Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. 
- Omar Khayyam

In the spirit of Alastair Humphrey's microadventures, I had a paraglider microflight the other morning.

It was a whopping 80 feet vertical off a high point along the river bank. (A big hill for the Saskatoon area!) The launch area was good but small - just enough room to lay out your glider between the bushes. We went out early at 7am, just after sunrise, to avoid strong winds (and spectators!). (I'm deliberately not saying where this was since there's no doubt some rule that says it's not allowed! As my father would say, the “stop its” are everywhere.)

It was a new experience to fly unsupervised. And not only at a new site, but a site no one had used before. That's not necessarily a good idea for beginners, but this was a tiny gentle slope with only a few bushes to worry about. In the summer you'd have to worry about possibly ending up in the river, but it's still frozen at the moment. We hung up some flagging tape at the top and bottom to check wind direction. We checked each others harness and glider. We talked through the launch and landing.

It’s similar to climbing with a guide versus on your own. Both involve the same activity, but when you’re on your own, suddenly there are many more things to deal with, decisions that you now have to make yourself, concerns that are now your responsibility. There is no one to correct you if you make a mistake or miss something. Scarier perhaps, but in the end more rewarding.

When you lay out the glider it's hard to believe that tugging on a few of the lines will suddenly turn this large expanse of floppy light fabric into a wing flying strongly overhead. Wonderful magic!

I pulled up the glider and was lucky enough to have it come up straight first time so I could turn and launch. The flight was just long enough to get clear of the slope, make a 90 degree turn, and then land on the ice at the edge of the river. The landing was fast (no head wind) and despite thinking ahead and wearing my Yaktrax I skidded on the ice and ended up on my butt (well padded thanks to the crash pad on the harness). It was still awesome :-)

Shelley had worse luck with the wind and after her glider ended up tangled in the bushes beside the launch she decided it wasn't worth the stress. I'm sure we'll be back and she'll have better luck.

I can't see flying here very much. The hill is too small for much of a flight, and not ideal for a "training hill". But it was definitely fun to do, and a good chance to get out before forgetting everything!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring is Coming

Sunday morning early I headed out to Cranberry Flats since it looked like such a beautiful morning. It's been a while since I've been here. When I was a kid my family used to come out here all the time. We'd walk the dog, my father would take photographs, I'd catch garter snakes and frogs, my mother would let us talk her into wading across to sandbars or the island. It's a little more developed these days with a real parking lot (albeit full of potholes) and boardwalks but otherwise it hasn't changed much.

There was another photographer out there with a long telephoto lens on his camera looking for birds. I don't think he found much except for the Canada Geese. He spotted a couple of coyotes crossing the river but I couldn't pick them out. I didn't have my long lens and I settled for smaller subjects, enjoying the play of early morning light on the frost and plants.


Watch out for the rose bushes!

rose thorns

The frost on the river ice was fascinating when you looked at it close up.


I'm a fan of back light, love how it shows the details of the leaves in this next shot.


I was also playing with abstract images from deliberately out of focus shots.



It's always good to see (and hear!) the geese returning in the spring.

Canada geese

These were taken with my older K5ii since Pentax has my newer K3 again. They don't seem to be having much luck trying to fix it :-( I was using my Sigma 18-250 macro lens which has replaced my old Tamron 18-250. Some of the newer versions have upped the range to 16-300 but they're bigger and heavier.

See all 31 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Prints of the Week

I fired up the printer (Epson 3880), cleaned the heads after their long rest, and printed a couple of images from our recent trip.

This first one was the dramatic sky when we drove through the mountains to Ojai (on the way to Santa Barbara).


This next one was from a hike in Red Rocks. It had rained the day before so we were waiting for the rock to dry before we could climb. (The sandstone gets soft when it's damp.) I liked the way the water ran over the rocks, and how the blue sky and its reflection contrasted with the red rock.

water in the desert

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Photos of the Day

Believe it or not, I'm still plowing my way through all the photos I took on our Kanchenjunga trek in the fall. Here are a couple I ended up processing as high contrast black and white.



And here's one with a bit more color and human interest :-)


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mountain Flight

The final step in our paragliding course was to do a longer flight off a mountain, as opposed to our seemingly endless laps (80?) on the training hill. But the weather wasn’t cooperating wind-wise. And we were already overdue to return home. A mountain flight was scheduled for our last day but when we got up to the launch site the winds were too strong. And not just for beginners, none of the other dozen or so pilots launched either. Even the hawks zooming by had their wings tucked.

