Climbing in the Desert, Part 2

March 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

On Sunday morning, we rolled out of the tent and were greated with overcast skies and a chill in the air. We took our time getting the camp cleaned up, making breakfast and getting ready for the day. After a few hours, the clouds burned off of our part of the valley, and the sun came out. The temperature started to rise rapidly, and we decided to head to the nearby cliffs in Sand Gulch.

There’s photos from the weekend in the gallery.

Rapping Contest Wall

When we got to the Contest Wall area of Sand Gulch, the area was quiet, and there were only a couple of people around. The sun was shining brightly, and the cliff was very warm. I spent Sunday basking in the spring sun in my tank top. The weather at the rim of the valley felt for all the world like a beautiful mid-summer afternoon.

Mark and I dropped the rope and set up to climb Times Square (5.8) for the morning warm-up. After a fun romp up that route, we hiked down the trail a bit further to check out some new routes that we noticed the last time we were up there. There are probably 2 or 3 new routes just north of Suburbia, and I haven’t had much luck in finding out information on any of them since we got home.

View towards the far wall of Sand Gulch

We decided to climb a long route, covered in pockets and bulges, that stuck out a bit from the wall, and was south-facing enough to get sun when the rest of the east-facing crag was starting into the shade. Mark put up a nice, long lead. The rock was sandy, and felt sketchy and full of possibly loose holds. The top of the climb was confusing, as the bolts moved right around the side of a huge (4ft) roof. Once Mark made it up to the bolt to the right of the roof, he was not sure where to go. He called over to somebody on top of a climb about 20ft to our left, and they said there were anchors about 8ft to his left. He made a careful traverse across the edge of the roof, 100ft up, with all of the loose rock and air of the valley below him.

When it was my turn to follow on top-rope and clean, I was pretty nervous. The rope was bent over the lip of the roof above me in a creepy looking way. Shelf Road limestone can be soft and sandy or bone hard and sharp as needles. This route had layers of everything. The pockets were huge and fun, and pulling the steep overhang on big holds was awesome. But that roof. Woo. When I finally got up to it, I wasn’t sure what to do. If I went right, Mark assured me that the traverse across the lip would be just as unprotected for me on a sideways toprope as it was for him on lead. I couldn’t find anything to use to pull up the bottom of the roof from below it. I ended up swallowing my pride, swinging out on the rope and bat-manning (pulling up on the belay line to haul myself up a few feet) up to eye level with the edge of that big roof.

Our last climb of the day was a new route - maybe 5.9?

There were jugs all over it! And the rope was in good shape on a flat section of wall, in no peril of damage from sharp rock. I hooked my heal and pulled over the edge with a little hoot. I cleaned the route and came down just as the last of the sun left our wall. So, we packed up and hiked back to the car. When we got back on the road, my hands were raw from the rock, my shoulders and stomach was sore from climbing, my back and cheeks were stinging from sunburn. That’s a good weekend.

Kate enjoyed the warm weather a bit too much.