The Femur is the Strongest Bone
Indian Creek RoadTrip TR, Nov 2001
This will be short and sweet, like our climbing trip. :)
And so it continues. After my past two shorter, less-committing
expeditions for climbing in UT, I finally talked my girlfriend into
some time off (in the busy season, no less) for a long weekend
roadtrip to the crack mecca. Weíd been once before, but only for a
morning, and unable to find anything that I thought I could safely
lead and with a relatively sparse rack of active pro, we vowed that
weíd return. It took us until Thanksgiving to find a weekend free
Traditionally, itís still nice in the desert around this time of year,
when itís turned too nasty to climb alpine rock without it becoming an
affair of snow and early-season ice. This year weíve had a mild fall,
and things have been climbable, if cold, even on north-facing routes
in the Front Range. Nature had its way with us this weekend.
We had six days off (Thurs-Tues) and my first concern was cooking an
awe-inspiring Turkey Day meal for Julesí extended family; I think I
did well, and was told such, but who really knows. Perhaps they were
just being nice. Cooked my butt off with the full
bird/stuffing/taters and 2 gravies course, and on a nice day to be
outside to boot. After meeting and socializing for a while (hanging
xmas lights from ladders, that sort of thing) we packed up the honda
battlewagon with camping gear and headed west.
I was hoping to link up with Frank from r.c for some climbing time in
IC, but as we drove over LaSal Pass from Paradox there was snow. More
of it, even, than in the bigger mountains weíd come through.
Ridiculous amounts of snow. Yeah, it was cold around the Continental
Divide, with maybe 3-4 inches of dry stuff, but it was just as cold,
and wetter, and at least as much heading into the desert from 8000í.
And it was still raining/sleeting/snowing. Iím not really sure which.
(ĎMaybe itíll be better in the lowlands.í Right.)
At 7Kí in IC, we were just lucky theyíd plowed the access road to IC.
To make it shorter still, it got to 20degF one day. For the high.
Okay, Iím exaggerating. It got to 40 on Saturday when we actually got
to climb, and some of the snow melted and the south-facing routes were
dry. But ask anyone who was there (the ones who didnít bail even
earlier than we did), and it didnít break freezing most of the long
weekend and it was only really climbable that day for about 5 hours.
I understand Frankís climbersí party was a hit in Bridger Jack;
probably the only release from not being able to get on the rock. Iím
happy to say it was Julieís first time winter/snow camping and she was
happy and stayed warm and all those good things, and she might even
keep climbing with me in the cold!
Saturday morning started off well. We met another pair of climbers in
the hidden spot that TradGirl turned us on to (Thank you, it was
pretty nice!). Al, a patent attorney just there for a couple of days,
and Mark, a kind-of-cocky but nice climber well above our abilities
from Aspen. Mark weíd seen at Supercrack before, in September,
hopping from route to route looking for harder and harder things.
Heís a carpenter with a business in Aspen doing somesuch, and seems to
like befriending other climbers with racks that he can borrow to put
up routes he does, however, climb with you, hang out, is friendly, and
offers good advice. And he leaves the routes up for TRing if you
donít want to lead them. On the other hand, he climbs something like
(his description) 11+/12 trad and 14a sport, and a 10 is an Ďeasy
climbí that he recommends to even gumbies like me. Iím not sure where
Mark is from, but his accent reminds me of my Polish SF buddy Mick
perhaps somewhere in the Baltics.
We all went to Supercrack Buttress together to climb around and share
some gear (I was plenty happy to lend out gear to climb some of the
classics on TR first, not really looking for any super-onsights).
First thing, Mark points to Keyhole Flake and tells me to put it up.
A solid 10, lieback and #3 crack for 70í. Hmm, thatís harder than my
hardest onsight yet, and itís early still. Okay, what the hell. In
70í I put up 16 pieces and hyperventilated a bit. But itís a
fantastic climb. All sorts of interesting tricky things about it.
And I led it clean, so Iíve officially pushed my lead, onsight, and
overall climbing level up a bit. My best previous was a 10a at
Parachute, and thatís one of only 2 Iíve ever climbed at the grade. I
guess I was feeling ballsy.
