Cheesehead Ranch! (Part 2)

May 30, 2007 at 7:05 pm

Just because I forgot to mention it in the last post, check out the photos in the gallery!

On Sunday morning, Mark woke up groaning. He put a pillow over his head and went back to sleep. Turns out he’d had a lot too much beer the night before. Eventually, we got up, made the coffee, packed the gear, and headed out for a day of climbing on the Dark Side.

Come to the Dark Side. We have Cookies.

Question of Balance

Lumina (5.9) – Ann hopped on the lead of this one first thing, but found pretty quickly that the 5.8 rating in the guidebook was quite the sandbag. She decided to let somebody taller and more reckless finish the lead after several valiant attempts at the crux sequence. We all took a turn on this one, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the slabby section at the top, the cruxes were tricky and I took a fall on my way up.

Fragile (5.10c) – Despite my grumbling and worry, Dylan convinced Mark to lead up this one. I remembered a couple of guys having a h*ll of a time on this climb the last time we were there, and I was worried about another sandbag. But Mark dispatched the climb with absolutely no problems, and in fact had a ball on it. This climb went up the left side of a detached pillar in the middle of the wall, and lended itself nicely to lots of great photos.

Porkus Procurement (5.10d) – This was one of my favorite climbs the last time we were in the area, and climbing it again on Sunday was not a disappointment. Once I get my confidence built up, I’m going to come back and lead this one. It starts with an easy ramp up to a thin vertical face, and then it’s all happy crimping on sharp but extremely solid black limestone. Beautiful.

Enchanted Porkfist (5.11a) – By late in the afternoon, there were only a few hard climbs left in our little area that we hadn’t tried, and this was one of them. Mark (aka The Rope Gun) shot off on this lead, and enjoyed the climb. He actually had his first real lead fall in over a year on the third bolt, and was proud of himself for climbing to failure on the sharp end. I climbed this on top rope later and really really enjoyed it. I think it might just be my all-time favorite 5.11.

While Mark and I were enjoying Enchanted on TR, Dylan worked Punjabi (5.11a/b) on a fine lead. He worked hard for that climb, and took several impressive whippers from the top bolt without quite being able to clip the anchors.

As we packed up for the day, thunder started rolling in, closer this time. Rain fell for a while and stopped, and we hiked out. I tried to take a shot of lightening from the parking lot, but it just didn’t come out, so I made my own.

Another evening back at the Ranch, and another evening of campfires, card games and hanging out with friends.


Cheesehead Ranch! (Part 1)

May 29, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Every year, for the past five years, our friend Brian from the rock gym has had a big group of climbers up to camp on his ranch near Shelf Road, and enjoy a weekend of great sport climbing and fun desert camping. Mark and I have been in the area in past years, but never fully participated in the gathering for various reasons. This year, we threw worry into the wind, and caravaned down to the Cheesehead Ranch with Dylan, Ann, Doug and Liz.

We had a great group of climbers to camp and climb with this year. There were probably close to 30 people all said, and most of them we knew from the rock gym already. This made it a really nice weekend to relax and get to know cool people we’ve only met in passing, and to really spend time with those that we don’t get to see very often.

Friday night, we arrived a little late (around 9p), and most of the campers had already gone to bed. Mark and I took campsite number 2, which turned out to be about a 5 minute walk down a nice little pinon-lined path, to the top of the ridge that runs down the northern edge of Brian’s 35 acres. It was one of the best campsites I’ve stayed at in a long time. Beautiful, quiet, shaded, sheltered and even perfectly level; it was an ideal tent site.

Camping at CH Ranch

On Saturday morning, Mark, Liv and I got a tasty breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese bagels before hopping in the car and heading out to climb with the group on the Mural Wall in the Gallery. Up until we arrived at the base of the climbs, I had been sure the whole of Shelf Road would be packed, route-to-route with climbers for the holiday weekend. I think we were all pleasantly surprised to see this shady little crag almost completely deserted before our group descended upon its plethora of tasty moderates.

Block Party (5.10a) – Mark led up this climb as our morning “warm up”, and it was a bit of a shock to my system. I don’t mind overhanging pumpfests, but first thing in the morning?? It was a lot of fun, and I completely understand why it gets the “classic” rating. The giant swiss-cheesy goodness is not to be missed.