Technically, the mountain flight wasn’t required for our certification and we got signed off without it. But it was a bit of a let down to be heading home with only having flown off the training hill. Then we got a message late in the evening that conditions were looking reasonable for a flight the next morning. So we postponed our departure yet again.

The next morning it was almost dead calm in the parking lot and on the drive up I was starting to wonder if there would be enough wind this time. But once we hiked up and over the hill we could feel a breeze blowing, just right for launching.

We were at a site called VOR. It’s a good beginner site because it has a huge obvious grassy landing area. On the other hand, the launch area was small compared to what we were used to at the training hill. It was just big enough to lay out your glider and have a few steps to launch. Beyond the grassy area the slope dropped off steeply, not a cliff, but not something you’d want to tumble down.

After we arrived at the launch site, Chris (our instructor) wanted us to get launched while conditions were good. None of the other pilots was getting ready very quickly so he called Shelley to go first. She suggested someone more experienced should go first, which Chris could hardly argue with since he’d told us during training to let someone else go first at an unfamiliar site. One of the other pilots launched uneventfully and then it was Shelley’s turn. She pulled up the glider and got turned around without any trouble but got pulled a little to the side and ended up needing a few extra steps before she got in the air. But she got airborne ok and headed off towards the landing zone, about 900 m (3000 ft) below and 5 km away.

My turn next. I was nervous, but not about getting hurt, or the height, or crashing, or anything like that. No, in typical human fashion I was most worried about embarrassing myself - of botching my launch in front of a bunch of other pilots. As I was getting ready to launch Chris told me “don’t worry, if you mess up you can just put it down and try again”. But I didn't want to think about messing up, I was trying hard to think positively and visualize a nice clean launch. Once he brought it up, it was hard not to think about all the things that could go wrong.

Then he told me that if he said “Stop! Stop! Stop!” that I should … stop. Uh, yeah, I think I could probably figure that out! I realized that despite having been through it many times Chris was probably a little nervous too, about us awkward fledglings leaving the nest.

Finally it was time to go. He said, “wait for some wind that feels good”. The wind was gusting a bit stronger at that point so I was going to wait, but he said, “this is good, a bit strong so it might pull you off your feet, but go for it”. I wasn’t keen on getting pulled off my feet, but what the heck. I pulled and the wing came up fast and hard. I’d like to say I stepped towards it to stop if from overshooting, but in reality it yanked me a step or two up the hill. It seemed like it came up ok and fairly level so I turned. With the glider pulling strongly it only took a few steps until I was airborne. I didn’t even use the whole length of the short launch area. After all the training hill flights it was mostly reflex - pull, check, turn, and burn.

There's something magical about launching when it goes well. You just take a few steps and you're flying. Like something out of a dream.

Once in air it was a lot more relaxed. I steered over to the ridge and followed the spine down, as we’d been told to do. Once over the spine it was easy to stay on course by leaning, no brakes required. Finally there was time on a flight to look around at the view and up at the canopy. On the training hill you barely get launched before you have to think about landing. It was amazing to be flying, to look out at the ocean and down at the hillside and the roads.

From what the other pilots said, the air was extremely smooth, which was perfect for us beginners. But there were still a few small bumps on the way which were a little disconcerting. I never considered air as “bumpy”, although thinking about it, I realize that the turbulence you feel in a commercial plane must involve some pretty bumpy air.

One of the last skills we needed to perform was 360 degree turns. (There isn’t enough height to do these at the training hill.) Once I got close to the landing zone Chris talked me through the turns (via radio). It was a surprisingly large amount of lean and brake compared to the gentle turns we’d done so far. But I got used to it quickly, and did a couple more on my own just for practice and to lose height over the LZ.

Soon it was time to land. I managed to end up fairly close to the bush we’d been told to aim for. At the last minute I spotted a boulder hiding in the grass but thankfully passed just over it. I flared and landed just beside the trail not far from Shelley. Little or no wind at the LZ meant I didn’t have to worry about which direction to land, but it also meant a fast landing since there was no head wind to slow me down. But I landed on my feet without any trouble.

Once my feet were on the ground my landing practice was forgotten. I stood there thinking “I did it. I’m back on the ground!” Then I remembered my canopy above me. I belatedly took a few steps forward to get out from under it. I went to turn around but it was too late and the canopy fell right behind me. Not very professional, but I was too happy about the flight to care much.

