Tag Archives: outdoors

Camping and Other Stuff: 6 Months Pregnant

I’m 27 weeks pregnant, or just about 6 months (nearing the end of my second trimester!) 3 months to go!.My belly’s getting bigger and bigger and the little one is kicking and wiggling all over the place. Overall I’m feeling pretty good! We’re eating well, I’m sleeping well, not craving anything crazy… I just need to make sure I drink lots and lots of water and all is well.

Working on the house. Yellow is a nice baby color!

Working on the house. Yellow is a nice baby color!

We’re spending quite a bit of time and energy this summer buttoning up big house projects. Getting things finished up so that when baby comes we can just enjoy baby and not be worrying about things like putting up trim or re-siding the house. Not the same kind of fun as a two week backpacking and climbing trip out to the mountains of Wyoming like we did *last* summer (that was awesome, read about those trips here and here), but it’s a good feeling to see the house coming together.

This summer is a quiet one, overall, though, and we’re staying close to home. Seth did take a 12-day mountaineering course in the Cascades in May, which was big, and he’s been getting out on the local rock with friends. Otherwise, the extent of our outdoor activities has been a lot of walks in town and a couple of smaller, overnight camping trips together

Car camping means steak over the fire.

Car camping means steak over the fire.

Camping while pregnant? So far, so good! Our first trip was car camping, scrunched up next to a lot of others who were also car camping. We built a fire, had some steak (hey, might as well, the car’s right there!), and slept in a tent. I brought an extra pillow for support and was pretty comfortable.  And… our site was close to the bathrooms. Yay.

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Skills practice! This is an extended top-belay so I can look over the edge and see my cimber. It’s pretty slick!

That particular trip, we camped near one of our outdoor climbing areas, so we woke up and met a friend for skills practice and climbing. I’m still not doing any climbing, and won’t be until next winter, (read about that here), so I stayed up top and helped with anchors and such and they went down and did the actual climbing. I set up a little station and experimented with some different ways to rig up anchor systems and top belays, as demonstrated in the AMGA Single PItch Instructors’ Manual (lots of good info in that book if you haven’t seen it).

 

Watching the climbing from the top.

This past weekend was our second pregnant camping trip. We chose a hike-in site at Lake Maria State Park and took our 7-year old nephew along with us. Seth packed my pack with all of the light, fluffy things. Sleeping bags and pads, and he even snuck a pillow in there for me. He took the heavier stuff: the tent, food, stove, etc. The nice thing about a hike-in site is you’re more secluded, which I loved. The downside to this particular site was the bugs. They were kind of ridiculous. We swatted our way down the trail to our site, set up camp, and I hid in the tent for a while setting up sleeping pads and bags while Seth and K gathered sticks and got a fire going. The fire helped keep them at bay, but they were persistent. I have four bites on my face to prove it. We roasted some smores and tucked into the tent for the night. This trip I was 27 weeks pregnant, so not quite as comfortable as the last one. Next time I think I would bring an extra camp pillow or two for extra support, but with a good pad, the sleeping on the ground part was still totally fine.

That, again, was just an overnight trip (which was fine with me, since the flies and mosquitoes were so aggressive). As far as camping while pregnant goes, not very different from camping while *not* pregnant. I carry less weight in my pack and need a bit more strategic support while sleeping, and that’s about it. Not a big adjustment at all.

We might take a longer trip in September when it’s cooler and the bugs have died down. Me and my big belly are gonna rock it!

In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of some of my extra non-climbing time this summer to do some reading. Something I’ve gotten away from the past few years. I had forgotten how much I enjoy it! And I’m staying active in other ways as well, walking and continuing my kettlebells classes 2-3x a week, making adjustments as I get farther into my pregnancy.

And, of course, the big house projects. Beginning next weekend we’ll be starting a big push for the next month or so on some of the bigger stuff. And the house is going to look fabulous when we’re done.

Stay tuned.

Trip Report: Red Rocks March 2015

In March of this year, my husband Seth, a few friends, and I headed out to Red Rock Canyon for our third annual Red Rocks climbing trip. I’ve been waiting to write this trip report. Not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I couldn’t write it without acknowledging that at the time of this trip, I was 8 weeks pregnant (yep, we’re adding a baby adventurer to the family). We were still in that “secret” time where you don’t really tell anybody.

Eight weeks pregnant means that I was fully in the throes of first trimester morning sickness. Constant nausea, fatigue, lack of energy and endurance, just in time for a week-long climbing trip in the desert of Nevada. Not planned that way, of course, but one can never quite predict these things.

On one hand I was relieved to not have to be at work pretending that I felt just fine, which was a challenge in itself (we waited until 12 weeks to share the news). On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how my pregnancy was going to affect the trip. Nobody tells you about the sheer exhaustion and lack of general stamina that comes with the first trimester. Maybe they do and I just missed it, or didn’t believe it. It really surprised me, and I definitely had a worry that I may drag the rest of the crew down with me.

Seth and Paul

These guys led my pregnant self up routes all week without complaint. Thanks so much, guys! (photo from halfway up Geronimo)

Before we left, I made the decision that I wouldn’t be doing any trad leading (traditional routes require one to place their own protection as they go. There are no fixed bolts except, sometimes, for anchors). Even though we pIanned on sticking to easy and moderate routes, I didn’t want to risk any big falls. I was pretty bummed about that, especially since I had just gotten to a point where I was feeling fairly solid (check it out). But, for me, not leading traditional routes this trip was the right thing to do, and that left most of the leading to Seth and Paul. They were both super awesome about letting me just follow and for that I was immensely appreciative.

So, without further ado, here’s how our week went:


Seth, Paul, and I flew out together on a Sunday and stayed for an entire week. We steered ourselves towards shorter, easy to moderate traditional routes. Nothing super adventurous this trip, just fun, solid climbing.

Day 1- Monday

The long Minnesota winter means we don’t touch rock between November and April, so the three of us started the week with a couple of nice, chill trad routes for a refresher. The Willow Springs area is perfect for this.

Paul belaying from the top of Little Black Book

Paul belaying from the top of Little Black Book

Seth’s route – That Ain’t No Tortoise, Seth Climbs the Rock – Our first route of the trip turned out to be a bit of a mystery. Seth began at the base of Senior Moment, but took a variation to the left. He ended up at a dead end about 70 ft up, so he built an anchor, brought us up, and we all rapped down from there. It’s very possible this route has a name already, but I can’t find any mention of it, so Seth named it “That Ain’t No Tortoise: Seth Climbs the Rock.” We all agreed it’s in the 5.5-5.6 range.

Little Black Book (5.4) – A nice, long 160′ single pitch trad route. This one was a cruise-fest, but I really enjoyed it. The crux is a bouldery move right off the ground, and there’s a big section of hueco’d rock covering the middle third of the route (I do love some good huecos!). Paul led this one and we rapped off a tree at the top of Sleeper.

