September 24, 2006

The Matron

As a last fling before heading to North Dakota, Ashley and I climbed yet another of the flat irons above our house. We climbed a 5.6 route on the north face of the Maiden for two pitches before gaining the sloping east face for two more long pitches. The 5.6 pitches challanged my trad leading abilities, and the much easier east face was a fun scramble. Hiking from our house, the round trip hike/climb took about 7 hours. We made it back in time to make it to an Octoberfest party that one of Ashley's friends threw with a keg of Pilsner Urquell and all the brats you could eat. We were once again made aware of what a small world it is when we saw Sara at the party. Sara is the girlfriend of the brother (Jess) of the ex-girlfriend (Emily) of Jake's. Crazy.

The Maiden - the face opposite this view, hidden in the trees.

The first pitch

Ashley coming up the east face, pitch 3

September 20, 2006

North Dakota or Bust!

My work is sending me to the beautiful resort destination of Dickinson, ND beginning Monday. Dickinson is located in southwest North Dakota at least 150 from everything, and I don't even think they have a giant nickel. I don't know much about the project other than the fact that my job up there will be to record the soil and rock profile at each location where we drill 150' vertical holes through the earth. Paying particular attention to the height and depth of the coal seams and the groundwater level. The ultimate purpose being to both discern how much coal exists beneath the site, and gain an understanding of the environmental impacts that operating such a mine would create. I anticipate having access to the internet and phone reception while I'm there, so reaching me should not be a problem. I'll be there from Sept. 25 to Oct. 5, and Oct. 10 to Oct. 21. I'll be sure to watch Fargo this weekend to see what I'm in for.

September 17, 2006

Devil's Thumb

Yesterday Ashley and I hiked up to the base of the Devil's Thumb, only to be blown off the ridge as we were unprepared for the cool, windy weather. We stashed the climbing gear near the base of the climb, and hiked back to our house - about a 3.5 hour round trip.

Today we bundled up, brought lots of extra warm clothes, and went back up. On the way there, we saw a critter that we were sure was a cross between a chipmunk and a baby mountain lion. It seriously looked like a miniature adult mountain lion - the actual kittens are fuzzy and chubby, so we know it wasn't one of those. If anybody knows what this small, skitterish critter might be, please let me know.

After retrieving the pack from it's hiding place and scampering up some loose class 4 rock, we crested the ridge and made it to the base of the actual climb, which is only 2 pitches long. The start of the climb wasn't easy, probably the hardest trad climbing I've done. Unfortunately, this wasn't the crux of the climb. The second pitch began with a steep overhang, the true crux of this underrated climb. I made several attempts at ascending the bulge before deciding to resort to some unconventional techniques. I was able to throw a nut with some webbing attached to it up above me to the apex of the overhang, where it wedged itself in a constricting crack. A few ugly attempts at climbing the webbing later, I was standing on top of the overhang with screaming forearms. From this point, I was able to scramble the rest of the way to the summit. Ashley was able to follow me to the anticlimactic summit where we took a few quick photos in the sustained 40 mph wind before rappelling back to the ground. The video below serves as a testament to the vicious winds we encountered.

Although this climb was more difficult than any 5.9 I've ever climbed, the guide book gave it a scant 5.7. Several times I was ready to quit, but perseverance and ingenuity got us to the top. I guess you could call it aid climbing, although the throw technique is probably not a frequently practiced maneuver.

Devil's Thumb Pictures

The Devil's Thumb is the prominent, top-heavy spire skylined in the upper right of the picture.

