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Log Entry 26 – Yellowstone

By | Climbing Log | 2 Comments

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Sometimes the best adventures are not the ones you plan. Today as I was driving to Yellowstone I took a wrong turn. I was going North East instead of South West. But this took me to Beartooth Pass. This is one of the most scenic drives I have seen yet. After turning around in Montana I drove over the pass again. I don’t mind driving through that area twice. After stopping at a mountain top lake for a picnic, I continued to Yellowstone.

My first stop once in the park was Tower Falls. The first thing that struck me was all of the tourists. So many people. After a short walk to the overview, I decided it wasn’t worth all of the commotion. Moving on to other areas.

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I drove for a good bit just taking in the scenery, but I did stop at some geysers/hot-springs. The land feels very different, like you are on a different planet or in the time of dinosaurs. But the only animal life I saw was a hare.

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After driving around a bit more, I stopped along a creek for dinner and to camp in my car. I enjoyed the nice quiet evening.

Today I went to the southern and more popular area of Yellowstone. Of course I stopped at Old Faithful. But I found that the areas I enjoyed most were not the most popular places. Just the drives along the rivers or going up one lane side roads had the best views and the added benefit of being peaceful compared the craziness that the main hubs attract.

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After stopping in Cody to mail my shoes to be repaired, I headed out towards the Tetons to find a campsite before my hike tomorrow.

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Log Entry 25 – Traveling to Yellowstone

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Today I packed up camp and said goodbye to Ten Sleep. I really loved the climbing here but I definitely need a break. The rock is pretty rough on the fingers and shoes.

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After refilling my water supply in the Ten Sleep Creek, I made my way towards Yellowstone. An uneventful day of driving through the beautiful landscape. As I was passing through Cody I saw a climbing gear shop and stopped in to get new shoes. They are tight and a little painful, but I think they will work out well.

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After Cody I went north to find a campsite. The land in this area is absolutely amazing. Though driving from 5000 feet to 10000 feet in short period of time doesn’t really give one a chance to acclimate to the elevation. I am feeling a bit lightheaded and nauseous.

I made my camp on a granite ledge overlooking a nice lake. And I did give my new shoes a test drive on the rock.

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Log Entry 24 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep, Uncategorized | No Comments

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Today is my last day in Ten Sleep. I went with Wendy and group to the Valhalla wall and did a 10a warm up by the rock known as Darth Vader.

We climbed several harder 10s that were a blast. We then headed to a more difficult 11b called Mr Poopy Pants.

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With 11b being well above my onsight grade, I didn’t really have much expectations other than fun. I did get up through the dihedral section without much trouble, but then I hit the roof. Overhangs always kill me. After several attempts and rests, my partners on the ground coached me on some good footwork technique for this type of climbing. I pulled through the overhang, but the rest of the way up was a struggle. I am very glad to have made it to the top though.

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Log Entry 23 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | One Comment

Today Mark and Abby were celebrating their anniversary, so it was best if I didn’t climb with them. Glenna and Earl suggested I talked to a group of ladies camping down the road. They said they are old time friends and were nice people. So I joined up with Wendy, Drew, and Demetria.

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We went to the lower part of the canyon in an area called “The Ice Plant”. There is a huge crack in the rock and a frigid blast blows through it. Very refreshing on a hot Wyoming day. We started off on some awesome 10s and then split up. Drew and I went to a classic 10c while Wendy and Demetria went farther up the canyon. I have not sent a 10c yet, but I hopped on the lead. Close to the top my feet popped off the rock and I was within a foot of hitting a ledge. Drew was watching me closely and took in the slack as I fell. A good belay saves the day.

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Once we were done with that route we went to find the other part of the group. On the way, part of the trail gave away and I took a bit of a tumble. Through a cactus of course. Eventually we found Demetria and Wendy on a sweet 10c. I followed a slightly overhanging dihedral crack up 30-something meters. A long haul and it used every bit of the rope. Being long limbed, I love stemming dihedrals. I lead up and as is my habit, I went off route at the last bolt. I had made a big move out from the crack to the face of the arete. A mistake that could not be reversed. So I had to swing on the rope back to the route. There goes my chance to onsight a 10c.

After a break, I tried an 11a. I made pretty good progress but not a send. If I had time to really work at it, I think I could get it. But I don’t have time. So afterwards I got on a 10. I was completely bushed at this point and took a pretty good whipper on it as I was trying to clip a bolt. With nothing more to give, I ended my climbing day.

