Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trip to Estes Park

Last week, I took a trip to Estes Park, Colorado with my friend Mandy and her family. This whole adventure started a few months ago when Mandy found out about going out there for a vacation. She had been wanting to go climbing and figured it would be a good place to climb so she invited me. When she asked me I was very quick to say yes. With a large amount of great climbing in the Estes area, how could I resist? The planning then began.

Finally the day arrived to leave.
We left her parents house then headed west on I-70. Then we headed north to Nebraska? What? There isn’t any climbing in Nebraska. It turns out that her parents are from there, so we went and visited some of her family and stayed the night. I had the chance to stay at her Uncle Greg’s house. I was privileged to stay in the same room as the stuffed bear, mountain lion, and numerous other wild animals. The next morning we set off for the mountains.

The drive went fairly well. The only annoying thing about the drive was the four year old boy sitting in the back seat with me. Mandy’s nephew, Sam, came along on the trip. He was actually pretty good, unless he was tired. Sometimes it seemed like he was always tired though. After about an 8 hour drive we arrived in Estes. Since my last visit there two years ago, I have wanted to get back. I missed the clean crisp air, the beautiful mountains, and the amazing climbing. Finally, I was back and ready to conquer the mountains, but only after some stretching.

The first night was very chill. We stopped in town to get groceries. We then headed to the cabin which was a ¼ mile down the road from the road leading to the Long’s Peak trailhead. After unpacking, we headed in to town to eat supper at Ed’s Cantina to eat some amazing food. We ate with Mandy’s Aunt Joy and Uncle Jeff and their family. It was a blast. Right after eating, Sam and I went outside to spend some energy and there we found the longest night crawler I have ever seen. Later in the evening, Mandy and I started prepping for the next day. We were going climbing. It was going to be Mandy’s first time on real rock, so we were excited.

On Monday morning we ate an amazing breakfast then headed towards Estes to do some climbing. We decided to climb a formation called the Thumb, which sits on Prospect Mountain near Mary’s Lake. It was the perfect place. It had a short hike and easier climbs that summitted the formation. We first climbed a route called Uphill Cracks (5.7) on the west side of the Thumb. It was a great climb with a short crux section near the top. I lead it, and then Mandy followed. She made it up her first climb with no problems. She was ready for the next route. After rappelling back to the ground, we hiked around to the east side and decided on a route called Center Slot (5.8). It was a crack that curves to the left then hits another crack that goes to the top. The beginning was a little over hung, but with good jams and hand holds. After going through the first two cruxes, I began to think that Mandy might have to work for this one. I then hit a ledge, clipped a fixed pin and headed up the final crack. After placing a cam so that I don’t hit the ledge if I fall, I gunned for the top. It was then that I started feeling the rope drag. Also at this point I was about 30 feet or more above my last piece. I just kept climbing. Finally I made it to the belay. Then it was Mandy’s turn to go. Once she started climbing, I realized that I should have broken the climb up into two pitches so that I would be able to watch and guide her through the difficult sections. Every time the rope stopped moving up I began to worry, then I would feel the slack from her climbing up further. She easily made it through all the crux sections then appeared on the finishing slab. She had made it up her second climb. After this, we climbed a short 5.8 on Top Rope then headed down the trail to catch our ride. Our first day was a fun and successful day.

Uphill Cracks

On Top

The top slab on Center Slot

The next day, we went on a hike with her family. We drove into the park and hiked up to Chasm Falls. We hiked up a closed road and then enjoyed the falls, which were roaring. After the hike down, we ate lunch then headed into town to get some things for dinner that night. While sitting in the car, I let Sam play with my camera. Some very funny pictures came out of it. Enjoy the silliness.

