Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another normal day in Boulder

Since returning, we've continued staying busy with household chores and improvements and getting outside and assorted other things. A few days ago, I thought I'd drive over to where my colleague Finn Esbensen used to live. The mapquest map made it look easy. It couldn't take more than 20 minutes round-trip I thought. So off I went. The weather was awful! Foggy, misty, blecky. This photo was taken on Lee Hill Road immediately after turning off of 36. There are mountains behind that fog!

But I continued. Even after I got lost up there, I kept going. I finally got to his old street, Brook Circle, but the numbering of the houses were crazy! They were not in any order. I may have seen his house, but I'm not sure. I'll try yet again to go and grab some photos when the weather is nicer.

Yesterday we rode our bikes to Jamestown. The entire ride involved about 1700' to 1800' vertical gain and a 40 mile round trip. It was my biggest vertical day yet. The ride was sort of funny because just the day before I'd been lost on many of the same roads looking for Finn's house. When we got to Jamestown, we grabbed some tea at the local store and watched town-life. It was quite fun. Then we returned up one last hill and road home somehow missing all the rain. I slept like a comatose person last night after it. It might also have had something to do with the violent wipe-out I had in the driveway before we left. I have some spectacular bruising on my hip (again). Gack.

When we returned from our ride, on the front porch was one of the baby House Sparrows that had fledged that morning. The nest is on the front porch and it's been a treat watching the parents feed the young. This poor little guy didn't look good. He was weak, eyes closed, and cold.

Dave warmed the little guy in his hands and a heating pad. Then we were able to get him to drink a little warm water and swallow a tiny bit of food. His swallowing reflex wasn't working at all. Maybe that is why the parents weren't dealing with him. We made him comfortable in a warm box and decided to take him to Greenwood Animal Rehabilitation in the morning. They'd have the necessary tools to get the little bird to eat and eventually release him to the wild.

Once the baby bird was settled in, we continued with some chores. Dave needed several things hemmed, and some other repairs to clothing. I worked on these with my "helpful" assistant Pente. It was hardest trying to iron. Everytime I'd put the garment down to iron, she'd immediately roll on it. Veeeeerrrrryyyyy helpful Pente!

We were happy this morning to find the baby bird much stronger and alert. I drove him to Greenwood first thing where I know he's getting the attention he needs. Hopefully he will make it. I'll call in a day or two to check on him.

Now that the bird is in good hands, Dave is in the camper cleaning it and prepping for out next trip. I'm in the house cleaning (and blogging). We'll leave shortly to go and climb in Eldorado Canyon. It's a gorgeous day and should be lots of fun.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Life in Boulder

Since returning, we've kept active (with a couple of rest/work days). First, we've spent a good amount of time with the birds. Dave has done a lot of things to enhance their room. Ferne and Clover love their new cage so much, we can hardly get them to come out. No joke. Here is a rare photo of Clover outside of her cage. You can still see the remnants of a bruise on her beak from being frightened by the middle-of-the-night earthquakes in St. Louis.

We've also played with the non stop crazy Pente here at the house. That cat will climb into, under and onto anything. This is her impression of cat sausage. She crawled into the sleeve of Dave's biking jacket. She wiggled in so tightly we had to pull her out. Nutjob.

And we've done a lot of bike riding. The wind has been treacherous a few days making us cut the rides short. I was certain on my last descent of the NCAR hill I'd be blown to my death.

One fun evening, we headed to a newish restaurant near the house: SOBO. It was fantastic. The flavors, service, all was very good.

We've also headed up the First Flatiron twice. This beautiful rock feature is what is in the background of the photo of me posted earlier upon arriving here in Boulder. A large portion of this climb we do without rope or protection. The summit is gorgeous and it's just a lot of fun. The bulk of the photos on this page are from the climbing at the First Flatiron.

I cannot explain adequately my choice in colors for my clothing on that day. Purple and Orange? Even I know better than that. Or obviously I don't.

Other fun stuff includes some home-improvement projects. The biggest was the installation of two kitchen cabinets. The directions say one needs a screwdriver, a level and a measuring tape. And it would take mere moments to install. Ha! Anyone who knows about home-improvement projects knows it required a quarter-ton of tools, 5 hours, and resulted in a wrecked ladder and multiple curse words uttered. In hind-sight it was hilarious and I wish we had photos.

