How to climb Greyrock in 17 pitches

April 27, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Mark and I decided in the last week or so that we want to try to climb the Grand Teton at the end of June. To warn our readers, the next several adventure write-ups on this blog are probably going to start with the words “As preparation for our up-coming climb of the Grand Teton…”

This weekend, we picked Greyrock as our training ground. We hiked the 3.5 mile long meadows trail to the base of the mountain. When we got to the bottom of the mountain, two parties were already climbing on top of each other on The Greatest Route. Another pair of climbers had just arrived, and seeing the log-jam decided to climb Barfy’s Favorite instead. We only knew of three routes to the top of the rock, so we wandered back to the “Chipmunks” area. There was a large group finishing up a top-rope on the first pitch of one of the three cracks. After they cleaned it, we started up the second part of our adventure for the day.


The last time we climbed Greyrock, we found ourselves on an easy, 5.6 route to the summit that Mountain Project calls Theodore. This time, we climbed the crack that started 10ft to the right, and managed to end up on a completely different route that was much more difficult.

Simon (5.9-) – This climb is usually done in four or five pitches and climbs the crack system to the right of Theodore. We started on the long, fun hand crack the other climbers were top roping. The second pitch was fun slabs and thin cracks up to a huge ledge under an extremely intimidating roof. The guidebook said the crux of the climb was this overhanging hand crack, and it looked horribly intimidating. In fact, when Mark got up to the roof, there was a new-looking sling around a chuck where it looks like another leader may have bailed.


Mark climbed up to the roof, pulled hard and made it over without too much drama. There were a few interesting moments as he jammed in a yellow cam at his waist without being able to see it, and then climbed up the slab to the right and set a belay quickly. I was actually very nervous when I made it up to the roof. The ground seemed very far below me, and that crack was long, and very steep.


But, I dug in, and pulled out a clean ascent. I even managed to yank out the seriously over-cammed pro that Mark had placed. And, after a few surprisingly fantastic fist-jams, one wild scream as I stood up on two jammed feet, and then a few moves of beautiful, exposed crack climbing, I was at the very nice belay ledge.

The rest of the climb went well. We did shorter pitches because the sun was out, the day was warm, and there were lots of good ledges to hang out on. I have been reading the new edition of John Long’s Anchors, and I evaluated each belay point with “WWJLD?” Only one was questionable, on the 5th or 6th pitch (I don’t remember), I found Mark in front of two widely spread cams, with a sling around a television-sized detached boulder. I asked Mark if the boulder was safe and he replied “Sure it is! See!” giving it a kick that rocked it back and forth on the ledge just a bit.

“Take off the sling!” I demanded. “If that thing falls, I don’t want to be attached to it!” Mark complied. He handed me the gear, grumbling about how his “death sling” wasn’t good enough for me.


We scrambled up to the top of the mountain at about 5:30p. There were still a few hikers around, one of whom was nice enough to give me a shocked “Where did you come from??” expression when I clambered up over the edge of a shear cliffline. I love that moment. We re-organized, enjoyed the view, and hiked down (this time we both had shoes). I was already exhausted and sore from the day, but we dug deep and hiked home, taking only an hour and half to descend the 2.5 miles back to our car. I had blisters from shoes that were too small, leg and back muscles in tight knots and knees that are still sore. But it was a good day, and only the beginning.

Mark on the Summit

Calm morning

April 25, 2008 at 3:21 pm

A shot from my walk around Arapahoe Bend natural area a week or two ago. It’s a little strange how many of the trees near our house have leaves or blooms, but the branches were all bare down by the river.

Calm Morning

For the Fun of It

April 23, 2008 at 7:18 am

Dylan in Relief
After our Partner Yoga class last weekend, Mark and I bought the book from the instructor. The Pleasures and Principals of Partner Yoga by Elysabeth Williamson has some really great postures and adjustments for pairs to practice. The other interesting part of the book is the way it is illustrated. They took lovely images of yogis and turned them into sketches. It gives the book a low-tech, artistic feel. Like a traditional yogic scroll, where the ancient hand was only able to sketch out the basics of the asana.

I thought I might try my hand at this effect, and the result is here. What do you think?

Climbing in the South St Vrain Canyon

April 19, 2008 at 9:47 pm

The last (and only) time Mark and I went to check out climbing in this corner of Colorado, we got lost, thrashed by bushes, nearly struck by lightening, and spit off of a climb that was much harder than we thought. When Dylan and Sean proposed we go back to the South St. Vrain Canyon again last week, we told them our story of pain and woe. Dylan disagreed completely, and we decided to trust him for another trip back to the area. There are lots of pretty pictures up in the gallery.

Dylan carefuly climbs past the big cactus

The day began with a bright sun, which never left us. We started off climbing some fun routes on the way into the Buttonrock recreation area. We had the cliffline to ourselves on Saturday, and we climbed hard. Dylan has a blow-by blow of our routes for the day, I’m just going to list the first SIX that Mark and I tackled here. We cruised so many pitches because many of the routes were easily top-roped from the same anchors, and because Mark was ON.

