Thursday, December 15, 2011

Slaying the RAMM

Slaying The RAMM

The RAMM. Shelf Road, Canyon City, Colorado.
Wednesday, July 12, 2011

I dangled from my daisychain, feet hanging in open space the wall just a few inches away. I was cleaning a 5.11C that BC had put up called Cactus Rose. My forearms were burning and it was hard to squeeze open the gate of a carabiner. Cleaning a route always made me nervous because there's always that fear of dropping that lifeline known as a rope. I threaded the rope through the bolts and tied back in. Then unclipped the daisychain and BC slowly lowered me back to the ground. Ian had been cleaning the 5.9 crack climb that we all had climbed and everyone was now talking of their plans. Ian and BC were planning on heading out and getting back to Florissant. Brendan and I were going to stay and maybe do another climb or two. We wanted to try putting up a 5.10. Neither of us had ever led a 5.10 before. BC had put up Cactus Rose and I'd simply top roped it. I definitely was not strong or skilled enough to lead 5.11 just yet. But Brendan and I both felt that it was time to push our level.

So after a short break, some water and barbecue chips we flipped through our guidebook and came across a route called "The RAMM". Rated at 5.10 plus we thought this would be a good project to work on. The route was 9 bolts plus 2 anchors. Brendan took the first crack at the RAMM.

The first bolt was about 15 feet up on a very smooth face. Brendan couldn't find good enough hand and foot holds on the face to get up, so he started on the far right and worked up a dihedral and then traversed over to the bolt to clip in. He then began working the face but wound up working back over to the right back to the dihedral. He worked up and finally clipped the 6th bolt and it looked like he might be able to pull off the ascent on the first go. But then he stalled out and was unable to clip the 7th bolt. He tried several more times but just couldn't make the clip. So finally, he clipped a bale-out biner and cleaned the route so I could take a shot at it.

I followed Brendan's same line of climbing and managed to get up to and clip the 6th bolt. The 7th bolt was only a few feet higher and it took me a few goes but I finally clipped it. The eighth bolt was up a fair distance, about 10-12 feet over a small slightly overhanging roof. I was exhausted and attempted to claw my way up towards the bolt. But the roof repeatedly forced me to back down. I didn't want to take a whipper and crash into the wall. In short, I wasn't bold enough to go for it. I got to a point where I felt some jugs that could definitely be helpful, but apart from that not much. I didn't know how to get to the eighth bolt.

I reclipped the bale-out biner and rapp down, cleaning off all the quickdraws. Brendan and I disappointedly packed up our gear and began moving down toward the canyon floor and Brendan's car. But we both vowed to return and "Slay The RAMM".

Over the next two weeks I spent hours in the small bouldering house on Sanborn camp property where I worked for the summer. I was determined that the next time I attempted the RAMM I would conquer it.

A couple weeks after our day of climbing at Shelf, Brendan and I returned with a plan of "Slaying The RAMM". It was Saturday afternoon and we planned on climbing until it was too dark to climb, or until we just couldn't climb any more.

We arrived at Shelf around 4:00 and climbed a couple of 5.8 warm ups. Then we turned our attention to the hated RAMM. We studied it for a while and then Brendan took a crack at it. He worked his way up it, using more of the face this time around and got to the seventh bolt with little difficulty. We had both trained hard and felt confident that after a few tries we would conquer the RAMM. We had also decided that we were going to be bold and not afraid to take a few whippers. Brendan promptly took about a 15 footer in trying to go for the eighth bolt. The whippers slowly increased in length and violence as he continued trying. He finally gave up since his forearms and fingers were burning.

It was my turn. I went for it and worked the face for a good while. I clipped the seventh bolt and then went for the kill. I climbed up to the jugs I had noticed on my last attempt and cranked off a pull-up. I reached up high for what I hoped would be a good hold, and I promptly lost grip and peeled. "Shit!" I cursed as I came to a bouncing stop about two bolts below. I tried again and this time got a little higher, but again fell.

Brendan had tried working up left and then back right to try and clip the eighth bolt. I decided to look for something on the right. I found a kneebar and middle finger lock off that was fairly solid and then I reached up and locked into a semi-solid jug that flaked out from a ledge about four inches wide. If I could pull off a mantle on the ledge the bolt would be mine. But my fingers slipped off the jug and the ledge and I tumbled into space again. I repeated this maneuver several times but always came up just shy of the bolt.

Finally, I backed down and Brendan took another crack at. it. He managed to clip the quickdraw into the bolt but then fell before he could clip the rope. He came off after a few more tries. I tried clipping the rope but also failed. Finally, on his third go up the wall Brendan clipped the rope into the quickdraw. But now we were presented with a different part of the crux.

Brendan noticed that the ledge was part of a block that was not entirely solid on the wall. 1%F we could somehow stand on the ledge we could reach the next bolt. But the difficulty was getting our feet up on the ledge without it breaking off or up falling and smashing into the rock and bloodying up our bodies. Brendan gave it a couple goes but backed down. I climbed up with the rope secured as a top rope to see if 1 Could somehow work out a sequence. I thought I found a sequence to get up on the ledge by grabbing onto a soap bar sized chunk of rock up and to the left on the edge of a roof, and then heel hoking the ledge and then cranking up and reaching with the right hand for the bolt. But my arms and legs were shaking too badly that I couldn't pull off the move. We decided that we couldn't yet "Slay the RAMM". I clipped our trusty bale-out biner into the bolt and rapped down.

