On the Road to Vedauwoo!!!
On the Road to Vedauwoo!!!
After chatting with fellow Off Width climber Patrick Kingsbury, we decided to spend a weekend in Vedauwoo, Wy. I have not been in the “Voo” in about 10 years nor was I into OW’s at the time, so I just knew that this trip was going to a good one. Pat has spent the last few years running amuck in the area so it was super great to have a partner who could show me the lay of the land.
Saturday morning came early but with a good night’s sleep I was packed and ready to head north. Being that I was headed to UT for the Outdoor Retailers show immediately after the Voo, I found it easier to catch a ride with Patrick and his roommates. Denver is only two hours from Vedauwoo so the trek is quick and painless. With the car locked and loaded for a long weekend, we were all super jazzed and began looking into what lines we had in mind for the trip.
We decided to start on the Nautilus wall, a popular wall, but plenty of amazing classics. While walking through the boulders, we turned a corner where two Ow’s aggressively popped out at me. Torpedo Left-10a and Torpedo Right-11a….. and with my experience, I feel those are rated a little generously to be honest. It has been known however, that the route grades in the “Voo” are to be a little SANDBAGGED. The “Voo” is also known for its difficulty and dramatically sharp edges due to its feldspar crystals. Todd Skinner, describing it perfectly states that these attributes, whose edges can not only destroy climbers’ body parts, tend to “filter out the weak, the soft and the spineless, which leaves better company for you.” I felt that.
Being that my training has lead me to walk-on to most OW’s in the 10’s and 11’s with no hesitations or problems, I decided I wanted to “warm up” on Torpedo Left. Keep in mind that I have not climbed in the “Voo” in about 10 years, therefore I had no idea what I was about to endure but I did know that I wanted it.
The Left tube starts out pretty direct- nice wide hands, and although after doing well for some while, at one point I turned the corner, got all turned around, and there I found myself fighting to embrace my relationship with this problem and stay inside the beast. Unfortunately, it did not have the same feeling! It spit me out, taking a little fall onto a # 5 and with 30 seconds rest I was able to look at what I did wrong and figure out quickly what needed to be done to conquer. Getting through that section left me feeling really winded and almost having to stop every few seconds to catch my breath. It was blowing me away that I was breathing so hard….thus, I yelled down, “what’s our elevation?!” Pat looks up and says I think 8,400 feet with a bit of a chuckle and then it hit me…DUH!!!! I’m used to about 10 foot elevations while training in Portland. Reaching the top, I flopped down, caught my breath and set up belay for Pat. Pat being a local of the area, of course he flew right up with no problem.
With Pat’s next lead we went over to Automotive Supply House, a beautiful line that has a little of everything on it. With your partner on lead, it’s always hard to figure out exactly what you have to do. Pat, being a solid climber, worked his way up and through the two-part crux up to the chains. Being able to see how Pat worked the climb it made it a little easier for me to send it; and what a fun route it was!!!! Offering a lot of variety really is something that makes for a good route.
As we finished this route, we noticed over the hills a good size storm rolling in and before we could get shelter, it was on top of us threatening lighting and heavy rain. We ran to a cave and spent the next hour or so eating and waiting for things to clear. Feeling like the day might be over due to wet cracks, we walked around to scope if anything was open. We found an attractive overhanging section with a few routes that were just fine to get funky in.
It was my turn for a pick so I opted for a nice route called New Demotions. With a crux start off the bat, it looked fun to go ahead and give it a go. Starting off I looked at my set up and attacked it! Working fast to save energy, I accidentally set what I thought could have been, a bad cam at the top of the crux. Feeling uncomfortable with the protection and against all rules, I decided to keep going. With that in the back of my head I didn’t push it as hard, knowing that if it popped it would be a close decking potential. So as I pushed up, I weakly and with preparation decided to take a fall. With a fun 10 foot fall, everything held fine but I decided to set a back up piece and go for it again. With a better cam placement, my head was fine and so was my climbing. I moved right through it with ease and I pushed to connect my chains.
Pat decided to not second it as he was looking to save his energy in order to work on his long time project- New Mutant, which was just around the corner. Let’s just say New Mutant is a wicked left leaning that was way out of my reach. Pat had been working on this for a few tries now and felt ready for it. However, with the day getting the best of him and although he fought through it and gave it his best, it seemingly was not his day.
With the day turning dark it was time to head to the car and get some cold beers. Camp was just down the road so we piled in and made our way down. With a fire band in effect it was a dark night at camp but the beers felt good and dinner was great. Having a full day, everyone was tired and we all crashed out fast under the stars among the valleys of Vedauwoo. A much needed nights rest.
Waking after a solid night’s sleep and some early morning coffee, it was time to head to the John’s Tower and get onto another classic- Burning Man. Once I saw the route I wanted to rope up right there and get on the wide beauty. With a little beta from Pat I racked up and started. With everything moving fine, I got to this section in which I had a little trouble working my knee in, therefore losing some steam and sadly plopped out of it. Knowing what I did wrong immediately, I was able to work through the section and make it to the amazing rest. With mostly handwork to finish the route, I was able to do well and make it to the top rather quickly.
After a good OW it’s usually time to relax for a little bit or just get after something much mellower. Pat walked around and scoped a possible new route and decided to rack up for it and go play in a variation pitch. After sending the problem, going at a 5.8+ he decided to name it, “The Best Route in Veadauwoo ….a Tribute.”