Mark cheers Dylan on

Unknown Flake (5.7) – Mark’s first lead, a nice traditionally protected slab. I followed.
Civic Duty (5.8) – A toprope of the thin slab to the left of our first climb. Lots of fun for both Mark and I.
Green Slab (5.9+) – Mark and I climbed on Dylan’s TR. Mark did a fantastic on-sight, and I took a few falls. It was tricky.
The Buick (5.10a) – Mark jammed this overhanging crack so beautifully. I couldn’t get off the first big ledge.
Unknown Face (5.10c) – Mark pulled off another brilliant on-sight on Dylan’s toprope. I took several hangs, but made it all the way up this pumpy little climb.
Beemer up Scottie (5.8) – Mark lead this overhanging hand crack cleanly, with one scary moment. Dylan followed and cleaned it. Sean and I were done for the day and just enjoyed the show.

Mark heads around the corner to climb

Mark and Dylan both felt the need to continue down the road after those first six hard climbs. We ended up in a beautiful spot next to the river spilling out of a reservoir. Mark put up a beautiful, smooth lead of Introducing Meteor Dad (5.10d). This was one of the longest routes of the day, and I enjoyed an hour or so without a pack, taking pictures, while Mark and Dylan climbed. It was a great way to end a fantastic day. And then Mark fell in the river on the walk home.

Mark climbs at Buttonrock

Hanging out with an Astronaut

April 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Our group was lucky to have Piers Sellers come out to talk and spend the day discussing his research with us this week. Apart from being an incredible, and very accomplished climate scientist (ie my current career track), he has also flown on two different shuttle missions to the International Space Station! In the course of those two mission he has logged 41 EVA hours in 6 different spacewalks.

Piers (I tried to call him “Dr. Sellers” and he made fun of me) gave a great talk about what it’s really like to go into space. I was surprised by little facts like it only takes about 3 minutes to reach orbit in the shuttle, that Russian cosmonauts are so superstitious that they all pee on the wheels of the shuttle before getting in, and that the inside of a space suit smells like bacon on an EVA.

After spending the day at the department, my adviser threw a very nice party for Piers, and Mark happily came out to meet him. We all three had a great conversation about rock climbing, and Piers said that his experiences climbing in the mountains were “miserable.” Ah well, I guess it’s not for everybody!

Mark, Kate and Peirs Sellers

Top 10 Signs of Spring in Fort Collins

April 16, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Colorado has it’s own version of spring. Where other places have daffodils and tulips covering the yards, the signs of a new season in Fort Collins are slightly different.

10. My daily outfits go from one warm top plus down-coat to three light layers that can be added or removed as necessary.
9. Woodpeckers on our rooftop bathroom fan covering. I guess they like the echoes this time of year.
8. Our stored freezer food is dwindling.
7. The bike racks in Old Town start to fill up.
6. The news is filled with discussion of water access rights.
5. The town’s yards and barns are filled with baby cows, baby goats, and baby kittens.
4. I get sunburnt while rockclimbing.
3. All of Liv’s fur falls off.
2. The kayaks begin appearing on top of cars.
1. The temperature was 80F two days ago, 25F yesterday, and 50F today!


I don’t need a camera to have a fun trip, Part 2

April 13, 2008 at 6:18 pm

I may not have needed a camera, but by Sunday, I was missing it.

The morning was warmer, and Mark and I felt like we had inadvertently been victims in a South American soccer stampede the night before. Even Liv seemed exhausted as she sulked around the campsite while we packed up.

When it came time to decide where to climb, the simplest option seemed to head up to Sand Gulch. This beautiful limestone canyon towered over our campsite all weekend, and it’s warm sunny east-facing wall beckoned. We have climbed there once before and were unimpressed, but Sunday seemed like a good day for “unimpressive.” We were certainly feeling that way.

I don’t need a camera to have a fun trip, Part 1

April 12, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I know it seems unlikely, but I actually went on a climbing trip, and accidentally left my camera at home. It was all packed up, ready to go, and on the table rather than in the pile with everything else. So it didn’t go in the car. I realized this around Loveland on I-25, and declared “I don’t need a camera to go rock climbing!” and that was that.

After three days of heavy snow this week, Mark and I decided that most of the rocks and cliffs around Fort Collins would be un-climable this weekend. I took the opportunity to demand one more trip to Shelf Road, and Mark acquiesced. Our last trip had been a lot of fun, and we found ourselves in much better climbing shape than we expected. So we took advantage of the bad weather and headed south to work hard on the long limestone routes at Shelf Road, again.

When we arrived in Cañon City Friday night, the air was clogged with snow like powder sugar in a donut kitchen. As we drove north out of town, the snow began to lighten, and the skies were cold and clear as we pulled into the campground. There was a dusting of snow on the cacti when we arrived, and the desert was white and frozen under the quarter moon.

Saturday morning, we woke late, waiting for the sun to warm up the tent. By the time I crawled outside, much of the snow had melted. We made breakfast and then headed to Cactus Cliffs for some sun-drenched climbing.