Sunday, March 20, 2011

Going to Arkansas....Maybe not.

So a week and a few days ago (March 10th), Travis Crane and I were planning on making a weekend sojourn to the great land of northwest Arkansas.  Specifically we were going to go to Sam's Throne for the weekend.  He had never been there and I was jonesing for some trad climbing.  So Thursday night I leave the climbing gym early to go home and pack for the weekend.  Well that didn't really happen mostly since I procrastinate when it comes to packing.  All day on Friday at work I am waiting to get off so that we can get on the road.  When I am getting close to home I call him to let him know that I will be ready in about thirty minutes.  He starts off the conversation with those disheartening words, "I got back news."  Immediately my mind starts thinking that he is bailing on me ruining all of my plans.  That wasn't the case.  Instead he had to be back on Sunday at around 3 PM.  This still caused a problem.  Sam's Throne is about a six hour drive from here.  We would only get one day of climbing in if we went.  After some thinking we decided to just go down to Jackson Falls instead.  I get home, shower, pack, then proceed to wait for Travis to get here.  Finally, after waiting for what seemed an eternity, he shows up and we take off for southern IL.

When we arrive at Jackson Falls we soon realize that there are a lot more people there than I expected so we head up to a good camping sight further down the road.  When pulling in I notice a truck there.  I was sad because I was hoping to have that sight all to ourselves.  But it turns out to be better than expected.  As I park and get out of my vehicle a guy with a somewhat familiar voice says, "can't camp here."  I start thinking that we have some redneck we have to deal with now.  But it turns out that this redneck voice in the darkness is actually my friend Jacob.  Now I am excited.  I managed to find a friend out in the woods.  Then after talking to him we find out that Kevin and his fiance Lauren were gonna be coming and more would show up in the morning.

That next morning we all prepare to head off to the promised land.  Once everyone shows up we all pile into Jacobs truck to head down a field road so we wouldn't have to walk as far.  We then bushwacked our way over to the promised land.  I had never been there before.  It is a canyon across from Jackson Falls that has many good quality and hard routes.  I jumped on the one good looking trad route as soon as we got there called My Generation (5.9).  this route follows a flake crack up the wall then traverses left to a set of anchors.  While I am climbing I start realizing that I am getting pumped.  This route is pretty stiff for a 5.9.  After doing it, everyone wanted a run on it and everyone enjoyed it.  I then jumped on an overhanging 5.10a called XOXO.  It goes up a face with spaced jugs then goes out to an airy arete with huge holds.  After this a few of us went down the bluff line to try a 5.11a called Fashionably Late.  I ended up finding a boulder near the route and started taking pictures of everyone climbing it.  I haven't done this in a long time and it felt good to just sit there and basically have a photo session with everyone.  I ended up getting some good ones out of it too.  Jacob and I ended up onsighting this route.  Carmen and Travis had a few problems but made it to the top.  Then John took a top rope burn on it.  Here are some of the photos.
My Generation 5.9
Jacob clipping the 3rd bolt on Fashionably Late
Travis on the traverse on Fashionably Late
 Kevin belaying
Carmen starting up the small holds
Carmen getting ready for the traverse
Carmen nearing the top of Fashionably Late

After this we got on a few more routes then headed back to the truck.  After loading up and preparing to head back to camp Jacob realized that his left rear tire would lock up while going forwards.  All of us in the back get out of the truck and begin walking while Jacob decides to back up all the way to camp.  After just a minute of walking all of us start to jog.  What a way to end a day with a nice little jog through very wet areas back to camp.  There we cracked open some beers and started making supper.  After a good night of sitting around the camp fire we all headed to bed with one member of our group a bit sick due to ingesting too much whiskey.

The next day Travis and I get up and start getting ready for the day and break down camp.  We wanted to get as much climbing in as we could before we had to leave around noon.  Well we only got three 5.10s in but still had a good time.  I can only hope that we are able to get some more good weekends like that in before the weather gets too hot.

