Spring Trip to Shelf Road, Part 2

March 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Sunday morning was cold and overcast. We initially decided to pack up and head back to the Fort, but as we made breakfast and cleaned up, the sky began to clear. By 11a, the sky was completely blue, the desert was warm, and our excuses for not climbing were running out quickly. As usual, there are pictures from the weekend up in the gallery.

As the sun peeked out, we decided to check out the Vault Area, which Mark and I both thought was east facing. As we wandered around the base of the cliffs to the right of the 2150 wall, we did not come upon any of the Vault climbs until the wall curved around and began to face north east and even north. So, we got in two (chilly) climbs on Sunday. Better to come back and climb this area in the summer.

Kate climbing Chip Off the Ole' Block (5.9)

Chip Off the Ol’ Block (5.9) – We found another 5.9 that we’ve never climbed! This one had a ton of stars in the guidebook as well, and Mark and I did enjoy it. The end of the route pulls you towards climbing out on the very edge of an overhanging section of rock. Below your tiny footholds is nothing but 80ft of air. It was very exciting! Unfortunately, it was on a section of the Vault that faces northeast, and we had no sun on the rock that morning. We all climbed quickly, with shivers and numb fingers.

Adam surveys the crux above

Flight Simulator (5.10 b/c) – Adam decided to start out his morning with a lead of this thin and tricky looking climb. It was still in the sun. The crux was about 3 bolts (15 feet) above a huge ledge, and clipping that 4th bolt looked nerve-wreaking. Adam tried it a few times, and then Mark gave it a go. He eventually worked his way through it to finish the climb amongst large flakes with a swarm of swallows flying in and out.

I was aware of the birds as I climbed this route, but not how close they were to me. As I stood at a rest and considered the crux, and I heard Mark’s voice float up from below me.

“Um, Kate, there’s something I should tell you…” He said.

“Oh, no Mark, don’t do it. I don’t need any advice!” said I. And I set off into the crux, climbing strongly on tiny feet to my left, using the flakes to my right and difficult body tension to balance my weight between them. I moved, pulled, grunted, twisted, and then reached high, pulled and reached higher, reached for a higher crack that would signal the end of the harder climbing….

“THERE’S A BIRD IN THAT CRACK!” Mark yelled from below me.

“What??” I said as I gratefully sank my hand into the giant hole in the rock, and then immediately thought better of it. Uh…

“Oh, don’t worry about it. If nothing has happened to you yet, nothing will. Maybe the bird left,” I heard Mark say below me. I decided to trust (or ignore) him and continued climbing to the top. It was a great route. And nobody got pecked.

After the two climbs were summited all around and we had removed all of our gear from the wall, we hiked back to the car. This time, we walked down the hill to the Cactus Cliffs trailhead and then back to out parking lot on the lower trail. This was much faster. We ate lunch sitting in the sun, enjoying the desert and mountain views from the parking area.

A tired group heading back to the fort

Spring Trip to Shelf Road, Part 1

March 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Mark and I counted when we got home, and this was our 8th trip to Shelf Road in 4 years. For a pair of climbers that consider ourselves traddies, we do spend a lot of time sport climbing! This time, Doug passed on the invitation to his friend Adam, who brought his girlfriend Jackie along. There are pictures from the weekend up in the gallery.

We have the New Gym all to ourselves

On Saturday, we hoped to find some nice moderates that we had not yet climbed. Adam and Jackie stopped off at Alexi’s Climb for their morning warm up, and to teach Jackie how to clean a sport route. Mark and I hiked off down the cliff-line, past Spiney Ridge and around to the east-facing Gym. We were the first ones there!

Our goal for the day was to climb 5 routes – a high number for us, especially this early in the season. Throughout the day, clouds came and went. The sun would come out and warm everything up, and then dissapear with a chilly wind. I think I chaffed the back of my arms from taking off and putting on layers all day long. But it was plenty warm enough for a pleasant day of climbing.

Time to go down

Black Mamba Arete (5.8) – Immediately after Mark left the ground to lead this one, I remembered climbing it before. No matter, it was a fun warm up, with big flakes and little feet. Just my kind of climb!

Ga-stoned Again (5.9) – This climb was definitely on the to-do list. The book and MP.com both give it tons of stars, so we waited in line to experience the sporty goodness. Mark climbed it quietly, and came down saying “Yeah, it was fun.” I climbed it, and was un-impressed. It was a fun stemming, jamming, laybacking 5.9. But it was, in the end, a bolted crack. There wasn’t anything particularly special about it. A good workout, yes. The best 5.9 at Shelf? Doubtful. Seriously doubtful.

