January 9th we pulled into Albuquerque, restocked at Trader Joe's, and hit the local REI to purchase some new Binoculars (courtesy a generous gift from Tiff's parents Ken and Dottie). A kind long haired and artistically tattooed gentleman wearing the ubiquitous green "vest" gave us the run down on the various models. We both appreciated his enthusiasm and knowledge; considering our combined wisdom in the field amounted to zilch.
After field testing a few candidates outside the store we picked these sweet binoc's from Nikon. They not only let in amazing amount of light, but, they also are extremely lightweight and compact. With this illuminating optical wonder we knew we were ready to get down to the "enchantment". Later that day after driving an hour south we arrived in Socorro. On the outskirts of this small town lies a menagerie of volcanic cliffs.
|Alpha resting his weary legs after chasing me down.|
Neither of us had visited New Mexico, and having spent the last two months in Appalachia, we were spellbound by the change of topography, flora, and climate. Sage, Juniper bushes, and Prickly Pear Cactus abounded in our new environment. Though this harsh place boasts tarantulas, rattle snakes, and scorpions, they were all safely sleeping somewhere, or otherwise hiding. Regardless, we still were somewhat wary and watched our steps while hiking around.
|Don't let this be you. He can't be happy about this.|
Killer bees, an extremely aggressive africanized form of honey bee have been found as far North as New Mexico. As anyone familiar with me knows, I'm mortally afraid of winged stingy things. During early childhood I was brutalized by an entire hive of yellow-jackets. These yellow devils just went to town on us after a friend of mine removed a particular rock embedded in a ditch; which ended up being the back end of their hive. Understandably they were a little agitated, but, I was only 9 years old. Didn't they understand that I was only a minor?? Oh no, they mercilessly pursued me without compassion or remorse. They even invaded my sensitive armpit zone. Yep, that says it all.
From that time, I've been on the run and more than a bit edgy when anything resembling "stingies" comes near. Flies have even been known to trigger the bee-mania phobia. Yeah, I just freak out. This reactionary waving of the arms and jumping around is psychological outworking of my weak phobic mind.
So, one day when I was scoping out a particular wall, and found myself face to face with a particularly curious and invasive bee, our new friend "alpha" was witness to the most interesting spectacle. In a matter of seconds I was sprinting away from the wall, dodging cactus, and eyeing my periphery for pursuit. Was it one of those "Killa's"? I won't probably ever know...but, one things for sure, I'm alive. Yes, this phobia is completely irrational. But, I'm not sure I will ever actually overcome it. The impressions of a young mind are sometimes indelible.
Though Box Canyon isn't a destination, we enjoyed some much needed exercise, met some nice locals, sauntered up a few sunny rock climbs. Car camping in the lot is ok and there is an excellent pit toilet. And, of course, Alpha will be there to meet you in the mornings.
Initially, we were in Socorro because of its proximity to Enchanted Tower, which lies an hour to the West in the mountains. This area is touted as "the" sport climbing destination of choice in NM. The rock is similar to Smith Rock, and called volcanic Tuff. However, with an elevation of 8000 and highs in the upper 40's, any amount of wind or cloud would create unclimbable conditions. We'd just weathered a multitude of cold days cragging back East, and it sounded too risky. Instead, we drove towards Alamogordo and home to the Tunnel area; an area our "NM Falcon" guide described as top notch!
During the drive we passed just North of the White Sands Missile base. It was here at the trinity site that the destructive power of atomic energy was first witnessed. We didn't stop at the site (which is only open a couple days a year), but did stop at some ancient lava flows just East of here.
We thought that lava flow just as impressive as the ones we had witnessed on the big island of Hawaii.
30 minutes North of Alamogordo lies the Three Rivers Petroglyph site. There over 21,000 recorded petroglyphs scattered on this rocky ridge. The Jornada Mogollon people responsible for these enigmatic drawings lived between 900-1400 AD. Anyhow, we had a nice time wandering along the trails, inspecting glyphs, and stretching our legs. Tiff was kind enough to whip up some lunch while I ran the remaining five miles back to the highway. The road was long and straight. By the time she caught up with me I was purring like a kitten and my legs were humming. Here are some shots from Three Rivers.
|We couldn't believe that these ancient people had heard about Walle.|
|The Desert is an excellent place to just be quiet and reflect.|
|The Vansion and a landscape.|
Later that evening I was informed that some young Washington rock climbers might be in the area. Already acquainted with Jeremy Zachariash I gave him a call. At this point they were in California just East of Joshua Tree. Evidently, the weather had been a little cold and windy and they were headed our direction. I told Jeremy about the Tunnel area and invited them to come join us. Being at least 11 hours away I didn't think we would see them until later the following day. But, the next morning when we pulled into the Tunnel parking area we found their car. Oh, the hubris of youth. Jeremy and Mike had driven all night and only pulled in at 4 in the morning. Needless to say, we didn't see them at the crag until the afternoon.
We found the Tunnel to have some ok climbing. Certainly, I can appreciate the amount of effort by local climbers responsible for the Tunnel's development. But, overall, the quality of rock left one wanting. It certainly didn't live up to the hype of the guidebook author; whom I would garner hasn't climbed here much. Lots of challenging routes grace walls on both sides of the canyon. But, most routes are littered in dust, grime, and surrounded by acres of mud covered limestone. Nonetheless, I had a good time hanging out in the sun (which was almost too hot!), cheering on the boys, and reacquiring some of that fitness.
Here's the best beta concerning the Sunny Side wall if you are ever in the area: don't climb here if the forecast in Alamogordo is forecast to eclipse 60 degrees fahrenheit. It can really bake here.
|Climbing in my Euro Man-knickers by Addidas! The Sunny Side wall in January. Hot.|
|Mike with Jeremy belaying on Sunspot12c. This is one of those described as classic which didn't have almost any chalk. The holds were also covered in dust and the onsight was quite a fight.|
|This bubbling waterfall is encountered on the way to the Sunny Side cliffs. In the summertime people flock here out the lowlands to cool off.|