Sylvan and Ben rolled into camp late Saturday night (Day 34) and brought with them energy and enthusiasm. Over the last few months they planned a week long trip to Squamish. They knew a week wouldn’t be enough to pack in all their adventures so they decided to share. Perhaps together the four of us could have a summer’s worth of adventure within only a 7 day span. Sunday we climbed at the Smoke Bluffs. I’d sworn never to return to the crowds and death by top rope that lies in wait at the bluffs, yet Sylvan and Ben had a plan. Three climbs they said, Flying Circus, Crime of the Century, and Split Beaver. Two long delicious finger cracks and one hands to off width crack. Arm bars and finger jams awaited. While the bluffs weren’t high on my list, Ben and Sylvan are. We followed them, like chicks trailing a chicken, through the maze of crags that make the bluffs and found that our routes were free.
On Tuesday we climbed Angel’s Crest with Ben and Sylvan. The name meant nothing to me, it was just a climb that they’d added to their tick list. Now it’s a 13 pitch 5.10 on an arete formed by the North Gully and The Sheriff’s Badge. Ceri lead pitches under 5.10 and I lead the 5.10 pithes. Well, except for the 10c slab/crack that she unknowingly climbed. Uh-oh. But it worked well. No falls. Complete success (unlike on Vector when ceri took a fall/slide off a vertical hand crack onto the crag below). There were a few hairy parts. We lost the trail to the Acrophobes, two spires mid route, the first which we later successfully climbed then rapped off the back. The 3rd class high exposure that followed was mildly traumatizing. Unfortunately no photos or videos of this climb. We kept our hands on rock/rope. You’ll have to settle for another pre-opal video. Tomorrow we go back for the third attempt. Hopefully the first three pitches will be climbed without falling.
It takes great effort to accomplish hard things, sometimes more effort that you’re capable of. The Opal is rock-hard proof of this. I thought climbing 5.11 was challenging. I didn’t realize how much harder it would be when climbing with a backpack filled with a 70 meter rope and water for the day. I thought 5.12 layback sounded nearly impossible but couldn’t have imagined how hard it would be on a route that appeared not to have been climbed since 2015, where ever foothold on the pitch was coated with black algae. I witnessed my first ever fall on trad gear when Mico’s foot slipped (before this, I’m not sure I truly believed the gear would hold). I thought bolted 5.11 slab would be a little more possible for me until I realized we had to downclimb the 5.11 slab and watched Mico fall repeatedly on a single section. I don’t know what the last three pitches of the climb are like because we didn’t make it that far. The plan is that once Mico sends the 5.13 pitch, I’ll ascend on a fixed line, and we’ll finish the last two pitches together. I’m confident that Mico will be able to send the entire route if we put in the time. I’m less confident that I’ll survive the experience, but that’s part of what I like about climbing–the chances it gives to surpass your own expectations.
We went back to the aircraft carrier boulder to see if our stunt doubles could finally send the V6- and V11 boulder problems they had been working on respectively. It would have been the hardest boulder problem either of our stunt doubles had ever sent outside. Mico’s stunt double had been one move away from sending, so there was a lot of hope there. All he had to do was catch and hold onto a rather sharp lip after launching himself from shitty little crimps with less than ideal feet. My stunt double had some extra work to put in but miracles are always possible, that’s what makes them miracles. We got a late start (characteristic of our time in Leadville), stopping in town to pick up a Leadville sticker for my beloved sister. By the time we got to the boulder, we had two hours to warm up and finish the problems before we had to leave for Denver to visit Mico’s geat uncle. We tried so hard and got so far and kept pushing back our departure time. We kept trying to bust through that ceiling, but by the time 2pm rolled around (an hour after we said we’d leave), we had time for one last attempt. I, though a move closer to the top, was still nowhere near sending. Mico, after exhausting all methods for reaching the lip statically, had resolved to try the jump and hold on really hard method. He went for gold, launching himself at the lip, and managed to grab it with his left hand. He held on for a fraction of a second while his legs swung out and I prayed for a spotting miracle, before slipping off. Safely on the ground, he was clutching his left hand, admiring a medium-sized flapper on his middle finger.