New Rule (5.9) – This climb looked awful. The rock at the bottom looked crumbly, there were plants filling cracks to either side, the bottom three bolts had homemade hangers, and there was no dirt (only grass and cacti) at the base. Vegetation at the base of a climb is a bad sign at Shelf. But, it was a 5.9, and in the sun, and Adam and Jackie were working on Black Mamba, so we decided to try it out.

Old flowers and new fruit on this cholla cactus

This little gem turned out to be the best route of the weekend. All of the rock on the climb (despite appearances) was utterly solid. The bottom section was as prickly as the nearby cacti, so the salvation of fingertip skin demanded careful footwork. There were hidden pockets, prickly shelves, and every other weird formation you could imagine in the most thin, but solid, black limestone we have seen at Shelf so far. The top two thirds of the route were thin (THIN) slab climbing. We worked balanced and technical moves between well spaced and huge pockets. The climb was bolted in a more traditional manner that left Mark to run out the last 15 feet to the anchors – a task he enjoyed the thrill of. I loved every minute of the slab, and came down happy to have found such a wonderful climb in a sea of mild disappointments.

We took a break for lunch, and then Adam climbed and cleaned New Rule. By the time he was done, we had been in the shade for a while, the wind was picking up, and I wanted sun. We hiked together over to Spiny Ridge, where Mark and I realized that we had climbed everything below a 10c here. Wanting something new, we wandered further back, and eventually found ourselves at the base of a wild looking 10 on Cactus Cliffs.

Mark and Liv relax before another climb

Relampago (5.10b/c) – The guidebook says the name means “lightening” in Spanish, and I guess it comes from the shape of this narrow fin of rock, which unexpectedly emerges from an otherwise normal looking corner. The bolts climb a buttress lower down, then protect the left side of the fin, and finally cross over to the right side about 20 ft below where the climb finishes. Mark made the bottom hard by jamming his way up a pair of overhanging flakes/cracks. The thin face in the middle required strong body tension to keep from loosing balance and swinging right off the flake. In the top third, Mark actually did a few full body stems (hands on one wall feet on the other), as he worked up to the anchors.

Adam and Jackie were done for the day, so I climbed and cleaned the route. I took the easy way up the lower buttress, and then took a look at the fin. Mark had cleaned the draws on his way down, so I could choose whatever route I wanted up this climb. I decided to start and end on the same side, and tackle the right-side chimney the whole way up. The lowest part of the chimney was a little loose and dirty, but plenty of fun. The upper part was just as wide as Mark found it, and I opted to climb the thin holds on the flake alone to the anchors. Definitely another good workout for the day.

Hanging out around the fire

The group decided it was time to head back for the day after this last adventure. We hiked back to camp, and had tasty cold beer and bratwurst for dinner. Mark and I went looking for deadwood to help feed the fire after dinner, and found another site had left 6-8 large pieces of log cuttings next to their fire ring. These were long boards: the edges from logs that are squared for timber at a mill. Mark and I dragged them back to our site, and Adam and Mark worked late into the night splitting wood, burning huge logs, and trying not to loose limbs or set themselves on fire in the process. It was a great night.

Kate’s Free Desktop Image 2

March 26, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I took this shot on my hike up to Horsetooth Reservoir a few weeks ago. It’s another image that is nice, abstract, and might make a really nice desktop wallpaper. So, I’ve saved it as a few different sizes. Feel free to download the one that works for you!

Clear Water

1024 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1600 x 1200

We’re Back!

March 25, 2008 at 6:20 am

After transferring the site, moving the registration of our domain name, and then a lot of confusion as to what our “colocalders” address was pointing to, the site is now back up! So far, aside from the initial work, I am very happy with the performance of our new host. The site seems to be loading much faster for me, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Note to everybody: The blog is actually at a slightly different address (no “/blog” at the end of the site). You’ll have to un-subscribe and re-subscribe if you want your readers to have the correct feed.

The next step is to fill out the titles, descriptions and information for all of the images moved over to the new photo gallery. That’s going to take some time. But, you might notice, in order to save machine cycles I have resized all of the images in the gallery to about 75% smaller than they were before. I hope that’s ok.

Let me know if you find anything that isn’t working!

