Sunday, October 5, 2008

Southern Comfort Wall: Rain melts away ego

I was really looking forward to climbing with Bob Almond today. I had climbed with Bob before, as part of OMTRS groups, but never just the two of us. He is a strong, cautious climber, with a strong sense of adventure, and he has an inexhaustible store of climbing tales. We met at our house for breakfast of grated zucchini omelets, then struck out for the Organs. Clouds were rolling in, and I vaguely remember waking up at 5am to the sound of rain, but we ignored these signs and kept on going.

The approach was cold, beckoning autumn. It was windy and misty and I hadn't brought warm clothes figuring that we'd have the typical sunny New Mexico days I've grown accustomed to. By the time we got to the wall, two clouds had allready passed around us, leaving a fine dew on every surface. Oh, and there was thunder and lightening nearby. Somehow though, one of the climbs looked dry enough to jump on. The alcove on the far western end was protected from the winds and rain. I had climbed this route with Scott Jones a while back, so Bob got the lead. By default, he would also get the piece of booty high up on the route, a yellow runner.

As Bob ascended, it got colder. I was shivering pretty steadily, and even Sasha was looking pretty miserable pawing at the damp earth for a dry spot to curl up. By the time Bob was near the crux, it began to rain on us. But instead of just a fine mist like the previous cloud crossings, the rain grew steadily in volume, until the entire slab was dripping. Luckily, Bob had just reached the booty, which provided a perfect bail out spot. The moves past the booty/bolt were the crux slab moves, and at first I was incredulous as it looked like Bob was going to try to surmount this spot in wet and freezing conditions. Good sense got the better of him, and he bailed, cleaning on the way down so i wouldn't have to subject myself to the wet route.

By the time we had packed up the rain had stopped, but more clouds were on the way. We thought about walking back to the car, and getting hot-chocolate. But our curiosity got the best of us and we ended up hiking up to the Lesser Spire to check out the big chimneys and offwidths which grace the northwest side of the tower. The chimney route didn't look to bad, and even had a bolt before a crux-looking spot. The offwidth looked hard and also sported an old 1/4" bolt before the crux section. When we get bigger gear or bigger balls, we'll be back.

Sasha was getting pretty beat-up by all the scrambling. She also had her first close encounter with a rattler. despite all our yelling, and me leading her around the snake, she managed to back-track right over it. Luckily the snake was pretty cold and sluggish and was happy to sit quiet while clueless Sasha stepped right over it. Today she's lucky, but I worry about her snake-sense.

We got back to our packs stowed on the west end of Southern Comfort wall and it was finally sunny without clouds in sight. However, the wall was still pretty wet so we started heading down. On our way down we passed by a short headwall a little to the north of the main Southern Comfort wall. This short headwall has two obvious routes, a 5.10 crack and 5.11 overhanging roof system. The wall was getting full sun and appeared dry, so we decided to try the routes out. We opted for the 5.11 first because it was drier. Neither of us felt up for leading it though, so I scrambled around to the top where I found a pair of bolts (one 1/4" one 3/8") for top-rope anchors. The climb was burly. It starts with 20 ft of moderate crack face climbing up to the first roof. Strenuous lay-backing gets around the corner to a decent stance and then more strenuous lay-backs get around the next corner, where your left to haul yourself up jugs to the top (total length ~20m). The moves were all straight-forward, but neither Bob or I could send. We repeatedly flamed out getting around the lay-back corners.

After burning ourselves on the 5.11, I foolishly though I could lead the 5.10 crack. It looked simple and short. The inital 15 ft of climbing was steep hands/fingers to a rest. than another 10ft crux past steep fingers lead to easy climbing to the top. Almost a high-ball boulder problem. I got 5 ft off the ground and placed a cam while hanging off a hand-jam. Then I got another five feet up and had my hands on the jugs which would let me gain the rest-stance. but I couldn't pull up. My arms were lead, and I panicked and grabbed the cam, and took a short and awkward swing-fall managing to skin my fingers pretty badly. Utterly deflated we called it quits.

This day left me wanting more, but also feeling like I lack the strength and resolve I once had. I am attempting to train at home, but it's not too serious and I am skeptical about the results. My goal is to do 30minutes of "climbing training" at least four times a week for a month. This can entail hang-board work-outs, pull-ups, core body exercises, whatever. I just want to get my arms used to holdiong my weight again for extended periods of time. I'm hopung that by the end of the month, I'll be able to hang for a little longer on jugs, and won't pump out after a mere 30 seconds of effort. I'm dangling a carrot in front of myself too, if I complete this training regime, I'll splurge on a new cam, a #2 camelot or equivalent (a serious hole in my rack).

Bob and I will be back soon, and have our glorious reprise of these routes.

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