Sunday, February 24, 2008

Breaking New Ground

Today was fairly nice, so Mary and I decided to go out and do a bit of trad climbing up in Boulder Canyon. I've climbed in many parts of the canyon, but one of my favorites in the winter is the Happy Hour Crag, mainly because it is south facing and gets sun all day. We got up there and got busy. To my delight, Mary wanted to learn how to lead climb with trad gear! I showed her a few tricks and let her loose on some easy 5.5 terrain. She performed remarkably, and wasn't phased at all by the height or the lack of top-rope protection. I was inexplicably pleased. After her first lead I decided to push my boundaries a little as well. I've never climbed with trad gear to any great extent, especially in my upper range of climbing ability. The fact is that it becomes much more difficult to lead when you have to fumble about with your cams, nuts and other metal bits and pieces as you climb, and finding placements is time consuming. On a difficult route this means you tire much quicker, and have a higher propensity for falling. While I have easily led routes in the lower 5.12 range with bolts, trad has continued to allude me. Today I decided to change that and break some new ground in my climbing ability.

After Mary's beautiful 5.5 leading, we went over to a classic happy hour route, "Grins". This is a 5.8+ with plenty of room for creativity. I geared up and flashed the sucker with little difficulty. I was quite pleased. Mary was soon to follow, and then we cleaned the route. Next, Mary led another difficult route in the 5.6 range, again with grace and ease. Her placements were much better this time around. I'm pretty excited to have such a fast-learning climbing partner. Finally I was convinced by some other climbers at the crag to try "Dementia" a cool 5.10 with a weird start finishing on a beautiful, slightly overhanging finger crack. I geared up and gave it a whirl. Now 5.10 normally isn't too bad, but when you have to hang there and place gear it gets tiring. I don't remember all the moves, but up in the cruxy finger crack area there was plenty of really good protection, and I was able to flash the route no problem. Sweet! Mary followed and cleaned and then we rapped from the top, calling it a day.

I guess a lot of trad climbing is just in your head. Fortunately with all the skydiving and highlining lately, my understanding of fear has become less than rational. I'm excited to try my luck on some difficult multipitch trad now. Eldo has my name all over it, then bigwall in Rocky Mountain National Park, and maybe even some climbing in Yosemite this summer. The possibilities are now endless!

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