27 June 2008

Belated Boulder Canyon

Funny how the week can zip by. Much of my free computer time has been devoted to a little movie I'm putting together on my little nephew. Thought I'd hop on and post some picks and movie from last Sunday's climbing trip to Boulder Canyon.

Never had Tyrolean traversed over raging Boulder Creek before. I was happy that my climbing pulleys, used for crevasse rescue, got some work after enduring a lay-off since I lived in Washington.

Jess and Danielle get ready for the crossing

I thought I explained it well enough and thought watching me attach myself would be plenty for a tutorial. But I was wrong and they beaconed me back over. I was spared the arm-pumping crossing again by a pair of climbers who scrambled down the talus field and instructed them.

I like how loud the creek sounds in this video. It really is raging.

It was a nice leisurely day climbing. Nothing monumental. Though because of way too much time not in my harness the past four years due to various reasons, I can say the best part of the day was feeling completely normal with the rope. As long as I have been climbing, that sounds odd. But it's a familiarity thing. Nice breakthrough for the rest of the summer.

Jess getting lowered off a slab

Ian climbing some 5.10 on Avalon. Really he's there someplace.

- Sarah McLachlan. I profess, her voice turns me to butter.

15 June 2008

I'm an uncle

OK, I've already been an uncle already, but I'm an uncle again. Ryan Stuart Roth (though Hannah is still referring to him as Baby Orange - inside joke) was born around 6:30 am Chicago time. My sister was blessed with labor lasting all of 10-15 minutes. While the wait for the day to come was long - my sis was dilated for almost three weeks - the delivery was quick and painless.

It's funny that the impetus for me getting a cell phone was the little guy. OK, little is a relative term. He was an ounce under 8 pounds and 20 inches long and there were many days where my sister lamented at the enormous girth of her belly, though she did make good use of it; it wound up being a handy TV remote stand.

Anyways, I got the cell phone because I was going to be gone the weekend in Buena Vista climbing. So I got the cell phone so they could reach me when she finally went into labor. Of course last night was the first time I didn't have the phone on the bedside table in my room - it was in the hall charging.

So I missed the message at 2:30 am of my sister saying rather flatly and matter-of-factly, "My water broke so we're heading to the hospital". I guess that is what happens when you've been on alert for three weeks that you could give birth. Also since he is No. 2, she knew the routine.

Missed my mom's message at 7:30 am - thought the odd noise which grasped me and shook me from the ether of slumber was the alarm on my altimeter watch which I haven't figured out how to disarm. And missed the picture message my brother-in-law sent on his cell phone.

Heck, I didn't realize all of what happened until after I was awake for an hour. Slurping some coffee realized I should check to see if I had any messages. What? WHAT?! Huh, guess they didn't need my moral support, which is all I would be able to supply being over a thousand miles away.


Part of the reason I am inside typing this currently as opposed to being out someplace - had offers to go to Boulder Canyon climbing or to hike up and run down the triple peaks around Boulder (Green, Bear and Boulder Mtns I believe) - is I'm tired. Didn't sleep much Friday night, waking up every hour in anticipation of my alarm screaming obscenities at me early in the morning.

Went out to Boulder and shot a package for the news on the HERA Climb For Life Colorado celebration. Got out there at 7:30 am, talked with a couple of ovarian cancer survivors who were scaling the First Flatiron that day and then joined up with one of several groups cragging in Boulder Canyon.

It was a good shoot, met some great people - all of who spoke highly of founder Sean Patrick; a sentiment I agree with, and was happy with how it turned out on TV.

Click here to watch the video.

My only complaint is they got a name of a person wrong. Alli Rainey is one of the best climbers - male or female - in the world. We decided we liked the name Halli for her better. It upsets me especially since I sent an email to work with the spelling of her name.

After spending the morning shooting and delivering the video to work, took a shower - one of three I had Saturday - and being unable to scrounge up a climbing partner - grabbed my crash pad and headed out to Alderfer / 3 Sisters Open Space for a session.

Was happy to finally complete a long-standing problem I hadn't been able to link up. While it only is a V3 - not an arbitrary figure given by me, but an arbitrary figure given by a climber I saw sending it - there was one move I could sometimes get and another I wasn't able to extend for. Finally figured out the footwork and saw a higher little notch to wedge my right toe into.

While out saw a herd of elk cross about 50 feet in front of me. It was a busy, bountiful winter for the bull elk - there were about 12 calves in the middle of the herd. After a couple of hours, while not pumped or spent, I felt I was done. Completed five traverses, soloed up the formation three times, nailed a long-standing problem and climbed a few more.

While driving back, I decided I didn't want to head home. So I pulled over into the parking lot at O'Fallon Park, grabbed my remaining full Nalgene, a granola bar and my thin book of John Locke philosophy and ran up the trail. Came to some rocks, climbed up - I love my approach shoes, don't think I'll ever need my climbing shoes for the Flatirons ever again.

