Tag Archives: camping

Valle De Los Halcones

 


Once upon a time when I started this trip I was like a lone wolf, bounding across the meadows and mountains.. Then I met Karli, and we were two misfit wolves driving across the desert and mountains. Then Chris and Nicole came along, and we were a pack of wolves looking for bad ass climbs….

Knowing the Suesca main crag would be busy We decided to concentrate a weekend on the Valle De Los Halcones. According to the guidebook the land was private and all the bolts on the area had been cut off by the land owner due to climbers making a mess. Fortunately for us an American and another English lad, Jason and Sam, were living in Suesca and said we could park at their house right on the edge of the valley and they knew the land owners. They invited us to talk to them and after a brief few minutes of talking Chris had made it clear we would be careful and take everything out we brought in. The owner permitted us to enter the valley for 2000COP each (about 60cent each or 40p).

We grabbed our packs and headed over the rise into the valley. It felt nice to have a short walk in again. Despite going running most mornings including this one the small rise had me breathing hard. It could have been the pack of climbing gear and a 6 litre bottle of water and the 9000ft elevation, but hard work felt hard.

Entering the valley was like entering a lost world. Crazy knowing a mile away were hundreds of people climbing on top of each other. We walked around a while and found a big slab worthy of a play. All the bolts had been cut or removed so we ran a rope to a boulder further back and set up a top rope for the morning.

The start of the problem was hard. Real hard. First I tried, then Chris, then Karli, we all failed. The crimps were too small and shoes just weren’t holding. Nicole came next and some kind of witchcraft happened, she just cruised to a higher point. But was again stumped. The line was hard. Not being dismayed we all took a turn overcoming the hard part with some aid and climbed higher. The top 2/3rds of the boulder were awesome. Small crimps combined with good footholds and a couple of flake holds leaving a dyno to the top for a rounded edge.

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We took it in turns going for the top. I took the chance while not on the rope to run around to the top and lean over to get these shots.

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sequence of climbing to falling. quite cool I think

After a while and getting the whole sequence linked we moved further down the valley to relax while climbing up and down some vertical/slightly overhanging but easy crag. At the end of the day we were all pretty beat and cold and headed back to town for 60cent beers and soup.

With thanks to Das_Karlo, Burritocharmer and Olas_y_montanas.Screenshot 2017-12-06 at 8.31.50 AM

Trad Climbing in Suesca, Colombia

So. In prep for some bigger mountains, I’ve started teaching Karli how to trad. She can sport climb already, so its been quite good progress, the past week has been spent around Suesca, Colombia. Camping at around 9400ft which is a nice gentle bit of acclimatisation for Cocuy National Park. We have been running and climbing each day. By that, I mean climbing some, and thinking of running; then not.

Ive been teaching Karli how to place gear, build anchors and safely rappel. She led her first multi pitch, approx 250ft, a good solid 5.7 (American grade) with some interesting features- 35meters up an interesting clean corner, a 15meter run out on a traverse without any protection, and a nice steep 40 meter corner to climb with bomber protection. A great fun route .

 

We have been camping up the hill on the far side of the valley, in an old dissused quarry big enough to hide the car from weather with great views back the way too, nice sunsets, lightning storms and best of all its free.

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top of route after Karli’s first multi pitch route and lead.
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top of another three pitch route
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coiling rope after a good day out
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the end of the traverse before going straight up.

The weather has held up great and we have been ticking lots of simple routes. Below is a picture of Karli gasing the wildlife with arms raised, poor squirrels, didn’t know what hit em’. Lunch has been from a local restaurant costing about 3 dollars to feed and water both of us with soup, and a plate full of chicken and rice and veg and fresh juice. The roof tent has been building a nice sweaty climbing shoe aroma after a week of not washing. We are back in Bogota for a weekend off before another week or so of climbing in Suesca and running in the evenings before the ambition grows. After the restrictiveness of Central America nearly sending me crazy with cabin/car fever being confined by rain, high entrance fees and every local sticking out a hand wanting money, South America is starting to become really good fun and re-establish why we are on this trip.

