Aug 6, 2015

Golden Summer Part IX: Multi-pitch mania

Approaching summit of First Flatiron.
For my last weekend in Colorado, I went on a 24 hour climbing spree like I have never done before. Between 3PM on Friday and 3PM on Saturday all I did was hike with heavy climbing gear, climb, rappel, talk about the next route to climb, and sleep. Oh and there was one beer in there too! A good way to end this "trip" to Colorado. 

 Marilla and I have been talking about doing a Flatiron climb all summer. We procrastinated long enough that the only chance we had left was to go on Friday after work and hope to not get caught in the dark. The first two pitches of the route Butterfly were sketchy and not fun, but the rest of the climb was worthwhile as expected.
Marilla climbing.
Boring climbing discussion: After the first two pitches, the route gets very easy, so that you almost don't need a rope. People often free solo this Flatiron, but that wasn't of interest to us. To be able to climb both safely and fast we decided to simul-climb the last six pitches. The first climber in this situation leads the route normally, placing sparse protection as needed depending on difficulty of the route and potential fall line. The second climber follows, with about half of the rope in a coil around their body (Kiwi coil I guess). They use a Grigri on their harness to belay, but for the most part they don't pay out much rope because they are moving upward at the same time as the leader. So basically both people are climbing together with no full anchor, only the pieces of protection that are placed in the half-rope length that is between them. This is definitely a 'no-fall' situation, but in the event of an unexpected fall on easy terrain, there would at least be a few pieces keeping everybody on the wall. (By the way, if you are stumbling upon this and interested in learning to simul-climb, you should probably find a better source since this was my first experience - I'm not a pro!) At any rate it was a nice setup for us and made us much faster than we would have been otherwise with Ana's tentative climbing style (Marilla has done it in 2 hours before with other partners - so we know where the bottleneck lies - me!). When I had used most of the gear on my harness and needed to restock, I setup an anchor and belayed Marilla up to me.

Marilla being belayed up to me. She still has the Kiwi coil around her body from simuling.
 Once we reached the ridgeline, it was all easy climbing and awkward rope drag. Very cool place to climb the last few hundred feet.
Flatiron ridge view.
 We may not have been the fastest climbers on the route (there were groups of people free soloing), but we did impress the climbers who were drinking beer at the summit with our fancy simul-rapping. This is where both climbers rappel on a single strand at the same time, using each other as a counterweight. A very quick way to get down.
Obligatory summit photo.
 It was an interesting night to be out on the Flatirons because it was a blue moon and lots of climbers were going up after dark presumably to free solo and smoke it up. We were on the ground at sunset and hiked down in the semi-dark of the blue moon.
A climber on the third Flatiron, visible from our hike down near sunset.
So, that was Friday night. Saturday morning I wanted to see Eldorado Canyon - supposedly a climber's paradise. We had talked about going when Devon, Sarah and Justin visited but decided with their limited time we might not get much climbing in. Cheryl, Marilla, and I went up there at 8AM on Saturday to get in Cheryl's first multi-pitch route. (By the way, how cool is it that she gets to do her first multi-pitch with two confident ladies? I am lucky to have such friends as these!) We spent the first hour or so hiking up a very steep trail to find a route we had wanted to do. We sat there looking at it for a few minutes and waiting for the other climbers to finish who were already on it. During this time it dawned on me that it would take the three of us at least half a day just to climb four pitches (we had originally thought it was three pitches, but learned it was four). Then when we got to the top, hot and tired, we would have to do some sort of sketchy down climb that the guidebook described. That was enough to veto the route! Luckily there aren't any climbing egos in this group (perhaps a benefit of climbing with ladies only?) and we had no problem giving it up and looking for something more reasonable. We decided to go for a very short 2-pitch route on Whale's Tail near the park entrance. Two pitches - that will only take us like an hour, right? 
Marilla at the first belay enjoying the efficiencies (just kidding) of climbing with three people. Two ropes, multiple tie-in points, etc.

Ana finishing the first pitch.

Cheryl on the second pitch.
 I finished the last pitch and we had sweet view from the top, although it was less than 150 ft off the ground.
Two foxy ladies at the top of the route!

Somehow I managed to drop my camera from this belay station while moving things around on my harness. Very bad Ana! Dropping things from high up is a danger to those below and also just pretty dumb! Arghh.  Well, I figured I should put the camera out of my mind and focus on not making any other mistakes, certainly not involving the safety of the climb.
The descent from this point went quite slowly. First, we waited for another climber to rappel from the fixed anchors (fair enough). Then, a solo climber came over the top and asked to hop in line for the rappel (OK, fine). However, this guy was somehow really slow setting up his rappel despite appearing quite experienced. Then, a climber below started up the rappel line (which is also a climb, of course, so fair enough). All in all it took us a year and a day to get over to the rappel station and get down. But finally we did, and agreed that it had been a good day! It took us at least three hours from start to finish.
From our vantage point, we could watch other climbers on the Bastille Tower - I guess a pretty legendary area to climb.

Once on the ground, we gave a ground search for the camera. But no luck. Unfortunately this is not the first camera I've dropped on a climb! In 2012 I dropped a Go Pro camera that was found by other climbers a week later and eventually returned. Anyhow, we returned to the parking lot and had our celebratory chocolate (again, it's great to climb with women!). Climbers that we recognized from the same route walked by and said they knew exactly where the camera was! So I jogged back up to the spot and it was actually there! To test its functionality after a 100+ foot fall and to document my surprise, I grabbed one last photo. Man, I am a lucky person! I hereby officially endorse the Nikon CoolPix AW120 with LowePro padded case. That thing is durable!!
A Nikon AW120 CoolPix camera can still take clear photos of crazy people after being dropped. 

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