The Great Worn-Out Gear Challenge!

August 31, 2009 at 8:59 am

What is the most worn-out, beat-the-hell-up, torn-to-shreds, broken, scratched-beyond-recognition, threadbare, timeworn, used-well-past-reason-says-you-should piece of gear that you own?

I was looking for some missing slings in our “graveyard of gear” basement last week, and ran across these lovely items. They made me laugh at all of the hell we put them through, and I thought I would share them here.

Of course, Mark and I are not nearly the hardest climbers in the world, and we don’t stress gear the way the rest of you probably do! Let’s see some even better pictures of worn-out gear! Let’s hear the stories behind them! Post pictures or links in the comments!

Rope grooves worn into our top-roping biners, in less than 2 years!

Rope grooves worn into our top-roping biners, in less than 2 years!

Holes worn straight through the Petzl harness, took about 4 years
Holes worn straight through the Petzl harness, took about 4 years

Rope groove worn into the side of the Reverso make the edge razor sharp after 4 years
Rope grooves make the edge of my Reverso razor sharp after 4 years

Long’s Peak Summit Bid

August 30, 2009 at 9:48 am

Wow, almost the entire month of September has gone by, with only a single blog post. Sad. But, I have a little time now, and I wanted to post something about our “learning experience” on Long’s Peak in August.

Sunrise over the Front Range

We have lived in Colorado for more than five years now, and never set foot on the one 14’er that we can see from our house – Long’s Peak. And for several good reasons. The easiest route up the mountain is a class 3 climb, legendary for it’s exposure and pucker factor. The approach to said climb is more than 7 miles long, making a summit trip a 16 mile long hike. Add that to the fact that the route is usually only snow-free for about 8 weeks a year, and you get several summers of Mark and I putting off the climb.

In the mountains, above the clouds

This summer, I thought ahead and snagged campsite reservations in Rocky Mountain for the last weekend in August. As the time came near, the weather looked great, we had a very fun alpine climb earlier in the summer and decided to head up Long’s on a technical (roped climbing) route on the North Face.

We had a rough night of it Friday night, when we arrived at the campsite to find that I had left all of our sleeping gear (bags, pads, blankets and pillows) at home. We made the trip back to the Fort and then back to the park with the gear in about 3 hours, and crashed Friday night around midnight. Not going to be getting up at 3am to climb the next day. Instead, we spent Saturday doing a light, 6 mile hike up to Lake Helene and back.

Our first view of the Diamond in morning sun

Sunday morning we woke up at 2:30a, packed up our campsite, and were hiking up the Long’s trail by 3:30a. Six miles of hiking and 4,000ft of elevation gain later, we arrived at the Boulderfield backcountry campground at around 8:30a. And I was sick as a dog. I was dizzy, with a massive headache, nauseated and exhausted.

Evil Marmot

Mark left me to nap on top of the ropes (surrounded by giant marmots) for an hour or so while he hiked up to Chasm view, what would have been the start of our climb. He thought the spot was absolutely fantastic, and came back with a new found love of a mountain he had never really wanted to climb before.

Another Diamond view

We headed down just before noon, watching clouds gather for afternoon rainstorms, and without climbing or summiting Long’s. So, what happened? Here’s my take-away lessons from the day:
1. Even if I’m pretty fit and live at altitude, I can’t wake up one morning and decide to hike 16 miles with a 25 pound pack. Our longest approach this summer was probably only 2 miles long. I should have recognized my lack of hiking fitness.
2. I should not carry the same weight as Mark on long, high altitude hikes. I like to pretend that I’m an awesome, hard-core mountain climber that can “pull her own weight,” but the reality of the situation is that I weight 40 pounds less than Mark, and should not be carrying the same (or slightly more) weight in gear as he does. If my pack had weighed 10 pounds less, we might have succeeded that day.
3. Carry less water, eat more food. Because I felt I needed to save the food for later, I did not eat enough on the hike up. I also carried nearly 3 liters of water with me, which is not necessary. We have filter and could fill up from the creak that flows alongside the trail at any point. I could have shed some significant weight in my pack if I had just carried a single liter.
4. And finally, treat headaches before they become serious. I know this, and if I take Tylenol at the first sign of altitude headaches, I can go all day without much problem. But on Sunday, I decided to keep moving instead of stopping to dig pills out of my pack. Big mistake.