Morrocan Roll (5.10b) – Dylan led up this climb as his warm up. I had heard somebody point to it earlier in the morning and say “That’s the 5.9 you’re looking for.” So, I climbed it thinking it was simply a hard nine (after hearing people complain a bit), but I didn’t have any problems with that rating. The slab was full of fun and friction, and the small finger pockets were all over the face. I found my feet stuck wonderfully to this climb, and I had a great time on it. Much more my style of climbing.

John Cruiser Meloncrip (5.10b) – Another overhanging and hard route to grunt my way up, but the sun felt good, and the moves were definitely interesting. I was exhausted by the time I made it to the top of this route. Totally ready for my afternoon nap.

Mother of Invention (5.10c) – One nice thing about climbing with a big group is that there always seems to be another toprope around to climb on. I had been watching people lead this one for most of the day, and when I saw the rope was free in the afternoon, I decided to try it. Boy, I was so done. I don’t remember anything about the climb. About half way up, my hands gave out on me. They wouldn’t open all the way or close to grip rock. I had to come down. But it was a good, hard day of climbing for me!

Pi (5.12b) – Yes that’s right, 5.12. I don’t know exactly which routes Mark climbed on Saturday, but I hung out and watched him try this one at the end of the day. Again, just because there are topropes on fun climbs, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to climb the route. Mark gave a great effort, but didn’t quite make it through the crux on this one, as it was the last route in a very long day. Other memorable moments included Mark revealing his true traddie self as he screamed “What tick? What the $#*% is a tick?!?” in the crux.

In the late afternoon, we packed up and headed back to the ranch. I will, for a very long, long time, remember how cool it was to pull into the main camp area and have everybody wave “Hi!” to us to welcome us back after a great day of climbing with cool friends. It felt like coming home.

Brian tapped the keg, and made no less than 10 bar-b-que pork loins, which we all devoured happily. We spent the evening screwing around on the slack line, hanging out by the fire, loosing at cribbage and Five Crowns, and enjoying far too much beer. Now that is the end to a perfect day of climbing!

Kate’s Garden

May 24, 2007 at 7:50 pm

I’ve been working on raising a few different types of plants: tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. The tomatoes are doing great, but these peppers just won’t flower. They’ve had these little buds for two weeks now. I’m posting the pictures to see if anybody has any ideas for what I can do to coax those little flowers out?


Buzzy Peach

May 21, 2007 at 6:21 pm

1 fresh peach
1.5 shots of Raspberry vodka
1/2 can of Sprite

Blanch the peach in boiling water for just a few minutes. Gently rub the skin off and slice the peach. Pour the vodka over ice cubes in a tumbler, and almost fill the rest of the glass with Sprite. Add the warm peach slices. Enjoy.

Buzzy Peach

Gone Fishin’

May 20, 2007 at 7:08 pm

So, last week I mentioned that while climbing with the girls, at an out-of-the-way toproping area, I lost our big, $120, number six BD Camalot deep down inside the 6-inch wide crack we were climbing on. When Mark found out, he was not happy, but seemed optimistic that we’d be able to get the thing back the next weekend.

On Saturday this weekend, we had one goal: Get that cam back.

Our plan on Friday was to set a toprope on the climb and try to find the cam first by using several flashlights, and then fish it out of the crack with a couple of treble hooks we made from drapery hangers.

Mark was still having trouble with the return time change, and slept in a little late that morning. We made it to Vedauwoo at around 11am, and then hiked out to the crag. By the time we got to the climb, the clouds were thick above, and there was thunder in the distance.

I suggested that Mark might take a look at the fat crack and see if he wanted to lead it, and the next thing I knew, he was free-soloing up to the base of the climb in his running shoes. I tossed the rope and his climbing shoes up to him and he lead up Barley (5.6) with no problems, set an anchor, and started lowering down as the wind started picking up, and the thunder got closer.

He stuck his head in the crack as far as it would go, with his own nice headlamp on, and couldn’t see anything. He looked for several minutes, from several points, and couldn’t see a cam. This was when Mark figured that somebody must have read my blog post from last week, and had beaten us to the cam. He was sure there was nothing down there.

