Rainy Weekend in New Mexico, Part 2

May 24, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Sunday morning we all woke up to a little sun cracking through the windows at Dylan and Ann’s loft. The forecast didn’t look much better, but the peaks of sunlight gave us hope. We packed up and head to local Santa Fe climbs in Diablo Canyon.

The photos from the weekend are up in the gallery.

Hiking out to Diablo Canyon on Sunday morning

By the time we got to the crag, the clouds had closed in again, but, this time, the rain didn’t pour out. We hiked up to the big Sundevil Wall, threw down our packs and started up a few routes.

Claire led the first route, putting up a great climb of Post Moderate (5.9). Dylan took off on Hell Boy (5.8+) right behind her. After they made it up a few bolts, we had a few sprinkles, and the decision was made to climb only first pitches.

Claire start out on the first lead of the day

This worked out well. As the sprinkles came and went for an hour or so, we all took turns climbing the nice moderates on the dark, volcanic rock. Eventually, the skies cleared for about an hour, and we actually got some sun to warm and dry the desert around us. A few people got on Highly Caffeinated (5.10-) as a top rope using the same anchor from Post Moderate.

Dylan and Claire scale the huge walls

Dylan led up the long Naked Lunch (5.10), and then Claire followed the full 150ft to the high perch. As they worked on setting a two-rope top-rope for the long climb, the first rolls of a distant thunder washed up on our cliff sides. We quickly had two climbers run up the first two routes and clean the anchors, and Dylan and Claire rapped off their climb.

Dylan leading at Diablo Canyon

As we packed up, quickly, thunder and lighting blew in from a big storm to our south. A few of us threw our gear in our packs and jogged down the hill to the cars. Others moved a little slower, but were lucky to run into two hikers on their way out of the canyon. The hikers directed a few at the bottom of the cliff to check out “the really cool thing” that was just around the corner of the cliff wall.

On the far side, was a crazy solar powered ice cream cart! I didn’t get to see the installation art piece, but Mark had a tasty ice cream bar and was video recorded for the artist’s work. I hear it was a very cool thing.

What a beautiful rock formation

In the afternoon, we waited out the storm and the hail at the Second Street Brewery. (As per Ann’s comment, Saturday was actually at the Santa Fe brewery.) I had very tasty nachos, a nap in the loft, and another evening of fun card games and camp food on the deck.

Monday morning, we got breakfast in downtown Santa Fe, and wandered a bit through adobe shops to the local REI, where I managed to keep the total under $100. Mark and I said goodbye to everybody and headed home. The Memorial Day Weekend gatherings are fun, no matter the weather, or the amount of climbing, and I think we should do this more than once a year!

Rainy Weekend in New Mexico, Part 1

May 23, 2009 at 6:28 pm

The traditional gathering of friends for climbing over the long Memorial Day weekend took place in New Mexico this year! Dylan and Ann, Doug, Zach, Claire, Dennis, Mark and I all met up at Tres Piedras in northern New Mexico, in the dark and the rain, late on Friday night.

Inescapable stormy skies

Thanks to the inspiration of a local photo gallery, I decided to shoot the weekend in black and white, playing with different settings on the camera and post processing. I think the pictures turned out… interesting. Some look a little over done, others under. Let me know what you think!

All of the shots from the weekend are up in the gallery. Also, Dylan started a flickr group for our photos here.

Mountain Oaks

We knew the weather forecast for the weekend was bad, but the sopping wetness that we all woke up to on Saturday morning seemed unreal for the desert state. Dylan joked, appropriately, that we had been transported during our dark drive the night before to Squamish, which seemed more likely than New Mexico on Saturday morning. The air was thick with mist and fog, the Ponderosa pine trees dripped water from their needles, the sandy dirt road was running with new little rivers, and the lovely granite domes of Tres Piedras were slick as glass.

Mark and Liv climb up to the top

It seemed unlikely that we would get much climbing in. We hiked around the rocks, identifying nice looking, but very wet, routes. The skies stayed dark, and rain drizzled on and off all morning.

Tres Piedras looks like a fantastic place to camp and climb. We could set up all of our tents just a few hundred feet from the rocks, in a fantastic grove of Ponderosas. The area was quiet. The granite routes looked beautiful.

Tents in the trees

After our hike, we retired to camp, and munched on lunch while the skies opened up for another downpour. We relaxed and debated the weekend plan for the next hour. Should we hang out at the wet camp, and hope to climb the next day? Or pack up and drive to Santa Fe, where Dylan and Ann have a loft apartment and we could all “camp out” on their floor?