The view on the hike




Mandy and Sam

On Wednesday, Mandy and I headed to Lumpy ridge.
When we got to the trailhead, we saw the raptor closings. I became bummed because the climbs I had hoped to do were on formations that were closed because of raptor nesting. I then started looking for a good climb to do. Osiris (5.7) was the first one that seemed doable. Two years ago, I had climbed the first pitch to the right of Osiris (Georges Tree 5.9). The two other guys that were with Nate and me that day climbed Osiris. We all bailed off of our routes that day because of looming storm clouds. So I knew were Osiris was and what it looked like. The first pitch is supposed to be 5.5. That seemed easy enough. We did a 5.8 the other day. A 5.5 should be easy. Boy was I wrong. I started up this crack. It was wide, awkward, and nasty. After 130 feet of groveling, I made it to the belay. Mandy then starts up. She does well until she comes to the first crux of the route. After a few minutes she makes it through that crux. Finally, she gets 35-40 feet from the belay. She is exhausted and has some tough climbing still above her. She had not done very many cracks before and this pitch is nothing but nasty crack climbing. The last bit was very hard for her. She was already wiped out as I mentioned, plus required some technical skills that she hadn’t developed in her one day of climbing. Finally, after some resting, she made it to the belay ledge. When she got there, she had enough energy left to take a few steps and sit down.

Mandy near the top of Osiris

Mandy (exhausted) and Me (ready for more)

Rappelling Down

"The Book"where Osiris is located

When she got there, I then set up a redirected belay so that she could lower me part way down the climb and belay me back up. You see, there were two pieces that had walked or moved while she was climbing and they had become difficult to remove from the crack. I told her to not worry about them and that I would go get them. After a little bit of wiggling and tugging, they came out and I got to climb the last 30 feet of the pitch again. We then prepped to rappel down. After two short rappels, we were back on the ground only to find that chipmunks had gotten into Mandy’s lunch and that I had left mine in the cabin. Needless to say, we were both very hungry. We then headed back down the hill to the parking lot. There, we checked out our battle wounds from the day. Mandy got some pretty nice ones.

Mandy and her wounds

On Thursday, we decided to climb again because the forecast for Friday and Saturday was not looking good. We then headed to Combat Rock. There we did a route called Rambo Santa (5.7). After the first pitch, we continued up a crack system to the top then walked off. It was Mandy’s first multipitch and she loved it. Then we did a short route called Tree Roof (5.8). This route is not worth doing. It has one fun move on it (pulling the roof). The rest of it is slab climbing with crappy gear. Mandy made it all the way to the roof, but was so tired, that she was unable to pull the roof. After that climb, we headed down the hill to climb on a piece of rock closer to the road that had some top rope anchors. After running a lap on that route, Mandy’s parents showed up and we headed back to town. That would be our last day of climbing due to crappy weather on Friday and Saturday. We had a good time on those days as well. We hung out with the family, did some reading, napped and just relaxed.

Rambo Santa is on the left and goes towards the small roof up higher. Tree Roof is lower behind a tree.

There were a few events on the trip that caused me to pause and think some. The first was while driving to Nebraska. It was Saturday evening and we stopped in Blue Springs, MO to go to Mass. Now I used to be Catholic. I grew up Catholic, but after coming into a true relationship with Christ, I began going to a protestant church. Since then, I had not stepped foot in a catholic church or had gone to mass. After almost ten years, it was a very weird experience to attend Mass. This time though, I was seeing it through different eyes. This time, I was able to appreciate much more of the things done as a part of mass. Now, I don’t fully agree with some parts of the Catholic doctrine, but over the past 7 years, have been able to accept more of the things the Catholic Church does. Then again, on the next Saturday, we went to mass in Estes Park. It was a similar experience. Whether or not this crazy protestant will ever go back to being Catholic, I don’t know, but I do know that I was glad to have gone and experienced it again.

The view of the east face of Long's Peak (The Diamond)

A storm we watched in Kansas

Over all, the trip was great. I had the chance to get to know some fun people and also relax in the mountains. Now I just have to suffer through the heat and humidity for a few more weeks, then the road will be beckoning me once again. This time I will be heading to Wyoming and Colorado. I cannot wait.

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