Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cal Cheak, Ver 2.0

Fully breakfasted and with actual knowledge of where we are going, Heather, Mert, and I arrive back at the Monkey and Weasel crag at Cal Cheak.  This should be awesome.

Target #1 is a 20M 5.7 called 'It's been swell'  As per my previous post, it really looks like we are the first people to climb here in a few years.  Everything is super-overgrown.  The moss is ankle deep, and there's a blackberry bush that could probably kill a man at the likely starting area of this climb.

The 'expert' is getting cold feet looking up that the first bolt.  I don't really understand his hesitation, it looks like an easy stroll up the rock to get clipped in, but he's the one who has to lead it...  He's off trying to find top access, while Heather and I are starting to move some branches and scrape some moss off the starting area.  This is cool, simple as that. 

We're at the cliff base, after scrambling over a massive field of scattered boulders.  It's a beautiful summer day, and we're pondering the ascent of a gorgeous piece of granite.  There's hummingbirds in the flowers, and these cute little rodent-guys jumping in and out of the rock, chirping in distress.

Mert gives up on his top anchor quest, and reluctantly decides to lead the climb.  I get my lead-belay 'course' and away we go.  Mert cautiously picks his way up the route, sets the anchor and returns safely to earth.  Another briefing on how to clean a route, and it's my turn.  To be honest, it was cool, but not super.  Didn't really give me any tough moments, but it sure was cool to be so far up.  The crag is located quite high, and once I got to the top the view was positively breathtaking.

Once we were down to the bottom, we debated our next climb.  Mert didn't want to lead any more of the climbs on Monkey and Weasel that day, the high bolts and overgrown conditions made him nervous about the safety of the area.  Fair enough, that's what experts are for.  A couple more routes at Huckleberry Lane, and it was off to the cooler for some beer.

I could really get used to this...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cal Cheak First Blood

This is it.  The day to test out our very own gear, and climb again.

After some dilligent research, and grabbing a more up to date climbing guide from the VPL, I had discovered that the forestry campground that Heather and I had camped at all summer the year previous had a massive collection of high-quality climbs hidden in the hills just up the road.

Well.  Who would have thought?  Now we have more, awesome info, it's time to get down to it.

We got a big posse together to share this adventure, and set forth from our campsite.  Heather, Mert, and I drove slowly up the forestry road while Eric followed, evaluating the terrain for any sign of the promised trail or parking area.  We made it all the way to the end of the road without being confident that we had arrived at our destination.


Turn around and try again, maybe a little bit more open minded this time.  We arrive at a likely candidate for the 'parking area' an old quarry that has a gate across the road now.  I guess this is one reason that a 10 year old climbing guide can be something of an obstacle to a successful outing...  Ok, we'll park at the side of the road, just down from the gate and start looking for a trail.

That part actually went well.  We found the trail much faster than expected.  I guess we must just walk really fast, because that was no twenty minutes walking...  Trail is on the correct side of the road, and we quickly find some man-made stairs up towards some obvious rock.  This is really getting exciting!

Shortly after we come to the top of the stairs a clear rock face comes into view.  We approach the base of the crag and look up.  Quickly everybody starts spotting bolts and chains.  AWESOME!!!  We did it, we found the 'Monkey and Weasel'  the first crag in this zone.

We quickly come to the conclusion that we are NOT where we thought we were.  The cliff doesn't look vaguely like the picture, the number of routes seems to be wrong, and the trail map doesn't seem to show the route that we travelled at ALL. 

Well then...  This looks totally like something that we can climb though.  There seems to be a reasonable amount of hold-appeariing structures for us, and the hardware looks good from the ground.  We consult the expert, and he advises that the safest approach here, if we want to climb this unknown crag, would be to attempt to access the anchors from the top, and set up a top rope anchor to climb from.

I, however, really would like to find the crag that we were hunting for, because we know for sure that the climbs there are within our range, and it's always nice to know what the heck you're trying to do, I think.  So, we decide to split up.  Mert takes the gear and heads off to set up a top rope anchor while Heather, Eric, and I follow the suggestion of a path through the forest to search for the crags that are in the guidebook that we have.

