Desert Climbing with the Crag Baby – Part 2

May 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

Geeze, this is what I get for taking too long to write the second half of this trip report. Memorial Day? Shelf Road? That seems like a million years ago.

Kate climbing desert limestone - yum!

On Sunday, the six of us packed up and headed back to The Bank. Mark and I were interested in trying more of these new routes at the Piggy Bank. But as we walked up to the base of the wall, we could hear the crowds, see ropes on every climb, and even hear a few other babies already crying. We decided we could produce enough chaos on our own, and so went looking for other areas in the vicinity.

Mark makes this look easy

We ended up heading to the middle of the long Bank wall, and (after waiting a while for the other party to finish) we hopped on From Russia with Love (5.9+) and B/C (5.9+).

Both climbs were fun, and I enjoyed the thin, technical moves on From Russia a bit more than the powerful overhanging jugs of B/C. Mark was thrilled by the fact that he still felt strong and very confidant on the rock, even after not climbing since the previous August. Hooray for CrossFit!

G's tent set up at a windy, sandy crag

The weather on Sunday was nice, but hard on everybody’s systems. A dry, but cool, wind gusted around the canyon, blowing sand in everybody’s eyes, and making G a little fussy. Babies can clearly tell when they need to increase their fluids, and G drank 4 or 5 big bottles during our day out. He napped in his tent which we covered to keep the wind and sand out, for almost 2 hours that afternoon. And while he wasn’t the sweetest, happiest, baby all day long, we all managed to have a fun time.

Doug, Mark and G at the crag

After we all took our turn on the two 9’s, we packed up and hiked a bit further down the cliff to find a new 5.8 Doug had scouted. I’m still not sure of a name, or even a good way to describe where it was on the wall. We should probably invest in the New Shelf Road Guidebook. There has been so much new development in the last few years, that Shelf is starting to feel like an entirely new destination.

Mark settles G in his tent

The 8 was fun, and covered in sharp, hard, black limestone. We all took our turns on it, and enjoyed the meandering and interesting route. I cemented my day of disappointing efforts by not even finishing this one. I bailed on the upper crux, about 10 feet below the anchors.

After two days of climbing straight-forward moderates at Shelf, I had yet to finish one without falling. I suppose my time off from climbing was a bit rougher than what Mark went through, and the extra 20 pounds of baby weight were not helping.

Kate pulling the little roof on 'From Russia with Love' (5.10a)

Regardless, I felt thrilled and very accomplished as we hiked out that evening. We had just spent our first full day climbing with the baby, and it wasn’t that bad! True, climbing wasn’t as easy at it had once been. I was exhausted, and the pounding headache behind my eyes was a reminder that I was spending a lot of energy taking care of G, and not much taking care of myself. That evening, we gobbled down dinner, drank a ton of water, and G and I collapsed asleep together at 8p. On Monday, we would pack up and make a leisurely journey home. But that night, the baby and I enjoyed the best reward of a day in the desert sun: quiet, deep, satisfied, sleep.

Desert Climbing with the Crag Baby – Part 1

May 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm

The long Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of high climbing season in the Rocky Mountains. The spring thaw is (usually) under way, the days warm, and the rocks dry out. This holiday has been an opportunity for our group of climbing buddies to reunite and celebrate the opening of the rocks.

A little lizard

In the past, we’ve had weekends in Vedauwoo, at Tres Piedras, and in Penitente Canyon. This year, most of our group has traveled on to bigger and better things, so we few stragglers decided to go back to where it all began, on the warm desert limestone near the Cheesehead Ranch.

G is ready to hike on Saturday afternoon!

We arrived on Saturday just before noon, and started off at the Bank parking area to try and track down Doug, Liz and JoAnna. We found their car with a mysterious note taped to it: “Change of plans, we’re climbing at the Piggie Bank today.”

Now, Mark and I counted, and we have probably been climbing at Shelf Road more than 15 times. We have visited almost every crag and area in the region, and we have never heard of “the Piggie Bank.” In fact, neither had anybody we asked. I hypothesized that it might be a newer area near the “Cash Wall” and “The Vault” at the east end of the the Bank. Sounds reasonable…

We hiked over to Cactus Cliffs with the baby, about a 20 minute walk, and finally found somebody with a copy of the new guidebook. There! The Piggie Bank was listed as its own area in this book, and it was at THE OTHER END of the Bank – probably 2 miles in the opposite direction.

Mark and G hiking (the wrong way) across the desert

We trudged along the wall of the Bank in the afternoon heat. G napped on and off, but demanded a few breaks, making the hike take a little longer. It took 2.5 hours to find our way up to the base of the crag where Doug and Liz were climbing! It turns out, recent activity in the crag surrounding Number 1 Super Guy has produced a new and very nice climbing area at Shelf Road.

