Friday Night: Boise
City Of Rocks is a great place! You pack up your car full of luxury, car-camping items – from pillows to thick sleeping pads, from gourmet dinner ingredients to a cooler full of beer! You climb, you camp, you eat, and you drink – that’s how it was meant to be. Ours however was not this type of a City outing. We were on a tighter schedule and having flown into Boise late Friday night had none of these luxuries with us.
We spend the brief Friday night trying to get some sleep on the front seats of our sub- sub-compact parked behind some gas station outside of Burley, ID. In the morning we make our way into The City via a long loop through Almo due to snow-related road closure. Only 8 hours into our weekend and already feeling shitfaced due to lack of sleep – you know that half sleepy, half nauseous feeling accompanied by blood-shot eyes.
Saturday: City Of Rocks
To beat the expected crowds, we head directly for the Incisor Spire and the classic Skyline route (4-star, 5.8 pitch). Shirley leads it in good style enjoying the line probably a bit more than I did.
I thought the climbing was only OK – blocky start leading to a flaring crack and topped off with nice alligator plate runout at the top – but the position and the small summit were first rate! After rapping off, we step out into the light and head for the east face of Parking Lot Rock, a whopping 100 feet away. I lead the Tow Away Zone line – a decent 5.10a with the crux coming within the first 20 feet. The short friction face start (crux) is made more interesting by a lingering patch of snow that refuses to be circumnavigated.
Above, the line follows a 5.8-ish thin hands crack as the terrain kicks back progressively. I run the pitch out to Funky Bolt belay (horn with slings) as the standard Beauty And The Beast bolts are occupied. Shirley complains about the blue micro Alien having walked itself deep into the crack and leaves it for me to remove on rappel. What follows would set the tone for my chain of minor mishaps that weekend. A valuable lesson is soon learned by me – one that I must have skipped in kindergarten. As I poke and prod at the micro-unit with the nut tool, the blue fucker decides to teach me a lesson. It waits patiently taking the abuse from the nut tool until my rage subsides. As I give it one more tug – firmly holding onto the nut tool in the pulling hand with the sharp end aimed towards my face – the blue bastard lets go!! I see stars and feel nauseating sweetness in my mouth – momentarily flirting with passing out – all that before the first shockwave of pain even hits me. I feel warmth on my face and hear someone yelling “Shiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!!!” As I struggle to catch my breath – wondering if the warmth on my face is the retinal fluid of my former right eye – the only thought racing through my head is: “open your eye!”
The gods of stupidity are kind to me that day – I see light, a bit reddish but bright enough! We pull the ropes, and head for Thin Slice, keeping my head low as we pass other climbers who were lucky enough to witness my self mutilation.
Thin Slice proves sustained and not that enjoyable (IMHO) – a steep face climb with a thin crack (tips) for pro and only one or two finger jams for me. Not quite sure if it deserves its 4-star rating. The steep, juggy nature pumped me and I had to take on it. With my right eye throbbing and swelling up a bit, we grab the stuff and head for Utah in search of better luck.
Sunday: The Rectory
Saturday night, we make it as far as Price, UT (1.5 hrs from Castle Valley) where we crash in a motel. My eye is oozing pus just a tad and I’m hoping this is not an onset of an infection that could kill our Sunday plans. A thorough washing with copious amounts of soap and water proves to be a good cure and I wake up nearly recovered. We make the trailhead by 9 and change where we are pleasantly surprised to run into Brad (of piquaclimber fame) and his crew camping out. Small world! We chat a few minutes and start the hike up Castleton’s talus cone.
As we turn the corner near Castleton’s north face, we get a full on view of Fine Jade on Rectory’s massive southern prow. As we near it, the nastiness of the OW on pitch 1 becomes progressively more apparent. That fucker is not only wide but also overhanging. Shit.
Gear up and scramble up the 3rd class pedestal. Shit again! That’s a big OW 30 feet above. I start up the thin hand crack, get a hand jam at the base of the OW and struggle up into the OW. Throw in a #4 Camalot and rest!! The exit from the OW is not trivial either – you reach right for a good handcrack through the top of the overhanging section…..the handcrack is good only if tight yellow Camalots is your thing. I hang again. Damn – only 50 feet and I’m pumped! I feel a long day coming. The rest of the pitch is hard but not as bad – thin (for me = tight #2’s) hands to fingers and finally a belay ledge with good bolts. I pull onto it pretty damn tired and, though the Supertopo suggests otherwise, set up the belay. Shirley curses and hangs a bit on the OW too but enjoys the tight yellow to fingers crack.
The next pitch is a tad easier and goes quickly. Now we’re looking up at the crux pitch – fingers through an obvious bulge. This part looks OK (for 5.11-) from below. What worries me more is the blank-ish face (20-30 feet) leading to the bulge. Start up the face and when the angle kicks up (15 feet below bulge) I find myself unwilling to free climb above micro nuts….screw it – French free to the bulge (micro nuts and cams) where a good rest on a #0.5 Camalot awaits.
Short but devoid of feet, the finger crack makes me pant like a dog. Above, the terrain eases a bit as the angle kicks back all the way to the belay.
The topo warns of the poor rock quality on the next pitch (5.9+) – rightward and upward traversing pitch. Indeed, 15 feet up I hit stuff that looks and feels like Entrada (sandy and slippery holds). I’m about to commit to some face moves, when I decide to put a #2 Camalot in a sandy crack at my feet – probably worthless but makes me feel better. I step up onto some face holds when unexpectedly my right foot blows off the sloper and off I go sailing into space ending up below Shirley’s feet. Wake up call! The #2 holds despite the shitty crack. Take 2 goes smoothly. Next pitch is nice but unless I screwed up the route finding (don’t think so though), the 5.7 hand traverse (original final pitch) feels more like 5.10 as there are no feet and the crack goes from hands to offwidth (#4 Camalot).
The 5.9 finishing moves are a lot softer than the 5.7 traverse (go figure). A touch of underclinging and liebacking and I plop onto the summit slab. Wow! That’s quite a sprawling prairie up there! Shirley comes up and we un-rope to hike the length of our newly bagged tower.
A ten minute hike brings us to the opposite end which offers spectacular views of The Priest. From this vantage point, the sleekness of the spire is clear (just wish there were climbers on it to provide a sense of scale in the photos).
We reverse our hike in the sky, rap the route and are back in the car at 6pm. Guess no sleep before my 8:30am meeting at work! Grab subway-to-go in Moab and hit the road running. At 1am – two hours shy of Boise – I pull off I84 into a rest area. We repack our stuff and sleep.
Monday Morning: Boise (‘gain)
3am arrives and the alarm goes off. Time to go to work. We make Boise airport by 5am and by 6am we’re on the plane……only to hear “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be deplaning you due to an oil leak from the port-side engine”. Better now than at 30 thousand feet I guess, but there goes 8:30 am meeting. We end up catching the next flight and I stumble to work at noon thirty….another fine weekend topped off by a near firing.
Any climbing report that includes the words "retinal fluid" is just freaked. How did you get that shot looking down on Shirley yet also out at that tower? That's awesome. Is that a bunch of panoramics pasted together?
Most folks would worry that leaking retinal fluid and possible infection might result in the loss of an eye. Your main concern seems to be whether the morning's climbing agenda will be cancelled. Great stuff!