One month down, about two months to go. Two more months of roaming, climbing, exploring and seeking out new adventures of all kinds. While I’m trying to keep a broad “mood” to my trip and not get sucked into any one particular discipline of climbing, I had a hard time resisting the temptation to go spend a week scaling some limestone at Lime Kiln Canyon near Mesquite, NV. Just looking at the guidebook made me giddy- 35-40 meter limestone routes? Slightly overhung with crimps and sloping pockets? Could this be a little Spanish-like mecca of rock nestled in some BLM land along the border between eastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona? I was keen to find out.
My friend Mark and I, both psyched to try some hard sport, made it out to the Grail wall on a very warm afternoon. Luckily the wall was totally in the shade, so temperatures were actually pretty damn good. We spent the afternoon getting used to the rock and trying some quality routes. While the rock here doesn’t even begin to compare to the limestone found in Southern France and in Spain, I certainly wasn’t complaining. That evening we found a nice campsite a mile down the road from the crag. The abundance of public lands available for free dispersed camping is one of my favorite parts of the Southwest, and something I surely didn’t find in Spain (public lands seem to be replaced with climbing refugios) Most of the time you can find a nice flat spot to park your car, pitch your tent or sleep under the stars. We made a campfire, ate some food and went to bed early, excited for our second day out at the grail. I could certainly get used to the simplicity of this lifestyle- sleep, eat, climb, repeat.
While I was impressed with a lot of the climbs, we (and most other people) tended to gravitate to a little corner of the wall where the blue and tan limestone meshed together. This area is stacked with some great lines ranging from 12a to 13c. I was pleased to have ticked my very first 12c on-sight on the impressive and beautiful “Mantis.” I also tried the 2 pitch “Vesper” (12b) which people on mountain project adorned with comments like “best rock I have ever climbed.” Vesper certainly is the first route you notice when you enter the canyon as it features a long, sloping rail that cuts through the pristine blue rock. Afterwards you pump out on some interesting runnels, a feature I only ever encountered once before on the limestone in Croatia.
After I on-sighted everything I tried below 12c (fell on a 12d on-sight attempt of “homo faber” – another very excellent climb), I was feeling confident and strong. After three days on, Mark and I took two days off to rest our muscles (and our skin- this stuff is sharp!) near the St. George area. For me, this meant time to run, to stare at plants, read, play on the internet and to hike around.
After a solid two rest days Mark and I returned to the Grail. A fast moving storm caused the temperatures to drop, which made it chilly to belay but ideal for climbing hard. I felt strong, was confident and the conditions were in my favor. With encouragement from Mark and other climbers, I decided to set my sights on “Hoarse Platitudes” a classic 13a. “13a” is a grade I’ve only tried once and is a rather important stepping stone for a climber. My first go of “Hoarse Platitudes” went surprisingly well. I managed to suss out the beta and felt that it could go down pretty quickly. There are two distinct cruxes separated by some hard moves but a few good rests. At the very end of the last crux you have a pretty spicy clip off of some really slippery smears and a tiny crimp. You’re at least 10 feet above your last bolt and have to make an uneasy clip with some amount of rope drag since you’re so high off the deck. It is nothing dangerous- the fall would be big but clean- but it certainly added a mental challenge to the route. I tried the route 2 more times that day and wasn’t able to make it through to the solid good rest after the first crux without falling. A little discouraged but still motivated, I was determined to give it as many tries as I could the next day. The problem was, I had been nursing a small flapper that would certainly open up if I kept on working this route. So, my number of goes was limited by skin ,if anything else. That night we made a badass dinner over a good campfire and went to bed early.
The next day I started to psyche myself out after a not so great first go on the route. My confidence was definitely diminishing and my skin was getting more and more sore.
After a long rest in the sun and a thermos full of coffee, I tied back in to give it another go. Before I knew it, I had pulled through the upper crux and managed to just barely make it to the good rest that separates the two hard sections. I could feel my cut opening and knew this would probably be my last chance on this thing in the foreseeable future. I rested here for a very long time, trying to get as much back as I possibly could. When I entered the upper crux, I was more worried about making the clip than making the move. The upper crux features techy but not very powerful moves on bad feet. I knew I could hold onto the holds and knew that I could make the moves but I was very, very nervous about the fall for some reason. In fact, I screwed up my feet on the first go and ended up down-climbing to rest again before trying it again. When I pasted my foot on the outermost smear that you use to clip off of, and crossed my left hand over to a bad crimp, I decided to change my beta and clip from here. I reached out and made the clip. I was pumped out of my mind but knew that I would finish it as soon as I grabbed the jug a bit above the clip (where smart not scaredy-cats clip from). From here on it was 5.10+ moves. I clipped the chains and let out a celebratory cheer – I had just sent my first 13a on my fifth go.
The next day I hit the road en route to Flagstaff, AZ. I opted for the slightly longer but more scenic route through the Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon (Thanks Mark, for the recommendation). The five hour drive took me 8 hours because I stopped so damn often.
After a few meetings in Flagstaff concerning work and graduate school, I’m headed back toward UT/NV, with my plans uncertain but with good partners lined up. I managed to squeeze in a day of climbing here at Paradise Forks, (along with some great runs through the forest) which I will write about in my next blog. The elevation gradients here are absolutely incredible- you can get to 12,000 ft and be in the largest Ponderosa pine forest in 10 minutes and drive 40 miles south and be in Sedona: 1.5 hours will get you to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, 4 hours and youre in Colorado… the opportunities are endless…
too much to see for this enthusiastic traveler.