This kind of direct flight, without any thermals or ridge soaring is known as a “sled ride” - not very exciting for experienced pilots. But it was plenty exciting for our first real flight!

See also my previous paragliding posts, Learning to Fly and Flying Lessons

See the details of the flight as captured by my GPS watch

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Roadside Flowers

The weather didn't cooperate for flying on Wed. so we had the day off. We headed up to the Santa Ynez valley just north of Santa Barbara to visit a few wineries and see the countryside. There are something like 70 wineries in this small area, but a couple is all we can manage and still drive safely! We went to Avant first because it had a restaurant where we could have lunch. It is quite a big winery and a number of local vineyards use its facilities to make their wine so there was quite a selection of different wines to try. We then did a loop around the area on some back roads. The Drum Canyon Road leading to Los Alamos was a little winding road up a pretty valley. We stopped several times to take photos of the wildflowers along the roadside. We finished up with a visit to the Sunstone winery which had a nice tasting room building and produced organic wine.


California poppy



tree silhouetted

See all 22 photos as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Flying Lessons

Our paragliding lessons have turned out to be a little more challenging and strenuous than we expected. Granted, we didn't have much basis for those expectations.

Kiting is still a challenge, especially in unstable wind conditions. It gets a little better each day, but there are still humorous incidents. When the wind gusts and you don't control it well it's easy to get picked up off the ground.

One time I got picked up, my feet swung forward, I got dropped on my ass, and the glider collapsed on top of me. I felt like a meatball in spaghetti with the lines draped all over me. Thankfully I had someone helping to pull the glider off me without tangling the lines.

Another time I had the glider up kiting for quite a long time but as I maneuvered under it I ended up at the edge of the field with bushes behind me. On top of that I had our 84 year old just to my right with his back to me and totally unaware of me. Another glider was on the ground just to my left. Now what? Of course, the wind picked that moment to gust and I got picked up again but this time with enough force to spin me around. When reverse kiting you face the wing with a twist in the lines. Think of being in a swing twisted around to face the other direction. I landed on my feet this time, managed to spin back around, found the glider starting to drop, brought it back under control and put it down not on top of any people, bushes, or other gliders. It might sound skilled, but it was pretty much pure lucky fluke.

Launching can also be tricky at first. There are a lot of things to think about in that critical first few seconds. Lean forward, keep your arms back, thumbs up, don't pull the brakes, run hard but steady, stay under the glider, steer straight down the hill. Often you lift off the ground but then the glider drops again and you need to go back to running. If you think you've taken off and you're not ready to run again it can be a problem. This happened on one of my early flights. First I got off center and I was worried because I was heading for the bushes, then I lifted off and I thought I was home free. But then the glider dipped and I needed to run again, except my legs were too far back and I was into the bushes. I attempted to run but it very quickly turned into an embarrassing belly flop and the glider came down. For the rest of the day I was picking thorns and thistles out of my clothes!

Turns are also hard to judge at first since you don't know how much to lean or brake. Our usual training flight plan was to go left first and then turn back right across the hill. I wasn't turning back across the hill enough and our instructor was telling me (over the radio) "more right, turn back towards the hill". Of course, then I overdid it, turned too hard, lost a bunch of altitude, and got too close to the hill. As you can imagine this is not a good combination and I realized I better land before I got dragged across the hill. It was across the hill and across the wind, not what beginners are supposed to do (you should land and launch into the wind) but I flared (full brakes) and landed with no problem. I'm sure I gave the instructor a few nervous moments, although I'm sure they've seen it all before.

The gliders fly at about 20 miles per hour so you're not dealing with huge speeds, but it's still faster than you can run, and fast enough that you don't want to run into anything. But if you flare properly with full brakes (which is actually not that difficult) you land quite gently on your feet. (A little headwind helps reduce your speed.)

On the positive side, Shelley tells me she likes it when I screw up because then she doesn't feel like she’s the only one :-)

Friday, March 06, 2015

Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo is known as one of the better small zoos in North America. We visited here on our train trip around the US. We stopped in briefly the day we arrived here and then spent a few more hours when our paragliding lessons were cancelled due to weather. (It was much quieter the second time - a week day plus rainy weather.)

It was nice to see the snow leopards out prowling around. Love those huge fluffy tails!