I climbed up to the spot and couldn’t see anything either. I tried several different things to wiggle in and see that cam. I even tried lowering my headlamp on a long cord, and swinging it back and forth to see if anything would glimmer or “tink”. I didn’t see anything.

Mark was pretty sure there was no cam in there. But I decided to lower the hook and swing it around a bit and just see if it caught anything.

And it did.

It took me maybe three swings, less than a minute, and I felt the hook catch on something. I lifted experimentally, and felt a weight and heard metal scraping on rock. Mark was shocked. He was down below me saying “That’s probably just the hook caught on the rock.”

I pulled a little harder and the hook came free. I swung it into the spot again and caught something again. I pulled again, slower, and I heard metal grinding on rock as I lifted the weight up, and then pulled it further in to the wide spot in the crack. In less than a second, the big cam came into view. I don’t remember exactly which part of the thing I had hooked, but I remember it looking really secure on the end of that line.

I grabbed it, pulled it out of the crack and WHOOPED for joy! Then I quickly clipped the darn thing to my belt and told Mark to lower me down. Once back on the ground, I put the cam back on the hook for the trophy shot. :-) Mark was completely amazed. He had totally prepared himself for the cam to be gone, not in there at all, and somehow, I had just pulled this giant chunk of metal out of dark, thin, air.

Mark scampered up the climb again to clean the anchor and move the rope over to the 5.9 destination climb for the crag. As he bounded up, fat rain drops started to fall, and thunder roared over the top of the cliff. Mark took shelter in the cave at the top of the climb, and Liv and I hung out in the cave at the bottom. The rain poured and the hail pounded down for more than 30 minutes. Liv was hugely freaked out by the thunder, and kept trying to crawl further onto my lap. A few of the bolts sounded extremely close.

When the storm was over, all of the cracks were running with water, and the rocks were slicker than snot. We packed up our stuff and slid down the formation and back to the trail to head home for the day. No more climbing for us that day, but definitely MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!


Globe hopping

May 19, 2007 at 7:29 pm

All of my pictures from my week-long trip are up in the gallery.

I finished my trip to Japan yesterday. Due to the international date line, I got back to Colorado two hours before I departed Japan. Neat-o! Traveling that far is always quite a taxing day.

Traveling around Japan via mostly train was quite challenging, as I am mostly illiterate concerning signs. I had good help almost every step of the way so it went quite well.

During my short little trip, I was astounded to see how young the Japanese population is, as well as the astounding number of men (and very young men) in business suits. I liked that part a lot. It made the day seem more civilized and refined. The trains were very impressive. They were smooth, fast and quiet and incredibly clean. The very best trains are the Shinkansen high-speed train. These are the 200 mph electric trains that cover the distances between the major cities. If I had the choice between a one hour commute to work by car or by train, I would take the train every time. On one morning trip, I got 15-20 minutes of toying with my laptop because I wasn’t driving. It was really nice.

For dinner the first night of non-travel, we went to a Korean BBQ. We ordered some kind of flat-rate-drink-for-90-minutes item and took good advantage of it. Beer, Sake and Shochu all around and all tasty. The food was very good. It was a meal of cut meats that you grill at your table over a small charcoal pit. After lots of eating and drinking I was quite finished and retired to my room. I would characterize it as a big drinking night for me, yet I did not suffer a hangover for it. Those clear liquors are quite strong, but less painful the next morning. I was a bit dehydrated, but had none of the headache or tiredness that I am accustomed to when I overindulge.

I was on my own for the second evening and found a restaurant with pictures on the menu and pointed. It was beef-like, though of a texture which made me think it was a part of the cow that I have never had before. I couldn’t even start to guess what I ate that night, but it had a nice sauce.

During my trip, I had two means of calling home: a pre-paid phone card and a Vonnage flash drive phone. The pre-paid calling card was useless. I had printed every page of instructions from the web site and this thing was useless. However, the Vonnage flash drive phone was awesome. Every hotel that I stayed in had some form of free internet and as long as I was on the internet, the phone usually worked and all calls were dialed as if I was in Colorado.

