Anniversary Trip to Estes Park: Sept 28-30 (Part II)

October 4, 2007 at 6:02 am

The rest of the photos from the weekend are up in the gallery.

I’m going to start re-dating some of these posts to help them make as much sense as I can. It seems to be a common method amongst bloggers that might not get around to writing about an even until a few days (or weeks later).

Well, Sunday morning we woke up nice and early to a howling chinook wind screaming down the mountains in Estes Park. Even better climbing weather than the day before! (ok, so that was sarcasm). We puttered around a bit, getting coffee and talking to the guys at one of the local climbing shops about bouldering. Then we drove to the new parking lot for Lumpy Ridge, put on every piece of clothing we owned, and headed out on our hike.

As we wandered down the trail, the wind calmed down, and the sunny morning began to warm up. We hit the end of our trail near one of the random thousands of rock formations in Lumpy and immediately knew that we were going to have trouble finding our climb for the day. An hour and a half of scrambling later, and we arrived at the bottom of something that, regardless of whether or not it was our climb, looked climbable.

Our goal for the day had been Rock One Route (5.4), which we had a nice detailed topo of from my new guidebook Serious Play: An Annotated Guide to Traditional Front Range Classics 5.2-5.9. While I have definitely enjoyed reading this book, I think it was one of the two major sources of trouble for us that day. The first and most obvious source was that we don’t climb in Lumpy much and just don’t know the area well, which is a problem for a place as vertical and remote as that. The second was that the book gave no information as to what the bottom of the climb looked like, how far to hike past the trail junction, and once we were on the climb, the topo generally did not match up with what we had climbed. We were both pretty sure we were not on the right climb the whole time we were up there.

I lead up what was probably the approach as a long pitch, and then stopped and finished the last gully as a second pitch to help with rope drag. From the little Christmas Tree described as being near the beginning of the start of the first pitch, the rock looked creepy, vertical, and definitely exposed. I lead out the rest of the ledge, and then picked a crack that went up and seemed to offer decent pro for a while. I got in one good piece on the ledge, and from the stance about 10ft above that realized that what looked like a good crack was just a little bottoming groove in the rock. I wasn’t sure what to do, so eventually I wiggled in half of a red nut and then just started climbing. Leading on a slab with no gear, with a whistling wind and so much air around me is something I have never done before. I kept telling myself “Don’t Panic, Don’t Panic” and then when I realized this was making me want to panic, switched to a more positive mantra like “I can do this, I can do this…”

A few eternally long seconds later and I reached a good crack. I immediately set an (actually bomber) belay, and then brought up Mark. I suppose I was supposed to keep climbing from here, but I was in no shape. The wind was biting and I was shivering uncontrollably either from cold or adrenaline. Mark came up with the pack, anchored in, and I got my fleece out. Then I broke down and laughed and cried wildly at the same time for about 5 minutes. It was a big moment for me, and Mark hugged me understandably and said “Welcome to trad leading, Kate.”

I lead up one more short, fun pitch of diagonal crack climbing, then set a belay over a big grassy gully. We scrambled down into the gully, collectively decided we were either entirely off route or on the wrong climb, and judging by the number of rappel anchors we found in the area, thought that other people made similar decisions here too. We found one short rappel that got us back to the gully west of the rock, and then hiked out. From the road, it looked like we were on the right rock, near the right route, but only made it about half way up. I suppose I could go back and finish the climb, but I’m not sure why this climb was listed among the classics at Lumpy, as the rest of the climb looked filled with brushy gullies and cracks, and not a lot of fun. I could go back and lead the rest of the way to the top, but I think I got the fun pitches done, and learned what I needed to that day. That I am capable of these things, and should not be afraid to take the risks and have fun!