Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Colorado Day Three: Boulder Bandits

"Jello"'s comments in italics

Let's start by saying that Boulder is not one of "Jello"'s favorite places. While I'll let him discuss his political appreciation of the town, I will go ahead and beat him to the punch regarding the camping situation and then get into what turned out to be an interesting day of climbing.

Boulder Canyon

With Greg's crack lesson being over, we decided to head to Boulder Canyon rather than stay at Turkey Rocks . It was only a short drive drive through the South Platte area to Denver, and we bypassed it on the way to Boulder in search of the rare beast known as the Boulder Campsiteratus. The Republic of Boulder as it has been called is full of interesting people: young hippies, student liberals, dingy old hippies, some bums. It’s quite the town except for a few minor details.

We figured that since we were leaving relatively early in the day (about noon), that we'd be able to grab a campsite at the only campground in Boulder. There was just one problem with this plan: that Boulder is a pretty popular place and there is only one campground in Boulder. Look, I'm not going to get into the politics behind why Boulder doesn't allow more than the one campground. I'm sure they have their reasons, but if they believe that limiting the campgrounds also limits vagrancy (as the campground office manager seemed to suggest), well, let's just say that they are wrong.

Our second mistake was also assuming that we had time to drive into the canyon and scope things out for the next day before heading to the only campground in town. Part of the reason we did this was because the sun was setting and the canyon itself was noticeably darkening by the minute. There was a part of us that knew we weren't going to get a campsite, and so we were also scouting the canyon for possible campsites just in case we had to bandit-camp for the night. Unfortunately, at the time of my write-up, the Forest Service website was down, so I couldn't verify the exact regulations on camping on Forest Service land (because the Boulder Canyon land is pretty much split between Roosevelt National Forest and the city of Boulder). But I'm nearly positive that if one travels 100 yards off the trail or away from water and roads then one can set up camp on National Forest land (If I'm wrong, please post a comment below). What is confusing about Boulder Canyon is all the signs along the side of the road stating that camping is not allowed. What these signs are saying is only partially true, that one cannot park one's car on the side of the road and sleep in it for the night (or pitch a tent). What they don't say is that it is possible to walk 100 yards away and, if one is lucky to find a flat spot, pitch a tent there for the night. Of course, due to the inherent steepness of the canyon, it is incredibly difficult finding flat spots both far enough away from the road, trails, and Boulder Creek and close enough to the car without having to hike for an hour just to find a decent spot. It was one of these flat spots on one of the lower buttresses that we were looking for specifically during the daylight hours so that we wouldn't have to do all of our scouting under the moon if the only campground in town didn't have any spots left.

So driving into town I let Greg know that there was only one campground in Boulder Canyon. Since the canyon is also in Roosevelt National Forest, I was under the impression that if we found a good spot a ways off the road it would put us in the clear of doing anything illegal. Let’s keep it straight. I don’t encourage illegal camping but there are times... times when the situation is so annoying... so odious... that you have to say no. No, I won’t pay your high prices. No, I won’t drive an extra twenty miles to climb here. I will not go quietly into your RV park; I’m setting my tent right here where everyone can see it. So we did.

I’m usually pretty good about finding camping spots that don’t go over the line into illegality. Unfortunately, driving up the canyon with our eyes glued everywhere but the road, we could not find a suitable spot to put down my tent.

As you can imagine, we had very little time before night set in to find a place, and we had even less success finding an easily approached buttress that was both somewhat hidden and legal. So after about an hour of driving up and down the canyon, we pulled into the only campground in town. As you might have guessed, at Four Mile Canyon Campground, we saw the final nail in the coffin: a "No Spaces Available" sign. Of course, they understand the camping situation in Boulder, so they had a very helpful listing of other campgrounds in the area (with the word "area" being used loosely). There were about 40 campgrounds listed, with some being well over an hour away, so "Jello" chose the closest one (about 30 minutes away) and plugged its three listed phone numbers into his cell phone. Because he didn't have reception in the campground itself, we had to drive back out onto the main road before we could call to reserve a site for the night. When his phone was showing bars, he pulled over and called the first number. This was at about 7:10pm.

