This turned out to be a really good day. We got an earlier start and headed into the Park around 9:30. We had decided to go to an area off the Boy Scout Trail called Outward Bound Slab. We arrived and found the 5.2 crack we wanted to try. We dropped our packs and hiked up around to see if we could scramble up the back to the top. It was a tough scramble but Dan reached the top and found the rap bolts. We couldn’t safely reached the bolts from the top but he found a place to build a natural feature anchor to rap down to the rap bolts. Already making use of the skills we practiced the day before.
We hiked down to pull out our rope and anchor building gear. We planned to bring it back up around and build a top rope anchor. Then we'd rap down and start climbing.
However, a group of climbers had come up and were sitting at the bottom of the 5.2 crack we had intended to climb. We could have asked them which one they were doing and let them know that we wanted to hike back up and set up an anchor. Instead we decided to pick up our packs and find another place to climb. We didn’t want an audience making us nervous as we practiced our new skills.
We pulled out the guidebook and found a place nearby called Bear Island. There was a 5.3 crack and a 5.5 climb located not far back down the Boy Scout Trail. We hiked back to Mustang Ranch climbing area and walked through it as per the map in the guidebook. Then we couldn’t find where the trail continued on to Bear Island. We started heading across the desert towards a pile of rocks in the distance. One of the people climbing on Mustang came around and asked where we were heading. We said Bear Island and he pointed to a different, nearby pile of rocks and we thanked him and changed course. It’s nice how climbers always look out for each other.
We had Bear Island all to ourselves. We found the 5.3 crack and it looked amazing. A fairly wide vertical crack that ran most of the length of the climb with only one short bare spot. We dropped some stuff at the bottom and this time made sure to place our shoes at the start of the climb, making it clear that we were coming back to climb that line. We then took a bunch of gear and ropes in our packs and hiked around the base to find one of the walk offs that the guide book promised. We found a place around the back and started up.
It was tricky route finding through the boulders but we finally made our way to the top to find the perfect set up. There were two rappel loops joined by a chain to make an anchor. I secured myself to the chain anchor and built a sling and 4 carabiner top rope anchor off the bolts. We then threaded the rope and Dan rapped first using a prussic. I came down second. We both surveyed the route from rappel and decided it was going to be perfect.
I climbed first. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling very good. I was still battling a flu that I had caught back in Calgary. I had spent a couple days on the couch, taking Tylenol for the fever and aches and felt well enough to travel. But today I was still feeling it, not fully recovered.
I decided I was going to top rope it until I felt very comfortable. Dan climbed next and he decided to climb on top rope. This was the format we had agreed would provide the best and safest experience. If we go up at least once on top rope, placing gear as we go, we can see where the good gear placements are and how difficult or easy the rock climbing is. Dan climbed again but this time on lead. He did really well.
The weather turned against us with strong chilly winds and some rain drops starting as soon as Dan was up on lead. By the time he was done, I was pretty cold and feeling done with the day. He said he would be happy to come back to the climb so I could lead it under better conditions and feeling better.
We headed out, very satisfied with how the day went. We were able to hike up and build an anchor, rap in, and then climb on top rope before committing to a lead climb. Very cool. We planned to use this format again for our next attempt.
I am hoping to lead 4 climbs here. We have about 6 climbing days left, maybe 7 if we go hard. It seems like not every crag has good climbs so there may be days we don’t find a good lead opportunity. The Outward Bound climb was not great but maybe could have been a lead. I am going to aim to top rope climb and then lead a climb every day we go out. I think if I had been feeling strong and the weather wasn’t gross yesterday, I would have kept working that 5.3 crack until I felt comfortable leading it.
I am nervous to lead. Same old lead brain. I layed awake last night worrying about it. I am scared of being scared. Scared I will freeze up on the climb. I’m going to read over some of the journal I wrote last summer when I was dealing with lead brain on the Moose Mountain project. I read a book called The Rock Warrior's Way and it helped a lot. I know I made note of some of the most relevant learnings in my journal.
Tomorrow is a day off and I plan to peruse the guide book to find some top choices for my first trad lead and the three more I will do while we’re here.