Adventures … in Kansas?

June 29, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Not that Kansas isn’t an exciting place. In fact, Mark and I have probably come closer to disaster in this state than in any other. But, after living in Colorado for a few years, it’s easy to become a little elitist about adventures and vacations. After all, don’t most people come to my town on their vacations? Doesn’t it seem like the tourists from the midwest are the ones getting themselves into trouble in the mountains? (Actually, thinking about it, most of the people I read about dying in horrible accidents are Coloradoans).

So, when Mark and I decided to scrub our trip to the Tetons, and cancel our climbing plans up the iconic alpine test-piece that is the Grand Teton, we didn’t say it, but we were a little disappointed. After all, we exist in a world of adventure and excitement, surely a trip to the midwest would be, comparatively, dull.

Headstands at Perry Lake

We left Colorado on Saturday morning with the Prius packed full of camping gear and CSA veggies. We drove east at a leisurely pace, stopping to talk to motorcyclists and having picnics outside of Arby’s. At about 2pm, we were driving along the country side when our last bar on the electronic gas gauge started blinking. The computer screen on the Prius warned us “Refuel now!” Mark and I started discussing where we should stop for gas. After all, our tank has an 11 gallon capacity, and we had gone 450 miles at an average 51 mpg, so we should have only burnt 9 gallons of fuel. A minute later the Check Engine light came on, the computer screen blinked the word “Problem” and the car lost power rapidly.

Mark and I pulled over, and after calling Toyota and panicking for several minutes, we determined we had just run out of gas. In our Prius. Obviously, expensive technology cannot save us from ourselves. Mark had only been able to put in 9 gallons of gas the day before, which had been enough to read “full” on the gauge. And get us 450 miles across Colorado and Kansas before running out.

We were able to drive the last mile to a gas station on battery alone, where we topped off the tank with a full 10.5 gallons, and headed out to find a campsite for the night.

The Prius and the campsite

After our adventure in bad math, we were near our originally planned campsite in Kanopolis. It was early in the evening, so we decided to keep going the next park was outside Manhattan, Kansas, home to KSU, and was hosting a HUGE country music festival on Saturday night. We were stuck in traffic for an hour and never got a site. We finally found ourselves at Lake Perry State park, north of Topeka, at sunset. We got a primitive site on the edge of a huge lake, and had a great night of camping.

Camping in the midwest was full of wonderful surprises. There were lightening bugs everywhere! I had forgotten how wonderful and magical lightening bugs were. We saw huge deer, a skunk, beavers, and HUGE wild turkey’s in the forest around the lake. We slept in the warm, still, night air, not worried about wind or bears for the first time in a long while.

At sunrise, we were woken up at dawn by a giant cricket under our tent. Mark helped me with some yoga shots on the banks of the fantastic lake, and then we packed up and finished our drive to St. Louis.

Mark jumps right in

I suppose it’s only fitting that the adventure and beauty of a place are indirectly proportional to the amount of time you spend there. Mark and I have started to find camping in Rocky Mountain national park tedious and crowded, if you can believe that! But our one quiet night on the banks of a midwestern lake made me remember that there are plenty of beautiful spots east of the Front Range too.

Kate and Mark on vacation!

Kate’s Free Desktop Image 4

June 27, 2008 at 7:44 am

It’s summer and we’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains lately. But my favorite pictures are still from our backpacking trip last summer. Hopefully we’ll be able to get up in the area again later this summer. This image was taken just after sunrise above Blue Lake in the Rawah Wilderness of northern Colorado last July. I was standing at about 11,000ft and looking out towards the northern mountains in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

As usual, I’ve saved the image as a few different sizes for the most common screen resolutions. Feel free to down load the one that works for you by clicking on the link to the correct size below the image!

Big Views

1024 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1600 x 1200

June Garden Update

June 26, 2008 at 8:55 pm

Last summer I experimented with a container garden outside of our townhouse for the first time. I learned a lot, and I grew some really good food in the process. This year, I expanded the garden and diversified a bit, growing peas, beans, cilantro and raspberries along side the tomatoes and strawberries of last summer.

Comparison view of the whole garden

I took a series of pictures of the garden a few weeks ago, and by the time I got around to writing this post, the plants had all grown several feet! So, I went back this week and snapped a few more shots. The cool thing is that now I can set up comparison shots, and show how fast the crops are growing!

Amazing growth on the Pea and Bean plants

So far, I’ve only harvested a few strawberries and a bit of cilantro. This weekend, I’ll be harvesting most of the cilantro and several of the peas. Gardening is an interesting pursuit, it’s far more engrossing and time consuming than I expected, but I love every minute of it.

