Climbing in the Desert, Part 1

February 28, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Last weekend, Mark and I snuck away for an early season trip to climb at Shelf Road. I’m sorry that we did not invite anybody on this trip, but we wanted a chance to truly suck without feeling self-conscious. Luckily, our climbing turned out a bit better than we expected.

There’s a lot of nice photos from the weekend in the gallery. I didn’t get much in the way of climbing action shots, but I tried to get a lot of pictures of the area, to give a good feel for the perfect limestone cliffs in the high desert of Southern Colorado.

View of the mountains from Cactus Cliffs

On Saturday, we had clear skies and bright sun, with a brisk northerly wind that kept the whole area feeling just a little chilly. We climbed in long-sleeve shirts and pants. I love my MH Butter Topper, it is now my new favorite piece of climbing clothing.

Our last climb on Sat - Amiga (10b/c)

We ticked off 5 routes on Cactus Cliffs on Saturday, including classic favorites like Crynoid Corner (5.7), and Red Eclipse (5.10c/d), which Mark and I were convinced was actually rated 5.9. We then finally had a chance to get on the popular moderates Black Slabbeth (5.10a), Ol’ 47 (5.9+) and finally Amiga (5.10b/c).

Mark and I agreed that all of the climbs on Saturday were lots of fun, but Ol’ 47, surprisingly, took the crown. It was a lovely, short, perfectly fun slab climb, with lovely balancy moves and a tricky little top-out. By the end of the day, our hands were raw from the sharp limestone, and our feet were aching from the slab work. We hiked out in the late afternoon, and then drove into town to buy me a cheep replacement sleeping pad, as mine had evidently sprung a leak, and I slept mostly on the cold ground Friday night (ick).

Camping in the desert

We cooked dinner, had a little fire, and then I spent about an hour running around in the desert night taking long exposure shots of stars, cactuses, and our tent. At one point, I put my hand down to steady myself in the dark, and ended up grabbing a prickly pear. I yelped, and ran to the car looking for tweezers to pull all of the barbs out. Luckily, it seemed there was little overall damage to my hand, and I slept great on my foam pad from Walmart on Saturday night.

Flow Yoga

February 18, 2009 at 7:19 am

Lighting Channing

My friend and yoga teacher Channing has set up a really nice website at and, I found out after class last night, she has started a series of free podcasts of her hour-long vinyassa flow yoga classes. Her classes are fairly quick-paced and generally good for all levels, though having a good grasp of sun salutations will help you follow these recordings. Channing is one of my all-time favorite yoga teachers because she does such an amazing job of bringing you into the practice by challenging you both physically and mentally. She does a beautiful job of bringing Spirit and deep mediation into an intensely physical practice. I definitely recommend checking these out.

Snow V-Day

February 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Valentine's Day Flowers

So, last Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and Mark and I decided to celebrate by spending the weekend in the snow. We rented a cabin up near Cameron Pass (at about 10,000ft) for Friday and Saturday nights and hoped to get in some snowshoeing and good picturing of the high peaks in the Never Summer Range north of RoMo.

Frosty Liv

Unfortunately, the altitude turned out to be too much for me, and I spent Friday night laying awake with my heart thrumming in my chest. I felt so awful by the time the sun rose on Saturday that, despite my best efforts, we needed to head home. So, not the romantic get-away that we were hoping for, but we did identify a potential weak area to work on before the alpine season gets underway. I’ve never been great with altitude, and I guess all of the time I spent at sea-level this winter didn’t help. But we’ll get back up to the high peaks and work it out.

Cam Re-sling

February 12, 2009 at 7:56 am

Reslung Cams

Last summer, there was a really unfortunate climbing accident due to old, worn-out slings on a route in Kentucky. It seems like there are one or two of these each year, and they are so sad because the accidents are preventable. Mark and I took the hint last summer and went through our slings and cordage, retiring the stuff we had been using since we first started climbing (eight years ago)!

We also went over our trad gear, much of which we bought all in one day with work bonuses during our second season of climbing. The cams were all in good shape, but many of the slings on them were not looking good. On a cam, the sling is a single point of possible failure, so it is dangerous to let it wear out too much.

Based on recommendations from BJ at Splitter Choss, we sent 24 cams off to Yates gear for re-slinging about two weeks ago, and got them back on Tuesday! Needless to say, the work was fast and professional. The new slings match the cams nicely, though the one orange TCU had to get a red sling. The price was good too, as getting all 24 cams reslung cost about $130 (less than a new rope!) Pulling the cams out of the box with the new slings was a wonderful treat, like I had just bought a whole new rack. Now, we’re both totally excited to get climbing and see the “new” cams out on the rock!