On the third day, I saw a fantastic Buddhist temple. It really felt good to be amongst all the buildings and wandering the grounds. We were only there for perhaps a half hour (had a schedule to keep), but it was worth it. On the third evening I moved to a different hotel with nicer rooms and a hot springs on the premises. Unfortunately, I got in fairly late and was traveling early the next morning, so I was unable to take advantage of it. Next to the hotel there was a very beautiful river, but at this point, it was dark and the batteries in my camera had died, so I was unable to take any more pictures until I replaced them.

The final day was a partial day of sightseeing before my flight. We used a train to to get to Tokyo station and then had the incredible experience of rush hour on the local Tokyo trains. It resembled a rugby scrum in business suits. First the train gets packed with people. Then about 10 more people just push onto the train followed by another 15 that I just didn’t believe were going to fit. I think people actually had to exhale to pull it off. At each stop 15 or so people had to unclog the door to let others off and then quickly reclaim the door blockage to get to the next station. We did this three times before arriving in the vicinity of Tokyo tower.

At Tokyo tower, we took in some tourist activities. I purchased some souvenirs for Kate as well as saw some of the sights that are in the lower levels of the tower. We saw a wacky wax museum as well as some Japanese history and demographics. Japanese people have been getting much taller lately! Unfortunately we were unable to go up into the tower because this is the season for school children to see it and the lines were tremendous. Having used most of our time, we were unable to do part II of our morning tourism which would have taken us to see the grounds of the emperor’s palace. So, we headed to the airport a bit early and hung out (sumo on the big-screen TV) until our flight left. It was quite exciting. And then came the super-long flight home…

Temple Ceiling Decoration

Kate at Play: Pushing More Limits

May 15, 2007 at 7:30 pm

My few pictures from the weekend are in the gallery.

On Sunday morning, Dylan, Ann and I headed out to the Nautilis to meet up with Sean and Collin for one more day of climbing. I don’t know about Ann, but I was still feeling pretty beat up that morning. Even on the short hike around to the NW side, my legs were fatigued, and my knees and ankles were aching. But I got in a couple of climbs anyway.

Cornelius (5.5) – As Ann led the first climb yesterday, I got on the first lead today. I’ve led this sweet little finger crack before, but it’s been well over a year now. I was really pleased with the climb, as I used about half as much gear as I usually do, and only took one little hang. Plus my TR anchor on top took only a couple of minutes to build, and it was awesome!

Ted’s Trot (5.7) – Dylan led up this climb while I was leading mine. Collin followed and cleaned it, and then I was volunteered to be third. Looking up at the gaping chimney above me, and seeing the rope run horizontally into the darkness; I didn’t really know if I was up to this one. But Dylan wanted another rope brought up, and I wanted to give it a try, so I did.

There were three times in this climb that I would normally have done everything I could think of to avoid them. The first one was this scary, dark, bad rope direction chimney. I kept thinking “If only there was a big bro up there…” But then, I knew that if there was a re-direct, that I would climb without problem. So, I decided to climb without problem without a re-direct. It’s all in my head… right? right!

The chimney was much easier than it looked, thanks to hidden cracks inside, and then the top section had an awesome 3-crack chimney. There were times when every part of my body was jamming a different crack, and somehow, I was doing chimney moves too. Loved that part. So classically ‘voo.

Then, there was the top. The crux of the climb is crawling out over a bulging chock-boulder that sits atop the chimney. There’s a fat fist-sized crack in there that both Dylan and Collin were able to hang on their fist jams while lifting their feet up onto the slab to the left. But, for me, it was waaay bigger than fists. I sat below this crack for a few minutes, just breathing and thinking. Below the roof, there was 100ft of air. The rope, again, seemed to run in a direction other than perfectly ideal. This was the second time that I really wanted to go down.

I was so close to finished, though! I’m not afraid to admit it, I used the rope a bit to get my balance below the crack. Then I reached up, and found a perfect handstack, left fist, right hand!! This was the first time that I’ve ever done a handstack, and it worked so well that I just stood there and stared at it for a few minutes. Dylan saw it and got a huge kick out of it. He said he wished he had a camera because it looked so nice. I managed to hang just long enough on that handstack to get my feet up on the slab. I moved my handstack up, moved my feet up, and I worked my way over the bulge this way.

