Friday, December 21, 2012

Spelunking, Strawberry Mini-Wheats and Salsa Containers

After that whole Bozeman climbing icicles adventures, I met up with a friend in Vegas to rock climb at Red Rocks. I would say our stay was defined by brief sporadic bursts of luxury and then utter hobo shenanigans. 

 I was domestic for the period of time when we used Swartz's stove. Notice the improvised wind-guard out of my jacket.
Spotted: me cooking. 
Below in the photo is some sketchiness going on: we discovered, well, that's not completely true...We discovered, then promptly forgot until we started climbing, that there was a core shot in one of the ropes (sorry DMC!).  So here we are cutting about 15' off the double rope mid-way up a trad climb.

Swartz cutting the rope, and I'm ready to give it a quick burn. 
Flair was a necessity. Hot pink ties, faerie wings and angel halos all made an appearance.

Notice the halo
 Gorgeous large walls abound.
Rainbow Wall. 
 Since all we really did was freeze in the tent at night, wake up, eat some Mini-Wheats with Almond Milk and then go climb rocks, most of the photos are of us struggling and flailing on climbs and being super psyched about it.

 Notice the fairie wings making an appearance (this first round of photos are from the time when it was actually still warm during the day). Me on some 5.12 at sunny and steep.

 My friend sending his first 5.11 in hot pink style.

We sport climbed, we trad climbed, we did not boulder. We lived in blissful ignorance that the weather was about to take a turn for the cold and snowy. 

Swartz being very patient while belaying me on some overhanging 5.12 thing.
Still in faerie wings
 Getting over my fear of reaching for invisible holds.

 I lied. We did go bouldering. We climbed one boulder.One massive boulder.

Trad climbing is sometimes scary and sometimes involves cold, awkward ring-locks.
The awkward ring-lock climb.
 We managed to find a four-pitch crack climb.
Leading my first ever crack climb. Psyched. 5.10--Triassic Sands
 The weather was good. Sunny and warm during the days. The desert was living up to my expectations.

Then the nights started cooling down, and we woke up to this:

Not exactly climbing weather. Oh wait, I forgot that it also rained for a couple days in between. The search was on for alternatives to rock climbing on wet, crumbly, sandstone. I suggested we get married or lose our life savings at a casino. Ted wasn't too psyched about either of these propositions.
Climbable? Not Climbable? Probably not. 
We went hiking. Sort of.
At least the views were good.
We found some petroglyph rock art.

 We ate copious amounts of mango salsa (buy one get one free: who can pass that up?) and Strawberry Cream Mini-Wheats. We could be sponsored. But actually.

A Dostoevsky novel, Honey Jack and MiniWheats (the Whiskey belongs to Ted) 
Some hobo moments of mine that Ted called me out on:

  • stealing milk from those thermoses at Starbucks and ruining their profit margins for the day 
  • using a salsa container for a milk bowl (who doesn't want some spice in their cereal?)
  • using a plastic spoon from Baja's for my morning bowl of cereal, because I didn't bring utensils on the trip
  • using a plastic bottle of aquafina as my 'water bottle' for the trip's duration
  • sleeping on a dog bed for 10 nights.... 
  • washing my hair in the Starbucks sink 
  • shaving my legs in the bathroom of a Mexican restaurant....that I didn't buy anything at 
  • stealing wi-fi from Panera and abusing their free tea and coffee refills while coding a program for my ice core project (duration=6 hours; miraculously didn't get kicked out)
  • volunteering to cook elaborate pancake breakfasts for the other climbers in the campsite.... if I ate for free. 
  • making quick friends with other campers so as not to pay for my own campsite-----chipping in by acquiring expensive bundles of firewood. 
And there were more, but none that I care to own up to.

Caught in the act
Disclaimer: blogger won't let me turn the pictures on their side.

We ended up spelunking in a random cave outside Las Vegas during one of our off-days.

 Rappelling down a 160 foot shaft of darkness.
Good bye sunny world. 
 Squeeze chimneys are undignified. They require you to lay on your stomach in the mud, then awkwardly slide your body through a narrow, winding tunnel, all while not being able to see your feet. So if all of a sudden you feel them hanging in free space over a drop-off, well, there's no room to look down and see what's below you. Trust is employed liberally.

Tunnels lead to large caverns full of stalagmites, stalactites and limestone formations. Then more tunnels leading to more caverns and so on...
 It's dark, quiet and eerily disorienting.

 There's no one "way" to navigate the network of tunnels. You just poke around until you see a slot big enough you think you can fit your body through. Then you try the squeeze tunnel on for size; sort of like trying on skinny jeans at the store: it's not pretty, but you can usually pull them on or pull through in this case.

Making Ted nervous with my underground bouldering antics. I call this a C2 for a "Cave 2" grade.
We nicknamed the below limestone formation the "birthday cake"

It felt like we were part of Planet Earth's "Cave" episode.

Helmets were essential to prevent nasty head injuries.

 Down the rabbit hole (one of many)

 Some descents were so slick and devoid of holds, that we slung a big rock and set up a sketchy prussik ladder to make sure we could clamber back up.
prussik sketchiness
Here is an action shot of a stalagmite forming

  A spool of yarn is trailed the entire time to make sure there's a sure way of finding our way back.

 Notice the cool ribbon-like formations in the background.

So we got about 400ft underground in 4 hrs before deciding we should start following our orange spool of yarn back up to the surface.
Wondering how far below the surface we are.
We squeezed, slid, crawled, climbed and shimmied our way back to the main cavern below the entrance hole. Then began the 160' ascension using an ascender system. It wasn't too dignified and may have involved some awkward spread-eagle antics in order to be able to climb back up the free-hanging rope, but eventually we all made it out alive into the darkness that had descended upon Nevada while we were underground. Penguin huddling was employed for warmth.
Ted ascending up to the surface. 
There may have been a little rockfall incident while I was still down in the cave, and Ted was chilling in the cold at the surface... in which everything but one large boulder Tim was standing on fell away with a reverberating, ear-crushing smash that echoed throughout the cave. Lesson learned: rocks are unstable, but spelunking is super cool, and so is Red Rocks. On to Seattle. 

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