Sunday, September 6, 2009

My climbing history...

I saw a post on someones blog talking about their own climbing history. I thought this was an interesting concept, so I'm going to copy it. It all started back in 2003. My friend Graham and I grew tired of the gym very quickly. I found a deal on a used set of climbing gear (harness, shoes, chalk bag, ancient atc, more ancient set of cams) and Graham bought a rope. After looking on the internet we found the perfect outdoor climbs to start with. Two 5.5's at Vedauwoo. Surely 5.5 in the gym would be the same at Vedauwoo, ha.

The first climb E.O. layback didn't go as planned. While approach the climb, a classic Vedauwoo walkup, Graham took a nasty fall. For some reason we continued up. Since Graham had been climbing for about two months longer than me he was going to lead. After his fall it was up to me. I looked up saw the anchors, and was under the presumption that climbers just climbed up to the anchors unprotected to set up a top rope. So I did. Luckily I didn't die, and luckily there where big chain anchors at the top that I ran the rope through.

Second climb; hideway chimney, which proved to be a large step up from the prior. The guidebook said classic 5.5, 90 feet of chimneying to one of the scariest rappels at Vedauwoo. Great! We set out around 5p.m. after work. Since I had led the last climb it was Grahams turn. After a half hour spent trying to untangle the rope he started climbing. Notice in the picture we are still under the assumption the first climber has to solo to get to the anchors.

So Graham gets about halfway up into the crux and after much deliberation we decide I will try to complete the climb. He downclimbs and we switch spots. At this point it is getting dark.

The above is me climbing with a headlamp, yes we didn't know how to climb, but I did come prepared with a headlamp. I finished the climb, got to the top, and started looking for the "gym type" anchors. I didn't find any. After twenty minutes of yelling against the wind to Graham I finally found two bolts. I could think of nothing else to do so I untied, threaded the rope through the bolts, and tied back in. I told Graham I was ready to lower. Once again I'm lucky to be alive, and have learned from the experience.

After these experiences I get some basic advice from people who know what they are doing, and deem myself ready to show others after some equally sketchy lead/solos, I feel ready for a multipitch. At this point I at least know what a quickdraw is for (I once thought it was took hook into your harness and then the bolt and rest on in between soloing.) and I know that it is safer to be hooked in at all times. I also learned how to rappell.

I get a group of five or so people and we decide to do Vedauwoo's only multipitch sport route called "5 days one summer."

With the combined brains of a future economist, engineer, environmentalist, and english major we figure out roughly how it should work. I lead the first pitch clip into the bolts with some webbing, and belay the next person up. Then we throw the rope down to the next person and repeat. Pretty soon we have three people at a crappy hanging belay and it is time for me to lead the next pitch. I do so and luckily find some big fatty chains and a nice huge ledge at the top. I bring the others up. When I look back on it, we are doing it in seige style as if we are climbing a large mountain. Moving people from camp to camp. Eventually we get 4 people to the upper ledge! One was too scared to go up to the second ledge, I won't name names. Then it is for us to figure out how to get 4 people down a multipitch rappel. This goes smoothly, and everyone survives. Much is learned.

From here I decide to actually learn from more experienced people and take a NOLS mountaineering course.

The following year is spent learning how to crack climb. This costs me much skin, and having to work in the back at the pizza place I worked at because of how gnarly my arms looked.

I led many 5.5's, 5.6's, 5.7's, and 5.8's testing my gear seeing what worked and what didn't. It took me a long time to graduate to 5.9 and above. I'm glad I learned this way because I've also learned what to avoid, and how to get out of some shitty situations.

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