In the meantime Mark put up Supercrack (10c) to the south with some of
our cams and Julie followed up Keyhole; both Mark and Al finished
before Julie and I, so they left a rope up for us. They came through
as Julie was on looking for gear for Incredible Hand Crack, with
another loner theyíd picked up (wandering girl named Bree). I lent
them all the #2 sizes I had (oh, Ďbout 8) and they went off, as Julie
started up Supercrackís crux start lieback. Sheíd had more than
enough after she got to the meat of the route (the 80í+ of #2.5-3
jamming) and I let her down. My turn. Learning from some of her
searching for holds on the hard part, I cleanly climbed the crux with
a mediocre kneebar and stretch, and started into the sustained stuff.
My hardest part was figuring out how to get over the small jam
overhang 1/3 of the way up, and I hung 2 times figuring things out and
another 2 times just resting, but I made it to the anchors. Maybe I
donít know all I need to about cracks, after all. I tried too much
lieback and not enough straight-on, although my feet were good the
whole way. Perhaps Iíll feel good about the lead next time.
When we got down, we headed over where the other three had finished
with Incredible (10c also) and were moving to 3am and wanting #3s. I
belayed Julie up 40í of Incredible before she couldnít go any further
(those darn broken ankles suck on sustained cracks, or so I
understand), and then was talked into pulling the rope for an onsight
attempt. Sure, itís only 10c. Easy hands. Youíll only need 5 #2s.
I got onto the first pillar section and tried jamming it. I tried
liebacking it to 8í, and put in a green metolius. Not good. Too
tired. I downclimbed. Dammit, this is mine. I got back on, and Bree
came over to help spot me. I climbed again up the pillar crack,
liebacking, realizing it was a jam at the top, #2 size. Couldnít get
in a piece. Pumping out. One good dynamic move from my lieback to a
jam at the top of the 15-20í pillar, I lose it. My feet go. Somehow
I catch 6" down on a lieback with my fingers, but itís not going to
work. Julieís belaying my piece that will keep me (just) off the
ground. And I fall. And the piece blows. I knew it wasnít good
enough. Bree just slows my fall enough, as Iím horizontal and leaning
right. I hit the ground, thigh first, onto a promontory on the only
big rock on the landing pad. Oh god, that hurts. Julie stands
stunned for a minute, and then she and Bree race over to help me up or
out or something. I canít breathe. ĎGet away from me,í I yell. ĎI
canít breathe. Give me a minute.í God I hate falling. This is my
worst yet. I hit the ground, hard, and in a bad position. In a few
seconds I regain some of my composure and untie, knowing that my leg
isnít broken. ĎIím an EMT,í Bree says. I smile and her and respond,
ĎSo am I. No worries.í
Iím done for the day. I stand up, hobble a bit. Bree has just kept
me from a major breakage incident. My piece blew. I knew it would.
Poor placement, entirely my fault. Too cocky, wanting to lead this so
late in the day and pumped. But Iím not broken, only battered. The
femur is the strongest bone in the body, and Iím thankful.
The rest of the day was Vitamin M and beer for me. We even skipped
the party (which we hear was just a bunch of drunken and stoned
climbers), and I try to get a good nightís sleep on my left side. It
blows and snows all night, and keeps on going into the next morning.
So much for Six Shooters or any other more moderate leads. We spend
the day in Monticello, then Moab, then packing up and blowing out
Ďcause itís obvious by that point that the climbingís over for
everyone in IC for a few days.
Weíll be back. Iíve pushed my lead and onsight grades. Heck, Iíve
pushed my overall climbing grade (see previous discussions of such on
r.c). Iíve taken a nice lead fall, and Iíve pulled gear. Many
firsts. I donít think I want to repeat some of them. But god itís
such a cool place to climb.
Itís black now, turning slowly purple, and the size of a beer can.
Bruised all the way to the bone. Never had one quite this big or
painful before. :) Yaíll be safe out there, ya hear?