Rapping off of Sleeper

It’s me! Rapping off of Sleeper

Day 2- Tuesday

On our second day, we checked out an area new to all of us. First Creek Canyon is outside of the main Red Rock loop. The hike in is about an hour, but fairly straight-forward (although, as with any of the desert hikes, I wouldn’t want to be hiking out in the dark). We got a few pitches in and had a fun day overall. I’d love to explore this area more next trip!

Paul leading Buzz Buzz

Paul leading Buzz Buzz

Buzz, Buzz (5.4) – Pregnancy reared its head that morning. After our hike in, I needed a break. My stomach was not happy and I just needed to rest a bit. So, Seth and Paul climbed this single pitch route while I found a sunny spot below from which to cheer them on. Paul led this pitch,intended as a warm-up, and a lot of grunting and cursing ensued. The 5.4 rating is deceiving. Now that I look at the climb on Mountain Project, I can see that he’s not the only one with this impression of that climb. Seth followed and I heard similar grunting from him as well. Sounds like some of the other climbs on this wall would be better choices.

Rising Moons (5.5) – A bit of rest did me some good, so I joined the guys for the first two pitches of Rising Moons. This was an enjoyable climb. Paul led the first pitch up through a nice chimney. I brought up the rear and carried the bag, which I discovered doesn’t fit through some of the narrower sections of the pitch. I had to employ some creativity and grunting/cursing of my own. Seth led the second pitch, a long, fun face climb, to a set of bolts at the top. The belay stance on this one is a bit awkward. The bolts are set further over than is comfortable (my guess is to avoid stuck ropes when pulling). Seth brought Paul and I up at the same time. We rapped back down to the top of the first pitch and went WAY right to pull our ropes, which I would highly recommend (lots of rope pieces were stuck in a crack near the top). A scramble through to climbers left returned us to the base of the climb.

Rapping off of Rising Moons

Paul rapping off of Rising Moons

Day 3 – Wednesday

We started the day on Wednesday at the Second Pullout. The Great Red Book is a route that Seth’s been eyeing since our first visit to the park. Although you can see the route from the parking lot, the approach is 30-40 minutes of boulder hopping and scrambling. When we got to the base, we were next in line, but as we were unpacking our things a large group appeared behind us, followed by a guide with two clients. Turns out this is a busy route! I wasn’t feeling well again that morning, and the scramble to the base had worn me out. So, I encouraged Seth and Paul to climb the route as a two-person team and I would hang out at the bottom and enjoy the view.

Seth following the first pitch of Great Red Book

Seth following the first pitch of Great Red Book

Great Red Book (5.8) – Paul led the first pitch, Seth led the second. The route is beautiful. It’s a big, red, open book just like the name would suggest, and it looks like a really fun climb. Both belays are bolted, and one can choose to either rap the route or walk off. Although I didn’t climb it myself, the report is that the second pitch has some thin spots and a few bolts to help when gear options aren’t available. The climb is mostly trad, though.

 

My view while the guys climbed

My view while the guys climbed

Seth leading Ok Ok Ok!

Seth leading Ok Ok Ok!

 

After Paul and Seth returned, we had lunch and headed back over to Willow Springs to end the day with a pitch or two.

Ok Ok Ok (5.6) – This is a pretty chill route, 60′. Nice rock, trad anchors. Seth climbed it with ease, brought Paul and I up behind.

Paul rapped first, and I told Seth that I was done climbing for the day. By the time I had rapped down to talk to Paul, he already had his harness off. We were all pretty worn out by this point. As we were hiking back out to the car, it started raining. Time for a rest day.

 

 

We saw lots of these on our hike!

We saw lots of these on our hike!

 

Day 4 – Thursday

Rest day! Our friend Fred joined us that morning and we decided to pack a picnic and head to  Spring Mountain Ranch. There’s a nice, open grassy area there to hang out. We sat in the sun, looked at the rocks, and daydreamed about routes. A nice, short hike sounded good, so we grabbed our packs (they’re so light without climbing gear!) and headed out. We returned two hours later, so I’m not sure how much of a rest day that makes… but we tried.

 

Day 5- Friday

The day we had been waiting for! At the top of our multipitch list for the week was Geronimo. It’s a 4-pitch climb that I found last year, but we never got to climbing it that trip. The three of us were pretty excited to get on it this time around.

We started early, arriving at the trailhead right around sunrise. The hike in is about an hour. I was having another rough morning and wasn’t sure what to do, since this was a full-day venture. I packed my gear and rode out to the trailhead with the guys. Once we were parked at the trailhead, Seth and I talked and decided that I’d hike out to the base of the climb with them and see how I felt. If I wasn’t up to climbing, I could hike back out and come get them later, or just hang out and wait. That sounded like a good plan, so we set off. Once we got to the base of Geronimo, I was feeling a little better, but still low in energy and feeling less-than-awesome. We knew there were bolts to rap from at the top of the first pitch, so I could escape then if I needed to. So… I climbed the first pitch.

And that’s how I took that morning. Just one bite at a time. And by the time I arrived at the top of the first pitch I was feeling much better. Hooray! We all continued on together and had a great day. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a whole day on how it starts.

First pitch of Geronimo. Isn't it a beauty?

First pitch of Geronimo. Isn’t it a beauty?

Geronimo (5.6) – I loved this climb. I can’t wait to go back next year and lead it. The first two pitches are vertical, with good, solid holds and placements. There are a few spots where it feels a lot like gym climbing. Fun climbing, great views… we all had a good time on it. Plus, we had the whole route to ourselves all day (which, apparently, is rare).

Seth led the first pitch and brought Paul and I up together, which saved quite a bit of time. Paul led Pitch 2. The second pitch starts out very much like the first; a vertical, fun, jug-fest. Then, things change. The climbing gets slabby and easy, but exposed and run-out.

I was last in line and when I got to that point I had to do some serious self-talk to keep myself focused and calm. The path led up an exposed slab and then traversed around a corner to an even more exposed face right near the top. I was moving along slowly and talking myself through the exposure when a giant, brick-sized hold broke off in my hand about 20 ft from the anchors. I caught myself and didn’t fall (I was on top-rope, it would have been just fine), but a sound came out of me that I wasn’t quite expecting. Something halfway between a scream and a hiccup. Seth and Paul are still teasing me about it.

My viewpoint 2.5 pitches up Geronimo, while the guys explored above.

My viewpoint 2.5 pitches up Geronimo, while the guys explored above.

That hold breaking off on exposed climbing shook me up quite a bit. I was already running on less-than-full reserves, and found it affecting my mental recovery time as well. We took a short break and had a snack to give me a chance to recenter.

Paul roped up for the third pitch of four. This is where we got a bit lost. Paul went up a ways, explored his options, and took a right. We found out later that it should have been a left (or maybe straight?), but it looked ok to all of us. Paul knew he was off route, so he found a spot to belay and Seth followed. They brought me only part-way up, to a little cove with a slung tree, where I anchored myself in. I hung out there while they explored their options.