Zonked baby by the time we found the crag

When we arrived the baby was napping, so Mark and I hopped on a top-rope and climbed a new, fun 5.7. Doug and Liz had been climbing newly bolted moderates on the sunny south-facing crag all day long. The area has a (rightfully gained) reputation for holding a few difficult-to-get-to classic Shelf test-pieces. But we discovered a trove of long, fun moderates, and a much nicer trail for access. This area is likely to see a lot of growth in popularity over the next few years. It could even become a good alternative for the crowds at Cactus Cliffs.

Our lovely campsite

Brian spent the previous weekend clearing and leveling a spot for our little trailer. It was perfect – down the hill from the crowd and noise, easy to get in and out of, and more level than any of the expensive sites we’ve had so far. This was our first weekend of “Coyote Camping” (using the trailer with no hookups in the middle of the desert) and it went great. We had plenty of water, gas, battery life and tank space to make camping easy and luxurious.

Coyote Camping

The camper proved itself especially worthwhile on Saturday evening. G was napping, and I was reading and staring out the window as Mark pulled food out for dinner. A dark shape moving quickly past the window just above G’s head caught my eye.

My first thought was “Somebody’s dog is loose.” and then I realized, it was a BEAR.

A (relatively) small brown-colored bear tore through our campsite, running at a strong gallop just under the trailer windows and then up the hill behind the communal fire ring and other campsites. I pointed and yelled and jumped up and down, scaring the crud out of Mark and waking the baby up.

We told Brian what we saw, and he said it was the first bear sighting on his land in the 15 years he’s owned it. Mark and Brian wandered the hillside looking for prints or claw marks, while Brian carried around a plate full of bar-b-que pork, presumably for bait.

It was an exciting end to our first day in the desert. I felt the money spent on the trailer was worth every penny for a bit of extra bear protection, and the ability for us all to get out camping! I laid next to G in the trailer that night, staring out the window at a dark sky full of stars just above my baby’s head.

Baby G’s First Day at the Crag

May 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

It’s May in Colorado, G is 6 months old, it’s time he went rock climbing! We took the family up to Duncan’s Ridge, a little top roping area just west of town, for our first climbing outing with baby. I told Mark on the drive over that I was really nervous. Not about the rock climbing, but because our success or failure on this day would set the tone for future outings with G. Would he be easy or difficult? Would he nap or scream? Would we climb at all?

G napping in his baby tent at the crag

We timed the outing to correspond with G’s afternoon nap. Mark carried all of our climbing gear in his big backpack. I carried G up to the crag in his hiking backpack, with all of his diaper bag paraphernalia in the storage compartment and a Pea Pod clipped to the back. The approach was relatively short, but our time off showed, and both Mark and I were gasping for air on the march up the hill. The short 3rd/4th class downclimb to the base of the rocks was a little scary with the baby in the backpack, but Mark spotted us well, and everybody made it down safely.

G likes his little tent!

Our set-up, topropes and baby gear

Once we were down, Mark went up to set up the ropes, and I bounced G around for about 5 minutes until he fell asleep. We popped him in the Pea Pod, and he slept happily, outside, in the breeze, with climbers all around for about an hour. Happy baby!

Kate belaying with G napping in the back

Doug and Liz showed up a bit later, and we all had a chance to climb two easy and fun routes: Corner Climb (5.7) and Conglomerate Face (5.8). I know that I’ve climbed both of these, probably several times, before. But on this trip, the rock felt new and harsh on my weak, pink hands. The crack seemed steep, and the face seemed a bit tricky. Still, I loved every second of both climbs. It felt sooooo good to be outside with my boys and my friends!

Mark back on the rock after a 10 month break

In the late afternoon, we hung around the rock and enjoyed the sun. Mark gave G a bottle to calm him, then we packed up and hiked home. It was a wonderful, VERY successful day that absolutely sets the tone for future outings!

Mark and G

Springtime in Colorado

May 9, 2011 at 7:47 am

As it is the end of May, I realize that this is more like summer in large parts of the country. But out here, the weather is just warming up, snow in the mountains is starting to thaw, and we Calders are starting to creep out from our winter cocoon!

Plums in Bloom

Since my last post, we’ve managed to get out on the trail and do some really great hikes. Of course, these are made all the more fun (and adventurous) by the presence of little G. When he was younger, we hiked with him in various supportive chest carriers. These early spring hikes were very weather and baby-temperment dependent, and rather hit or miss.

Mark and G hiking

For instance, in mid-April, we attempted to get out and hike a low altitude, relatively easy trail in Loveland that follows a sandstone ridge known as The Devil’s Backbone. We put G down for his morning nap, got our stuff together, and figured we would head out as soon as he woke up. Of course, that was the morning he decided to sleep for two and half hours!

By the time we reached the trailhead that afternoon, storms were blowing in. The wind howled along the ridgeline, blowing sand and dust in the baby’s face and the skies threatened to open up and pour at any minute. We walked about a quarter mile before giving up, and sending Mark and G back to the car. I hiked a little further to get some photos and then turned around and headed home.