- First number: We're sorry, but the number you are dialing has been temporarily disconnected. There has been no other number listed - CLICK!
- Second number: Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh
- Third number: Thank you for calling such'n'such campground. Our normal business hours are 9am to 7pm - CLICK!

It didn't bother us so much that we couldn't get through on all three numbers so much as the one number that seemed to be reachable was busy. OK, so we understood that we were very unlikely to get a spot considering the third number suggested the campground was closed, but still, if we could get through on the second number and were given a chance to explain ourselves, then we figured we had a chance to secure a legal, paid campsite for the night. We knew our chances of success were bleak, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone's throw and hit redial over and over again while driving around in the dark as a last-gasp effort to find legal-but-free camping the canyon. Unfortunately, whoever was on the damn phone never got off and it was too dark by this time to scale the steep canyon walls to the top.

As I spun my wheels on the gravel in desperation, we started looking again until we saw a small pull-off near Frogman’s Pinnacle. It was much darker than it had been a few hours ago, but we were desperate for a place to stay and so I walked to the top and found a "flat" spot that would accommodate my small backpacking tent. What we found wasn't great, so we had a decision to make.

- There's nothing flat up here. Can you believe it? It's all sloping and rocky.
- It's also not protected. Anyone driving around that corner is going to see us up here.
- I wouldn't worry about that tonight. People's eyes won't be focused up here.
- What about tomorrow, in the morning? I guess we're beating the crowds to the cliff in the morning. That's not such a bad result.

- I guess so. But man, how is the tent going to sit up here?

We worked out the best possible spot on the small ledge we were standing on and decided to bring our stuff up before eating dinner. It was kind of funny how we did this, too. We weren't sure just how far away from the trail, road, and water we were, so we didn't want to be seen. We made sure that our headlamps were turned off each time we were on top of the buttress, and this made it slightly more difficult to pitch the tent. But the funniest part was our stealthy approach to transporting the gear from the car to the site. The scramble leading to the site was on the back side of the buttress and away from the road. We were protected from being seen by the west-bound traffic because we were on the west side of the rock. But we were in broad view of the traffic travelling east, and it was difficult to anticipate just when the east-bound traffic was going to come around the corner and flash its beams upon us. We decided to work on only one side of the car, the side between the rock and the car, thus sheltering us from both the east-bound and west-bound headlamps, by pulling all of the gear out and setting it on the ground until we were ready to move. We then hunched down behind the car and gathered as much gear as we could in our arms that would still allow us to move quickly down the 150-yard path to the back end of the buttress. And then we waited until we were sure there were no cars coming. At that precise moment, both "Jello" and I shouted, "Go! Go! Go!" and ran full-speed down the dark, rocky path with sandals and flip-flops, no headlamps, and our arms stuffed with sleeping bags, pads, sections of the tent, and night clothes. It was as if we were running through an open field expecting enemy fire at any moment. I'm not exactly sure if we made to the back end without being seen, but what also is funny is that when one gets around to the back end, the west-bound headlamps can be easily seen. Now, this doesn't mean that the headlamps are focused on us, but it does mean that we weren't sure if they could see us and thus, as we roared around the corner away from the east-bound traffic, we came to a frightful, dead stop as we saw cars coming the other way. I felt like a squirrel on a telephone pole who had been seen by casual passers-by who probably could've cared less that I was there: I was motionless in full view with the hopes that if I remained still then no one would actually see me. Of course, much of this was blown out of proportion and we were more like kids playing hide-and-don't-get-seen than we were criminals, so we hiked up and set up the tent with our sleeping pads, bags, pillows, and night clothes casually tossed in with the intent that we'd that stuff up after dinner.

Before we cooked, however, I noticed that "Jello"'s tent poles were bright orange, and so I wondered if anyone driving by would see the glimmer of the poles in his or her headlights, thus moving eyes away from the road and up toward us.

- I wouldn't worry about it. The mesh on the tent itself is black.
- Is there any reflective tape?
- Well, the zippers, yeah. But they'll be on the bottom and shouldn't be too easily seen.
- What about the fly?
- What about it?
- Is it also black?
- Nope.
- Uh, OK. What color is it then?
- Bright orange, with reflective tape.

