Our first day climbing on our own was quite an interesting day. It did not go as planned.
We went back to Superhero Wall and Dan climbed easily on lead. He placed lots of good pieces on his way up. He took his time and climbed really smoothly. Problem came at the top.
The moves to get over to the rap rings were really tricky and Dan was stumped. It took a while but eventually he figured a way to get them clipped by climbing up on top of the rock they were fastened to. He reached underneath and clipped them. He then clipped himself in and had to down climb to get underneath them. Tricky business. He hadn’t brought rap gear expecting to be lowered from quickdraws clipped to the rap rings. I lowered him straight down from the rap rings. The gear did not get cleaned.
After watching Dan struggle, I did not want to repeat the climb. We decided to hike up to the top and see if we could build a top rope anchor to rappel down and clean the gear. He hiked the way Joey had gone the day before. It was pretty tricky and did not feel safe but we made it up. We found a place near the very top where we could place two groups of cams. Dan placed three in one crack and I placed two in another. We then created the anchor the way we had been taught. We were feeling good about it so we decided to go down and get the rope for a rap. Five cams is total overkill but being our first gear anchor, we wanted to over build it.
We headed down the back of the rocks and found a much easier but longer way down. We only had enough gear for one person to rappel so one would have to walk back down. We decided I would rappel and Dan would wait at the top to clean the anchor when I was down. He could also monitor the anchor and let me know if it seemed any of the pieces were moving. We tied knots in the ends of the rope and threw it down. The rope did not drop to the ground. These climbs were easier, slabby climbs and not quite vertical. The rope stopped on a ledge not far from the top.
I had a tough time setting up my rappel. It’s funny, I’ve done it hundreds of times and it should be routine. For some reason, I doubted it was right. I kept checking it again and again. I couldn’t make the rope move through the device at first.
Finally I got underway. I went down to where the rope was stuck on the ledge, gathered it up and threw it down. Then I realized I was below the first gear, the quickdraws hanging from the rappel rings. I had to traverse way to the left and climb a bit to get at them. For the furthest one, I had my right hand in a hand hold and I had to reach way out left, hoping I wouldn’t come off. It would have meant a long painful swing back to the right.
After that I was able to rappel down the route and clean the gear. Only problem was the rope wanted to drop to the right and one end was stuck in a crack. The knot was sticking up out of the crack so even if I’d had enough rope to get down, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it from the ground.
It was hard to work my way over to the side because the rope above me caught on a chicken head. I had to climb up to create some slack and swing it over the chicken head. What an adventure rappel!
Once I was down, I pulled the rope and it came with no problems. Dan cleaned the anchor and hiked back around. He told me later that none of the pieces had moved at all. That was a real confidence builder. I rapped safely on an anchor we had created out of gear. We solved a lot of problems together and figured out how to get down safely and recover all of our gear.
We then decided to hike over to the Atlantis Wall and check it out. It was a short walk from the truck. We didn’t bring gear. We were done with climbing for the day but we wanted to start planning tomorrow.
There were a lot of people climbing there. We met one group of about eight climbing a tough looking wall. Then we walked in further and there was a guided group and a school group, about 8 top ropes spread out across the wall. We decided not to climb there.
However, we did hike up to the top and look at how the top ropes were set up. It was an easy walk and some really interesting anchor configurations. There was a lot of use of the boulders at the top. People had slung their static lines around a boulder and then the second leg was a row of cams stuck in a crack or cams between the bottom of the boulder and the rock it was sitting on. That gave us some really good ideas on how to use natural features to build solid anchors.
Overall a day full of learning and great experiences. Not the plan but a satisfying day nonetheless.