for three years, and we had a $500 deductible, of course. I was looking at cameras to replace it with, and since Nikon stopped making the D70 a few years ago, I really wasn’t sure what to invest in, or even if there was any way we could afford a decent replacement. The $4000 in checks to the IRS just cleared last week, and our funds are low.
By Tuesday, I was pretty sure the camera was gone. I had picked out a Nikon D40x that I could use, and maybe afford, but I just didn’t think it would be as good as my D70. I posted this picture on Flickr and got a lot of sympathy, but no actual help.
Then, in the evening after yoga, I got two emails from a woman in Greeley who said that she saw my add on Craig’s List and that her husband had my camera!! Just like that! She gave me his phone number, and I called up Mr. Doug in a flurry of excitement.
It turns out, he had been with a group of boyscout leaders practicing their backpacking that had hiked out right behind us. He had seen the camera, and picked it up to keep it out of the rain, and took it home with him. On Monday, they were looking on the Coloradoan for my add, and didn’t want to put out their own for fear that every crazy in Colorado would be calling them to “claim” their “lost” camera. On Tuesday afternoon, Doug’s wife decided to check Craig’s List, and when she saw my article, she knew that was it!
Tuesday night we drove out to Greeley, and picked up the camera. Doug was really nice, he presented me first with a disposable camera and said “Is this it?” I almost passed out. Then he pulled out my Nikon and I just about burst into tears again. It was so nice knowing that a perfect stranger out there might go through the trouble of picking up after my silly mistake, and then spending the time to search for the owner inorder to return this very nice camera. What a happy ending!!
Thank you Doug and Adela!!
With Mom in town, we wanted to take her on another really great hike for the weekend. We decided to head up the classic trail to the summit of Greyrock mountain, just northwest of Fort Collins. It was a pretty nice day, the sun kept coming and going behind a pretty thick layer of cloud, but the air was warm enough to keep us sweating as we worked our way up the mountain.
We decided to take the meadows trail on the way up, and it was a really nice trip. We saw lots of great spring flowers, and deer out munching the new green grass. Mom did great the whole way up, and even scrambled up the exposed third-class boulders to the summit block on top of the mountain! She said she was really surprised to see the ponds, forest and frogs that live in the summit area. That’s always my favorite part of making it to the top.
As we were hanging out on top of the rock, Dylan and Ann topped out from their multi-pitch trad climb up the southwest slopes. It was fun hanging out with them as they re-racked and talked excitedly about the adventure they had just had. We ended up helping them carry their stuff down the mountain, and then hiked out with them at the end of the day. It was a long day, almost 8 hours round-trip, and I was tired as we piled in to the car. So tired, I left my nice camera sitting on the side of the road as we drove off! But that’s for another post. For now, it was a fun day, and we topped it off with a great dinner with Dylan and Ann at Coop’s.
Thought I’d add one more blog posting about our trip to the desert last weekend. I don’t know if it was the spring season, or the warm weather, but we saw lots of desert wildlife while on our hikes. On Saturday, we saw rock lizards, desert bunnies, and even a whole flock of Gambel’s Quail (which I couldn’t get a descent photo of).
Sunday was even more exciting for catching crazy wildlife. On our hike out, Mark yelled at me to “Stop!” and then asked me “Is that real?”
“Is what real?” I asked.
“The giant blue lizard sitting on the rock in front of you.”
Giant blue lizard, huh? I thought he was loosing it, or maybe a bit dehydrated. But after scanning the ground for a split second, I saw it too. About 10ft down the trail, was a giant blue and yellow lizard. It looked like a toy, except it was breathing, and it blinked at me. I slowly approached it, taking pictures every 3 or 4 feet, until I was within 2 feet of it, holding my camera out into its face, and still taking pictures. It blinked at me. I walked away, and let Mark walk over and check out the lizard. He never really moved. Just sat there, and looked at us.
We tromped off after this encounter, and not five minutes later, I saw something move on the trail infront of me. This time it was me yelling “Stop!” And Mark simply squeaked a bit and jumped backward. There was a 5ft long bright yellow and brown snake peering out onto the trail. I took a couple of pictures, and again, the thing didn’t move at all. Since it didn’t rattle at me, I figured it wasn’t poisenous, but we didn’t want to get too close. Ever since the sea urchin affair, my motto is strictly “Look don’t touch!”