I rolled my eyes and thought for sure we were going to have either a park ranger or local constable of some sort knocking on our tent at 3am asking us to get out so he or she could confiscate it. "Jello" agreed that my concern was a good one, and so he said that he'd set up the fly on the opposite side of the road so that it couldn't be seen, "and if it rains," he said, "I'll just get up and pull it over." His thought was that if it wasn't raining then we didn't need the fly and would be safe using the black mesh of the tent itself. But if it did rain, then the traffic wouldn't be looking up at us anyway because they'd be too concentrated on the road in front of them. Still, when we were done, I asked him to drive up the road and come back just to see what it looked like. If he couldn't see it, and he knew where it was located mind you, then we were probably OK. He drove off while I started to get dinner ready, and he returned with the good news that he could barely see the tent despite the fact that he was actually looking for it. We both felt better at this point, and sat down to eat.

Alas, but our story is not over. You see, just as we were finishing dinner, a wild gust of wind blew through the canyon, and we felt the slight droppings of water pelt our skin as a result. It didn't take long for the single gust to turn into more sustained winds. Our food and cookware bags were now starting to flop around, so we decided it was time to clean up and seek shelter. The cleanup only took about five minutes, but in that short period of time we noticed the wind picking up even more and we were lucky to not have had several of our possessions blown across the road. We hurried to secure everything in the car and then ran up to the tent so as to beat the rain before our sleeping gear got wet.

We headed up the hill with the leaves rattling restlessly in the wind, and with each gust of wind I walked even faster. I had left the fly connected on only one side so as to conceal the ten as much as possible from the headlights below, and as I walked up I worried the tent might have blown away. Of course, this now meant that we were going to have to pull the fly over, but that was a non-negotiable sacrifice at this point. I would have much rather spent the night in a jail cell than in a tent in the rain without its fly on. But despite this annoyance, we realized that when we got to the top of the buttress we were lucky to have a tent at all. We hadn't staked it out when we set it up, and if it weren't for the small, six-foot wall next to the site, the tent, with everything in it, would have blown clear across the canyon if we hadn't got there in time.

With the wind now howling even stronger than before, we tackled the tent before it was gone. If I grabbed the left side, then the right side lifted high above my head. I looked like a strongman lifting the the back end of a car high above my head by grabbing only the front end. I did my best to throw my weight on top of it while "Jello" furiously staked the ends. Of course, it was now dark enough such that we couldn't possibly work without headlamps, so every time a car drive by I just assumed it saw two sets of headlamps fighting a bright orange, wind-sail tent in a spot they probably weren't allowed be at this point in the night. If it weren't for the wrestling match I was trying to win, I swear that I would have feared nothing but doom with regards to getting caught.

With the element of stealth no longer on our side, we struggled with the bright orange, parachute-like fly. Eventually, we managed to get everything staked out and tied down... well almost everything. Having broken one stake and lost another, there was one door that continued to flap. I searched for a stick in the darkness and with the rain beginning to pelt hard enough to kick up the otherwise dry dirt. Finally, after finding a satisfactory candidate to replace the stake, it cracked while pounding it into the ground. I was now annoyed, but I was able to find a few large stones to wrap the end of the fly under.

To make matters worse, the spot where the tent was set up was sloped such that we were going to have to sleep with our head and feet going the same direction (we were using a two-person tent) - comfy! We finally settled into the tent and laughed because the wind was blowing so hard that "Jello"'s side of the tent (the windward side) was blowing straight down on top of him. He looked as if he was sleeping in one of those Japanese nap stations they have for workers during long hours with barely two inches of clearance between his nose and what should have been the upper zipper of the door. We actually noticed the next morning that two of his poles had bent that night, and this is a tent that was supposedly strong enough to handle 50mph winds.

While I'm not sure when it happened exactly, the wind and rain did die down at some point. I do remember being scared out of my mind at about that point in the evening when I saw what I thought was a headlamp or flashlight shining through the tent walls. It shone through rather brightly, and then went away. It then returned again, and went away again. At first I thought it was either someone looking at us from across the canyon with a flashlight or a couple of nut jobs doing a night-ascent in bad weather. "Jello" later told me that he saw it, too, but thought it was just the moon coming out and going behind the clouds. He said that his tent somehow made the moon brighter on occasion. When I asked him how he knew that was what it was, he said, "because no one came knocking on the tent." Hmmm, good point.