Snow Leopard

I think these monkeys were enjoying the sun after the rain:


I like the flamingos:

flamingo feathers

And of course, the elephants and the giraffes:



This acorn woodpecker was wild, not a part of the zoo. I heard the sounds of a woodpecker pecking and looked up and there it was. If you look closely you can see acorns in the holes - winter food stash. Apparently these are fitted so tightly in the holes that squirrels can't get them. A single "granary" tree can have up to 50,000 holes made by a group ("bushel") of these birds.

Acorn Woodpecker

There were also a pair of mallard ducks in a pond. There was a coin operated machine that dispensed feed nearby either for the koi or the ducks. The ducks definitely expected to get fed. If you held your hand out they would swim over right away. But you had to be careful - if you let them get too close they would nibble on your fingers, as both Shelley and I discovered!


See all 20 photos as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

California in Photos

I'm falling behind on posting photos so without a lot of blathering, here's a batch from Ventura and Santa Barbara.


bee on flowers


under the pier




See all 28 photos as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Learning to Fly

We're in Santa Barbara to take paragliding lessons. One of my co-workers, in response to our climbing adventures requested that we please keep our feet on flat ground. But what would be the fun in that!

Quite a few years ago we had done tandem hang gliding flights in La Jolla, California and really loved it. More recently we went tandem paragliding in Darjeeling, India. Again, we loved it.

Note: Hang gliding is where the glider has a rigid frame and the pilot hangs in a horizontal position. A paraglider is more like a long wing-like parachute where the pilot is in a sitting position. When you fly tandem your harness is connected to an experienced pilot and they do all the flying. With a good pilot takeoff and landing are surprisingly easy and it's an awesome experience - definitely recommended.

Then when we were scuba diving in Raja Ampat we ran into an older retired couple from Switzerland who had learnt to paraglide in the last few years. That got us thinking that maybe we should give it a try. After all, we really needed (sarcasm) another hobby/sport that wasn't really suited to Saskatchewan, and that required a bunch of fancy gear :-)

So when we started planning the current road trip we thought we'd try to fit in some flying lessons. Originally we planned to go to the south-east for a change and found a paragliding school in Oklahoma. But when we contacted them they said the weather wasn't good for flying this time of the year. (We appreciated their honesty!) As it turns out, the east would not have been a good choice with all the crazy weather this year. It's been bad enough out west (e.g. snow in Vegas) We were told California was our best bet and when we saw several schools in Santa Barbara we decided that would be a good choice since we'd stopped there before and liked it.

When I was a teenager my father tried to talk me into taking flying lessons with him. Of course, as a teenager the last thing you want to do is hang out with your father so I said no thanks. Now, of course, I think I must have been crazy to pass up something like that. My father (like many young men of his generation) wanted to be a fighter pilot in World War 2. He was sent to Canada (from Britain) to flying school. He didn't get selected as a pilot and ended up as a navigator on Lancaster bombers. It was probably a more suitable choice for a geek (he was a research scientist). No GPS in those days so navigating involved taking star shots with a sextant and lots of hand calculating (not even any electronic calculators!)

I think he would have approved of me finally learning to fly. (Although as a father he wouldn't have been impressed with yet another dangerous sport!)

Our first day of flying lessons was cut short by a thunderstorm, something that almost never happens here (two years since the last one). So we didn't get much beyond learning to put on the harness and to get the paraglider off the ground - flying it from the ground a bit like a giant kite (called "kiting") Even that little bit was pretty cool. If the wind gusted or you adjusted the controls wrong you could easily get lifted off the ground (with the instructor there to pull you back down).

Today the weather was perfect and we had a long and, by the end, tiring day. After a little bit more kiting at the top we moved to halfway down the hill and did our first short straight flights. Then we moved back up to the top of the hill and did flights all the way down, including a few turns. After a too brief lunch break we were back at it, practicing kiting in a reverse position. This was probably the trickiest technique so far. It’s easy to get the canopy up, but it is also frustratingly easy to drop it in a mess on the ground. (Or get lifted off your feet, as I did several times.)

Thankfully we finished the reverse kiting practice for the day and ended with a few more flights from the top of the hill. Unfortunately, the wind had almost died, which meant more running to take off and trickier landings. I managed to crash in the bushes on one takeoff and Shelley wiped out on landing, but other than that it went pretty smoothly. Flying, at least the simple stuff we're doing is the easy part. As with many things, the parts you think will be hard (like getting the glider off the ground) turn out to be easy, and other things turn out to be trickier than you'd think.