 

 

Central America

So….. Central America. A lot has happened since I last wrote in Honduras, we have been through Nicaragua where we hired motorcycles to zoom around Ometepe, this was very touristy but going to the far end of the island we found a small hostel among where the locals live where that was reasonable, we went kayak touring one morning and I was pee’d on by a monkey in the trees above I got too close to. Lots of wildlife, spiders, creepy crawlies. We did a few smaller hikes, up to waterfalls. A night visit to an active volcano and plenty of driving miles. We visited an old fort where gorillas were imprissoned (people, not the animals). The Nicaraguan police were corrupt as expected. I can’t blame them, i am told they earn $250dollar per month. On one day we had a policeman step out onto a carrige way to flag me down as he saw the foreign rich car approach, I drove around him and carried on. Later that day another police officer did manage to flag us down to inform us we performed an illegal manouver and would have to pay a fine. Fortunately for us he spoke no English and we played the dumb tourists for 15minutes till he waved us away. I think every overlander going through Nicaragua has had a similar experience.

I’ve heard of some officers that will play a waiting game for hours until their bluff is called asking for a senior officer to come at which point they say its no problem, carry on.  I found it novel going to a big market one day where all the produce was ‘locally made by family’ but was identical through out the rest of central america and had an authentic chinese look about it. After Nicaragua came Costa Rica, the price of everything went up driving over the border. National parks charging up to 32dollars to camp the night. Bare in mind the most expensive American National Park I visited, cost about 30dollars for a week, or less if you camp in the back country. I imagine the prices are so high because mainly tourists come for one week holidays and have come too far to say no.

The river picture is a hot spring, or rather there is an expensive touristy hot spring just up from this point for about 40dollars per visit, which heats the river to a nice warm bath right below for free, complimented by the cooling rain from above. A great place to chill for a few hours.  To the right is a free camp place by a lake, with me stringing out a tarp to collect rain water. Supermarkets seemed to charge a great deal for bottled clean water. Due to the cost of central, we made the decision to gun it for Colombia. Onto Panama.

We didn’t have too much time in Panama, just over a week before shipping the vehicle by container. We found some free camping and a bolted crag (cliff) local enthusiasts cleaned up. A nice couple of days falling repeatedly on routes. Just outside Panama City was a nice high camp that was cool enough to go running from in the morning.

Now we are in Colombia And the world has opened up again. Instead of paying to climb a volcano, its just a small park entrance fee. Instead of the compulsary guides, they are optional. There is free camping, decent stores, cheap food in restraunts and supermarkets. Im getting psyched. Near by there are big mountains over 5000m , snow,  cool temperatures, unlimited climbing and nights of sleep where i don’t have to sweat.

This week I was particularly psyched about a decathlon store for cheap clothing. I think Karli is getting sick of the same pair of shorts I have been wearing since we started the trip. They have gone from black to faded grey.

Next blog – trad climbing- it should be more interesting from here.

 

A Grand Day Out

I thought the hikers diet of pop tarts was over, I thought I wouldn’t go back to that life style again, but I was wrong. If anything Karli has forced my diet to deteriorate even more. Poptarts, donuts, tornados, corndogs, really anything I can get my mitts on.

Last night we dropped down into the Grand Canyon from the South Kaibob Trail. Around 5000ft of descent. During the day the temp is around 42c which makes this too hot to descend with any rational mind. I watched others hiking up in it nearly passing out carrying empty flasks, not nearly enough mid day. I felt sorry for them, but knowing I was only carrying a half litre down myself to get to the bottom, couldn’t spare any.  The river at the very bottom is the only water station on this route (carrying of a filter required). We set off at 3pm, and as we went down the burning sun started to cool. I wasn’t expecting such a good trail, wide, smooth and all the things a good trail is. We initially planned (in the loosest sense of the word, we actually just walked into the ranger station and picked up a free map) to do the Rim to Rim to Rim overnight. But upon reaching the river, we became a bit lazy, justifying only one descent by saying how busy we would be in the coming days, a first.

After a while chilling by the river, and as the sun set we set off back up the canyon. Most the way up the moon shone bright and there was no need for head torches which was a relief as my battery warning light was flashing. On route there were beetles, scorpions, tarantulas and other weird insects.  We drove a few miles out the national park then crashed out down a forestry lane.