- You awake?
- Yes, but not the kind of awake where I get out of bed.
- What time is it?
- I dunno but I guess I’m just gonna get up, not getting any younger.

It was early when we both awoke (maybe 5am), and there was enough daylight such that we were concerned that the tent was going to be easily seen by the early-morning commuters (or law enforcement officials on the early shift). We reluctantly got our under-rested bodies up, packed up the tent, ate breakfast, grabbed a hot chocolate at a local gas station (as well as taking care of hygienic needs), and drove to the Bihedral area to get some climbing in that day. While I'm not sure if we felt lucky to not have been caught, we certainly felt lucky to have not lost our tent either via the weather or law enforcement. In any case, it was sunny, quiet in the early morning, and we had only good things to look forward to because our latest adventure had been hurdled cleanly, just like every other one we've ever had (yes, that's a different link for each interesting day we've spent climbing together).

But hold a minute before that because I want get another kick in Boulder's nuts: camping in Boulder sucks. The reason I’ve heard this is so is because the town wants to keep out the riff-raff. Well listen here Boulder, you’ve got a town with homeless people in it. The riff-raff is already there. Additional campgrounds would not encourage riff-raff. You think people just hang out in campgrounds illegally? The fact is it could be an added source of revenue for the city. Add as much or as little as you want. Don’t make people pay exorbitant amounts to the only campground in town and then not allow people to sleep in their cars or camp in the woods.

The Bihedral
The Riveria

Approach / Descent info for The Riveria: Park in a dirt parking lot on the creek side that is in between two bends in the road. If you pass a yellow traffic sign that reads "Slower Traffic Turnout" that is followed by another sign that says "40 MPH" with a squiggly line, then you are passing the parking lot as you read the signs. From there, head east toward the guardrail on the creek side of the road and cross the road where it is safe. You should come to a reflector post that is followed by a path with another post up high with the number "430" on it. Follow this path to the Riveria section of the Bihedral.

As for the descent, all of these routes can handle rapping on one 60m rope. In fact, I think most of the routes may even be able to handle 50m ropes, but some may be a bit too close to call on this, so I would do some research before coming with just one 50m rope.

Choutte (5.6) - 85 feet - Mixed - Bolted Anchors - Greg led

At the top of the path, find a blank face just to the right of the right-facing, slanted corner that is about 45 feet up. Climb left of the left-facing block and follow the bolts. I would still bring some small and medium-sized gear (maybe three or four pieces just in case). Angle right right at the small triangular roof and find the anchors below a bush.

So this was my first climb in Boulder Canyon. The early-morning sun was still trying to fight through the grey clouds, the crag was void of climbers bar us, and my fingers were cold. But that was OK, because "Jello" had taken all the leads the day before (at my request) and this was my first chance to climb solid rock that wasn't a crack. So off I went, with four points on all the way up, and down I came. "OK," I thought. "Nice climb, but I need more."

Splash (5.7) - 85 feet - Mixed - Bolted Anchors - Greg led

Splash is the next route to the right of Choutte, and climbs the face between a blocky bulge on the left and a right-leaning roof. Go straight up the face and then right to a thin, left-fading crack with a bolt up to the right. Head left from the bolt to the same chain anchors as Choutte. Again, there was nothing special about this route, but it was nice and fun. I just didn't find any adventure to write about.

Le Nouveau Riche (5.10b) - 85 feet - Sport - Bolted Anchors - Greg led

This pretty much starts across from the top of the path, and it is deceptive because it looks like the 5.8 that is next to it. We made this mistake, as I was looking for something a bit more challenging than the first two routes but definitely not into the 5.10 range. Climb the face about 10 feet left of a blocky bulge. The first bolt is about 25 feet off the ground and 15 feet above the blocky ledge at the start. Follow the bolts and stay right of the squiggly crack near the top in the right-facing corner. After climbing the blank slab, finish left on the chains that are up on the large face to the left.