In case you're thinking we're too old for this kind of nonsense, one of the other people taking lessons with us is a guy in his eighties (don't tell Shelley's dad!)

Here's a sequence of photos showing a typical flight from the top of the hill:

Shelley paragliding
getting ready

Shelley paragliding
getting the canopy in the air

Shelley paragliding
canopy up, time to run

Shelley paragliding
the fun part!

Shelley paragliding
coming in to land

Shelley paragliding

It was a long day and we were pretty tired by the end of it. Despite a few minor struggles, it was fantastic and we had a lot of fun. A big thanks to Chris Grantham at Fly Above All (and Bill Heaner who was helping instruct).

The Road Less Traveled

Next we were headed to Santa Barbara (just north of Los Angeles) for different adventures.

After our climb on Thurs. we were feeling a little worn out so Friday we sport climbed at Civilization crag at the first pullout. Not being too ambitious we led a few easier routes and top roped a couple of harder ones. We also checked out some new easy routes on the backside.

After climbing we drove as far as Pahrump and spent the night in a cottage in the RV park associated with the winery (only in America!) and had a nice supper at the winery restaurant.

Saturday we headed west. The obvious route from Vegas to LA is on the interstate, but that isn't our way. We first headed through Death Valley National Park. We had planned to take a smaller road through part of the park but missed the turnoff, which turned out to be a good thing because when we passed the other end of the road it was closed due to washouts.


We passed an area of large Joshua Trees and stopped to take photos of the flowers. I wonder why the Joshua Trees are much larger in some places than others - presumably some combination of moisture, weather, and soil. The flower clusters are large, these were about the size of a loaf of bread. And the petals (?) are thick and almost rubbery.

Joshua Tree flowers

Around Bakersfield we passed through various orchards. In one spot the trees were thick with flowers and the petals were covering the ground. The sun was shining but the clouds were dark, making for dramatic lighting.


There had been winter storm warnings for parts of California and several of the roads we took through the mountains weren't recommended in bad weather. Luckily we just got some light rain. The sun shining through the dark storm clouds made for dramatic lighting and we stopped several times to take photographs. The GPS estimate of our arrival time kept getting later with every stop.




It was getting dark by the time we got to Ojai (pronounced oh-high) which was too bad because the steep winding road dropping out of the mountains would be impressive in daylight.

We played our usual game of picking somewhere to stay based solely on location and names in the GPS and ended up at Chantico Inn.

Sunday we had a short drive to Santa Barbara so we went for a walk on the trail connecting Ojai to Ventura. The rain we had encountered in the mountains had made it here overnight and the morning was fresh and clean, the air cool but the sun warm.

We made a stop in Ventura to visit the Great Pacific Iron Works, the original Patagonia retail store and the location where Chouinard started what became Black Diamond and Patagonia.

We had lunch at the restaurant on the pier in Ventura, watching the waves roll onto the beach and the seagulls soar on their endless scavenging rounds.

Our first stop in Santa Barbara was at the zoo, mostly to renew our membership. We wandered a little bit and caught a keeper talk about their two aging Asian elephants. We even got to see the elephants get their daily pedicure :-)

We found our Airbnb apartment without too much trouble. Nothing fancy but a lot more reasonably priced than most other options around here. The California coast isn't a cheap place.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we start learning to fly :-)

See also Shelley's blog post about the drive

See all 28 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Group Therapy

Red Rocks

We decided to do a multi-pitch trad climb called Group Therapy. It was beside a popular route we'd done a couple of times before (and really enjoyed) - Tunnel Vision.

Although it was the same grade as Tunnel Vision, Group Therapy sounded a little more challenging. It had an off-width crack - too small to get inside, but too large to jam a hand or foot. Think knees and elbows and shoulders and jamming feet lengthwise. It also had a big overhang to surmount. And the protection sounded a little sparse. We bought a #4 cam but some people were recommending #5 or larger. But the climbing was rated well within what we should be able to handle so we decided to do it.

the rack

We found the start of the route without any trouble. (That can be the first challenge!) Shelley led the first pitch. The description sounded simple - up and left to the base of the off-width. But how far left, and where the heck was the base of the off-width? After some up and down she picked a place to stop and brought me up but it was unsettling not knowing if we were in the right place.

Meanwhile, belaying at the bottom, I was freezing. It had been warm hiking up, but now we were in the shade and it was only about 10c. To make it worse I could see the sun on the bushes about 10 feet away. We froze all the way up, with every belay either out in the breeze or in the back of a cold damp corner. It's hard to do jumping jacks when you're on a little ledge hanging on your harness. Shivering and isometrics are pretty much it.

