Monday, February 27, 2006

Fun In The Sun

You might think that you might need to hang up your climbing shoes as late October/ early November rolls around—not the case. Rock climbing in the San Juan’s is winding down about this time of year, but it is only just beginning in the desert to the west. The climbing is world class and has everything from four-pitch splitter Wingate climbs to single pitch sport routes, bouldering and everything in between. There are now something close to 600 routes west of Telluride. Red Rocks (not the one outside Las Vegas) is my favorite sport area (right now). Areas such as Carpenter Ridge are sporting 350+ foot crack routes—all trad (see photo of me on Cowboy Up—photo by Charlie Fowler). This was the first route to go up on this wall. The first pitch (the one in the photo) is 5.10+ and demands your attention for 140 feet. The second pitch (a mostly .5 Camalot-wide finger for me) is 5.12- (120 feet high) and the last pitch, a killer splitter that heads through a overhang (5.11+, 90 feet). This is truly an amazing climb. Also available in this region are many bouldering areas (see photo of Charlie Fowler making the jump between boulders). Late Oct, Nov., Dec, Jan, Feb, March through early April (and select days in the summer), these areas are prime for climbing on rock. Just make sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen. It is possible to find routes of all grades at most areas though some areas lend them selves to providing more of one general grade (easy, moderate and/or hard) than others.

Mild Peril

A part of any good day in the desert are those moments just before sunset. It’s the end of the day, you have climbed hard and with any luck you will be back down at the car before dark. A beer from Mark Dean’s blue cooler awaits—nothing else could taste that good. Hanging out at the campfire in the evening, eating and talking about the details of the day’s efforts. If you were to attempt to explain your day to anyone else they would just look at you with a blank face—acknowledge what you said they might, but they can’t truly understand. But the people sitting with at the fire get it. They pick out every detail of what you are describing:

“From the belay at the top of the first pitch, head up twin cracks, the one on the left is protected with .2 and .1 Camalots (very thin), the right crack flairs but becomes better about 15 feet above and goes from .4 to 3 Camalots to the base of the overhang about 70 feet up. Cruiser. Climbing through the overhang is surly the crux, going from wide hands to OW (#3 to #4 Camalots), just as you pull the lip you are rewarded with a decent wide hand jam. Here is the where it becomes interesting. You can place a #6 Camalot in the pod above or skip it in favor of not having to climb by it on your way to the off-set crack at the top of the pod—it is an ok hand jam, but a fall would put you out in space (a solid ten feet away from the wall below), this is both good and bad, good because you know that the fall is safe, but bad because who wants to take a big fall only to have to collect yourself and head up for another stab. Not having the #6 would also get rid of some weight…to hell with it—you go for it. Once you are standing in the pod you have some time to relax. Another 20 feet and you are at the anchor (a tolerable location for a belay). There is a third pitch above that has a few large rocks to toss off…not enough large cams, it will have to wait until another day”.

The above is a description of the second pitch on a route done just the other day (Feb. 25, 2006) at Carpenter Ridge—lets hear it for Wingate—Mild Peril, 5.11+ (2 pitches at the moment with at least one more to go). Pitch 1; 5.11, 120’. Gear: .2, .3, .4 x 7, .5 x 2, 1, 4, 6-all Camalots (it is possible to get some other wide hands here and there if needed). This pitch climbs an OW for 20 feet or so, then opens into a pod, which offers some wide hands and stemming for about 10 feet and then enters a finger in a corner for 70 feet (.4 Camalots all the way to the anchor). A 70m rope is needed. FA: DJ, CF, BC 12/05. Pitch 2; 5.11+, 100’, (description above) FA: DJ, BC 2/06.

For more info on - Carpenter Ridge Climbs

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Big Gypsum Valley Up Date

Mary Jane Draw is located at the west end of Big Gypsum Valley in Southwest Colorado. Over the past few years this area has seen some climbing activity. The canyons walls are made up of four main layers of sandstone (Wingate forming the bottom layer, a shwag layer of Kayenta, Dakota forming next layer and Navajo forming the upper layer). In addition, the canyon can be broken up into east and west sides—each have their own approaches. All of the rock climbing to date has been on the top and bottom layers of rock. Climbing exploration began here many years ago. The lower band of Wingate (east side) has seen three new routes since the Wild Wild West Guidebook was published (see photo). This area has many new climbs to offer.

About Damon Johnston

For many years now I have been exploring southwest Colorado with good friends (Charlie Fowler, Daiva Chesonis, Mark Dean, Joel Coniglio, Chris Boskoff, Rick Mendel and others). Together we have established hundreds of new rock climbs both in the mountains surrounding Telluride and in the desert areas around Paradox Valley and Big Gypsum Valley. Recently, my climbing and business partner Charlie Fowler and I started a media company (Mountain World Media LLC) through which we have published two guide books to rock climbing in the above areas. The Wild Wild West, published in late 2004, is a comprehensive guide book to over 500 desert rock climbs found in southwest Colorado (from Norwood west to the foot hills of the La Sal Mountains) . In late 2005, we published the third edition of Telluride Rocks—this expanded edition contains about 500 rock climbs, a brief coverage of bouldering areas and climbing information on 15 of Telluride’s most popular Mountains (Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak, Lizard Head and many others). This blog is to be a dialog of adventures and exploration with friends. It is my intent to cover information on new climbing areas (the rock climbs therein), thoughts on issues ranging from photography to rock art and travels around the world.