As I sent Greg up what I thought was Topless Etiquette, a 5.8, I noticed he was having a tad bit of trouble.

Heh. Well, I thought this was a 5.8 when I started, and it sure felt like 5.8 up to the point where all the holds ran out. I rested when I got to the slab and scouted out the moves. But in fact, there weren't any 5.8 moves here. I tried the thin holds three or four times and retreated each time wondering what the hell I was on.

- Use your slab technique.
- Yeah, I can see that. This doesn't look like 5.8 though.
- Use your slab technique.
- OK, but are you sure this is 5.8?
- Yup. Use your slab technique.
- (to myself): Jesus this looks harder than 5.8.

This is one of those situations where I was wondering if the grade was specific to the climbing style of the route. As you may know, I've made this mistake before, but I just wasn't sure that this was 5.8. I went up and down several times, each time getting to about the same spot, about three feet above the bolt, where total commitment was required to move up higher. I was nearly hesitant just getting to this particular spot because of the need for sticky feet, but the next move meant lunging up for a tiny side-pull with the left hand and a need to immediately find feet before peeling off. I naturally scanned for feet in front of me before making the lunge and just couldn't find anything at all. I must have done this four or five times; each time I downclimbed afterward. Making that lunge was just stupid in my opinion. I knew there weren't going to be any feet beforehand, so why even try just to see if I could miraculously find something? It would have been about a 15-foot swinging fall had I not stuck it, with little chance to grab the side-pull enough to allow a downclimb. After several minutes up on the little ledge below the crux, I said "screw it" and headed right toward Choutte (5.6). I climbed the crux of Choutte and managed to traverse on an easy but heady section of rock that had me about 15 feet above the last bolt. I then walked over and clipped the anchors and asked to be lowered to the bolt directly above the crux. I wanted to toprope this section just to see if I was wimping out, and so I slowly traversed over and clipped the bolt above the crux. However, I stupidly clipped the wrong rope (I clipped the rope running between "Jello" and the anchor when I should have clipped between me and the anchor - oops!). This made the toprope attempt futile because the anchor was so far to the left that I was going to take a huge swing into a rather large corner if I blew the move. I decided against toproping the climb and came down.

Upon coming down, we were greeted by a couple of older women who had come by for a bit of cragging. One of the women was rather pregnant (she had even jokingly asked to use our harnesses instead because her harness was too small - wait a minute, was that an insult?) and still belaying, climbing, and falling the entire time we were there. The other woman, we'll call "SuperCool" for reasons to be noted later, told us when I came down that I was on the ten and not the eight. We asked her about five times if she was sure and she remained steadfast stating that she'd show us the 5.8 later. Well, someone had to go back up to get the gear, so "Jello" decided to toprope it just to in case she was right. He managed to do the climb cleanly, but I'll tell you that he struggled through the crux mightily, and even had to climb past the top bolt in order to clean it. This relieved me for two reasons: 1) "Jello" is a fairly good slab climber and if he struggled then I was going to struggle and; 2) if he was having such a difficult time finding good position to clean the bolt (it wasn't the cleaning he was having trouble with, but positioning in order to clean), then I was going to really struggle placing the draw on lead. This helped me to understand that I had not backed off an easy route, but one that was out of my range at that particular moment. When he came down he agreed that it was, indeed, a 5.10b.

I realized when I toproped it that is was certainly not the climb I was thinking of, and was in fact a hard 5.10. Guess I should be more careful about what climbs I get on. Oops. Sorry Greg, but not really. Suck it up next time!

Devil's Dihedral (5.9+R) - 60 feet - Mixed - Bolted Anchors - "Jello" led

We were going to jump on Topless Etiquette (5.8) after the 10b, but I wanted to grab some food before continuing on. By the time we were ready, the two women had already jumped on it and were showing us where to climb. We thanked them and decided to see what was around the corner to the left.

Devil's Dihedral is to the left from the top of the path. Go a few feet past the large tree at the base and look up to your right to find the long, right-fading, left-facing corner. Climb the corner, fading right and staying in the corner as you go, to the chained anchors just under a small roof above (you can't see the anchors from the start).