Bird/squirrel defense for the smaller patch of strawberries

More shots are in the gallery.

Gear Every Climber Should Have – Buffs!

June 25, 2008 at 6:19 pm

I’ve been reading a lot of other climbing blogs lately, and I’ve found myself enjoying gear reviews more than I expected. It’s interesting to hear what people are using, and how they are using it, in a sport that we all enjoy. Let’s face it, half the fun of climbing is playing with gear. Ok, maybe more than half.

Also, I’ve noticed that many gear reviews are done by men, of men’s gear, for men in the outdoors. As a woman who climbs, hikes, mountaineers, mountain bikes, and otherwise thoroughly enjoys being active outside, I feel there is a derth of gear reviews for women. There is plenty of gear sold to women these days. Is it any better? Any worse? I’m hoping to address some of those issues with these posts.


So, every other week or so, for as long as this holds my attention, I hope to highlight some piece of gear that we use on a regular basis, and talk some about it’s benefits to all climbers.

In this post, we’ll look at Buff Wear.

I am completely in love with this simple, very flexible, piece of clothing. It is a piece of coolmax (or one of several other types of stretchy fabrics) that is woven into a tube, about a foot long and seven inches in diameter. I do a lot of trad climbing, and in that mindset, I like all of my gear to serve several purposes. The buff does a great job with that.


Generally I, and many of my friends now, use the Buff as some form or another of hair containment unit. This can be done as a headband, sweat band, bandanna or head rag. The best part of a buff over traditional headwear is the lack of a seem. So, if you wear this thin piece of fabric all day under your climbing helmet (and you should be wearing a helmet!) you won’t get one of those obnoxious red lines from the seam pressing against your forehead all day. Neither will the buff shift due to a knot interfering with your helmet: no knots!

But, as I mentioned, it comes in handy for many other uses. It can cover cold ears easily. I often do the inside-out plus one twist move to get a little skull cap that I can wear to warm up on chilly mornings. In the winter, I usually use my buff as a scarf or light balaclava while skiing or snowshoeing. Mark made very good use of a buff after shaving his head last weekend. And if you’re skinny enough (as seen on Survivor) you can wear the thing as a loincloth/tube top.


My only complaint about the Buffs is that they can be a little expensive. It might seem to silly to drop $20 on a tube of stretchy fabric, but mine have lasted years and been totally worth the investment. Also, there now seems to be about a million options available. Winter buffs, shorter buffs, high UV buffs, and reflective kid-sized buffs. Specialization is never good for a product that’s main strength is its versatility.

But the Original Buffs are still available in almost every outdoors store. If you want to see the full range of options (with an astounding number of patterns available), check out the Buff Megastore. I’ve bought from them before and always been happy with the transaction. If you are an REI member, they are available through them as well.

Buffs! Approved by Kate for everybody.

A Little Lost and Lots of Love in Vedauwoo

June 21, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Vedauwoo was actually crowded when we pulled in on Saturday morning. Evidently Jenny and Craig were throwing the wedding of the century at a beautiful overlook, on horseback, about 3 miles down Ved road past the Nautilus. We waited in traffic for a little while, and then eventually found the Reynold’s Hill trailhead. As we parked and unloaded, there were two guys cooking breakfast in the back of their truck, a whole group of boulderers lounging in the sun, and five guys unloaded out of another car, all carrying golf frisbees. “Just another beautiful day in paradise!” They called out as they walked past us. Mark and I agreed.

Reynold's Hill

There’s pictures from the weekend in the gallery!

Basic Map of our circuitous route on Saturday

We started out our hike correctly. But the road began to seem to curve the wrong way. Too much time spent with Dylan, perhaps, caused us to decide to stop following the trail and head out cross-country towards the rocks. Of course, eventually we found ourselves in the middle of a horribly, thick, sticky, muddy swamp, with a giant rock and ravine between us and the climb. We walked through the swamp, around the rock. We found bits of trail and followed those for too long. An hour later, and we discovered we were so far off our mark that we’d made carpet-bombing look targeted. We navigated back towards the rock through thick woods and ravines using a (GASP) compass I keep in my pack. All told, it took us a little over two hours to get to the base of our climbs.

