Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Back at Red Rocks

[by Shelley]
We knew we had a couple more good days before the weather started to get cool again. Back to Red Rocks we went and onto another 3-star multi-pitch trad route called Birdland, located in Pine Creek Canyon. It was one of the warmest days yet as it was one of the few where we didn't have to put on an extra layer at some point. The route was 5 pitches (well, actually 6 but the 6th pitch is runout and not recommended). There were two guys from Milwaukee on the route ahead of us but they'd started far enough ahead that we didn't have to wait long for them and they were accommodating in sharing belay stations.

There were two harder pitches, rated the same, so Andrew and I each took one. I think Andrew got the hardest of them though, as it involved an unprotected traverse as opposed to a thin crack which allowed for lots of gear placements. Traverses are psychologically the worst. Not only could you take a big fall but a big swing as well!

It was a fun climb, we did it in good time and all was going well. The descent was to rappel the route and with one rap left to go, we thought we had it in the bag. Until one of our ropes got stuck as we pulled them down. Unfortunately, we hadn't thought to move around to the outside of a large crack system and pull the ropes from the front of the rock face. As we pulled we could see the rope land on various ledges within the crack system and go back in behind some rocks. Andrew tried flipping the rope, pull, flip, pull, flip. At one point I thought it was going to come but no such luck.

Since I had all the gear, Andrew put me back on belay on our other rope and I climbed back up (about 30 feet) to get the rope un-stuck. It was no easy task as the rope was wedged firmly into a thin crack between two rocks. I poked and prodded for quite some time. It's the first time I've ever had to use a nut tool to get a rope unstuck! I thought for sure we were going to have to cut it but eventually, after much cursing and knuckle bashing, it came free. We'll have to have a close examination of that rope before we use it again!

By this time, two other guys who had climbed another route but were using our descent route, came rappelling down and graciously allowed me to rap back down using their rope. Much easier than down climbing! One more rap and we were back down to the ground.

These two other guys were locals and asked us what our plans were for the following day. When we said we had just one day left in Red Rocks and would do some sport climbing they asked what grade we were looking for and recommended a new area that one of them had developed. Civilization Crags, at the first pullout of the scenic drive loop, isn't in any guidebooks yet but they told us a website to get the information.

We had a fabulous time! A bunch of one-pitch sport climbs that were well within our leading ability and a few that were a bit harder that we could top rope before deciding if we wanted to lead them. We did 11 pitches each which was definitely our most productive day and also the day we led the hardest routes of the trip! A great ending to the climbing part of the trip.

Our bodies, hands, and fingers are sore again . . . what a wonderful feeling!
2011-02 Red Rocks

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