Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Second Roasting of the Witchita's

Noon on Monday I was at roasters just passing some time when Casey and Hillary came in to study and enjoy some of the great coffee. We started talking, and Casey threw out the idea of going climbing for a day and a half in Oklahoma after his test Tuesday. I didn't really have anything to do so I hastily agreed to this wonderful idea. 

Wednesday afternoon Casey and Hillary picked me up and we raced toward the Witchita's to climb for a few hours while there was still sunlight. We decided to warm up on Atomic Knee Drop. Casey and Hillary soon fished the climb and threw down the rope (I didn't feel like climbing it since I had done it two days earlier). I racked up while they walked down and prepared to climb Atomic Elbow Drop 5.8 (which we didn't know anything about). The climb, which looked really cool from the ground, turned out to be a huge disappointment. The only fun part was about 15ft long and the rest was not fun looking at all. So after I climbed through the short 5.8 crux I decided to just down climb the entire route (only 25ft). 

We coiled the rope and headed around the corner to climb Roof Crack 5.10. Casey started up, but after placing a cam above the roof, was unable to climb past it and lowered down. I tied in to try my hand at it and climbed to the base of the roof basically on top rope. At first, I attempted to climb out the roof and get past the cam which was ridiculously in the way of getting anything close to a good jam. Getting my hand in the crack without pinching the rope was hopeless and I was forced to have Casey take. 

I assessed the situation for a moment, then had Casey give me some slack while I pulled on a cam a bit lower in the crack. This allowed me to unweight the problem cam and retrieve it. I lowered a few feet and proceeded pulling out of the roof and onto the face using some bomber hand jams where the cam had been. I continued to the top and Casey informed me that he did not intend to follow. 

This posed a bit of a problem because it meant that the only way to clean all our gear from the route was going to be for me to rappel past the overhang to the base and hike back to the top to pick up the rope and whatever gear I used for an anchor. 

I threw some gear in and started rappelling. The anchor I was forced to use threw my weight far right of our route making it quite hard to swing over and retrieve the gear. After a few minutes, I made it to the ground will all our stuff save the top anchor and the rope. 

By then it was pretty dark, so I asked Hillary and Casey to collect my pack and stuff as I ran around to the top of the climb to get the anchor and rope. I along the base of the cliff to our packs and thoughtfully grabbed my headlamp from my pack as I scurried up the slope to the top. I quickly scrambled across the top of the cliff jumping from boulder to boulder until the use of the headlamp was necessary. Finally I found the rope and began pulling up both strands. After about 15' the rope got stuck and there was nothing I could do to free it. I tried and tried to yank the rope outwards and free it, but all my attempts proved useless.

My only option at that point was to rappel down again, free the rope, and either ascend the rope or take the long hike back to the anchor. I threw on my reverso and carefully started down the cliff. Almost completely dark at that point, I rappelled past the roof and struggled to free the rope which was deeply caught in a crack. I pulled the rope out and flaked all the rope beneath me onto a sling so it would get caught a I ascended back to the anchor. It was a bit of a struggle to get over the roof, but I made it past and back up to the anchor. 

Not wanting to have to deal with coiling the rope there, I just scooped up the rope in bunches and hoped that it wouldn't get too tangled.  After cleaning the anchor, I stated scrabbling up the giant boulders to get to the truck parked somewhere above. By that time, Casey had found a light and had come looking for me. We met up and we navigated through the massive boulders and the large crevasses between them, at times jumping as far as 6th over crevasses big enough to ruin your day for sure (this was harder for me since I had to use one hand to carry the clump of rope at all times, but still having my climbing shoes on made the scrambling easier for me than it was for Casey). After a few minutes we met Hillary at the truck and drove down to Camp Doris for the evening. A quick meal later and we were all in our tents attempting to ignore the blazing heat along with it's horrible humidity. 

The next morning, we awoke and headed to The Narrows. My suspicions a few days before were confirmed when Casey also noted the mass amounts of poison ivy everywhere. Basel was a bit less careful with it than we were so I spent the rest of the day avoiding him like the plague. Casey started the day on Crazy Alice which Hillary and I both climbed on top rope. With the top rope already set up, I decided to go ahead and try to climb Dr. Coolhead 5.10 (very slabby).  I made it after falling many times and was very glad to have climbed this scary R/X climb on top rope. Casey gave it a few goes but kept slipping off the polished crux (it was a bit hotter when he tried so that prolly had something to do with it). This meant that I would have to climb something in order to retrieve the anchor and rappel the route. 