Mark bleeding profusely after his awesome redpoint of Pooh Corner

Mark started us out with a great lead of Pooh Corner (5.9). It was an extremely strenuous climb, and Mark climbed so hard that his biceps were spasming and his hands were siezing up in the jams. He didn’t fall, and got a solid redpoint of a hard, classic, long, Vedauwoo 5.9. I followed on top rope, and while I fell several times, I felt strong and balanced for large sections of the route. Despite Mark saying the route felt “Harder than Plumb Line,” I can proudly say I climbed it in much better style.

A leader from Golden tears it up on Pooh Corner

A group of three climbers from Golden attacked the corner next, and we watched them stooge around, getting everybody set to climb the second, overhanging offwidth crux, pitch, and then deciding to rap off. They took about an hour to climb the 60ft pitch, and likely decided to call it a day the minuted their leader started yelling “RETREAT! RETREAT!” as he stared into the gaping maw of the off-width above.

Kate enjoys a sunny day - love my new hat!

Mark and I explored the formation from the ground for a while. There are many very interesting looking multi-pitch chimneys, flakes, and cracks on these rocks, and many more rap anchors than we were expecting to see. I think one of the reasons I’ve always avoided Reynold’s is that the only guidance for descents in the book is “Downclimb to the north.” Now, if you’ve seen these rocks, you’d understand why I wouldn’t want to downclimb any of them. It turns out, neither does anybody else, and the towers and spires of the formation are littered with rap anchors.

We finished up the day with a climb up Maiden (5.6), which was a fun, steep, hand crack. More on the order of Ved 5.6’s like Bill Steal or the first pitch of Le Petite Arbour than easier cracks like Kim or Horticulture. Or maybe we were just burned out. Whatever the reason, we had a fun exciting climb on the way up, and a fun exciting down climb of the vertical gully to the right on the way down.

Mark made a good call when he decided we should head back after this and try to find a camp site. All of our usual haunts on the east side of the area were packed with people, but we did end up finding a really nice little site off of FS Road 700B.

General location of the campsite we found Saturday night

Mark made a fire (well, several fires actually) using only flint and steal, and we had tasty steaks for dinner before sleeping happily in the cool Wyoming night.

Cooking an awesome steak over the fire

Sun and Snow in Rocky Mountain National Park

June 15, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Mark and I camped Saturday night with Doug and Liz, enjoying a warm evening in Estes Park and the smooth classic rock melodies from our fellow campers until the wee hours of the morning. When we awoke on Sunday, we made a tasty breakfast, Mark chased our tent across a field, we packed up, and headed in to the National Park for a day of mountains and vistas.

There are more pictures up in the gallery!

Doug and Liz enjoy the view (after I told them to)

Doug had big plans for our day, and had picked out a great hike that, with use of the park shuttle, would send us over a remote 11,000ft pass and have a net elevation loss of over 1,000ft. Unfortunately, the snowpack this year has been … wait for it … leg-en-dare-ree. And the rangers at the Bear Lake trailhead were ready to physically block us from heading up this trail without appropriate gear (crampons, ice axes, avy beacons, sunscreen, food for a week, emergency shelters, etc). Rather than invoke the wrath of 6-10 retirees in ranger uniforms, we agreed to head lower and hike out to a few very pretty, but less remote, alpine lakes.

Google Earth view of our Hiking trails

We waded through tourists in shorts and tank tops for the first mile or so, but the crowds thinned when the trail steepened above Alberta Falls, and began crossing over large snow fields. The trails over the (very deep) piles of snow were well packed, but we were all happy to have our trekking poles as we slipped and slid all over the stuff.

Liz carefully walks down the steep snow field

We hiked all the way up to Loch Vale first, which ended up being a little less than 2.5 miles from the Bear Lake trailhead. I’ve been to some beautiful areas of Rocky Mountain, but this little lake has to be one of my new favorites. It was simply stunningly beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the snowfields, the rocks (is that the Petite Grepon?), the birds, the fisherman, the mountains and the glaciers. I did a little yoga self-portraiture for my photography portfolio, we all ate lunch, and enjoyed the spot.

Natural Natarajasana

We hiked back down the hill, refilled the water bottles, took long exposures of the very full rivers pouring out of the glacier, and a mile later we were up at Mills lake. Mark and I had been here before, when we climbed the Spearhead a few years ago, but it was nice to be here in the daylight, not exhausted and able to take more awesome pictures.

Mills Lake

On a normal day in June, we would be able to hike well above any of these lakes, but there was just too much snow this weekend. It made Doug and Liz nervous about their upcoming trip to Yellowstone, but made Mark and I more secure in our decision to not climb the Grand Teton next week. Hopefully, though, most of this snow will be melted off by the time we’re ready to climb the Petite or maybe even Long’s later this summer…

Climbing Osiris and More!