This was also a fun route, and probably a bit easier than 5.9 in my opinion. I don't know, maybe that was because I seconded it and felt more able to make aggressive and committing moves. "Jello" did just fine leading it, and I felt that the crux, while committing and friction-like, had solid stems and a decent lieback where you needed it. I recommend this, but one should have a good head going in, because the first bolt is a bit high and there aren't great gear placements below it. "Jello" did manage one cam placement in a crack to the left, but if he had fallen on that placement then he would have swung way out left due to the route continuing off to the right. If you're going to place this piece then you'll need a long sling to prevent rope drag.

Topless Etiquette (5.8) - 75 feet - Sport - Bolted Anchors - Greg led

Ah, finally! It was my turn to jump on the 5.8. Fun climb. Not much else to say about it except that it starts on the second set of bolts to the right from the top of the path. The first bolt is about two feet right of a thin, horizontal pancake flake / boulder. From there, fade left at the bulge toward the anchors that are down and left of the two other anchors that are on the large right-facing face above (the upper anchors are for Le Nouveau Riche). I did this route clean, had fun on it, and actually managed a few good pics of "Jello" on the way up (see the photo link at the bottom). We climbed, we conquered, and we now had one more climb to get in before lunch.

Au Natural (5.7)- 60 feet - Trad - Bolted Anchors - "Jello" led

From the path, head left past the large tree and find the wide dihedral / chimney that leads to a small buttress. Fade right up the ramp to the bolted anchors.

This was another nice route that I recommend. In fact, all of the routes here are nice. Just haven't said more than that because without some sort of adventure, there isn't much to say about easy single-pitch sport routes. Still, if you're looking for some nice moderate climbs with a couple of harder routes mixed in, this is not a bad place to spend the morning or afternoon.

Probably the biggest thing to note of this climb is that, while "Jello" was climbing, and while I was talking with a group of folks who had just arrived at the crag, I noted that we had bandit-camped that previous evening due to not finding any place to stay otherwise. The conversation with the three younger folks turned from jovial to rather, well, how shall we say this?, awkward. They immediately looked at me as if I was some sort of immoral criminal (not a petty criminal, mind you, but immoral) who they had just lost all respect for and didn't want to continue the conversation with. It was as if I had walked into a party being held by religious teenagers and said, "hey, who wants a beer?" with everyone slowly moving into the kitchen and the last person quietly closing the swinging door followed by awkward laughter from the other side (OK, maybe drugs would have been a better example, but I wanted it sound as if there was a significantly lesser offense being drawn here). Look, I've tried "drugs" only once in my life. I was at a party and a friend offered me a hit from his joint. I took one hit (yes, I inhaled), felt that it did absolutely nothing for me and said, "this is stupid," and never did it again. Even so, I saw for the very first time (with the same people in the room, as a matter of fact) cocaine spread out on a table just a few days later. I left that particular party because I just didn't want to go where it was heading, but I still went to lunch with most of the same folks the next day. Do I think that they're bad people for doing drugs? No. Do I think they could make better choices? Sure, but seriously who shouldn't make better choices? Despite my disagreement with their choice of pleasure, we all remained good friends mainly because we were all good people (well, you can make your own judgement of me separately). I guess what I'm trying to say is this - IT WAS FUCKING CAMPING PEOPLE!!!! WE WEREN'T STEALING OUT OF PEOPLE'S CARS!!! GET OVER IT!!! Moving on...

One good thing did come from this, however. Also overhearing our camping problem were the two women who had helped us with route-finding earlier in the day. Once the awkward conversation had ceased, and the group of teenagecrybabies had walked off (they weren't teenagers by the way. They were probably in their mid-to-early twenties), "SuperCool" came up and said:

- "SuperCool": You know, if you guys can't find a spot to stay, you're more than welcome to crash at my place.
- Me (feeling kind of weird): Really?
- "SuperCool": Yeah, I've got a buddy coming over for Sunday Night Football tonight, so you'll have to root for the Packers if you do.
- Me: Um, OK. Let me talk to "Jello" first.
- "SuperCool": Sure thing. I totally understand the camping situation here. It's a real pain in the ass and I sympathize. It's tough to find a spot.
- Me: Yeah, we had an interesting night last night.
- "SuperCool": I'll bet, and I'd hate to see that happen again.