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Log Entry 22 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | One Comment

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I was climbing with Mark, Abby, Ellen, Earl, and Glenna again today. We are forming a sizable climbing party. I tried a pumpy 11a that I might be able to get if I projected it. But it was only a warm up for everyone else. Abby’s project has been The Great White Behemoth, one of the more famous routes at Ten Sleep. And for good reason too; it is very impressive. After a couple days of working out the moves, she finally got a redpoint! It was very inspiring to watch the progression of going from bolt-to-bolt, to getting a clean send. Once she sent that, Mark went over to the route he was working on and sent that too! They say that often when one of the sends, the other gets so excited that they send too.

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With Mark working on his next project, I went climbing with Dan (another dirt bagger) for a bit. We did another Ten Sleep classic that has seen perhaps too much traffic. The beginning holds were very worn down and felt a little glassy. Dan then went to do an impressive 11 that pulled through a tough roof. As we were packing up our gear, I found out that Dan just graduated from studying geology. An impromptu geo lesson later, and I had learned about the formation of the rock we were climbing on. Learning new stuff is always so fun.

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Thursday: Mandatory and unplanned rest day today. Last night as I was driving to camp, I got a flat tire. No big deal, just jack it up, take off the old one and put on the spare. Except it was a big deal. The old tire had rusted onto the hub. I worked at it for an hour and half (and bent my tire iron) and decided that it was beyond my skill. It just so happened that I was on a rough dirt road in the middle of a canyon without cell signal. So getting help meant walking. Fortunately there was a camp not too far up the road. They gave me a lift up to Abby/Mark/Ellen/Glenna/Earl’s campsite and we discussed how to get it off. But any action would need to wait for daylight.

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In the morning we went down to my car and got out the blowtorch. After a bit of heat and a big smash of a rock, the tire came loose. (Using fire and a big rock felt very caveman-ish) I drove to the “city” (Worland has a population of 5k) to get my tire patched up. While I was in town I did some work and grocery shopping. No climbing today.

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Log Entry 21 – Kathy Karlo

By | Interesting People, Ten Sleep | No Comments

I was only climbing with Kathy for two days, but that was enough to see that she is an amazing person. Only been climbing for 4 years, but she crushes 12s and isn’t afraid of 13s. At the end of the day, she was “cooling down” on a 12 and saw a 14 next door and was saying how she would want to try it. In short: a very strong climber.

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But her strength is not limited to her muscles. Her determination and will is inspiring. She quit her job as a nanny and started to live on the road since November. And she runs a nanny placement business. Oh, and she runs a blog that has received notable attention from some big names.

At first I was a little worried about climbing with someone so high above my grade. She proved those fears to be unfounded. She was excited for me whether I sent a 9, or or just got part way up an 11. Climbing with her really contributed to my motto of “any time on the rock is a good time.”

The 11b I would never have tried if not gently pushed

The 11b I would never have tried if not gently pushed

While I didn’t feel out of place climbing with her, she did push me farther than I would have pushed myself. I wouldn’t have lead my first 10b, followed (with a take) an 11b through a roof, or have gotten 3/4 of the way up a 12a (that I will return to someday and send).

I am very grateful to spend a bit of time climbing with Kathy.

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Log Entry 20 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | No Comments

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Matt and Kathy took off this morning. Matt’s next stop is Yellowstone and Kathy is going to Vedauwoo. She mentioned that she will be in Squamish in July, so perhaps we will meet up there. Before she drove off, she connected me with Mark and Abby so I would have climbing partners for the day.

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Mark and Abby project at 5.12+ and were warming up on stuff that is beyond my onsight. Following on hard routes is a great way to learn. The next day when I was climbing with them again, they were starting out on a 10b that I tried on lead and sent it! A very fun route. I then lead up a 10d but didn’t get a clean send. It appeared to be vertical, but it was actually overhanging a bit at portions. Even though Mark and Abby climb much harder than I do, they were extremely patient and encouraging with me. It is always cool to have your belayer invested in your climb.

We met up with Ellen, a friend of Mark and Abby. Everything about her was very impressive. She was a bit short, but very strong, has sent some 5.14 projects, and is the most analytical climber I have seen. Watching her climb was amazing.

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The chain of friends continued when Ellen introduced me to Earl and Glenna, friends of hers that teach outdoor courses like wilderness first aid, whitewater kayaking, and mountain sports. Glenna climbed just a bit above my grade, but Earl was a solid 12 climber.

