This is my trip report from our vacation a few weeks ago. Hope you like it!
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Day 1 ; Jubilant Song
I was still on NY time when I woke up at around 4:30 am on Thursday November 21, 2002. So I filled up my camelback and my nalgene water bottle for the day's climb. At 5:00 am I woke up my friend Mark and our other friend Remi called. We headed off around 5:30am first stopping at the 24 hour Vons just down the road. We got to the turnoff for Windy Canyon at around 6:00 and pulled off to park at around 6:15. The weather was perfect; about 55 degrees without a cloud in the sky. Since this is Red Rocks, the morning sun basked the mountains in a colorful orange/red glow. We snapped a few pics, packed our water and food, and headed out across the desert at around 6:30. At first the hike was relatively easy and flat. After a few minutes the sun came up so we had to strip off a few layers. Further along the path, after about ½ hour we started heading straight up hill. The approach wasn't bushy or rocky at first anyway. Small switch backs weaved their way up the hillside on our way to Windy Peak; the southern most formation of Red Rocks. After about 45 minutes we were all breathing heavily from being over 40 and out of aerobic shape. After about an hour we reached the football field which is the relatively flat section of ground above the steep approach to the mountain. We rested for a drink here momentarily. I tried to hide the fact that I was sweating profusely, my heart was pounding in my ears, I felt faint but I wasnt worried yet about the climb (this is my story and I'm sticking to it!).
Soon we were off again up the hill to the base of the cliffs. From the car it looked like we had to cross a small white lump of rock between the Football Field and the cliff itself. The white lump next to the base of the cliff was in fact a steep, giant slab-like formation which we had to traverse across a ledge in order to get to the base. Once across the slab a heinous but short flail through the bushes and desert flora found us at the base of the route - Jubilant Song, a 8 pitch 5.8 up the south face of Windy Peak.
We roped up, still out of breath, and I took the first pitch. I always prefer the first pitch since it doesnt give me too much time to think and I wanted to show Mark and Remi what I could do. Besides the Urioste book didnt say it was hard! Off I went up the crack: step up, put in pro, step up put in pro until I got to the first overhang on the pitch. Here my Gunks training came in handy. I reached up, put in a number 2 camelot, clipped in, reached for the buckets above, leaned back, stepped around the hang and cranked up. In a moment I was at the first belay. Remi and Mark came up quickly thereafter. The ledge was quite spacious so Remi headed up the second pitch of the right facing crack as Mark and I hung out.
Remi quickly and then methodically headed up the perfect hand crack. According to Mark who was looking up and belaying he first wandered left and then right and then finally got to the belay above a big, 9 foot flake. A belay was set for what seemed like a long time and then Mark headed up and I went up a bit later. We hadnt climbed together for a long time, maybe 6-8 years so none of the routines were down. Remi had done some climbing this year; he climbed Epinephrine last May and we did a few pitches together before that. Mark hadnt climbed in a few years also. I have been climbing quite a bit this year; probably my biggest year ever but not with them. So we were a little rusty on these big wall routes. Anyway, I could sense that time was fleeting, and I knew the next couple of pitches were relatively easy, at least compared to the first two pitches, which we later saw were rated 5.7 by Swain in his Third Edition. I knew that the next couple of pitches were relatively short so I linked the 3rd and 4th pitches together. I had thought that the 4th pitch was supposed to be 4th class so I wasnt all that worried. I went up the third pitch with relative ease, although when I got to where the belay was meant to be, I noticed that there was a lot of loose rock around and quickly put in a friend and headed out again. Unfortunately I put too short a sling on the turn and quickly had rope drag problems. The last few feet were almost impossible to move due to the rope drag. Finally I stopped on a ledge underneath the huge roof. Despite my efforts to gain time by linking two pitches together, we lost it again while I was hauling the rope about one foot at a time. I should have down climbed and taken out the offending piece, now I was paying for it. Finally, despite losing some skin on my finger from hauling, Mark came up. After a few words about where the proper belay was, Mark clipped into the cordelette and Remi was on his way. He scampered up quickly until he realized that it was his pitch and it was the crux!
The crux actually looked a lot harder than it was. It went up a corner and then traversed under the roof for about 75 feet to an overhand/bulge and then up to a huge ledge. The traverse wasnt hard, and very protectable. In fact it was more protectable than what Remi put in as I found during the long run outs when I found many places where Aliens would have fit if only he tried. No big deal. According to the previous trip reports the bulge at the end of the traverse was the crux of this climb. The book also noted that one could keep going left to escape the 5.8 move. From the belay we could see everything. Unfortunately we were both too gripped to take pictures on the crux. In any case Remi kept moving right. He was able to get some RPs in over the overhang (which was about shoulder height at the end of the traverse). One more move and an awkward traverse right and up got us past the difficulties. I guess we found the 5.5 exit moves but the 5.8 move did not seem logical. A few face moves led to the spacious ledge above the traverse. From here we could sense the summit. Instead of taking the direct aesthetic line, however, we escaped left over the occasional 5.8 move and over a few boulders for two rope lengths to the summit proper. Next time we need to do the classical line up the watermark. We summited around 4 pm. The hard part was to begin.