Well, that was weird, but cool at the same time. I told "Jello" the news when he came down and he was immediately skeptical, but seemed somewhat open to the idea. I told "SuperCool" that we were going to head back to the car for lunch and then off to another area, but we might stop by that night if we couldn't find a place to stay. She gave us her number, we thanked her and walked back to the car. I asked "Jello" on the way back what he thought and this is what he had to say:

- Did she know about our situation or did she just offer?
- Oh, she heard me say it. Sorry if that wasn't the right thing to do.
- No, that's fine, I just didn't want to get roped into unwanted favors, if you know what I mean.
- (laughing): No, that doesn't seem to be her intent.
- Which is really good for you because if it come to that then, well, you're the single guy.
- (not laughing so much now): Er, yeah, well, she seems super cool about this, but let's see what our options are.

That’s the funny thing about the climbing community. It’s got a few morons but there are a lot of very cool people. One of the first times I went to Rumney someone offered up the cabin in their yard and then this woman offered us a bed and showers. The thing is, though, that I always feel like I’m imposing and a little hesitant to accept such offers. What if they’re organ harvesters... or rapists... or just creepy? That’s never happened, thankfully. Even though the first people who offered up their home were nothing but nice, I slept with a knife under my pillow; you know, just in case they came in the middle of the night to bash in my skull and skin me alive. I’ve come to trust people more even though society at large tends to teach the opposite. I’ve picked up a few dirty hitchhikers, and accepted food and lodging from strangers. This furthers my feeling that society is not as evil and sycophantic as I used to believe. Too bad the media and our lack of trust in each other pushes us into an ever individually isolated cocoon where we try as little as possible to interact with each other. So next time somebody has there thumb out pick them up if you can. You never know when that favor might be returned.

It turns out that "Jello"'s guiding career has landed him a few good connections with some legendary climbers from back in the day. His guiding company also employs these guys, and I have to admit to being a bit impressed with his new-found partners. All three have written popular guidebooks all over the world (one of whom wrote the Falcon Guide for Europe - that's right, the whole damn continent!), have scary and tough first ascents under their belt throughout the country, and one in particular is well-known for putting up R and X-rated routes as well as tough free solos. They're all older guys now, but these connections are good to have. He did think to call one of them, who happens to live in Boulder, to see if we could pitch a tent in his yard. It was unforunate to learn, however, that it was his anniversary and no such luck could be had. "Bummer," we thought, but we were fine with staying at "SuperCool"'s place if we couldn't find a campsite between lunch and evening.
The Bihedral

Bihedral (5.8+R) - Two pitches - Trad - Bolted Anchors - Greg and "Jello" led

Approach: While we could have gone directly from the Riveria section of the general Bihedral area to the Bihedral itself, we didn't want to walk back up to that crag after lunch (so there is a way to get there from the Riveria; I just don't know how to do it). From the parking lot, head east toward the guardrail. Directly across from where it starts is a faint and steep trail (this trail is before the trail heading up to the Riveria). Take this trail up to about 15 feet below the base of the lower cliff and take a right toward the pine trees. From there, take the path of least resistance through 3rd, 4th, and sometimes easy 5th-class wandering until you get to the upper level. Start in the obvious left-facing corner to the right.

I want to be clear with regards to this approach. It is easy and relatively safe, but you will need to watch your step every now and again. Also, if it appears too hard to climb a section on the approach, walk around several feet either to the left or the right. There should be an easier way just around the corner if you look. The idea isn't to climb this straight up, but to wander until you get to the climb itself.

Pitch One (5.7) - 90 feet - Trad - Bolted Anchors - Greg led

This was a very nice climb from top to finish, and the first pitch has good gear all the way up. There is a mix of stemming, liebacking, chimneying, and face climbing with a thirty-foot traverse at the top of the first pitch. You'll probably need some big cams (3.5 Camalot) for the crux, but otherwise medium and small stuff will work, too. Climb the corner until the good holds run out (about 20 feet from the top). From there, traverse left past the first set of bolted anchors to the second set. This is key because you'll be able to see the leader much better on the second pitch from the second set of bolts. The traverse has some scary and loose flakes on it, but the climbing is not difficult at all, even if it is kind of difficult to protect without using those loose flakes.

