Monday, July 26, 2010

Goodbye Dad

This morning I received a message on the host cabin answering machine. It was a phone call that I had been expecting and dreading for quite some time. Dad had died. He was 84.

It is strange losing a parent. It brings to light that we are aging and are mortal. The death of a parent is painful. Thankfully time does ease the pain. It is important to let the grieving process happen. For those of you who don't know, my mother died 17 years ago at 63 from brain cancer. It was a terribly traumatic experience to suddenly lose mom. It is different with dad. I am deeply saddened, but a bit relieved. He had been an insulin dependent diabetic for almost 60 years. The small strokes, age and diabetes had taken it's toll mentally and physically. Watching the deterioration occur has been difficult. He had lived a full life and watched 5 daughters grow to become successful adults.

My dad was a generous, hard-working, honest, loyal, and patriotic man. He instilled these traits in me to help make me what I am today.

Goodbye dad. I love you very much. I know you have found peace.

Anatomy of a Project

Eventually every conversation amoungst climbers in Rifle Mountain Park is about the current project. After 2 months in the park I have finally landed on a project that I aspire to send. For the uninitiated, a project is a rock climbing route that you aspire to climb on lead and not fall. This is known as a send or a redpoint. Though, technically a redpoint is a send while placing gear while a send with gear in place is a pinkpoint. However, the term redpoint is widely accepted in the climbing community to mean either way of ascent.

There is a whole process involed in choosing a project. First and foremost is grade selection. I was looking for a 5.12d that would inspire me. Perhaps a route that I had not yet sent on the east side of the canyon. The east side of the canyon is of course shady in the morning which is when it is cool and when we climb most often. Once grade selection has occurred it is necessary to scour the guidebook reading descriptions and eyeing the pretty color photos. A second approach is to eye routes while at the base and look to see if the line looks appealing. After one or more potential routes are selected, it is a good idea to solicit input from fellow climbers to get beta. This is not a step I took until I had determined that my first two choices were not going to be options. My first option was 'Never Believe', a 5.12d in the Wasteland that is bouldery and powerful. What was I thinking? I haven't had to muster that kind of power and core strength in at least 6 months. My second option was 'Hand Me the Canteen Boy', a 5.12d at the Sapper Wall that is perhaps one of the most brilliant climbs I've ever done. However, after I fell with my leg stuck in a crack resulting in a large scrape on my ankle it lost it's appeal. Both of these routes I have done in the past so I thought they would be good options.

At this point I started gathering input from the hard climbing women in the canyon. Two came up that held potential. Espresso in the Wasteland and Blocky Horror Show at the Meat Wall. I had tried Espresso while a budding 5.12 climber when it was rated 5.12c and thought it to be heinously hard so opted for Blocky Horror Show. I had considered Blocky in my earlier hunt but had gotten shut down by a big move through a bulge low on the climb. True to the process I sought out another woman climber to get her beta (information) for that section. Inspired again, I tied on my climbing shoes and pulled on the knee pads. According to a friend of mine, she always pulls on both knee pads when getting on a new climb in Rifle as one never knows if they will be needed for that secret knee bar.

On my first attempt I reached the crux but couldn’t figure out how to get through. It felt very powerful, more powerful than it should for the grade. So, I sought out input again. The word was ‘go right’. The next few attempts I made it through, but clipping the bolt in the crux was scary and quite tenuous. While chatting with a friend around the fire the route came up in conversation. I shared the moves through the crux he shared how to clip the draw.

I was on again, but kept having problems with the last two moves of the crux and fell each time. On a rainy Wednesday, I decided to change my beta in two spots and give it a go after I verified that the top of the route was not in the rain. The first change was how I made it through the low bulge and the second was my foot placements at the end of the crux. The changes worked! I cruised through the low bulge, got the good rest below the crux, clipped the crux quickdraw and exited the crux without any issues. I was now in new territory for me but fortunately I had seen my friend on this part of the climb two days earlier. After getting a good rest at the stance above the crux, I finished the route. Finally a send of a hard route again in Rifle!

I have now selected my next project; ‘Philibuster’ a 5.13a on the Anti-Phil wall. It is a different style of climbing from ‘Blocky Horror’ with crimpy powerful moves. As with other routes at the Anti-Phil, it is a technical route which actually suits me well. I love it! My first attempt went very well and the route feels doable. I have climbed through the lower part of the route a couple times now in order to commit the foot placements and movement to memory. I feel confident that I will send it soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Funniest Quote…so far

Oscar to Doug, “You don’t wanna to stash your banana in my stone fortress?”  (Names have been changed to protect the participants.)

If one doesn’t have the full context of the conversation it is safe to assume that these two might be interested in each other and are having difficulty expressing their true feelings openly or one wants the relationship to progress at a slower pace.  Either of these maybe the case, but given context was it quite harmless.  And in Doug’s defense, he had a banana perched on his shoulder as this quote belched from Oscar’s mouth. 

Most any camper knows that chipmunks are soft, fluffy, and adorable creatures with the super-power ability to coax edible offerings from the crustiest of scrooges while campsite goodies are protected by humans.  When backs turn all that warm fuzzy cuteness morphs into a rabid beast equipped with diamond plated incisors able to craft a hole in an armored personnel carrier quicker than a silver dollar dropped from waist height can hit the ground.  Simply not specializing in quickness and durability, they are game to munch anything from food stuffs to shoe rubber to tents to depleted uranium rounds. 

