Tag Archives: climbing

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.

Screenshot 2017-12-06 at 7.40.47 AMScreenshot 2017-12-06 at 7.41.28 AMScreenshot 2017-12-06 at 7.42.12 AMScreenshot 2017-12-06 at 7.42.34 AM

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.

IMG_20171202_140031IMG_20171202_140033IMG_20171202_140115IMG_20171202_140138

IMG_20171202_140139
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

Being Wild

While visiting anywhere there is always somebody trying to get money. In Suesca it was in the form of a local standing at the roadside asking for money for where we were parked, when we enquired about camping he asked for 30,000COP , about 10USD. This might seem reasonable but to prolong travelling, free is always better. We drove up the far side of the valley to a small disused quarry where the local farmer said we were welcome to stay. Once there we deployed the tarp to gather rain water and save more money, look at that majestic water gathering machine. Jealous ain’t you!?. Saved 70cent in the days water bill right there.

 

This place has also given us spectacular evening lightning shows. Consistently on the other side of the valley which is reassuring as we camp on top of a vehicle with great lightning rods poking out in all directions. Its incredibly humbling each time there is a strike that looks like it will destroy any tree building or structure in the way. It puts us in our place.

 

Back down in the valley eating costs little. 3 dollars can buy two people a decent meal consisting of a couple bowls of soup, a plate full of rice, chicken, plantain, salad and fries, and a couple of fresh fruit drinks. add evening meals cooked ourselves for 3-4 dollar and daily living is cheapIMG_20171122_140246.jpg

Add to it one of my favourite outdoor stores (decathlon) is down the road in Bogata selling low cost outdoor wear and equipment for any sport and the cost of living compared to Central America seems to have halved. My reccomendation to anybody travelling who likes the outdoors is skip central and get to South America!!

Anyhow, bye for now 🙂

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.

IMG_20171123_145240.jpg
top of route after Karli’s first multi pitch route and lead.
24008137_10214814081131678_551411817_o
top of another three pitch route
24008013_10214806354378514_591643669_o
coiling rope after a good day out
24008049_10155031778421408_1484887606_o
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.

 

Acute Mountain Sickness And What Makes A Sucessful Trip

After backing down from 12,500ft in the Subara which didn’t quite have the power to go up the volcano on the 4 wheel drive track, and having a nights rest we descended to one of the lower villages knocking on doors to find the local guiding company that could give rides up to the mountain hut. I will admit Karli’s Spanish was more useful here than my charade/ hand signal language. Eventually descending right back to the valley bottom we were directed after several attempts to the mountain guides hotel. We asked the owner Roberto for a lift to the hut for a summit attempt. He gave us a great price of 1600 dollars (Mex) which is around 80 US dollars for a ride up to 14,500ft(4420m, taking around a hour or so), ride down back to 10,000ft, clean water and an extra camping mat for in the hut. This is just out of the tourist season for the peak which starts in a couple of weeks after the rainy season. The ride up was rough, the mud trail we drove down in the morning was a raging torrent of washouts and collapsed road sections getting bigger by the minute. Half way up at one of the guides houses in a small village we changed to a beautiful old maroon jeep. The kind of machine where you hear two whacking great chunks of metal smash together when engaging 4 wheel drive mode. The part of trail that stopped us originally on our attempt was more impassable with water raging down. We were glad we descended when we did in the subaru, this was definately too much for the traction control, road tyres and low ground clearance. The guide told us its normal rain for this time of year. At one point stopping the vehicle to hack tonnes of mud to create a smooth run down into a dip where previously was a road. We arrived at around 14,500ft about 5pm in the afternoon feeling good for our summit attempt beginning midnight. Quickly prepping kit, preparing the evening meal-ramen and packing bags for the early depart. Karli wasn’t enthusiastic about eating the Ramen which made me slightly concerned because a lack of appetite up that high is not good. But to be honest I wasn’t overjoyed at the thought of them either. But we did have a big box full of it we bought back in the states so it had to be used. At about half 6 we went to bed ready for our midnight ascent.

 
Now, for the past weeks I had been going on about Altitude sickness to Karli to the point she was sick of hearing about it and didn’t want to know. I think this changed just before setting off at midnight when I became aware she wasn’t sleeping, had a cracking headache, and felt like she was going to vomit. To partially quote her, ‘Worst hangover Ever’.