June 14, 2008 at 8:41 pm

In which, after a startling turn of events, we learn that our newly inherited rope is only 50 meters long, and that Mark should not be the one to carry the topo up the climb.

Our route up the Pages on the Book

The plan for the weekend was simple. Find somebody to watch the dog, camp in Estes Park, climb Osiris (5.7+) on the Pages formation on Lumpy Ridge for Saturday and hike high peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday. An easy, fun, weekend in the mountains.

Getting a campsite without a reservation on Friday night was harder than we would have liked, but we eventually found a nice site at Mary’s Lake Campground. We woke up with the sun on Saturday and made it to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead around 7am! As we hiked out to the climb, Mark nearly stepped on a little new-born fawn just off the side of the trail. What a cutie!

Brand New Fawn

Despite our ridiculously early start, we were second in line for Osiris. There was a pair preparing for the climb when we got there who worked and lived at McGregor’s ranch. Totally not fair.

It was at this point that Mark asked me to give him the photocopied pages from the guidebook that we had brought with us to use on the climb. “I’ll be leading,” he said reasonably, “I should keep the route description with me.” So I handed it to him. He put it in his pocket and then seemingly forgot about it immediately.

We watched the first pair climb the first two pitches of the route. They were able to combine the first two pitches (including taking the 5.5 zig-zag route off the ledge for the first pitch) and make it to the tree-ledge at the top of the second pitch with about 4 feet of rope to spare.

When it was our turn, Mark headed up the climb. He enjoyed the easy chimney climbing, and had fun with the few little off-widths. He decided to go straight up a crack on the left edge of the ledge at the top of the first pitch and head for the tree. He was about 30 feet off the top of the first pitch when we ran out of rope.

No problem!, thought I, I’ll just tie in and climb up a bit. That will give Mark enough rope to make it to the tree and set an anchor and bring me up. This type of climbing is known as simul-climbing, and we’ve seen a lot of it at Lumpy in last few trips. That’s probably why it didn’t seem like a big deal to me on the ground.

Mark checks out the view

Mark, however, was hanging from fist jams in an over-hanging 5.8 crack when I informed him of our situation. He put two pieces in the crack and took himself off belay so I could tie into the rope and put on my rock shoes. I then climbed about 15 feet up the off-width starter crack at the bottom to give Mark some rope to work with. There was more communication confusion at this point as I tried to let Mark know that he should have enough rope to finish the climb out.

It turns out he didn’t quite. I had to keep climbing up the off-width another 15 feet to just below the base of the first chimney before Mark could make it to the tree. Then I got to stand in the off-width for several minutes while Mark built an anchor. I had solid heal-toe foot jams, and I was feeling comfortable in this easy off-width, but the people below me were kind of freaking out. They kept reminding me “In simul-climbing, the second MUST NOT FALL!” True, but there was 150ft of rope and 25 or 30 anchoring pieces of gear between us. Plus, the climb was easy. Still, their nervousness did not make me happy about my position, standing in a wide crack, waiting for Mark to put me on belay.

Kate having fun climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Eventually he called down “ON BELAY KATY!” and I started climbing the rest of the route. The chimney was fun, and the off-widths were slabby and easy. The great thing (or maybe sad thing) about Lumpy Ridge 5.7’s is that there are always so many features around, that you don’t have to do much jamming. Still, I had a great time on the pitch. I found Mark had placed the little Big Bro we brought with us, as well as the #4.5 and two #4s. The top cracks up to the belay were fun as well, I got in some great fist jams as well as some interesting hand stacks. These are all moves we do at Vedauwoo regularly, and it was fun to do them on the mild (practically soft) rock of Lumpy Ridge.

We discussed the rope situation at the belay, and determined we would have to be a lot more communicative about the amount of rope we were using than usual. Somehow, in the course of simul-climbing, improvising for rope length, and being in an alpine environment, Mark officially moved into “alpine” mindset, which doesn’t involve following “routes” in the usual sense. After setting a hanging belay in a wide crack above and to the right of the dihedral on the second pitch, he had not only forgotten that there was a topo for this route, he decided that we weren’t even really on a “route” per se, and were just climbing to the top of the rock.