With that being done we walked around so Pat could show me some fun OW’s in that area. I got to see the famous Iron Maiden, an over -hanging OW, that I’m pretty sure has my name all over it. I can’t wait to get back in there and have some fun. That day though, Pat decided to show me a new route he had done a while back called New Suits. New Suits is a beautiful 12a inverted OW and I was stoked for the opportunity to have the first go at it on lead. I was so excited to start in with this beauty. It offers a nice mellow start with a thin crack leading to the roof, but then the business starts. Jamming up in there I started to throw my feet up and fully failed at it! At this point, I’m taking a nice hang while trying to figure out how the hell I’m gonna get my feet up over my head in that crack. By taking a minute to figure how to stack my hands, I was then able to walk my legs up, jam them above my head and get INVERTED > wow what a fun position!!!!! Right then, I needed to figure how to move upside down! With a few whips and a good coach I was able to make it to the lip and start a chicken wing, but even that was a challenge in itself! I attempted it once but unfortunately I was not up in there enough and took an awesome fall head first off of it! Giving a fun laugh as falling out, I knew what I needed to do. Resting a sec, I was able to get my feet up in there again. I then dominated the inverted walk up in there, fought that chicken wing and made it to the chains! A big WAAAA HOOOOO came out when I hit those chains!!! It was an awesome feeling; one I have been waiting for ever since I’ve seen pictures of people getting upside down.
Feeling exhausted I called it a day and we headed back to meet the other guys. Upon arrival, good buddies of mine, Jimmy Fair and Vanessa Alamanza were in the parking lot with beers in their hands and smiles on their faces. We all returned to camp to trade stories and chat over a great dinner.
The next day, I was feeling worked so I decided to save my energy for the Right Torpedo Tube, which I had looked at the previous day. I relaxed and took some photos of Jimmy and Vanessa throughout the day. It’s always fun seeing good friends having a great time but I guess climbing was not in the cards for us that day because the rain came fast and hard. Of course taking cover and having a few beers became our newest hand of choice.
Waking up the next day, my first thought was TORPEDO!!!! I was excited to try to get the sight on it. In my mind that morning I knew I wanted it, I just had hoped I could get it. We packed up camp and made our way to the crag. The air was crisp and feeling, light. It was a good day. As we approached the tub, (Right Torpedo) everything felt right. At first I just starred at it looking at what my entrance was going to be and even after 10 minutes ….I still had to clue. I guess I just had to figure that out when I got up in there!
As an OW climber, the preparation time takes a little bit. You tape your hands, your pants at the ankle and sleeves at your wrists. It’s important to try to protect every inch of your of your skin as possible. So this means every time you go climbing it costs about $4 for a roll of tape, which for all of you dirt baggers out there, can break the bank! The other challenge of OW climbing is with all of our gear being so big and heavy starting a route can be extremely uncomfortable. Our harnesses carry so much weight at times it can feel as though they’re dragging us down. With this being said, after my 20 minute prep, I was finally ready to climb.
With Jimmy belaying me, I crawled up to the opening of the tube, set my first #4 and quickly backed it up with my 2nd #4. I prepped it so when I was in the cruse I could just bump it up. It took me a few times to squeeze in there and finagle myself. I was crawling up in there and coming back out to find the exact way in which I wished to attack it. Getting WAY back in there I was able to find a rattley fist paired with a crappy knee, but it was indeed enough to slide a cupped hand to match a stack. I was fully in it at that point when I had remembered my friend Lisa Skaff, who has been helping me with yoga, telling me the importance in breathing and working on my core. So mid crux I found myself calm and focused on that which helped me push through while using a few more stacks and cupped fists. Soon enough I turned the roof and was upright. After feeling slightly beat up giant WAHOOO was much needed for me.
Because I was able to look up and see that I could make it to the top, I instantly had relief, let down my guard and began climbing with excitement and super fun energy again. However, in order to get to the top area I had to cross this big section of a Bombay chimney with no protection. So I yell down to Jimmy, “hey man…umm…. if I fall I’m going way down and probably going to get pretty hurt…. so if I fall and don’t respond…. you’ll know I’m hurt…. So, ok, climbing now…. ahaha!” He just chuckles and says “OK.” Making my way through it I just laughed and was really excited to be in there. This amazing adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment rushed through my body like a freight train upon reaching the top. Knowing I did what I had set out for was a great feeling and once again I yelled out a big Wahooo.
As I got to the anchors I soon realized I did not have a belay device. Haha, I guess I was so focused on going up I forgot I had to go down. I had to yell down to the crew to send up my ATC -they both chuckled and attached my ATC and sent it up. As I got down, Vanessa was standing there with a big smile and an even bigger hug. Having the support of good friends is always a great feeling.
On days I set out to do a big climb, I normally only do that one pitch. So with the day closing in it was time to load up and head to my next stop. In this case, it was Salt Lake City Utah for the Outdoors Retailers Show to meet my sponsors; Next Adventure and Mad Rock Climbing. As I have lots of exciting projects on the horizon, I was really looking forward to collaborating with some fresh faces and rapping about some new ideas and goals of mine. Utah gave me the chance to elevate my excitement, embrace my ultimate commitment and be amongst some of the more valuable people who outline my purest and truest of loves…… climbing. Hopefully picking up a few more sponsors along the way is in the cards too.