Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another attempt at Moonlight Buttress and dodging the rain

The feeling of relief is tangible as I pull in to the East entrance of Zion National Park.

Not a bad view to wake up to.
 This spring has more closely resembled a pinball game for me than a climbing trip since I left Aspen and my seasonal employment. First venturing into the desert, climbing with huge rain storms rolling through valleys to either side, mountain biking the White Rim trail through Canyonlands through rain, snow, hail and plenty of lightning. Then being chased from the San Luis Valley after climbing a couple of days in Penitente Canyon by more storms...or the same one recirculating around the west. Then driving to Denver on rumors of a weather window, only to find more torrential rains and lightning across the horizon. I found myself back in Moab in scorching temps and clear blue skies, climbing with out a shirt and sweating bullets. Then after a couple of desert tower summits bagged and about 12 hours in Indian Creek, right on time the downpours started again, turning our campsite into a small pond and the creek into an obstacle not to be underestimated.

I bailed to the Roaring Fork Valley to regroup and look for a weather windown...anywhere. I quickly discovered that every significant climbing area in the U.S. was either being actively rained on or was about to receive significant precipitation. A few days later the forecast looked good enough in Moab to mountain bike for a few days before potentially resume the rocks climbing adventures. A modelling opporunity fell into my lap. I returned, driving out proved to be largely uneventful aside from the van in front of me rolling a couple of times just outside of Moab. Was this a bad omen? Eh, who has time to worry about such things when trying to calm a concussed and highly irritated driver.

The end of the JEM Trail in Virgin, UT.
Thankfully, the next day found my rising with the sun, donning my bike kit and riding off for a morning ride on the Mag 7 trail, one highly recommended, that I'd never ridden before. A couple of post-ride boxes of Annies with avocado and bacon, a beer and a nap and I was more psyched than ever! As I woke the next morning I could feel the positive momentum building as I kitted up again and prepared to ride in circles, back and forth, up and down the slick rock for my friend Dan. I felt great as I lapped slickrock ledges and talked shot angles and shutter speeds. And then it began raining again.

Looking up at Moonlight Buttress from the base.
That night I met up with a few friends and was convinced to join them on their road trip to California, with the rain over Moab not forecasted to clear anytime soon and with pre-established plans to meet a climbing partner in Zion, I was convinced! The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast at the Moab Diner, we caravaned off. Along the way stopping and checking out several National Parks on the side roads heading west. Lots of laughs later I could feel the frustration of being foiled by the weather time and time again, slowly releasing.

The view from the first night's spot.
But, it wasn't until the road into Zion, lit by the last rays of sun that I knew for certain that this was where the driving ended. I pulled into a BLM pullout down the road from Springdale and sighed, psyched to just be present in such an awesome place. And so, I find myself happily writing away underneath Moonlight Buttress, after an awesome mountain bike ride this morning, with climbing plans on the horizon, a fortunate result of the closeness fo the climbing community and smallness of the world. A couple of ascents of Moonlight (1,200ft, 5.12+) are planned, and I am more excited than ever to get ,back on it to try and free it again.
I have to say that while I gripe about the rains and snows this spring I am super glad that they're coming late rather than never for the snowpack and much needed moisture for the west and first ascents, I realize will be there in the fall or whenever the rains slow.

Chris and Oli, thawing out and racking up.

The view from the top of pitch two.

Justin taking off on pitch seven.

The top of pitch nine I think

Soooooo good!

The view from the top of Moonlight

Sunday, May 3, 2015

First Ascents in Indian Creek

Looking out at the Bridger Jack Towers in Indian Creek.
After kicking off the unemployment season and easing my knee back into play mode with a 3 day and 90 mile mountain bike trip along the White Rim Road in Canyonlands I returned to Indian Creek. The trip was so spectacular, as a group of 17 we experienced every form of precipitation while riding, pedaled along hundred+ foot drop offs, ogled desert wildflowers beyond count and remained well hydrated via the beer coolers on the support trucks!

New anchors and another opporunity to teach/talk bolting.
'The Creek' is certainly one of my favorite places in the world to climb as well as to simply exist or rather exist simply. The lack of cell service and amenities beyond the recent additions of pit toilets breaks down life in to a few simple daily tasks: rise, drink coffee, eat, climb, eat/drink beer, climb, make dinner, talk about climbing around the fire, sleep. Indian Creek is known for it's sincle rope length parallel sided cracks, splitters, and thousands of them at that. The cracks are typically free of much loose rock and with numbers like that visitors and locals can go a life time without repeating a route. I have had the opportunity in recent seasons to give back to the climbing community by reequiping routes with newer and better hardware that will hopefully prevent or mitigate anchor failures on the more popular routes. However, that being said, there are many new routes to be established, lifetimes worth in fact. This is a hobby, or rather a passion that I discovered with my former climbing mentor Skyeler years ago. This season while I have spent less time that I typically do in the desert, I've had the blessing of balancing working on hard (for me) established climbs, reequiping other routes as well as establishing new climbs. With the help of a couple of really psyched friends we have established one new splitter and have eyes on a couple others, stay tuned as hopefully some of the photos will be pretty rad (I'm practicing my cliff hangers!)

In the mean time feast your eyes on some biking, desert tower climbing and flower photos!
Snow in April in the desert?! Day 1 of the bike trip was postponed.

Getting ready for another day of climbing!

The drive out to Moab turned out to be pretty amazing!

In between squalls on the real day one of riding.

Last day of biking along the White Rim.

A nice and shady last campsite after a fairly warm day of riding.

This rather outdated anchor needed a bit o' lovin'.

Pizzam! Cactus flowers at a new cliff!

Ms. Pearce magicked up this gem of a name haha.

Working hard on new route names!

A little pigmy rattler(?) on the way to Sister Superior

Proper spotting technique while soloing the first pitch.

And the rope toss!

Ooooh a barrel cactus! Back to the car for some lunch!