Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Indian Creek: Part 2

The wind tugged upon my bivy and a dim light had come to my eye's awareness. In rising from my shelter, I was greeted by grey skies and a cold wind. Each of us slowly awoke and quietly began our individual preparations for the day ahead. Embarking upon the  second day amongst the sandstone of Indian Creek, we had decided we would climb at the Fin Wall.

I welcomed the morning approach as it not only warmed me against the harsh wind of the day but slowly loosened my sore muscles. Arriving at the Fin wall, it became clear after a glance at the guidebook that this was going to be a tougher climbing day for me. One of the learning experiences that comes with climbing at Indian Creek is that you become painfully aware of your hand size. In Indian Creek the cracks tend to minimally vary in width... meaning that your hand size and how well they fit into the crack will largely determine the level of difficulty of a given climb. The cracks vary from widths of fingers, hands, fists, or bigger. While in Indian Creek I quickly became aware that I have rather large sized hand... the largest in the group in fact... therefore my preference of routes differed.

Perched surveying the landscape at the Fin Wall

Upon looking at the guide book much of the routes were calling for 2.0-2.5 sized protection (to be placed in the crack), which lies in that frustrating range where my hands were too big to fit into the crack, and yet the crack was wide enough that I couldn't get fingers to stick well. Upon mounting my first route of the day I was already spouting explicatives as only half of my hands sunk into the blackness of the crack before me. Often I learned that in Indian Creek if a crack width does not fit you, you will find yourself in the strenuous position of lie backing sections and thinly gripping the edge of the crack. The day was challenging but endowed me with a new skills and realizations about techniques to deal with the adverse crack widths and made it clear to me that strength and efficiency in lie-back technique is important.

As the sun began to hang low on the horizon we stripped ourselves of our down jackets and prepared for the trek back homeward. Every night communally we would create our meals often being a random conglomeration of veggies, cheese, and summer sausage in a thick soup in which we lovingly labeled "goulash".

Fire side stories became exchanges of the cultural use of words which differed between the Californian and Minnesotan factions at camp. We Minnesotans learned the proper usage of "heinous", "psyched", "raw dawg", "bro", and "sick". Meanwhile, we versed them in the proper MN pronunciations of the long "O" sound, usage of phrase such as "Jeeze", "You bet", and how to be overly conscientious.

The morning after looked much like the morning before in weather, but the sun fought in line with sky for brief appearances. Waking I spooned up some left over the "goulash"and admired the soreness that graced my limbs. Mornings were generally quiet as we gradually eased into the exchange of words.

The climbing gear heaped in the back of the SUV under guidance of our friends started the engines and made for the Cat Wall. The approach began with a classic desert off-road driving. Piling six into the SUV, I jumped onto the back bumper looking for the wilder of rides and some fresh air. We made way through a 3 foot high wall of tumble weed and balanced the vehicle from rolling on the pitched double track leading up to the cat wall.

"Fat Cat"... 5.11a

When I reached the Cat wall and took to my belated surveying of the guidebook I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Having more gumption I took to leading a 5.11a entitled Fat Cat. Gear hanging from my sides I took a deep breath and began my ascent. It started hard in a flared crack I place a piece high and hung for a bit. The crack soon opened up beautifully to my favorite width as I began to sink multiple #3 cams. Near the top I came to the realization that I had brought too little gear and lead me to nervously run out the distance between my pieces as my breathing became heavy with exertion and adrenaline. Each movement was calculated for efficiency and every hand placement measured for sureness, and still I felt my energy waning. I reached the top and clipped into the anchors relieved and smiling down to my belayer Ben. We took to a couple more routes and my ascents felt more and more solid. We climbed late into the afternoon sun, clinging to every the last bits of daylight. It was a strenuous day and I had felt all the better for it.

We retreated to camp with bellies longing for sustenance. It was short night for me as fatigue had began to weigh upon my eye-lids. I lay in my bivy with the desert sand beneath me and let darkness fall across my eyes welcoming a coma-like slumber. That night I dreamed my first dreams of climbing in years and must have smiled unconsciously in my repose.

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