Paul scrambled up around the back of the formation and accidentally ended up at the top of the climb. It wasn’t the official way to get there, but it got him there! We’ll call it Paul’s Geronimo variation. He brought Seth up and they rapped from bolts directly down to where I was.

From there, it was a single-rope rap and two longer double-rope raps back to the base.  And that’s where we made this little video, marking our little baby’s first multipitch climb.

 

Websites told us he/she was about the size of a grape at that point, hence the name.

We returned to the car 10 hours after we left. A full day of climbing with perfect weather and great company. I’ll definitely be getting back on that one next time, when I’m not incubating a tiny human.

Day 6 – Saturday

This turned out to be a pretty light day. We were all tired from the previous day’s efforts and not super-motivated. We headed back out to Willow Springs and Paul saw a line that looked interesting. So he said “what the heck,” and decided to climb it.

Sunset crew

Sunset crew

Crooked Crack (5.6) – We found out the name of the climb later from some other folks nearby. Another fun, moderate, trad route. Once at the top, we walked over to the top of Tonto and rapped from there. And then we called it a day (yep, that’s how not super-motivated we were that day).

Some other friends had come into town at this point and we had made plans to scramble up to a high point at the first pullout and watch the sun set. We met everyone there and two friends appeared with a surprise, fully-packed dinner for all of us! Amazing salads in bags complete with dressing, fruit, veggies, and lots of snacks to go around. Our little group sat there, watched the sun set behind the mountains, and enjoyed one another’s company. It was really nice.

 

Sunset over Red Rocks

Sunset over Red Rocks

 

A happy trad leader

A happy trad leader

Day 7 – Sunday

Sunday was our last day in town. We had a red-eye flight back home that night. Two friends, Lea & Galen, who are fairly new to trad climbing, joined us for the day. We decided to head back to one of the first routes of the trip, Little Black Book, and do a bit of trad school with them. Galen had done some trad leading years before, but it had been a while and he wasn’t confident about anchor building and top-belaying. So, Seth led the route and brought Lea & I up together. Then Galen led separately. I hung out at the top and helped him with anchors and belay so he could bring Paul up. After a week of letting the guys take the lead, it was nice to have a chance to do some teaching and use my knowledge and skills!

Lea on her first long rappel!

Lea on her first long rappel!

 

All five of us made our way over to the 160′ rappel and Lea and Galen got to do their first long rap back to the base. We showed them how to set up and back up their rappel, and I stood at the bottom and gave a fireman’s belay.

A fun day of climbing and teaching. We finished up the day (and the trip) with an attempt on Sleeper (5.9), had some snacks and called it.

High fives all around.

Last day's climbing crew

Last day’s climbing crew

Summary:

I’ve gotten better over the years at listening to my body, recognizing where I am, and staying within myself. That doesn’t mean that I like it, though. Not doing any leading and sitting out a few climbs was hard to swallow, even though I knew that’s just what needed to happen. My kettlebells training has taught me how to listen to my body and know when I can push and when it’s best to back off. I think that helped me a lot this trip. I chose to sit a few climbs out, but there were quite a few climbs where I was able to push through and have a great day out on the rocks.

As of now, I’m 18 weeks pregnant. I’ve been able to climb and continue my workouts, (I’m just not leading anything anymore), but I know that as I move forward, listening to my body will be really important, and I’ll alter things as I go. It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

As a woman who can be quite stubborn and strong-willed, it’s not an easy thing to back off. But, I’m always learning, and learning not to apologize for it. As my kettlebells instructor often says, “we do what we can.” What we can do is different every day, and half the battle is being able to recognize when we can push ourselves and when it’s best to give ourselves a break.

All in all a great trip. Looking forward to getting back next year! Thanks again to Paul and Seth for taking the lead.

Trip Report: Wyoming 2014 Part 2 – Grand Teton

I was able to take two weeks off of work for this summer’s big trip, so after a week in the Cirque, there was an entire week left to play in the mountains before heading back home! (If you missed Wyoming Part 1, you can go back and read it here).

The Tetons, silhouetted against the night sky. Photo: Seth Iverson

The Tetons, silhouetted against the night sky. Photo: Seth Iverson

After our hike out of the Cirque, Seth and I drove into Pinedale, WY, found a nice little hotel, and spent a day doing laundry and recovering. We met two guys who were in the middle of hiking the entire Continental Divide Trail, and we saw a rodeo, complete with Mutton Bustin’, my new favorite rodeo event (tiny kids riding sheep = awesome).

Then, up to Jackson we went to meet up with our friend Fred. Our objective was the Grand Teton, via the Owen Spalding route. Seth and I actually climbed the Grand two summers ago (that report is here). That was a guided climb, via the Upper Exum Ridge. This time, we wanted to do it on our own, and Fred agreed to join us! The weather forecast showed a perfect, two day weather window that matched our summit plans exactly. A relief, after being rained out in the Cirque the week before!

The Approach – Trailhead to Lower Saddle

The approach to the Lower Saddle, where we would camp the first night, is brutal. I’m not going to gloss over it, it’s hard. I had, apparently, blocked it out of my memory. We had more weight in our packs this time, carrying our own ropes, gear, tent, etc, so that added difficulty as well.

The trail begins on the valley floor, at Lupine Meadows Trailhead, elevation 6,732 ft. Over the course of six miles, you hike up to the Lower Saddle, at 11,600 ft. That’s nearly 5,000 ft of elevation gain. There’s very little relief, and it’s a mental and physical challenge just to get to the lower saddle.

Heading up Garnet Canyon. Photo: Seth Iverson

Heading up Garnet Canyon. Photo: Seth Iverson

We were feeling good. We heard of a few bear sightings along the trail, but made some noise and didn’t encounter any ourselves. A couple miles in, I was dealing with a painful spot on my hip where my backpack was resting. It had bruised badly the week before in the Cirque and I had hoped a few days of rest would help. Seth came to the rescue and fashioned a piece of his foam sleeping pad to reduce that pressure point and it allowed me to forge ahead.

Our camp at the Lower Saddle

Our camp at the Lower Saddle

About 3/4 of the way up, somewhere around 10,000 ft, I began to feel some signs of mild altitude sickness. Nausea, weakness, headache… I had spent the entire week before between 9,500ft and 11,000 ft, so it didn’t make any sense to me. I had only been back down to 6,000 ft for a few days, so I felt like I should have been fine. We continued on, set up camp on the Lower Saddle at 11,600 ft, and hoped that some rest and a night of sleep was all I needed.

The three of us had dinner, prepped for the morning, rested up. Seth was feeling strong, so he went up and explored the couloir, our final approach to the technical climbing on the Owen Spalding route. When he returned, we were able to talk with the park rangers about the approach (the rangers have a little hut up in the camping zone, and were a great source of information). We felt that we were in a great place to start in the morning.

