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The Desert

November was the perfect time to head down to the desert for a little bit of climbing.  It was my first time to The Creek and I had a great time exploring the area with a few friends and getting a little schooled on crack climbing.  I’m not new to crack climbing but these climbs were sustained.  It was a blast and I can’t wait to head down again for some more sweet, sweet crack.  Climbing, crack climbing.

Before I left I seemed to have misplaced my trusty old Canon SD400 point and shoot camera.  I typically take this camera with me when I am climbing because it is compact and reliable.  After searching around the house for a month I decided it was time to buy a new one.  I ended up choosing a Samsung HZ15W for the nice lens (24mm wide with 10x zoom) and simple features including manual settings for shooting panoramas.

Samsung HZ15W

So far I’m happy with the camera, I think it takes good shots and I am especially happy with the wide-angle lens.  When climbing I think the lens will let me capture much more of the climb than I was able to with the standard 28mm lens of my old point and shoot.  The camera is a little bit bulkier but the only complaint I have so far is the noise when shooting video and using the zoom lens.  The video quality is great (720p) but having the microphone mounted on the camera lets it pick up the lens noise.

I tested out the camera last weekend when my uncle Garth came to visit us in Colorado.  He hadn’t been to the Moab area of Utah, so we took a quick weekend trip to camp and do a bit of hiking.  We drove down through Castle Valley just outside of Moab and then camped at Beef Basin in Indian Creek.  The next day we did a hike in Canyonlands National Park to the Druid Arch rock formation.  Twelve miles later we were back at the car and in the morning headed back to Colorado.  Uncle Garth liked it so much he drove back to Moab the next day to visit Arches National Park.

Supercrack Whooo! Desert Aliens Druid Arch

Canyonlands Fisher Towers I Dropped Something Independence Monument

Brotherly Visit

My brother Luke came to visit me a few weeks ago and we did quite a bit of climbing while he was here.  He visited to sample the best of Front Range climbing and I think we did a pretty good job of getting around and climbing a lot of different classic routes.  We began the day he flew into DIA with a trip to Eldorado Canyon and a jaunt up Wind Ridge and then the Bastille Crack, two classic routes at a moderate grade with short approaches.  The next day challenged our legs a bit more with ascents of the First and Third Flatirons, simulclimbing as much as possible.  We rounded out the climbing the next day with some sport climbing in Boulder Canyon at Avalon.

Wind Tower Descent Redgarden from the Bastille First Flatiron First Flatiron Lunch Ledge First Flatiron Runout

The ultimate goal of Luke’s trip was an ascent of the Petit Grepon, an alpine rock spire in Rocky Mountain National Park that is on the list of the 50 classic climbs of North America.  Looking at the weather and noticing that later in the visit the chances of rain increased, we made the decision to go for the climb early.  We got a nice alpine start and motored on up to Sky Pond, at the base of the Petit.  Making good time, we climbed well and topped out just after noon, then rappelled back down to the base of the climb.  On the last rappel, the skies opened up and the rain started.  I dove into a bivy cave while Luke pulled the ropes in the rain, and we waited out the storm in the small cave.

Loch Vale from the Petit Taylor Glacier from the Petit Looking For a Belay Snack Thatchtop from the Petit Step Carefully

Sky Pond from the Petit Top of the Petit Petit Grepon Summit Cramped Bivy

After the rains stopped, we were able to hike back to the car in dry conditions and celebrate the ascent at Ed’s Cantina.  The last weekend of Luke’s trip was spent driving to Steamboat, camping out there and taking a much-deserved soak in the Strawberry Hot Springs.  A short side trip to Breckenridge and we were on our way back home.  Super fun visit and a good amount of climbing made this a memorable trip.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

The summer is quickly passing by, time for me to give an update on our summer vacation.  We took some time this summer to visit family and friends back in Ohio, Maryland and Maine.  Monika and the boys left at the beginning of the summer to spend some time with her family in Ohio and Maryland, and I flew out to meet them and drive to see my family up north.

Strawberries Smile Les Paul Umbrella Look Out For Crocs! Hangin' iIn There!

On our way up to Maine we took a detour into New York City to spend a day seeing the sights.  We stayed at the Warwick hotel which was actually quite nice and just what you would expect if you were visiting the city back in the 40s or 50s.  We visited Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building and the Stature of Liberty.  We took both the subway and a cab to give the boys a little fun, then we were off to Maine.