Above the anchor, Dylan directed me to lead up over easy terrain to the very top of the formation. It was simple, but exposed, and wild, and I did it! Collin and I rapped off the top using the rope that I brought up, and that was the end of my adventure. I was really proud of pushing through these little things that normally would have just blown up to ruin the whole climb.

After this, I was done for the day. Collin lead up Cornelius as his first Ved lead, and then Ann jumped on a lead of Easy Jams (5.4). She got about halfway up when the thunder and lightening started crashing around us, and the rain started coming down. She lowered off, and we all took shelter in a little cave. The rain blew by pretty quickly, and Collin decided to finish the lead afterwards.

After watching Collin enjoy the fat crack in the corner, I packed up my stuff, called the dog and hiked out. The skies above Vedauwoo were dark and ominous, and I headed home across the windy Wyoming plains.

More Spring Storms

Kate at Play: Girl’s Day in Vedauwoo

May 14, 2007 at 7:13 pm

My few photos from the weekend are in the gallery.

So Mark is on the other side of the planet for the weekend. I decided that I wanted to get out for some climbing regardless, so Ann and I planned a Girl’s Day of Climbing in Vedauwoo for last Saturday. We had a great group come out for the day, Rachel, Kate M, Becca, Vicki and of course Ann and I packed up the racks and ropes and ran to the rocks for the day.

Our original plan was to climb on Poland Hill, but when we arrived at the parking lot at 9:30a, there were already 5 or 6 other cars, and two more climbers showed up within minutes. We decided that this was too big of a crowd for the three good climbs on that formation, and took off for Plumb Line Crag instead.

This turned out to be a nice change of plans. There were only a couple other people in the area through the day, and they were all interested in a hard 5.9+ crack that we waited until the end of the day for.

Ann started out the day by hopping on a lead of Amaranth (5.7). She did so great! Her pro was solid, and she actually pulled a layback and some creepy difficult moves on lead! Her anchor was creative, and worked pretty well as a toprope anchor, though we did decide to have everybody rappel off to save Rachel’s new rope the wear and tear.

Rachel seconded and cleaned the climb without problem, and then belayed Ann over to set a top rope on Barley (5.6?). I thought this was a 5.8 up until just now. Hmm. Ann built another great anchor, and set a directional in the fat crack using my #6 camalot. I’ll come back to the significance of this later.

While Ann was leading and Rachel was cleaning, the rest of the girls were having fun making their first sets of tape gloves. Then they all took turns working Amaranth. None of the other three girls had ever rappelled before, so Rachel sat on top of the anchor and explained how to go static to the anchor, untie and throw down the rope, and then set up and go on rappel for all three girls. And she did great! Kate, Becca and Vicki all seemed to enjoy the adventure of rappelling down for the first time.

Then we all started to work on the fat crack next door. And, wouldn’t you know it, the last person to tackle that crack accidentally kicked the big cam 90-degrees and it fell, (tink, tink tink!) deep down inside that dark, wide crack. Ann climbed the route last, with a headlamp, and did eventually get a view of the cam, which she says is waaaay down there. There was no getting it out that afternoon. Stay tuned for next weekend, when Mark and I lay siege to Plumb Line Crag trying to get that big cam back!!

Ann and I worked together to clean these two climbs and keep each other on belay. After some hilarous antics of trying to get on a low rappel over the edge of a lip just a few feet above a huge ledge, we made it back to the ground with a top rope on Plumb Line.

A couple of the girls tried this one, but it’s overhanging-massively crackishness was just too much after a long day in the sun. I explored the far end of the formation, and found an exciting little scramble that got me back to the anchors so I could clean the climb. We all hiked out in the evening feeling exhausted, sun burnt, scraped and bruised up, and very very happy.

Ann and Dylan were nice enough to let me camp with them on Saturday night and climb with them on Sunday. I really missed Mark that evening as I had to set the tent up by myself in the outflow wind of a near-by storm, and then cook my own dinner, and tackle all of the usual camping chores single handedly. It’s so much more fun with two people. But I did ok. Eventually, Liv and I snuggled up for a warm, quiet night in the wilds of Wyoming.

Stormy Evening