The Urioste guide typically was brief ; find the descent gully back to your packs! Since we had gone light my trail shoes were back at the base of the climb. Just as well since the down climb was ominous at times. A longer than needed trudge down to packs took about an hour meaning I got to the packs just as it was getting dark. I was delirious from dehydration and hunger and Mark and Remi were already a few hundred yards down the hill from me. They guided me to the correct line down across the approach slabs and then it got dark. Remi raced ahead without a headlamp while Mark and I took frequent breaks. I was thankful that Mark was waiting for me. I felt old! Once we got down the bottom of the steep section we hooked up with Remi who was following the streambed and we all set off trudging towards the car. The moon had not yet come out yet so we were off course for a while until we finally found the road. After an hour and a half of climbing down from the packs I finally staggered back to the car to get some liquids and fuel into me. 12 hours later from our start time we were driving back to the casino to shower and eat and get ready for the next day.
Cat in the Hat
After Jubilant Song we were ready for something slightly more mellow. So we woke up a little later and went to breakfast at 7 this time and headed out to the cliffs around 8 am. We got to the trailhead of Pine Creek Canyon close to 9 after getting a proper dose of Howard Sterns Its Just Wrong. We then proceeded slowly to the base, getting passed only by one party on the way there. After about 40 minutes we finally got to the base after the party that passed us (a California looking dude and his Swiss girlfriend). They were very nice and quick. We are slow so they took almost no time in our book. This time inertia was in my favor again as I took the sharp end and lead up the first pitch. It looked a lot easier from the ground! It was only 5.5 however and considerably easier than our previous day. I stopped at the first sign of bolts, which I knew was short of the proper belay. No matter for Remi, he raced up the next two pitches with a total of about 4 pieces all together, not including anchors. A debate over who wanted to go next took place and Remi reluctantly took the sharp end again for our last pitch. He headed up the steep black face; a classic black sandstone pitch and a little tricky right off the deck. A thin crack lead to an overhang under which one traversed left to a larger steeper crack. Mark whispered something about it getting harder as you go up while Remi was trying to get his confidence back. We both got up in short order after that. It was warm and sunny and we were quite comfortable sitting on the ledge. We started doing the math on the remaining sunlight and the remaining pitches and convinced ourselves that we didnt want to rap in the dark so we debated a while longer until we had to rap to avoid darkness. The best part of the rappelling was watching Remi;s face as he went over the edge on the last rap; pure terror! Chrimson Chrysalis is going to be difficult! A civilized walk back to the car got us on the road just as the sun had set. All in all a great day.
Day 3 - Geronimo
Remi had to go back to work or something so Mark and I decided to maximize our thrills and try out a new climb recommended by Todd Swain called Geronimo - a 5 pitch 5.7 on the Jackrabbit Buttress, across the canyon from Chrimson Chrysalis. We met our other friends Bill and Frank for breakfast at 5 am to coordinate trips with them. They decided to do Frogland while we did our climb. We both headed out about 5:30 to get an early start. Mark and I got to the same Pine Creek Parking lot as the day before and set out on our approach. My back was a complete wreck from the previous two days of climbing so I was shuffling along for the first few hundred meters. Fortunately Mark took the water off me and after a few hundred meters later I felt great. It was a lot windier than our first two days but we were going to be in the sun so we werent too worried about the weather. We got near to where we were supposed to be on time, the problem was linking up the crack we were supposed to be on with the right climb. The book says an obvious dog leg crack. Im not sure what that means but I didnt see anything that looked obvious or a dog leg. After rejecting one dihedral after another we went up canyon for a few boulders and then decided we had gone too far. Finally after a lot of messing around Mark found the right crack system. I didnt even bother checking the description if he was right or not. I racked up and got ready to go. I was going to climb what ever climb it was. I had read the topo however and I knew that we could bail from the top of the third pitch so I wasnt too worried about survival. Mark, however, was clinging to the second rope as Linus clung to his blanket! Mark used to haul me up everything under the sun; High Exposure, Shockley;s Ceiling, Olive Oil, Solar Slab, Lotta Balls, Tahquitz, etc. Now, however, I was the one in climbing shape and he was the one gripped!
Anyhow I didnt mind since I was climbing well and the crack looked very protectable. Off I went up and up the crack. It was very steep. Every other move was a high step or a bulge. After about 100 feet or so I started getting low on gear and slings so I decided to set up an intermediate belay in a little alcove. I thought it was very comfortable, however, Mark was quite disappointed to see how small it was. I guess I didnt mind since I was going to head up again quickly! I just needed more gear for the rest of the pitch. So after the required reracking of gear, off I went. This pitch was awesome and sustained. It was a continuous 5.7 move the whole 155 feet up. The prize was the giant ledge atop the pitch, to which I brought up Mark. At this point Mark let me know the altitude was starting to get to him. I directed him to yell in a northeasterly direction and his mother might hear him yell MOMMMMMY! We moved the belay around the trees to the next crack.