Enjoying the rainy view

The idea of sleeping away the afternoon in a tent sprinkled with rain, or slacklining between wet trees did appeal to me. But after an hour, the rain got harder and harder. Our tent appeared to be leaking slightly (note to self – need to redo the seam seal). Slacklining would be nearly impossible in the deluge. We needed to leave.

Dylan and Ann drive into the darkness ahead

Two hours later and we were in the tasting room at the Second Street brewery in Santa Fe. Still a little damp, but with higher spirits. We grilled our camp food on Dylan and Ann’s deck, drank lots of beer in the loft, and played card games until late at night. Note for other rained-in campers: Apples to Apples seems to be much more fun than Fluxx for a big group. If you can find it, though, invest in a few decks of Dutch Blitz. You won’t regret it.

North Carolina Beach Vacation, Part 2

May 13, 2009 at 8:12 pm

The big adventure of our trip to North Carolina came on Wednesday, when we all booked spots on a 50ft catamaran sail-cruise to Cape Lookout. The trip took about 6 hours, included lunch, drinks and snacks, involved spotting horses and dolphins from the sailboat as well as mooring at the lighthouse and the cape to give us time to explore and look for shells. All for the bargain price of $60 a person. Really. Great. Deal. I totally recommend Lookout Cruises if you’re in the area.

Laying on the nets, looking up

And, I may have decided that my next career will involve chartered sailing while I was on this boat. Those guys did a great job, and looked like they really loved their jobs. There’s pictures from the day up in the gallery.

Cape Lookout Sail Map (Google Earth)

The cruise was great. We had a strong wind out of the east, so we “motor-sailed” out to the lighthouse (the direct line on the map above), which took about an hour and a half. We had lunch at the dock and then took an hour to explore the museum, lighthouse, and pristine seashore of the cape. We then loaded back into the boat, and sailed back a little ways, where the crew ran the big boat up on the beach, and we all hopped out to find some of the biggest, prettiest shells I’ve ever seen. All in an area with no roads, no crowds, in fact, nobody but us for the whole day.

A North Carolina Landscape

Mark and I both have a good bit of experience with sailing, and have often talked about buying a little boat and taking sailing vacations. On this trip, I thought it was great to see so much of the love of sailing and passion for the outdoors in the people living along the coast. They may not be climbing, but these people have just as much dedication and obsession with their chosen sport and lifestyle as any dirtbag rock climber that I’ve met.

Looking across the bow on a cloudy evening

I’ve often heard from the climbers and adventurers in my life that there are two types of people in this world. Some people are happy just to see the mountains, and enjoy the views from below. Others are driven to climb and explore each peak and lofty perch. I think the same easily applies to the ocean. Some people are perfectly content to sit on the beach and watch the waves crash, the storms’ fury, and the dolphins playing, from a distance. Others have to head out into the blue expanse, and experience it all first hand.

North Carolina Beach Vacation, Part 1

May 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

When I was a little girl, my favorite place on the planet was the Outer Banks, in North Carolina. My family traveled to the East Coast nearly every year from the time I was about 10 years old until after I left for college. My most recent trip was for our wedding, six years ago, in Duck, North Carolina. Last week, Mark’s family met in Atlantic Beach, in the southern part of the North Carolina coast.

Check out the gallery for pretty photos.

North Carolina beach view

When I was younger, the North Carolina Coast inspired so many dreams and fantasies. I would try to surf in the chaotic waves on the coast. In my mind, I was in Hawaii, ripping it up with the best of them.

I would sail small boats around the sound, the area between the barrier islands and the mainland, flying across the water in North Carolina wind gales. In my mind, I was captain of one of the hundreds of wrecks that litter the shallows off the myriad capes and barrier shoals.

I would walk along the beach in the evening, watching dolphins in the distance and pelicans skimming over the waves. In my mind, I was walking arm-in-arm with the love of my life, content to be together in a beautiful, perfect, magical place.


In some ways, the beach wedding felt like a “goodbye” to my childhood and childish things. It was the last time I visited the North Carolina coast, and I was working, making my own money, and committing myself to the man I love. The world was open to me; I could travel and sail and climb and be everything I had ever dreamed of.