Finally, we headed out to Boulder Canyon yesterday (May 25th) to do some sport climbing. We climbed at Avalon and went until were were exhausted. Our tips were
also killing us by the end of the day. A fun part of the day is the Tyrolean traverse over Boulder Creek to get to and from the wall. Very cool! I'm looking forward to getting out there more to get my tips hardened and my full level strength back.

Today I am finally getting caught up on the blog. It's raining outside so we've been forced to stay in and get stuff done. Now, I just need to get my work done. We have a busy week ahead of us - we are blasting off to the City of Rocks in Idaho in about two weeks!

5/20/2008 - Colorado National Monument - Day 10

We arrived at the tourist-rich Colorado National Monument after playing in the Fiery Furnace the night before. We made dinner, walked out to the rim of the canyon and watched the moon, stars and traffic. Quite pretty. Today we were going to cap our our desert trip with an ascent of the famous Otto's Route. The is a 450' tall route on Independence Monument in the park. It has such an interesting history.

Dave first climbed this route 24 years ago. It'd be my first. The first ascentionist (John Otto) spent who knows how much time in the early 1900s drilling holes by hand and then pounding pipes into them. Using this fixed gear, Otto summited in 1911. He wanted to fly an enormous U.S. flag on the top so the folks of Fruita (nearby town) could see. Even with these drilled holes (many of which are now filled in and all pipes are gone) it was mind-boggling that he did this work. He was a daring man for sure.

We had a great time climbing the tower. We spent a fair amount of time on the summit admiring the view. Plus, there were beautiful desert cactus blooming which was a extra treat.

Hiking out, we engaged in what would be known as the "Great Hat Debacle". When we stopped on the approach for Dave to snap the photo of me at the base of the tower (see photo above), I put down my pack and on it, his favorite 20+ year old Boreal baseball cap. In my exhausted state, I failed to pick up the hat when we walked to the base of the climb. About five minutes later, at the base of the climb, I asked "where's my hat?" Horrified, Dave ran back to where were were and hunted furiously for it. It had disappeared. And that was odd because there was no wind and almost no people around. The hat just couldn't have disappeared like that, but it apparently did.

He was pretty unhappy about this turn of events.

On our way out, we again searched the area for the thing. We looked high (in case someone found it and hooked it in a tree) and low, but it was gone. Baffling. So we started our long hike out. I was crafting the letter in my head to Boreal:

Dear Boreal:

I need to secure a circa-1980s blue Boreal baseball cap with velcro enclosure. A hat that is seriously sun-faded and has dirt and sweat stains would be a bonus. PLEASE tell me what I can do to acquire such an item. I will pay ANYTHING.

Yours truly,


I wondered if I could find one on Craig's list. Or Ebay. Maybe I'd just contact John Bachar and beg. Gack. I couldn't believe I'd lost his prized possession.

About half way out, Dave passed another hiker. As I approached the hiker, I asked "Did you happen to see a baseball cap?" He said "yes, what did it say on it?" I responded "Boreal". He said he'd certainly seen the hat, it was (or had once been) dark blue, with a velcro closure WAY OVER THERE. He was pointing to a point that was easily over a mile past where we had stopped to climb.


Clearly in the moments between leaving it on the trail, and Dave running back to get it, someone happened by and picked it up and carried it INTO the canyon more than a mile before setting in on a rock in the trail.

Any reason for someone doing this escapes us. It was super hot, we were tired, and only about 2.5 miles stood between us and his hat (if it was really over there). I sat in the shade of a juniper tree, and Dave RAN all the way back to see if he could find it.

While he was gone, I worried it wouldn't be there. Happily, only about what seemed 30 minutes later, he returned with his hat in hand.

I'll protect that hat like it's a child from now on.

After cooling off at the truck, we packed up and drove home. It's always nice to leave for a trip, and it's always nice getting home.

5/19/2008 - Arches National Park & Colorado National Monument - Day 9

We rose early to get to the park. We wanted to hike into Landscape Arch, plus the 7+ mile hike through the desert. We hoped to do so before the temperature reached 120 degrees. ha!

We again ate in the Visitor Center parking lot then drove to the Landscape Arch parking area. It was packed. And it was Monday. Does anyone work anymore? We hiked to the arch which was spectacular. It is amazing it hasn't crumbled totally. I loved the sign that showed how a huge chunk of it fell on Sept 1 1991 (or 1990). That would have been amazing to see. Then then continued on for the "difficult and technical" hike through the desert where we saw several other arches, beautiful flowers, birds and other assorted things. There were also many bright red super-sun-burned tourists staggering around looking like they were going to expire at any moment. Yikes! It was blazing hot for sure.

