One of the reasons I got actively involved in outdoor pursuits eight years ago was an interest in climbing. It was an online search for climbing lessons that led me to Karl’s Extreme Things Adventure Club. I know it sounds melodramatic, but that web search changed everything. Joining that club unlocked the gates of ignorance and doubt that were keeping me from chasing outdoor adventures. My life has been drastically different since. Oddly enough, it was another three years before I decided to get climbing training. That was almost exactly five years ago. I was progressing steadily and then I got distracted by canyoneering. I love canyoneering. It combines so many things I adore: remote places, water, heights, problem-solving, slides, jumps, rappels, etc. Unfortunately, running canyons all the time makes it difficult to also climb all of the time. I’ve given myself a goal—I want to climb all 31 pitches of the Nose on El Cap by 40. I have a lot to do before I am prepared for that. And so, this year I have decided to make sure I climb more frequently than I run canyons (the last couple of years those priorities have been swapped). The great news is that a lot of my canyoneering buddies are moving into climbing meaning finding good climbing partners has become much easier.
I’ve been hitting various crags fairly frequently so far and have gone on a few short climbing trips also. I returned to Joshua Tree in January with Mike and Moreno. We climbed a few routes including a repeat of the very first route I lead trad-style. It was a very different experience than the first time and a big confidence builder. The weekend went well despite Moreno’s ridiculous selfies. The image below is based-on-a-true-story.
I also spent a couple of weekends at a great sport climbing area in the desert called New Jack City. Here I got to watch three separate friends lead their first single-pitch sport routes. It’s really cool to experience that.
The end of March saw the return of the Red Rock Rendezvous, a really enjoyable climbing festival in Nevada I’ve been attending for five years now. This is the place where I experienced my first multi-pitch route. I made sure to arrive early and stick around a couple of days after the festival. The festival was a good time as always, but the highlights were the 500 foot routes I climbed with friends the day before and after: Geronimo and Cat in the Hat. I lead every pitch on each. I felt very confident on Geronimo. Last year, I climbed the first pitch and had to bail afterwards because we started too late in the afternoon. It felt great to return this year and solidly lead the full route (even if I did manage to confuse the approach again and initially take us to the wrong rock). Cat in the Hat is rated the same as Geronimo, yet there were a few spots where I felt a little uncomfortable on lead. Psychologically I found it more difficult, but neither route is very hard technically. Cat in the Hat is just as busy as advertised: back-to-back climbing parties and the descent shares the same line as the ascent so there is a fair amount of dodging rappelers. Lots of featured rock with interesting cracks and a fun exposed traverse make it a good time.
One of the great things about climbing is all the awesome people you meet. I meet so many inspiring people on rocks and in primitive campgrounds. They may be filthy, stinky, and sleeping on the ground, but their zeal for life is unmatched.