Excuse the poor pic quality, taken with my phone

Came to more rocks, climbed up some more. Came to a bouldering area, did a few easy problems, chilled on the top, eating and picking apart Locke's faulty logic (he's a poor man Platoist who backs himself into the corner by interchanging idea and quality after cementing the definition of both).

Some slopping ledges with a heel hook

Enjoyed part of the sunset, padded up a highball slab which had a kick halfway through - V2 friction on lichen-drenched steepening slab, ran some more, getting in some hills and got back to the truck.

ARTIST OF POST - Death Cab for Cutie. Enjoy this song as it vaguely intersects part of my recent past.

08 June 2008

Playing with sharp objects

Saturday I climbed a mountain and dodged flying projectiles.
Sunday I attended a children's birthday party.
Which was more daunting?

My first thoughts in the dark on technically Saturday morning were, "I can't believe I used to get up before this for work." The clock shone the numbers 4:35 am, which is roughly the equation for unequivocal pain (it's true, smart mathematicians have computed it).

I don't remember the drive. My body was numb and the coffee slowly nursed during a 1 1/2-hour drive didn't register on my taste buds. I never got heavy eyelids and was slightly surprised about how many cars I saw on the road at that time.

I pulled into the Grays Peak trailed and after switching into my new mountaineering boots, donning my rainpants for the glissade down and locking down my gaiters, I hosited on my backpack and was on the trail by 6:15 am.

I don't remember much on the trail. I vaguely recollect passing groups of people (tired so soon?) on the mostly snow-covered way, I distinctly recall hitting my acclimation ceiling around 12,300 feet - funny how it's gone up over the years.

With the coloring of the rising sun, I figured this might be pretty. McClellan Mountain

In about a mostly dozing while on my feet hour, I reached the base of the Dead Dog Couloir on Torreys Peak (the 11th-highest summit in Colorado, for those of you keeping score). Trekking pole was collapsed and attached to the pack, out came the ice axe, and the climbing helmet and crampons were attached to the polar ends of my body (thankfully I remembered which goes where. Why isn't there a coffee stand around here?).

My first glimpse of Torreys Peak and my route.

There were 13 people ahead of me when I started going up - way ahead of me. So the feeling of being isolated in the mountains was absent. "Okay buddy, let's remember how we do this whole mountaineering thing. Step, step, reef on the ice axe, repeat. Wow, this really gets to be a calf burner."

The cadence of my laborious breathing was broken by the calls from above of "Rock". It wasn't even 8 am yet and the mountain was exfoliating its dislodged detritus. Much of it was hand-sized or smaller. One nice slide from the right wall peppered the couloir with an impressive mass of stone. I waited for the barrage, listening to rocks make whizzing noises as they passed. A softball-sized hunk took a trajectory at me. Waiting to make sure it wasn't going to change course at the last bounce off the chopped-up snow, I pounced to the left and out of its path.

Huh, I've never played dodgeball in crampons before.

Continuing on my way, I noticed I was pulling the climbers above me towards me and eventually passed a couple of college kids climbing up with the intent to ski back down the couloir.

Still got this much to go

It was odd, about four hundred feet up the 1,500-foot couloir, things got easy. My calves adjusted to the inclination, my heartrate reached a happy beat and my mind just went blank. Step, step, reef on the axe. Pass more people, and more. Before I knew it, I was at the top of the couloir, where to the route intersects with the Kelso Ridge (which in my opinion is a very overrated climb).

Looking down the Dead Dog

It was here I passed two more climbers, but not before volunteering to take a snapshot of them and receive on in return.

A rarity, a picture of me, albeit a sleep-deprived, why-did-I drink-3 beers last night-they-didn't-help-me-fall-to-sleep me

It was here I was paid a compliment by one of them who stated, "Boy you motored up here." I didn't think I was going fast, I just thought everybody else was taking their time. I know when I push it. I just reached a good rhythm and went with it. It wasn't until I slogged up the final hundred feet to the summit did I realize that I did, in fact, "motor" up the route. I was at the top in 2:06 from my car.

I checked the time again and recalculated in my head. I checked my altimeter and counted out the elevation gain - 3,100 feet. Another summiter nearby mentioned to his buddies that we were 2.65 miles directly from the parking lot. According to the guidebook, it is 6.5 miles round-trip. It wasn't that far, was it? The couloir was not 1,500 feet long, could it have been?

Mountains aren't supposed to be this easy. There should be more pucker-forcing moments, more pain, a rest stop along the way for Christ's sake. Now dear reader, don't take this for being braggadocio. A person can be prideful about many things; their looks, their checking account, the length of their rod. The one lesson I have learned and hold true to is to be humble in the mountains, because they can snuff you out quickly.