Hanging with advanced climbers is very interested. I got to see gear that is not on the market yet (they were using prototype versions), study their technique, receive lessons on the art of belay, and hear their tips and tricks. I might not be getting in a whole lot of sends, but the education is awesome.

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Log Entry 19 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | No Comments

Today we went to the Word Domination Wall where Matt and Kathy were warming up on an 11b. I followed and actually made it pretty far. The roof killed me though. I am terrible at overhangs. After a rest, I pulled through and made it to the top. The pump was strong on that route.

Mark on "Weight of the World"

Mark on “Weight of the World”

We met up with Abby and Mark, two of Kathy’s friends from Colorado. They were climbing a sweet looking 12a while Matt and Kathy were doing another 12a close by. I lead a 5.10b route called Thor and lead it onsight! I nearly did not go for it until Kathy urged me to at least give it a try. Climbing with more experienced climbers is great because they push you farther.

Photo Credit: Kathy Karlo

Photo Credit: Kathy Karlo

Our little group went over to the 12a Abby and Mark were doing and roped up. The more experienced climbers onsighted it and did a beautiful job. I wasn’t even going to try but Kathy once again gave me the little push I needed. Following on toprope I made it three fourths of the way up the route until I fell. At the overhang of course. I am really really bad at those. Even though I didn’t send the route, I still had a blast. This is a climb I want to come back for when I am a better climber.

Dan on "The Great White Behemoth"

Dan on “The Great White Behemoth”

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Log Entry 18 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | No Comments

I arrived in Ten Sleep Wyoming this morning. I didn’t have any climbing partners lined up yet, so I was a little unsure about what to do. I headed down to one of the climber hubs in town and there was only one couple there. It turns out they were on their honeymoon, so they were not a climbing partner option. I started to drive down The Old Road (another climber hub) and there sitting on the side of the road was Matt from France!

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Matt was climbing with Kathy (from fortheloveofclimbing.com) and they were just about to meet up with two of her friends, Thomas and Karis. So we headed off to the Supererratic Wall. I was a little nervous because everyone I was with was a much better climber than myself. One week ago the best I had followed was a 5.9. These people were warming up on hard 11s. But they were all very welcoming and patient with me. I mostly followed (or tried to follow) the routes they did. Though I did have a chance to lead a really nice 5.8 called Macaroni. Matt and Kathy were ending the day on a 5.12d.

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Log Entry 17 – Dave and Renee

By | Interesting People | One Comment

Saturday morning I rolled out of bed to find a couple unloading a truck in the parking lot of Wrinkled Rock. It was the bi-annual climber’s breakfast. Reaching out to the climbing community is the vision of Renee, “The Pancake Lady”.

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When she was a young adult living in Virginia, she would watch climbers at Harper’s Ferry. As they ascended hundreds of feet into the air, she would tell herself that one day she would be up there. That “one day” started to become a reality only seven years ago when she got a membership at a climbing gym.

She did climb the multi-pitch route she had always dreamed about. She now lives in South Dakota where the rock is abundant and her husband says, “She lives to climb. She would climb everyday if she could.” But to Renee, climbing is just a small piece of something else.

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“Climbing was a spiritual journey as much as it was physical one.” She would describe how climbing had changed her life in so many ways. And now, she wants to help others through the experience of climbing rocks. She has a vision of reaching out to women in particular. “Women that come from a troubled past often return to their old life because they don’t have something to fill that void.” A relationship with God is what Renee wants to direct these women to. And she wants to bring these women into the tight knit climber community so they can build relationships and support each other too. And women with a troubled past is only one part of her vision.

Her husband, Dave, climbs rocks but is not a rock climber. He is an all around adrenaline junkie. From the heights of skydiving to the depths of scuba, he does it all. Like Renee, Dave has a vision for ministry too, though not through his sports. He runs a real estate company and he describes that as his mission field. While I stayed with them, he told me numerous stories about watching people’s lives change. “Yes, we need to pay our bills, but those people are why we are in business.”

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When I asked him what was the best thing he learned in business, he replied, “Give and serve. Remember that it is not about you. Your focus should be on helping other people, not on pushing yourself forward.”

While I was with Dave and Renee, it was obvious that they did not just talk about their beliefs, but they lived them out in their everyday life.

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Log Entry 16 – Spearfish with Corry

By | Climbing Log, Interesting People, Rushmore | No Comments

I climbed with Corry today. He had a day off from guiding at Devil’s Tower and wanted to get some climbing time in. Since it was a rest day for him, we didn’t get started till after one.