Returning to the parking lot, I made a bee-line to the water faucet and doused my head. It was truly baking out. In fact, it was so hot, our feet and hands were swollen. What's up with that?

We went back to the camper, had some lunch and cooled off. It is amazing that thing is so well-insulated. What a great refuge to have with us.

After a while, we drove to the fiery furnace (gluttons for punishment) to do a hike through this wacky maze of desert sandstone towers. In the fiery furnace, there was a lot scrambling, finding dead-ends, climbing and poison ivy. And contrary to the name of the place, it was actually pleasant temperature-wise.

After a while, we found our way out of the furnace and drove to the Colorado National Monument. We would spent our last day of vacation here climbing the infamous Otto's Route.

Friday, May 23, 2008

5/18/2008 - Arches National Park - Day 8

We got up to a beautiful view of the Bridger Jacks towers. We weren't here long though since we pulled up camp and drove to Arches National Park. We needed to get some hiking permits and wanted to hike into some of the famous arches here.

We arrived at the Arches parking lot and gathered our "fiery furnace" hiking permits. Then settled for a quick breakfast in the truck. We then drove to the Delicate Arch parking lot and hiked it. It was hot - about 101 degrees! Still it was beautiful and after the freezing on Castleton, I was still soaking in the warmth.

The hike to Delicate Arch was nice and the views there quite beautiful. There were many cool features just begging us to crawl into, on and over.

There is not much to say about the Delicate Arch except that it is quite beautiful. And its location is stunning. We sat under it while we ate a snack and took it all in. Enjoying the view was a great way to spend much of the afternoon.

After a while, we hiked back out because we wanted to climb the mighty Owl Rock - the most often climbed tower in Arches.

We summited this fun little tower to the delight of passing tourists. While I was on top of Owl Rock, a man in a car was jumping up and down trying to get me to wave so he could take a photo. Meanwhile, I could also hear someone else exclaiming "It's a GIRL up there!!!"

Given the texture of the rock, I think we may have made the millionth or so ascent of this tower. It was slick and slimy. Still it was a good time. You can see Dave climbing mighty Owl Rock and me up on top of the thing.

After coming down, we drove out to find a secluded camping spot. We eventually found one and had dinner on slick rock under the bright moon. Another great time.

5/17/2008 - Indian Creek - Bridger Jack Towers - Day 7

We got up at a leisurely pace this morning. We enjoyed an excellent egg, turkey sausage and bagel breakfast. After the hard work yesterday, the food was the BEST EVER! We pulled up camped and drove to the campgrounds at the base of the Bridger Jack Towers. Though it was pretty full, we ended up with a very nice and relatively secluded and level spot. We goofed off a bit waiting for the sun to move to a better location.

Finally we hiked up the most civilized trail I've been on. On this trail was a lizard sitting on a cairn. This was the least skittish lizard I'd ever seen. He posed patiently while Dave took numerous photos of him. In a way, he seemed a bit plain (good for a lizard), but on his belly, he had to electric-blue stripes. Very pretty little guy.

Our first tower was Easter Island. This two pitch had everything on it that I sucked at. I thrutched and flopped and seized my way up until the summit was mine. Blrack! I thought for sure vomiting was in my very near future yet again. Happily it wasn't.

Why are all cracks wide? And flaring? Why do I suck so much? 11 years of climbing and it's like I've no skills.

After that pummeling I felt I needed more self-abuse, so we got ready to go up Sunflower Tower. As we prepared we watched a helicopter land at the Cat Wall. That is always a bad sign as a climber. That means someone is very, very injured (or worse). We learned later that a man from Utah decked from 60'. Tragic.

Not surprisingly, I worked hard on SunFlower Tower too. Nonetheless, I thought it was better than the last climb. Pitch Two was really gorgeous. It was hard, but all failings were due to my own weakness/lameness. This pitch did not require any thrashing though I thrashed on it quite spectacularly.

Thrash or not, we summited. Both summits were pretty with the six-shooters in clear view. Plus, the White-Throated Swifts were really zooming us which was fun.

We rapped down on the worst friggin' anchor I have ever seen in my life. I figured if the anchors blew, I'd be killed pretty quickly and it wouldn't hurt too much. Gack. Dave assured me they were perfectly good desert anchors.