I headed up the next pitch and it turned out that we were in the right place since I was soon into the off-width. It turned out to be relatively easy - there were enough holds in and beside the crack and it wasn't too steep. There wasn't a lot of protection but it didn't feel too bad.

But the next pitch we were back to not knowing where we were supposed to be. The climbing wasn't too hard but it was frustrating (and worrying) being uncertain. I'm pretty sure we were off route at least some of the time. We found some stuck gear that others had left behind, so we weren't the first to come this way, but it wasn't much reassurance - they were probably off route too!

A pitch that was supposed to be an easy scramble was harder and very run out. The last 35 feet I didn't get any protection. I kept looking down and imagining what a 70 foot fall would be like on this broken terrain. Not pretty. I wasn't a happy camper. The climbing wasn't hard, but that doesn't stop soft sandstone holds from breaking off. I belayed where someone had rappeled off a single nut. That was a little unnerving - did they rappel off because they were off route? I was pretty sure I should have been in the crack / chimney to the left but I hadn't been able to find a way to get over there.

We considered rapping down to where we thought we should be but it would have been a hassle and it looked like the ramp above would get us to the base of the overhang and back on route. And it looked like there would be some protection, at least at first.

Shelley headed up. Unfortunately, there wasn't much protection higher up. Almost at the base of the overhang she went to traverse on a large surf board sized flake. Except once she was hanging on the flake it started to move. There were no screams but I could tell from the panic tinged curses that she was in a bad situation. I was thinking "what can I do?" But there was nothing. My belay was as secure as I could make it. I held tight on the rope, again imagining the consequences of a long lead fall, only this time Shelley and not me. Thinking about the aftermath, I think I'd almost rather be the one to fall than the one to pick up the pieces.

Thankfully (understatement) Shelley managed to get off the flake without dislodging it. I could tell she was freaked out but she kept her s**t together and made the tricky moves above and around the flake and into the chimney at the base of the overhang. She was ready to keep climbing but I knew she had to be shaken and I offered to take over the lead.

She set up a belay and brought me up. I carefully avoided the flake. The moves around it weren't easy and I was impressed that Shelley had kept her cool on it. Not easy when the adrenaline is pumping.

The flake was an accident waiting to happen and I would have liked to kick it off but we had no idea if anyone was below us.

After my run out pitch and Shelley's close call I was a little psyched out myself. The overhang above us looked intimidating. I took a couple of minutes to catch my breath and get my head together.

The chimney up through the overhang wasn't too bad. I indulged my bad habit of jamming myself too far in so I feel more secure and don't feel so exposed. Of course, once you're wedged in securely it gets hard to move, making it more of a struggle than it really needs to be. On the positive side, thrashing up the chimney was the only time on the whole climb when I was warm! Again the protection wasn't great but a little creativity found me a few placements. I could have used the big cam but Shelley had it in the belay so I used the biggest hex, old school :-)

determined to lead the last pitch

In the spirit of getting back on the horse, Shelley led the last (easy) pitch. It felt good to be finished the climb. But, as any climber will tell you, getting to the top is only half the battle. We still had to get down. And having flailed on the route and wasted a lot of time, it was now 3:30 and the gate closed at 5:00. So we had no time to relax or eat lunch.

The descent was mostly straightforward since it was a walk off and we'd done it before. But first we had to find a way to get to the descent gully. I traversed right but was blocked by cliffs. I came back and tried to go left. That didn't work either. We descended and crawled through a tunnel under some huge blocks to get into a gulley that led downward. Unfortunately it ended in a cliff as well. Back up the gully and over into another only to reach another drop off. Except this one had rap slings and at the bottom we could see the path in the descent gully. Thankfully the remainder of the descent went smoothly and we made it out before they locked the gate.

Don't get the wrong idea, this wasn't some epic dramatic adventure. Just a moderate climb that we fumbled on a bit and had a close call on. I doubt we'll do this particular route again, but we'll no doubt do other multi-pitch trad routes, hopefully in a smoother more enjoyable style!

NOTE: If you're looking for a more gentle introduction to multi-pitch trad at Red Rocks you might want to try Johnny Vegas - shorter, easier route finding, well protected, bolted belays, and a straightforward bolted rap route down.

See also Shelley's post about this climb