Friday, August 15, 2008

The Voo and Bolted Canyon

Where would you go if you had a few days to kill? Would you go to your favorite local spot to work your project? Maybe head somewhere far off and new to see what the world has to offer? If you live in the Colorado area you might head to Vedauwoo. Home of the meatgrinding, toe torqueing, cheese grater, offwidths from hell.

So after a boulder session and a few beers me and a few colleagues noticed a blank spot on the work calendar. Most assuredly time for a roadtrip, but to where. Surprisingly, there are a lot of places I have not been. I suggested Estes Park or Eldorado Canyon but then my boss suggested Vedauwoo. Could we handle the crystals, big as an egg and sharp as a shark's tooth? How would we handle the dreaded off-widths? Arm-bars and chicken wings, butterfly and fist-hand jams. It was going to be a good time. Jump ahead a week and we're packing the truck. We pack only the essentials, beer, tents, triples of #4-6 camalots, and tape. Now, I'm not really a fan of tape. If you're jams are good they won't slide and you don't need tape. Of course when you finally stick your hand into the maw of one of those crystalline cracks you quickly change your mind. Tape is not aid here, it's protection, as good as the #4 in those parallel fist cracks. So after a short jaunt of about four hours we stopped at the store for some additional supplies and headed into the park.

Vedauwoo is located in Medicine Bow national forest. So camping was free and we set up in a place nicknamed Shanty Town then headed into the park. After ascending the third class trail we were at the base of Fall Wall. We decided to ease into things by climbing something with which we were familiar, slabs. "Warm-up" is apparently not something my boss is fond of as he lead off on Drop-Zone, a nice 5.10a. After making my way up the thin slab we rapped down and I led both EO Lieback and EO Friction both very easy at 5.5. Certainly fun but then it was time for something a little longer. Heading over to Walt's Wall to climb Edward's Crack, a nice two pitch 5.7. We watched as my boss soloed up and I quickly racked up to try and catch up. Catching him at the first belay station we chatted about the next section and then he was gone. Leading off I came to a chimney/offwidth section. I happily plugged in a #4 camalot and searched with my hand. Finally, a large crystal and I could pull my head out of the chimney and there it was...a fantastic jug. A few more akward, feet above my head, moves and I was on easy ground. Rappeling down there was some minor discussion about soloing the climb by moonlight, apparently a local habit.
Heading back to the campsite I started up the fire and we got dinner on the grill. After eating some food and having a few drinks the subject turned of course to soloing Edward's Crack. I was a little more motivated than others but I didn't feel like doing it by myself so as the light of the fire faded so did our energy and we soon went to bed.

The dawn brought a new day which I was up rather early to greet. After starting up the fire again and wandering around people began to wake up. Luckily for us one from our troupe had made banana bread which was delicious. So, filled with caloric goodness we packed our gear and headed for the Crystal Freeway. After trudging up a boulder field, then down a boulder field, then across a boulder field we came to a nice boulder which we geared up on and set off on Northeast Cutoff. At 5.5 it was a good first lead for one of the less experienced members of our grop. Then I led the second pitch which starts off traversing across a seam to another seam which lasts for about one hundred feet before it becomes a mean size offwidth. Since the only gear I had to fit in there was a #4 camalot I had to continue pushing it along with me. So below me was a #1 camolot. When I say below, I mean way below, like 50 feet. So I took my time stacked my hands and eventually made it to the top.

Next we headed to Strawberry Jam. From the way my boss talked about it and the look of it I thought for sure it was hard 5.10 but it comes in at a stiff 5.8. Unfortunately, I had turned down the lead but felt quite good seconding. This was the last climb of the day. While we were heading down through another boulder field my boss and I have a conversation about an upcoming trip:

HIM: If someone shows you around do you think you could teach a lead climbing class for a guy in Boulder Canyon.

ME: I guess so, just sport leading?

HIM: Yeah, he climbs in the gym apparently. It'd be a two day class and probably just getting him on lead the next day after learning the rappelling and anchoring and everything like that.

ME: I think I can handle that. You're going to have to give me some money (I had forgotten my wallet).

So everyone else drove in a seperate car while I headed for Boulder. Now in a lot of ways I like Boulder. It kind of reminds me of Boston, a lot of young people, good public transportation, and crowded as hell. To say the least it's a pain in the ass to drive around in Boulder with all the stop signs, red lights, and pedestrian crosswalks. It's an exercise in patience. So luckily I stayed with another guide near Ft. Collins. Unfortuntely, this required I drive for about 45 minutes there and back. Either way though I met my client at eight in the morning and we headed into Boulder Canyon.

The previous day the other guide had shown me around and given me some ideas where to take the client. While walking around how the canyon is often nicknamed Bolted Canyon because people will bolt any piece of choss. My limited experience seemed to suggest that most climbs were responsibly bolted.

Either way I led my client up several climbs on a crag called The Riviera. We climbed Chouette, a nice single pitch 5.6. We also climbed Splash, which describes what will happen if you don't place gear when available. The last climb of the day was Topless Etiquette another single pitch 5.8 that was pretty fun. Unfortunately, our day was ended after this because of rain. Now rain isn't uncommon in Colorado, especially in the afternoons but it's usually just a splash here and there which dries quickly. So the day thus ended I headed back into Boulder to hook up with the other guide for some climbing.

The plan was to solo the 1st and 3rd flatiron. Unfortunately, it rained, and continued to rain so that plan was out. After cooking dinner and driving back up the canyon I decided to sleep in the truck I had been lent. At this point it was not raining and it looked like the rain was over for the day (I didn't have a weather report). Little did I know I'd be in for a soaking. So I pulled out sleeping pads and sleeping bags as well as the rain fly of my tent, just in case. All things considered I fell asleep pretty quickly since I was next to highway and a rushing creek. Sometime later in the night I woke up to water falling on my face. I quickly pulled the rainfly over me, making sure it covered the entire bag. I dozed off once again and soon was awoken by a feeling of moisture at my feet. Did I not cover them? I checked and soon confirmed that my feet were covered. Obviously the water was soaking through the rainfly. So what to do? The truck was filled with gear so I couldn't sleep in it, it'd be uncomfortable anyway. So in my infinite wisdom I practiced the art of suffering. I laid in my sleeping back with wet, cold feet. I felt water start to seep into the sides by my shoulders. eventually I was curled into the fetal position in the dry portion of the bag and dozed in and out of sleep till eventually my eyes opened to daylight.

As I looked out it was still raining. My trip would be cancelled. So after confirming this and meeting the client to let them know what their options were. I headed back to Colorado Springs to enjoy more rain. It was an exciting trip though with the exploration of new areas and new styles of climbing. Hopefully, I will be heading back to visit them soon.

1 comment:

GB said...

You probably could have pitched your tent right in the back of the pickup.

Voo - 'F THAT!