Evolution and Colorado

Despite the title of this post this is not a post about a stupid American state deciding something stupid when it comes to teaching evolution. As far as I’m aware that hasn’t happened in Colorado. Instead it’s about my recent trip to America to go to Evolution 2014, a conference, which happened to be in North Carolina and then onwards to Colorado for some climbing. So hopefully there will be no ranting from me!

Friday saw me up and out pretty early and on my way to Halifax airport. Not a whole lot to report about the traveling. I did get to discuss the World Cup with the cab driver when I got to Raleigh but that was about it. After settling in to the hotel I went to the conference center to register while planning an early night. However as I was leaving I run into some folks form England who remembered me from a talk from years ago. Although I couldn’t remember them it seemed a good excuse to go for a drink and there went my early night! That set the trend for the evenings while I was at the conference as I ended up drinking every night I was there either with the same people, at the poster session where I presented my poster or at the final night social. I definitely got quite drunk at the last of those first at the social and then by latching on to some people I vaguely knew when they went to a bar.

It wasn’t all drinking however, I attended a lot of talks, got some ideas about some research I’d like to do and met up with Mark, my old boss form Kansas. I also presented a poster about my current work which several people seemed interested in. A few took my e-mail address but I’ve yet to hear anything for them. In future I clearly need to take their addresses as well. Still it’s always nice to know your work is of interest to other people. All in all I definitely think it was worth going. I’m starting to get a little more hopeful that I may have a career in academia after all!

The conference finished on the Tuesday but my flight to Denver wasn’t too early evening on the Wednesday so I spent Wednesday exploring Raleigh a bit. Well after spending as long as I could in my hotel room as I was mildly hangover and rather tired. I walked around the rather boring state capitol (photos here before visiting the North Carolina Museum of Natural History. This was where the final night reception had been held the night before but it was nice to look round it while it was less crowded and without the distraction of friends, food and alcohol. As Natural History museums go I think they do a really good job. They even have real scientists working in labs behind big glass windows the public can look through. No way I could work in those conditions but I’m sure the general public must like it. I took a few photos, which include some of genetically modified glow in the dark fish. I then had a quick look around the North Carolina History Museum before heading to the airport.

Thursday four of us headed north of Denver for a few days of climbing and camping. After a not mega-early start we ended up at Lumpy Ridge only to find that most of the nearer bits of the crag were bird-banned. Deciding we didn’t have time to walk to the further bits we eventually ended up at Cow Creek – a crag that was on Mountain Project but not in any of our guides. I ended up leading the one route I thought I could positively identify, a rather enjoyable 5.7 PG13, although I think the way I went should definitely have warranted a R rather than a PG13 as I found myself doing progressively harder slab moves while being further and further away from my gear – easily more than 10m in the end. Nothing harder than 5.7, maybe even 5.6, but with that run out… Still I enjoyed it.

Friday saw us back at Lumpy and this time we had plenty of time to do the hour or so walk in. Unfortunately we cut our first route of the day short after one and a bit pitches due to the weather. It was obviously raining a little way away and it looked to be heading in our direction. Escape from the top of the first pitch was easy, thanks to trees, while escape from the top of the second was unknown – there certainly wasn’t any obvious trees. Although I think we made the correct decision to bail it was rather annoying when it barely rained on us at all. After a failed attempt to find one climb I headed off up the first pitch of another route which was meant to go at 5.7 only to find a rather hard to reach around bush in the middle of the crack. I’m pretty sure it would go at 5.7 without the bush but with it it seemed far harder, especially for someone who has never been very good at jamming. I eventually got it but was done in by that point so reached an obvious belay ledge and called it a day. Not a massively successful day but still rather enjoyable.

Saturday saw us heading back towards Denver and stopping at Boulder Canyon to climb. Somehow I managed to get on the classic of one of the crags there, a really enjoyable 5.6 route that had a lot of variety. Not sure it’s 5.6 but I still had no real problems getting it clean. And if anyone else happens to do East Slab please note where the guidebook says doable as one pitch and do so. Otherwise you’ll find yourself doing a one-move wonder 5m pitch! Still other than that little quibble it is a really worth doing route. After that I got talked into seconding a 5.8-. I should have known better after the 5.6 that I’d just done and was a sandbag. I think the 5.8- would have got low 5.10s in many other parts of the world and I ended up falling of both pitches. :-( Still it was a nice climb even if it was rather harder than I was expecting.

Having gained two people and lost one Sunday saw us heading to Eldorado Canyon which still ranks as one of my favourite climbing locations in Colorado. After a much longer uphill walk-in than any of us, except for Seth who’s idea it was, we arrived at the bottom of the climb. Turns out we only did three of the five pitches as we run out of water and were all getting dehydrated. Once again it was the familiar story from this trip – really nice route but somewhat of a sandbag. I led the second pitch which was meant to be 5.3, but to me seemed to contain 5.6 moves several meters away from the nearest bit of decent gear. And both the other pitches seemed hard for the grade as well. I definitely now see what people mean when they mention Colorado grading.

Monday saw most of us being really rather tired so after a really lazy start Seth and I headed for a nearby, easy access, sport crag. I led a couple of nice routes – a 5.8 and a 5.10-, both of which, if anything, felt soft for the grade! I then seconded Seth up a 5.10 (no letter grade but I’m guessing upper end). I got all the moves but I was finally starting to feel tired by this point so took some rests. After that we called it a day, met up with the others and went to a swim beach for evening of lazing around and a few drinks. The others obviously hadn’t grown up occasionally swimming in the North Sea or other cold places as I was the only one that actually swam.

Tuesday was spent traveling back home. The only marginally interesting thing to happen was having a waitress who was once, a long time ago, from Birmingham.

Well that’s a long post. Until next time…

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