What I did on my vacation

And in the last few years, we have made good on those big ideas. As we drove over the causeway for our return trip this week, I felt instantly nostalgic and sad. The beach seemed so much smaller, and less exotic than it had been when I was a kid. How exciting are wild horses on barrier islands when you’ve chased mountain goats up 14,000ft peaks? How amazing is an east-coast beach when you’ve been to Tel Aviv? How can sailboats on the sound compare to the gilt long-boats near Venice?

Atlantic Beach Sunset

I felt that this vacation would never be as great as the ones I remembered, but now I think that may be an unfair comparison. The world is different now, especially when viewed through my eyes. But that, actually, doesn’t make a special place like North Carolina any less special. The world is full of amazing sights and incredible adventures, and now that I’ve experienced a few of them, I think the coast of North Carolina still ranks among the best.

A Letter to Myself (When I Started Climbing)

May 8, 2009 at 9:35 am

Hello Young Kate! This is a note from yourself, 8 years from now. You see, I’ve been inspired by some friends to look back at old photos and I’ve noticed some things. I thought you might appreciate a little advice from the future, just to let you know everything works out, though maybe not as you expected.

First trip to a gym - Climbtime Indy.  Totally safe, all gyms use non-lockers and cord for anchors, right? (probably around 9/2000)

I see you decided to buy yourself a harness and pair of new, shiney climbing shoes! Too bad you didn’t believe the guy at the climbing store when he tried to sell you those Mythos. They end up being some of your favorite shoes in the future. But, everybody is new, and your gear will work fine. A note to start out, though. Wearing only a sport bra does NOT make you look nearly as cool as you think it does. Just sayin’.

After wandering through the desert and not finding any climbing. Only our second trip out! (5/02)

Your learning years in the mid-west will be important ones. And believe it or not, the Red River Gorge is actually a great place to climb. Yeah, I know, it’s hot and humid and crowded and you have to thrash through shrubbery to get to the climbs. But, someday, the place will become so popular, your memories will seem positively quaint. Cherish your moments in Kentucky, but know there are bigger and better things out there for you. You’ll move to Colorado. You’ll climb huge routes. You’ll have plenty of adventures. Stop complaining.

Mark leading in Jackson Falls (5/03)

Leading may seem scarey now, but it will get worse. When the inevitable anxiety disorder catches up to you (it’s hereditary, don’t fight it, just understand it), you need to be ready for everything to get harder. So, for now, keep leading, and don’t let others do all of the work. The more you do now, the easier it will be later. Lead more in the gym, lead more outside, and don’t let that silly beginner’s confidence slip away from you.

Finishing up my first outdoor lead, Jacks Canyon (4/03)

You’re falling in love with Mark, and it’s only going to get worse. It may seem extremely unlikely right now, but you will marry him, and it will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Mark leading Curtain Call (10c) - still one of my all-time favorite climbs. Too bad the area is now closed (7/03)

It sounds cheesy, but you will regret the things you don’t do more than the ones you do. Every time you get scared and think you can’t do something, imagine me, 8 years in the future, thinking back to that moment and wondering what amazing person I would have become if I would have kept going. Your best climbs will always be the ones you want to walk away from. You’ll think they’re too hard, or too long, or too unknown. But it always works out, because you and Mark are smart, thoughtful, and capable climbers. These “impossible” climbs will be the most memorable, and often your favorites. I don’t know why it is this way. It just is.

Mark and Kate after climbing Bedtime for Bonzo (5.6). Everything was starting to fall together (7/03)

Cherish the time with your friends, because people wander in and out freely in this world.

And wear more sunscreen, ya idiot.

Future Kate

Spring in RoMo

May 3, 2009 at 7:59 pm

We got a break in the weather on Sunday and took off for the mountains. Mom and I went shopping in Estes Park and then we all drove up through the National Park. We watched elk, played in the snow, and walked on Trailridge Road past the closure.

There’s some nice and fun pictures from the day in the gallery.

Christi and Katy up high in the national park
Mom and Katy at Many Parks Curve

Moraine Park
View over Moraine Park from Trailridge Road

Elk sitting below pine trees
A young elk laying beneath pines

Mummy mountains
The Mummy Mountains

Magpie stealing a ride
A Magpie catches a ride on a grazing elk

Mountains and cloudy skies
Mountains and clouds

We haven’t been climbing in a while, and it will be several more weekends before we get the chance. But May is lining up to be a great month, with a lot of beautiful trips planned. Our brief time in the national park left me desperately craving more time in high places. Soon the snow will melt, and we will return.