Long's Peak looks ok, for now

So, even though Mark thoroughly enjoyed his day romping across the slopes of the highest peak in RoMo, I was disappointed, sick, and in huge pain by the time we made it back to the car. Maybe next year I’ll get in some training, and finally succeed on this beautiful climb.

Hiking Crown Point

August 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm

It was a sunny Sunday morning in August, and I told Mark I was suddenly in the mood to do some shopping. He suggested hiking instead.

Distant mountains peak above the trees

Two hours later, it was about noon, and we were starting out on the Brown’s Lake trailhead, with clouds blowing in and the Comanche Peak Wilderness as our goal.

Watching Rain

Within the first mile, we passed two other couples hiking out, both of whom alerted us to the fact that it was probably going to rain and thunderstorm on us very soon. As the trail we were on runs above treeline for many miles, the threat of lightening was a very real one.

Watching storms pass us by

We decided to take advantage of the few minutes before rain by climbing Crown Point, a 11,500ft high peak about two miles in from the trailhead. The trip to the top was very easy, and the views of the distant Neversummer range were completely beautiful.


From there, we descended to the wilderness boundary before deciding to tuck tail and run back to the car.

Big dark clouds form overhead

We’ve tried to hike to Brown’s lake twice now, and been unsuccessful both times. Let’s hope the third time is the charm!

Tour de Twin Owls

August 22, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Here’s a suggestion for a nice little adventure for a fun day on Lumpy Ridge.

Our routes for the day, the Organ Pipes (5.6) and Pin Route (5.5)

The Twin Owls are one of the most prominent rocks on Lumpy Ridge. They perch above The Stanley Hotel and Estes Park covered in beautiful, ominous overhanging offwidths cracks. The owls are the closest large formation to the Lumpy Ridge parking area (even the new one).

Unfortunately, they are popular with the Peregrines and usually closed to climbing between March and August. This leaves only a few short weeks of fall to enjoy climbing on the hulking and lovely formation.

The Organ Pipes

Start early in the morning on the Lower Owls. The Organ Pipes (5.6) climbs the left side of this flatiron-like rock that rests below the main Owls. This is one of the most popular routes at Lumpy and on the Twin Owls, so an early start will get you ahead of the pack. Or, if the stars align and you’re lucky like us, you’ll spend a beautiful Saturday in August with the whole formation to yourself.

Seriously, where was everybody last weekend?

Climbing the pipes is quite an experience. This ancient slab of granite has been eroded into long, deep grooves from water trickling down over the centuries. The tubes and grooves seem to develop and dissipate, merge and deviate, randomly form and unform all of the way up the 200ft of rock.

You can climb the Pipes in two or three pitches. I think a 60m rope would have no problem reaching the ledge below the final headwall. We climbed it in three pitches so Mark could get his big gear back.

Yep, big gear. These long, deep, wide grooves require some creative protection, or just bring along your big cams. We had two #3 and a #3.5 Camalots with us, but Mark was missing our 4, 4.5 and 6 that we left at home. Next trip, Bring More Big GEAR! Since the approach is so (relatively) short, there’s really no reason not to carry up the big boys.

The third pitch was an awesome Offwidth splitter

The final headwall of the Pipes offers three options. To maintain the 5.6 rating, there are a pair of short knobbly cracks on the right. A beautiful 5.8 splitter runs down the middle of the headwall, and a 5.9 overhanging crack graces the left corner.

We chose the 5.8 splitter and it was the crown jewel of the day. The bottom of the crack is wide, perfect handstack and knee-jam size. About midway up the wall, the crack rapidly decreases to tight hands. Moving from that snuggly offwidth to a narrow handcrack on steep rock is definitely a strong move.

You top out the Organ Pipes at the base of the Twin Owls, and it is a fantastic spot. Cracks in perfect pink granite sweep above your head for hundreds of feet, the sun is warm and welcoming, and Estes Valley spreads out below you.

On the Summit

At this point, you are standing on a wide ledge system that surrounds the Twin Owls proper called the Roosting Ramp. Clean up your gear, coil your ropes, slap on your approach shoes and traverse left (west) all the way around to the north side of the West Owl.

There are a few places where the ledge gets narrow, and one, in particular, that looks impassible. It is some kind of weird optical illusion, though. Stand in front of that cliff and it goes from shear wall to wide sloping ledge, I assure you.

To finish off the day, you have several fun moderate options on the west side of the west Owl. We climbed The Pin Route (5.5), which was fun, but I don’t think it ever reached even the 5.5 grade. It was so easy, it usually didn’t even feel like 5th class climbing.