Obligatory shots from the summit

Numbers are funny things. As I sat and munched on a Clif Bar, I looked at the congregated gaggle. I wondered how many of them would be up here if the elevation was less than 14,000 feet. Or what if 14,000 feet wasn't an aspiring benchmark to conquer? I climbed a mountain for the journey up, not to straddle upon its airy perch. Heck, I've almost been killed on mountains which were less than 6,000 feet.

The personas of the congregation were eclectic as well. Some were very business like, some were nonchalant, and some were just so eager. I liked those guys. I talked with one young guy who was so excited to be up on the top and was talking about how he climbed neighboring Grays Peak as well. Another straggler actually went up to everybody still loitering and shook their hand and introduced himself, forgetting about his huffing-and-puffing companion still making her way slowly up the standard slope on the other side.

After munching, observing and sending a picture message on my cell phone to a select few, I packed up and headed down. I cramponed down to the saddle between Grays and Torreys, staying near the edge but making sure I wasn't treading unsuspectedly on a cornice - punched through one of those once - very, very, very bad feeling.

Reached my spot, sat down to take off my crampons - more exchanging of salutations and congratulations to another climber who seemed in awe of my array of sharp and pointy metal objects.

The glissade was fun, steep and fast, in fact too fast at one point. Digging my heels in was not slowing my momentum, and, "Are those rocks I see in front of me?" Flipping over, I sunk the pick of the axe into the slope and started applying pressure. Usually this is the SOP for self arresting. However when you are sliding on top of a giant cushion of snow (Imagine flying carpet, but white), this isn't quite as effective.

I threw a glance down to see how far... wow, those rocks got close quickly. Enough messing around. I arrested with earnest this time and came to a stop about 15 feet above the rocky protrusion. Kicking steps into the slope, I traversed over 20 feet before plopping back down and continuing my gravitationally-aided descent.

My glissade path. If you click on the photo and blow it up, you can see the streak I left behind from the saddle.

Looking up from my vantage partway down and above the rocks.

I sat in the basin for a while on a weathered boulder, eating some more and enjoying the milieu. Birds and pikas could be heard in the distance. The sun warmed me and a slow procession of people ascended up the trail to Grays Peak at a lugubrious pace.

I came no closer in my reflective moment to answer any of the probing questions. I don't know why I climb things. It is more than just a respite from my dysphoria of the mundane. The mountains fit me better, I enjoy the solitude and the calm of wild places (true this pair of 14ers is a friggin Interstate). Maybe I can just adopt the old adage which was given by Mallory when asked why he wanted to climb Mt Everest. "Because it's there."

Sunday after completing some chores and being blessed by a rare occurrence - eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, I went for a 5-mile hike to stretch out the legs, got in a quick workout and attended the combined birthday party of Chad and Jen's children (boy you guys got lucky having their B-days so close together).

The most enjoyment I got was seeing Camden's reaction when he opened my gift and saw he received a baseball mitt. That is what it is all about - the unadulterated joy and unabashed excitement children beam.

Funny thing is the person I interacted the most with was the little 3-year-old. Why not? It's his birthday and he's an adopted nephew to me. We had a good time playing cars, throwing and kicking the ball around and him counting to three and me lifting him up as high as I could - I even got up on my tiptoes to get the full extension.

I'm lucky to have a couple of great friends with some really great kids. Camden, while he can be moody, can be so focused. Peyton, well, Peyton is just plain smarter than me. I feel no shame admitting that. She tells me what to do and I do it. And Kendall is the most relaxed, non-fussy 1-year-old girl I have ever met. All she wants to do is smile and walk, cause "Darn it! My big bro and sis can do it, I want to move vertically as well!"

Attending the party with the roaming hoard of kids also made me miss my little niece. Don't worry Hannah, Dude will be visiting soon.

ARTIST OF POST - REM. Popped in this CD to test out a new receiver. I forgot how solid of an album "Automatic for the People" was.

02 June 2008

Fruita - It's more than just Menonites

I knew I was in a different realm when I drove through downtown Fruita and the surrounding neighborhood to get out to the Book Cliffs, when I saw an exorbitant number of churches for the population size of the town. My suspicions were warranted when I arrived at the end of the paved road and saw in the front yard of a house, a group of Menonites playing volleyball. My question is:

How do the women keep the beanie on their head when they jump?

Backing up, Got up early Saturday and made the drive over. Nothing spectacular other than noticing how much less gas I consumed than normally getting to the edge of Colorado. I had been motoring along either at or a little above the speed limit. Hmm... so what they say about lowering speed limits and gas consumption is true.

Around noon, I arrived in Palisade where lunch was in order.

