Tuesday, May 29, 2012

First days in Vedauwoo, Wyoming...

The Nautilus Crag as viewed from my campsite...

As I sit here in a wonderful coffee shop in Laramie Wyoming I realize that this might be my first update from the road... ever?  Once the temps in Las Vegas reached over a hundred degrees I knew that my chances of climbing in Red Rocks had pretty much melted away.  Luckily I anticipated my departure a few months back and arranged for some seasonal work in Ward Colorado for the summer.  So I took a little road trip out to Colorado for a week of job training, and before you knew it I had two weeks off before my summer job started... Sweet! I made some plans to meet up with Pamela Shanti Pack in her stone playground of Vedauwoo Wyoming to attempt some "soul crushing offwidths".  Many of those who follow my blog will know that offwidths have been a recent climbing pursuit of mine and that I've been willingly searching out the wide and weird.  Luckily for me Pamela is an expert and this sorta thing, and she was excited and willing to meet up with me.

Pamela Shanti Pack on Simiantics V9

Driving into Vedauwoo from I-80 East is pretty awesome, the wild bouldery bluffs just appear smack-dab in front of you!  Right away I was able to start spotting iconic routes while still traveling 75 MPH... "There's Horn's Mother, Lucille, and is that one of the Torpedo Tubes?" I said to myself in amazement while trying not to be blown off the road by the gusting winds.  My climbing destination was right in front of me in the most unexpected of places.  Located high on a blustery hill at about 8,500 feet appears the rounded stacks of boulders and wide cracks that "The Voo" is most famous for.  Once I exited the interstate I was only moments away from parking and getting out to begin climbing.  Although it is close to the interstate the area is still very scenic, inspiring, and surprisingly remote.  I've heard the immediate and surrounding area was still pretty saturated with a "cowboy" mentality, but luckily I have only (so far) encountered jolly outdoorsy folk, including a small group of people running around/hiding with paintball guns (I kept driving).  Besides the occasional distant shotgun blast the granite bluffs are entirely void of humans, and it is more likely one would run into a moose or mountain lion than another wide-obsesed climber.

Just a minor difference in foot size... Who's is who's?

Our first day out Pamela, Patrick Kingsbury, and I set out to do some bouldering.  They wanted to introduce me to the area with some shorter climbs that could test my offwidth skills without totally exhausting me and while still giving me a good experience with the unique Vedauwoo stone.  So we walked over to roof invert problem Simiantics V9 as a warm up... I watched Pat and Pamela pretty much cruise right through it, and I did my best to keep up.  Although I gave it a good several attempts, I kept getting stuck (literally) in the same spot... After eventually removing myself from the inverted/stuck position, I soon compared foot size with Pamela.  The difference in our hand and foot size was quite hilarious and it soon became clear that we might not often share the same beta and route technique.  I wasn't deterred by the difference in size and gave it a few more tries, eventually reaching my high point...

My "high point" on Simiantics V9... haha!

 We explored another few problems nearby that I attempted with limited success before the weather took a  turn for the worse.  What I once thought was excess chalk flying through the air really turned out to be snow! We hid away in the nooks and crannies of the boulders and waited for the snowy mix to halt.  Although short lived, the snow put a little damper on our psyche level, and we stuck around for a few more attempts before heading back to the solitude of a near by Laramie restaurant for some dinner.  We met up with Zach and Rachel who are Ved locals and very knowledgeable folk.  There we exchanged stories over beers while I learned about all the wide-antics the area has had over the years. All and all it was a great first day for me climbing in Vedauwoo, and I was excited for the days, routes, and unwritten stories still to come.

Worm Drive 5.11b+

 The next day we wandered over to the classic wide test-peice Worm Drive, which I had heard rumors of being ridiculously hard and frustration-educing.  It was a unanimous decision to top rope the climb for the first attempts to take some of the stress out of the experience.  I was the first to attempt the beast, and it was truly an exhausting experience!  After struggling on the crux, sliding back downwards multiple times, and resting on the rope more times than I'd like to admit, I finally made it to the top! I never really felt tired until I stopped climbing.... and that's when I felt like I just ran backwards through several miles of lichen covered glass shards while dragging a filing cabinet. It took me at least ten minutes to catch my breath.  Now I understand why some people barf on offwidths... Once I finally was able to breath, think, and speak again I came to the conclusion that I actually might be able to do the route cleanly with no falls.  But before I would try again I wanted to watch Pat give it a go and see what I could learn from him.  Although starting the climb slightly different, we both enter and complete the crux in a very similar fashion.  After the crux, the difference was that Pat cruised the rest while I tried not to barf.  But just watching Pat dial in the moves gave me the addition motivation for my second attempt.  I tied back in and started off the ground once more, this time with a "plan".  Unfortunately my plan got the best of me, and anticipating the moves actually set me back slightly more than my onsight attempt... I guess I am better at making it up as I go along. Although I didn't execute the moves flawlessly I did feel significantly less tired the second time around and I'm hopeful that a third attempt will prove successful.

After the crux roof on Worm Drive

After Worm Drive we explored some of the other areas Ved has to offer... we dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged our way around the "mountain lion torpedo tubes" and discovered a wonderfully wide, scary, and sharp route of mysterious nature.  After deciding against bouldering the route we set up a top-rope and gave 'er hell.  The crack ranged from about 6"- 9" inches wide and had a obvious overhanging crux bulge at the top before turning the lip.  We sent Pamela on the route first in hopes she could unlock the beta (and some loose crystals) before the two wider-dudes got on it.  Pamela wanted to tunnel through the center of the crack, but beside being thin and agile wasn't able to fit entirely inside the crack.  She did however manage to half-invert and chicken wing her way up the crack with little hang up.  Although she was quite smooth, controlled, and dressed like a mango colored ninja, she didn't escape unharmed and still managed to hit her face on the crack and bloody her thumb mid-route.

Pamela "Ninja Mango" Pack after hitting her face on the mysterious
"More Crystal Than Meth"

The last inch of progress before I get stuck... again. 

My attempt was quite mysterious to say the least... if Pamela looked like a "mango-ninja", then I looked like an "offwidth-grunge-kid" who was ready for a mosh pit.  I gave my best effort to flash the route in a similar fashion to Pamela, but because of the difference in size I had to resort to many different techniques in attempt to make upward progress.  My first try got me tantalizingly close to pulling the crux by using fist-stacks and foot smears... but I eventually fell with gravity's relentless grip.  My second attempt I tried to get more inside the large crack, but couldn't fit my hips or chest in.  I attempt to pull off a "sidewinder" technique which eventually turned into a full inversion.  Hanging from my feet high above my head allowed me to move a couple more inches...before I inevitably became entirely stuck upside-down requiring a rescue via Pat's belay.  In the end I combined the two methods, entering the crux in fist-stacks and exciting the crux in sidewinder... A very mysterious and exciting combo!

Pat Kingsbury crushing "More Crystal Than Meth"

After waiting patiently, Pat tied in to the rope and prepared himself to ascend the monster crystal-coated crack.  I was excited to watch Pat's beta... I was pretty sure he was NOT gonna attempt my "expressionist dance school dropout" inversion maneuver, but rather something much more stylish and practical.  Pat fist-stacked his way into the crux, and utilized a partial invert foot maneuver and stacks to pull the lip. Like Pamela, he made the route look pretty chill and it was a great learning experience for me just watching him pull the moves first attempt. Nice work Pat!  So today I rest and recover from my first two days of Vedauwoo madness and I wait in anticipation of the wide-days to come... still ridiculously psyched!

One harness and one shirt partially destroyed after two days...

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