The first pitch of the Pin Route follows an interesting feature

The ramps and cracks that traverse the west face of the Owls are all nicely exposed and pretty wide. Next time, bring more big gear.

While the Pin Route is considered classic, and we were lucky to have it all to ourselves, I would recommend the Sky Route (5.3) variation. Continue along the crystal band past the fixed pin at the base of the wide crack all the way to the southwest corner of the Owl. From there, easy but wonderfully exposed flakes and cracks move up the ridge to the summit.

A nice spot to spend my Saturday afternoon

It was definitely fun to finally stand on top of the Twin Owls. It was not fun to be up there swarmed by flying ants. Maybe that’s why nobody else was climbing on Saturday.

The decent of the Owls has always sounded intimidating to me. Usually guides simply say “Down-climb the Bowls of the Owls route (5.0), a chimney that separates the two Owls.” I’ve been on enough “3rd class scramble” Lumpy Ridge descents to think that a fifth class climb is going to be serious, scary, and probably the hardest part of the day.

On the summit of the Twin Owls!

But, it wasn’t too hard to find. And the chimney itself was much narrower (and darker) and shorter than I expected. We threw a bit of webbing around a chockstone at the top of the chimney, and rapped down into the narrow channel.

It was a bit like sliding out of a birth canal, I think. Only the granite rock was probably rougher. I lost some skin on my back as I lowered down through the darkness.

After getting that good (and a little painful) look at the chimney, I can now say that downclimbing it would be no problem. Probably only 4th class, really. It was only about 25ft tall, and narrow enough to make a scrambling decent an easy prospect.

Mark descents into the Bowels of the Owls

So, there ya go. Somewhere between four and seven pitches (depending on how you break it up) of fun climbing on Lumpy Ridge. Faster parties could do this easily in half a day, new climbers would enjoy the adventure and fun of climbing these two interesting routes.

And, at the end of the day, you have climbed the Twin Owls from bottom to top! Always a proud accomplishment.

Kate’s Free Desktop Images 10 & 11!

August 19, 2009 at 6:07 am

Yes, I’m falling behind this summer. There are so many things I’ve wanted to post but have had trouble getting around to it. To make up for neglecting the free desktop images (all summer), here are TWO NEW DESKTOPS, just for you!

Both are from our day of climbing Hallett Peak a few weekends ago, when we were able to watch the sunrise from above 11,000ft in Rocky Mountain National Park. I could watch the sun rise over the Continental Divide every day for the rest of my life and be a happy girl.

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 each shot!

Hint of Dawn
1024 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1600 x 1200, 2560 x 1600

1024 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1600 x 1200, 1680 x 1050, 2560 x 1600

An Easy Day on Crystal Wall

August 16, 2009 at 8:41 pm

The weekend was rainy and Mark was sore from CrossFit. Yeah, that’s a great way to start a climbing trip report. This one is gonna rock!!

Relaxing Between Climbs

Mostly, I just wanted to write this one up because there isn’t much information about climbs in the Poudre Canyon (northwest of Fort Collins) out there. And there’s probably a reason for that. The area is quiet, we’ve had problems with access in the past, and lack of traffic has left many of these routes loose and vegetated. Not very high on the Choss Score Card, really.

Rapping the slightly overhanging Crystal Wall

But, if you live in Fort Collins, and you want to climb something slightly taller than the boulders at Horsetooth, your options are limited. Enter The Palace and The Crystal Wall.

These two bolted sport-climbing areas lay on opposite sides of Hwy 14, about 15 miles up the canyon from Ted’s Place (where Hwy 14 branches west from 287). Once you pass the Mishawaka, you’ll go through a tunnel cut through the rock. The Palace is on the north side of the road, and the Crystal Wall on the south side. Park carefully at the large pullout on the right, just across the river from the Palace.

The Palace has more routes, most on decent quality rock, and we have enjoyed exploring it’s granite grottos for several years. The problem, though, is that the Palace sits across a wide, fast-running, and very cold stretch of the Poudre River. Unlike Boulder Canyon, there really is no good place to hang a Tyrolean here, so crossing becomes dangerous during spring and early summer, and too cold to contemplate after the first snows.

Looking down on the Palace from the top of the climbs

When we arrived last weekend, the river was still a bit higher than we were hoping. So, rather than swim for it, we turned our attention to the Crystal Wall.

