Solstice Day

Our route on Hallett Peak

I returned to Denver at 10PM on Tuesday and had a message from my friend Kelly Cordes, someone whom I had been badgering about a day in Rocky Mountain National Park. At 6AM Wednesday morning we finalized plans, and I was soon speeding up Hwy 36 to his home in Estes Park. This was going to be my third-annual 'Soltice Day'. In the Northwest, it is amazing how much daylight we have around this time of year. Each of the last two years I have had long climbing days around the solstice. The first was a linkup of the Roan Wall and Salish Peak in the Central Cascades with Darin Berdinka. Last year, David Trippett and I climbed the The Chief, in Squamish, three times, with a total of ~50 guidebook pitches. This year proved a bit more mellow, but was still a lot of fun.

We started off with the Jackson-Johnson Route on Hallett Peak. The approach is a mellow hour from the car, and we followed an obvious corner system for the first pitches.

We only got lost on a couple of spots. Fortunately the face is covered in features, letting folks wander to and fro with relative impunity.

After a high traverse across a couple valleys, we set out on the route "TopNotch" on a peak called The Notchtop.

Racking up under blue sky...

The highlight of this route is a gently overhanging .11c finger crack, splitting a blank shield of granite several hundred feet up. I lead the outstanding pitch, but pumped out and hung just before the tiny crack opened up to a better size. Was I tired from the end of my third day of climbing? Feeling the altitude? Probably just lack of composure and gumption to punch it when I was feeling worked. I'll be back...

After a couple more pitches, the darkening sky began to crack with lightning and a sudden rain. We both had sparks flashing from our gear and a belaying Kelly felt a few electrifying moments as I raced up the pitch. We left all our metal gear under a rock, and traveled along the ledge to huddle in the rain. It was a shocking experience. Many bad lightning-themed jokes ensued. At one point Kelly turned to me and randomly asked "Hey, do people in Washington still wear shorts over poly- pro?" (He'd guided for AAI long ago) I was forced to tell him the embarrassing truth.

Eventually the storm moved on, and we bolted out of there. The descent was slowed by a covering of rain-saturated grass and lichen.

Before starting the climb, we had hung our packs from the wall, preventing attack from marmots. However, I apparently forgot to put one sock inside my pack, and we returned to find this:

Kelly and I both assumed that even the tiniest nibble on a Herrington-foot-infused sock would likely prove terminal for the offending rodent. Therefor, I would like to apologize to the folks at Rocky Mountain National Park because I apparently did 'Feed the Wildlife' and probably killed off a marmot in the process.

From the base of the peak, we slid, ran, hiked, and waded 3 or 4 miles down the snowy and stream-filled woods back to our car. A fitting solstice day, completed with margarita in hand by 11pm.

On Thursday June 30, 7PM at the REI in Boulder I am going to be giving a slideshow about new alpine rock climbs!



Pike's Peak through the tunnel

It's Saturday night, and I have just finished a day of running errands and faffing around trying to get things done. Suddenly I realize that I don't have any plans for the next three days, and the forecast looks great! Some last-minute phone and email harassment sets in motion tentative plans of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

First off was climbing granite in the South Platte area, a region of dry rolling hills and beautiful pine forests. My friends Todd and Casey were gracious enough to let me tag along, even though they brought much better food and camp entertainment than I did. (Boggle anyone?)

I told them it was unnecessary, but Casey and Todd insisted on bowing to me.

We spent one day climbing splitter cracks at Turkey Tail.

Casey on the overhanging thin-hands "Quivering Quill"

and Whimsical Dreams

Deproaching Turkey Tail, amid a sea of climbs

On Tuesday we found our way to the climbing mecca of Thunder Ridge. Made up of 5 or 6 major walls, aspen forests, wildflowers, and spring creeks, Thunder Ridge's hidden locale isn't even in the middle of nowhere, it's slightly NE of that.

Todd scoping out the Wasp Canyon walls

I got a workout on the route "Storm", right next to the classic "Starlight."
Gaston would be proud.

Thunder Ridge is unlike any climbing area I've been to, and I am already excited to return.

On Thursday June 30, 7PM at the REI in Boulder I am going to be giving a slideshow about new alpine rock climbs!

*SPlat being the local slang term for the South Platte


First Aid Certification

Last summer I joined my friend Sol Wertkin on a new route in Central Cascades of Washington State.

I wrote an article about our trip, and it was just published in the Washington-based outdoorsy magazine, Adventures Northwest.If you are in the area, you can get a copy of this magazine for free at places such as climbing, hiking, biking, or paddling shops, as well as supermarkets and college campuses.

I scanned the article and posted it online, visible by clicking these thumbnail images:

The climbing world (Colorado in particular) has been in a state of shock over the deaths of Jonny Copp, Micah Dash, and Wade Johnson, apparently caused by an avalanche in China. I had never met two of the climbers, but had seen Micah give a slideshow and climbed with him for a fun day in Red Rocks this past March. A more enthusiastic and excited climber could not be found.


Big Day at Little Eiger

Fifteen minutes of driving from my temporary Denver residence brings me to Clear Creek Canyon of Golden, CO. This is a long, winding canyon stacked with dozens of (mostly) sport climbing crags, boulders, and wild roofs of granitic gneiss. My friend Todd Bartlow (whom I met in Indian Creek) has been in Denver for a while, and on Friday we tried to climb every route at the Little Eiger crag, in a day.

There are 31 pitches listed in the guidebook, on a wall that sits above some of the biggest rapids in Clear Creek Canyon. We were excited to watch the kayakers battling white water as we enjoyed such a concentration of great climbs. Two routes are 5.9, two are 5.12, and the remaining 20something are 5.10 and 5.11, with all but 3 of them being bolted sport climbs. I was partially inspired to try such a climb-athon by the recent work of my friends Sol Wertkin and Jens Holsten of Leavenworth, WA.

We began on the far left edge of the crag, racking up at 8:30AM. The sun quickly emerged, and we were soon sweating our way across the selection of 5.10 and 5.11s, including this bolted crack.

After falling off the .11d Eiger Direct, I pulled the rope and sent it on my second go, finding it easier to climb fully through the tenuous crux section, before reaching back down to clip the bolt.

As more folks showed up and occupied the lower wall, we threw some snacks in our pockets and began the 4-pitch 5.12 route "Too". The first three pitches of the climb were all long (35-40 meters) and went well. Soon it was my turn for the headwall, a wild 5.12- pitch, with the crux coming in the final 15 feet. I hung on through the STEEP 5.11d middle section of the pitch, and shook out on a stance 30' below the top of the wall, eyeing the loose bolts, licheny rock, and amazing position of this rarely-climbed pitch. The crux involves a powerful dynamic throw leftward, from an overhanging crimp sequence to a softball-shaped blob. I ran out of energy before making the move, but after a couple falls I was happy to stick the sequence and clip the anchors, several hundred feet above the creek and road. "Too" worked to try and redpoint the pitch, I gave Todd a toprop belay and he concurred that this was some seriously sandbagged .12a climbing.

We rappeled to the ground as a few spits of rain began to fall, and seized the opportunity to eat lunch and gulp down some more water.

We both began to feel tired, and the long string of subsequent 35m pitches began to wear on us. I tried to take a break from steep crimping by climbing the 2 other crack climbs, but both turned out to be very wet and fairly chossy, resulting in a lot of wasted time, and a sorely bruised ego. After climbing 6 or 7 more pitches, the rain truly began in earnest, putting an end to the climbing of all folks still on the wall.

By day's end we had done 19 pitches and 1700' of climbing in 10.5 hours, fully earning us the beers that Todd had stashed in Clear Creek that morning.