Thursday, 30 July 1998. Boulder, Colorado.
Eldorado Canyon had ideal approaches -- 30 seconds to 10 minutes (ok, there are longer approaches, but we didn't do any of those climbs). Rock Mountain National Park changes things. Even at the local "cragging" area, Lumpy Ridge, there is a pretty good approach. And it has plenty of up hill. The entrance to RMNP is at 8,200', so flat landers like us suck wind pretty easily.
The climb we had picked was a three-star 5.7, Osiris. Of course there was someone on it, but they were at the first belay, so we figured the wait wouldn't be too bad. But they were pretty pokey. Finally they were far enough along, so I cruised the first pitch. When I arrived at the end of the first pitch, they party above us said they were going to rapel down. The first person down, looked very familiar. When she called, "off rapel, Mark" I placed her. It was Cindi (now Thompson) climbing with Mark Thompson and his brother Ed (who lives in Denver). I know Mark from climbing at the Boston Rock Gym and helping with the AMC. Small world. They were finishing up their week in Colorado. We compared climbing notes, and they gave us beta on a route we wanted to do.
Sunrises are pretty special, even if you see them two mornings in a row. The mega classic climb to do in RMNP is the South Face of Petit Grepon. Of course it is in 50 classic climbs of North America, but as soon as I saw a picture of the small, airy summit I wanted to climb it. RMNP is known for its afternoon thunderstorms. Depending on whom you ask, they start between noon and three. This means an early start to avoid getting stormed off the top.
We hit the sack at 8:30 PM, and it promptly started raining. And it kept raining for a while, at times heavily. But when we awoke at 2:30 AM, the rain had stopped and things were reasonably dry. So we hit the trail at 3:30 AM. Hiking with a headlamp forces you into a weird tunnel vision. We passed a lot of interesting things in the dark that we didn't get to see until our way down. We reached the end of the canyon at a little after 6 AM. The canyon had a series of small beautiful lakes. The setting was so incredibly prestine. The wildflowers were incredible, the best we'd seen thus far. And we had the entire place to ourselves until the hikers started arriving about 10 AM.
A quick scramble up the talus field and we were at the start of the climb. Things didn't look so good, there was water running down the face. I started up the first pitch in the sun, picking my way around the wet spots. As soon as I started climbing, low hanging clouds started moving in. Not a big deal, except we were counting on the sun to try out the rock. Dennis came up and we hung out hoping the clouds were just a momentary thing -- they weren't. So we bailed out. I was pretty bummed hiking out, but the more I thought about it, the better I liked the place. Now just to return and finish the climb. On the way out we ran into another set of climbers who had bailed out on their route for the same reason.
We returned to camp and crashed. I ate before my nap, Dennis took sleep over food. But we recovered and decided that we liked getting up way early in the morning. So we awoke at a lesiurely 4 AM, to hike Long's Peak. Long's Peak is the highest peak in RMNP at 14,255'. We hit the trail at 5 AM, and were not the first, nor the last to start out that morning (75 parties registered at the trail head for various destinations -- most for the summit). We thought we were keeping a pretty reasonable pace, but reached the summit in 4 hours 15 minutes. Must be an easy summit right? Nope -- 7.5 miles one way and 4,900 feet of elevation gain. I guess we had started to aclimitize. We hung out on the summit for an hour before heading down. We raced past non-climbers having trouble on the steep descent. As we were headed down, the summit became socked in about noon. We were glad we were well on the descent. Maybe getting up early has its reasons. We stopped a few more times heading down than up (ok, we're weird) and were back at the truck by 2 when it started to rain (common theme here). We had been staying in a commercial campground (because of lack of campsites in the park), but had to move to our reserved campsite in the park. Dennis asked the manager if we could check out late since we were getting up early to hike Long's Peak. The manager said we could check out late if we summited, otherwise we would have to pay for the extra day. When we return the manager was using a tractor to fix one of the roads in the campsite. Dennis approached him and he said, can't stop now, I'm plowing the road. When Dennis said we had summited, he said I'll stop for that. And congradulated us. Pretty amusing.
The next morning was a well deserved rest. After a lesurely breakfast of french toast we headed over to Lumpy Ridge to attempt the highly recommended J Crack (5.9). But while on the approach it started to sprinkle, so we bailed out and went hiking. It is interesting, that since I've started climbing, I hike a lot more in the rain. We took a nice hike up to Fern Lake and we were just about at the lake when the skies openned up. We stood in the lee of the locked ranger's cabin to avoid the worst of the rain before heading down.
Having returned to Boston's rainy season patterns, it rained off and on most of the night. So we bailed on a second attempt of J Crack or Petit Grepon and headed back down to Boulder. The clounds were waiting for us, but we decided to go climbing anyway.
We'd heard about a cool climbing area called Cobb Rock. The reason for climbing at Cobb Rock is not so much the quality of the climbing, but the adventurous approach. The parking is on one side of the raging river and the climbing on the other. At some point someone had rigged a rope across the river to create what is called at Tyrolean Traverse. Dennis clipped into the rope and weighted it. His butt nearly sank into the stream. So we used our climbing skills to retension the rope using prusiks and a Z pulley. With less slack our packs dangled close, but not in the river for the 30' crossing. Safely on the other side of the river, Dennis lead up the first pitch of Cobb Rock, attempting to avoid the moist spots. Near the end of his pitch it started to sprinkle, then thunder rumbled in the distance. I raced up the climb, and we (wisely) elected to bail out. Back across the river (whee!) and to the dryness of the truck. Driving back into town, it started to pour. Whew! We spent the afternoon comparing the two mega gear stores, Boulder Mountaineer and Neptune Mountaineering. Both are impressive stores, but don't go to Boulder to go shopping. The sales tax is 7.41%
Tomorrow Dennis leaves for the "real world" back in Boston. I'm attempting to reach a climbing partner here in Denver, but otherwise I'll head for the City of Rocks in Idaho to meet up with Al Stebbins.