Mark moves the belay up onto the wrong side of Fang ledge

So, our top three pitches were a little different and a little harder than the classic Osiris route. We never made it to the “Fang” (sorry Matt), and instead moved the belay up and right to the base of what we both decided was a “fun-looking crack.” Which it most definitely was. That 50ft section of our fourth pitch was one of the most fun cracks I have ever climbed at Lumpy. It was full of friction-y crystals, and moved from hands to fingers in a series of pods just far enough apart to require big swinging crack moves.

Instead of figuring out how to exit left, Mark kept climbing up the headwall, through wide bushy cracks and some loose rock until we ran out of rope again. Our top and final pitch was an overhanging dihedral. I was sore and tired at this point, and stared up at this intimidating feature without much love. Mark found a fixed nut in the crack and was bummed out that we weren’t the first people to end up at this spot. We both dug deep and finished out the climb by jamming the shallow, overhanging, grungy dihedral with amazing exposure below us.

Looking down the headwall!

The view on top was amazing, of course. I wasn’t quite as thrilled as last time, but we were, officially, on top of the Book. There was no place higher to go on this rock! I love great summits, and this one was beautiful, and totally worth it.

Kate and Mark on top!

We cleaned up our gear, put on our hiking shoes, and scrambled down to a nice trail. A half hour of hiking later and we found ourselves about a mile from where we thought we were going to end up, and probably 500ft of elevation below where we had left our packs. Since Mark drank all of my water on the hike down, he graciously allowed me to nap under a boulder with the rope and rack while he jogged all the way back up the trail to get our empty packs.

Mark pulled out the super-hero inside of himself with that one, jogging the steep, rocky, approach to our climb and returning in a little less than half an hour. And we made it to Ed’s to meet up with Doug and Liz for beer and burgers by 5pm! Not bad for a simple day of easy crack climbing!

Climbing and Confusion on the Holdout

June 8, 2008 at 9:10 pm

After our relaxing Saturday, Mark and I decided to climb on Sunday. The weather was forecast to be icky in the National Park, so we drove up to Vedauwoo for the day. The wind was whipping across the area from the west at more than 30 mph, which left us with a windchill around 40 degrees. We thought it might be a good day to check out the southeast face of the Holdout.

Our three climbs for the day, no idea what they are

It took us a while to bushwack to the bottom of the climbs on the right end of the formation. For future reference, to get to the big ledge below the climbs, there is a gully on the right side (the left side is a shear face). The gulley was a little steep for Liv, so we had to lift her up, but she made it ok. On the way down, we packed the tight chimney with our backpacks and Liv sat on one as it slowly scraped down the chimney. Like a little elevator for the dog!

The wind was completely blocked on our sunny ledge. The air temp increased 50 degrees, and we climbed comfortably on sunny, windless, rock that day.

The Essence of Vedauwoo

Mark and I wandered about the face a bit trying to decide what we felt up to climbing. We started out with Mark leading what we thought was Bushwack (5.6). A wide crack behind the flake below the arch of 19th Nervous Breakdown. The climb was hard, it was a little too narrow for Mark’s feet and a little too wide for mine. Mark took a little scraping oozing lead fall on our #6 cam. I took about three falls before I figured out the sequence. We finished up on the vertical section of 19th.

The first lead of the morning was a doozy

Interestingly, the website has a slightly different labeling of cracks. It’s small and hard to read, but looks like the 5.6 climb was actually to the left of the one we were on. Maybe, maybe not.

Mark and I topped out and walked over to set a rope on two climbs to the left. We were surprised to see bolts on top of these, as there were none marked in the book. Unfortunately, only one bolt still had a hanger (a coldshut) the other was just a pole of threaded metal sticking out of the rock. We built a complicated anchor system for top roping which created so much drag that Mark had to re-do it all when he got to the top the second time.

The North end of the Nautilus in the sun

We both climbed two other “routes” on our TR. One of them was definitely Narrow and Ugly (5.8), but we’re not sure which. Probably the handcrack that goes up the right side of the lower panel, as shown on Mark tried the finger-tips sized seem that splits the middle of the panel (and was marked as the 5.8 in our book) and couldn’t get much off the ground. I fell a bunch of times but worked it out and ended up climbing the little route (I did haul on the bushes in the crack). Despite the mislabling in our book, I’m pretty sure this little crack has no name right now. It will henseforth be called Very narrow and treesy (5.10+). It would make a good aid seem, except for the bushes in the middle of it.

After our three good cracks, we were appropriately scraped and bruised. Mark cleaned the rope (rapping off of the one cold shut, scary but safe in this case), and we packed up and headed home. It ended up being a warm and beautiful day, and we never saw any other climbers on the Holdout. I wonder where they all were?