Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Day at Cedar Bluff

Being here in Illinois, we don't have many options as to where we can go climbing.  Normally we just head to Jackson Falls and do some sport climbing.  It has the largest concentration of climbs in all of IL.  This weekend we decided to change things up a bit.  We were going to go to Cedar Bluff.  Cedar bluff is a cliff line that is around 80-90 feet tall and about 900 feet wide.  You can no longer add bolts to the rock so new development doesn't really happen there anymore.  There are just over thirty routes with about half (or more) requiring some kind of removable gear.  Because of this you don't see many people there.  There are climbs ranging from 5.5 to a 5.13a.  Some of the routes are rather stiff as I will talk about in a little bit.  If you come here you should probably have your head together when trying to lead at your limit.  I will also talk a bit about that as well.  

At 8 in the morning this past Saturday we all met in Lebanon and piled into a car.  The group consisted of Nick, Joe, Travis, and me.  After two hours of driving and a stop so that Joe could relieve himself from the pain of the previous nights dinner we made it to Cedar.  Its a pretty cool place.  As you drive up you can see the bluff rise above the trees just up the hill from the road.  You also park in a church parking lot to get there.  So if you are there on a Sunday you can get your worship on then hit the crag.  The one bad thing about climbing at Cedar is that you must pass Draper's Bluff.  Draper's is just down the road from Cedar.  It is owned by Eric Ulner who is a climber and wrote the most current guide book for Southern IL.  It is now closed due to liability laws in the state.  It was my favorite crag in southern IL.  It had great trad routes.  Some fun sport lines.  Easy approach.  You couldn't beat it. Many climbers in the area await the day that it might reopen.  If you want to learn more check out Climbing magazine number 288.  It has an article on the closure.  So as we passed it I had to hold back a tear as I looked up and imagined sitting at the top of Ant Killer (this beautiful 5.9 dihedral).

Anyways, back to Cedar.  After the short hike up the hill Joe and Nick split off from Travis and I.  We were going to do a two pitch route further down the bluff line called Unfinished Symphony (5.10a) and they wanted to do a few of the shorter routes right when you reach the cliff.  We head down, look at the climb, determine where to build the belay, and then started to gear up.  Travis had never done a multipitch before so this was gonna be a fun experience for him. I wanted to do it because I was told that it was an amazing climb.  The first pitch is 5.8 and goes up a left facing dihedral.  Before the belay it goes right around a roof which allows for some exciting and exposed climbing then you hit the belay.  Before I started the climb I figured that it would be straight forward and not too hard.  Its 5.8.  I have led stuff much harder.  While climbing through the section below the roof, it was so awkward that I felt like I was gonna take a big whip.  I made it through the crux of the first pitch with it feeling close to a 5.10a.  After building a semi-hanging belay I brought up Travis. I connected him to the anchor and got on with the chores of reflaking the rope and getting gear back.  Once we were set I headed up the second pitch.  It is a 5.10a that goes up a ramp that goes up and to the right.  Looking at the thing you would think that it would be fairly easy until after the single bolt where it becomes vertical.  That was not the case.  It is easy for the first 10 feet off of the belay.  Then you feel like you are leaning to your right the entire time in this very awkward crack system.  Then you finally reach the bolt.  From there you venture on to the face on dirty but positive edges.  That pitch made me work for it.  Finally I topped it out, set up a belay and started to bring Travis up.  He struggled near the end but he finally made it up after a few rests on the rope.
Travis at the belay  

Travis starting up the second pitch.

Once we rappelled back down Joe and Nick came over and eyed up another two pitch route that can go at either 5.12a or 5.8.  They opted to not do it and climb a 5.6 dihedral that was there instead called Cave City (5.6).  
Nick leading Cave City (5.6)

Travis and I then headed back towards the trail where he was going to lead a 5.5 called Mike's Meander.  It is this really fun crack that you can get a few jams in, do a bit of stemming, and just climb on jugs for 50 feet. It takes some great gear and is fairly easy so Travis was ready to get after it since he had only done two other trad leads prior to this.  I followed it then we both top-roped a 5.10a just to the left of Mike's Meander that shares the same anchors called Detention.  Once we did this, we moved the rope over to what is called a 5.11d in the guide book but most people would say it is at least 5.12a or 5.12b.  We all did a lap on it.  While I was working a section on it our friend Jacob shows up with his wife and so now we have a nice little party at the crag.

After we all had a run on it Nick, Joe, Travis and I headed down towards the other end of the bluff to do some routes down there to finish the day out.  Nick and Joe stop at a really fun sport line called Dos Equis (5.9).  Its is called that because of the double x's that are naturally about 10 feet off the ground. It is a really fun route with well spaced bolts.  Travis and I headed further down the bluff to check out a route called April Fool.  Boy did I feel like a fool after trying this route.  To start off, it is rated 5.10a R.  The R stands for runout meaning there is a section that doesn't have gear so if i fall there I will be going for a long ride.  After psyching myself up for it I head up the climb.  Its not too bad.  It has a few weird moves in this crack system.  Then after about 30 feet I near the crux.  The gear isn't very good and I realized that if I were to fall I would hit this arete type of feature very hard.  After going up and down trying to figure out the moves about 4 times I decide I'm not mentally ready for this climb today and I then down climb.  The one stupid thing I did or didn't do was that I left the gear in while down climbing. I didn't even think about down leading the route.  So now I have to go around to the top of the bluff and rappel the route to get my gear back.  While doing so I scout out holds and possible gear placements.  I found some that will help with the next time I try the route.  By this time though I wasn't going to give it another go.  We then head back to the car for a beer. Then we headed home.

It was a great day climbing with some good friends.  We had plenty of laughs, mostly at Nick's expense and had a great time enjoying rock of southern IL.  Now I just have to go back and finish April Fool. 

1 comment:

trcrane63 said...

Dude, love the blog. The background, photos, and detailed walkthrough of your days on the cliffs are pretty sweet. And thanks for the pics!