Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Going Big, Having Fun

Zach and I have spent the last few days enjoying the fruits of the recent warmer weather. A significant amount of snow has melted off the larger formations and many awesome lines are coming into condition. On Friday we climbed the RR classic Ixtlan, a nice 600 foot line up a varnished buttress at the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon. Ixtlan is known for its variety of movement and we enoyed everything it threw our way from techy face climbing to gut wrenching off widthing. It was also a good opportunity to scope some of the other options in the canyon and by the end of the day I knew what I was psyched for. 

The Black Velvet Wall is certainly one of RR's proudest, large formations. The well known classic Epinepherine resides there as well as a host of other more obscure, but excellant climbs. One such route is Texas Hold 'Em, a 1000 foot 5.11c that climbs half of the formation on a steep, varnished face. It is a direct, no nonsense line that to me, has a major asthetic appeal. At the end of TH'E, one can either rappel or join the old school classic Lonestar, a seldom done 5.11 that the guidebook labels "a major undertaking", and follow it another 1000 feet to the top of the formation. After talking with a few of Zach's freinds, we found out the link may not have ever been done. They also made sure we knew that we were biting off a big chunk. I couldn't help but be drawn by this major line of weakness through unlikely terrain on a major face and that evening we were throwing gear together for an attempt the next day. 
The following morning sees us firing up the initial pitches. They are moderate, but sandy. The low angle movement is a good warm up for the steep varnished wall above. As we go higher the rock becomes bullet proof. It seems to offer just enough features to make wild sequences possible. The overabundance of holds usually experianced at RR's is not found here. These pitches have a pure, asthetic appeal and the climbing is superb. Steep cracks, flares, boulder problems, and slab sequences carry us through the technical cruxes. We climb one pitch up Lone Star where we take a small break to look at the topo and eat a bar. The topo shows eight more pitches to the top. I know the light will go soon, but we've got head lamps and we're sure of our abilities on this terrain. We punch up a large dihedral. I try to be methodical and precise rather than hurried. Belay exchanges are a snap of the fingers. I finish leading a wet 5.10 pitch, sling a scrub oak and bring Zach up and over. He moves through the belay without grabbing any gear, and quickly runs out 70 feet of 5.6 around a corner to a belay. I click on my headlamp, try to ignore a windy rain that is falling, and follow in the dark. After crossing the arete I look up at the final pitch, a boltless, 20o foot 5.9 R slab. I can't see much in the dark, but the stone is clearly wet, the streaks glistnining in the light of my headlamp. Facing this pitch in these conditions has been a fear of mine all day. Sure enough, here I am wih nothing to do but take us to the top. I don't waste much time before starting the pitch. Over about 45 minutes I stretch the rope out over the featured face, finding itermitent gear. Even the lights of a major metropolis at my back can not tame the intensity. I feel as out there as ever in those moments. 

All in all, the Texas Hold 'Em/Lone Star link up provided just what I was looking for. A long adventerous route that required a belief in our selves and a desire to succeed. There are plenty of these lines in Red Rocks and I hope to climb many of them in the future. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You Don't Always Get What You Want

Lucho stares blankly into the computer screen. NOAA's crystal weather ball has given a piercing, painful vision. Black skies, snow, 10 more days of foul weather...but how could it be? A few days earlier we crammed fingers into greasy locks on the Nabisco Wall, stood on El Cap's glassy smears, and grunted up a few of those pure Yosemite slots. 

Yosemite in winter felt more like spring, but day four blew us out. Windy, angry weather spit all forms of precipitation and we left to gather ourselves and some more equipment for the longer routes we hoped to try. One rest day turned to into a few to many, but our commitment to climbing in Yosemite remained steadfast.

Now, sitting here in San Francisco, Lucho and I have a call to make. Watch rain fall on the pavement, imagining the Valley getting pounded with snow, or head for dry rock. It finally seems like a no brainer-Vegas, here we come. 

Since Zion is getting pounded with weather also, Lucho and I head for Red Rocks hoping to sample some of the fine, long free climbs the canyons offer. An hour into the drive I call Zach, a good friend living in Vegas. He knows the routes I'm after and I don't like what I sense in his voice. He claims snow, and a quite a bit of it at that, has all long routes out of the question. When we arrive his report is clearly confirmed and we adjust plans again.

With no multi pitch options available we focus on the numerous short, classic free climbs of Nevada's deserts. Before long, tiger striped limestone and roof cracks of the most wild sort have our inspiration burning and minds scheming. For now we are stacking up the projects, eeking out a few sends, and, although you don't always get what you want, climbing on some very beautiful rock.