A Christmas Adventure

A lot has happened since I last wrote some drivvle. We carried on applying for jobs and I did some auto cad for Rachels dad. Rachel got her job back as a belayer at the Calgary climbing centre which earned her a few free climbs and some pocket money.

We got pretty psyched on wintry photographs and took some cool snaps which I’ll put up later.
As Rachel was feeling better we stated to plan a roadtrip to go climbing in the states. Before this though we had to sample some Canadian skiing as I’d always wanted to taste their legendary powder. I bought some skis boots and poles off our friend dilly for $30 and we set off to Sunshine Village. It had snowed two days previous and despite the clouds,  short skis and confused legs we managed to shred some stashes of pow.

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Face too frozen to smile.

On the 8th of December we stole the family people carrier and headed south. 7 hours of driving later we arrived in Helena, Montana where we had arranged to stay at Sarah’s house who we’d found on the couch surfing website. The roads were good most of the way but as soon as we hit Montana there was tons of ice and snow, we were grateful of the snow tires. We spent the evening chilling out with Sarah’s friends and watching Old School. They were going skiing in the morning and were getting up early which suited us nicely as they cooked up a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon.

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Snowy in Montana.

We drove out of Helena and after a scary few miles of sheet ice the snow disappeared and 9 long hours of cruising down the I-15 through 3  states landed us in St George, Utah. We parked up in the Chukawalla car park, made our bed in the back of the van and went to sleep. It was now that I realised that the desert gets cold at night and I should have brought my thermals. We woke up with ice on the inside of the windows and a herd of fat people from the TV show ‘the biggest loser’ struggling to get out of a mini bus parked next to us. After sussing out where to get food and water we set off on the 30 second walk in to Chuckawalla wall. The steep sandstone took some getting used to and the next couple of days went by in the same pattern of sleep, food, climb. It was good. I climbed what was Rachels first 11a she onsighted an 11c and my first attempt at red pointed resulted in my first 11b. After 4 days climbing around St George we decided to head to the Grand Canyon.

We accidently ended up driving through Zion national park which meant buying a week long park pass. We decided we could use this on the way back from the GC until we found out that the road to the GC north rim was closed in winter and that the south rim was an extra 3 hours of driving and would make a trip back to Zion unfeasable. We doubled back and opted to skip the GC and spend two days in Zion. It was snowing a lot and the clouds were low, but the views of the canyon walls were still incredible, I’ve never seen so much steep unvegetated rock before. That night we ate an outrageous amount of food at Blondies diner and went to see The Hobbit at the cinema. It was funny to see that the whole town had turned up to see it and that all 100 people in the cinema new each other. We slept behind the laundromat as it was the only place without a no camping sign. The next morning we went for a very snowy walk up Walters Wiggles but the final few hundred meters up to Angels Landing were a bit too sketchy given the conditions and exposure.

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Zion
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Cookie dough pit stop.

We then drove out of Zion  and headed for Vegas and Red Rocks state park. Arriving in the mid afternoon we speant a couple of hours bouldering below Kraft Mountain. It was nice to boulder on problems that have holds instead of the slopey awkward features of gritstone boulders.

With our urge to be stingey still runs strong we were not keen on the $15 campsite fee. We were therefore pretty happy when a couple offered to let us stay on there sight for free that night.

We climbed at the Gallery in Red Rocks the following day and I managed to flash an 11a which was pretty exciting and Rachel cruised a 3 star 11c which I found desperate. We ran into more luck on our return to the campsite when we met Micah and Emily who wanted to share there site. We stayed with them for the next couple nights and climbed more in the park, highlights included Rachels onsight of Sweet Pain 11d and my first 11b flash on the dog wall.

The weather decided to naff out, Emily and Micah headed to death valley so we moved camp to share a site with some other friends. We spent the rainy day seeking out some natural hot springs and hoping that we wouldn’t get washed away by a flash flood. Was nice to see some big horn sheep chilling on an outrageous cliff. The weather dried up but the temps plummited and the wind picked up making a camp fire a necessity. We had two more days of climbing before picking up Rachels parents and sister from the airport. We rejuvenated our trad skills with the crimpy panty line 10a, a sandy slopey 10a and the classic two pitches of the Great Red Book 5.8. We were both psyched to tick the photogenic arete of Caustic 11b.

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Pitch 2 of Great Red Book

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Top of Great Red Book

We picked up the three musketeers and moved into the luxury of there hotel, complete with 7pm cookies and a hot tub (crucial for the recovery of our abused bodies). The level of climbing continued to rise now that the full squad had assembled. Rachel and I both sent our hardest routes of the trip so far the next day, Rachel with a 1st redpoint send of the classic Fear and Loathing 12a and myself with a third attempt send of Yaak Crack 11c. Most importantly I fell off a few times which shows me how much my head game has improved since last time I sport climbed. In the last 6 days we have both taken more falls than we have in the last year which I guess is good as it shows were trying and were both attempting to lead things that we would have previously only wanted to top rope due to the high chance of falling. Most of the routes have been steep and nicely bolted which has helped. I surprised myself by being the only one to lead a sandbagged and run out 5.10 slab with the smallest holds and steepest section appearing at the most run out part making for a very scary climb. Rachel has been crushing everyone on anything steep flashing a number of 11d’s and a 12a.

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Rachel retro flashing Yaak Crack

We took one evening off hot tub soaking to check out the strip. It’s easily the most outrageous road I’ve ever been on. Its almost tacky but too big and extravagant to actually be put in that category. Its crazy how much money is floating around but also sad to see people wasting money which they can’t afford to waste.

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Statue of Liberty on the Strip.

It was a little strange spending Christmas eve and Christmas day climbing in the sun instead of sheltering from the rain. We managed to tick some cool routes including a super fun 10d trad route. Here’s some picks to make you jealous.

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Fun in the sun.
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Christmas Eve lunch.

It rained last night and so the sandstone was out of bounds (because wet sandstone is weak) so we headed to a small limestone crag called the urban crag. Despite declaring it a rest day Rachel and I both did 6 routes including an 11d second go and 3 11a’s for me.

Rachel and I are now on our 8th consecutive day of climbing and despite tired bodies psyche is still high. We are leaving Las Vegas tomorrow, heading to California  in search of warmer temps.

There are loads of photos on our cameras but seeing as I wrote this on my phone I can’t put them up right now, but will put a link to the ‘best of album’ later on.

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