A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Colorado Front Range and Vedauwoo

Trail Ridge Boulder V4
After leaving Barb's we wanted to do a little bouldering in Rocky Mountain NP before heading to the front range. We first tried to go to Lumpy Ridge but after hiking for a mile or so, learned that the areas we wanted to go to were closed for raptor nesting. We then went back into the park where we found a nice roadside boulder that Matt found some good problems on.  After we were good and tired from bouldering, we headed to the front range to see more friends. Our first stop was Rachel's (a friend of mine from Colorado College). We had a great time catching up over dinner and hanging out with Rachel and Brett and meeting her twin boys. After that it was into Denver to meet up with Matt's friend Jessica and her husband James. They have done a lot of travelling themselves as part of their multimedia business. It was great to talk with them and share stories of their travels and adventures. Then it was up to Boulder to see our friend Mike. We stayed with Mike over the weekend and even though he is perpetually injured and was unable to climb, he still took us on a great hike up Estes Dome and climbing in boulder canyon.


Mike Paul and Matt atop Estes Dome in RMNP

We felt very fortunate to have so many great friends and family to see along they way. The week was our first break from the van and it was quite nice to take real showers, sleep in real beds, and cook food in a real kitchen. Most of all though it was great to sit down with friends and meet new friends, talk and tell stories. No matter what the setting was, it was seeing friends that made it a great time.

Vedauwoo - The Nautilis

After spending the weekend in Boulder, we headed north to Veedawoo Wyoming. Land of off-width cracks and very coarse granite. Our trad climbing resume is fairly short so we expected to get humbled and were not disappointed. Most of the climbs that looked really good were significantly harder than what we wanted to do, so Matt decided to stick to bouldering. The bouldering is reasonably good, though would be hard to compare to other areas as the granite is extremely coarse and has huge crystals in it. There are literally thousands of boulders, but due to the nature of the rock most are lacking in holds and are unclimbable. As John Gill (the father of bouldering in america) said "You can't see a hold anywhere so it's a matter of spending 30 minutes just trying to get off the ground, I've never been very much in love with the place". We would have to share his sentiment, but in recent years some decent boulders have been found.

Cassie bouldering

Captain's Chair V0 w/ kneebar :)

freakin huge crystals!

Cassie opted for a good crack climb that the book claimed was easy to protect and wasn't disappointed. The climb was able to be sewn up with gear and made for a very enjoyable crack climb. There is an impressive amount of rock around and with all the wildflowers in full bloom it's really quite a magical setting. Also, due to the erosion many potholes form in the rock and are full of water. One we found high up on a rock formation had tiny fairy shrimp in it. Quite amazing given its location and the brutal winters the eggs must endure.

Cassie rappelling on Kim 5.6 at Poland Hill

Granite Pothole

Mike, Linda, and Julius will arrive and climb with us through the weekend. Hopefully the weather will hold out. We keep getting rainstorms in the afternoon even though the weather gave a 0% chance. On Monday we will be leaving Vedauwoo to head north, check out an area called Fremont Canyon and possibly swing by Devil's Tower on the way to Ten Sleep Wyoming.

Mojo napping (as usual)

granite flowers


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, and family

Three days were spent exploring Rock Mountain National Park. We stayed just outside of the park on the west side off a forest service road. There's free camping, which is excellent, but unfortunately the campsites are quite abused. One campsite had a entire watermellon in pieces all of the site. I threw them as far away from the van as seemed safe, and in the evening a fox came along and decided to have them for dinner! Guess I should have bagged them up and thrown them in a trash can. A park ranger told us that feeding the fox is pretty common so it's not very surprising that it wasn't scared of us and came right into camp. Another site had an entire ribcage and spine of an elk. The sites had great views of the mountains in the park which made up for some of the lackluster stewardship.

Fox and Watermelon

Adam's Falls

East Inlet Trail

East Inlet Trail

Overlook of East Inlet Trail

Our first hike in the park was up the East Inlet trail. We quickly checked out Adams Falls which has an impressive amount of water gushing through it. The trail continued on to beautiful open meadows with a meandering river flowing through it. We saw moose grazing across the river and what I was sure were ducks, but Cassie informed me they were just decoys. The hike continued up to the Devils Staircase and went up to Lone Pine Lake but unfortuately we hit snow and were unable/unwilling to continue on through waist deep snow to see the lake.

The following day our legs were sore from our previous hike so we did a couple of smaller hikes, and were thwarted again by snow and mud. We tried the Colorado River trail and hit snow in under a mile. The river itself was swollen and overflowing its banks. To avoid more snow we drove back down river a bit and did a nice short hike along the Coyote Trailhead. There we sat and snacked while watching elk in a meadow do the same. We also almost hit a moose who ran across the road.

Almost roadkill Moose

Flooded Colorado River Trail

Surprised Elk and Moose

Our third day we headed all the way through the park to get to Estes Park and see Cassie's cousin Barb. The drive was exquisite with great vistas of snow covered mountains. We also stopped to take pictures of elk, and were rewarded with a twofer. A moose ran right by the elk we were photographing. That was a great stroke of luck.


