Tuesday, July 30, 2013

07_30_2013 Peach-Faced Love Birds

It's  a long story, but it turns out we have a couple of new birds: Peach Faced Lovebirds. The goal is not to keep them, but rather to find them a forever home. Henri is adjusting a little, but mostly he does not like having interlopers in the house. :)  
While we can't know for sure, it appears someone just let these birds loose. Maybe they didn't realize that birds chirp. And maybe the didn't realize that they can be a little messy and they require care (e.g., food and water). I'm thinking they especially didn't realize that setting birds like this free is a death sentence for them. They both should be named Lucky given neither was killed or died and that somehow circumstances brought the pair back together. Lucky birds indeed. 
So, just thought we'd share the photos of them. They are sweet little guys!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

06_2013 City of Rocks - Part II

After a few days, the really hot weather changed to some really cold weather! The place has no in-between in terms of weather it seems. :)
Dave heads up an over-hanging route. Got it on-sight.
There were still some pretty flowers around.
Heading to a climbing destination...
On a cold day, we rode down the road to a lower (warmed) elevation to get in some more mountain bike riding. Good time and a pretty environment.
Dave after a couple of laps on a ride.
Riding hard!...
This is Darwin at work behind us. Several people in places they had no business being. Happily we didn't watch anyone pitch and splat.
More over-hanging climbing...
Up a fun easy route...
Summit shot!
We went into Almo one evening and had pizza. Fun little shop in town.
The last night, we moved camp to the campground near Almo. Fun place, very different feel. And it put us a bit closer to Castle Rocks State Park - where we went the last day of the trip.
Dave was trying to select a good route here...
Here is our I-80 bivy en route home. Not sure what town (parking lot) this was, but it made for a nice place to stay overnight!  

06_2013 City of Rocks - Part I

I have lost all hope of putting up blogs in chronological order! Still, out of order blogs are better than no blogs. In June, Dave and I loaded up the fifth wheel and headed to the City of Rocks in Idaho. We got the same spot we camped in last year. It's a nice one - private feelings with great views. This year, we added a hummingbird feeder to our list of things to take. It took almost no time to get some hummingbirds visiting us. Pente wasn't too helpful in this endeavor, but they really didn't seem to mind much.
While in the City of Rocks, we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary!  We had some prosecco and strawberries and a nice meal. I dressed up in my green fleece and pink monkey pants. :)
This year offered a few more flowers than last year. We looked for Harry the Harrier in his usual spot and he wasn't there. We were disappointed...until we learned that he would fly through camp hunting most days! Beautiful Northern Harrier. 
We did some climbing. I didn't do much, but had fun for sure. The weather was (initially) nice and hot! Great to feel some warmth. 
This photo is taken on top of Elephant Rock. The pink arrow is pointing to the camper. It's always fun to look down and see the house. :)
As usual, Pente loved it there. There is just so much dirt/granite dust to roll in. She rolled until filthy and sparkly. 
Lots of fun birding too.
Dave managed to climb a ton of routes he'd never done before. Most were good. A few were stinkers. Such is climbing. :)
A couple photo at the City.
We skulked around looking to get some nice photos of Mountain Blue birds. While they were around, they were very challenging to get a photo of. 
Much easier to get a photo of was "Chippy", our new friend. This little guy had no fear!
Here is Dave trying to walk the cat. It's not easy when all she wants to do is roll in the potholes!
We also did some mountain bike riding. This photo gives a good idea about the extreme lounging that took place on the trip as well.
One morning we woke up to a lot of commotion...a cattle drive! There were hundreds of these heads of cattle. Nasty! I remarked that if steak smelled like cattle, no one would ever eat steak. I stand by that statement!
Off to the Gallstone for some climbing...
Cool rock formation at the City...
Chippy was an avocado hound.  Cutest little guy ever!  More photos in the next blog entry - Part II.
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Friday, July 12, 2013