My heart was heavy with the disappointment of being unable to complete a climb. But I was also satisfied that we'd given it everything we had for that day. We returned to Shelf Road later in the summer. The RAMM was calling our names but we resisted. We instead turned our attention to some slightly easier 5.10s knowing that we'd have to be much better climbers before we could finish the RAMM. I know the RAMM is there. I know it's been climbed by numerous others that have visited Shelf Road. I probably won't return to Shelf until next summer. The RAMM is there and he isn't going anywhere. When I'm climbing in the gym here in Orlando the RAMM lurks in the background of my mind. I know he's there, and I know he's waiting for me. One day I will return to face down and slay the RAMM.

Montezuma's Tower

Montezuma's Tower:
Garden of the Gods
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Throughout the summer I'd wanted to do a multipitch rock climb. But most multipitch climbs require trad gear and trad experience, neither of which I had. Brendan and I had been climbing together since late June and we'd become pretty darn good climbing partners. Brendan flipped through the Colorado guidebook I'd bought and came across a climb called Montezuma's Tower. It was a two pitch sport route in Garden of the Gods. Rated at only 5.7, the entire climb was only two pitches, but I'd never climbed higher than about 100 ft. I'd done a 150 foot rappel when I was 11 years old, but I'd never climbed an actual tower of rock. So Brendan and I decided that it would be a great first multipitch lead for the both of us. Something well within our climbing ability although a little more exposed and run out than what we were used to.

So one Friday night in early August, we drove to Colorado Springs and sat out a storm. It looked as if we weren't going to get to take a crack at Montezuma's Tower, but finally the weather cleared. It was going on 8:00, but we felt we could climb the route fast enough that we wouldn't be caught in the pitch black of night.

We found the tower which according to our guidebook rarely saw a day without an ascent. We quickly prepared and Brendan took the first lead. Even though the climbing was relatively easy, the first bolt was still a nerve racking 25 ft up. It also didn't help that one of Brendan's shoes had a hole right at the big toe, and our shoes were covered in sand and didn't find a whole lot of purchase on the gritty red sandstone.

Brendan made the first clip and continued his way up to a pocket that he threaded with a length of webbing and then used a locking carabiner to clip the rope. This served as an extra point of potection...j in case. The bolts weren't top notch quality and neither of us really trusted taking a fall on them.

Brendan made it to the belay ledge and set up the master point and belayed me up. Brendan had clipped the first four bolts, which left me the final pitch to the top. Although this second pitch was not very technically demanding rated at only 5.5, the feeling of exposure really threw me for a loop.

I ran the rope through the master point that Brendan had set up and then began to climb. It was a long run out, probably in the 20-25 foot range. Fortunately there was little danger of me falling because the rock was covered in enormous pockets and ledges. I eventually clipped a quickdraw through the eye of the bolt and clipped my rope to it as well. In my head I was thinking, "holy shit, I'd hate to take a fall on this". I continued up the spine of the tower. Pretty soon I was practically straddling the spine as if I were climbing the crest of some giant prehistoric sea creature. Suddenly I was at the top. I had one foot on either side and the feeling of openness blew me away. It was nerve racking and exciting all at the same time. Now the only issue was finding the anchors. Unfortunately it was now too dark for Brendan to be much help about 50 or so feet below me.

I ran my hands all over the rock desperately wanting to find the bolts. Where were they? I had no idea and neither did Brendan. The top of Montezuma's Tower is a thin knife edge so I figured that the bolts must be further along the knife edge. So with one foot on either side of the knife blade I inched my way forward feeling my way until finally my hands came in contact with the chains. I breathed a sigh of relief. I anchored in and reached for my ATC to belay Brendan up, but came up empty. Quietly cursing to myself I realized that I must have left the ATC at the base when Brendan belayed me up, even though I could have sworn I'd clipped it back to its locker. Fortunately though, Brendan was wearing my crag bag in which I had an extra ATCDDS I wrigged up a body belay which I'd learned to do on Mt Hood for just such an occasion. I would have rather done a munter belay but I didn't want to accidently mess up the knot.

I safely belayed Brendan up and he clipped into the anchor. I fished out my extra ATC and we flaked out the second rope we'd brought up for the rappel. Brendan tied the ropes together and fed one through the bolts of the anchor. We set up the rappel and made it down safely. It was awesome getting to rappell 145-150 feet. Unfortunately, it was too dark to get much video or pictorial footage, but we had an awesome time.

It took us a while to pull the ropes, untangle and unknot and then finally coil them. Then we had to find our way out and back to the road and finally to Brendan's car. We drove back to Woodland Park and celebrated with a meal of double bacon cheese burgers and chocolate milk shakes from Sonic. We knew that we'd taken way longer on an easy multipitch climb than was necessary, but it being our first one we realized that speed would come with practice and time and we couldn't wait for the next one.