The summit of the road was incredibly windy with gusts buffeting the van back and forth. On the east side of the park we were greeted with tons of elk and more sheer cliffs than we had seen on the west side. Longs Peak and others were out in full force and were quite photogenic. We did short hikes to Bear Lake, up the Old Fall River road which was still closed but allowed us to take Mojo (normally national parks don't allows dogs on any trail). Mojo enjoyed getting out of the van since he had been stuck in it for the last few days. We hiked around Sprague Lake and called it a day thinking our photography session was over. Arriving in Estes Park we phoned Barb, received directions to her house, and drove straight there. Barb and her family were gracious hosts. They had dinner ready and beer and we had a great time talking and catching up. We swapped stories of traveling and ticks (Cassie got her first tick at Penitente). After dinner Barb took us for a drive around town to see some of the local wildlife such as a beaver pond with a very amiable beaver, and some elk just grazing away in a neighbor's yard. Turns out the pictures from town were some of the best of the wildlife we took! After the drive we came back, had a great dessert, and talked until we all called it a night and headed to bed.

Barb, Keenan, Jade our excellent hosts

This morning we are headed to some local bouldering to see how our bodies are doing. It's the first climbing we'll have done in a week. We'll sample the bouldering and then head to Cassie's friend Rachel's house for another evening of spending time with friends.


Sprague Lake


Fall River Road view


Alluvial Fan Falls


Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the way to Rock Mountain National Park

Colorado Homestead

We've taken a few rest days after 3 weeks of climbing. Our bodies and minds needed it. The next major destination is Rocky Mountain National Park but we've taken the scenic way to get there. Currently we are in Granby, CO which is on the south-westside of the park. Our last post was from Cripple Creek. Since then we've been to 3 free campsites in national forests. It's been a beautiful drive and we've seen some amazing rock climbing areas in the South Platte of Colorado. It's unfortunate that we didn't climb but sometimes even with rock around it's best to just take pictures and pass it by. We stayed just north of Florissant Colorado Wednesday night,

South Platte Granite

Sheeps Rock

South Platte River


near Jefferson Colorado the following night,

Duck Moon

Busy Beavers

Beaver Pond


 and last night we camped about 30 minutes south-west of Hot Sulphur Springs, Co.

How High? The Van breaks into the Ozone near Breckenridge.

We had our first equipment issue of the trip this morning. Our solar panel blew over in a strong wind gust and is cracked probably beyond repair, the glass is completely spiderwebbed. Surprisingly the panel is still putting out over 50% of its normal output, which is pretty cool, but we're sure we'll need to replace it at a minimum cost of $280. So much for being under budget, but alas these are things that will happen.

Today is laundry day and tomorrow we head into the Park. Should have some cool photos to post by sometime next week. After that we'll be in Boulder, Co with our friend Mike Loh.

Trees in beaver pond

A falcon searches for its breakfast while we have ours. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More Shelf Road

Cactus Cliff


We returned to Shelf Road fully stocked on water and food ready for some more climbing. But we started to become more aware of why people had told us that shelf was too hot this time of year. With temps in the low 90's we were limited to climbing in the morning shade before things just became miserable out. Our guidebook was clearly written in the winter since it only described about half of the cliffs at shelf and the descriptions on all were how they got great winter sun. This is not a good thing in June. We pretty much stuck to one cliff the whole time, but since there is pretty much endless rock at shelf, there was still plenty to do to keep us busy.

unknown climber on Cactus Cliff

The typical day at shelf consists of waking up fairly early, drinking coffee and eating breakfast from the great view of the tent pad, hiking to Cactus Cliff, doing a few fun climbs until it was in the sun, enduring the hot hike back to camp, then lazing about in the shade of camp in the hammock until it cooled off enough to think about dinner. We had frequent intentions of returning to climb in the evening, but the heat had sapped all of our motivation by that point.

Morning coffee - self portrait

One evening a couple stopped by our camp asking if we hadn't just been climbing in Penitente as they recognized our van from there. We started chatting and learned that they were also on a two year road trip. Donn and Jody are from West Virginia and about three months in to their trip. It was great to meet another couple doing something similar! We shared some stories of good places to climb. We didn't get a chance to climb with them since they left Shelf the next day, but it sounds like we will be on similar paths this summer and hopefully will meet up with them again.

 As far as the quality of the climbing we were very impressed and got on a bunch more routes that were challenging. Cassie redpointed (got to the top without falling) a great climb called Leisure Class 11b and I redpointed the route just to the left of it called Pick a Peck of Perfect Pulling Pockets 11d. We were both really happy to have bumped up our hardest redpoint of the trip and were incredibly happy with the quality of the routes. We also got on a bunch of other climbs such as Blackmans Buurden 10c, three-quarter ton 10d, Illegal Smile 11b, Diedrus 10b, La Cholla Jackson 5.8, Stress Rehearsal 10d and others. Each of the routes was very good and we even took some pictures while climbing to document.

Cassie on Blackman's Burden 10c

After climbing two days in a row Cassie's elbow started bothering her, and my ring finger was acting up so we decided to leave Shelf a bit early and begin working our way to Rock Mountain National Park and after that Boulder Colorado. We were sad to leave early and have every intention of coming back at some point to climb more. On the other hand a local Coloradoan told us that the climbing at Ten-Sleep in Wyoming is even better limestone than Shelf Road, and that France was even better than either so I guess we only have better climbing to look forward to.

Very tired puppy

Currently we are typing this email from a small park in Cripple Creek, Co. Mojo is rolling in the grass enjoying not having to make the steep hike today and Cassie and I are looking forward to taking a few days off of climbing to just camp and hike around. We should be in RMNP by the weekend and in Boulder by the following weekend of June 18th.

Cassie on Three-Quarter Ton 10d (steeper than it looks)

Granite Arch - Shelf Road

crescent moon