Monday, January 23, 2012

New Routes and New Friends

Joanne Urioste on the summit of her new route.

I recently had an awesome opportunity to climb traditional multipitch with two climbers who have been rock climbing for longer than I have been alive! Joanne Urioste and Hans Peters have done it all but they're not stopping anytime soon. As any avid Red Rocks climber knows, Joanne Urioste has been climbing and developing new routes in the area with her husband Jorge since the mid 70's.  Together they have done countless first ascents, many of which are now considered must-do area classics such as Epinephrin, Dream of Wild Turkeys, Olive Oil, Frogland, Crimson Chrysalis, Eagle Dance, Levitation 29, The Nightcrawler... the list could go on and on!  I've only done a small handful of the routes she has put up, one of which is on my list of personal favorite climbs Eagle Dance.  I was introduced to Joanne through Hans, who has been friends with Joanne for quiet some time.  On a beautifully sunny winter day here in Vegas the three of us went up to do a new route of Joanne's in Pine Creek.  After being shown where the climb starts and a brief discription from Joanne, I was soon racking up to climb.  The first 20' of the climb is a completed unprotected chimney squeeze, and simply not for the faint of heart. Although the climbing is mostly secure, a fall would result in a rough slide through a squeeze back down to the ground.  Not ideal.  Luckily there was no issues climbing the chimney, but Hans decided to pass on the climb due to a recent back injury.  Joanne and I decided to keep going, and swapped leads all the way to the top.

Joanne following on pitch 1.

Climbing with Joanne was a most excellent time.  Not only is she a great climber and first ascentionist, but she is very friendly, talkative, and was genuinely interested in talking about my personal climbing endeavors and photography.  I mentioned to her some of my favorite routes in the area, many of which she put up. I also got to here some great stories and memories from the first ascents, and it was great to here some stories from someone who was actually there.  As I followed her up after she lead some pitches, I learned a few new tricks about using a sling, biner, and knot to protect some features that won't take tradition placements such as nuts and cams. (A technique that I ended up using on the next pitch anchors.)  We even discussed the possibility of climbing Epinephrin barefoot... something she said was possible but not to underestimate the amount of face climbing required too.

Joanne cleaning gear on Pitch 3

So at a relaxed pace we climbed the five pitches and made the summit in good time while enjoying the casual climbing and conversation the whole way.  At the top we looked out at the incredible view before us, and took the time to enjoy the sight and embraced the warming sun.  I couldn't resist taking a few summit photos, something that usually gets overlooked on the regular days climbing.  The photos from the top turned out to be some of my favorites from the day, and really gives a good perspective on the placement of the climb, and the great view that exists from most every multipitch in Red Rocks. 

Matt Kuehl and Joanne Urioste at the summit.

Joannes very worn out #1 Camalot.  Dang! Still bomber. 

The day before I climbed with Joanne I met up with Hans to go climb One-Armed Bandit on the Rose Tower.  He had mentioned to me over the phone that him and Jorge Urioste had recently went to do the route, but couldn't locate it's first pitch!  So the pressure was on for me to find the right first pitch on the 500' line, a slightly daunting task considering I've never seen the route and have only been climbing on Rose Tower once before.  So together we ventured into the canyon and used our best judgment on locating the 5.7 

Kyle Broderick checking out the new corner crack "Brother Bill's Great Thrill" 5.10
 Matt Kuehl, Jason Molina, Jan 2012

 In the process we found two excellent corner cracks within 20 feet of each other, the longer of the two which we decided must be One-Armed Bandit because it looked so excellent.  So I racked up and tied in to lead the pitch, which was surprisingly difficult.  Soon after we both agreed that it couldn't possibly be the 5.7 we were looking for because the climbing was far to hard.  Although the climb was superb I had to retreat and find the right route. So I bailed off the top of the "first pitch" leaving an anchor built of a sling and some nuts.  As I got back down to the base of the climb Hans and I discussed how great the corner looked, and we wondered if it had been climbed before.  Without too much thought, we moseyed further into the canyon and found the true 5.7 climbing we were looking for. Much easier!

The other new corner crack "Gypsy Davey" 5.9+
Matt Kuehl, Jason Molina, Jan 2012

About a week after I first climbed the crack I came back with my climbing friend Jason Molina to attempt to cleanly climb both corners.  So once again I racked up for the corner, this time prepared for its difficulty and now equipped with webbing and a steel rappel ring to set up a more permanent anchor for the two routes.  The climb was even more exciting than I remembered,  and features a difficult layback on slick varnished rock, bomber hand jams, an off width section, and even a 15-20' run out in a chimney! What else could you ask for?  We both climbed the route clean, and lowered off the new anchor to try the next corner just to the left.  We both starred at it for a while, contemplating how we'd attempt to climb the steep finger crack corner.   The two of us thought it looked something like 5.11, but couldn't be sure until we got up there on the first attempt. So once again I racked up, put the helmet on, and got psyched for wild ride.  As I started climbing, more face holds revealed themselves, and the ones that didn't break off were all pretty good.  Unfortunately this took a lot of the spice out of the climb, and it never really became difficult until you had to pull over the bulge.  Some breif strenuous lay backing will put up on top of the feature, where you can easily stand and then begin the hand traverse right to finish on Uncle Bill's Great Thrill

"Hueco Ladder" V0-
The crux is grabbing the finish hold, I think something might be living inside.

The process of climbing a new route that potentially no one has been on before is quite a rush, and embraces a lot of the aspects of climbing that I most enjoy.  The challenge of looking at a climb from the ground and then going to attempt it with no detailed knowledge of its features is something that I would equate to one of the most pure forms of tradition climbing.  The leader has to make important decisions on gear placements, movement, direction and pitch length.  There is no guidebook to help you, no bolts to direct you or ease your worries, and you never know what gear you'll get in, or how far spaced it will be.  It is simply you, the rock, your belayer, and an adventure into the great unknown.  I believe it takes a certain type of climber to embrace these (increasingly uncommon) aspects of climbing, especially in the era of over trafficked sport climbs, perma-draws, and tick marks.  But the climbs are there for anyone to do, and if you've got the motivation and commitment required to attempt an unrecorded climb you might just find yourself having an unforgettable experience. 

*** I have talked to Jerry Handren, the author of Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide about these two new routes.  He mentioned that they might have been climbed before as variation pitches to Olive Oil or One-Armed Bandit, but have no recorded ascents and are unestablished climbs. So in an attempt to be most accurate and considerate to the climbers of ye ol' day I have decided to avoid any conversation about f these are "First Ascents" or just "undocumented climbs". Either way Jason and I are excited to help establish and put a name to some of the low-trafficed unnamed cracks here in Red Rocks and look forward to there appearance in a future guidebook. 

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