Mountain shadows over the valley

Mountain shadows over the valley

The Lower Saddle itself is worth the trek. I’ve camped there twice now, and it’s definitely the coolest place I’ve ever spent a night. It sits between the Middle Teton and the Grand Teton. On one side is a view of Jackson Hole, 5,000 ft below. On the other side looks out over a few smaller mountains, and Idaho stretching beyond. We had perfect weather. No wind, no clouds, not too cold… and it happened to be not only a full moon, but the *supermoon* that night. While the sun set over Idaho to the west, the supermoon rose over the Jackson Hole valley floor to the east. It was truly a sight to behold, and a magical evening on the mountain.

Supermoon rising at sunset

Supermoon rising at sunset (on the left)

Fred watching the sun set over Idaho. Photo: Seth Iverson

Fred watching the sun set over Idaho Photo: Seth Iverson

The Climb – Grand Teton via the Owen Spalding route

Our alarms were set for 3:15, with plans to leave camp at 4:15. Some parties headed up as early as 3:45, most without even turning their headlamps on, because the moon was so bright (did I mention that conditions were perfect?).

That morning I still wasn’t feeling well. Nausea, no appetite, headache, and some dizziness as well. Mild altitude sickness is what we suspected. I had been planning this climb with Seth for over a year, we had done all of the prep together, studied the route a million different ways, talked through it over and over. We had planned to share leads; Seth would lead the first pitch (belly roll and crawl), and I would lead the chimneys that followed. A big part of this trip for me was not only summiting, but leading. Leading some pitches, leading the team.. it was really important to me.

After I forced some oatmeal down that morning, the three of us had a final check-in. I wanted to climb. My symptoms were mostly just uncomfortable, and a nuisance, not severe enough to be dangerous. We decided that all three of us would climb, but Seth suggested that if I was feeling at all dizzy, it wasn’t a good idea for me to lead. It was a decision not just for me, but for the team as a whole. I knew he was right, I knew that it was the best thing for our team of three, and I agreed. That was tough. Seth would be leading all of the pitches.

We headed out of camp at 4:15 and began our ascent up the moraine and into the Col, guided by our headlamps and the bright moonlight. A couple of hours later, we were at the first pitch of the Owen Spalding route. The infamous traverse that includes the “Belly Roll” and the “Crawl.” The climbing is very easy, but very exposed as well. An unprotected fall would mean a long drop into Idaho. Seth led the way and brought Fred and I over after him. Several parties lined up behind us, and we were glad that we got an early start!

Looking NW from the start of the Owen Spalding Route. Photo: Seth Iverson

Looking NW from the start of the Owen Spalding Route at sunrise. Photo: Seth Iverson

After that traverse was a short chimney pitch, the “Double Chimney,” and then an option to either do an exposed traverse or climb the “Owen Chimney.” We opted for the latter. The Owen Chimney was my favorite pitch of the climb. Oh, how great it would have been to lead it…. Seth did an amazing job, though.

Climbing the Double Chimney

Me at the base of the Double Chimney. Photo: Seth Iverson

Fred giving me a hip belay

Fred giving me a hip belay. Thanks, Fred! Photo: Seth Iverson

Above the Owen Chimney was Sargeant’s Chimney. Most people were climbing up a chimney to the left, but we climbed the chimney on the right, which definitely had some 5.6 or 5.7 moves in it. We learned later that we had taken the ‘true’ Sargeant’s Chimney, but now days most people take the easier variation to the left.

Above this last technical chimney were some slabs meandering back and forth, and then a patch of sunlight above. The first sunlight we had seen all morning, as the whole route is in the shade (and COLD because of it!). Seth offered for Fred to lead us to the summit. Fred couldn’t believe we were there, and I distinctly remember that feeling the first time we climbed it two years ago. We made our final steps up to the summit into the warmth of the sun, and enjoyed the view. We had done it!

Fred leading the final steps to the summit

Fred leading the final steps to the summit Photo: Seth Iverson

On the summit of the Grand Teton. Fred, me, Seth.

On the summit of the Grand Teton. Fred, me, Seth.

Twenty minutes on the summit, and it was time to head back down. We roped back up and started working our way back down the slabs. One short rappel down Sargeant’s Chimney took us to the big rappel, a 120 ft. mostly free-hanging rappel. We triple-checked everything and Seth headed down first, followed by Fred, myself, and a guy we met who had just free-soloed the Upper Exum route.

The rappel was more intense than I remembered, maybe because we were on our own and not with a guide this time. I quadruple checked everything, then checked again. The first 30 ft. walk down a face, and then the bottom comes into view, and the rope ends are WAY THE HECK DOWN THERE. Then the wall falls away, and the last half is free hanging. Exhilarating is a mild word to describe it.

After the rappel, the technical parts of the day were over. We made our way back down the col and arrived back at our tent on the lower saddle mid-afternoon.

Heading back down the col to camp. Photo: Seth Iverson

EyeofNeedle

Fred at the Eye of the Needle. Photo: Seth Iverson

Seth going through the eye of the needle.

The three of us had lunch (I was finally able to eat a full meal for the first time that day), rested briefly, packed up camp, and began the long descent. We had a camping permit for the Meadows, about halfway down, but when we got there we decided to book it all the way back to the car. Our totals for the day were 2,000 ft of ascent, 7,000 ft of descent, and approx. 8 miles total. We arrived back at the trailhead at 9:30pm, making for 17 hours straight of physical activity. We were toasted.

We headed into Jackson for some pizza, and called it a night.

The wrap-up

We climbed that mountain, a two day ordeal with route finding and technical climbing. We did it on our own, and we did it well. I feel immensely proud of that. It was a mental challenge, it was a physical challenge, and it was also a challenge of confidence. Can we actually do this? Having climbed that same mountain previously with a guide, I knew I could physically do it, but having a guide makes it still seem magical and mysterious somehow. Going on our own, doing the planning on our own, making sure we had the necessary skills, the fitness, studying everything over and over again, talking through scenarios and what-ifs… and then actually putting all of that into practice and doing it… and succeeding…. was empowering. And it took a lot of the magic away. I want to do MORE.

With that being said, I grappled quite a bit with the disappointment of not leading. Because I wasn’t feeling well, Seth led every pitch. It was awesome that he took the lead when the time called for it. I am grateful to him for that, and to have such a strong leader on our team.  I had wanted to lead with him, though. And, even though I was involved in all of the prep and the decisions leading up to that morning, circumstances changed, and plans changed. I didn’t feel well, and Seth took my leads. For weeks afterwards, I struggled with a feeling that I didn’t contribute in the way that I wanted to. Instead of Seth and I co-leading, Seth led, and Fred and I followed. Even though we had successfully climbed the Grand, and we did it fully on our own, without a guide, I didn’t fully meet my personal goals. I felt that I had failed somehow and struggled with that quite a bit.

It’s been nearly a month since our summit, and I’ve had a chance to work through that disappointment and come to terms with it. I still believe that we made the right decision, based on how I felt that morning. When you’re part of a team doing something dangerous like climbing a mountain, every decision is about everybody, and not just about one person. The decision for Seth to lead wasn’t about me. It was about the safety of the team. And it was the right choice.