We threw little rocks at it for about 2 minutes until it finally decided to move off the trail and back into the brush. I guess not all of the excitement from the weekend happened off the ground!
More shots are up in the gallery!
Sunday morning dawned warm and bright in the desert campground. We had spent time the night before re-racking, re-packing, and re-filling water for the day’s activities, so all we need to do on Sunday morning was pack up the tent, make coffee and then hop on the trail!
We were back at the Independence Monument trailhead at around 8:30am, way earlier than I ever expected. Mark was worried about another large group getting on the tower before us, so we were happy to see that nobody else had signed on the trail register yet that morning. These indications where happily confirmed when we found ourselves to be the first ones at the base of the climb that morning. Yey!
Our climb for the day was Otto’s Route (5.8), which is a historic route, the first ever to the top of Independence Monument. John Otto climbed the route for the first time in 1911, and, in order to make the route do-able, he carved foot steps and handholds into the soft sandstone all the way up the route. Mark and I had heard of these added pockets, and thought they would soften the grade. However, it turns out that Mr Otto was, evidently, seven and half feet tall and regularly solo’d V18 or so. The climb was hard. It really was.
Pitch 1: A long and sandy ramp, that was trickier than I expected. Mark took quite a while to lead this, and he kept calling down “I’m at a big ledge, should I set a belay??” “No… look for chains!” I was going to give him trouble about taking so long to lead a 5.5 ramp, but then I fell twice on my way up when my feet slid off the sandy rock.
Pitch 2: A quick scramble around the corner, and then we’re into the early crux of the climb, an overhanging off-fists crack where a huge boulder rests against the wall. Mark pro’d it well with a blue and silver camalot, and then did the classic Ved ‘one leg in, hump your way up’ ascent. It was intimidating for me too, but I found a critical drilled pocket, and then wedged my leg high enough that I could scramble over the top fairly easily.
Pitch 3: This pitch started with a scramble over a stack of boulders, and then you hike up the ramp behind the huge flake in what the topos call the “time tunnel”. Once back out into the sun, we climbed a face with a few pockets, and some sandy ledges up to the big ledge below the final pitch. It was another pitch that seemed like it should have been easier than it felt as I was climbing it.
Pitch 4: The final, exposed, crux-a-liscious pitch. We walked around to the far side of the tower and then walked up the easy, but completely unprotectable face. I had seen shots on MP.com that looked like there was pro somewhere up there, but Mark just couldn’t find it. After 100ft of this scary stuff, the wall starts to get vertical. Two or three moves brings you to the first of three pitons that protect the final overhang. This overhang was tough. It was long, maybe 15-20 ft of climbing, and by the time I was reaching for the top, I was massively freaked out, and my hands were so tired they were involuntarily opening as I tried to grab the sloped ledges. Yes, I did hang a bit, but I flopped onto the ledge eventually.
We sat on the ledge for a while and caught our breath. The summit was up a 7ft holdless headwall, well above the anchors, and we weren’t sure how to get up there. We decided to start our rappels down rather than boulder this unprotected 400ft in the air. But the couple climbing up below us caught sight of our ropes and convinced us that if we just stayed put for a few minutes, they’d be up there and could show us how to get on top. “You want to get to the top after all of this work, right??” They yelled up.
So Jessie and Margaret met us at the final belay. Jessie was kind enough to share his water, which I somehow stupidly forgot on the ground. They were both local Grand Junction climbers out for Margaret’s first lead of this classic route. She did awesome. Jessie showed us the trick was to take a loooong rope leash (like 20ft), and then scramble up over the lip using some holds on the left side (and standing on the metal tube that was embedded in the rock). He spotted all of us on the way up, and then belayed us down, these guys were my heros. Getting to the actual top was great, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the climb nearly as much without their help at the end.
Descent: In order to avoid having to dig out our two extra, coiled and packed away ropes, we all four agreed to just tie our lead lines together for the two double rope rappels required to get off the rock. We rapped over the edge from the top anchors, down through the time tunnel, all the way to the second belay. These were both two of the longest, most vertical rappels I’ve done in a long time. It was good practice for our up-coming weekend at Devil’s Tower, though. There was some confusion as to whether or not two 60m ropes would reach the ground from the second belay, but Margaret and I felt they should, and Jessie agreed to be the guinea pig. They did make it all the way down, with about 2ft of rope on the ground at the end. Don’t tie your knots with too much rope for this one!
