Thursday, October 4, 2007

Another perfect day in the desert

Natasha hikes into Pine Creek Canyon

This morning, I was motivated to get up quickly because I knew what a great day we had planned. After having my mandatory coffee and breakfast, manning the "sandwhich station," Kurt and I were off once again to Red Rock.

We parked at the Pine Creek trailhead. On the hike in I was struck with the dramatic contrast of the red rock and the lush vegetation on the canyon floor.

Much of the climbing is within wilderness boundaries.

The hike in went smoothly, and soon we found ourselves sitting in the shade of a prickly bush, racking up and enjoying the last shade we would see for a few hours. We began climbing the route called Birdland, which unfolded with pitch after pitch of fun and varied climbing. On the first pitch, I found myself thinking that they really should model playgrounds after this place . . .

Natasha starting on Birdland

The belays were quite comfortable, given the bolted stations (which also facilitate an easy retreat). The moves were very interesting . . . grabbing a hold that could easily be in a climbing gym . . . I’m not a gym climber, but this is just so unusual. Given my small stature, it was great for me because there are so many ways to climb the same pitch.

It won't fit!

On the second pitch, I was surprised by a squirrel running down the back of the crack. I thought, geez, I must be able to climb this route if he can run down it! Looking around while on route, the views were continually amazing as the exposure grew. Occasionally a breeze would blow through, giving the leader a bit of a fright, but giving both of us a nice reprieve from the heat of the sun.

Kurt eyes the cruxy face move on Birdland.

On the way down, we managed to get a rope stuck on the second rappel (which is somewhat common in Red Rock). Once we freed it, we continued down to the base, where we took a well-earned break in the shade. PB & J sandwiches and a couple liters of water were all it took to convince us to continue our climbing in Pine Creek. Dark Shadows is a classic dihedral that starts above a pool of running water, and we would try to get as far up it as we could before night fell.

Taking in the views

After being in the sun all day, the trees and cool temperatures were welcomed. So was the water, with which we happily filled our now empty bottles! It was a pleasant place to hang out. We were able to walk up and start right up the route, which is somewhat unusual on this particular climb as it can have lines waiting to climb it. Dark Shadows offered some slab moves on the first pitch, a fun layback and jam crack on the second pitch, and a wild (!) dihedral that is never harder than 5.8 but looks SO imposing.

Natasha tops out on Birdland.

The varnished and slippery face of the dihedral seemed improbable if not for the HUGE buckets that would appear just when I needed one. To top it off, the belays were on great ledges and the sound of the creek rushing by just added to the effect of the climb. A couple raps later and we found ourselves walking out the nice, soft trail at dusk, watching the shadows grow long across the desert, and hearing the same desert come to life as the nocturnal animals awoke for adventures of their own.

So, I called the campground “home” earlier . . . perhaps I’m too comfortable here already. Vino and spaghetti here I come!

Natasha and Kurt - cheesy summit shot!

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