In which Kate discovers that some toproped climbs are even more exciting than leading. There’s some pretty pictures in the gallery!
The river was low and the fall sun was shining on the bizarre sport climbs in the Palace, in the Poudre Canyon. It was a chilly morning on Sunday when we picked up Dylan as he hiked out of his campground and drove the 20 miles up the canyon to our little local sport crag. Crossing the river was an epic in itself, there were patches of ice in the low water pools, on some rocks, and covering the logs we usually hike across. This was my third time rock-hopping across the river this season, and I still slid into the cold water once or twice.
Back on dry land, I laid out my socks and shoes to dry while Mark and Dylan racked up for the “warm up” climb of the day.
Churchill Rejects (5.9+) – As this is one of maybe three climbs in the whole area that is rated less than 5.10, it makes a pretty classic warm up route. On Sunday, the climb was still in the shade, and after a night of heavy frost the rock was bitterly cold to the touch. Mark and Dylan complained of numb fingers on the way up. When I climbed it, the rock was still cold. It hurt like climbing a block of ice wth your bare hands. I slid off a tiny hold once, but otherwise had no problem with the route.
The Scepter (5.10a) – Ann and Sean showed up while I was cleaning the first climb. Dylan decided to go give moral support to their lead for the morning, and Mark and I decided to hike up the hill and climb this imposing monolith. Mark started the lead, and had some problems moving off the third bolt. He figured it out eventually, and then flashed the rest of the climb. On top, there were anchors, and Mark went static to those while I fixed the lead line to go take some shots of this awesome climb.
While I was racking up for the climb, putting on shoes and chalkbags and such, a little butter fly came over and landed right on my belay/rappel device! He hung out there for a few minutes while Mark took pictures, and then crawled onto my hand to let me take some up close shots of him. I’m guessing the little guy was cold from the night, and his lowered metabolism allowed him to put up with the crap I put him through. But he made me intensely happy.
Even in my happy frame of mind, my climb up the Scepter was intensely challenging. It wasn’t just physical strength (which was consistently required) but also a mental fortitude to keep climbing up this ever narrowing, ever more overhanging, tiny finger of rock. It is what the climbers call Exposure, where you are constantly bombarded with amount of air and space around and below you. It can be unnerving, alarming, even terrifying. I focused on my deep breathing, on my hands and feet and all aspects of my body position, and worked my way up the climb. At the very top, I hit that overhanging summit cap and finally fell. Screaming and cussing I got back on the rock and finished up the last 4 feet in a fit of rage. As I anchored in to clean the climb I calmed down, and on rappel I realized what a beautiful and special place the Palace truely is.
Strictly Business (5.10c) – Mark and I had hoped to get on Monstrosity next, but there was already a group on it. Dylan ambled over and decided to lead up the 10c two climbs to the right. The bottom was overhanging, small, weird holds, and he took a couple falls around the second bolt. One or two were so big they lifted Mark off the ground, which he enjoyed immensely. After Dylan, I gave it a shot on toperope, and slowly worked my way up. The bottom was hard, but not outside of my capabilities. It was good remembering to use my feet not just to stand on, but also to pull myself into the overhanging wall. The top was, as Dylan put it “made for Kate!” With thin slab and beautiful delicate moves. Mark claimed loudly he was going to flash the route when it was his turn, so we pulled the rope and let him have a go at it. There were a few tenuous moments, but in the end, he pulled through and climbed the route cleanly.
That climb tuckered Mark and I out, so we hung out for a few minutes cheering Ann and Sean on their leads of Churchill Rejects, and somebody called “Big Red” kept dyno-ing over and over to the big lip on Armor Plated (5.11c). Eventually we packed up and hiked out. This time, I made it back across the rocks without slipping into the river once.