In case you haven't realized, a common theme has emerged in many of our climbing exploits.
"We head up the approach trail and in good Choss Boys style get immediately lost and disoriented."
- Erik in "Choss Boys tackle The Grand Wall"
"4 AM again. True to the Chossboys style, Daniel and I (Nick) had attempted to climb the North East ridge of Bugaboo Spire the previous Wednesday, but instead got hopelessly lost."
- Nick in "A ridge tale: Summit fever"
Yeah... I guess you could say we haven't exactly been slaying it on our big climbing days. This time, however, I (Nick) am happy to report that we finally managed the first ever Choss Boys anti-epic!
When Daniel and I visited our friend Beth in Canmore, we were introduced to Andrei.
Beth's house was often a place of gathering. During a delicious meal of oysters and BBQ chicken (prepared by the talented chef Liam McGillivrey), we mentioned our road trip plans to Andrei. As it turned out, he was looking to make a trip to Red Rocks in November, the same time we planned to be there. Perfect.
Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
We re-met Andrei sitting in the back of his white Volkswagon golf and waiting patiently for our late arrival. It was our first time climbing together, and we headed to Cannibal Crag, a popular sport climbing area in Red Rock Canyon, NV. I could tell immediately that Andrei was a competent climber, easy-going, and open minded.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
We had a great day, but our thirst for multipitch routes was growing. So the next day, we planned for Daniel and Andrei to climb Crimson Chrysalis while Dave and I would embark on a long, easy simulclimbing linkup on the Brownstone Wall.
Thursday, November 10th, 2016
Despite the morning hiccup, the rest of the day was a great success. Dave and I encountered only one other group on our mini-odyssey, and returned by mid-afternoon. Daniel and Andrei returned from their climb after dark, having been stuck behind numerous other parties.
At the end of the day, we found ourselves gazing up at Mount Wilson, the highest peak in Red Rock Canyon, under brilliant moonlight.
Later that night, after a couple of (irresistibly cheap) beers, we decided to climb Inti Watana, one of my biggest Red Rocks goals, and link it with the top of Resolution Arete, to attain the summit of Mount Wilson. Our 2300-foot linkup was scheduled for the coming Sunday.
Sunday, November 13th, 2016
Inti Watana is over 1500 feet tall, with two crux pitches of 5.10c, and the majority of the rest of the pitches at 5.9. We decided that due to the substantial bolts on many pitches, we could save a lot of time by simulclimbing the entire route, both Inti Watana, and the 5.8 climbing we would encounter at the top of Resolution Arete.
The approach is considered to be two hours (if you don't get lost), and the shortest descent takes at least three hours. Faced with such a daunting day, we set our alarms for 3:30 AM.
After being shooed away from our planned bivvy (right next to the highway) by an unimpressed park ranger, we traveled to the nearby town of Blue Diamond to sleep. We awoke here at 3:30 AM in a dusty pull-out, got dressed, then drove to the old Oak Creek campground parking lot.
While Daniel and Dave fiendishly scarfed caffeine pills, I ate a banana, spread some peanut butter on a bagel, then we all drank a 1 gallon jug of water.
Andrei pulled up 10 minutes after we arrived, and by 4:30 AM, the four of us were trudging through the desert on an old road.
As the sun began to rise, we were scrambling to the base of Mount Wilson's Aeolian Wall. Somehow, we had followed the approach directions in the dark, and with little error, arrived at a well-cairned gully.
The second pitch of Inti Watana is the crux, a sport-bolted 5.10c layback. I began leading the first pitch, a very fun 5.9 slab on sloping holds, and soon felt confident that I would have a smooth lead.
I passed the first belay, and very quickly arrived at the 5.10c crux. The footholds petered out and I made a tenuous move from bad smears to a rail of crimps, passing the crux. I soon discovered that there were actually two crux sections on the pitch, and found myself making a somewhat desperate feeling lunge to a good jug. The pitch ended with more slabby 5.9. I stood at the second belay and placed a progress capture device to protect Andrei as he moved through the hard moves.
I felt very secure on the next 5.9 pitch, so I passed up every second bolt to save quickdraws. At a certain point I was 20 feet above my last quickdraw when I felt a small jerk on my harness. I looked below, and saw Andrei swinging out from the wall. His foot had slipped on the crux move. Without the progress capture device, I would have been torn from the wall and taken a nasty fall. This was the first time our device had held a fall, and with such a small effect on my lead, it gave me renewed confidence in our simulclimbing system.
When I reached the top of the fourth pitch, I handed over the lead to Andrei. He cruised the next block up to the end of the eighth pitch, leading mostly gear protected terrain. Daniel and Dave managed to sneak past us on this block, but we ended up arriving at the top of the climb at the same time. All four of us had finished the twelve-pitch climb, and it was only 9:20 AM! Elated with our progress, we ate a quick snack, and immediately continued on up the Resolution Arete.
There is a pronounced difference in style between the Resolution Arete and Inti Watana. The anchor bolts at the end of Inti Watana were the last bolts we saw that day; Resolution Arete was entirely gear-protected to the summit.
Dave and Daniel went first, and after roughly three pitches of climbing, caught up to the guys from Colorado. Andrei and I were right behind, and met both parties at the base of a wide gully with a 5.8 off-width. Dave was ahead but had reportedly climbed it in true off-width style, claiming that the pitch was "a real thrash."
It was 1:20 PM; we couldn't believe it. Never before had we achieved an ambitious summit so early in the day, we hardly knew what to do with ourselves. I munched on some figs and cashew clusters, and took in the view from the high point of Red Rock Canyon. From this point in the day on, our pace was relaxed; no one was in much of a hurry since we had well over four hours of daylight to make the descent.
Usually descending from a large peak is an unpleasant experience to say the least. It is common to slide down long scree slopes, rappel past sections of steep cliff, and bushwhack after straying from the proper (yet always so vague) trail. We were pleasantly surprised when the descent from Mount Wilson was the complete opposite.
Would you believe it? The Choss Boys made it back to Wesley without even having to bust out their headlamps. It was a complete departure from good Choss Boys style - not getting lost, moving faster than expected, and no choss. How did we manage to pull it off?
Well, simulclimbing obviously saved a lot of time. It worked especially well on Inti Watana because the route had endless face holds, and was easy to cruise up. We also made sure to study the approach and descent since descriptions in the guidebook were vague at best. Andrei was also a great partner for long multipitches like Mount Wilson because he was meticulous with his route research.
All-in-all, Choss Boys + Andrei turned out to be a power team and we finished one of the largest climbing adventures at Red Rocks in casual style. Here's to hoping we can continue the anti-epic streak. I think I could get used to this.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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