Colorado

Well this is the shortest time between posts for a while. Largely because I did something exciting. Not that different, but exciting. I went on a four day climbing trip to Colorado. It was wonderful.

It was a three day weekend (Memorial Day) here the weekend before last and three of us decided to take the Friday off as well and head to Colorado for a four day weekend. Thursday evening saw Seth and Kim arrive at my place just after my interview had finished and we started the long drive to Colorado. We camped for the night in the flat boring bit of Colorado about two hours shot of Boulder where we were planning on climbing the next two days. Other than being very windy at the camp site nothing too exciting happened.

Next morning we drove to Eldorado Canyon State Park just outside Boulder. First impressions were encouraging as it was rather scenic and the climbing looked fun and longer than anything I’d done in a while. This was going to be Kim’s second time seconding trad and both Seth’s and Kim’s first time multi-pitching. Our first route of the day was a three pitch 5.6, Calypso. Carol had suggested just doing the first pitch and as it was equipped with lower offs it seems likely quite a few people stop there. Both Kim and Seth, having never done multi-pitch, wanted to go to the top so we did all three pitches. I led the first and last while Seth led the middle. The first pitch brought a big smile to my face. I’d certainly missed large trad climbs and the fact that it was on really enjoyable rock only made it better still.

Things got a bit exciting when we reached the top and we spent a couple of hours trying to find the way down before finally finding where you were meant to abseil from just as we were giving up and going to make up our own way down. Unfortunately the guidebook, as is the want of such things, hadn’t exactly helped us find the descent! We finally arrived back down much later than we should have done and so had a quick discussion about whether to just do the first pitch of another route or whether to try to fit a whole route in. Deciding to do the later we headed off to do Wind Ridge…

Except that’s not what we ended up doing. We got to the base of the route, had a cursory look at the guidebook and got going. I knew I didn’t really know where the route went that well beyond the first few moves but was trying to save time and was hoping for direction from the ground but for one reason or another no one said something so I ended up doing a different and easier route than we’d planned called Breezy that went at 5.5. Although I have yet to see it described in a guidebook I’m pretty sure I must have run the two pitches together as I used nearly the whole 60m of rope. While on my belay ledge I had a discussion with another climber who pointed me at where Wind Ridge should have gone and were it now went. When Seth arrived he fancied leading the last pitch – a one move wonder – which I seconded him up. As it was starting to get dark by this point Kim decided to just walk off from the belay ledge. Seth and I abseiled in the dark – thankfully we now knew where it was, before we all got back to the car rather later than planned.

That evening we stayed in a hotel as there’s not any camping near Boulder and that what was a bit further away seemed likely to be busy what with it being a holiday weekend. I’d let myself get a bit dehydrated that day so I dozed while the other two drunk. Eventually everyone went to bed but the late night meant not the earliest start in the morning. Which wasn’t ideal as we were planning on doing a very popular nine pitch route.

Next morning we eventually found somewhere to park and headed up to the first flatiron. There’s a classic 5.7 up it which I really wanted to do. Unsurprisingly there was a queue at the start and we had to wait while two other parties did the first pitch. This gave me plenty of time to consider how bold the first pitch was. The first pitch is a friction slab with a bolt at about 30 foot. I tentatively made me way up and past this. The next piece of gear is another bolt which seems more than another 30 foot up – I certainly didn’t want to risk falling before I clipped it. My legs were getting quite tired but I knew I had no choice but to keep going before I eventually got the second bolt. There’s one cam on the rest of the pitch but, after waiting around for the belay ledge to clear, the rest of the pitch went fine.

Seth and I then alternated leaded for the rest of the climb, all of which were trad. We wandered a little bit off route at one point, apparently a not exactly uncommon event, but other than making us do an extra shot pitch this was of no real consequence. After seven pitches we arrived at the ridge. From here there were another two or three pitches to go and we were aware it was already getting late. We managed to do it in two very long pitches (both nearly 60m) which created a lot of rope drag but was otherwise OK. We then signed the summit register, did the single abseil and just about managed to get back to the car without use of head torches (or for my American friends who find “head torch” highly amusing, head lamps). Was a thoroughly brilliant if tiring day.

That evening we headed down to the Canon City area to meet up with several other friends that had driven out Friday and climbed else where on Saturday. We reached their camp site quite late and I don’t think any of the three of us were planning on an early start the next morning after the previous two days. In the end all of us got to the crag later than I was expecting – it was gone midday – but I still managed to fit five sports routes in – including sandbagging myself on a 10d when I thought I was climbing a 10b. Felt rather happier about my rests and falls once I’d realised my mistake.

Monday we headed to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, a stunning rock formation that I’d wanted to climb on since I’d seen them way back in 2006. By the time we’d registered all the convenient parking was full so the three of us hiked in from overflow parking while the others drove off and, as it turns out, went elsewhere. As we had a long drive ahead of us we only did two short routes but I think the first of them was my favourite single pitch of the weekend – even if I did only top rope it. Looked rather bold on lead and there’s no way it’s a 5.9 as per the guidebook but if I’m ever back there I’d like to try leading it now I know I can do all the moves. We left Colorado Springs about 2 and reached Lawrence about 8 hours later with only a single 10 or 15 minute petrol (UK) / gas (US) stop. Was a tiring but excellent weekend – as you can probably tell by how much I’ve wrote! The few photos I took are here.

In other news, I didn’t get the Australia job. Can’t say I’m surprised. 27 applicants of which they interviewed 6 so I was doing rather well just to get an interview. I’ve also started going to Physical Therapy about my knees. At the moment it’s definitely still at the make things more painful stage although I’m starting to see signs of improvement as well. This Monday just gone I also started a photography class. Have just splashed out on a cheap DSLR for it, something I’ve been wanting to get for a while. The first class was quite introductory and also covered a little bit of simple stuff not directly related to photography – such as how to bring in photos on a flash drive – so it wasn’t very exciting or helpful. That said it definitely showed promise for future weeks.

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