We come to the realization rather quickly that NOBODY comes climbing up here.  The forest floor looks almost completely undisturbed, everything is nice and overgrown.  We come up with some plans for locating ourselves, and then imagination runs wild.  Every overgrown piece of rock that we see becomes one of the pictures in the book.  See?  That could totally be the tree in the book...  It's just a lot bigger and fallen down... 

After a solid hour of bushwhacking through some pretty exciting terrain, back and forth, we decide that we have, indeed, found the crag known as 'Monkey and Weasel'  about a half hour ago.  Great.  Now we know where we are.  Too bad we still have no idea where Mert is.  But we know that the crag that he set up our rope on is absolutely NOT in this guidebook that we are working with.

We head back to where we abandoned our comrade to the tender mercies of the local mosquito population, and have another conference.  It is determined that we probably should climb where we are.  Mert thinks it is totally climbable, Eric is tired of walking, and Heather and I just want to get some routes in.  So we start climbing the unknown route.

It's been two whole weeks of anticipation, and it pays off.  We climb the first route with ease, and Mert sets up an anchor at the station right next to the first climb for us to work.  It's great to be climbing again.  I could really get used to this.  These climbs seem very, very easy, but that's probably a good thing.  All I can think about while I'm climbing is 'What's next' and all I do while waiting is evaluate the next route, trying to plan my moves.

It's obvious that there is a lot more to this than there is to gym climbing.  I know a certain Turkish person that I will be hitting up for lead-climbing lessons in the weeks to come, because I'm really not on board with depending on others to get us going, and the amount of time it takes to walk up to the top and set up to top rope seems utterly pointless.

We got in 4 climbs that day, but more importantly we were the recipients of lots of more useful knowledge:

1--4 people and 1 rope makes for a SLOW day.
2--a more up-to date climbing guide exists, which some latecomers were kind enough to allow us to take a look at.  We were climbing at a crag called 'Huckleberry Lane' and the routes we climbed were graded from 5.5 to 5.9
3--the book that the other climbers had is already out of print, but a newer, better book will be released any day now.
4--Eric is lazy, and doesn't want to climb tomorrow.  Ok.  Got it.

Tomorrow, the Monkey and Weasel will fall beneath my feet.  This is awesome.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Gear Shopping!!!

After such a wonderful first experience, it's time to take the next step in this hobby that I am determined to explore further.  First step is gear.  The way I see it, there is a pretty small, but rather important list of equipment that one must acquire to persue outdoor climbing effectively.


1 rope
8-10 quickdraws
random selection of carabiners and slings
guide book

Ok.  Now that this is established, a trip to MEC is in order. 

Did you know that climbing gear is somewhat expensive?  And without everything on the list, any one thing on the list is remarkably less useful?  Hmmmm... 

Oh well, make it to spend it, right?  Sounds good.

Luckily, my super-genious came to the rescue...  I was at the till paying for some carrier packs for my bicycle, and Heather excitedly came over.  'You HAVE to come see this!!!'

Ok.  Can do.

'This' turns out to be an ad on the MEC bulletin board that had been placed by someone looking to unload ALL of their 'gently used' gear for two hundred bucks.  Now, for those who are not up to date on the subject, this is a pretty smoking deal for everything that was listed on that ad.  Two hundred dollars out the door and onto the rock, all ready to go.  Talk about too good to be true.

'Think we should call?'

''It's probably gone, but sure, why not?'

Turns out it was, in fact, not gone.  The gentleman who placed the ad wasn't even back home from posting it, and Heather was the first call.  All right then.  Lets make this happen.

Straight to the bank, then downtown to claim our prize.  The gear was every bit as advertised.  Beautiful, clean, looking like it was hardly ever used.  Happily we paid, and hurried off to the car with our new toy, excited with our amazing luck. 

This calls for a celebration.  Off to the Teahouse for a great, relaxing dinner, looking forward to our first climbing adventure with our awesome new stuff.