Wednesday, July 29, 2009
For the third year in a row, the Boulder Rock Club is hosting the US National Junior World Cup Team Training Camp. The camp is designed to assess the ability of the kids and organize their training before the they head to the Junior Wold Cup taking place in Valence, France.
Team members fly in from around the country to meet other team members, train for the coming competition and work with a variety of world class coaches. The training helps the competitors become familiar and comfortable with the group before the World Cup competition.
The BRC's head trainer and climbing coach, Chris Wall, specifically assess the physical conditioning of each athlete and works with the individual to increase performance and prevent injury. Each team member receives a personal evaluation from Chris to help with preparation for the competition in Europe.
We are fortunate to have some of the best climbing coaches from around the country working the camp this year. They include Claudiu Vidulescu from Atlanta, John Myrick from Autsin, Mike Lyons from Baltamore, and Chris Wall from Boulder.
Look out for these amazing youth athletes all week at the Boulder Rock Club and wish them the best as they represent the US at the Would Cup.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I was thinking more about the Pat Ament quote from last week, stumbled across this one, and found it relevant. Our society, our culture, the times, whatever you want to blame it on, the prevailing authority pushes us toward a never-ending pursuit of security. The idea is that we can somehow increase our longevity and enjoyment of life by curbing any experience that might put us in harm’s way. Ironically, the successes of real life are found on the edge and not in some expensive, self-created cage, stamped and approved by our peers or society. To poorly paraphrase an oft-used quote, “A ship is safe in the harbor but that’s not where is was made to be.”
The foreseeable forecast is brilliant. Warm temps and clear, sunny days are staying around for the next week. It looks like there may be a couple of rainy days before the end of the month but by then maybe we’ll all be happy for something to cool us off. The high snow-melt is pretty much over and one can already see the rivers starting to subside from their full and frothy banks. Here in Estes, the wilflowers are still in full bloom, looking like nature’s fireworks only spread over the landscape instead of obscuring the stars and much more lasting. Alpine rock season is pretty much in full swing at this point; a visit to many of the popular trailheads at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning will confirm this with 3-4 parties hurridly stuffing their packs by headlamp.
I climbed the Cathedral Wall last week for the my first time, via a route called “Tourist Tragedy,” a 5.9 or 5.10a depending on what you choose. A relatively short approach, almost 1000’ of climbing, and a fabulous view of the rising sun under wispy skies made for a magical morning. The next day we were up on the “South Ridge” of Notchtop, also my first time on that peak. I didn’t know this route was so popular but rather supposed it kind of an obscurity compared to the Petit, Hallet, or the Diamond. An early start is advised. Fun climbing on an exposed wall, the “South Ridge” is a must do if you’re climbing at the grade.
Timberline Falls and area is still very wet, though not flowing quite as full as two weeks ago. You may be able to to get to Sky Pond with dry feet. There is still some snow that needs crossing to get there, but not much by now.
A party was up on “D7” on the Diamond recently and reported that having mountaineering gear for the N. Chimney was a bonus. Apparently unable to complete to route due to wet conditions, the party also reported that the N. Chimney was very loose and “was the worst it’s been in the last 15 years” or something along those lines. Lambslide is all snow, no ice poking through, and there is still some snow on Broadway and in the Notch Couloir. All routes on the Diamond have reportedly been wet with the possibly exception of the Yellow Wall. The approach to Chasm Lake has been made a bit easier by the Park staff digging a 3-4’ deep trench along the final snow traverse to Chasm Meadows. Thanks guys! From where I’m sitting right now, I can see quite a bit of snow on Longs’ North Face still, although always receding. The Trough still has some snow but the Narrows and Homestretch are snow-free at this point.
The approach to Notchtop requires a bit of snow crossing at the Banana Bowls area but otherwise is easy going right up to the base of the climbing. There is very little, if any, snow on the walk-off descent although the rappels are a nice way to go as well. From Notchtop I got a good look at the Ptarmigan Fingers area and it’s looking really good right now. Lots of route options and fun alpine snow climbing to be had.
Two weeks ago, it sounds like the “Culp-Bossier” on Hallet was completely soaked. The latest is that pretty much everything is dry with only minimal amounts of seepage. CMS Guide Mark Kelly was on “Better Than Love” and “Love” and reported dry conditions all the way. He also mentioned to be watchful about loose blocks.
