It was a beautiful, sunny, Colorado day, so the crew decided to take advantage of the weather and do a bit of climbing at Castlewood Canyon State Park, last Saturday. Our desire to get an early start on the day was quickly halted by a tiny breakfast party that was being held by Grant’s family, who was in town from Nebraska. Who can say “no” to scrambled eggs and pastries?? After the breakfast fiesta ended, we were on our way. Although we were getting to the crag much later than expected, we were still pumped on the day. Being outside in the Colorado sunshine quickly made all our worries disappear.
The crag of choice was The Grocery Store Walls on the west side of the park. We warmed up on the route “Banana Peel”, a 5.8 TR route. I started the ascent first and made it to the top without much trouble. Once at the top I yelled to Grant, who was belaying me, that I was good to be lowered; however, I did not move. The rope had gotten stuck at the top of the route, pinched against one of our anchor’s carabiners and the rock. I wasn’t going anywhere. Luckily, you can easily set up top rope routes from a short hike to the top of the wall. Lio hiked up and quickly came to my rescue, freeing the rope so I could be lowered down safely. After fixing the anchor, both Grant and Lio climbed the route.
Next we were on to “Teething Biscuit” a 5.10a TR, just to the left of “Banana Peel”. This route required a wide array of techniques to get up the wall. It included stemming, crimps, and what we dubbed “the shark’s mouth”, an incredibly sharp crimp like crack in the rock. We tried to find alternate ways around “the shark’s mouth” but with nothing more than a pretty bare wall around it we decided it was the only way. Locking out on the somewhat overhung “shark’s mouth” was anything but pleasant. Despite the raw fingers, it made for some seriously good laughs. Soon after Grant, Lio and I had climbed the route the rest of our crew; Brian, Ashley, Mike and Louise had arrived. They soon followed our lead into the “shark’s mouth”. Must have been a fun warm up, especially with us chanting the “Jaw’s” theme song (duh da, duh da, duh da) down below.
Shortly after, we made our way to “Rainbow Bread” a 5.9+ TR and “Gorilla Milk Direct” a 5.9 Trad or TR. We set up camp here, placing a hammock in the trees with a nice view of “Gorilla Milk Direct”. Our portable speaker serenaded us with Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin and a little bit of John Denver. A father and his small daughter were hiking near by but when they heard the music, the small girl quickly plugged her ears and wanted to turn around. She must not be a fan of the oldies, what a shame!
Our next set of projects for the day were “Licorice Stick” a 5.9 Trad or TR and “Rain Dance Crack” a 5.10a Trad or TR. Some fellow climbers, we had met earlier in the day, greeted us with donuts that they had scored from a search and rescue team practicing in the area. Donuts? YES PLEASE!
It was starting to get colder and the sun was getting lower in the sky; however, the cool rock felt good on our raw fingers. A few of us climbed “Rain Dance Crack” and then decided “Licorice Stick” would be the last route of the day. Lio flashed the route, despite having a whole day of climbing behind him. Mike and Brian followed his lead, jamming feet, hands, elbows, knees and even their bums into the crack in the route. I felt like I still had one more route in me so I gave it a try. After totally wearing myself out within the first 15 feet, I decided it was time to call it quits. Lio was still pumped on the route and decided to climb it one more time. Everyone else had already thrown in the towel for the day, completely exhausted.
Lio started the ascent once more, our portable speaker still bumping oldies in the background. He made it about half way up the route when he decided he was too spent and wanted to come down. We knew he still had some strength left in him so Grant quickly changed the song on the speaker to “We are the Champions” by Queen and told Lio he had 15 seconds to get back on the wall and climb. As the chorus sang “We are the champions, my friend and we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end!” the six of us down below joined in and serenaded Lio up the wall. Hand jam after foot jam he muscled his way to the top. Our horrible voices echoed through the park and he made it to the top just as the song rang out “We are the champions, of the world!”. Our sides sore with laughter and cheeks aching from smiles, it was the perfect ending to the day.
Lio cleaned the route, we packed up our stuff and we hiked back to the car. We were greeted with chili and Breckenridge Bourbon at Grant’s house, yet another feast to end the day the way it had started.
Just when you think you cannot make it an further, remember there are people in your life that will be there to support you, so you can “keep fighting ’til the end”. Here are The Road West Traveled, we are so grateful for friendship and some seriously awesome rocks to climb!