It felt really good to be back on the ground, and kind of funny to see the conga-line of climbers working their way up the lower pitches. Yep, it’s definitely a popular route. We hung out for a little while, repacking, eating, drinking and talking with Jessie and Margaret about climbing areas in the desert and the Front Range. There were clouds moving in, and Mark and I had to make it back to Denver that night, so we couldn’t spend too long relaxing.
The hike back went quickly, though we did stop to check out a giant blue lizard, and had to spend some time throwing rocks at a pretty big desert gopher snake to get it off the trail. We were supposed to pick up Mom at the airport on Monday morning, so we drove back to Denver, and holed up at a KOA near the airport for a night of exhausted sleep. Good weekend!
There are more photos from the weekend in the gallery!
One more spring weekend, one more road trip! Mark and I took off from work at exactly 5:00 on Friday afternoon, and drove without any incident to Colorado National Monument by about 10:30pm. It was a long evening, and pretty creepy driving up the canyon rim road in the pitch dark. But we made it, got the tent set up, and crashed at around midnight that night.
The next morning we were able to sleep-in as we didn’t have Liv with us. We snoozed through the chilly desert morning until about 8:30a. It’s so cool to be able to crack open the tent and see the desert for the first time! It was a great campground. A few people out in RVs and pop-ups, a few other tents, gorgeous red rocks and sand, and little flowers all over the ground.
Our plan for the first day was to spend the morning driving around and sight-seeing the monument in the morning, and then climbing some single pitch desert cracks in the afternoon. We stopped in at the visitors’ center to make sure that there were no falcon closures that we needed to be aware of. Next, we headed south along Rim Rock drive, and I took about a billion pictures of the incredible, freestanding, striped and arched desert towers that lined the canyons.
The hike into the climbs took a little longer than we expected. It was a great trail though, winding up into the canyon from outside the Monument. Our climbs were located on a slab of striped red and pink wingate sandstone about 0.75 miles down the trail. Even though a few large groups of climbers had signed in on the trail register before us, we were the only people at the climbing area for quite a while.
So, on Saturday we climbed…
Left Dihedral (5.8) – A nice hand crack in a hard sandstone corner. It starts with a nice, steep slab to the right, which rapidly becomes pretty darn vertical. The jams are soft, easy, but sustained for the top 50ft.
The slab right of Left Dihedral (5.11-) – I don’t know if this toprope route has a name, and it’s definitely not on mp.com. It has been climbed before, as many of the sandy ledges seemed to be more rounded in certain areas than they might have been naturally. Even though our shoes got incredible purchase on this rock, the tiny slopers on this very steep slab made the climb very difficult. By the time I was finished climbing both of these, my feet ached to the bones. Lots and lots of footwork.
Luhr’s Route (5.9-) – This climb heads up the slab on the right side of the area, past three bolts, through a darn tricky steep slab move, and into a huge left-arching crack. I was skeptical about the website’s claim that one 60m rope would reach the ground, but it turned out to be fine. Mark and I both really enjoyed this climb as it had a lot of everything: difficult slabs, finger- hand- and off-width cracks, laybacks, and roof climbing. I was so exhausted by the time I finished this route that I decided to skip the last climb of the day.
The slab left of Luhr’s Route (5.12?) – Mark climbed this one on toprope to the anchors. It was hard as heck in the bottom, I’ve never seen Mark have so much trouble on a slab. Since he flashes 5.12 slabs in the gym, I suspect the middle of this climb was near that grade. The top part was filled with tiny slope-y ledges that Mark’s exhausted fingers and feet just ate up.
As the sun started to get low, we decided to pack up and head out. We made it back to the campsite at around 6:30p, and Mark collapsed into the tent for a pre-dinner nap. I packed up the long lens and went out to shoot the Monument at sunset. Independence Monument is the pinnacle of the canyon. It’s a long, thin tower that was first climbed by John Otto in 1911. It’s a classic and historic 5.9 (manufactured) route, that is one of the most popular climbs in western Colorado. As I drove through the pullouts, I watched a large group of climbers take there turns rappelling off the top of the tower. This was the climb we had planned for Sunday, and it was really cool to watch all the other people head down in the evening light.