Category Archives: Rushmore
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today as Matt and I were getting ready to climb, we started to talk with a father camping with his daughter. We found out that Nicole had always wanted to climb, so we invited her to come with us. Chris, her father, is not fond of heights, but told her she could climb if she promised to be careful.
After watching a couple climbs, Nicole was ready to go for her first climb. Dirty Ernie was the routes name. It was a 5.7 that followed a flake crack. Wearing Matt’s shoes and my harness, she worked her way up to the top. For this being her first climb, I was very impressed.
The weather looked like it could turn foul at any time, but we continued to climb. Doing routes 5.6-5.8 Matt or I would lead, Nicole would follow on toprope, and one of us would climb to clean the anchors. Not wanting to waste any of the climbable weather, we didn’t stop for lunch until two. Chris faithfully kept us supplied with snacks and orange juice and prepared lunch once we were ready. Even though climbing wasn’t his interest, he cared about it because it mattered to one he loved.
Even though Matt was a far better climber than Nicole or myself, he patiently did routes below his level. He did end up doing one route that was particularly challenging though: a 90 foot 5.11+ called Xenophenia. Falling a number of times at the cruxy last two bolts, Matt stayed determined and found the path to the top. Neither Nicole or myself were interested in attempting this challenge.
We ended the day on a short 5.6 that followed an arete. To reach the start, a short class 4 scramble was needed and the first bolt was about half way up the route. To the right was a deep and narrow crevasse that would not be fun to fall into. Even though the route was well below my limit, I was glad to reach that first bolt. Nicole followed and Matt came through last. We reached the end of our climbing day at eight o’clock.
Still had a little ways to go today. The further west I get, the more interesting the land becomes. It is also interesting to see the name Gutzon Borglum everywhere. (If your name is going to go down in history, I suggest picking a different name. Also, don’t be a terrible person) I almost become giddy looking at all of the beautiful rocks in the Black Hills. I arrive at Wrinkled Rock (The official rock climber campground) and relax a bit waiting for my climbing partner to arrive.
Once Margery gets here, we go over the guidebook to pick out routes we want to do. Manga Carta area is selected for its plentiful sport routes. Our first route we want to do is Gossamer, a classic that goes up a needle with a hole at the top. I say “want to do” because we never made it to that needle. Instead we became hopelessly lost. For hours. We wandered into an area called South Seas. (Kinda fitting to be lost at sea) Trying to back track into Manga Carta got us even more lost. I did start to wonder if I was going to be spending the night out. Margery’s 12 year old dog was faithfully plodding on behind, but he was getting very tired. He wasn’t the only one. I am very much not used to this western terrain.
After a while we were back in the South Seas. We found a bolted route and thought it looked in our grade, so we geared up. No sooner than we finish putting our harnesses on, it starts to rain and thunder. Not a good idea to be on a spire when the lightning starts to fly. We hastily pack our gear and get back to the car. Back at Wrinkled Rock, we hide under an overhanging boulder from the thunder that has been joined by hail.
The storm clears up a bit and Margery goes to her friends place she is staying at. I cook up some stir fry and set up camp. Thankfully there are trees in this part of South Dakota to hang a hammock.