December 2, 2014

Rocktober 2014

For most guides in the lower 48 summer is the busy season and I am no exception. Ever since I started guiding I made it a point to take some time off in the fall. Some years it's just a couple of weeks, but more often it's over a month. Sometimes it begins with The Yosemite Facelift, a fun volunteer event put on by the Yosemite Climbing Association. This year though, I went straight to Red Rocks. It was pretty hot, but we got some fun climbing done in the shade.

On my first day we linked up two somewhat obscure routes: Magic Triangle and Crabby Appleton. Except for the scrambling from the top of Magic Triangle to the Crabby Appleton gully we were in the shade all day. Both routes are worthy for folks looking for something off the beaten path.

Aaron and Geoff staying (just barely) in the shade on Magic Triangle.

Geoff hand-over-handing down a weird old fixed line in the Crabby Appleton gully.
The Black Velvet Wall in the eponymous canyon is one of my favorite spots to climb in Red Rock and it's also not very sunny. Aaron, Braden, and I climbed two very different but very classic routes. Both Prince Of Darkness and Rock Warrior are mid-5.10 and feature hundreds of feet of fun edging. However, Rock Warrior has fewer bolts on the whole route than Prince Of Darkness sports on a typical pitch. As a result Rock Warrior is a lot less traveled and requires solid trad skills - the ability to find and place good gear and then climb above it. Both routes are great, one is all about the movement, and the other is a mental journey. 

A sea of edges on the Black Velvet Wall. Aaron puts the rope up while Braden belays suspiciously.
As fun as Red Rocks was, Jess and I had to leave. We had a wedding to attend in Moab. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was a fun chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. The next morning we drove to Montrose, CO to meet up with our friends Vic and Heather.

We stopped in Zion on the way to Moab for a day of cragging.
We saw these two get married just north of Moab.

In the morning-after-wedding-reception haze I drove over my climbing pack. Fortunately my helmet was the only damaged item. I think I might have to retire it.
Vic is a climbing ranger in The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison. For years he's been telling me to come visit and I've been putting it off. I was wrong. The Black is a fantastic place to climb. Looking over the rim reveals thousands of feet of vertical stone in a tight canyon. The rock itself is fantastic to climb on, with good friction, cracks, and featured faces. Even if you're not going to climb there, if you're in the area it's well worth a look.
Vic at a belay on Journey Home, with the Gunnison River churning a thousand feet below.
We climbed a few classics and were welcomed at the North Rim ranger station's end-of-season party. The current guidebook to The Black Canyon is over a decade old. Vic has been plugging away at a new guidebook and the end is in sight. When this thing is published it's going to have great essays, route history, and little works of art masquerading as hand-drawn topos.

Cliffs of Insanity on the far left, Bridger Jacks at the center in the distance, and the Six Shooters on the right.
After saying goodbye for now to Heather and Vic we turned the truck toward Indian Creek, the typical center of gravity for my Rocktober travels. As usual there were sunburns, campfires, gobies, new friends and, oh yeah, lots of amazing splitter crack climbing.

Jess following a fun stembox on one of The Bridger Jacks.
Rocktober is by nature a temporary state and now I'm back home. I went ice climbing yesterday and today it's snowing. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area says they've had 6 inches already at the Main Lodge and chain restrictions are in effect on 395. Winter is here and I am stoked!