To access this monolith, you have to find the secret little 3rd-class climb in the roadcut below it. There used to be a fixed rope that ran all the way down to the highway, but last weekend, the rope only covered the top 15ft or so. We’re lucky our dog is still spry and sure-footed. She scrambled up this steep climb without any problem (and down it later).

We arrived at the base of the wall on the right-hand (west) side of the face. The rock is probably well over 200ft tall in the center, and filled with hard, vertical to overhaning, 1 to 2 pitch sport climbs. I had heard there were some easy moderates on the far right, and indeed, there were.

Our three routes for the day (5.7, 5.9, 5.8?)

(1) Clean-Up on Aisle 9 – Covered in jugs and more overhanging than anything we’ve climbed this year, we struggled a bit on this one. Mark got the redpoint, but not without some swearing and shaking. It took me a while to figure out the moves past the second bolt. A shot of sport-climbing reality for sure.

(2) Lunch Bucket Crack (5.8- PG13) – From the ground, this route looks runout, with a good crack for pro. We thought it shared anchors with the route to its left (3). Mark took a biner of nuts up with him, and protected the runout between the 2nd and 3rd bolts fairly well, though the rock around the crack was loose, chunky, and chossy. Anything but confidence inspiring. And then, as he climbed to the anchors to the left, he found himself in another 20ft runout section, on loose, vegetated rock. This is because the route actually shared the anchors with the climb on the right (1).

If you do this one, traverse right at the top bolt. Not left.

(3) Gates of Crystal (5.7+) – This was the best route of the day. Perfectly vertical climbing on ledges and crimps up the tall granite wall. I wish we’d started with this one, but it made the day pretty worth while.

There are routes all along the Crystal Wall.  We barely scratched the surface.

Clouds rolled in around 2p, so we packed up and headed home. I would like to spend some time exploring the longer routes on this wall as well. We’ll be back, and I’ll hopefully update this site with more information about the area as we discover it.

Vedauwoo Summer

August 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm

It doesn’t seem to matter how often or how little we go back. It doesn’t matter if the weather’s crappy, we get lost, or we do next to no climbing. Vedauwoo is still my favorite place.

It does help when the weather is amazingly beautiful, we get tons of climbing, and we have good friends come along with us. Last weekend we took a trip up to Voo that fits the latter description better.

Liz, Jo and Doug

Mark and I camped Friday night at a nice spot in a stand of aspens near the lower Blair Woods. Saturday morning, Doug, LIz and Jo found us and we drove out to Beehive Buttress (aka Brown’s Landing) for a day of fun sport climbing.

This rock sits so far northwest of Vedauwoo, it’s difficult to consider it part of the same area. It is covered with well-protected moderates, south-east facing, and in a quiet grove of aspens. And there’s very rarely ANYBODY there. A short hike from the car, and you’ve found a small bit of Wyoming sport-climbing heaven.

On Saturday, I led two routes, one of which had a steep, bouldery crux that I actually took a small lead fall on! It was sad that I fell there, in general, but I was proud that I finished both leads without too much anxiety.

Kate rapping down from Beehive at the end of the day

Doug and Mark explored a two-pitch climb at the end of the rock, and found the second pitch to be disappointing and short. The last pitch of the day I climbed on TR. It ran up a cool, left-leaning water groove on the right side of the rock, and was really fantastic.

Camping in a grove of aspens

Saturday night we camped out in the fields, trees, and rocks of Wyoming. Our little campsite had beautiful views. Storm clouds built and died around us through the evening, and we enjoyed the warm glow of august sun as it set between them.

Billowing Storms

Evening Clouds

On Sunday, we made tasty breakfasts and packed up slowly. The Blocksma crew headed back to the Fort, and Mark and I headed down to Blair in search of nice cracks.

We decided to park outside of the Blair picnic area and hike into Blair 3. We have always come from the eastern trail head, so we weren’t entirely sure which way to go here. We ended up going left on an old trail that quickly died out into a vague game trail, and then we were wandering lost in Vedauwoo for a few minutes.

Mark checks out the chest-high patch of black fur, is this from a bear in Vedauwoo?

We walked past one of the big boulders in the forest, and found an unexpected sight. A patch of black fur, caught on the sharp edge of the granite boulder, 5 feet in the air. Was this from a black bear? Vedauwoo supposedly has bears, and this was near a remote picnic area. But we’ve never seen them or seen any evidence of them. At this point, we walked back to the parking spot and found the correct trail to Blair 3.

Black fur caught on the side of a big boulder - bear evidence?

