As winter settles in on us like a mountain of wet blankets, smothering our motivation with warmth and moisture, I’ve been lucky enough to get out and climb a few times. While I was home in Colorado for the holidays, I was able to meet up with a college buddy and his brothers to hit Clear Creek Canyon in Golden. Climbing in a t-shirt with snow on the ground all around us was a pretty nice Christmas treat, and the echo of the trucks roaring down the road 300 feet away only added to the ambiance. It was a very nice day, although I think I’ve been a bit spoiled by the long, sustained lines of Smith and Trout Creek.
Speaking of Trout Creek, that actually wound up being my next destination. It’s a surprisingly great winter crag, because while you might, like us, think that it’s south facing, it’s actually not, which means that instead of being warm and comfortable, the cracks are just the right temperature to numb your hands up and make you into an unstoppable crack climbing machine. At least until your digits start to peel off.
Because the days are so damn short, you can leave town at 8 or 9 in the morning, stop at Joe’s Donuts and stuff yourself silly, climb some cracks for a few hours, and then be back home by dinnertime, while still claiming to have had a full value climbing day. And if there’s anything I love, it’s low-effort spraying: I continue to be impressed with myself for “getting worked” at Trout, despite having never redpointed anything there and making a hangdogging ass of myself to my friends’ amusement and delight each trip. By lowering my expectations to literally nothing, I take all the pressure off, and then get to brag regardless of how little I accomplish. It’s win-win! As far as I’m concerned, the day was a huge success just because I realized that my new rope matches my awesome muppety orange jacket. Hell yeah! We named the rope O, Clementine.
Unlike me, some people had actual ambitions and tried hard, as Todd and Marie flew up cracks left and right and Matt worked on the aptly named Winter Sustenance, a 5.12 finger crack with good gear but deviously hard footwork. He came incredibly close to sending, taking the first real whipper on my new rope from one of the last hard moves on the route. We all expect/demand a send next time though, Matt, so don’t worry! No pressure!
The following weekend I was able to get out to Smith with some of the same crew and some new friends: Matt, Ellie, Xavier, Kat and I carpooled out there and met up with Katie and Todd. After warming up on a few 5.10s and getting my first taste of Smith-style footwork again (“Smith Rock footholds: quantity over quality!”) I quickly realized that a few months away from Smith had left me in no mental shape to jump right back onto highly technical 11+ climbs. Happily I was able to send Heresy (11c), a bouldery, thuggish route I had put a few flailing attempts on in October, and it actually felt fairly easy, which was a huge validation of my recent training efforts: whereas previously I’d tried to actually climb it, this time I Sport Reached my way up which was vastly easier.
Meanwhile, Kat, Xavier, Matt and Ellie were putting in burns on some harder projects including Heinous Cling for Xavier, Kings of Rap for Matt, Flat Earth for Kat, and Vomit Launch for Ellie. I’m actually not sure if Ellie got on Vomit Launch though, because after Todd ripped apart his hands trying to jump to the finish hold on Heresy, Katie decided to ditch her gimp-ass boyfriend and come up Voyage of the Cowdog with me, a climb I’d been hoping to get on for a while and can’t recommend highly enough. Despite the relatively moderate climbing, this two-and-a-half pitch route takes one of the coolest lines up the park with an amazing position and view. Best of all, it let us climb high enough to soak in some rays long after the rest of the park had descended into shade!
Sitting at the Depot gorging myself on a burger and chatting with some friends at the end of the day, I decided that maybe Oregon winters aren’t so bad after all. And then I looked at the 10 day weather forecast for Boulder, Colorado and cried myself to sleep.