The Golden Ale is delicious

Kept motoring on, passed the aforementioned Menonite Olympic team and got to camp. After pitching a tent, it was time to ride.

Add a beer to the picture and there is nothing else a man could need

The riding was incredible. I don't care what level of rider you are, Kessel Run is just a fun, fun trail. Through my two days, I rode the thing four times, grinning through the endless serious of high-banked S curves. Is this mountain biking or bobsledding? And do I really care?

You know it's a good time when you don't even realize you've ridden for five hours and it might explain why your reflexes are slowing a bit or that last little stretch of uphill seemed more taxing than it should have.

Zippity Do Dah start. You can get the gist of the trail by the name and this pic.


Local shrubbery. No I didn't go into the forest and cut down a tree with this herring.

I admit, I had to push the bike up the last couple hills. Joe's Ridge. I discovered it is best to descend my ascent - so take the trail counterclockwise.

After dinner I wandered about as is often my prerogative. I'm not one much for trails. If there isn't Devil's Club baring my way, I'll go that way. It is one of the benefits Colorado possesses, off-trail travel is much, much less laborious than it is in the Pac Northwest.

If the fauna doesn't get you, the flora will

During my rambling, I felt a prick in my foot, then another, then another. Looking down it looked like my feet were the victims of heavy-petting by a porcupine. The grass is deadly out here. I cleared my feet off three times while on walkabout and then spent another 20 minutes picking out the minuscule acupuncture needles from my socks at camp.

Looking at the Book Cliffs at sunset

Beer, book, stars and quiet neighbors (Maybe the Menonites mountain bike after all), you couldn't ask for anything more at camp.

Up the early the next morning as it began to get warm. After Saturday's 6 hours of riding, I was a little saddle sore in the touche. I knew of some bouldering near the east entrance of Colorado National Monument. I had never been to the protected park but heard a comparison of it being a poor-man's Canyonlands.

Balanced Rock

Wandered aimlessly off a trail up to the cliffs which enveloped the spiraling canyon I was in. After vertical dirt and rock detritus hiking I came to the first band.

"Ryan you're wearing sandals."
"But it's not tough. Look it's like a ladder."
"You're wearing sandals, the rock is friable, and if you fall, you're going to tumble a very long way."
"It's easy. I want to see what's on the next layer of shelfs. And since when did I start talking to myself in the second person?"

Above this is more walls, rock detritus and more mud. The downclimbing was, oh so delicate.

Pretty view

On my last hike I came across a quizzical hole into the hillside.

It was a coke oven used by early settlers and miners to, well, cook coke (and we're not talking about the soft drink nor the narcotic). I don't like caves. Sometime during my early adulthood, I developed a fear of them. Actual terror is the best word. Fear is when you're 20 feet above your last piece of protection - and it wasn't even a good placement - and you come to a tricky section on the climb.

Fear I can manage. What I experienced inside this tunnel was uncontrollable, body-quivering terror. It didn't look very menacing and walking in I noticed the temperature drop about 20 degrees. So far so good, this is interesting.... and long than I expected... and it curves. I made it to the curve before a pseudo panic-attack struck. It was total darkness around the curve with no gauge of depth nor sense of feeling.

I wish I had my headlamp with me because it wasn't light in there until the flash went off too quickly. I had to get out. I tried to maintain composure as I walked back towards the entrance, looking behind me expecting to see Beelzebub's pet mastiff to be chasing after me. I was tingly the entire walk back to the car.

Finally I arrived at the bouldering area.

Joe's Right. Fun problem that required a few false starts before I figured out the sequence. You bring the right foot up and match your hand in the giant dish. The gives you the leverage to stay on the overhang and reach for the surprisingly good hold up high.

Obligatory shirtless climbing pic on Joe's Left. There is no sense of the overhang in this picture unfortunately. Fun heel-hook though.

After climbing and flashing five more problems in the area, I lost motivation. It probably had something to do with the oppressive heat. Drove through Grand Junction, found a Starbucks and cooled off in the AC for half an hour sipping my iced fru-fru drink.

Finished the day off with a lack of style. Drove out west again to Loma and the start of the Kokopelli trail. The Koko is a 140-mile mountain bike trail which ends in Moab. It is legendary. It kicked my butt thoroughly.

Add 90-degree temps, a full day already, and breaking in a new cassette on my mountain bike, it was a recipe to much cursing. My chain slipped repeatedly on the uphills. Nothing is more frustrating than huffing through a technical climb, with rocks you have to lever up and onto while maintaining forward momentum, only to have your chain slip during pedaling and then to get derailed from the crankshaft.

This happened 6 times. It was annoying. I still made a 6-mile loop of Mary's Loop and Moore Fun. And I have all of my skin.

ARTIST OF POST -Santogold. I'm sure I scared the residents of Vail as I was bopping to the this song while driving on I-70.