05_13 to 21_2013 Big and Hot in Vegas - Part II

The evening before we packed and planned for the biggest outing of the trip: The Original Route on the Rainbow Wall. The Rainbow Wall is a beautiful 1,000’ face that graces a beautiful cirque, topping out at 7,000’. For us mortals at least, this route would require an absolute 100% effort. The route is guarded by a steep two-hour approach hike and then follows an amazing system of corners and cracks nearly straight up for 13 pitches. The pitches go free at 11c, 11d, 11a, 11b, 10c, 10a, 8, 8, 11d/12a, 12a, 11b, and 10b. Yowza. This was going to be hard for an old Q-tip like me!
A couple of years ago, I went up to do the Original Route with my friend Dick but I decided to bail on the second  pitch when three yahoos came up behind us French-freeing asking when they could pass before even reaching us, right when I was in the crux of the pitch.  This really blew my concentration when I needed it most.  I really didn’t want to attempt a route at my limit with a bunch of distractions, so we bailed and went over to do The Nightcrawler instead...  Anyway, back to the present – Mark and I had the entire Rainbow Wall to ourselves and the temperatures were actually quite nice thanks to a thin layer of high clouds. :)
Mark did a really good job leading the first two pitches with only one quick taint as he grabbed a draw to clip in the rope in a very strenuous section. I barely followed the pitch cleanly.
I congratulated Mark on his excellent effort on the sharp end.  That 11D pitch is a serious pumper! I led the next two 5.11 pitches which were thankfully a fair bit easier and that put us at the base of the 5.10 corner pitches.  
At this belay, it was cool to check out the really old bolts that had been placed during the first ascent in 1973 by Chiloe/Larry Hamilton and Joe Herbst. I took some photos of the bolts and after returning home, sent them to Larry. He confirmed that yes, indeed, they were the originals he placed 40 years ago.  Pretty cool!
Mark combined the two 5.10 pitches and soon enough we were on a nice ledge taking a quick break.
Doing the Original Route free is quite a treat logistically as the rack is pretty small and you can descend with a single 70 meter rope. Hence, we traveled light – just our climbing gear, three liters of water, and five or six food bars. The next 300’ or so is comparatively easy 5.8 climbing that takes one up then over to the base of the crux red dihedral pitches.  Here there is about 800’ of vertical drop straight to your packs at the base. Above lies about 250’ of climbing including the two hardest pitches on the route.
To give us the best chance of free-climbing the next few pitches, we ate a bar, tanked up on fluids and left the camelback at the belay to lighten the load.
I led the first red dihedral pitch which involves extremely technical stemming then somewhat easier climbing on the rest of the pitch. The crux section was baffling at first, with virtually no holds in this vertical corner. I couldn’t make myself commit to the crux moves even with the bolt just two or three feet below my waist, so I aided up one move on the bolt and pre-placed a high cam.  Although obviously a taint, I was pretty tired by now and it was just the best I could do at this point. I lowered down to a no hands rest below the crux, rested a couple of minutes, and then tenuously pressed into the bizarre stemming moves. Seriously, the left foothold was the size of a bb and the right wall was essentially blank. I’m not quite sure how you stay on the thing, but after a few feet, I was able to reach a good hold in the corner!  The crux of this pitch, at least, was over.

The rest of the pitch is probably 5.10C/D and continues up the beautiful corner to a belay.  I cringed at the thought of Alex Honnold free-soloing this route a few years ago – simply amazing.   Mark followed the pitch fairly quickly and with no falls, firing off the stemming crux first-try! Excellent work!

At the belay, Mark racked for the next crux pitch, took a breather and headed up.  This pitch is hard! Right off the belay is a weird stem-press kind of thing onto some tiny holds. And from there it just gets harder with reachy, powerful lay-backing up the thin corner.  Then the crack in the corner pinches off and one is forced into another bizarre series of stemming maneuvers followed by committing face climbing to the belay.
Mark had to take a couple of rests on this pitch, but he did an excellent job – better than I could have done for sure.  Excellent work MC!
I started following the pitch and realized by the grunts I was making and the cramping in my forearms, it was at (or above) my limit.  I climbed with desperate movement and thought I might just be able to pull it off - when I fell out of the weird stemming section about ¾ of the way up the pitch. After a short rest, I was able to finish the pitch but just barely.  We were both hammered!
The next pitch was a pretty steep 11b face and corner climbing that starts off with some funky down-climbing and traversing. I was low on mojo by now, so the pitch felt hard right from the start. I was really tired but we really wanted this climb!  I pushed on and was barely able to finish, the 5.9 layback at the top nearly pitched me off! I happily rolled into a cave like belay feature below the final pitch. 

I was spent!
Mark did a great job and seconded the pitch quickly and in good style. I gladly handed him the gear for the final 5.10 pitch to the summit.  As Mark jammed out the roof above me and got into a corner system, he yelled down “It’s over!”  Yeah!  :)
A few minutes later, I was seconding the last pitch and continued up past Mark to the amazing views on the summit of Rainbow Mountain.  It was about 5:15pm – we’d been on the move about 11.5 hours at this point. Mark scrambled up to the summit and we posed for some hero shots on top.

Both of us agreed this was one of the top five free climbs we’d ever done. Although we couldn’t climb the whole thing clean on-sight, we gave it all we had, so no regrets.  Larry and Joe did a great job putting up perhaps the finest line in Red Rocks. It really is a fantastic route.  We hung out on the summit for about 15 minutes, but there were many rappels and the long hike out ahead of us. The descent went smoothly and before we knew it we were eating a snack at the base and prepping for the hike out. A half-moon had risen and was now perfectly situated above the Rainbow Wall. It was a beautiful sight for sure.
The two-hour hike went well, and again we enjoyed cans of tea that we’d stashed on the way in. We got to the car shortly after dark giving us just over 15 hours car-to-car.  We were both super-tired but really psyched to have done the Rainbow Wall. It was an amazing day for sure! 
The next day we took our time packing up the car and started the long drive home.  My hands were cramping just driving. Obviously the Rainbow Wall took everything we had. It was great to get home to see CG and relax a bit.  CG and I went for a nice bird walk that afternoon and the next day I returned to the harsh reality of life in the cube-farm...  Rainbow Wall – DO IT! :)