We hiked back to the truck and enjoyed another nice evening. I was slowly realizing that this desert tower climbing must not get any easier. I've used a lot of words to convey my Desert Tower climbing experience so far. However, a picture is worth a thousand words so I drew a sketch when we returned to the camper. This really captures it I think.

5/16/2008 - Indian Creek - Day 6

We got up and had a quick breakfast so we could climb the entire day. We hiked up to the prow portion of the Technicolor wall. Dave checked it out the day before and found there to be far more climbs there than the guidebook noted. This was the first day that there was not a lot of wind and the weather appeared to have stabilized. Further, we found an actual trail up to the prow which saved us time and energy getting to the climbs. Without the trail, going up was more like 'two steps up, slide back down one step, repeat'. Exhausting.

The first route we found was Carruthers. Dave, as usual, waltzed up the thing. I followed in far less elegant fashion. I made it however. This sort of grunting, groveling, moaning my way to the top but finally making, continued to be the theme of my Indian Creek climbing. I don't think I've ever worked so hard on any climbs as I did in Indian Creek. I felt like vomiting on each one from exertion and am really surprised I didn't. Like Dave says, "It's like fun, but different."

Our next climb was called Up 2 top (or something like that). It was yet another wide crack with flaring pods. Are they all that way???

After three or four climbs for me, I was a puddle of goo. I worked so hard on these climbs that when I got to the ground I whimpered a bit. Well, okay, I cried. I was so worked! (But it was fun too which I still don't understand).

Dave then did a beautiful 5.12 finger crack. I wish I wasn't so worked - it would have been fun to be destroyed on this climb.

We walked a bit more and Dave spied what he thought was a 5.10 crack so he hopped on. This route (name unknown) was very deceiving and obviously far harder than 5.10. I heard the same noises I'd been making - though now they were coming out of him. A few were actual words not suitable for print. I'd said the same things many times that day.

With the climbing down, we scrambled back to the campsite and made some delicious turkey spaghetti. It was still another nice evening at Indian Creek. As we sat out and watched the full moon rise, I wonder if the climbing gets easier...

5/15/2008 - Indian Creek - Day 5

We got up this morning slowly. It was cooler and windier. We watched all the birds flying up to the camper which acted like a perfect bird blind. A Lark Bunting was busily gathering my hair off the ground to line his/her nest. Very neat.

Given the weather, we opted for a rest day and hiked over to the Anasazi Indian ruins. This was an amazing place. We climbed up to them (ack my quadriceps!) and hung around admiring them.

We had lunch at the ruins, then climbed back down and wandered around for miles looking at birds (saw a Western Tanager!) and the beautiful walls.

The evening was spent again enjoying the view, the solitude, good food and a cat rolling enthusiastically in the dirt.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

5/14/2008 - Indian Creek - Day 4

We got up this morning to perfect weather. We decided to climb at the Technicolor Wall. Dave had never been to this wall though he's climbed extensively in Indian Creek. All the Indian Creek walls were new to me so this sounded like fun. We hiked up where no established trails were which was a bit challenging given the slope and loose rock. We started at the left end of the wall and walked the base stopping to climb anything that looked interesting. Almost nothing was in the guidebook so some climbs we just hopped on.

The first climb was one called Golden Eye (5.10+). It is a right-facing corner with the crack varying between 1" to 3" or so. The top required a lay-back (which I love). This was a really fun climb and much more my style. The rest of the climbs I would learn felt like a lot of work.

We next wandered down and found a climb called "unnamed". This was quite fun, though a bit wider and much harder for me. Still, we both had a good time.

Only a few feet away was another "unnamed" climb. This was an odd chimney thing. The guidebook said it is "more fun than it looks." Hmmm, I thought, this would perhaps be more elegant, more fun then. Dave loved it and felt is was fun. Holy moly - I thought it was pure work. A grovel-fest. I made a lot of noises I didn't even know I was capable of worming my way up this beast.

By this time, I was a puddle of goo and decided to stop for the day. I belayed Dave on two additional climbs: Moano and Matate. They looked fun to try, but I admit that the name "Matate" (kill you in Spanish) sort of got to me. Besides, there is ENDLESS climbing here and I thought I'd better save a little something for the next day.

At the end of the climbing, we were both pretty tired. It'd been a fun day, but we were looking forward to a nice happy hour and good dinner of tuna steaks and broccoli in the truck. While we enjoyed the evening, we were entertained by a family of Mountain Bluebirds - the young had just fledged. And I tattooed Dave with a ballpoint pen. Another beautiful evening in Indian Creek.