I gaze down between my feet, several hundred feet down. I can barely see my climbing partner almost a full rope length down. It’s exposed, new terrain, perhaps a whole new face/buttress, and the rock is really shit! I can’t remember my last good piece of gear. It’s going to be serious if I whip. There is going to be at least broken bones. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s above. I want it to end but it just keeps on coming. The climbing is barely overhanging, sustained. Not your Bird Brain Blvd type of runouts. Take the crux on Bird Brain and make it longer, a little steeper, and more powerful with much worse gear and rock.
I must have asked almost 20 people about going to Ouray, CO to go explore new terrain. No one seems psyched about it. Only a couple people I know are. Where is the sense of adventure? There is so much to explore rather then the trade routes in CO. Those walls should be filled with routes rather then just BBB, Ribbon, Desperado, and Walking the Line (Lost In the Choss?)
When it came down to it, either someone was busy or they never replied. Come on, we got stuff to climb! Jason Maki seemed like the only person that I could get psyched for it this weekend. So rather then sit home and watch football, we were going climbing.
Jason just started in the mixed climbing sort of game in August. (Yes, August!) His progression has been awesome to see. The original plan was to try a pitch or two of this route I’m trying to sort of project, if you should say, and then crag and check out some perhaps unclimbed stuff in the Skylight area. We left after work for the long drive, totally psyched. We got in late, and soon woke up.
“Jason, wake up! We got rock to climb with ice tools and pons!” I keep on repeating.
Jason rolled over and slowly woke up. Before we knew it we were heading up Camp Bird Road. We popped around a corner and a buttress popped up, one that I’ve always looked at on this drive. This time, a line popped out at me. We discussed but continued on. Soon we were looking at the project in perfect weather with a big storm coming the next day.
“Dude, why don’t we just go check that buttress out today instead of the project?” I stated.
I kept talking about it until Jason had to agree to shut me up. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad. He actually seemed psyched. Maybe a new face/buttress with hopefully a new route? Oh yeah!
We park and start the approach, a gnarly one. Parts of it covered in 50+ degree snow covered moss. It was steep but in a little over an hour, we were at the base. I popped out of the trees and saw a huge chimney sort of split the face. This is the line!
I got really excited, scramble up as high as possible, and place a #3 for the first belay anchor. That’s another thing. The anchors on this sort of stuff can sometimes be non existent.
We got racked up and I headed up P1. It started with two overhanging chockstones and then a scramble up more of the gully to a kind of run out M4 crux. Next belay anchor was basically in a mud crack. I belayed off my harness, backed up with the anchor.
The next pitch was about the same difficulty but maybe a touch easier. Run out too. I think I only placed one piece? A bad TCU before the OW sort of crux of it. I pulled around this corner to see that the route got quite steeper. It wasn’t going to be moderate the whole way.
I brought Jason up. He was totally psyched! I grabbed the gear and looked at the vertical “crack” above. The rock started as a gold kind of color, which means in Ouray, looser then the normal choss! M5ish climbing with okay gear but kind of a run out mantle onto 60+ degree moss, brought me closer to the crux. Forty feet of this steep moss was awesome. Good thing too as there was not really any pro.
The last half of the pitch was vertical to slightly overhanging at times, the whole way. I used all the big gear at the first part, and anchor, so it was even more run out then it would’ve been with it! The climbing was powerful with gear that I didn’t trust. I was scared. The last bit included a 15 foot 85 degree traverse with really bad pro, and bad pro below. I must have took 5 to 10 minutes to sort it out. I mantled onto a ledge by grabbing a huge moss “jug.” Slung a tree, and yelled off belay! It took a bit to relax after that. We’ll call it “M5+.”
I looked down to Jason. 600 feet to the ground on something not established. Such a cool feeling.
He followed and after a bit joined me.
“Dude I was really scared just following that!”
“What a classic right?” I stated with a smile.
I started off the next pitch with some run out steep choss. Slung a couple dead tree stumps for pro and then traversed right on steep snow covered slabs. Soon I climbed up a steep face for 15 feet to sling a tree for a hanging belay. Kind of scary to set up. Jason joined and I went up for a final full ropelength up until the terrain eased off. The final part included M4? scary climbing with my last piece, a small tree stump, that’s about it.
Jason joined me and we were excited. I looked up to see low angle rock. We were heading down!
After a few rappels on tree’s to the side we were back at the base really happy about life. What a grand adventure.
But really, this route is a four star classic! All 900 feet of it! Go do it!
Wake Up Call (M5+ R maybe X? 900 ft) on what we dubbed the “21 & Up Buttress” if it is indeed unnamed.
21 & Up because I’m not allowed to drink a beer in the USA but yet I can do this as well as a warning that this type of climbing isn’t for the faint of heart.