I’m so proud of the three of us, Fred, Seth, and myself, for our work together as a well-functioning team, and for our successful summit of the Grand Teton. It was an amazing experience, and I am so glad that I got to share it with two incredible people.

As for my personal disappointments? I’ll be heading to Boulder, CO with Seth for my birthday weekend, and I have plans to lead the *crap* out of some flatirons. Seth has already said that he will gladly follow. Wish us luck.

Summit Selfie! Seth and me.

Summit selfie! Seth and me. Photo: Seth Iverson

Trip Report: Wyoming 2014 Part 1 – Cirque of the Towers

Bags packed and ready to go!

Bags packed and ready to go!

Standing in the trailhead parking lot, I realized that I had never been on an actual backpacking trip before. I had camped, yes. Hauled heavy backpacks, yes (full of climbing gear, mostly). This time, though, once we left the parking lot, we wouldn’t be returning for five days.

Our packing had been meticulous. We had separated our food by meal, labeling each in its very own ziploc bag, to make sure we didn’t bring more than we needed (I had no idea how heavy food is!). We packed well. I used everything in my pack except for 2 items of clothing, which turned out to make a fine pillow. Still, with the addition of climbing gear, those packs were not light.

We were hiking into the Wind River Range, from the Big Sandy Trailhead. Our first destination was Big Sandy Lake, about six miles in with minimal elevation gain, so a nice easy start. We had our eyes on Haystack Mountain for our first objective. Then we’d hike back into the Cirque of the Towers. Shark’s Nose, Overhanging Tower, Tiger Tower, and Pingora were all on our list.

Here’s the report, and some pretty pictures:

Big Sandy Lake/ Haystack Mountain:

Home sweet home, at Big Sandy Lake

Home sweet home, at Big Sandy Lake

Day 1, we hiked the six miles to Big Sandy Lake from the trailhead and set up camp. It was a lovely little campsite. The lake was near, so lots of water nearby. We treated all of our water, especially here, since it’s a pretty well-used area, and a lot of folks have their gear brought in on horses. Bear precautions were taken the entire trip. We hung our food and smelly things and ate away from the tent.

From Big Sandy Lake is a beautiful view of Haystack Mountain. It’s a monolith of solid rock that dominates the landscape to the east of the lake, and there are quite a few routes on it. We had dinner, fought the mosquitos, and gazed at Haystack.

Haystack Mountain, over Big Sandy Lake. Photo: Seth Iverson

Haystack Mountain, over Big Sandy Lake. Photo: Seth Iverson

The next morning we woke up to rain, and it continued raining for most of that day. No climbing for us. Seth and I donned our rain gear, and hiked over there anyway. We scrambled up onto the shoulder of the mountain, stopping before we got to anything too technical.

Shoulder of Haystack Mountain. Photo: Seth Iverson

Shoulder of Haystack Mountain. Photo: Seth Iverson

The view from the shoulder of the mountain was beautiful, and surprisingly high above the lake. Even though it was a pretty wide area of low-angle slab, it felt fairly exposed and way the heck up there. The hike and scramble up to the shoulder was worth it for the view. Next time we’ll, hopefully, be able to climb all the way to the top.

We spent one more night at Big Sandy before packing up and heading up to our next destination.

Cirque of the Towers

From Big Sandy Lake is another 6 mile hike up to the Cirque of the Towers, our main destination for this leg of the trip. The morning rain stopped just in time for us to pack up our tent, and held off until we were set up in the Cirque. Very kind! The hike up to the Cirque is more involved than the first six miles to Big Sandy. A few sets of switchbacks, some steep sections, some pretty mellow sections, and a couple of boulder fields, especially if you take the climbers trail. That climbers’ trail is shorter, but the boulder field is kind of a pain with heavy packs. Thank goodness for trekking poles!

Mount Mitchell. Photo: Seth Iverson

Mount Mitchell and War Bonnet, covered in clouds.. Photo: Seth Iverson

The last pass before entering the Cirque is aptly named “Jackass Pass,” and after that, the towers come into view in all of their glory. What a beautiful place! We found a nice spot to set up camp, with a view of Pingora Peak and Wolf’s Head right outside of our front door.

Cirque of the Towers. Photo: Seth Iverson

Cirque of the Towers. Photo: Seth Iverson

Weather in the Cirque turned out to be even more finicky than down at Big Sandy, with the added factor of 2000 ft towers blocking any view of anything heading our way. After our arrival, for example, we headed up to scout the approach for one of our climbs. The sky was blue with a few puffy white clouds floating through. At one point about 30 minutes into our scouting hike, we turned around to see that one of the peaks was quickly being enveloped by a dark, ominous storm cloud. A few minutes earlier, that cloud had been nowhere to be seen. It was as if it had just materialized, right there. We booked it back down the mountain (I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone through a boulder field that quickly in my life!) and just as we crawled into our tent, it began hailing. *phew*!

Rain, rain, go away!

Rain, rain, go away!

The next day we woke up to low, stagnant clouds covering the mountains. We had breakfast and headed up the trail with our gear, hoping that the sun would burn the clouds off. At one point, the sun sent a brilliant spotlight from the east, shining through the greyness of the thick cloud cover in the Cirque. It was a sight to see!

Spotlight of sun on a grey mountain

Spotlight of sun on a grey mountain

But alas, the clouds were stubborn and moved back and forth like a seesaw for most of the morning.

Overhanging Tower, our climb for the day, is back there in the clouds.

Overhanging Tower, our climb for the day, is back there in the clouds.

Heading to Lonesome Lake

Heading to Lonesome Lake

 

We eventually gave up and went on a hike to Lonesome Lake instead, spending a nice, relaxed lunch by the lake. A lovely way to spend our time.

 

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake

An afternoon hailstorm came through camp once we returned (again, very nice of it to wait). At that point, we gave up hopes of climbing and spent the evening drinking whiskey on a rock at our beautiful campsite and reminiscing about life, adventures, and good friends.

Cirque of the Towers, War Bonnet. Photo: Seth Iverson

Cirque of the Towers, War Bonnet. Photo: Seth Iverson

That night, the sky cleared, the moon came out, and it was a picture perfect night in the Cirque. We once again packed our climbing gear and set our alarms for early the next morning. We would head up the trail to the base of our climb unless it was actively raining when we woke. With the sky clearing up and the beautiful night that we were witness to, I thought, for sure, that we’d be climbing the next morning.

We woke to a downpour.

Seth and I cooked breakfast under a nearby tree, waited for the rain to pause, and stuffed our belongings back into our packs for the 12 mile hike back to the car. The rain, once again, was kind enough to pause for our hike.