Pitch Two (5.8+R) - 90 feet - Trad - Bolted Anchors - "Jello" led

From the anchor, fade right up the runout ramp and enter the corner. Climb the first crux unprotected to a point where you can finally get some gear in. This is likely about 30 feet above and to the right of the belay. If you fall here, well, you'll probably be OK and land on the low-angle ramp that leads from the belay to the corner. If you skid off the ramp, however, then you're going for a nasty ride down and to the left, maybe undercutting your belayors legs with the rope in the process.

I started up the second pitch. After about twenty feet of walking up and easy ramp, I came to the main event as the dihedral steepened. After a few jams and some hard stemming I came to a nice no hands rest. The rock spread out ahead of me and it looked as if I had a little ways to go. As the muscles in my arms tightened I pulled around the roof to see... the anchors. It was a nice surprise to get to the anchors before I thought I would.

"Jello" did a nice job with this. It had two cruxes, one just before the first piece of gear was placed (about 30 feet above the anchor), and one just below the second set of anchors (well protected). The second crux is definitely harder and the first is more mental due to the gear, but except for the very top, as he was pulling through the slick lieback, I felt he was in total control. I'll admit that I thought he was going for a ride for a few moments near the top, but he managed to get through OK. I also struggled a bit through the upper crux, but if you just commit then you'll find some good jugs to haul yourself up on. In all, this was a very nice climb.

Descent: We rapped in two goes off two rap anchors with one 60m rope. As for getting back to the car, apparently there is a rap station that is at the bottom of the climb and all the way to the left if facing the cliff. We didn't use that, so I can't speak of its validity, but it is supposedly there if you'd rather rap down than descend on the same ascent trail. Once we were down, we sucked down the last bit of water and brought our heavy breathing under control. We decided it was definitely time to call it a day.

At this point, we wanted to grab some grub and see if we could find a place to stay instead of crashing a total stranger's house. We went back to the only campground in Boulder to see if they had any spaces open (no - of course not. What did we expect on a Sunday evening in late September?), and to get the phone numbers of a few campgrounds in Estes Park for when we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park in a couple of days. We also peered up at where we camped the night before on our way out of Boulder Canyon just to see how visible our tent was in normal daylight (because we were worried about being seen that morning). As we turned the corner, we both practically shat ourselves when we saw that the particular spot where we had pitched our tent was not just visible to east-bound traffic, but very likely within the drivers' line of vision as the cars rounded the bend. We looked at each other and both breathed a sigh of relief for not getting caught and laughed at our recklessness despite being as careful as we thought we were being.

Anyway, we made a few phone calls to find a place to crash and were unable to score. "Jello"'s girlfriend ("Iowa") was staying at a friend's place in Denver and wanted to grab dinner. Our hope was that we would be able to crash on the floor in Denver, but that apartment was too small. So we stayed at "SuperCool"'s house and that was just fine with us. We arrived after the game had ended, and she was kind enough to stay up until we arrived, despite having to be at work the next day. I gave "Jello" the bed in the spare bedroom and I took the rolled up mattress in the office. It was a good night's sleep, and we were fresh and ready to take on Eldorado Canyon the next day. I just want to finish off by saying "Thanks!" to "SuperCool" for giving a good night's sleep to a couple of strangers. May you be rewarded for this someday, and may you also not run into strangers who you shouldn't have be so kind to. Your generosity was well-admired.

We awoke the next morning, and with the bags tossed into the back seat, I slumped into the driver’s seat. Off to Eldorado Canyon for more fun climbing.

Click here for all 2008 Boulder Canyon photos.


Eric said...

while Boulder Canyon had some fun cragging, Eldo was... life changing. Can't wait to read your writeup on that!

GB said...

Eldo was incredible. In fact, for me, I think it was the best day of climbing on this trip yet.