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.