Every year, for the past five years, our friend Brian from the rock gym has had a big group of climbers up to camp on his ranch near Shelf Road, and enjoy a weekend of great sport climbing and fun desert camping. Mark and I have been in the area in past years, but never fully participated in the gathering for various reasons. This year, we threw worry into the wind, and caravaned down to the Cheesehead Ranch with Dylan, Ann, Doug and Liz.
We had a great group of climbers to camp and climb with this year. There were probably close to 30 people all said, and most of them we knew from the rock gym already. This made it a really nice weekend to relax and get to know cool people we’ve only met in passing, and to really spend time with those that we don’t get to see very often.
Friday night, we arrived a little late (around 9p), and most of the campers had already gone to bed. Mark and I took campsite number 2, which turned out to be about a 5 minute walk down a nice little pinon-lined path, to the top of the ridge that runs down the northern edge of Brian’s 35 acres. It was one of the best campsites I’ve stayed at in a long time. Beautiful, quiet, shaded, sheltered and even perfectly level; it was an ideal tent site.
On Saturday morning, Mark, Liv and I got a tasty breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese bagels before hopping in the car and heading out to climb with the group on the Mural Wall in the Gallery. Up until we arrived at the base of the climbs, I had been sure the whole of Shelf Road would be packed, route-to-route with climbers for the holiday weekend. I think we were all pleasantly surprised to see this shady little crag almost completely deserted before our group descended upon its plethora of tasty moderates.
Block Party (5.10a) – Mark led up this climb as our morning “warm up”, and it was a bit of a shock to my system. I don’t mind overhanging pumpfests, but first thing in the morning?? It was a lot of fun, and I completely understand why it gets the “classic” rating. The giant swiss-cheesy goodness is not to be missed.
Morrocan Roll (5.10b) – Dylan led up this climb as his warm up. I had heard somebody point to it earlier in the morning and say “That’s the 5.9 you’re looking for.” So, I climbed it thinking it was simply a hard nine (after hearing people complain a bit), but I didn’t have any problems with that rating. The slab was full of fun and friction, and the small finger pockets were all over the face. I found my feet stuck wonderfully to this climb, and I had a great time on it. Much more my style of climbing.
John Cruiser Meloncrip (5.10b) – Another overhanging and hard route to grunt my way up, but the sun felt good, and the moves were definitely interesting. I was exhausted by the time I made it to the top of this route. Totally ready for my afternoon nap.
Mother of Invention (5.10c) – One nice thing about climbing with a big group is that there always seems to be another toprope around to climb on. I had been watching people lead this one for most of the day, and when I saw the rope was free in the afternoon, I decided to try it. Boy, I was so done. I don’t remember anything about the climb. About half way up, my hands gave out on me. They wouldn’t open all the way or close to grip rock. I had to come down. But it was a good, hard day of climbing for me!
Pi (5.12b) – Yes that’s right, 5.12. I don’t know exactly which routes Mark climbed on Saturday, but I hung out and watched him try this one at the end of the day. Again, just because there are topropes on fun climbs, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to climb the route. Mark gave a great effort, but didn’t quite make it through the crux on this one, as it was the last route in a very long day. Other memorable moments included Mark revealing his true traddie self as he screamed “What tick? What the $#*% is a tick?!?” in the crux.
In the late afternoon, we packed up and headed back to the ranch. I will, for a very long, long time, remember how cool it was to pull into the main camp area and have everybody wave “Hi!” to us to welcome us back after a great day of climbing with cool friends. It felt like coming home.
Brian tapped the keg, and made no less than 10 bar-b-que pork loins, which we all devoured happily. We spent the evening screwing around on the slack line, hanging out by the fire, loosing at cribbage and Five Crowns, and enjoying far too much beer. Now that is the end to a perfect day of climbing!