We had been talking about this mountain for weeks. We had waited a week for my package and a few extra days for Karli’s package to arrive with the sole purpose of Orizaba in mind. We had been waking up to stare at it’s snow covered peak for the last few mornings. To get there and not even start the hike to the glacier was slightly disappointing, but AMS be AMS and you can’t fight the right decision for safety.
The journey here was fun, through the laughter and anger and smoke of trying to force a car up a muddy high altitude dirt road. Of filtering tarp rain water into a small pot and waking up with wet pillows and Karli’s deliciously prepared pancakes, making fools of ourselves trying to speak Spanish in a game of charades.  There was so much more to this adventure than the mountain that was staring back at us.

We went into this mountain knowing we were close to the limit for acclimatising, the past week we slowly camped higher, the previous week had been spent around 5000ft. then 7000ft, 9000, 9000, 10,000, 12,000, and finally 14,500 (the hut height), which was a 6hour stop before a dash to the summit and descend back to 10k. We hoped to have longer but with nearly 10days of delayed equipment and being stuck near the US border, the time was gone. We went in with the knowledge a turn back was likely.

Karli seemed much better by the time we reached 10,000ft, though the headache persisted for a while. Roberto had a full breakfast of three courses waiting for us when we arrived back at the base and kindly let us use his hotel showers.
On any climbing trip the safety of the team comes first. Altitude sickness can hit anybody, no matter how fit or carefully acclimatised. There are a few basic rules – If you have symptoms, don’t go any higher, If you have symptoms, descend as soon as possible. If someone has symptoms, do not leave them alone. Symptoms- lack of appetite, headache, nausea, flu like. They progress to confusion, drunken like behaviour, eventually unconsciousness and can lead to death if not handled promptly. The only way to stop the symptoms is to descend. The worst part is it’s silent, and gets worse with time so stealthily it’s hard to notice. descending even a couple thousand feet can reduce it.
It’s a reminder of just how frail the human body is. Change altitude by a few thousand feet too fast and it can kill us. The standard advice is above 8-10,000ft (the point at which sickness usually begins) ascend at a rate of around 1000ft per day, and every 3000ft have an extra days rest. If possible, hike high, sleep low.

I don’t care that we didn’t make the mountain top, this was a cracking sunrise and great fun meeting locals on the mountain. And we are both down ok.

Sawtooth Canyon- Sport Climbing

So, this week we have- Started climbing properly, discovered my fear of bees and wasps is very real, ran and trained in the desert heat, ripped a hold off the crag low down, rigged the little solar panel to the roof tent, and posed for lots of climbing pics.

So taking off from the last post, after discovering the parcel was going to be a week longer we drove to Sawtooth Canyon back in the middle of California where we had stopped previously. The canyon is filled with hundreds of sport routes up to 120ft and as it is free camping seemed like a logical place to be. The second day after a couple of easier sport routes to warm up on I decided on something harder and went into the 5.10s’. It was a relief that after so long off climbing I could still climb a reasonable grade. The first route over 100ft with interesting huecos (hollow features in the rock) , the second route being an awkward corner requiring a little technique again rising 100ft.  After climbing we drove to town and loaded up with water and cheap tinned produce after struggling to keep fresh goods cold in the heat.   This gave us a lazy afternoon sat back drinking wine, eating snacks and reading.

The next day climbing was hard and very sustained around the 5.10. If I am honest it was painful, after yesterdays climbing my fingers hurt and the little crimps were not fun, nor were the cruxes or gaining the last 10ft on one route to the top bolts/chains which took several attempts to reach. We finished the morning climbing on a beautiful 5.7 route on red and white swirly rock which was a nice warm down. Climbing out here seems tiring and hot. Which it is.

The final day climbing was a fail, during the night I picked out three awesome routes that went to the highest points on some cool lines. 120ft (36m) in length being slightly past the limit of the 70m rope (you require enough rope to get up and back down on a sport route), but as the route had intermediate anchors half way, would be a good intro to multi pitch sport for Karli. After taking a while to find the start scrambling up and down little canyons, we arrived at the base. Looking at the rock I was sceptical. We roped up and I started climbing, 6 feet of the ground the first big jug hold ripped off the crag. That was disappointing. The next few holds looked of a similar manor. Cracked, flaky, hollow sounding and felt slightly loose. We decided to cut to the next route before more holds came detached. I should mention this area of the canyon doesn’t see too much traffic, being a 10 minute walk as opposed to roadside, and the rock being lesser quality. The next route I started climbing on similar looking rock and found the first bolt loosely spinning. It was a dismal feeling, well within my ability, but bad vibes coming from the route. We descended back down the canyon. Karli received a message saying my parcel had arrived. Within a few minutes we packed up camp and started the drive back.

