Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Estes Park with Friends

This weekend Shelby and I made a trip to the Allenspark/Estes Park area for some time camping, hiking, and climbing with our friends Zach and Hilary. We ended up retreating to out tents from the rain a couple times, the hiking wasn't what we were expecting, and the climbing a bit humbling but all in all it was a wonderful time spent with good friends outside.

We've become used to going to less popular camping areas so we showed up around 9:00 to find that all the campgrounds were full. Thankfully a drunk old man named Chip offered us a spot next to his trailer for us to set up out tents. After an hour of shooting the breeze with Chip we hit the hay.

After a lazy start to the morning, we found a new campsite and headed over to the Brainard Lakes area for a hike. Again forgetting about the business of this part of the state, we showed up and they didn't let us passed the toll booth since there were no parking spots ahead. Instead of waiting around, we opted for a walk up the rough dirt road to Left Hand Reservoir. 

The walk up the road was pleasant and easy. At the top we were rewarded with good views and did a little exploring around the lake. We saw moose poop but sadly saw no moose. We need to get up to Alaska sometime soon!

Back at our campground, we were soon tent bound because of a storm passing through. A few card games, a short snooze, and a beer later we emerged from our shelters an went on a stroll around Lily Lake next to where we'd be climbing the next day.

After a delicious dinner of steak fajitas, we were tent bound once more and had a vicious game of Indian rat slap or whatever that game is called. This time a stream flowed beneath our tent and we were very thankful for the good waterproofing. Eventually we were able to leave the tent and spend the rest of the evening around the campfire.

The next day we headed back to the Lily Lake area for some climbing at a crag called Jurassic Park. The pictures I had seen made this crag look absolutely gorgeous and it definitely was.

We started out on Coloradoddity (5.6) which was a fun long slab with a gorgeous backdrop of Longs, Meeker, and Lily Lake. Next up was a 5.8 that was really pretty weird but somewhat fun. The crux is an odd traverse the right that forces you to skip easy rock that would follow the natural line up the rock. Kind of a weird route, but Shelby crushed it!

Our next climb would be the route that ends up on the cover photo for every guidebook in the area: Edge of Time (5.9).

(The photo we saw before coming)

We waited patiently for about 45 minutes to get on this climb. It gets 3.5 out of 4 stars and after climbing it, I think that rating is more for the beautiful formation than for the excellent climbing. Getting to the first bolt is challenging but doable. The crux is between the first and second bolts so a ground fall is entirely possible. I stood there balancing on a large edge with okay hands for a while worried about the next moves. The hands were bad, the feet were bad, and a fall would be scary here. I eventually made the first crux move and found a good finger lock which Shelby later called a jug. It wasn't enough of a jug for me when my foot slipped. I clung to the finger crack for just a second with my weight flying outward. My wonderful girlfriend made the smart, quick decision to take in the rope by moving several steps back which could have saved me from hitting the ground when my hands came off and I took a long fall onto the first bolt. I dangled there for a second scared from my fall and sore from banging my ankle and scraping my wrists and then was lowered to the ground. Spooked from my fall, I was reluctant to try again, but I felt okay so I didn't have a good excuse not to try again. This time I got the crux moves, locked my fingers in the crack and pulled up onto lower angle rock where I thankfully found my second bolt. The rest of the route was runout which normally would have been thrilling, but I was still nervous from my fall so it ended up being a bit scary for me.

We finished off our climbing day with another fun climb: Middle Toe (5.9). This was a great climb. It was long and sustained. Still being nervous, I got a bit scared at a couple points but it was certainly an enjoyable climb with a great view at the top.

I left the crag somewhat humbled for getting so scared on a couple 5.9s. I love the challenges that climbing presents, but they inevitably bring out my own insecurities and remind me that I am a very finite being.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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