I have a fear of wasps, not a needless fear, but they sting me every few years when I let my guard down, I am always the victim and it is never provoked. This morning I was nearly a victim again. There is a hole in the roof tent we cannot cover (this aids in the closing of it). The wasp got in through the hole and decided not to leave through the un-meshed window. I protected myself as best possible by covering myself with my sleeping bag while instructing Karli to get rid of it. Climbing yes, Kayaking yes, snowboarding yes, winter mountaineering yes, I’ll take any without fear. But these tiny merchants of doom should be exterminated, I have no place in my life nor love for them.

We are now in California now, finding somewhere to camp the night. The next few days should have lots packed in.

 

A change of Direction going the right way

So, I was heading back to the trail Via Amtrak when i bumped into an old friend Lucky Larry; and was inspired. Instead of hiking the whole divide, Why not cycle the great divide and climb the interesting parts? With the increased daily mileage so fewer days= less food, a bicycle would pay for itself by Mexico (Is what i have told myself)

This idea was in the back of my mind as i hitched from East Glacier to Browning towards where i left off. At Browning after a couple hours waiting, with not many cars passing, a young guy pulled over called Skyler. He agreed to driver me and after a small diversion I decided to stop the night in Lincoln. On route Sky said he wanted to hike up a pass we were going over. We pulled in at the top of the pass, he goes to the boot and pulls out some trainers.

‘I found these at the hostel, can you believe someone would chuck them away’.

I was surprises to be staring at the trainers i chucked away in East Glacier which caused my feet so much grief through the snow and subsequently a week off trail.  This was a entertaining twist. After the climb it was pretty much settled I might as well go back to Missoula to buy a bicycle. Sky gave me a lift in and breakfast in his awesome self built trailer house. At 9am I started searching the town for a bike, and towards the end of the day was getting desperate to find the spec i wanted at an affordable price, everywhere I went had just sold out, or had the wrong frame size. Sarah and Josh put me up again for the night and the next morning I met a guy from a bike shop to buy a used bike that was perfect. My steel framed machine of speed, mechanical discs, 40mm tyres(with space for a little more), wide drop bars. I set off around lunchtime and cycled around 50mile to Ovander, stopped briefly by a flat tyre from a piece of hard wire. In Ovander they welcome cyclists with open arms and contribution based accommodation($5), I opted to spent the night in a trailer with a comfortable mattress and grab a burger in the bar.

Saturday morning i cycled into Lincoln to join the great divide mountain bike trail, as I arrived in the town the street were lined with people, I presumed they were all there to greet me and send me on my way, but to my disappointment found they were actually getting ready for the 4th July parade in a few minuted time. So i took my place among the ranks and waited. The parade started and within a minute was handed free beer and beef jerky. Sweets were chucked to the children and the streets lined with red white and blue, cowboy hats and solid boots. I talked with the locals for a while then tried to set off. Across the road a family stopped me and ensured i had at least a cup of fresh lemonade. The children were using the money made to buy candy.

I set off at 1pm hoping to go a few miles, but the route drew me in and I was soon slaughtering myself, mile by mile up and up. The first descent was described as steep, and yes it was, half way down i pinched my second tube. The trail is easy but this was worrying in the first 15 mile off road as I had one more tube in reserve having spent 2 already. There was a camp area in the next valley, but I was flying on adrenaline. So climbed the second pass , this descend was smooth but with large washed out sections running and weaving down the trail, making me nervous on my 40mm gravel tyres. Lower where it was slightly rockier i started chucking the bike about; But the steel machine kept going, the wheels staying unbuckled to my relief. By half 7 I thought there is no point in stopping this close to the pass, so pushed and camped then night just off the road down to Helena. I planned on spending a day gettin to Lincoln and two days getting to Helena but had made it all on one day. Yusss!!!!!. The night was spent with what i presume was a pack of coyotes howling a couple hundred yards away. I was downwind and glad to be receiving no attention, with only an inner tent between me and them.

Sunday morning I have rolled downhill into town and am now sat back drinking a beer waiting for my luxury 2* motel room to be made ready. Ahhh hot shower, clothes washing and A/C (I hope).

In summary, the plan has changed, by covering the boring sections of trail 2-3 times faster, the bike will pay for itself and i will cover ground quicker. I shall climb peaks on the way down to Mexico as I choose, hopefully a good few 14ers (no fixed plan but maybe one per day) and a bit of time in the wind river range prior.

I need a name for my bike, any suggestions???? The name i like will be painted or at least marker penned onto the frame forever more.