This then brings me to this weekend.  Since last weekend didn't pan out for going to Arkansas, we decided to call last weekend a drill and head down this weekend.  Nothing was going to stand in our way.  We headed down to Sam's Throne arriving late on friday night.  After setting up camp we both passed out.  Over the night I was woken up by the splattering of rain drops on my tent fly.  That is always a discouraging sound when wanting to climb.  But after only a few minutes, the rain subsided and did not fall again.  

Saturday morning we got things ready then headed to the Throne.  Travis got on Poison Ivy (5.7) which is this beautiful splitter dihedral.  He did a great job of leading it.  I cleaned it then we headed to the White Trash wall.  There I led White Trash (5.9) and Tandem Slide (5.9).  We ran into some guys who were out there rappelling so we talked to them for a little while before Travis led Too Thick to Navigate (5.8).  I then get a desire to lead a route called Edge of Flight (5.10d R).  It goes up a thin face left of an arete for about 15-20 feet then you finally get some protection in and the rest is maybe 5.9.  Well I never got past the crux.  I fell multiple times, three of which were hard falls from higher up.  Finally, on the third, in which I hit my butt pretty hard on a rock, decided to give up on that route for the day.  Instead I moved to the right a few feet to climb Pocket Rocket (5.9R).  This route involves some tricky moves to a big pocket about 8 feet off the ground then involves faces climbing.  The only problem is that the gear is sparse.    At my second piece I had my belayer worrying for me.  I ended up making it to the top without any problems but still pumped.  After this I attempted to try Quantum Leap (5.12a).  It is a steep bolted line on the throne that involves a dyno.  Being short routes like this aren't easy for me.  After many tries at the dyno I came down and decided to move on. We then headed to the west main bluff were Travis led Reptilian (5.9).  He did an amazing job on it.  One thing you must know is that Travis has only led a few trad lines before this trip.  To be leading 5.9 this early on is really cool.  I hope that he will continue to progress more once he gets his own trad rack.  We then did a few other routes and headed to camp for the evening.  When we arrived at camp the sun finally came out and the skies cleared allowing for the stars and a very bright full moon to come out.  That made for a wonderful night.

Then on Sunday morning we hit it hard again.  Travis led Smooth Operator (5.8).  Then I went and led Slam Dance (5.7).  Slam dance starts in the back of this cave like hallway.  You climb up a perfect splitter hand crack, wishing it went further, then tunnel your way out the top through a jumble of boulders crammed in the top of the hallway.  Once we came back down we headed over to The Natural (5.10aPG).  For those who don't know, a PG rating for a climb is stated in the guide book as, "A route with tricky or strenuous to place pro throughout crux sections, runouts on non-crux terrain, or solid-looking placements in questionable rock."  The R rating is said to be, "notable runouts throughout the crux, poor rock quality, very challenging gear, the possibility of taking a big whip, or a chance that a fall may result in impacting a ledge or the ground."  The Natural goes up some rotten rock then hits solid rock where you go up the right side of an arete.  As you go up it begins to get steeper.  You are placing stoppers in face features.  Then as you near the top you get a gear cam in a horizontal and have you make some moves on slopey holds before reaching the top anchors.  It is a beautiful route and I luckily onsighted it.  This made my day.  After this I was ready to head home.  But Travis still had energy so I made him try to lead Job 3:25 (5.10c).  It is a long over hung route that is mostly bolted.  He couldn't get past the crux so I ended up leading it then belaying him on top-rope.  We wanted to get one more route in.  Travis ended up leading Chickens in Space (5.9) and I cleaned it.  It was a great way to end the weekend.  We then headed up the catacombs back to the car and headed back to the flat lands of Illinois.  Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures from this past weekend.  My camera battery was almost dead and I forgot to put it in my pack both days.  I hope you enjoyed reading about my little adventures from the past few weeks.  Hopefully some more stuff will happen in my life worthy of writing about so that you will have more things to read.  I am also thinking about doing a photo post soon.

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