Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gretna mini-spring

With a forecast in the mid-50s too hard to pass up, Charlie and Michael and I got an early start yesterday for a fun day at Gretna.  While they warmed up, I dropped a rope to clean the slab left of Scarlet Lady that I'd been working, and was happy to find several small edges buried under the bits of moss at the top.

Charlie working the slab
Michael finished it in about three tries, and Charlie got it pretty quickly after.  I, on the other hand, chickened out at the top and crossed into the lip on my left for an early exit.  Next time.

After dropping my rope back at the car, I joined them at the 45 area where they were working on Exhibit A.  I decided to save my energy, but Michael and Charlie walked away with back to back sends.

After a bit of exploring, we dropped pads at Shamoo, which the guys worked for a while without much luck.  I decided to start working Heaven, and was surprised how possible it felt even with the starting footholds continually seeping water.  Looking forward to trying it when I don't have to spend more time drying the rock than climbing it.

                                                                                                            Photo: Michael Kelliher
                                                                                                            Photo: Michael Kelliher

We went down to the Highball boulder for a bit, where Charlie came pretty close on The Squeak, and then hit Adjuster on our way back to the car.  Michael got it, and I walked away empty handed again, even after getting a few extra tries with the discovery that iPhones are brighter than our headlamps.  Wish I had topped that thing out the first time I was up there!

Looks like rain today, but my skin could use a rest anyway.  Still a week left of vacation though, so I'm sure I'll be getting out for more fun soon.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Another Friday at Bushwhack

After a month away from rock, I was excited for a couple days of warm weather, and a chance to get out to Bushwhack for the first time in a while.  I was even more excited to bring Michael Kelliher with me, back in the area after a few years of living in CO.  He had visited Bushwhack with me once in December three years ago, but since that was before most of the good boulders had been done there, he had a lot to catch up on.

I put him on Tauntaun Sleeping Bag to warm up, and he got it second go after barely missing it the first time.

Next we went up to Constructive Winter, which he also got second try, though we skipped the topout due to the three large vultures sitting on the descent.  Charlie joined us there, and since he had wanted to take a shot at Dead Soul, we headed over to the Tourette's boulder.  Unfortunately that was wet, but Michael onsighted the double toehook start to Tourette's Razor, and I was happy to find that the stretching I've done in the past couple months finally got me flexible enough to do it too.

Wanting to put in some time on one of my new projects, which even Charlie hadn't seen yet, we went down the hill to this...

It's really only a few moves, but they're long and balancy moves on glassy holds.  Originally thinking we had to match the bad sloper and throw for a slot straight up, things changed when Charlie found a crimp out left that would still be a bit low percentage, but would at least save us a step or two.  Eventually Michael stuck it and the following move to the lip, and even though Charlie and I didn't follow up with sends of our own, it was really exciting to see it go down.

Charlie had to head out after that, but Michael wanted to try Stink, Stank, Stunk on the way out, and he finished it faster than I've ever seen (five tries I think), and then made quick work of You're Doing it Wrong. Good thing we still have so much more rock to get him on.

Sunny and in the 50s again tomorrow, and planning to get an early start for Gretna.  I love winter break in MD!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ropes in Vegas

Vegas is an odd place.

Friendly trees...

Good beer in plastic cups to go...

Inside looks like outside...

Outside looks like inside...

And mountains always at the edge of sight to remind us that reality still exists...

This is the seventh year that Emily and I have joined her dad on the Strip for Thanksgiving, trading hot turkey and football on the couch for a few days of good drinks, awesome food, and the best people watching we can find outside of the Renaissance Festival.

As usual, rather than heading straight to the Strip, we rented a car and got in a few hours surrounded by the surreal formations of Red Rocks.

Usually we just rent a crash pad and head out for a few hours of bouldering, during which I always have my sights set a little too high, and fail miserably on whatever project I've convinced myself is going to happen. This time we decided to bring a rope out for a change of pace.  True it would mean an extra bag through the airport, but the idea of getting in some easy mileage seemed way more appealing than my usual flailing five feet off the ground.  And since Emily had never done any real multi pitch, hearing there was a 3 pitch 5.9 sport route called Big Bad Wolf sealed it.

Good holds on a vertical face for the first pitch.

Gorgeous slab for the second.

More slab and a vertical finish for the third.  All with bolts seemingly every five feet and good chain anchors at the top of every pitch.  Definitely more relaxing than anything we had done out there before.  At least until Emily joined me at the top of the second pitch and I could hear her knee crackling from ten feet away.

She thought we could still make it to the top.  As amazing as the third pitch looked, pushing her knee seemed like a terrible idea considering we still had a good scramble to get back to the trail, so we called down to the party below us to let them know we'd be rapping down.

Going into the day, my only real concern was that Emily hadn't rappelled in a couple years, but fortunately that came back to her pretty quickly and she was soon clipped into the first set of chains.  Where she promptly dropped her belay device.

There was a moment of us all watching it slide in slow motion down the remaining slab, and I think I even managed to briefly catch it with my foot.  As it turned the corner into the vertical, Emily had the presence of mind to yell "ROCK!" to the parties gathered below, as the ATC rocketed down to glance sharply off a rock and find a comfortable rest under a bush.  I have to admit I was a little jealous that it had gotten down so soon.

