April, '01

 

My First Roped Solo Climb Ė Pear Buttress 5.8+, Lumpy Ridge

 

 

††††††††††† Well, it looks like I may be losing my job soon. Software industry cutbacks blah blah blah. Bummer. As the reality of my new finical situation hit me, I realized that I have a Silent Partner that I could sell if things get tough. It has never been used. Then I realized what I was saying. Sell gear? Not until Iím hungry. I have a TV, VCR, microwave, and stereoÖ. Iíll be fine. In fact, since I am going to lose my vacation time if the company folds, why not take tomorrow off.

 

††††††††††† 5am. The alarm is ringing. A quick glance out the window reveals clouds. It's not inviting. For a moment, I debate going to work today instead of climbing. A moment later I am laughing at the thought and remembering an old rec.climbing trip report that said if you donít climb when it threatens to rain at Lumpy, you wonít climb at Lumpy.

 

6am finds me in my truck driving up to Estes from Fort Collins. I spent last night reading the manual of my SP and visualizing the procedures required for climbing alone. In the end, I got sick or reading manuals and read Mike Libeckiís account of his solo climb in Baffin in the AAJ for inspiration. At least Lumpy isn't known for its polar bear issues.

 

Iíd had to use my Dana Glacier backpack to haul all my gear to the base of the route. Already I am realizing how much more work it is to climb alone. Having to carry all that gear is an eye opener. I have a new respect for those who climb big walls alone.

 

On another level, I am wondering if I am going to like this type of climbing. Recently, my regular partner hurt herself while sledding. She canít climb for another month. In the past few weeks, I have climbed with other people and, though I had a great time on each outing, I found that it just wasnít the same. Normally, I have to drive up to the Park by myself, but I get to meet Lisa at the trailhead and have someone with whom to talk and share the happenings of the day.

 

Today is different. I am the only car in the parking lot. In silence, I make last minute adjustments to my pack on the tailgate of the truck. I look up at the Twin Owls. They look a little more serious than usual. A large bird, a raven I think, glides over the left owl and I grin inwardly. I begin the hike.

 

Along the way, I round a bend to see a group of 6 Mule Deer standing on the trail, a fawn among them. I smile and think that this is one of the benefits of being up earlyÖ of getting in my truck and driving an hour, alone, for a day that will be spent aloneÖ of wanting it. I feel like Mark Twight.

 

††††††††††† I detour around the deer and eventually arrive at the base of my route. I am out of breath and sweaty. I had stopped to catch my breath 4 times coming up the trail. I no longer feel like Mark Twight. I donít care though. I'm not here for anyone but myself today.

 

I quickly decide to climb the left side of the flake on the first pitch and avoid the 5.7 R direct start. I donít need to crawl out of here after breaking my ankle. I think of Joe Simpson.

After getting everything organized to start the fist pitch, I get out the SP manual to verify that I've threaded the clove hitch correctly. Satisfied that everything looks good, I start up.

 

I immediately fall back into the rhythm of free climbing. I check the amount of slack that's built up under the SP and all looks good. At the top of the flake is an 8+ move up a set of finger cracks. I donít even think about it. I put a nice offset nut in and pull on the sling. I am at the belay in no time. I build a nice little 5-point anchor that belies my nervousness and tie off myself and then both ropes. After a little thought, I decide that it would be easier to clean on rappel so thatís what I do.

 

On the ground again, I attach my jugs to the rope and prepare to jug for my second time ever. It's quite difficult at first because the rope is not heavy enough to let the jug slide up. I manage... sort of... and eventually, I get the hang of it. Just as I do, I look down to see my backpack still sitting on the ground. At least there's no one around to see my gumbie mistake. Rap. Get pack. Jug.

 

Back at the top of pitch one, I have the wonderful revelation that I donít need to flake the second rope, I just clip it to the back of my harness again and start leading.

Pitch two goes a little faster and soon I am ready to lead pitch three. This is the pitch that has inspired me to climb this route. A beautiful hand crack soars 100 feet above. I had planned to fully aid this crack since I was learning so many new things today but when I look up, I can't help buy sink my hands into the bomber jams. All is well in the Universe.

 

I'm standing 20 feet above the third belay ledge and I canít seem to go any higher. I shoot in a .75 and hang on the piece to figure out what the hell is happening. I have to laugh at myself a little as I realize that I've forgotten to unclip one of my backup loops. Problems solved, I yard on gear at will, cruising to the top of the hand crack. A traverse under a small roof  leads me to another beautiful 5-point anchor.

 

Back at the bottom of pitch three, I debate getting out some food and having lunch. The clouds coming over the Divide look ominous. Lunch is overrated anyway. Jug.

 

Pitch 4 goes smoothly and soon I am below the last pitch. My dreaded Cave exit pitch. The whole thing canít be more than 30 feet.  but I've managed to fall out of it two out of the three times I've climbed it; both times on lead. A quick dialogue with my ego ensues. Aid the crack in the roof.

 

No need to account for my gumbie fumblings while aiding the cave roof. Suffice to say, it's going to take me a while to become an efficient aid climber.

 

††††††††††† Abruptly, I top out. The western sky is a blue canvas. I sit, looking towards the mountains and down to the approach trail. 1000 feet below, three hikers head toward the trailhead. They're the first people I've seen all day. I'm grinning again.

 

            Back to work. Can't relax yet. I have to rap and jug my new lead rope because I forgot to attach the tag line to my harness. Ahh solitude. No rockstar here to laugh at me and tell me it's a good thing I'm not on the Diamond. 

 

            At the base of the route I eat my lunch and stare at the high peaks. Adventures abound. I feel great. This is why I'm here alone. Learning about myself and my love for climbing. I totally relax... sated.