One thing many of the alpine guides have been warning each other about via e-mail this season has been the amount of loose rock. While there is always loose rock in the alpine, it seems to be a bit worse this year than usual. On pretty much every alpine route I’ve climbed this summer, there has been substantial loose rock to contend with. While rapping down from Notchtop the other day, I saw a huge oven-sized-but-maybe-truck-sized boulder smashing down the Notchtop Couloir, melted out of the mountain from above. It seems that the more-wet-than-usual spring has had an ill effect on the bonding quality of many alpine rock routes.
As conditions begin to stabilize in the Park, these conditions reports will be less and less frequent, in case you haven’t noticed. Internally, we guides do a great job of keeping each other updated on conditions we see while working in the Park. However, it’s always helpful to know what you’re seeing out there too. So if you have any info you’d like to pass along or if you have any questions, please shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear from you!
Andrew Councell is a CMS Guide with shrimpy T-Rex arms and year-round Estes Park resident
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Those new to climbing are always amazed by the beautiful rock formations that we climbers take for granted. The aesthetic of the climb unfailingly inspires beginners who care little for the grade or reputation of the route. Kids, in particular, are eager to try any climb put in their path caring only for the opportunity to try this thing called climbing. And climbing always gives something back. Unbeknownst to them, they are learning the responsibility and teamwork that the sport fosters, while building their self confidence and love for the outdoors. Climbing offers unique opportunities to develop leadership skills, personal fortitude and determination. These qualities last a lifetime.
Climbing has shaped me into who I am today. Teaching kids is a daily reminder of all that climbing has taught me. It encourages me to be fortunate for Boulder’s access to some of the country’s best rock and reminds me that I love to climb simply for the opportunity to do so.
AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
If you would like to introduce your kids to the rewards of climbing, check out the BRC’s Summer Camps and After-School Program.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
The routes that are now open include: the last three pitches of the Naked Edge, the Diving Board, Centaur, the last three pitches of Redgarden, Red Ant, Semi-Wild, the last three pitches of Anthill Direct and the Sidetrack.
Eldorado Canyon State Park closes climbing routes to protect the nesting and roosting sites of the area’s prairie falcons. The park staff and the volunteers who monitor raptors thank the rock climbing community for cooperating with the closure.
Throughout 2009, Colorado State Parks is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a leader in providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, protecting the state’s favorite landscapes, teaching generations about nature and partnering with communities.
Attracting more than 11 million visitors per year, Colorado's 42 State Parks are a vital cornerstone of Colorado's economy and quality of life. Colorado State Parks encompass 242,531 land and water acres, offering some of the best outdoor recreation destinations in the state. Colorado State Parks also manage more than 4,000 campsites, and 57 cabins and yurts. For more information on Colorado State Parks or to purchase an annual pass online, visit www.colorado.gov/parks
We called to get our bivy permit for the Sky Pond bivy sites the day before we were to embark on our journey. Big mistake! We waited too long and there were no sites available which forced us to come up with an alternative: the Sharkstooth. So we stayed at the Gash bivy sites, up the Andrew's Glacier way; a relatively decent bivy site under a massive boulder with lots and lots and lots of really good alpine bouldering around (and single-pitch AND mini-routes aplenty as well). We started our hike early Saturday morning under full packs and a starry sky.
It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach the Gash bivy boulder, with the trail being completely under snow from the Andrew's Creek Campsite on up (passing under Zowie on Otis's South side). We quickly organized our climbing gear, hung our bivy gear from the boulder via piton, and took off for the base of the "NE Ridge," a 5.6 that's fun and worthwhile. Overnight temps didn't reach freezing so we were able to ascend the snow towards the upper Gash without crampons (though we were wearing our La Sportiva Trango S EVO boots). It took us 45 minutes to reach the base of the route, by this time it was already 8am and I was feeling a little nervous about the weather.
Large, misty clouds were ripping over the Continental Divide over our heads and pouring over the Andrews Glacier to our north. The weather had turned quite nasty the day before and I predicted it would repeat here as well; I totally stressed out for no reason because by the time we reached the summit at 10:45-11am there was barely a cloud in sight. Aside from a few initial wet ledges and cracks, the climbing was dry and the rock only got better as we got higher up the route. The summit of the tallest peak in the Cathedral Spires isn't very big but it ended up being a very comfortable spot to enjoy the rad views of everything below us. Winds in the 15-20 mph range had been licking us all morning as we raced up the route, racing in part to stay warm and otherwise because of my fear of lightning. However, once the winds died down, the temperatures quickly soared and our top layers of clothing started coming off.