Seth hiking out of the Cirque

Seth hiking out of the Cirque

So, we didn’t get any climbing in, but I did go on my very first backpacking trip. We spent five days and four nights in the Wind River Mountains, went on a few day hikes, and it was just plain gorgeous. Cell phones didn’t work, I got to spend some quality time with my husband, we saw some friends out there… all in all a great few days in the mountains.

The mountains of Wyoming continue to amaze me with their beauty. The Winds are rugged and raw, and it takes some work to get back there. Definitely on my list to go back and see more. Maybe next time we’ll even get to use our rope and gear.

Keep an eye out here for Part 2 of our trip, the Tetons! Camping at 11,600 ft on the night of the supermoon was a nice touch.

Trip Prep: Wyoming 2014

Just a quick post here. Our trip out to the mountains of Wyoming is approaching, and the prep has begun! We’ve been physically preparing for a few months now; practicing our trad climbing and getting into good physical shape. Now we’re close enough to start packing!

Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming

Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming (photo courtesy of Seth)

This trip presents a few challenges on the packing front. We’re heading into the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range and will be in the backcountry for about five days, miles away from the trailhead. Weight adds up quickly, especially when you add a rope and climbing gear to the mix, so we’re examining everything, looking at what can be used for multiple purposes, what we need for survival and emergencies, and what’s more for comfort. For example, we’ve opted for a tent (not a super-necessity, but awesome to keep the bugs out), but are passing on camp pillows. Rolled up clothes work just fine. Yes to sunscreen, no to dry shampoo (my hair is going to look *amazing*). Yes to coffee. Definitely yes to coffee.

The same went for our climbing gear. As fairly new trad leaders, we tend to take along more gear than we need. For this trip, we did a close examination of our rack and got it down to something reasonable. Still quite a bit of weight, but much lighter than it was.

Seth's homemade tether

Seth’s homemade tether

A bit of homemade gear innovation by Seth: he made tethers for our nut tools out of parachute cord. We like to have our nut tools attached to something so we don’t drop them off a cliff and have been using long slings up to this point, but the slings tend to get caught on stuff and tangled in the rest of the gear. Seth has fixed that. Pretty awesome.

After the Winds we’re heading up to the Tetons, at which time our team of two will become a team of three. So, we made some team prusiks for the occasion (in the season’s hottest colors, of course). Shiny new prusiks are awesome and fun, and when used correctly, they save lives.

Team prusiks. Wyoming 2014.

Team prusiks. Wyoming 2014. Not shown: two more team prusiks.

On the food front, we’re portioning out meals day by day before we pack them, with a bit of extra just in case. This will, hopefully, help us to avoid packing too much and save some weight there.

Very little in the way of clothing changes, mostly we’ll just have layers and rain gear and plan on wearing the same thing for 5 days. We’ll be a stinky pair by the time we come out of the Winds. Luckily, we’ll be heading straight up to the Tetons, and the showers of the AAC Climbers’ Ranch. Yay for showers!

We’re reading up on routes and getting beta. I’m brushing up on my weather knowledge (Seth got me a nice little book about reading the weather), and things are lining up!

On a related, but not-related note, this trip will be a step into new territory for me. It’ll be my longest time in the backcountry, completely reliant on what I take with me. It’ll be my first time camping in grizzly bear country (most of the grizzlys are in the north part of the range, but a few have migrated south, which is where we’ll be). And the climbs on our list, although in the easy to moderate range, are not small. We’ve chosen alpine trad routes, just what I like. They’re tall and exposed, and I know they will challenge me and push me. I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, and I know that I’ll learn a lot as a result. I’m nervous and looking forward to it, all at the same time.

Any other pack weight advice you can offer for 5 days in the backcountry with climbing gear in tow? Gear innovations? Tips and tricks? I’d love to hear them!

Everything’s Changing.

“The only thing constant in life is change.” – François La Rochefoucauld

Everything is changing. All the time. And that includes us, as people.

An advantage of aging is that over time you get to see the parts of you that change, and the parts of you that stay the same. You get a pretty good handle on the “core” stuff; what defines you as a human being. And you begin to clearly see the stuff that changes over time; things that maybe felt like a “core” part of who you were at one time.

We’re all slowly changing, all the time. Like mountains, slowly heaving up out of the earth. Glaciers moving, ever so slowly. Even in those stretches where we feel that everything is good, that we’re settled, we’re imperceptibly changing. Evolving. Moving. Sometimes that change happens quickly and violently, spurred by a specific event. Most of the time, though, it’s slow, and we don’t realize it’s happening until it already has.

When I started this blog, I was fairly new to climbing. My life before climbing was mostly dedicated to music. I was a bassoonist, well on my way to making that my career. I had focused on bassoon since I was 12, and forced myself to march down that path far beyond when it became obvious that it was no longer the right one. It took me a long time to accept that a part of me that felt so fundamental could change. That inflexibility caused me a lot of strife.

Bassoon. Then a few years of floating…. trying to accept a move away from the only life I had ever known, looking for what was next. And suddenly, there was climbing. I fell in love with it. Hard. Climbing has taught me the importance of risk, has forced me to face fear, to deliberately move into mental discomfort and to meet myself in that place, face myself head on. I’ve learned a lot about myself through climbing, and I continue to do so.

A successful climb in Yosemite

A successful climb in Yosemite.

Even while climbing continues to be a big part of my life, I can feel my passion for it evolving and changing underneath me. Ever so slowly. At first I was climbing in the gym and at the crags, climbing hard, chasing grades, trying to be the best climber I could be. Looking back, I can see where the change started, with my first multi-pitch climbs, including a big, but pretty chill, climb out in Yosemite… I remember clearly the sound of the gear clinking as Lizzy led those pitches ahead of me. The quiet and peace of the rock, and the way it felt to climb that day. A year later, I climbed the Grand Teton. The Grand was an experience that I still haven’t been able to fully put into words. An experience that didn’t fully sink in for weeks afterwards. Since that climb, my drive to pursue hard sport routes has vanished. I’ve been dreaming of alpine climbing.

I have friends who want to climb the hard stuff; little crimpers on vertical rock. I’ve tried to get my mind back there so that I can join them, but just haven’t been able to. I’ve changed. Seth and I are heading out to Wyoming next month to tackle one or two routes in the Wind River Range, and then up to do a climb of the Grand Teton on our own. All alpine climbing, all trad. Just a few objectives for two weeks of time. A shift from where I was a few years ago.

And even while I plan and dream about this trip, I think that maybe I’d like to do some backpacking sometime, without the climbing gear. Go trek through the mountains for a few days, or a few weeks, just for the sake of being there. Maybe I’ll like it. Maybe there will be another shift towards just plain old backpacking. Or maybe there won’t. Maybe I’ll stick with alpine climbing and mountaineering for a while. Or maybe I’ll decide to sit home and knit instead. There’s no way to tell.

We’re all constantly changing. It’s the reason that friendships come and go. Why relationships come and go. Often, we form relationships based on common interests. Only the bonds that go deeper, that go to the core of who we are, survive our personal evolutions.