I had been cautiously optimistic that Mark would have lead the next 5.6 pitch, but no matter, I had just lead the 5.7 pitch without incident so what the heck, this is supposed to be easier, right? Off I went thinking to myself, this is supposed to be easier, how come its not? This pitch seemed to have even more bulges to surmount on the way up until I got to a big ledge on the corner of an arete. From here the guidebook says to keep going until you get to a stance. Well that didnt make sense to me so I just belayed from the big ledge and brought Mark up. In the meantime, our climb started to cool down a bit since it was now in the shade. The wind started making its way down the canyon also. Mark mentioned that the wind was howling while he was climbing, adding to the fear factor; it was great! Anyway, he took the bull by the horns, reracked, and lead up the 5.3 arete. At this point I was trailing the rope since I was following. I was impressed with this lead since it was much more exposed on the arete and there wasnt a crack to sew up, only horizontals. A recent trip report I read on this climb said that this pitch was the hardest, most exposed, least protectable 5.3 pitch the writer had ever seen. Id have to agree with that; it was scarier than the 5.7 pitch! The old Mark was back leading up the arete however. I followed to the top of the arete until I felt a tug at my waist; the trailing rope was snagged. Damn! This had happened to me before on Cannon mountain when I climbed with Frank up Consolation Prize (5.8) and I hadnt properly checked the trailing rope. That time I was too gripped to do anything about it so Frank had to reclimb that pitch. I could just see Mark, so I told him to let me down climb back to the base of the pitch where the snag occurred so I could free the rope. Down and up again I went.
We got to another bushy ledge enclosed by a dihedral. We hadnt brought the Swain book with us since it was so heavy and I think I had misplaced the route description by this point so I wasnt sure of the descent. I looked up at the hard 5.7 pitch above us and my heart sank for a moment. Then Mark told me that the descent was indeed around the corner. My hopes brightened for a split second until Mark gave me enough rope so that I could view the down climb. Ugh! The descent started with a downclimb down a gully to a chockstone and a rappel down a heinous chimney off slings around a chockstone. Mark and I have had a few epics descending before so we were ready for anything; except this! Our first thought was too bad Remi wasnt here; he would have really hated it! At least the rappels were all single rope rappels so we didnt need to tie any knots. So off we went on the first rappel. First we had to down climb below the chockstone, get on rappel, down climb a bit and rappel down an off width. We had to keep our feet on either side of the offwidth or you would be sucked in. Anyway, the light was starting to get lower, Mark had rappelled about 20 feet when he says that the knot on the end of the rope (I never want to rap off the end of any rope) got stuck in the offwidth and he doesnt think it will come out. This was our first real mistake; we should have carried the ends down with us. On future heinous raps on this descent Mark clipped the knots to him to avoid a repeat. After some shouting, and pulling, and spelunking Mark was finally able to get the rope out. It wasnt my favorite rope anyway and we had a second one with us so I wasnt too worried. I read another trip report about these rappels on the internet; one guy lost his brand new PMI rope on this descent stuck in the offwidth never to be seen again! So we made it to the next rap. This one was slightly better. We were in the base of an offwidth section and anchored in with a number 3 camelot. The rap slings were around another chockstone wedged into the offwidth. This time our rappel was fairly straightforward although I do have an excellent picture of Mark looking gripped here. When he got down to the bottom of this rappel he yelled up that the next rappel was even worse! I couldnt believe it. When I saw it I laughed, yes it was worse! It was a couple rings on the end of a long sling. Here one had to down climb about 30 feet and traverse out above another wide crack and then rappel down. It was definitely the weirdest series of rappels Ive ever done, in the daytime anyway. (Although not nearly as bad as the Solar Slab descent.) Anyway, after this we made it to the ground about 50 feet from our packs; not a bad place to be after all. We still had plenty of daylight left; no need for our new headlamps or anything. Just as well we will have to save the epic for next time!
Day 4; The Panty Wall
Sunday was our last day at Red Rocks, and I had a 2 pm flight to catch so we had to make it count. Still, after our last few days, we refused to go very far. We hooked up with Frank and Bill, my friends from the Gunks, and we decided to the Panty Wall. There were a variety of climbs, including a couple 5.8s and a 5.7 next to each other. We drove to the First Pullout where we took some snaps and ran into a friend of mine from the climbing gym in CT. Off we went slowly toward the wall; actually it was a long ascent for a sport climb; about 30 minutes! No worries, we finally got there and the weather was beautiful; about 70 degrees and sunny. Frank led up Boxer Rebellion; a nice 5.8 and I led up a climb called Silk Panties; a great 5.7. This was my first sport climb in years so I brought too much stuff with me, but as I got higher a started to feel better, even though the holds got less positive. Four or five bolts later and I was at the top. We sat around in the sun for a while and ran into a guy named Sean who told us that the climb we had just done was the climb that a guide we knew fell on the previous week. He had mistakenly rapped off the end of his rope after some confusion. He fell about 40 feet and broke his ankles and elbow. It was a bit ironic since he almost took us up Jubilant Song but he had wisely told us that we shouldnt proceed because the weather looked ominous. Later that day it had poured! He is very safe; just a careless mistake at the wrong time. Anyway after a few more photo ops we left and I high tailed it to the airport. The end of another great vacation!