Monday, June 27, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park

On Saturday Matt, Kevin, and I got a taste of alpine climbing on Spearhead, in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s 12,575-foot summit stands above an 800-foot granite face; while it looked intimidating from a distance, once we made the 6-mile approach (made particularly long by the unusual amount of snow still left on the ground), the north ridge revealed the obvious moderate route up to the top.

Because the approach took us longer than we had expected it to, we quickly racked up at the base and got on the wall—Matt led the first pitch. After the first pitch, the climbing was particularly easy, so we decided to simulclimb up to the start of the last pitch. This was really my first experience simulclimbing—it was so efficient, and nice to not have to deal with managing the rope or taking the time to belay on every pitch. Kevin took the lead, placing nuts and cams for protection; I was in the middle and would unclip the gear from the rope in front of me and clip it into the rope behind me; Matt followed behind and pulled out the gear.
We had nearly perfect weather (only a bit blustery as we got higher), and we had amazing views of Glacier Gorge below us the whole way.

Matt led the final pitch, which went through a trickier squeeze slot onto an exposed ledge. At the top of the route, I thought of this quote from Enos Mills, known as the father of Rocky Mountain National Park (which was established in 1915), “Few experiences can put so much into one’s life as to climb a mountain summit, and from among the crags and snows and clouds look down upon the beautiful world below.”

We finished the route around 4pm, then scrambled down the fourth class descent back to the snow. The snow was now very slushy, which made for faster travel but for very wet feet. We made it back to the car around 8:30 pm—about a 12-hour day.

We took a more leisurely day on Sunday—all four of us went cragging at an area called Jurassic Park. It had beautiful views and a lot of fun, slabby sport routes.

We’re now back in Boulder—Matt and Kevin went to climb the famous Bastille Crack in Eldorado Canyon, while the other Matt and I decided to stay in town (to blog, etc). Kevin has to head back to California this afternoon, while the two Matts and I plan to drive up toward the Wind River Gorge in Wyoming tomorrow.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life on the Road

The last few weeks moved just as quickly as I supposed that they would. Some of highlights of what’s gone on since then include: a surprise meeting with Namgel Sherpa and Thundu Sherpa (Namgel came to the summit of Everest with me and Thundu went with my teammate Wim), Stanford graduation and moving out of my co-op, a train ride with my family from San Francisco to Colorado, my brother’s wedding in Telluride, and reaching the summit of a fourteener with my dad (Mt. Sneffels in the San Juan mountains). Whoa.
            Now onto summer, and the previously mentioned sweet climbing plans. I’m going to spend the whole summer with some friends in a Honda CRV, visiting some of the best rock-climbing spots in the western US and Canada. Trad, sport, or bouldering—we’re going to dig into it all, and experience life on the road.
Matt, Matt, Kevin, and Nathan—the initial crew—met up with me in Telluride after they had road-trip across Nevada and Utah. They were intent on climbing along the way but were somewhat held back by the heat. More from them later.
 On Tuesday the five of us started to drive towards Boulder . . . but once we realized that we were going to drive right past Rifle, one of America’s best sport-climbing destinations, we had to stop. We climbed some of Rifle’s easier routes while we gawked at the number of people there climbing 5.13’s. Even if most of the routes were too hard for me, it felt so good to be climbing again! Maybe we’ll have to return at the end of the trip . . .
We made it into Boulder on Wednesday (yesterday) morning and met up with a friend who showed us some really nice boulder problems near the Flatirons in Chautauqua. 

Today Nathan had to go back home—after dropping him off at the bus station the rest of us headed into the grand Eldorado canyon. Kevin and I warmed up our trad skills by climbing “The Wind Ridge”, a really fun three-pitch 5.6 on the Wind Tower, while the Matts climbed Blind Faith (5.10) across the way. An amazing place . . . there’s so much more here I want to climb!
Tomorrow we’re heading to Rocky Mountain National Park.