After suffering through a spring mainly consisting of paper pushing and fluorescent lights I finally made it to Red Rocks with a few friends. Two of us arrived around midnight on Wednesday. The next morning "a crack of noon start" leads Bill and me to the North Fork of Pine Creek.
Bill leads the first two pitches without any trouble. My lead of the third pitch started with a sloppy cam placement down low and followed by a twenty plus run to a good stance and pro above. Bill was not pleased by the potential ground fall to the belay ledge. Luckily, up higher on the 3rd pitch I found my rhythm and technique to keep Bill from never climbing with me again.
The 4th pitch was steep and had a few committing moves on lead. I was pleased to find a perfect blue TCU placement at the top of the flared pod. The wind was literally ripping through the North Fork canyon of Pine Creek. Sometimes the wind made sounds like huge sheets of fabric were being torn apart. I suppose that the extremely featured rock created these disconcerting sounds...similar to blowing over the lip of a glass Coke bottle. The wind sounds scared me more than leading.
The first rappel of Dark Shadows with one 70m rope could be problematic if you don't pay attention. Fortunately, Bill had the good judgment and insistence to convince me to move the 4th pitch belay anchor down to the lower anchor. There are two sets of anchors at the top of the 4th pitch. You will come up short with one 70m rope if you choose the higher anchor. We were amazed that we only saw another party when we were rapping off Dark Shadows late in the day. It was 90+ in Vegas but the temps in the canyon were comfortable on the first two pitches but downright cold on the upper two pitches.
That evening Michael flew in to join Bill and I. We met up at 6AM and arrived at the base of Frogland around 8AM. To our surprise no one was waiting at the base. Last year I tried to climb Frogland with a gym friend but bailed off at the top of pitch one. He could not wrap his head around a 6 pitch climb. I was thrilled to get back on this classic and finish it.
Leading the 3rd pitch was interesting. There are so many possibilities that it gets confusing at times. Judicious use of long slings is mandatory or you will suffer terrible rope drag.
Michael leads the low variation of pitch 4. The high version just under the roof looked harder. Next time I would like to try it.
The 5th pitch stemming and squeeze under the huge chock stone was a great lead. My 6'-4" body made the squeeze awkward and physical. I placed three cams in ten feet to avoid launching through the birth canal.
Again we were alone most of the day. Another party of three came up behind us to climb Bourbon Street. They quickly gained on us and beat us to the summit. The temps were perfect but a light jacket helped to stay warm at the belays. The view from the top of Whiskey Peak looking back at the Black Velvet wall is amazing. We could see a party on Prince of Darkness near the top of the 6th pitch, I believe. We were careful not to go down the first gully and found the easy descent trail one gully over.
The next morning Bill and I were tired from two days of climbing but Michael was just getting warmed up. We headed off to First canyon at a typical "crack of noon start". I was hoping that we would climb single pitch climbs so I could sleep and eat between turns.
Michael leads the 1st pitch of Lotta Balls. This is a fun steep pitch with great pro.
When I got to the 2nd belay Michael handed me the rack and said, "It's your turn." Looking up at the pitch that gives "Lotta Balls" its name was intimidating. The first bolt is 10 feet above the belay and another bolt is about 8 feet above the first. Then you get a twenty to twenty-five foot run to the crack at the base of the dihedral. At first I wanted to rap off and try something with better pro. The knob climbing up the 3/8 inch round spheres looked like fun but the run out to the crack made my butt pucker. "What the hell it is only 5.8+", I said. Falling before the first bolt results in the belayer getting wacked. I set off past the second bolt saying to myself, "Please don't fall. Move smoothly and slow it is only 5.8." Next thing I know I am at the crack. I plug in a good cam and my leg begins to vibrate. I look down at the distance to the last bolt and a flood of adrenaline follows and soon my whole body is vibrating. I finally calm down and finish the cool dihedral to a huge ledge. The next pitch is fun stemming. Again we only see one other party all day on the adjacent classic Black Magic.
On Sunday we drive home before the herds of Las Vegas weekenders clog I-15. It was a great trip with excellent and motivated company.