After 16 weeks of rest, rehab and training, I finally make it back out to real rock. Sunday I had the day off and decided to go exploring. I packed up my gear, fill my tank and started driving to the one area that might be warm and dry enough to actually do climbing. The Idaho desert! 20 miles from my house I pealed off the highway and began drifting down a soupy mess of a ‘dirt’ road. For the next five miles I drifted back and forth, splashed through a few substantial puddles until I found myself at Magic Reservoir dam. Just below the dam are a few short cliff that have seen a little development over that last few years, mostly by my good friend Ian Jameson.
Earlier this winter another friend, Steff Carter and Ian went out for a day of climbing and sun baking. Upon their return Steff told me about a ‘ridiculous’ undone project out there. Crimps, slaps, tension and zero feet, it sounded amazing! During my exploration of the area I found the project. My eyes started to trace the moves between the small hold until the crux near the top. She was right, there was nothing, either for your hands or your feet. I had to try it and find out for myself what impossible actually felt like. I was always under the impression the it is impossible to understand what impossible is, like grasping the concept of infinity, but I digress. That day I was on my own and left my shoes in town. It would have to wait for another day.
Instead I began looking for possibilities of new routes. I walked around the entire area below the dam. Hiking across the river to a band of short cliff that looked somewhat promising, but were only half decent boulder problems with bad landings. Back across the river and up the hill side to another cliff band, again I found mediocre boulder highballs, but this time the landings were nearly perfect. As this was my first time back on out after 16 weeks of recovering from a bouldering accident, bouldering alone with no pad was not a top priority, I kept walking.
A short while later I found myself exactly where I had started, looking up at that short, but oh so blank project. The funny part about that route was it was on the best looking rock out there. While many of the routes out there look like fun, they tend to be on less than ideal rock broken up by a ledge or have giant blocks near them that you would want to avoid both climbing up and falling down. This short cliff band to the right of everything was the only thing that was actually clean and inviting to climb. Thats when I saw it…
Just to the right was an incredible looking roof, painted with neon green lichen. Below the roof was a fun easy face that lead directly into the knife edge arete of the roof. Above was more lichen covered rock that looked as though it would clean up and climb really well. The only thing left was to get up there and see if the roof’s arete was actually climbable. 8 ft of blank looking climbing lead to a horn at the pinnacle of the roof that would allow access to the upper half.
Later that night my bag was pack with a drill, plenty of bolts and a much needed wire brush. I had planned to go alone, but my sister sent her boyfriend, Ross, down for the day to help with belays and learn the secret art of route development. We left early on Monday morning hoping the sloppy road I drove the day before would be frozen from the night before. As we reached the crag, the sun began to burn through the clouds and slowly warm the day for us. We slung a few large blocks on top, loaded my harness with hardware and rapped over the edge. I was greeted with a 3 1/2 wedge anchor sticking out of the rock 3 1/4 inches. This was left behind by Ian Jameson a year ago when he went in to bolt this line, but forgot his hammer. As I looked down the line I realized that his anchor placement seemed to be 5 ft the left of where I saw the natural line going. I swung over and started drilling some anchors.
I have bolted a fair amount of basalt routes, but this one was different, at least for Southern Idaho basalt. It was clean and solid. With only one loose block on the entire route, all I had to do was scrub this thing into submission and scrub I did. This route might not be long or sustained but for where we were, the quality of the rock and pure aesthetics of the roof, it is definitely worthy.
Later that day Ian Jameson received a hall pass from this wife and 3 week old baby girl and came to give the rig a try. We finished bolting it and threw ourselves at the ridiculous roof crux over and over again. I found a very unlikely sequence of moves that forces you to palm press the glass smooth roof, hike the feet and make a full span dead point to sloping edge on the far side of the roof. I was able to stick this move once, but moving out of it to the jug provided another problem in itself. The section above and below however climb really well and are easy to read.
With the day coming to an end and the Wood River YMCA climbing team meeting soon for practice, it was time for me to leave. We pack up our gear, left Ian to his fishing and started to make our way back to the car through the now blog like muddy ground. All in all it was a great first day out on rock since my surgery. Full of good people, great weather and the sound of a power drill, I couldn’t ask for much more.
In most cases this would be the end, but unfortunately it was not. On our way out the road had returned to its soupy state and got the best of my truck. The deep puddles and mud found its way into the internals of my engine and shut us down shortly after reaching the highway. Turns out that it spoiled a few of my spark plugs and wires. A tow was required. As I waited for the tow truck, I watched as time went by. I missed our climbing teams practice. After that, I missed one of my best friend’s birthday. And on top of all of that, the one time I was able to stick the dead point move, I strained my ankle and am now gimping around again. They say that you have to take the bad to get the good, I just hope that the bad I received yesterday evening is enough to provide me with good all summer.