As we were roping up, he suddenly stopped and looked over at me. “You know how to clean anchors, right?” I said that I did. “Good. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t guiding today.”

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Guiding and climbing is actually fairly new to Corry. He had been working in a coal mine for years and started to climb in his 40s. He quickly became good at it and one day asked Frank (yes, the Frank Sanders of Devil’s Tower fame) if guiding could be an option soon. Frank said that he was ready right then. After getting his certification, he quite the coal mine and is now guiding full time at Devil’s Tower.

When he wasn’t showing me how to set a third easy anchor point on bolts (or many other helpful tips), we talked a bit about this experience as a guide. “It is a hard job, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” He said that the hardest part is not the rock climbing, but the mental challenge. As a guide, you always need to be 10 steps ahead of the game. What are you going to do if your climber gets stuck at a point? What if the weather goes foul? Normally rock climbing requires all of your focus. To climb with someone who doesn’t know what to think about requires a whole other level of thought.

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He also said that people from every walk of life want to climb and each want to get something different out of the experience. It is not just about the climbing and keeping them safe, but identifying their goals and helping them accomplish it.

Even though he wasn’t guiding me, I accomplished things I wouldn’t have thought of. I followed him clean on a 10b. Next he went over to an 11a. “This one is pumpy,” he said with a grin. I tried it on top rope and got up there, though I did need to rest a couple of times. Even though I didn’t not officially “send” it, I was glad to have followed Corry to the top.

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Log Entry 15 – Back in the Black Hills

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

I left from Devil’s Tower early Monday morning to meet up with Dan in Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota. We were climbing at the Skeletal Remains wall which has the worst rock in the canyon, but a short approach and a good number of moderate climbs in close proximity. It was originally bolted to be a winter climbing area because of the southern exposure. We were not there in the winter. It was rather hot. But we did get about 10 pitches climbed. It was great to be able to get that many climbs in a day.

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Tuesday was a much needed rest day for me. My toes were sore from the crack climbing at Devil’s Tower, the tendons in my elbow and shoulder were hurting badly, and the skin on my fingers was disappearing. So I wrote, edited pictures, and made a silver necklace for Renee. She and her husband, Dave, have been so kind to me. I am very grateful for them. Dave thought what I needed to finish my rest day was mountain biking. I have never done anything like that before, but I must say that it is far more scary than rock climbing.

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Wednesday: Today I was going to take Renee to Spearfish Canyon. She had never been there but it was on her ticklist. It looked like rain was coming in around lunch time, so we hurried to beat the rain. We didn’t. The Sunshine wall was rather wet. So we went into town, got some guidebooks and talked to other climbers. Renee and Dave are going to Denver, so they were trying to figure out where to climb. We happened on some Colorado climbers and they had great beta. I guess the rain had a reason. While we were out we decided to check Skeletal Remains since it was at the opposite side of the canyon as Sunshine. The rock was remarkably dry, so we got a bit of climbing in.

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Log Entry 14 – Devil’s Tower

By | Climbing Log | 4 Comments

Today I went with my hosts to church. They said they are looking for a new church, but each one they visit is having a special service. Today was no exception. It was the new building dedication and baptismal service.

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I left directly from church towards Wyoming to climb Devil’s Tower. As my climbing partner, Steve, were making our way up the talus to the start of the climb, I almost had a severe accident. A rock from above was knocked loose and started to tumble down directly towards me. I was in a precarious position, so I waited to see what it was going to do. Was it going for my right leg? Left leg? Was it going to hit a bump and go airborne at head height? Left leg it was. I managed to hop over the 60 pound stone and land safely back on the slab. That was rather close.

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We reached out first pitch and roped up. I have almost no experience crack climbing, so this was very new to me. The second pitch was a little harder, but the route eased up a bit after that. Standing on a 3 foot belay ledge hundreds of feet above the ground was an amazing experience. Occasionally I would hear a sharp whoosh as a falcon flew close by. Often you could only see a dark streak zip past.

There were also pigeons nesting in the rocks and once I almost grabbed one by accident. I was sticking my hand in a crack to hold on, and out flies a pigeon nearly knocking me off the rock. The falcons are slacking on the job.

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We reach the summit and I am surprised by several things. One, the top of Devil’s Tower isn’t all that flat. Two, there is a sweet smelling herb that grows up there. Walking around the top provided an amazing view. I wonder how many miles out you can see from there. One of the things we did not want to see was a rain cloud heading out way. So we started on our rappel.