Change is ok. Unavoidable even. I’m still climbing, but I’m a different climber than I was four years ago. I’m still a musician, but in a different way than when I started. The stuff that’s stayed the same is deeper, and even those parts of me that feel central are slowly evolving, just at a slower pace.

We all owe it to ourselves to be flexible; to accept that we’re ever changing. We tend to identify ourselves by the things that we do, so when those interests change, we feel a need to hold on. It takes courage to accept ourselves as we morph and evolve.

This trip coming up reflects my changing goals and passions as a climber, as an adventurer, and as a person. I’m climbing to get somewhere and to be in a beautiful place, not just for the sake of climbing. It’ll be a big trip, and I have no doubt that I am going to learn a lot about myself. I can’t wait to get out to those mountains!

How do you view change? Have you noticed these kinds of evolutions within yourself? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Training for the Mountains: Minnesota Style

My plans for August include, among other things, climbing a big mountain. From the bottom to the top is 7,000 vertical feet, 5,000 of those hiking with a heavy pack. So I’ve started amping up my training to prepare.

They say the best way to train for hiking uphill with a heavy pack on is to hike uphill with a heavy pack on. What do you do if you’re a Minnesotan with limited access to large hills? The next best thing:

In absence of mountains, stairs will work

In absence of mountains, stairs will work

On Sunday, Seth and I threw ropes and climbing gear in our packs and set out for these stairs. They’re 6 inches tall, so 2,000 steps is 1,000 ft of vertical gain. 134 steps … I did the math and determined that we should climb up and down the stairs 15 times. No big deal.

After the 8th trip back down, my legs were involuntarily quivering and I felt like a complete wimp. We took a break, ate a banana, and finished up our 15. Felt pretty good, patted ourselves on the back, continued on with our days.

My ‘up’ muscles felt fine. My ‘down’ muscles…. not so much. Yesterday (the dreaded 2nd day), my calves were so tight that I couldn’t walk normally (I still can’t). It’s been a physical comedy over here, trying to walk, trying to stand up from a seated position…. I resisted, but finally had to break down and explain to my kettlebells instructor why I wouldn’t be joining class. His response was sympathetic, and so perfect:

“I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been a victim of my own zeal.  I would be a rich man” – Ron Wetzell, RKC

A victim of my own zeal. Yep.

Lessons learned:

1. Sometimes less is more. Take it slowly and figure out where you’re at *before* leaping headfirst into 2,000 steps up and down a staircase with a weighted pack….

2. Walking down a set of stairs is a different motion that hiking downhill

3. My calves need some more training before heading to the mountains

I’m hoping to be healed up enough to return to my kettlebells training tomorrow. Then another crack at the stairs on Friday. Maybe I’ll dial it back to 1,340 steps….

 

35 Trad Leads in 2014

Nice rest halfway up Indian Head. The climb continues up and over that headwall above. Taylors Falls, MN.

Nice rest halfway up Indian Head. The climb continues up and over that headwall above. Taylors Falls, MN. Photo: Russell Lane

I’ve been learning to lead trad (traditional leading is when a climber places their own protection in the rock as they climb). My first pitch of trad was last year in the Black Hills, my second was this past spring in Red Rock Canyon. It took me some time, but I was able to lead a few pitches on that spring trip, a couple of pitches in the Black Hills last month, and a few in Minnesota as well.

My goal this season: 35 pitches of trad leads in the 2014 climbing season.

As of today, June 11, I’m at 10. 25 more to go. The list as it currently stands:

Red Rock Canyon, NV:

Taylors Falls, MN:

Black Hills, SD:

Looking forward to getting more leads under my belt this summer!

 

Trip Report: Black Hills May 2014

Roadside sculpture along I-90.

Roadside sculpture along I-90.

Ah, the Black Hills. Even though it’s a 10 hour drive from the cities, many Minnesotan climbers claim this area as one of their home crags. Hop in the car, head southwest through rolling farms to Sioux Falls, and then straight west across South Dakota. Landmarks along the way include a short dip into the river valley of Champlain, a roadside sculpture of a skeleton person walking a skeleton dinosaur, Wall Drug, and the Badlands. Stop in Rapid City for a bite to eat, and then head on south into the hills.

The Black Hills are beautiful; pine forests with giant globs of granite plastering the hillsides. The rock here is granite, laden with tiny crystals, making for great friction and sharp rock. Place your foot somewhere and it will probably stick. Nearly every climb is a summit.

On this trip was myself, Seth, and our friend Paul, and I’d say the main story was the weather. We spent a lot of our time dodging storms and trying to figure out where we could climb once the storms rolled in.

Day 1:

Conn route, take 1

Conn route, take 1

Our first day out, we headed up to Sylvan Lake to warm up on the Conn Route on Aquarium Rock. Paul led the first pitch, brought Seth and me up, and then Seth took the lead from there. As Seth was heading to the summit, we could see a storm approaching from the west.

Storm in the distance

Storm in the distance

Seth linked the 2nd and 3rd pitches and was on top of the climb when we saw the lightning. We had two choices: bring Paul and I up and all do the double rope rappel from the top, or bail from where we were. We chose the latter. The storm was approaching quickly. Paul set up a rappel back to the ground from our perch, and Seth set up to rappel back down the route. Some good teamwork and problem solving got us all safely back to the ground.

Soon after, the storm hit. Rain soaked the hills, and our climbing was done for the day.

Later that afternoon, we hiked up to the Cathedral Spires and scouted possible climbs for the next day.

Scrambling in the Cathedral Spires

Scrambling in the Cathedral Spires

Day 2:

Spires in the morning

Spires in the morning

Same weather forecast, so we knew we needed to get moving. Our objective was Spire 2. The Cathedral Spires are a line of granite towers higher up in the hills. I had been on Spire 2 twice before, but never actually finished it (see posts here and here). We got an early start, made the hike in, and Seth set off to lead the first pitch.

Paul on top of Spire 2

Paul on top of Spire 2

I love this climb. The climbing itself is pretty casual, but interesting. The belays are bolted, which are always nice and save a lot of time. The first two pitches climb through a fun gully with a few short headwalls. The last pitch starts up a short chimney and then steps across to exposed, unprotected face climbing to the summit. The view from the top is gorgeous, and I was so happy to finally be able to see it.

The weather was beautiful, and our team of three rocked it, finishing the three pitch climb in three hours. After a short time up top and a long rappel back to the ground, a storm rolled in.

Storm over the Spires

Storm over the Spires

We retreated to lower elevations, back behind Mt Rushmore. The storm missed us there, and Paul and Seth finished the day climbing Shark’s Breath.

 

Day 3:

Back to the Conn Route to both finish it and retrieve our gear. I led us up the first pitch this time and brought Seth and Paul up together to save time. We all had our eye on the weather, as the forecast once again called for storms. This is the same climb on which we had nearly gotten caught in a lightning storm earlier that week.

