Monday, June 15, 2009

Climbing Road Trip in a Pink Cadillac - Episode 1

Alaska is grim during "Break-up" when the rivers and lakes melt and flood, the trees have yet to green, and the volcano has laid a winter coating of ash that continues to fill the air with glassy dust. Mud is everywhere. It's an excellent time to take a road trip to the "Lower 48".

My daughter, Daphne, was graduating from Naropa University in early May, so I would be in Boulder, Colorado, a great place to climb mountains and rocks. And a road trip to the Utah desert would tie in nicely with graduation. So I packed my climbing gear in one bag and a suit and tie in another, hopped on the airline and headed south. My good friends Malcolm and Karen also had a son graduating from college the same day, but at Northern Arizona University, so I volunteered to house-sit their place in Boulder...what a deal!

Since graduation was on Saturday, I called my friend Chris and scheduled a climb for Thursday. I had never climbed in the Flatirons above Boulder, so Chris took me on a new adventure.

First Flatiron

The First Flatiron - route goes up the center

It was my first rock climbing trip since last November, so I was not in good shape nor was I acclimated to the elevation, so I took it easy, conjuring up every old-age whine I could remember or invent to excuse my slow progress up the trail. The tall pine trees hid us from the sun while we changed into our climbing shoes and harnesses, racked the gear and roped up to climb.

Roping up

I tied the rope on and headed up the first pitch. The warm rock felt good on my fingers, and the sticky rubber on my rock shoes held fast.

Ralph climbing
Heading Up!

Soon I was moving fast and free up the sandstone, up to the first belay ledge where I took in the rope and belayed Chris, her blond hair and red shirt stood out in the bright sun.

Another pitch and I was atop a large flat rock where I belayed Chris again. She was half-way up when a climber to her left called, "Can you help me?" He had two ropes tied to his waist that had tremendous drag on him; and he was 60 feet above his last protection. If he fell he would hit the ground. Chris climbed over to him and dropped a bight of rope, and I belayed both of them to the flake. His name was Josh, and he and his friends were from Tennessee.

A relieved Josh at the belay ledge

The route has six or seven 150' pitches or rope lengths to the top. Pitch after pitch, I loved the rock, and just couldn't get enough of it. We climbed fast, the rope snaking upward and around the rocks.

The route above

The top has a great view of Boulder below, and the panorama north included views of Rocky Mountain National Park and the huge peaks there.

The summit view

Summit photo

A short rappel down the rope brought us to the ground, and we traversed over to a notch and the trail descending to our car. I was back climbing rock after almost six months of climbing ice and skiing. The warmth was great, and I could sense that this was just the beginning of a fine road trip.

No comments: