Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Independence Pass

Summer is my least favorite time of year.  Besides being covered in a glaze of sweat all day, the heat makes rock climbing feel ten times harder.  My mind keeps whispering for me to give up and come back when it's cooler.  Luckily, Colorado has numerous high altitude climbing areas that are 30F° to 40F° cooler than the Front Range.  So instead of suffering in the 100F° weather around Boulder, or waiting until the Fall for good conditions, we drove 3.5 hours to Independence Pass and explored a totally new area.

I have been interested in this area for years but the pull of Rifle always kept me away.  However, my options at Rifle have dwindled to super hard, and my interest in mega projecting is extremely low, so I finally made it to Indy Pass.

The first day we went to the Grotto Day Use Area and checked out Gollum's Cave, and The Ice Cave.  Louder than 11 recently put out a video http://vimeo.com/43867547 that featured the bouldering in the Ice Cave.  Being a sucker for climbing porn, I got super psyched about the idea of bouldering in a unique, ice sculpted cave with an ice floor.

Layers of ice.

The Vampire.  You can lead this as a 13a traditional climb or boulder it at V7. 

Once we got there, reality set in.  Besides the fact that the floor had unevenly melted at least 3 feet since the video was shot and most of the problems are PG13 or R rated, it's a tourist attraction!  There's a constant stream of screaming kids, and people falling on the ice.  It's like being on the trail to Chaos Canyon, where everyone asks you annoying questions about your crash pad, only you never get away from them.  I hung out for about 20 minutes, and then decided to whole scene was way too stressful.

Later in the day, we headed to the Lower Grotto, and got thoroughly spanked on a super chalked up, benign looking 12c/d called Scene of the Crime.  Maybe it was the altitude or because I skipped my morning coffee, but this is the first 12+ I haven't been able to redpoint in a couple of tries in over 5 years.  Just goes to show that rock climbing will always humble you.

Kurt Smith on Scene of the Crime on the late 80's. 
Sunday was spent at Wild Rock- a building sized boulder with a steep and impressive 80 foot face.  Weary from Saturday's beatdown, I got on Problem Child 12b.  True to form, the climb proved to be difficult, and it took a couple of hangs to figure out the sequences.  Leah and I both did it second try, and then I moved over to my main objective for the trip- Wild Thing 12d.  This route tackles a steep, black corner and roof system to a powerful crux and some very funky moves in a strange corner. After haning all over it on my first go, I managed to grunt my way up it second go.  Like all the other routes we tried, it felt hard for the grade, but it's a brilliant climb.

Anyways, the weather was perfect, and the climbing was awesome.  So if you are looking for a good Summer location, check out Independence Pass! 

The view from the top of Independence Pass looking towards Aspen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Switching Gears

Bugaboo, Snowpatch and Pigeon Spire from atop the South Howser Tower.
It's time to switch gears.  Rifle is getting hot, and a two week trip to the Bugaboos in August is quickly approaching .  Instead of sport climbing, I need to start focusing on traditional climbing, and getting fit for long days. 

I climb trad, but have never claimed to be an alpinist.  This will be my first alpine climbing trip and I have to admit I am a little nervous.  Not about the climbing, but everything else- the glaciers, ridge traverses, descents, grueling approaches, and cold overnight bivys.  I want to be ready- for myself, and my partner.

Besides my reservations about alpine climbing, the trip also marks an important anniversary for me.  On August 1st, 2010 I had a climbing accident and spiral fractured both of my ankles.  Within 24 hours, I underwent surgery and had 13 screws placed in my ankles.  I spent nine hazy days in the hospital and then I sat in a wheelchair with plastic boots on my legs for over three months while they healed.  During that time, I wondered if I would ever climb again.  More importantly, I wondered if I would want to climb again.

Two yeas later, my ankles are about 95% recovered and I am embarking on the most adventurous, and committing trip of my life.  I am more excited about climbing than ever!  In some ways, the accident was a blessing, that showed me how much I loved climbing and how much it has given me.  By almost losing climbing, I became more passionate about it.

Anyways, I can't wait to see the Canadian wilderness, and get committed to some huge, classic rock climbs.  Hopefully my ankles hold up.  Even if they don't, I will be in a beautiful place, doing what I love, and feeling grateful that I can still partake in such an amazing sport.

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