We climbed three fun cracks: Sweet Variation (5.7), Go Left, Old Man, Go Left (5.7+), and Random Crystals (5.8). It was a beautiful, cool, summer day in the green forests of Wyoming, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Looking out at Blair rocks on Sunday afternoon

The Big One – Climbing the North Face of Hallett Peak, Part 2

August 1, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Mark belayed Eric as he slowly climbed the smooth headwall pitch. I ate some more food and drank a lot of water. I took some pictures, and danced around on our little ledge trying to stay warm and psyche myself up for what I was sure was the crux pitch, if not physically, than certainly mentally.

Eric leading the 6th pitch, the best single pitch of climbing I've ever done

As I started out the long, super-exposed pitch I told myself that I could do it. I would be slow, careful, focused on the rock, and completely ignore the air and wind and space all around me. As I moved out onto the face, I found it wasn’t as blank as it looked. It was covered in ledges and crimp holds, and even though it was vertical to slightly overhanging, the holds were all you could ever want.

It was 200ft of the most beautiful climbing I have ever done. As I flowed up the headwall, I felt strong, graceful, and wildly free. I could feel the space around me, and it didn’t feel scary or intimidating at all. I know it sounds goofy, but it felt like I finally had room for my spirit to expand. Room to finally let out a full breath, to finally relax into the line between the rock and the air, and slowly, slowly dance my way up the long, high, amazingly beautiful wall.

The lakes look beautiful in the summer sun

Throughout this climb, Mark and I followed together. Eric had us each on a rope, and he belayed us at the same time using a Reverso on the anchor. I climbed about 15 feet ahead of Mark for the whole route. It meant that if I slowed down, he would have to slow down as well, and for some of the previous pitches, I had certainly been the throttle control.

But on this pitch, I grooved. And I left Mark on the rock far below me.

When I reached the belay I was ecstatic and thrilled. I bounced around grinning like an idiot and yelling “THAT WAS AWESOME!!” over and over again. It was the single best pitch of climbing I can ever remember, and I let Eric know it. In fact, I let the whole world know it.

“I didn’t cry!!” I exclaimed proudly.

“Well… that’s good.” Eric replyed, sounding somewhat confused.

Mark was jazzed when finished as well, and the big grin that formed while he climbed seemed to be etched on to his face. It didn’t leave for days.

Kate and Mark having a blast on the big alpine climb

We were sitting at the base of the seventh pitch here, below several huge roofs, on the edge of a shear headwall, well more than 1,000ft in the air. I kept expecting Eric to say “Well, you’ve finished the hardest part.” But he never did.

Eric led the seventh pitch as carefully and gracefully as any other, though he had a lot more gear in under those big roofs. And he did pause for several moments, working out the moves. Mark and I were feeling so good, we cheered him on, and felt sure that those roofs weren’t as difficult to climb as they looked.

I was invincible at this point, of course, and I cruised up the pitch assuming it would be much easier than the last. It wasn’t.

The roof was overhanging. The world spread out below me as I worked up the steep, steep face below the roof, and then pulled with all of the strength I had left over the edge of the rock. I was at 12,500ft of elevation. There was 1500ft of empty air below me, and thousands more down to the lakes and valleys below us. And this was the actual crux of the route.

But, I pulled through cleanly. Eric had set a belay right on top of the roof, so we hung out and waited for Mark to make the moves and pull over the edge. He grunted and swore as he did, still smiling though.

Mark pulling over the final 5.9 roof, hanging over 1500ft of empty air

“That was way harder than you two made it look!” He blurt out when he reached the belay.

The last pitch was a short jaunt to the summit, with one little, easy route and a bit of scrambling.

Mark and Eric clean up on top of Hallets

And what a summit it was. The rockies rolled out before us, shining in the mid-day sun. We had climbed eight long pitches, and it wasn’t even noon yet. There is a true summit to Hallett Peak, but that was another half mile of hiking to the north, so we decided to skip it.

Mark and Kate on top of Hallets Peak - what an awesome climb

It was a beautiful day, and an amazing place to be enjoying it. Mark and I know that we don’t push ourselves very hard with our climbing. There seems to be plenty of low hanging fruit for us in Colorado. But on Saturday, we did something really great. Yes, it was guided, and yes, it wasn’t the hardest climb in the world by any means. But it felt good, we felt good, and it was a proud day for us.

Looking up at Hallets (left) from Dream Lake

We climbed the one on the left!!!!