So I used this opportunity to re-climb the crux of Leap Frog 5.10a which I had done a year before. The climb was as fun as I had remembered it, though it was much easier this time. After i rappelled, Casey grabbed the sharp end and started up The Dijedral in order to access The Flying Nun 5.9 which we hadn't done before. I followed this super fun climb an we simul-rappelled back to the ground. Due to the heat none of us were motevsted to climb any more so we packed our gear and heade out. Just before we got back we encountered a baby rattler on the trail. After shooing him off, we reached the truck and ate at Subwy in Altus before heading home after a great trip climbing. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Wichita Roasting

I don’t know how it happened, I don’t remember when we started talking about it, but Price and I decided to go on a short climbing trip. Sugarite Canyon had been our original goal, but after the weather there looked like it was going to be quite wet, we decided to try out a trip back to the good old Wichita Mountains. We left town at 5:30 and drove Price’s mother’s Honda Accord the short 3 hours to the Narrows parking lot. 

As early as 8:30 it was already uncomfortably hot and by the time we got to the base of The Dihedral, we were wishing the sun would become more secure in its looks and stop trying to look quite as hot. Regardless, we racked up and I lead The Dihedral 5.6 with all but one piece being passive and only using 5 pieces for the 60ft climb. Price followed effortlessly and met me at the chains after following his first trad climb. We rapped down and I started up Crazy Alice 5.8. Since I have done this climb many times, I flew up the two cruxy sections and when I reached the chains after the 60ft pitch, I had placed only four pieces all of which were passive! Price followed, and after some help made it up the odd crux and up to meet me at the top.

We raped down and decided to look for a shade with a bit less sun. Cause after all, no one wants to be looked down upon by a hot person all day. Especially when the hottie is the sun itself. So we packed our gear and headed toward the Lichen Wall. The trail over there was densely overgrown, and since I’d heard stories of how bad the poison ivy was, we were very careful to steer clear of any suspicious looking plants. We arrived at the base of Monkeys Way 5.7 and took a minute to soak our feet in the cool stream.
I started the sketchy traverse out over the water until the route took full effect, climbing in a dihedral to a squeeze chimney far above. The climb was as fun as I had remembered it and I quickly made it to the base of the chimney. I had thought that I would fly through this awkward crux much faster than I had last time because I knew what to expect. It took me a few minutes to squeeze myself inch by inch up the v shaped chimney between two large offwidth cracks. Finally, I made it through and to the chains. Price followed but located an offwidth out right on the face, and was able to bypass the horrible (but awesome) chimney all together. 

We threaded the rope through the chains and rapped down with about 2ft on each end to spare. A short break and some mandatory mandarines later and we were on the trail back to the car to finish the day at Mt. Scott. We drove the 3 miles to the visitors center and bought some ice cold Sunkist before we drove up the mountain to the top of Mt. Scott

We loaded our gear, and walked down the road to the base of Atomic Knee Drop 5.6. Just to break the style of the day, I climbed it using only cams. Price followed, thankful that he didn’t have to remove any more stubborn nuts, and met me at my bomber three piece anchor. We coiled the rope and walked back to the car for the drive home. We kept to tradition and stopped at the Subway in Altus for footlong meatball marinara sandwiches and made it back to Amarillo by about 10 after a great trip to the beautiful Witichitas Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Little Bear

Over the past month or so, my dad and I began talking about climbing Little Bear Peak and traversing the ridge to Blanca Peak . We thought ourselves up to the task as we started the short 7hr drive to the Lake Como road at the base of Blanca Peak

For those of you that don't know, Como Road is probably one of the hardest four weel drive test pieces in Colorado. We were able to batter our way up the road until we reached about 10,000ft, where the road steepens and anyone without a specialized vehicle or any bit of common since is forced to stop. We threw on our packs and started up the road at about 5:30. 

We started hiking up the harsh road until we were able to watch a rock crawler descend the worst part of the road (there is a plaque there where a guy flipped his rig and died). We also ran into a couple climbers planning oh climbing Little Bear, Blanca, Mt. Lindsey, and Ellingwood Point via Como Lake. Props to those guys for at-least attempting such a feet. We continued on until 9:20 when we reached the lake at 11,700ft. 

While unpacking, I realized that I had forgotten to pack dad's sleeping pad meaning that I was going to have to be the one to sleep without. I began cooking dinner to realize that I had also forgotten to pack any spoons. Oh well, A nut tool and a couple of tent stakes work just fine!

After our strangely utensiled dinner, we fell asleep quickly to wake at 4:30. 
The alarm sounded and we began going through then process of preparing for the day. We hit the trail at 5:20 and started heading up the scree gulley towards Little Bear. 
Difficult and strenuous, the climb to the ridge was filled with loose screen. We gained the notch and began traversing toward the hourglass gulley the entire time welcomed by tons and tons of talus and scree (scralus). 