Paul took the lead to link the second and third pitches and brought me and Seth up behind. Even though this route is rated a 5.3, it’s fun climbing and worth doing. The first pitch traverses a comfortable, but fun, flake, the second pitch is up through a squeeze chimney (kind of a pain with a pack on!), and the route finishes up with a bouldery move to some easy face climbing up to the summit.

At the top, the weather was *still* perfect. We set up the rappel, but hung out for a bit to enjoy the view.

Seth and I on top of the Conn Route

Seth and I on top of the Conn Route

Five minutes after this picture was taken, Paul looked over his shoulder and said “guys, maybe we should get out of here.” A storm had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and was bearing down on us. We all rappelled as quickly as we could, and by the time we were on the ground, it was hailing. We took shelter under a rock overhang and managed to avoid getting soaked.

After hailstorm number 1, Conn Route behind us.

After hailstorm number 1, Conn Route behind us.

The tornado. Photo by Wakispe Win via Black Hills Fox TV

The tornado viewed from Rapid City. Photo by Wakispe Win via Black Hills Fox TV

Back at our campsite, storms were all around. Clouds swirled overhead, moving in every direction. It was quite a show. Shortly thereafter, we were all hunkered down in the car, waiting out another hailstorm. The storm was intense, and we learned later that the same storm had produced a tornado. Very glad we weren’t out climbing during that one, and also that all we got at our camp was a lot of hail and wind, and no tornado (our Marmot tents held up beautifully, by the way).

So… day 3, a nice, casual multi-pitch, gear retrieved, two hailstorms and a tornado. Check.

 

Day 4:

Contrary to the weather up to this point, the forecast called for ZERO PERCENT chance of rain! Zero. Awesome. We took full advantage of it.

Paul and Seth on Weird Water

Paul and Seth on Weird Water

This is the day that I was reminded of what a Black Hills 5.7 is. Friction is the name of the game. Don’t expect bomber footholds or handholds. Feet smear on sandpaper rock, hands balance on tiny crystals. Repeat.

We started the day on Weird Water. Paul led the trad variation of this start. He set up a belay at the top of the crack, turning this into a two pitch climb, and Seth and I grunted our way up the sharp, painful crack that Paul had just very impressively led. My confidence was low as I realized I didn’t really know how to climb a Black Hills 5.7, so I lowered down and waited below while Seth and Paul finished up the climb. Here’s a photo of Paul belaying Seth up to the summit.

Next up was Gossamer, a really cool rock fin with a big hole in the middle, and another Black Hills 5.7. Trad start, sport the last half. No feet to speak of once you’re on the face, just lots of smearing. Paul put this one up (Paul had some really great leads this week) and I followed. Here’s where I figured out how to climb a Black Hills 5.7. Smear smear smear smear and… smear. It’s all about the feet. Once I got a feel for the technique, Gossamer was a super fun climb.

Gossamer. Paul on the left, me on the right.

Gossamer. Paul on the left, me on the right.

It was getting late in the day and I wanted to get another lead in to finish off the trip. The 5.7s we had been on that day were a bit heady for me, and I was just figuring out the technique, so I sought out something more in the 5.4-5.5 range. I found a climb called Dunce Cap, a 5.4 trad route, that was close by. I led, Seth followed. When I got to the top I had to laugh at myself for choosing it. It wasn’t a fun climb at all, mostly just grunting my way up a gully with way too much trad gear getting in my way. I did get to place some gear and build a trad anchor up top, so not all was lost. I brought Seth up, and then we actually just downclimbed the last half of it and walked off the other side. Wah wah.

And that was the end of the trip. All in all very fun. Lots of weather dodging, with climbing in between, and a great last day with perfect weather. We got in a couple of multi-pitch trad climbs, and worked really well as a group, so I’d say that was successful. We were not struck by lightning or hit by a tornado. We made it safely to the ground before impending lightning and hail storms, and our tents survived the hail and wind and stayed mostly dry.

I’d love to get back out there later this season. Other climbs that have caught my eye: Sultan’s Tower, Spire 1, Spire 3 (first pitch), Station 13…. there is an incredible amount of climbing out there.

Tiny Adventures: Urban Hiking, Sweater Cutting, and Rifle Shooting

Tiny adventures are adventures close to home, not requiring a lot of time or travel. Maybe something you haven’t done before, something that scares you a little, or just something that feels a bit adventurous, even just a little bit. Adventure, big or small, is good for the soul.

Here are three of my most recent tiny adventures:

Hiking: Pike Island, Minneapolis

Biking to Pike Island

Biking to Pike Island

I have been meaning to check out this hike for a while, mostly because the directions start with “take the light rail to the Fort Snelling station.” Pike Island piqued my curiosity, but I never made it down there, until last winter. It’s a great place in the city to go cross-country skiing.

Seth and I decided to go see what it was like when the river wasn’t frozen and the island wasn’t covered in snow.

 

No Bicycles

No Bicycles

We skipped the light rail and hopped on our bikes instead. Seth knew a secret bike path that I had no idea existed. It took us on mostly trails, through a beautiful wooded area, and it was mostly downhill. Score.

From there we locked up our bikes and crossed the bridge to the island on foot. No bikes allowed. A trail runs along the outside of the island, and that’s where we had skied in the winter, but this time we decided to follow deer trails instead. It was early enough in the season that we didn’t have to worry about poison ivy or ticks.

Following deer trails.

Following deer trails.

Lots of leaves were just starting to bud, and we saw at least two separate groups of deer and a wild turkey. I was hoping for a fox sighting, but alas, not this time.

Pike Island

It wasn’t a strenuous day, but it was fun to get out of the house and spend some time biking and hiking around with my husband. A lovely way to spend a lovely afternoon.

 

Cutting:

I took scissors to my hand-knit sweater

I took scissors to my hand-knit sweater

There’s this thing in knitting called steeking. If you knit, say, a sweater, and you want to make it into a cardigan, you can cut your knitting right up the front, where you want it to open. The necessary preparations will protect your sweater from unraveling into tiny little bits.

A sweater is a lot of work. Many hours with a knitting needle. So, finishing all of that work and then taking scissors to it feels quite adventurous indeed.

I did the research, made the necessary preparations, and… made the cut. And it was ok. Nothing bad happened. And now, my sweater turned cardigan is nearly complete.

 

Shooting:

A friend invited Seth and I to a gun range and we took him up on the offer (he had some new scopes for his rifles that he needed to adjust). Seth had shot before, but I never had. My first time maybe even holding a gun. I was nervous about it, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect, and guns are very powerful things.

I was happy to see the rules and precautions taken at the range. Our friend walked us through the safety protocols, how to load the gun, and how to aim and shoot. Once I got used to the kick from firing, I had fun seeing how close together I could get the holes on my target. For my first time shooting, I did pretty well.

That's me.

That’s me.

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Three successful tiny adventures for my spring so far. I’m always curious to hear what you’ve been up to. Any ideas for tiny adventures you can lend?