Three long rappels with two 60-meter ropes from fixed anchors (all anchors have at least one piton) took us into the Gash col proper where we donned crampons/ice axe and descended the steep snow back towards our bivy. There's currently about 200 meters of snow on the north side of the Gash and it's a bit steeper than Lambslide...we took it very easy as it was quite wet by this time (noon). Eventually we reached the talus again, packed up our gear, and hiked/glissaded back down the valley, reaching our boulder at 1:30ish. FUN!
We saw no sign of avalanche activity but did notice a few rocks loosening around the valley (one softball-sized rock whizzed overhead as we were on the first pitch). Also we could see where larger boulders had fallen and slid down, leaving meteorite-like tails in the snow. On a slope just above our bivy, there were actual, legitimate crevasses (though they weren't on an actual, legitimate glacier)! Anyway, it's the first time I've seen that in Colorado. Below are some notes I took for this trip report:
- Roundtrip time from bivy-to-bivy: 6.25 hours
- NE RIDGE Pitch 1 & 2: The first couple pitches are admittedly a little scruffy (especially pitch 1, ie, mossy, ledgey, wet), probably due to there being a few variations for how to start the route. However, as I mentioned before, the climbing gets better as you get higher. There's currently a Black Diamond purple #.5 Camalot stuck on pitch 2. Reaching the belay above the second pitch was a little cruxy, a steep, rounded lieback with thin feet.
- NE RIDGE Pitch 3: I believe this is usually the crux pitch of the route. After stemming a fun, left-facing dihedral above the belay, you'll want to exit right to
another, thinner and smaller left-facing dihedral. Small wires and TCUs protect this fun bit of climbing that increases in difficulty as you approach a small roof. You're going to turn the roof on it's left but there's good face holds out right. I climbed up these holds, reached into the undercling at the roof, and then moved left around the roof...really just one tough move. Due to the weather, I passed the standard belay and moved well into pitch 4 before building an anchor on a small but suitable ledge. There was a fixed nut here but we cleaned it (and then lost it again the next day, go figure).
- NE RIDGE Pitch 4: As previously mentioned, I'd already climbed roughly half of the standard pitch 4 so it wasn't long before I reached the base of the standard 5th pitch, a huge ledge with bailing potential. There is an "offwidth" on this pitch and though it's true you can't really protect it until you're 30-feet up, the climbing is still only 5.5. Above the offwidth crack, the ridge narrows and you'll reach yet another terrace in the ridge before the next steep bit. I belayed here.
- NE RIDGE Pitch 5 (or 6): Be careful at the step down at the narrow part here as the rock suddenly becomes very slick--and then just as quickly returns to normal once you're past this part. This pitch is easy, the easiest of the climb, and took us to just a few feet below the summit where we managed to get our boots back on in the lee of some rocks.
- I thought finding the first rap anchor would be a challenge but it wasn't hard to find. A short but exposed scramble takes you to another ledge southeast of the main summit area. At the southern end of this ledge are three pitons equalized with a pinch on new-looking cordelette. We didn't follow the guidebook beta but just kept rappelling straight down with two 60-meter ropes for 3 raps. Easy, straight-forward descent although there is loose rock to be cautious of as you pull the ropes. On the last rappel, to avoid pulling down loose rocks, I pulled from across the gully...at least we were out of the way, the pull was easy, and the rope didn't get stuck on the numerous ledges.
- Overall, a fun route on a great feature on a spectacular peak. There was some run-out climbing but it's on easier terrain. For the most part, the rock is solid and the gear is good. A Black Diamond #3 Camalot is the biggest size I used but you may want to take doubles in some sizes.
- I was able to call out via cell phone from near the Gash bivy site to get a weather update. It's always handy to know where you can get reception in the Park (I'm on Verizon).
If you're headed up to the Sharkstooth and are looking to glean some beta, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com. I'm always happy to help! If you found this trip report helpful or if you would like to see more trip reports like this one, please let us know. Likewise, if you'd like to join me for a RMNP climbing/skiing adventure, you can e-mail and request me. Who knows, maybe you'll find yourself in one of our trip reports!
Andrew Councell is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide and year-round CMS Guide and Estes Park resident