About three years ago, I used to go to Ilchester and set an anchor just to spend a couple hours ascending and rappelling using every technique I knew, even making it a point to switch devices/techniques while still hanging rather than doing so from the safety of a good stance.  So with a full pitch of Big Bad Wolf below us, at least I knew there were options.

We pulled the rope out of the anchors above us, gradually to avoid hitting the climber who was now on the most delicate part of the second pitch.  The good news was we didn't hit him.  Unfortunately, our gentle pulling meant the rope didn't come down as diagonally as we needed it to, and the end of it was now lodged behind a flake about 25 feet up.

When no amount of pulling and flipping would dislodge it, the guy who was belaying next to us offered to traverse over and free it on his way up the second pitch, so I clipped Emily into the rope with my ATC and looked around to see what I had for getting myself down.  Fortunately when getting ready back at the car, my paranoia had overcome any need to travel light and fast, and I now had just enough locking carabiners to build a carabiner brake to rappel on.

By this point, our companion on the ledge had gotten up and freed our rope, which promptly hit the climber below us in the head on the way to the ground.  After an appropriate round of apologies, my improvised rappel device had me safely to the ground, and Emily soon joined me to gather our belongings (including her wayward ATC) and pick our way back to the trail.

Climbs like this remind me how glad I am to have backup plans, and backups to the backups.  The also remind me how glad I am that climbers are generally so supportive of each other.  Whether I'm the one helping or being helped, there's always been a common understanding that this kind of stuff happens to all of us, and if any of them went home later and laughed about our train wreck of a climb, they at least had the decency to keep it quiet until we were safely back at the cars.

We went out there to spend a day doing some fun easy climbing on some pretty rock, and to give Emily her first real multi pitch.  We did some fun easy climbing.  The rock was pretty.  True we only finished the first two pitches instead of all three, but two is still multi pitch, and I have to say I was glad for the opportunity to pull out some skills that I never thought I'd have to actually use.  And to top it all off, we still had three nights on the Strip ahead of us.  It was a great day.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Frederick Bouldering

Matt Rockwell on Blood Diamond

I probably should have rested on Sunday after all the fun I had at the Gretna comp the day before, but since my friend Sean and I had missed seeing each other the last couple times he was in town, I taped up the hole in my finger and headed out to Frederick to show him some of the stuff that's been developed since he moved out west.  Well, actually it was Jon Alexander who showed a few of us around that day, since we were heading to an area that I still hadn't managed to make it to yet.

Check out Jon's summary of the day, and keep an eye on his site for more exciting updates on the current explosion of Frederick bouldering development.  Glad someone's keeping track of it!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gretna comp 2014

Charlie Garcia on The Box, Mt. Gretna
Went to my first Gretna comp yesterday, and they threw a heck of a party.  It's something I've been wanting to go to for a while, mainly as an opportunity to find my way around a notoriously confusing boulder field, but I'd have gone way sooner if I'd known exactly how much fun I'd have.  Charlie obviously crushed everything he touched, and I have to say I was pretty happy with how things turned out for me too.  Some of my successes...

-Making a casual entrance- Yeah, things started at 8, but showing up at 9:30 works just as well.

-Falling off the top of my warmup- Porcelain was the one problem I was really psyched to do, so we went there first, and I promptly fell from the top on my first go.  I also forgot to clean the resulting dirt out of my shoes, and fell again on my second attempt, which my ankle wasn't all that happy about.

-Breaking my second climb- Deciding Porcelain wasn't a good idea, I turned 90 degrees and tried Needle to the Vein.  Almost an easy flash, until a crimp snapped off and dumped me on the pads again.  At least it still went easily afterward.

-Balance- I think the first couple falls jarred something, because I spent the next hour feeling a bit wobbly and constantly tripping over myself, or randomly almost falling over on flat ground.  At least Charlie was having issues too.

-Finding my own footholds and then forgetting to use them-  After warming up, we went back down the hill to get on The Adjuster.  Like many problems, there are a ton of ways to climb it based on body type and climbing style, and what I did ended up being nothing like what I've seen in videos.  Unfortunately the effort I put into efficient climbing at the bottom didn't translate into my topout footwork, and I pumped out trying to mantle of the the lip.

-Skin conservation-  On a following attempt at The Adjuster, I got a nice split in the tip of the index finger, though honestly I still had a bit of a hole in it from working Curtain Call two days earlier.  Hooray for tape!

-Remembering to stretch-  Later in the day we stopped to climb the beautiful Scarlet Lady slab, and I was just marveling at how easy it felt when my calf decided to lock up.  Mental note: electrolytes are my friend.

-Not even writing anything on my scorecard- But let's be honest, I never planned to anyway.  Way more fun that way.

-Dinner plans-  All day long we had been planning to stop at the Troeg's brewery for dinner and some recovery fluids.  Not sure why we thought 6:00 on a Saturday with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert down the street was going to happen.  Impressed that they had at least five guys waving glowing red sticks to more efficiently move us through the maze of cones and back out of the lot.

-Backup plans-  When we couldn't find a Sheetz for food, McDonald's seemed like a good option too, especially when I had my first ever Big Mac.  I'm a grown up boy now!

So yeah... Slightly sore ankle, sliced up finger tip, assorted other scrapes and bruises... Guess I'd better go hit the bakery and fuel up for a day of Frederick bouldering!