I may not have needed a camera, but by Sunday, I was missing it.
The morning was warmer, and Mark and I felt like we had inadvertently been victims in a South American soccer stampede the night before. Even Liv seemed exhausted as she sulked around the campsite while we packed up.
When it came time to decide where to climb, the simplest option seemed to head up to Sand Gulch. This beautiful limestone canyon towered over our campsite all weekend, and it’s warm sunny east-facing wall beckoned. We have climbed there once before and were unimpressed, but Sunday seemed like a good day for “unimpressive.” We were certainly feeling that way.
Awakenings (5.9) – We watched a long line of climbers send this route when we were here last, but never got our own chance to try it. On Sunday morning, it seemed as good a warm up as any, and Mark put up a strong, if a little stiff, red point. I seconded it, and had another fall for the weekend in the overhanging crux.
The route was fun, and the sun felt great. We layed around getting sunburnt for about an hour after this climb. We helped a pair of climbers un-kink their rope. We ate snacks. We watched Liv snap at wasps. It was really nice to just be at the cliff that morning.
For the next climb, we hiked down the wall to see what else was out there. I was surprised to see at least three new climbs (with moderate difficulty) just around the corner. They were all long, and looked well bolted on rough, newly cleaned, limestone. We’ll have to go back and try them when our hands have recovered.
Suburbia (5.10b/c) – We were happy enough to wait in line for this climb as another group of climbers all took their turns. Mark put up a fantastic lead of this one, even though his hands and arms were nearly not functioning at the uppper crux. He pulled through by hooking his wrist over larger holds above and strong footwork. After his warnings that the hardest part was where the wall sloped outwards near the top, I carefully climbed the route behind Mark. I felt tired, but strong, and my energy-conservation strategies seemed to be working.
Mark yelled up to me as I was three quarters of the way along that I would be “hero for the day!” if I could climb the route in one go, despite my exhaustion and sore hands and feet. I climbed so carefully, but that difficult section at the top got me in the end. I fell once, and swore like a sailor, even though there was a group of young children directly below me. I shook out my hands, got back on the climb and finished strong.
By this time, we had lost all sun on our east-facing cliff, so we packed up and hiked out. The desert was warm and in bloom, filled with so many colors and textures. Our car was parked on the grass plain in the Sand Gulch campground, and as we emerged from the canyon we could see heat radiating off the wide-open surface. We were surrounded by tall mountains, green juniper, clear blue skies, and pink limestone. Shelf road is such a special piece of the desert, and I’m so happy we took the time to go back.