LOST (for about an hour)

March 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

This weekend’s adventure ended up being a lot more exciting than we expected. The plan was to snowshoe up to Montgomery Pass, which is just north of Cameron Pass. We’ve attempted this hike before, but had to back down due to strong winds. This weekend, the weather was looking better, so, at around 11:30a, we headed up the trail towards the bright fields of snow above.

Red is where we were on trail, green is where we were off

We are no longer on a trail.  More like an avalanche run-out.

We flew up the trail, hiking at a high aerobic pace and dodging skiers and snowboarders flying down the hill. There is an intersection at the top, where skiers head for the Sugar Bowls, and the Montgomery Pass trail heads to the right. Our trail to the right was a smooth field of snow between the trees, we were going to have to break trail to the pass. “No Problem!” we said, and we headed off into the woods following the little blue signs on trees that marked our trail. It was supposed to be our own version of Dylan and Ann’s dot-to-dot hiking. We got past about three dots and then lost them completely in the thick woods.

“No problem!” we said. The pass was above treeline and north of us so we headed up to the bare snow, took a long hike to the right, and there it was!

Heavy Snow

The pass was all the more beautiful because of the unspoiled snow. We were definitely the first people there that day, and possibly since the last snow. We set up a little camp behind a group of trees, where we found warm sun and light winds. I took several yoga photos, and then tramped around the pass taking shots of the smooth snow, bright skies, and sculpted trees for most of an hour. Check out the gallery for more beautiful pictures!

Kate's yoga shoot 2

On our way out, we found the blue marks showing us the trail out. We found one, then another, and then were promptly lost in the woods again. We new the highway (and our trail) was downhill and south of us, so we just kept heading that way, hoping to eventually find the trail.

The going was rough, even with snowshoes, our steps sank into the deep powder several inches. Liv was up to her belly and sliding down the hill most of the way out. We took turns breaking trail for each other as we wandered through the forest. It was exhausting, even as we were generally heading down the slope. Eventually, Mark spotted the bright colors of a skier flying through the trees ahead of us, and we triumphantly burst out of the deep snowy woods onto the packed trail. Liv looked happier than she had all day!

We cruised down the easy trail for about 3 minutes before we popped out on the road at our car. Evidently, we had managed to parallel the trail all most all of the way down the hill before we found it. We dragged our sore, exhausted bodies into the car at around 5pm, and headed down the canyon to the warmth of home.

We’re moving

March 21, 2008 at 8:30 pm

I got sick and tired of the slow speeds, poor up-time and horrible performance of our old webhost. So I signed up with somebody else! So far, the site is loading much faster (at least for me), but evidently moving an existing domain is one of the world’s most complicated tasks. The bureaucracy, the security hoops, the forms to fill out, the emails to respond to are all amazing in their bulk. It probably would have been easier for me to register MarkAndKateClimb.net and just set up an auto re-direct for a month or two until people got it.

But I didn’t.

So, now we’re on step 12 of 18: “waiting for the old registrar to contact me and ask permission to release the domain.” From what I’ve read, if they don’t do that in seven days then it will be released automatically. Hopefully, then the site will be back at it’s permanent address.

Or maybe I’ll give up and pick a new name. What about WeekendWeatherWarriors.com? Probably already taken. Oh, I know: VedauwooIsTheShiznit.Org! Well, that might be hard for my grandma to remember. Let me know if you, the readers, have any ideas.

It always snows on my birthday

March 17, 2008 at 6:52 pm

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always seen snow in the week before or the week after my birthday. Some of my more memorable birthday parties included my 12th – where we took a group of girls out for a picnic and kite flying at the big local sculpture park. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, it would have been better if it had not snowed 6 inches two days before, and then we had two sunny 70F degree days afterwards. Needless to say, the mud was legendary.

This year, I woke up on the morning of St. Patties day to the usual assortment of winter storm warnings, blowing snow watches, and heavy snow reports.

Luckily, the storm moved south of us, and the forecasts for epic blizzard conditions fell through. But, we did get a lovely coating of spring snow. For a quick look at who got the most snow you can check out the snow reports page. And here is your pretty snow picture of the day!

Spring Snow

Winter Gardening

March 16, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Mom and Dad bought us an Aero-grow hydroponic system a few weeks ago, and I finally got around to setting it up today. It’s a pretty neat little contraption. I’ve turned my laundry room closet into a little grow-room. For salad greens! We’re growing lettuce! I swear!

There’s a few more photos in the gallery.

The seed-pods have biodomes to start the growing