Friday, February 17, 2012

Keepin' On

Jason's van and a sunset over Red Rocks. 

This last week here in Red Rocks has been all over the board. The transition from 70's and sunny to a confused sporadic rain/snow/wind combo was a little difficult, but realistically not something entirely uncommon for the area.  Despite the approaching clouds we went out to climb several days, but often came home with little more to say than "well that was a nice hike" and "light rain can be very relaxing".  Our climbing days were often cut short, or entirely stopped due to rain or heavy winds.  So in these odd days of climbing we would get a pitch in here or there, while mostly just hiking around looking for some new cool looking cracks to climb. Andy spotted a fun looking corner crack that traversed under a roof while hiking through Gateway Canyon, which is home to the wild "Dr. Seuss" stone on the North side of Kraft mountain.   Although a little short, this crack looked like one of the best we've spotted in Gateway Canyon thus far.  Way better than the last crack I spotted in the same area, which looked great but turned out to be the ridiculously sandy and short.  Luckily for us the crack Andy saw actually continued to look good as we approached, and once we reached the base we knew we had to give it a try. 

Andy Hansen on Horizontal Departure 5.10b

Seeing as Andy spotted the line, it was only natural he would get the first attempt at it.  So as Andy started to climb with Gina as his belayer, I walked around and looked for a good place to shoot a few photos from.  The crack seemed to start like many of the less trafficed lines in the Calico Basin area, slightly broken up and fragile in the beginning, but gets progressively better as you go higher up, I suppose an unfortunate reality to climbing on shorter bands of Aztec sandstone in the wind blown desert.  Once he got about ten feet up the rock and climbing looked much better, and it looked like a fun and committing little line.  Once under the roof, you get a few good foot holds before they all disappear, causing you to smear your feet on slick varnished stone, looking for any small feature to get a little extra friction.  Andy made it through the traverse and pulled up over the lip, where another five feet of climbing leads to the belay.  I followed him up on the climb and cleaned the gear as I went.  As we were scrambling back down to the base we discussed the difficult of the route and came to an agreement of 5.10.  Although unaware if this route was in the guidebook or not, we could tell that it had certainly been done previously.  The approach trail had many cairns and was relatively well travelled, despite the relatively unpopular nature of the climb. Once we got home Andy checked out the guidebook and we discovered that the line was in fact Horizontal Departure Slightly disappointed, but not surprised that this line was already established we looked in the book for other fun climbs near by.  Luckily for me the climb just to the left of it was another unpopular offwidth called Harsh Width.

Me climbing Harsh Width 5.9+

I can barely begin to describe my enjoyment of climbing Harsh Width that day.  I don't know if it was the weird weather, the lack of water, or perhaps an excitement for climbing obscure climbs, but as soon as I wedged my body into the stone I felt at home.  There is just something wonderful about getting to interact with a large crack in an even larger piece of earth, the whole time making upwards progress and getting to temporarily exist in places that people seem to dread.  It is an exhilarating process that most people don't seem to get into, perhaps because of the mandatory cuts and bruises, or the generally non-glamorous nature of getting half stuck inside a crack.  But the more I climb these cracks the more my skills advance and the less painful and arduous they become, and I think perhaps I realized this when I was climbing that day.  As far as the details of the climb itself, the two walls which made the Harsh Width  crack featured one varnished wall with great rock and some cool pockets, and another wall with more friction and slightly worse rock, although hardly anything broke off.  It climbs for about 50-60 feet and is very continuous in nature, not very many face holds exist to help avoid using the crack.  There is a good ledge after the sustained crack climbing is finished, and after belaying your second up you both get to scramble/squeeze up a really fun low angle chimney to exit the climb and scramble back down to the base.  If you're looking to climb more off width squeezes and have already done most of the ones people talk about, I'd recommend this climb without a doubt.  

Me on Sport Wanker Extraodinaire 5.11d

A few days before the weather turned on us, I got an opportunity to get on the infamous Sport Wanker Extraodinaire 5.11d. This climb has been on my radar for a bit now, but I needed to wait for just the right time to attempt it.  The first (and only) other attempt I've seen or heard about this climb is when I watched Andy attempt it a few months ago.  We had gone to get on Yin and Yang and Atman, two classics in the area and afterwards Andy wanted to try Sport Wanker.  It was all fun and games for a while as Andy worked the lower hand stack section while Jason and I watched on giving whatever advice we could.  It was fun to watch Andy work out the moves, but things got drastically less fun in just a matter of moments. After working out the hand-stack section, Andy was pulling over the roof and advancing above his last gear placement.  While above his gear and with a bomber hand jam in place, Andy's feet slipped unexpectedly and he took a fall onto his (still jammed) hand and arm!  Needless to say watching my good buddy fall onto his stuck arm was not the best inspiration.  But perhaps watching him finish the route after that fall was a little more motivating.  So I gave it my first attempts, figuring out the steep hand stacks and trying not to slip out of the wide crack.  For me the crux was attempting to place my third piece of gear, a #4 Camalot in the hand-stack section.  Unfortunately by the time I had the stacks dialed in, my skin was already pretty thrashed, and I decided to let myself heal and come back.  I look forward to my second attempt on this monstrosity, and perhaps Andy and I can both get sends the next time we go for it. 

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