Sunday morning, I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and the desire to climb more!! So, we hopped in the car and took off for Ved, again!
Horticulture (5.6) – There were various climbs on our list “to do”, and we ended up choosing to climb on the north face of the Nautilus while it was still warm and relatively calm. Plus, we thought this approach would be shorter than those in other areas.
I didn’t take any pictures of this climb (gasp!), so I’ll steal one from Vedauwoo.Org. Horticulture is #13 on this shot, but it shares the same corner start as #12.
Pitch 1 – Climb the tricky corner for about 15 feet. A red cam slots nicely into the flake that hangs just above it. Then turn right, and climb up the steep, fun, low angle hand crack until it peters out. The crux of the first pitch comes here, where you have to step out onto the slab for two moves, with nice hand-jams deep into the flake in front of your face, while you work your feet up on to the knobs out right. Wild, exposed, easier than it looks, and way cool! Takes good pro in the #3 range. Belay on the ledge just behind this flake.
Pitch 2 – So, this turned out to be an off-width, and a nasty one. Was this in the book? Did I read it on a website somewhere and just forget about it? MP.com says the pitch can be protected with only 2 #3s, but Mark was walking his #4 up through the ‘skinny’ spots in the crack, and whining because we didn’t bring the #4.5 or #6. He even placed the green big bro in the top of the flake.
We both found this pitch to be really hard. Just getting into the crack off the belay was one of the hardest things either of us did all weekend. I got my hips stuck behind the flake, and had a few panicked moments of kicking my feet before I calmed down, started to breathe again, looked for the heal-toe and then wiggled my way out. I seriously bruised the back of both my elbows doing some sweet double-arm-bar moves, but I wanted to take Mark’s shoes off the back of my harness (Why was I carrying these again??) and throw them at the dog 100ft below us because they kept wedging in behind my hip. Or sometimes they would keep my hip from wedging. You figure out the difference.
The off-width ended up being about 50ft long, and once I made it over the flake and into the ledges on the far side, I found Mark at a nice little belay with a beautiful view of the Holdout and the Main area. We weren’t on top of the formation yet. The book describes the climb as finishing after another 20ft crack pitch, and then the walkoff going down slabs on the south side of the formation. We had seen anchors in the area of this belay, and thought that a rappel would be much easier than hiking all the way around. Even though I had carried our shoes all the way up.
Pitch, um, 3 – I wandered off over the boulders and slabs to find the anchors. I set a couple of pieces of pro, and the anchors were so close to the cliffs edge, that I was glad to have the rope as I climbed down to them. We set up our rappel, and Mark found that our 60m rope just barely reached the ground from here. Don’t tie knots for this one, you might find your toes swinging in the air a few inches above the rocks.
I found myself nervous about going on rappel again. I may write a blog entry later this week about why I find rappelling so terrifying. Mark had my belay (though he was below our overhang and couldn’t see me), and I added a prussik backup for this one.
Once everything was set and triple-checked, I stopped for a minute to breathe and enjoy the view. The wind was whistling through the cracks above me, and I could see another pair of climbers that had just topped out on the Holdout. The main area looked warm and yellow in the afternoon sun, and the bright green quaking aspens filled the valley with their soft swishing. I felt calm, and so happy to be right there at that moment.
And so I stepped off the edge of the cliff.
Back at the base of the climb, Mark and I re-organized the rack (we’re down to 8 quick draws now) and packed up to hike out. We decided to get in one more pitch for the day, and after laying around in the grass, reading the book and generally getting sun burnt, we decided on a sport climb.
Stand and Deliver (5.10a) – Our guidebook gives this route the “Nautilus Formation Award” for best placed bolts in Vedauwoo. Four bolts protect a steep 50ft face covered in cubic, pink crystals. Mark thought ‘face climbing’ meant he could wear shorts, but then spent the whole lead in mortal fear of what would happen to his knees should he fall. This was probably the added stress that made him stop and hang on the third bolt (and tighten his shoelaces). The crux is, as MP.com so cutely puts it, getting both feet off the ground. Mark and I were tired from the weekend, and not too proud to pull on that first draw to just get off the stupid ground. Maybe some other time we’ll get it clean.
Mark used a long leash and a butt-belay to sit on the edge and watch me climb behind him. Evidently, the angle gave him a great view down my top, and he seemed to enjoy this thoroughly. I LOVED THIS CLIMB. It was awesome. So thin, but so solid! Just slabby enough to make the moves do-able, but so steep that the slightest error in balance would send you reeling. A great way to end another great day on Vedauwoo granite.