Dramatic skies

The length of his spine

Gopher Snake

On the day of G’s six month birthday, we stopped in at REI and found a great deal on a Deuter Kid Comfort II hiking backpack. Finally, Mark could walk on the trail and see his feet, and G could ride behind in relative comfort.

G in the Foothills

Our first trip out with this new setup was the 3.5 mile hike to Arthur’s Rock just west of town. G did really well, despite the cold winds, his chilly hands, and the new carrier. Near the summit, we had an interesting and very chilly diaper change, and a tired baby who just wasn’t sure how best to fall asleep in the backpack.

Mark and G Hiking High

Mom and Baby on the summit of Arthur's Rock

Mark and G hiking down in the sun

A week later it was Mother’s Day, we had one of the prettiest weekends we’ve seen all year. The sun was out for 2 days straight! The wind was calm, and we got out for some camping and hiking. We parked the trailer at a fancy RV park in Golden, and spent the weekend learning the systems and exploring the area west of Denver. We stopped by Red Rocks on Saturday morning, which was being used as a work-out venue for about 200 Denverites. We started calling the area “The Red Rocks Athletic Club” after watching people run and jump up the bleachers, stop and do sit-ups along the way, and a huge group of bootcampers working out in the upper amphitheater.

My boys in the mountains

In the afternoon, we drove up to Golden Gate Canyon State Park and hiked the 2.5 mile long ‘Racoon Trail’. The day was warm and sunny, and we had a really lovely time. G got tired about 45 minutes into the hike, and had trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep at first. There was some serious baby crying for about 15 minutes until he gave in and just zonked with his head against the rest in front of him. Poor G is still trying to figure this stuff out, and poor Mark had a screaming baby in his ear for almost a mile of trail, but we had a good time otherwise.

Mark and G hiking through a ponderosa pine forest

Mark and G hiking through an ancient aspen grove

More Very Tall Aspens

View of Rocky Mountain NP from Panarama point in GGCSP

Now that springtime is officially here, life is getting easier and we’re having a ball. We’ve even been out to climb once so far, but I’ll leave that story for another time. Right now, G is waking up from his nap, and we’ve got packing and prep to do before the long Memorial Day weekend!

Getting Out with G – The First Six Months

May 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm

When G was just a few weeks old, I started imagining this blog post in my mind. I was going to take my new little baby on so many great adventures, and then I would blog to the world about how easy it is to get out with an infant, and how we weren’t letting the challenges of new parenthood keep us indoors!

A walk in the snow

But, it turns out, in Colorado, in the winter, it is rather difficult to get outside with a baby. This year, we were lucky to have a very dry, relatively warm, winter. But most of those warm days were super windy, and G was (and still is) not a happy camper when the wind is in his face. Plenty of other weekends were just too chilly to take a 10 pound newborn out for a hike. And then there were quite a few where I needed a long afternoon nap more than time outside.

We did have a few nice adventures and learning experiences in the past six months. In fact, G had his first hike in the mountains at 8 weeks old!

G's first hike

Just after Christmas, we took G, Liv, Mark’s parents, and his brother, for the short hike to Horsetooth Falls. It was a lovely, warm winter day in the mountains, and G napped in the mei tai on Mark’s chest for the 2 mile round trip. We all went slow, as I was still recovering from the pregnancy and Mark couldn’t see his feet while walking (ha! Payback!).

Hiking Coyote Ridge 1

When G was about 4 months old, we bundled everybody up on a chilly March afternoon and went for a hike in the Coyote Ridge Natural Area. It felt wonderful to be outside as we walked along the wide trail winding up through the foothills. G slept in the carrier the whole time, again, but he did have very cold hands by the end of the trip.

Hiking Coyote Ridge 3

With future adventures in mind, we made the leap and invested in a camper trailer this spring. We found a great deal on the small, perfectly appointed Jay Feather Sport (165) camper, and had to buy.

The new camper

We think this set-up will work really well for us with the little one. The trailer has a double bed with a single bunk above it. It has a nice sized booth and table for inviting in friends, and all of the amenities we’d love to have while camping, especially a furnace for chilly nights with the kiddo.

Hanging out with G in the new camper!

We took it out for a spin on a rainy weekend in March, and as it was our first camping weekend with the trailer and baby, we stayed close to home. We just spent the night at a KOA in north Fort Collins, but had a really fun time.

Camping buddies!

Mark found the idea of camping in town pretty hilarious, but I felt like a kid putting up a tent in the back yard. You can still have a great time and a nice adventure, even if you don’t roam too far.

Camping buddies!

These days spring is around the corner, and G is sleeping much better at night. This provides Mark and I with the energy and ability to tackle the logistical issues of mountain adventures with the baby in tow. We have already had some great successes that leave us excited for what the future will bring!