Mark and I have big plans for our REI dividend this spring, and we’re looking to replace a lot of gear that is showing wear these days (our harnesses have seen better days, the big belay biners have grooves worn in them, my helmet is cracked, etc) and I’m excited to upgrade to new, top-of-the-line safety gear as we do it. Look for more posts on new, shiny stuff this spring!!

Spring Snow!

February 11, 2009 at 6:33 am

Snowy Morning

I think I’ve been living in Colorado long enough now. The inch of wet, sticky, clumpy snow that we got last night made me super excited for spring! Hooray for the return of moisture!

Back to Golden!

February 7, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Friends Doug, Liz and Sean all agreed to help Mark and I redeem ourselves on the walls of North Table Mtn this weekend. We met at the trailhead on Saturday morning at around 9a, and headed back up to those dark, south-facing basalt crags looking for another adventure.

It was so nice to be back out climbing with the gang! There’s a bunch of photos up in the gallery.

I’m not going to wax too poetic about the trip. The new guidebook makes trips to Golden so much easier, and we got there early enough to hop on some classic moderates before the crowds showed up.

Liz climbing on North Table Mtn

We started out the morning with Mark leading Pack ‘o Bobs (5.7), and Doug put up a brilliant lead on Wholly Holey (5.8). Per the usual, both climbs felt stiff for their ratings. I think Liz is the only person who didn’t come down from both complaining about how the climbs seemed to be harder than 5.8, but this could be because she is sweet and doesn’t complain. Thankfully, this time, Mark and I both felt better on the rock. While I couldn’t pull the roof on Wholly Holey, I felt strong and confidant on the other two, and Mark had good climbs without too much pain either.

Around lunchtime, we headed over and put up ropes on Windy Days (5.8) and Pee on Dee (5.8), with Doug leading the former and Mark the latter. We all took laps on these routes and decided they seemed much more in-line with their grades. It’s likely we were all starting to get warmed up by this time, and felt more comfortable with the slopers and hidden crimps at North Table. I was unimpressed with Windy Days, as the anchor was too low over the roof to make pulling over it necessary or fun, and the route felt a little contrived. Pee on Dee, however, was the gem of the day. A lovely crack and face climb that was just the right amount of fun.

After four climbs, we were all done for the day. The sun had moved into the western sky, and clouds were starting to build, making our sunny cliff suddenly chilly. We packed up, and headed out, only to find out when we got to the cars that it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. Oh well, it felt like a good long day!

Izzy Osbourne

February 5, 2009 at 7:13 am


Our next-door neighbors have the second coolest dog in the world. Izzy, the little rat terrior, is sweet, smart, playful and cute as can be. In the winter, we like to save up dog-watching karma with various friends so we can ask them all to watch Liv at the last minute when we ditch town during the summer. We’ve watched Izzy twice in the last month or so, and I love having her around. She curls up on my lap while I’m working on my photos. She sleeps under the covers curled up under my arms in the bed! I love my huge, fuzzy, Liv-dog, but the Iz-dog really makes you appreciate how wonderful toy dogs can be too.

And this photo is inspired by the beautiful work of Emily Setzer. Check out her stuff!

Not as bad as I thought

February 4, 2009 at 7:05 am

A few hours of tinkering last night and the website is in pretty good shape! I discovered that the new wordpress theme I love so much has heavy, heavy use of stylesheets. I know these are useful things, and good for abstracting your code, but I think this is just over the top:

Nobody should have to enclose their photo gallery code in five different “div” levels, and behind one dummy “div.” Yep, that list containing only a space is entirely necessary to make everything work. Lovely.

I still have some work to do, like adding in a link to the map on posts with geotags, and putting the “nights outside” graphs back in. But all in all, it took a lot less time to make it work than I thought it would, and I like it. And it’s fun to redecorate every now and then!

Also, Mark wanted me to post the story of his encounter with the Mangoes and the Monkey Peeler. (Imagine the sound of guitar floating out of the website and Bob Dylan singing “Mangoes and the Monkey Peeler were hard up for cash. They stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash…”)

Mark's injury

On our hike out from North Table Mountain last weekend, the two guys walking infront of me were discussing the most wonderful sounding foods they were preparing for their superbowl parties. One guy was exceptionally creative and mentioned his world-famous mango chutney. Yuuuum. So, Mark and I bought some mangoes, a pinapple, some peppers and set about making a chutney. While peeling the mangoes with his new, awesome, monkey peeler (a Christmas present from my very cool brothers), the mango got away from Mark and he took the top off of his finger nail.

I finished up the chutney, which turned out great, and we served it in big piles over spicy grilled fish. Mark has kept his finger carefully wrapped and covered in anti-biotic cream, complaining about how this terrible injury is going to ruin our early climbing season.

I guess I’ll go to Florida and get myself some sun
There ain’t no more opportunity here, everything’s been done
Sometime I think of Mangoes, sometimes the fruit dealer
Sometime I don’t think about nothing but the Monkey Peeler