Because of his perfect genetics, this was the first flapper Mico’d ever gotten, a testament to the sharpness of the lip. Lesser humans would have been ready to throw in the towel, but not Mico. He wanted to give it one more go. Unfortunately, we had just finished our roll of tape. All the tape we had with us was on his and my hands. Stellar, supportive, beneficent, goodlooking person that I am, I immediately volunteered the tape on my hands. It was a shirt off my back moment. If he sent the problem on the next attempt, I would have felt like I’d just sent V11 as well. If this were a movie, this would have been the moment where everything came together, and against a ticking clock and bleeding hand, Mico sent. Sadly, there was no camera crew; everything in this blog is mostly nonfiction. His final attempt was unsuccessful. My spotting, on the other hand, was very successful. We got back in the car to Denver, pausing only at a supermarket for lunch where we each purchased a tub of ice cream. I did a good job with my pint of chocolate sorbet. Mico, however, struggled to finish his quart and a half of Reese’s peanut butter cup ice cream and had to throw in the towel somewhere around the quart mark. We think we’re going to give the ice cream a rest for a little while. Consuming it in such quantities is very exhausting.
Please excuse the lapse in posting. It was difficult to keep up the blog while Mico was recovering from his severe bed bug mauling. We concluded that the source of the bed bugs was likely Mico’s sleeping bag. He’d received similar bite marks before on other backpacking trips but, perpetually riddled with bug bites as he is, he’d never thought much of it. We isolated his sleeping bag in a large black trash bag and went to the local consignment store to buy him a warmer, less vermin-infested bag. Over the next few days, we continued to find isolated bed bugs on our things, but Mico’s now no longer waking up with new bites on his legs, so we’re hoping that did the trick/biding our time until the eggs hatch. After a somewhat disappointing day of climbing (Independence Pass climbs seem to be rated with a rubric similar to the Yale grading system, so we kept ending up on four star climbs that probably only deserved three), we returned to our base outside Leadville to drown our sorrows with food. We had lovely spam pizza. Turns out the veggie slicer we got can turn spam into pasta form.
Some people (our parents) have pointed out that this is a blog about our CLIMBING trip but there is no evidence of us actually climbing. You caught us. We have a confession to make. The reason there are on videos of us climbing is not out of concern for safety; it’s not because we feel the need to leave a brake hand on the rope while the other is leading a difficult pitch or because we think it’s a valuable use of man power to have one person spotting the other on a boulder problem. No. As many of you have probably already guessed, the reason that we don’t have footage of us climbing is because we have not been doing any climbing. It’s an emperor’s new clothes type deal. It sounds really badass to say that we’re going on this awesome climbing trip, and at the end of the day it’s all about image and personal branding. We’re realizing that our fans are too clever, so the videos below are to throw you off the scent. We paid some very convincing stunt doubles to climb a V6- and a V11. I’ll let you guess which stunt double was climbing which climb.
Despite the crusty shell I’ve worked hard to cultivate over the years, on the inside I’m a girl who loves daffodils and big yellow butterflies. I reveal this not because I want you to think I have a softer side, but so that you can fully appreciate the tragedy that occurred when I hit one of these big beautiful butterflies while driving. The butterfly went splat on the windshield and peeled off as I continued driving. It left behind a mustard-colored trail of what I imagine were butterfly innards. I wanted to stop the car and see if we could offer the bug any medical assistance, but Mico was worried about running out of gas, so we continued on. I consoled myself with the fact that there was probably little we could have done for it. I had been driving about 60mph. As with every sad event, there was a silver lining. The butterfly tragedy afforded me a moment to contemplate myself and my place in the cosmos. I realized that life was finite and precious and that I could not afford to waste it climbing routes that got below a four star rating or eating healthy food.
We’d like to take a moment to thank a couple of our sponsors who made these videos possible. The Jon Chen Frypan Company for providing us with the cast iron skillet (we still have not figured out how to use the other thing which we think might be a griddle) and Archangeli Oils for the quality canola oil which we nearly finished during our fry everything bonanza. We hope these videos inspired others to follow in our footsteps and dream big because it is possible to fry anything you put your mind to!
A bit of climbing, some sun, a forest bushwhack, and a whole lot of white noise made for a tiring day. We spent the early afternoon sport climbing and the late afternoon searching for a lost crag. I learned that when the sun filters through trees and grass, turning browns golden, greens emerald, and the clouds pink, and the white noise is replaced by silence, the shackles of sarcasm fall from my crusty climbing companion giving birth to an unburdened youth. It’s fun, unexpected, and touching.