The prepared camper resorts to most any means to repel the crafty masters of mastication.  I’m sure you have seen bear proof food containers.  Have you ever seen a chipmunk proof container?  Nope. They don’t exist.  Impossible manufacture, design, or even conceptualize.  Oscar dared to defy this Law of Nature.  A plan he posited would ward off the devious forest foe.   His plan was simple in design, ingenious in innovation and an impending failure. 

The design—take one plastic container and seal the food/treasure inside; place vessel at base of massive pine tree; enclose vessel in previously mentioned “rock fortress”.  You and many others might call the rock fortress a pile of rocks, but allow Oscar his megalomaniac moment and defer to his judgment that this is a FORTRESS.  The banana interjects its self through a simple act of kindness with Oscar offering to protect the precious fruit of a friend (no euphemism) with in the confines of the citadel.
So the next time you hear someone proclaim, “You don’t wanna to stash your banana in my stone fortress?”  Don’t take it inappropriately.  It is simply the battle cry of the wary camper seeking a rare defeat of the cleverest of enemies.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Sometimes when you try to multitask the results can be amusing. 

Earlier I attempted to combined climbing and restocking toilet paper in the canyon port-a-johns.  Allow me to set the stage.  Peggy & I are wrapping up laps on Cardinal Sin.  There are three groups at this end of the Meat Wall.  One of the groups knows Peggy & I and the other does not.  The pair that does not know us is eavesdropping.  I am carrying extra rolls of TP on the exterior of my backpack--visible to all. 

We are chatting with the group that knew us about annual passes and that we could sell them one.  The other climber group jumps into the conversation something like this:

Climber: "You are the Park Host?"
Me:  "Yes."
Climber:  "So that is why you have so much toilet paper."
Me:  "Yes.  I'm restocking the johns."
Climber:  "That's a relief.  We thought that you had just returned from Europe with a bad stomach bug and were very prepared."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scent of a Ride

Definitely not the awe inspiring performance by Al Pacino but rather a pathetic attempt at a 40 mile road ride today. Below is the series scents that passed through my olfactory sensors while I enjoyed the first 34 miles and suffered through the last 9 (it was either uphill or rough chip-seal).

Euphoria of the adventure mixed with the damp morning air...clean non-metro area air mixed with a bit of sage...sheep poo...fresh cut hay (inhale many deep breaths, love it!)...sage...dead in Newcastle...diesel exhaust...wet pavement from a rancher's asphalt...sage...despair...sweat...despair...relief...(little did you know despair and relief could be smelled)...dust of the fish hatchery parking lot where we parked the truck.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

Rifle Mountain Park has 30 campsites spread through three camping areas, Sawmill Gulch, Huffman Gulch and Rifle Creek. Between Huffman and Rifle Creek there are two prized sites next to the creek as it meanders through old beaver dams before rushing through the narrows. All of these 30 sites are placed along a 1 mile stretch of the park. I was returning from a change-giving mission to site 20 in Rifle Creek and as I was just passing the two prized sites I spotted a tent. 'You have got to be kidding me!' No where near a campsite was a tent perched next to the creek and almost out of site from the road. I slowed enough to determine that getting to the tent required at least one creek crossing (there are several S curves in the creek). Since I was wearing my running shoes I returned to the trailer to buckle on the Chacos and go investigate.

I parked in site 16 and started the trek through grass, reeds and two creek crossings. As I approached the tent I noticed it didn't look too secure. Curious. I called out announcing myself secretly afraid of what (or who) I might find. When I got opposite the tent and readied to use a log to cross the creek it was obvious that this tent was not erected in this location but had been transported by pranksters from a campsite! Inside the tent was a huge air mattress that filled most of the volume in the cheap Coleman tent. Also inside was a pillow and two sleeping bags. I was stumped. How did this get here? Why is it here. And then I laughed because this was apparently someones practical joke on their friends. Oh, what a good one!

I decided I couldn't move the tent myself so headed back to the truck. I made it across the log and one creek crossing before deciding that I had better go back and dismantle the tent. Tony had gone to town, we were between rain storms and dusk was rapidly approaching. I had visions of campers returning from climbing to not find their tent and wandering the park in the dark looking for their tent. Though I really wanted to watch it unfold, the responsible camp host inside of me determined it would be best to get the tent. The first trip I carried the sleeping bags, pillow and tent fly. The second trip I carried the tent and poles. The third and final trip I carried the now deflated air mattress.

Upon returning to our cabin I laid the sleeping bags out on the parking barriers to dry. The tent had been set at an angle and because the tiny tent fly didn't cover the whole tent so rain had gotten inside. Then I sat waiting for a frantic camper. It started raining again so I had to quickly grab the bags and return them to the truck cab. Then I had to heave the air mattress and tent out of the truck bed and lug them into the cabin. Still no campers. A week earlier we had taken two tents down that had spent a day in an unpaid site and they were still unclaimed. Could this tent also fall to the same fate of life in the lost and found?

About 8:30 I noticed a vehicle go by and thought 'ah, there go my campers'. Sure enough within minutes they came racing back in a panic. I sauntered out and they immediate said 'Our tent is missing!'
'Is it by chance a gray and orange Coleman?'
'Yes! Do you have it?'
'Yes. I found it between your site and site 16.'
They looked around frantically 'Do you have it?!'
'Yes. It is in the cabin.'
They didn't care about the tent, wet bags or deflated air mattress. They were most concerned about a pair of prescription glasses. The glasses were still inside the tent and unharmed, much to the relief of both. Turns out the only person who knew where they were camped was their buddy who had been with them all day. Could it be a case of mistaken identify? Or a case of a mischievous unknown party? We will never know.

There are still two unclaimed tents in the lost and found.