A closer look at the back side of the Devil's Thumb

Ashley rappelling the last pitch

September 13, 2006

The Maiden

Yesterday Jake and I climbed a rock fin/pillar in the flatirons known as The Maiden. Jake, Emily, and I began hiking from our front door. A couple hours later, we were standing at the base of the Maiden. Emily waited for us at the bottom while I led Jake on his first trad climb. The route we chose was a 5 pitch climb that involved a lot of traversing and descending as well as the usual upward climbing. At a rating of 5.7, it was the most difficult trad climb I have completed to date. The route was fantastic, but perhaps the greatest part of the climb was the the rappel from the top, which the guide book referred to as the most famous free rappel in all of Colorado. Dropping over the huge, overhanging face, there was a point during the 120' rappel where we were at least 40 feet from any rock. After a second rappel, we were back on the ground with Emily and ready to hike back to the house. The following pictures say it all.

The Maiden is the narrow edge of rock between the two slabs in the upper left portion of the picture.

This view at the top of the first pitch was one of the best of the whole climb.

Pitch 2 was a long downclimb that led to the Crow's Nest, at the base of the summit pillar.

The third and fourth pitches traversed the exposed north side of the pillar in order to reach easier ground on the east side.

The rope is plumb, the rock is not.

Longs Blizzard

Last weekend Jake and I backpacked up to the campsites at 12,000 feet on Longs Peak with the intentions of climbing at least one route to the top over the course of two days. Late Friday night, after Jake finally arrived in Denver after missing his flight out of Portland, we drove to the trailhead, arriving at 2:00 am. On top of being dark, it was also raining, which led to us spending the night in the car rather than hiking up to meet our other two comrades already on the mountain. By 7:00, the rain became intermittent, so we began hiking. We crossed the snow line somewhere around 11,000 feet, entered a mild blizzard at about 11,500 feet, and set up our camp in a pretty good snowstorm at 13,150 feet. As soon as we had the tent set up (around 11:00 am) we crawled inside and spent the next 20 hours there. We did exit the tent for a brief period at 4:00 pm to find some water, which we had to dig down through the snow to find, but it beat melting snow with the stove. The following morning the snow had stopped, but the visibility was worse. We managed to climb up to the keyhole at 12,500 feet before turning around, packing up the tent, and heading home.

Despite the fact the we encountered what we determined to be the worst case scenario as far as weather conditions went, we had a great time camping out in a heinous storm high up on Colorado's most famous 14er.

September 05, 2006

1/2 a Road Trip

During the extended Labor Day weekend, Ashley and I flew back to Oregon (Friday night), spent time with our respective families on Saturday, attended a wedding on Sunday in Colton, OR, and drove back to Boulder after the wedding in the car that Ashley's parents so generously gave us. I have to admit, I was slightly skeptical about the car after Ashley called me to say they would be late in arriving to the wedding due to car troubles. Turns out is was just a flat tire that Ashley's dad fixed. The car drove excellently all 1300 miles back to Boulder. We stopped for a 2-hour power nap just south of Boise from 3 to 5 on Monday morning, met up with Wes and Caitlyn in Pocatello from about 10:30 to noon, and got back to Boulder by 9:00, in time to go to bed and get up for work this morning. Including our two stops, the drive took 24 hours. The Ipod performed superbly on its virgin journey.

At 5.5 months old, Caitlyn was much more entertaining than she was at 3 weeks - smiling, kicking, squawking, and this thing she does when she sticks her tongue out and blows a mixture of air and saliva out as her lips and tongue vibrate. Upon observing the smiling and laughter of her audience, this act is repeated and the smiles are returned. I wish I had a video to post as my description is undoubtedly lacking, but we didn't bring a camera on our whirlwind trip.

Coming up . . .
Jake is coming to visit us on Friday! He'll be staying through the following Thursday, so I'm sure I'll have something entertaining to write about in the near future.

September 01, 2006

Colorado has Bears!

I've heard from a variety of sources that there are black bears in Colorado, but I'd never seen any until this morning. I was running one of the many loop trails above our house when I looked ahead of me on the trail and saw a mama, followed by her cub, running away from me about 30 yards away. I watched them for a couple minutes after I was convinced they were most interested in running away from me, opposed to towards me. I love seeing black bears! It's kind of rare, and they are really cool animals - wish I had a picture.