I would like thank my sponsors, Adidas, 5.10, CAMP, Gnarly Nutrition, J-Tree Salve, and the Grand Junction Climbing Center for all of their support!
5:30 in the morning… I wake to the sound of silence creeping through my house; no one is awake at this point… except me. My first thought is to roll over and sleep the rest of the day away… but then I remember that it is time for the second day of the challenge. I have a difficult time bringing myself to a sitting position in my bed… my back aches, my shoulders are sore, my legs hurt, and all the previous cuts and scraps have begun to heal causing mild discomfort. However; my psych was high and it was time to go meet up with Rob…
Day 2… Unaweep Canyon
I parked my 4Runner at the meeting place and waited for Rob to show. I was tired… it was 7:00 in the morning and a chilly 14 degrees outside. Armed with my Down Jacket and many many layers of clothes… I felt like I was ready for this day… how very wrong I was.
I loaded my gear into Rob’s truck which is aptly named “The Smoke Wagon” and we cruised over to our destination of Unaweep Canyon’s Sunday Wall. Parking the nice warm truck and stepped out into blistering cold (again) my hopes for a nice warm day of climbing sunk… I already felt the heat from my body disappearing with the wind. But… we sucked it up and hiked to the base of Rob’s favorite 5.12+ multi-pitch… Echoes.
Piz was kind enough to give me the first lead which was awesome… a super fun and simple 5.10 granite push that served as a descent warm-up. As I sat in the belay stance bringing him up I began to notice two things… 1. My legs were going numb from the harness… and 2. The freezing cold began to seep in making me lose all feeling in my hands. Never a good combination.
As Rob joined me in the belay he geared up to tackle the lower crux pitch… a super technical tiny-crimpy granite scoop that turned into a super-scary traverse that involved intricate sequencing and hand-jamming. It was outstanding. I watched from my stance as he maneuvered through the traverse and cranked up slab bulge to the belay station. It was now my turn to follow. It was a short lived dream that I would be able to flash this pitch… considering I was frozen and couldn’t feel any of the crimps that I was grabbing onto. As I manipulated my body upwards I just got colder and colder. Soon it was a complete freeze out. I couldn’t feel anything… and I was done… I had to take in the traverse section.
Sitting in my shame I looked over at Rob and had to ask…
“This is fun!?… I can’t feel anything!!!”
“Yeah this is fun… It’s what I love to do!” – Rob
Being cold is not what I love to do… but I guess this is just learning how to suffer like the best of them… so… “Alright… I guess I am coming over.”
I sucked it up jammed my hands… finished the crux move over the bulge and came to a stance next to Rob. The cold had made me nauseous so Piz took the next 5.10 pitch… as I began to warm up in the belay the sun decided that it wanted to come out and my mood instantly changed. I began to actually enjoy where I was and what I was doing. Soon it was my turn to ascend to the next belay ledge… as I mantled up into position Piz looked at me and said:
“I want you to have this upper crux pitch…”
“Ok…” Isn’t it 5.12+?
“It’s mostly bolted the trad placements are super easy… you can do it.”
“Ok…” At least one of us thinks so.
I geared up and began to work my way up to the first difficult part of the climb… an incredibly slick lay-back dihedral. I was determined to on-sight this pitch so I put as much concentration into not screwing up…. which inevitably made me screw up. I placed a foot into a junky position and whipped side-ways… then some interesting events occurred. I watched as all the gear on the right side of my body flew off into space.
What the….? Is that gear from me… no… that’s not possible.
“What the heck Ben!? Did you not clip the gear all the way on?”
I thought I did… How did I not?
As I checked I noticed that the gear loop had broken. Some of the stitching had worn through (probably from my chimney encounter). Slightly rattled by this new development… I gathered as much gear from Rob and continued up the pitch with no falls. The head wall on Echoes had to be one of the most amazing climbs I had done in a while. Dynos, Iron Crosses and Campus moves are necessary to climb this pitch easily… and I happened to be pretty good at those so the psych became high again and I went back to enjoying climbing.
We topped out Echoes with no incident and simul-rapped down. It was now onto the second route. Of the day… we were tired and ready to be done… so we decided for a classic 5.9 called Sweet Sunday Serenade! The route went quickly… we touched ground and packed up psyched to be done with day 2. As we said goodbye to some of our friends from the front range a sense of accomplishment, tiredness, and impending doom sank in…
If I’m this tired after day 2… how will I survive the next five… it is only going to get harder!!! But hey I signed on for this… so seeing it through to the end is my only option.