Friday, September 19, 2014

Estes Park Weeks 3-7: Rules of the road

Like those New Rules?  We discovered a few during these past four weeks:

Rule 1: The more you  climb, the less you blog. 

That's right, we have been climbing a lot, or at least trying to climb a lot.  The last few weeks of August were rainy and colder than usual.  We tried Notchtop, but the rain and wind were so cold it made it too hard to function.  This led to another rule -

Rule 2: When your hands are so cold and stiff that you can't pull your weiner out to pee, it's time to turn back.  We'll be back.

It seemed like a good idea to try shorter routes, so we climbed in Jurassic Park with Andrea (Brenda's daughter) and Brad (Andrea's BF).  Nice, single pitch routes with bolted belays making it easy to get down in case of storms.  Of course, it never rained there, but we had fun.  Here's Brenda leading Index Toe on the Dinosaur's Foot.

The next week, my oldest daughter, Lindsay came out from Boston.  Back to Jurassic Park for more fun.  Lindsay on top of the Fin and climbing one of the other formations:

After throwing in some kayaking with my friend Bob and mountain biking around Nederland to restore our psyche, we saddled up for Spearhead at the upper end of the spectacular Glacier Gorge.  Did I mention that my girl likes to carry a heavy pack?

A little searching around revealed a nice bivy. somewhat protected from the wind.  We called this the Pica Princess Hotel.  They were kind enough to share their cave with us and chirp us to sleep.

The next morning found us on the North Ridge of Spearhead.  Not a hard climb, but long, cold and very windy.  Which leads to another rule -

Rule 3:  The colder it is, the fewer pictures you take. 

So we don't have any of this route, but we do have an inspiration from it - one of the climbers in the team above us was 84 years old.  That's right, 84.  Tom Hornbein of Everest West Ridge fame.  "Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid."  Really nice guy.  He worried about us because it took us so long to finish the route.

That climb went pretty well, even though we shivered the whole way up the thing.  The setting was so spectacular, I didn't want to leave.  Hiking out is blissful.  You're just the right amount of tired, you feel closer to nature, like an animal and you're getting more oxygen as you descend.  Did I mention the scenery?

After more mountain biking, kayaking and the essential psyche up, we headed back to Notchtop during a golden September weather window.

Notchtop in all its glory:
The Direct South Ridge takes the left skyline 1000 ft to the summit:
We want to catch some sleep first.  We dubbed this place the Ritz Carlton of bivy sites.  It was Marriott-quality.  Perfectly clean with a flat space for two.  Under a room-size boulder with a view of the stars and protected from the wind by artistic rock walls.
Perhaps a thousand years from now, anthropologists may investigate these sites.  What ancient peoples built these shelters under large boulders and left no trash or sign of their passage, unlike their cousins in the valley.

The next morning, we headed up to the South Ridge.  We weren't just here for the climbing.  We were also here for Science.  That's right - the effects of Cougar piss on the voracious behavior of the Chubby Marmot.  Remember, they don't always eat your gear, but when they do, they prefer the salty portions.  We salted an old leather glove, laid the tempting morsel on a ground near the most interesting subjects in the world and carefully sprinkled said remedy around the glove.  Stay hungry, my friends.  Eat Responsibily.

Feeling strong and with the experiment established, we started up the South Ridge.  Well one of us was feeling strong.  There was another experiment going on. 

Experiment 2: Just how far could she climb with a severe attack of giardia.  Yes, we both picked it up somewhere even though we carefully sterilized our water.  She had it worse, was gurgling, getting increasingly weak and cramping.  Giardia had struck hard.  She climbed anyway, giving it her best.  We got half-way up - about 500 ft, until we had to conclude that a tiny parasite was more powerful than a tall, strong girl.  We fully experienced the next rule -
Rule 4: When your partner, who is tough-minded, says she (or he) is too sick to climb, translate that  as "she (or he) may or may not make it back down to camp if you head down right now". 
We carefully left gear and rapped back down to the approach gully.  She stumbled, slid and cussed her way back down an hour and a half's worth of loose scree, steep gully and sketchy down climbing to camp.  Then slept 14 hrs. 


 Oh, yeah, soon after we started down, it started to rain and hail.  That's the mountains.  Giadia may have saved out asses, although it certainly challenged the poop bags.  And Science was satisfied - Chubby and his friends never ate the glove.

Once again - we'll be back.  As they say in fishing - leave 'em bitin'.


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