Fresh off the confidence inspiring trip to Mount Moran
I was ready to lead my first multi-pitch climb without any handholding. I'd been on a couple multi-pitch climbs before, but during those I'd either had somebody else leading or at least had the benefit of someone smarter, more experienced, and more skilled along to lend advice and moral support. Now I felt I was ready to shed the training wheels and try a route without these comforts. So on a sunny October morning my wife Julie and I set out to climb Piz Badille – a crag high up the South Saint Vrain Canyon named for its resemblance to the famous mountain in the Italian Alps - Pizzo Badile
The crag consisted of a sizeable triangular face bordered by a very nice ridge on the left. I chose the ridge for a number of reasons: at four pitches it was nice and long but not too
long, the hardest pitch was the first at 5.6-5.8, the later pitches were 5.4-5.5, we could walk off the summit without the need for rappels, there was minimal approach, and it was just a really cool looking climb.
The climb was incredibly fun. The first pitch was indeed the crux with challenging route finding through a series of small roofs and very exposed slabs split by very thin cracks. Whereas I was at my very limit leading the first pitch Julie was still well within her comfort zone following. This was a pleasant surprise - when her head poked around from beneath the roof below the first belay station I half expected to see her close to tears and freaked out (I nearly was at the top of the first pitch) but she was having a grand time.
I led all the pitches and Julie was able to follow without difficulty. After the first pitch the climbing was more straightforward as we worked our way up the ridge. After four full 60-meter pitches we reached the top of the technical difficulties. We packed up the gear and completed the remaining, exposed, fourth-class bit of the ridge to the summit unroped.
There was a large talus and boulder gully to descend to return to the base of the climb. We made short work of it and soon had our stuff packed up and were ready to celebrate our great climb. The only remaining obstacle was re-crossing the Saint Vrain River back to the car. This time we both opted to wade it (I had jumped it in the morning but Julie had waded it then too). The water was cold and the rocks were slippery but we both managed to make it without falling.
Julie and I both agreed that this was the most fun adventure we'd had in quite some time. The climbing itself was really fun and it felt really great to have made this major breakthrough in our climbing career. We tested our selves on a significant multi-pitch route and passed with flying colors. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
Our climb of Piz Badille occurred almost exactly a year to the day from when Julie and I first tried rock climbing. We went from absolute beginners struggling to set up toprope anchors (we made a comical sight lugging around "Freedom of the Hills," studying the knots pages, and working out directional anchors etc) to leading moderate multi-pitch trad climbs in a year - not too bad I thought considering all the other things we had going on in our lives. Although I surmounted the learning curve a bit too late in the season to attempt another big alpine route like the CMC Route on Mount Moran
(the weather did not cooperate) we made several trips down to the Flatirons of Boulder
during the subsequent months to hone our skills. It would be a long winter waiting for the snow to melt off the high peaks – I had a long wishlist for 2006 and was itchin' to get started!