Thursday, May 28, 2009

Red Rocks

An overview of my trip is long overdue. Not only was it a great trip, but my first big climbing trip back after being sick for two months.

Red Rocks:

Lotta Balls- 5.8 - 4 pitches - This great route follow a crack and face system up for about 500 feet. The second and namesake pitch climbs a face up small ball-like holds. Its a unique experience climbing 10 feet above the last bolt with holds the size of marbles. Lots of fun, hope to go back and do more climbs in the area.

Frigid Air Buttress- 5.9 - 1o pitches - Located in the Icebox Canyon I feel this climb deserves to be a classic. It has 10 pitches of trad climbing separated by stellar belay ledges. The highlights of this route for me where the rope stretching 200 foot hand crack into offwidth, the lower chimneys, and the final headwall. After climbing 9 pitches below climbers get one last treat in a black varnished headwall with only one option of a way to climb. A splitter 5.9+ finger crack reaches the rest of the way to the top, SOOO AWESOME! The rappel route on this climb is also fantastic. One must climb up over the top of the formation and then loop around back to where the rappels start. Four double rope rappels lead the climbers down into a gully with a 100 foot waterfall and clear pools of water as a backdrop. Midway through the rappel you escape the heat with the mist of the waterfall. After this only a short 30 minute walk back to the car. Sweet climb, and great day with friends. On top of that the route rappels a route called Burlesque, which appears to have some sweet pitches of offwitdh/squeeze chimney, and is high at the top of my list for next trip.

Below: Route outline of Frigid Air Buttress

Epinephrine - 5.9 - Grade IV- 10-17 pitches?

3 years ago after topping out Frogland (another excellent 6 pitch 5.8) we were struck by the much larger (2500 ft) wall to the right, which we later learned was home to many classic routes, including the our climb for the day Epinephrine. I'd read countless trip reports of this climb and people's experiences varied. Some had 2o hour all night epics, while others got up the climb and down in time for lunch.

After much debate on what time to leave camp in the morning we decided on 6 a.m.
What seemed like moments late my watch was screaming at me and moments later I was grubbing on oatmeal and chugging water to ready my body for the climb. The sunrise welcomed us to Black Velvet Canyon distracting us from the overly rocky dirt road. The approach to Epi is a very nice 40 minute hike in a dry creek bed littered with car sized red/white striped boulders. Sersiously, it makes you feel like you are in Alice and Wonderland. For those that haven't been to Black Velvet Canyon, it is one of my favorite places and even if your just a hiker I highly reccomend it!

More water, and a short break later we had roped up and where ready to climb. We had decided to simul climb the first three pitches to save on time. For those that don't know what simul climbing is, it's when you halve the rope, and both climbers climb at the same time, trying to keep at least 3-4 pieces of protection in between them. You DON'T fall, but in the case that you do, it is hoped that those 3-4 pieces of protection will keep you on the wall.

I started to lead up the first 5.8 slab pitch and in less than 20 minutes we where at the base of the climbs 600 feet of black varnished chimneys. Conrad took the first lead and while the chimneys where a little slicker than I had imaged they definately wouldn't be 5.9 any where other than Red Rocks. I linked the second two chimneys on one 200 foot pitch, and arrived at the belay exstatic but physically exhausted. Epinephrine is supposed to be mostly in the shade so we had worm warm clothes, but we where climbing fast enough that we where staying in the sun. If you've ever climbed a chimney with a backpack on you know how shitty it is. If you haven't, I wouldn't reccomend it.

About an hour later we arrived at the top of the chimneys, very ready for the face/crack pitches above. The view from the top of the "elephants trunk" was incredible. 700 feet up with views of at least 3 other classic climbs we were able to take a break and watch other parties work their way up "Dream of Wild Turkeys" and "Prince of Darkness". I didn't know what to expect after the chimeny sections, but was soooo stoked to find super exposed 5.9 face climbing 1,000 feet off the deck, brilliant! We stayed roped up for 4 more pitches and then decided to simul climb to the top unroping totally before the 4th class traverse to the 3rd class scrambling. For me the mental crux of the climb was being unroped on the 4th class traverse with over 2,000 feet of air below my feet. Exhilerating and memorable.

Upon topping out we realized it had only taken us a little over 5 hours! This speed afforded us an hour long siesta on the summit. The descent, the cause of some major epics, proved to be quite straight forward and only took 1.5 hours. Back at the car we realized that our friends were still on the route and probably would be for at least a few more hours. The decision to drive to town and buy beer and ice cream was obvious.

So, for hours Conrad and I sat in the parking drinking beer, eating pizza and ice cream, and looking at the climb we had just done. A few beers does a lot after climbing over 2,000 feet in 5 hours, and it was a blast talking to other climbers finishing their climbs for the day. What an awesome and truly memorable climb. I will do it again on my next trip, the trip after that, and so forth!

Above: Conrad with beer and pizza Below: The red line shows the route

Chrysler Crack - 5.9 - 1 pitch

A pretty sweet offwidth on a rest day. Didn't have much to protect it with, and we found that big bros are hard to set if you don't regularly use them.

Great trip, can't wait to go back for thanksgiving! On the list to do

1. Cloud Tower
2. Dream of Wild Turkeys
3. Triassic Sands
4. Resolution Arete

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