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Part of the way down, our rope got stuck. So Steve climbed back up a bit to get it undone. The storm picked up a bit and it started to thunder. Being 1000 feet higher than everything else is not a good idea when there is lightening. With our rope ready for the next rap, Steve descended first and wound up 10 feet above the next rappel station. To our lower left a guide was rapping down too. So I got part way down the rope and swung over to the column he was on. He had a twin 70 meter rope which works far better than my single 60 meter. He rapped down to Steve and got him on line. Then we all descended safely to the base. I was only with the guide for about 10 minutes, but I learned so much from him in that time. If you ever get a chance to climb with Corry, do it.

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I camped at Frank’s place, the official Devil’s Tower climbing hub. After I set up camp, I heard a familiar French accent. There was Matt! It was so good to see a friend and a familiar face.

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Log Entry 13 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

Today I woke up to a pancake breakfast being prepared for climbers in the Wrinkled Rock parking lot. Not having a climbing partner for today, I figured this would be a good chance to make some connections. After helping flip flapjacks, I head off with the Reeds to climb Dirty Ernie.

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For them, this is a family event. Matt and his wife climb with their three daughters. Leading up the route, I set a toprope. All of them tried it, but Matt was the only one to send. It started to rain, so I climbed up to clean the anchors. As I was at the top of the spire, the lightning was getting quite close. Just incentive to work faster.

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Not expecting the rain, I had left my car windows open, so I was wet along with almost everything I had. The couple that had organized the breakfast graciously invited me to dry out at their house. The kindness of people I have met has amazed me. I am so thankful for a chance to take a real shower, wash my clothes in something other than a stream or bucket, and sleep in a warm bed.

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Log Entry 12 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

Today Matt pedaled off on his bike. Devil’s Tower was his next destination. Without another lead climber, Nicole and I couldn’t do any sport routes. So it was a good time to teach more about the gear and techniques used to climb safely.

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We climbed to the top of Wrinkled Rock and set up a rap station. I always consider rappelling the scariest part of climbing, but Nicole descended without problem. We also rapped off an overhang to a fun free-hanging descent. We then went over toprope belaying. I took a couple of deliberate falls, and she did a great job of catching me.

After lunch, it was time for them to move on. Since they don’t live too far from me, we discussed maybe climbing together again sometime. Now alone for the first time in days, it is time to “clean house.” Really this means just organizing the car, doing dishes, and realizing that I need to clean myself.

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I head to Horsethief Lake in hopes to bathe. Unfortunately there are signs that say no swimming. So I hike up a trail that follows the creek feeding into the lake. Finding a nice little pool and waterfall, I wash up a bit. The cold water provides a sharp contrast to the warm air.

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Log Entry 11 – Chris and Nicole

By | Interesting People | No Comments

Chris was not here to climb rocks. He says that heights is one of the few things he is afraid of. What brought him to Wrinkled Rock, was camping with his daughter, Nicole. They were traveling across America to see the sights and hike in the mountains.

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They were coming from Toronto area in Canada. Though Chris’s journey started in Poland. Born and raised there, he grew tired of living under the communist reign. “You would need to wait 20 years for them to get a phone line to your house, unless you were in the communist party. I said to myself, ‘Life is too short to wait.’ So I left as soon as I could.”

Getting a passport that would allow travel to western countries was not easy, but he eventually got it. The first place he visited was West Berlin. “The difference was amazing. Everything was grey. Then it burst into color as you crossed the line.” He settled down in Canada where he married and had three daughters. One of them was traveling with him.

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Nicole was not a rock climber, but she wanted to be. Ontario really does not have much climbing opportunity. And unless you already know a climber, it can be fairly hard to get into the sport. When she found out that Matt and I were climbers, she became so excited. After a bit of consideration, Chris said it would be ok if she went climbing with us. “But if she is not safe, I will get up there to grab her and carry her down.”

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At first she said would be content just to watch us climb, but on the second route we did, she roped up. Once on the solid ground again, she described the experience, “It was amazing. While you are up there, everything else just disappears. It is only you and the rock. And once you finish, you feel so relaxed.” I think she was hooked.

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Through out our time together, Nicole proved to be an excellent student. She carried a notebook around to would write down terms, knots, and make little diagrams on how to sling rocks. I probably threw too much information at her, but she worked hard to keep up with everything. We went over everything from knots, to anchor building, rappelling, toprope belay, and even some climbing techniques.

One time when my gear was jingling, I joked about it sounding like Santa’s sleigh bells. Her reply was, “Well, this feels like Christmas to me.”