Empire State Building Taxi! Lincoln Tunnel Liberty From The Ferry New York Portrait Liber-tay

We stayed with my brother in Old Town on Pushaw Lake for the first few days in Maine, and had a great time there.  The boys had a blast kayaking on the lake and jumping off the dock into the water.  We visited Acadia National Park and Luke and I went climbing while the rest of the family hung out at Sand Beach.  Luke and I got another day of climbing in the next day at Otter Cliffs before we had to leave and head north for The County.

Pushaw Lake Kayaking Tandem Cannonball! Playing In The Cove Too Cold!

The majority of our time we spent up in Caribou at my mom and dad’s farm.  It was great being able to hang out with family and old friends and catching up with my chores.  The boys loved being able to ride on the tractors and see all the farm equipment and we got to help mom and dad get some hay cut and baled while we were there.  After a great visit, we drove back home and finally are settled in!

Farm Truck Flowers Hiding Grampy And Grammie Good Cushman Family

Farmland Farm Girl Doing Hay Tractor Chicken! Tractor Ride

Crutches

I thought I’d take a moment and write about crutches.  Since I broke my ankle, I have had to use crutches to get around since I cannot put any weight on my right foot for two months.  Initially I just went to a local big-box store and bought a pair of underarm crutches.  I quickly found out how uncomfortable and awkward they were, and began looking for a better solution.  Forearm crutches are commonly used in Europe even for temporary use, and are much more comfortable and maneuverable than standard underarm crutches.   I bought a pair similar to these, and so far they have worked out great.  My armpits are saved from chafing and they are much smaller, making them easier to store in the car or by your chair.  I can get up and down the stairs two at a time instead of one due to the ability to bend at the elbows.  Even if you are injured for a short amount of time, look into getting a pair.  The comfort and convenience will make it worth it.

Ice Screws and Ankle Screws

My more-or-less annual trip to the southwest of Colorado went fairly well this year. Dan Dalton and I stuffed my car with heaps of gear (6 ropes? What do we need 6 ropes for?) and headed down the highway for Ouray. The first day in Ouray we climbed at Camp Bird Road to avoid any crowds in the ice park. Camp Bird was my first backcountry ice in that area, and it made me very excited for the potential elsewhere around Ouray and Silverton. The next week was spent climbing in the ice park, leading routes at my level and toproping challenging ice lines.

Slippery When Wet Sea of Ice Pick o' the Vic South Park View from South Park

The last route that Dan and I planned to climb before leaving was Stairway to Heaven, a 900 foot WI4 line in Eureka, just outside of Silverton. We scoped out the approach beforehand and got up early in the morning to try to get there first. We were 5 minutes too late, as another party motored up the trail just before us. As we approached the base of the climb, I thought it might be a good idea to climb to the left of the first party where the next best line appeared. Dan and I rock-paper-scissored for the lead and I “won”. I began to lead up the left side of the first pitch.

I placed 4 screws in 100 feet of climbing, and my last screw was in some decently solid ice. The route pulled up over a bulge at this point and I encountered some snice, or consolidated snow/ice mix at the lip of this bulge. I was about waist-high with the bulge and moving my right foot up when the rotten ice I had been standing on with my left foot gave way and I fell. I dropped about 20 feet, caught my crampon on one of the double ropes (core-shot) which flipped me upside down. The Yates Screamer I had placed on the last screw was fully deployed after the fall. I hit nothing on the way down, but I could tell right away that something was up with my ankle, so I lowered off the climb and Dan retrieved the gear from above.

Pinky Steep Ice Five Fingers Area Deployed Screamer Talus Fracture CT Scan

After hiking 3/4 of a mile back to the car we drove back to Ouray and then the next day back to the Front Range. During the fall I fractured my talus and had to have surgery to get the bone repaired with three screws and a small plate. In retrospect, it wasn’t a good idea to climb a sunbaked, alternate line on the first pitch where I did not have solid ice the entire way up. We should have waited for the party ahead of us to complete their line and then followed. I also think that I was trying to make too big of a move (highstepping) to get over the bulge and a few smaller moves to pull over that particular obstacle would have been safer. I’ll get to think about not falling on ice for 3 months while I recover!

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