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Back home

25 Oct 2011

So we’re back and I’ve forgotten how bad jet lag is coming this way.  Vanessa however seems to really quite enjoy her midnight jaunts.  We’ve had a great time and certainly learnt more about climbing trips with babies in tow.  After a fairly sleepless night on the plane (Vanessa found the experience way too exciting... for our liking) we headed to Airlie’s.  She actually lives an hour from Boulder in a sweet little town called Berthoud on one of those typical American streets lined with trees and wooden houses.

On the first day, despite jet lag, my climbing peaked.  The Flatirons were our destination and I enjoyed sport climbing on the frictionful sandstone.  I was more than happy to flash a 12b called The Shaft.  I had hoped I’d be climbing at this level but it didn’t last long.

Shaft Flatirons

The Shaft 5.12b Flatirons

We had a day in Boulder Canyon, this time granite, but dealing with Vanessa on the 45 degree slope below the crag with drops everywhere made it difficult to relax.  But the climbing was great and a shame we only got 2 hours in. 

Empire of the Fenceless

Me on the ultra classic Empire of the Fenceless 5.12a Boulder Canyon

Our next stop was about 4 hours west at Dave’s house.  He lives on a ranch with 7 horses in the lesser known ‘Silt’, which boasts 3 liquor stores and not much else.  From here he runs his guide book publishing empire Wolverine Publishing and on his non-work days drives 20 minutes to the sport climbing mecca of Rifle.

The climbing at Rifle is brilliant, if not pretty hard, what with the unbelievable levels of polish and desperate to onsightness, seeing that chalk coats every hold in sight and most of the holds face in entirely the wrong direction.  The general difficulties, combined with lack of sleep and one particularly freezing day, meant my climbing performance plummeted somewhat.  Eventually I got used to things a bit more and on my last 2 days started to feel things coming together again.

Rifle 2

Vanessa at Rifle, I'm climbing in the top right on James Brown's Wild Ride 5.11d

We had another friend to visit, Jeff Hollenbaugh (mountaineer and now coffee bean roaster extraordinaire).  He lives in an even more out of the way place than Dave: Marble.  The high quality marble here made the columns in Washington DC and many of the monuments there.  Currently the mine is owned by some Italians who slowly are renovating most of Italy’s crumbling ancient buildings.  Jeff’s house is 30 miles from any major shops (Carbondale) but in the most beautiful valley.  We stayed here for almost 10 days and never got bored of the views.

Aspen 2

The aspen trees were beautiful driving up to Jeff's house

We checked out a few ‘local’ crags such as the (not so classic) Redstone Boulders, Thompson’s Creek and Hogwarts.  At the latter we were doing 3rd and 4th ascents and torrents of rock fall accompanied our ascents, which was probably the least Vanessa appropriate crag we visited.

But Rifle is the complete opposite.  Directly below the crags is a dirt track, making afternoon sleeps in the pram possible.  Vanessa really started to take shape as a little crag baby.  She’s always been into dirt and now she’s getting quite proficient at walking on uneven ground.  Prior to the trip Nic declared this her aim for the holiday.  In fact due to the vast expanses of open flat ground in the States (compared to our potholed, obstacle ridden pavements) Vanessa has become quite the walker.  And seemingly she doesn’t require our presence in busy town centres, much preferring her own and other people’s company.


Climbing on our last day at Flagstaff, the sandstone boulders up above Boulder.  I'm climbing the classic Face Out V5

So back home now enjoying the autumn sun (really I've spent more time looking out the window at it).  Been catching up on the web.  What about Hazel Findlay’s recent mind blowing free ascent of Golden Gate 5.13b (8a on gear) on El Cap?  For me this has got to be the most significant and impressive ascent in any style of a British woman ever.  Check out her blog, her write up is as impressive as the actual ascent.  Big respect.