Parcel collected, today-Mexico. Wish I could say more but there is lots to do.

 

Climbing Up A Teton

 

PRE-CLIMB

This Was a Pretty Cool Day for me that nearly didn’t happen. It started two days before, trying to collect my ice axe and crampons from the post office. I went in to enquire if a parcel had arrived and there was no parcel but the lady took my name and said she would set it aside. When I went back to collect it the next morning I was greeted by her saying. ‘They tried to deliver it but I had to refuse delivery as you hadn’t paid to have it left here, you better call UPS and find out where its gone before its lost’.

‘Thankyou’ I said in slight disbelief. I walked out and cycled back to camp.

A while later in the afternoon, and after calling UPS I found it had been take to a depot 27 miles away. On my bike I hopped and peddled as fast as I could to Jackson. I collected my parcel and cycled back. O well, 54miles isn’t too bad. When I arrived back it was around 6pm. I didn’t want to use my legs but it could have been worse.

At the campground the attendant came around for money for the night. I had only a couple of dollars left in my wallet. ‘You’ll have to go to moose to get some cash then’. second sigh of the day and i hopped on my bike and peddled the 7.5mile there and 7.5mile back. It had been a hot day, I hadn’t eaten properly and my legs were slightly cramped. This was not the easy day I imagined. Instead of 15miles, I did around 84. I rolled out my sleeping bag on a tent pitch and lay down.

SUMMIT DAY.

I woke at half 4. I was late. The plan was to be up at half 2 and start walking to the trail head. I lay there, trying to dig for that determination I had years ago. I twisted the nozzle on my camping pad and it deflated. I was committed now! No going back.

I chucked my sleeping kit into a bear box(large metal container that stores food away from bears) and pulled out my rucksack. I started walking. It was 2.6 mile to the trail head, when I arrived, I could tell sunrise was close. Half 5- I ate a choc bar, drank a 5 hour energy and started walking up. At the treeline daylight was breaking. Some of the trail i was running up. When I reached the snow in Garnet canyon I walked as high as I could then put on crampons. Up the South Fork I kept pushing fast. Suddenly it ended. The ground dropped away, I could see for miles. I was at the saddle already. It was around 7.45 am. After a few quick pics, I looked up towards the summit and started up the ridge line and into a hidden gully. It was joy, just out of the gully was good clean easy rock to climb up.  At Half 8- I was on the summit. I checked the time. Then I sat down. No one in sight. This was a pretty special feeling. The ground dropped away in all directions, I turned off my music………silence. I dithered a bit trying to get a few good pics, then after about 15 minutes I started descending.  The way down was as nice as the way up. An interaction with something natural. When I reached the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons, I decided one was enough for the day. I walked to the snow and started sliding. It was joy, glissading till it was too steep to stand. I came across another climber on the way up. ‘Butt-slide it man!!!’. And so I did. All the while fearing my lycra cycling shorts (yes I was wearing my cycling clothing) would rip and leave me in a precarious exposed position. At the end of the snow I started running, this was it, a perfect day. I reached the trail head at 11am. It was a quick day. A climber also finishing at the same time from another peak gave me a ride back to the campground. Harry and Roelie were there making lunch. They gave me fresh coffee and delicious apple and I told them of the day I had.

AFTER CLIMB.

Most would probably stop after a good alpine day, but I decided while on a roll to roll on to the next pass. a nice 43 miles , with around 8 of them near 6p.c. gradient. The flies loved me. I did not share this feeling and spent the whole ascent swinging a bottle of bear spray in the air. just over the top and I realised my back tyre was bald. I decided to change it. This was a terrible idea as the next hour was spent like a mad man fighting mosquitoes while trying to fit the new one. With the tyre barely on right i lumpily rolled down hill to the campground a mile away.

Today I cycled 103 miles to Lander where I have showered for the first time in days, this is a good thing. Tomorrow will be iced coffee and feet up.