After about an hour and a half or so, we reached the bottom of the hourglass and we began ascending among the fixed ropes. Once at the anchor, we saw that one rope was cut down to two core strands! I decided to chop the rope at the anchor and throw the rope down. We climbed through the steep gulley made jt to the summit of Little Bear at 9:20. We looked across the ridge toward Blanca and surveyed the route before us. Still confident that our goal was attainable we started down the 4th class ridge. 

We scrambled down the first 100ft each step more exposed then the last. I began traversing across a sharp ridge at which point there were almost no feet, but bomber hands along the crest of the ridge. The slope fell away sharply and one wouldn't look very pretty after fall off this ridge. I was almost past the difficulty, when all of a sudden the 200lb boulder supporting my left hand (and maybe my right too, I don't remember) fell beneath me. With only miliseconds to spare, I grabbed the ridge crest with my right and swung my body to avoid the massive rock falling toward my legs. The rock glanced my left leg, but I had reacted in time and remained relatively unharmed. 

Needless to say, my adrenaline rose to above normal levels, though I was supprisingly calm for such a close call. My fears where more for my fathers as he has less climbing experience than I. I looked back at him and we decided to save the ridge for another day. We reversed our route and climbed back to the summit of LB. 

Descending from the top turned out to be quite an ordeal. The abundance of the scree made it impossible to avoid knocking rocks down the hourglass where we hoped there wouldn't be any unfourtate climbers. We rested at the anchors of the fixed lines and decided to rappel the best rope we could find and use the others as a backup. My dad went first and I followed. We traversed across the scrolls(scree/tallus) ridge back to the gully. We descended down to the jeep road and began walking through the scattered camping around the lake. 

We met a guy who camped just above 10,000ft and was parked at the base. W offered to give him and his partner a ride and he readily took us up on our offer and told us they'd meet us at our Jeep. We continued to our camp and packed up for the long road ahead. Across the river and through the woods to our jeep we came where the guy and his partner were waiting. 

We waisted no time packing the car and soon we all piled into the car.
They were very happy to be able to avoid the long "death march" down the mountain and we were happy to share the Love of Jesus with them. That is until the car wouldn't start..
We tried several times, but the car was d e d -- dead. Dad used my phone (he decided to murder his poor 3GS on the hike up) to call AAA and the two guys jumped out and tried to see if there were jumper cables in either of the to cars parked next to us. 
After about 3min with no solutions in sight, the two climbers decided to take the "death march" back to their car and give us a call once they got there to check up on us. 

The AAA agent couldn't even find the state highway we were close two and claimed it didn't exist (it's CO 150 and the only way to get to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.?). Thus she couldn't dispatch a toe truck of any kind to come help us. I texted Ben and alerted him to our situation in case he could figure out of any jeep services that could come up and give us a jump. After several calls to the AAA agent we finally directed her to the website and the directions to CO-150 and Lake Como Road. She contacted all the tow truck companies in Alamosa and was able to find a guy who had hear of Lake Como and thought he might be able to get to us. 

His boss, however, was less gun-ho on giving us a hand and ended up dispatching the tow truck guy to a wreck (understandable, but way to leave us hanging). Fortunately, the tow truck guy was a good person and called his friend who knew the road well to come and get us for $400 (the tow truck company was going to charge $600 cash and of course ATM machines only give $400 so we would have had a problem). The friend gave us a call and informed us that  he'd be there within a couple hours. 
We waited for a while untill we spotted his yellow H2 coming up the road far below. 
Soon he arrived and hooked up the jumper cables and gave us some water (we were all out and the area we were in was pretty much a desert). 

The car started just fine and he agreed to follow us to an ATM. The guy, it turns out, was the fire rescue guy for that area and this was not is first time to drive up the road performing rescues this year. Side note, his last tip up the road was to pull the body of a young climber who had fallen on the Hourglass. For that retrieval, the military actually dispatched a Chinook helicopter full of SAR and military personel. While they were backing toward the base of the traverse to lower SAR an get the body, an air current suddenly blew up under the forward blades and caused the rear blades to collide into the mountain. The helicopter made an "unexpected landing" (apparently military helicopters never crash) above Lake Como. Fortunately, no one was hurt and our rescue friend was able to assist in shuttling people down the road. Interestingly, the chinook was disassembled and carried down the road in pieces. 

Anyway, we made it down the road and to the small city of blanca  10 mín away by about 10. I filled the car while dad got the $$$ and we tried to start the car. Again, nothing. He gave us a jump ad offered go follow us to the Wallmart in Alamosa and help us put in a new battery. We did, and he did, and we both thanked him soo much for going above and beyond the call of duty. Too tired to drive 7 hrs back to Amarillo that night, we searched for a hotel with vacancy until we found one with a couple rooms left. We went to sleep and drove back the next morning with another addition to the list of stories and adventures. 

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I love life and aspire to be all I can be in everything that I do.