Fall, '99

This is one of the oldest pages on piquaclimber.com. In an effort to keep some perspective, I have left anything from before 2000 in it's original format.



Pear Buttress 5.8+, Lumpy Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park



    This is another climb that I did with Lisa a couple months ago. The climb is

called Pear Buttress and is located on a formation called The Book which is

on Lumpy Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a stellar day and a

breakthrough day for me in terms of leading.


      It is a curious thing the way climbers push themselves when it comes

to leading. There are two major components that play a role. Physical

ability and Mental Strength. Physical ability determines whether or not you

are capable of doing the moves required to get up the wall. (i.e. can you

hang from three fingers off a 1 inch ledge or can you jam your hand in a

vertical crack and twist it enough to provide sufficient friction so that

your hand won't pull out)  Mental strength is the ability to remain calm and

focused even though you know you are in a potentially dangerous situation

and you feel like you could fall at any moment.


     Most climbers have a stronger physical ability than mental strength. (The 

ones that don't aren't around long.)  That basically means that they don't 

want to lead climb at the limit of their physical abilities. (NOTE: see the bottom

of this text for a description of "lead" climbing.) Having said all that, 

when I climbed Pear Buttress, I had never led a climb that was rated over 5.7 so

I was am little nervous. I had followed 5.10 routes though so I knew that my physical

ability was up to the challenge. To compound the matter further, I had just

become comfortable leading well protected 5.7 routes and this route had a

5.7 start that goes up 25 feet from the ground without the possibility of

placing protection. Translation: DON'T fall before you get some pro(tection)

in. It is amazing how much easier it is to lead a section of 5.7 when you

know you won't hit the ground than it is when you know you only get one

chance to pull it off. This day, I planned to push myself mentally and see

how I reacted to being on terrain that was perfectly within my abilities,

but offered no pro. It does not help that the start of this route has a long

history of broken ankles. None the less, Lisa and I met at the Twin Owls

trailhead at 8am, sorted gear, and headed down the trail toward The Book.


      When we got there, a couple of Lisa's friends were already at the

base of the route that we planned to do. They graciously offered to let us

go first but we declined, thinking that they would climb faster that us and

not wanting to feel rushed. This is where my mental strength almost failed

me before we even started. As I said before, the start is unprotected for 25

feet. Les, (Lisa's friend) offered to place the first piece of gear for us

and clip my rope through that piece of gear which would have made the climb

much safer but would not offer me the chance to push my mental limits. I had

a real internal struggle going on as he started up... (should I let him clip

that piece of pro for me? I will feel so good if I do it all myself, I can

do it, I won't feel too good if I have to call someone up here to haul my

ass back to the trailhead with a broken ankle., I want it, is it worth the

risk...) He got to where he needed to be to place the pro for me and I said,

"we're good... see ya on top." He left and I went back to looking at the

start and trying to work out all the sequences in my head. 


      Finally they were off the first pitch and I was free to start up. I

tied in and began climbing. The climbing seemed a little stiff for 5.7 but

that was probably due to the lack of protection. After a few minutes I had

worked myself up about 18 feet and was standing on the last good hold. There

was another fairly good hold in my right hand but my arm was fully extended

to reach it and I had to get my feet on that upper hold before I could place

any pro.  From here it required a little delicate footwork and balance to

move up the rock and get my feet into position. After what seemed like 10

hours, I committed to the moves and was soon standing on the little hold and

placing pro. ( I was feeling GOOD! :) The rest of the pitch climbs the right

side of a huge flake. Once on top of the flake, (this flake is about 50 feet

tall, 25 feet wide and 4 feet thick) there are two finger cracks that lead

up to a nice ledge. These finger cracks are the crux of the route. They are

only about 1 inch wide. Fortunately, I could place great protection from the

top of the flake so when I committed to the moves, it was with the knowledge

that if I fell, It would not be bad at all. I fired the moves and was

quickly at the ledge. I can't express enough how helpful it is on pitches

like that to have a partner that you trust. Lisa was great, she did not rush

me, told me several times that if I did not want to do this, she was more

than happy to climb something else; and most importantly she kept saying,

"You can do it Brad. I know you can." It may sound trivial, but it really

makes a difference.



 (The flake that takes the pro is on the left)


      The next pitch was about the same for Lisa as the first one had been

for me. She knew she could climb it, but we were over 100 feet off the deck

and she is was new to leading. However the description said that it was only

5.4 so she headed off on a ramp and around a corner and out of sight. I

heard her yell a few times and then I saw her well above me at the next

belay. When I arrived, she asked me if I though the pitch was 5.4. "Nope, at

least 5.6" was my response. She had done a terrific job of dealing with

whatever was thrown at her and getting to the top. Especially since she was

around a corner and out of sight so she was basically alone when dealing

with the difficulties. 



(This pitch goes around the corner that is behind Lisa)


      Now we were standing on a nice ledge looking at a crack that shot up

the wall for 100 feet or more. I was a little intimidated but the protection

was there anywhere you wanted it so I placed a piece of pro and started up.

There were great hand jams (stick you hand in a vertical crack, turn it

sideways to "cam" it in the crack, put your toes in the crack, and move up)

It was a little tricky at first but there were good resting spots all the

way up and after some time, I was at the top of the crack where I had to

traverse under a small roof to the belay.




(The crack that my left foot is in is the 100 foot crack)


      I brought Lisa up and she headed up the next pitch which turned out

to be the easiest pitch of the climb. She cruised up to the base of the last


      The last pitch is called The Cave because you go way back in this

alcove and you have to climb out under a roof for about 6 feet, turn the

roof, and then jam a crack for another 15 feet to the top. It is rated 5.7+

but it is an awkward, strenuous, bitch to climb. I won't even try to

describe how I flailed on it. I took off my backpack and tied it to a length

of cord hanging from my harness and gave it hell. Climb out under the roof

once FALL. Get lowered. Try it again, FALL. (Remember that part about

trusting your partner to catch you :)  The third time is a charm and I

finally get my feet on a ledge that marks the end of the difficult part.

This is an excellent example of how ratings can be off. I had just climbed a

pitch of 5.8+ and another of 5.8 and then I fell off the 5.7+. Oh well,

someday I will climb that damn thing without falling. Lisa, being the badass

that she is, climbed the Cave with no falls. :)



(This is me hanging from the rope in the Cave after falling; note the pack hanging from my harness)


(This is what it looked like from above as Lisa turned the lip of the roof;

 Lisa is standing where my left hand is in the previous picture)


      We topped out and sat on top for a while. Then we headed down the

descent and finally back to Estes Park for some well earned seafood pasta

and wine at Sweet Basil. One of my most enjoyable climbing days ever.



* To "lead" means you tie into the rope, start climbing, and place

protection as you go up. Thus, if you fall, you will fall twice the distance

that you are above you last piece of protection + rope stretch + any slack

in the rope. Therefore, when leading, if I were to climb up 10 feet and

place a piece of protection and then climb 5 feet above that and fall, I

would fall approximately 13 feet. | As the name infers, to "second" means

that you climb second while being belayed by the leader who is already on

top. There is less chance of falling far because the rope is going directly

up to the leader. It is the seconds responsibility to "clean" or remove the

protection that the leader placed on the way up.