Friday, October 7, 2011

Cobble Cobble...

Alpine Loop scenery.
Many moons and suns have set since our last World Wide Web intergalactic communication.  Since then, we've gone from the high desert mountains of Southern Idaho to sunny Colorado Springs; but much has transpired in between.  We left our friends Kasi and Andreas place in SLC one mid Sept weekend (who so graciously let us loiter around their swank pad) and headed South.  It was Sunday and we drove straight for American Fork.

This old school limestone sport area lay just off our route to Maple canyon; and it fit the bill for a quick workout.  After dispatching some 10's and 11's we found ourselves at Hell Cave.  The routes here are short, powerful, and dark.  Ol'e Todd Skinner had FA'd 'Burning', a nice 13b back in the day, and so I thought I would give it a try, and at least take a step towards fitness.  Todd was an awesome guy and had let me stay at his Yosemite Pad before his death on Leaning Tower.  With only a few days of steeper climbing under my belt from the previous month, I wasn't optimistic.  Tiff gave me a nice working belay as I worked my way to anchor.  There were a couple very dynamic sections for me, nothing stopper, just good old feet flying arm lunging fun.  After a nice rest period I gave it serious effort.  It all was flowing smoothly until I came to the crux clip, which I wasn't able to clip.  I'm not sure if I was just weak or what, but I couldn't for the life of me clip that draw (without which I was risking a ground fall on the next moves).  With cooked forearms we packed it up.  Odds are that I won't probably be back to American Fork, but it was nice.

It's too bad the Handlebar Mustache is out of fashion.

From AF we drove up canyon and found some free National Forest land to camp on for the night.  The following morning we elected to explore the "Alpine Loop" road, see some more mountains, and take the scenic route.  Just before Sundance ski area we took a 4 mile hike to a small waterfall.

Our sidetrip dumped us out near Provo.  After a quick restock at the grocery store we found Interstate 15 and booted it South for Maple Canyon.  This place had been on my respective radar for over a decade.  I'd heard lots of different reviews.  Some bespoke of 'soft grades', 'choss', 'crowds', and 'jug hauls'.

Upon first driving into the Canyon my initial observations vacillated between it's unique beauty and the void of people.  Aspen trees, small Maples, and deserted camp sites made us feel right at home.  

Click to make me bigger.
Over the course of the next few days we explored the Canyon.  True to rumor, many of the 12's I onsighted were pretty soft.  But, the 9's and 10's seemed just about right.  For those not in the know, Maple is composed of a wild conglomerate.  Cobble river rocks are cemented in a sandstone matrix and provide a special climbing venue.  Yes, the rock isn't bomber like granite, but I wouldn't call it choss.  Perhaps a better fitting term is 'unstable'.  Even the most popular routes harbor loose grit and will eventually spit cobbles.  It only adds to the spice!  Fortunately, I never pulled anything big off.  At most, I busted a few footholds.

I-70 as it splits the San Rafael Reef

Feeling properly worn from our few climbing days, we headed out to Moab for three days to visit Tiff's sister Kristy and husband Ron.  During that time we celebrated our 2nd year wedding anniversary and Ron's 40th Birthday.  Mornings were perfect for exercise, but by noon temps were well into the 90's, leaving us no alternative than sitting in the river sipping cold beer.  Personally, this was my highlight.

During our stay we took a mountain biking adventure to Klondike Bluffs.  Along the way we saw Dinosaur prints.

Judging by their shape, I'm certain they were left by large chickens.  Man eating chickens.

Here are some more shots from Moab.

Monster Chicken Print

The NPS sculptors have been hard at work.
The Klondike Bluffs and a crazy man.

Team Slickrock---Unstoppable.
Livin' it up on the Colorado.  
Sweet relief.  Words can't describe the fun.
Americans really know how to discover the wilderness.
These people traveled all the way from Ireland to pose in my arch photo.  Kinda cool.
Double arch.

"Primitive" trail.  
During our last day in Moab we ventured into Arches National Park.  The best thing about exploring a place like this in peak season is, yep, you guessed it, not being lonely.  With all that natural wilderness out there, one can feel real small and vulnerable.  Of course, venturing out onto the open trail without hundreds of people is utter foolishness, and outright dangerous.  Fortunately for us, there were plenty of desert lovers to keep us on the straight and narrow and to fill the arches with their bodies.

Facetiousness aside, it was still cool to wander around the Arches and see such remarkable sandstone features.  If I ever go back though, it will most certainly be during Winter.

Saying our goodbyes to Ron and Kristy we retraced our steps to Maple Canyon, giddy at the thought of more sweet Cobble climbing.  Once again, we found the canyon virtually vacant.  Though activity picked up slightly on the weekends, we never had to wait in line for one route.  Psyched!

The Pipedream Cave.
One of my favorite walls at Maple ended up being a large cave called the Pipedream.  It is one mother of a cave adorned with mind numbing endurance rigs.  After a little more 'training' climbing, I was able to start exploring some of the steeper lines.  It took a while for my forearms and stomach to catch up with me.  It had been since June since I'd climbed anything steep and I had utterly lost all core tension.  The other obstacle was the heat.  Temps were mostly holding in the low 80's and the long routes were leaving me with a sticking throat.  Every burn left me feeling like a sweaty piece of hamburger.  Eventually though, condition cooled just before they turned freezing.  Notable sends for me included Eulogy 14a, Millenium 13d, and some 13- onsights.

Though I don't have any photographic evidence, Tiffany has taken to the sharp end!  In one day she went from leading 5.7 to 5.10b.  I'm so proud to see her accept this new challenge.  It is her goal to climb an 11a by the end of the trip, and I look forward to seeing her progress.

With two weeks of climbing in Maple & a Winter Storm advisory for the Rockies, we wrapped up our remaining projects and left.  Gotta say, I really enjoyed the Pipedream!

Here are some more maple shots:

On Millenium 13d/14a.

Pipedream jug haulin.

Finishing up Eulogy 14a.
This was probably the longest, steepest pitch of my life.
I love dressing up like a Maple Tree.
Jodi, Mike and Tiff.  Thanks again for the beta, campfires, and wonderful company.

On our way through the Rockies, we saw lots of beautiful Aspen trees.

With Maple fading into the rear view mirror, our next stop was Fruita, CO where we spent the night in a motel parking lot.   The next morning we picked up some java and headed East for Rifle.  According to, one week earlier there must have been hordes of climbers in the canyon, but we found nobody.  There wasn't one single climber climbing at Rifle when we rolled in.  But, then it was 48 degrees and raining steadily.  After driving up and down the canyon, and checking the walls out, I could see why people love climbing at Rifle.  For us though, it wasn't meant to be.

Less than an hour after leaving Rifle we went from 48 degrees to 104 degrees.  In Glenwood Springs we paid premium dollars for an exceptional soak.  It was nothing less than heavenly.  Though the rain and wind continued, everything seemed brighter from the new aspect.  I'd recommend this to anyone rolling through on I-70.

4 hours later we rolled into Colorado Springs.  For the next few days we will be exploring the front range, visiting friends, and recharging our batteries for the next saga.