Here are some made up facts about Sedona, link Arizona: 1. Sedona is home to "Wrinkle Fest," the Country's only over-70 swinger festival.
2. The town's moto is "Sedona my boner."
3. There are no bike lanes, but there are designated paths for those wierd electric scooters that old/fat/lazy/decrepit people ride.
4. Metamucil is the official sponsor of the 2007 Sedona Shuffleboard championships.
Sedona, Arizona is truly a wonderland of red rocks. Martian-like dessert towers rise from forests of pine and cacti. Elevation keeps temperatures relatively cool, and the guidebook for the area's climbs (Castles in the Sand), gives you false confidence through soft ratings and a failure to mention that all repels require two 60m ropes.
Albert got hooked up with a free time share from some shady consulting gig, and all of us jumped on it. Debauchery, alcohol, and television ensured that we did not make it out the room to go climbing until at least noon each day. The guidebook listed three 5.9 4-pitch climbs (Dr. Rubo's wild ride, Oak Creek Spire, and The Mace) as the "triple crown" of the Sedona area. On Tuesday morning/afternoon, we got G'd up and headed for Dr. Rubo's on Coffee Pot Rock, which was just a 10 minute drive and a 40 minute approach through private property. We stopped at the local outdoor shop for some chalk, where the clerk's looked like they had swapped all their cliff bars for Twinkies many years ago. When we asked them about multi pitch climbs, their faces went blank and the softer looking of the two said, "we're not really sure what that means." When I explained to the Caloric Duo what multi pitch meant, stay one of them answered, "oh, those are only for world class climbers." I payed for my chalk and Austin purchased a Petzl knife, which would prove to be our true savior.
After a short but stout approach through prickly pear and various other dessert flora which does not feel good when it comes in contact with your balls, we got to the base of Dr. Rubo's. Austin and I would climb first with Jake and Melanie (the audio enthusiast from Qualcom) climbing next. (I did not get any photos of this route so I took one from RC.com)
I lead the first pitch which was stout for 5.8+ and followed flaring double cracks into a half-body chimney that turned into a hand-crack and then widened into a full-body chimney for 25 feet and ended at solid bolt anchors. Austin lead the second pitch which followed an awkward flaring chimney thing with a mixed hand/off hands crack inside. I lead the 3rd pitch which was an airy piton protected traverse with more exposure than Janet Jackson's titty. Austin lead the 4th pitch which climbed the large headstone at the top of the tower and was protected by a bolt at the heady "step around/mantle crux move." We finished the climb in about 3 hours and topped out just as the sun was setting and the almost full moon was rising. Since the guidebook did not mention that 2 60m ropes were crucial for the rappel, we rappelled the last pitch from chains at the top and slung a tree in order to rappell to the bolts at the top of the first pitch. after we got down to the bolts, we tried to pull the rope, but it got stuck. Austin jugged up to re-arrange it, but when we tried to pull it a second time, the end of the rope got caught in something. After 20 minutes of cursing everything from the guidebook to Jesus, we decided to cut the end of Austin's rope and send it down to Jake and Mel so they could tie their rope on to the end (after seeing the difficulty of the second pitch which was definitely mid to high 5.10 instead of the listed 5.9, Jake decided it would be best he and Melanie lowered off the bolts on top of pitch 1). Austin and I rappelled to the bottom, leaving 2 equalized slings, a bail biner, and a shitty locking biner that I bought at some sham gear sale outside of J-tree. 1 crown down...2 to go.
Two days later, it was time to knock out the 2nd crown...Oak Creek Spire. Austin and I headed out around noon and go to the "trailhead" at about 1230. Once again we parked in front of someone's home who was nice enough not to sick her 90-pound rotwiler "puppy" on us.
The approach involved running through someone's backyard and over a small fence into an expanse of land between the suburb of Oak Creek and "the rabbit ears" which is what the locals call Oak Creek Spire. Once again, we suffered the wrath of unforgiving dessert plant-life and arrived 40 minutes later on the north side of Oak Creek Spire. The good news was that the entire climb would be in the shade, the bad news was that half of the dessert was stuck to my pants, and the rest was in my shoes. It was here that I took a moment to admire our beautiful surroundings and remind myself that Punishment does in fact equal glory.
The first pitch was not incredibly hard (5.8), but the rock was looser than Miss Sedona 06'. There were bolts on top of the mini pillar that was the first pitch and from there we moved the belay up to the base of the main North tower. Pitch 2 started on what looked like a great flake, but the holds and jams were decieving and its rating of 5.9 carried more sand than my socks. after the flake, the pitch moved into an awesome flaring chimney with a wide crack (#5 camalot slide-up), and great crimpers to advance the feet.
Pitch 3 was a classic sandstone chimney with good pro the whole way up and flowing stem moves. It is visible in the first picture above the flaring chimney. The 3rd pitch ended on top of the spire, and as I belayed Austin up, I was treated to one of the most glorious sunsets I have ever seen. If I were not a super-macho manly-man, I would have shed a tear at this point. But as we all know, climbers don't cry (and if they do, it is merely because a cold wind is causing their eyes to tear which is not really crying).
After Austin cruised up the 3rd pitch, we studied the beginning of the 4th and final pitch...the jump accross!!
This is the best picture I could get because we were hauling up our pack and it fell off a ledge and damaged the focus ring on my SLR, but as you can see, the jump is about 8 feet across and about 2 feet down, with a 200 foot chimney below. It was Austin's turn to lead the pitch, but he was nervous about dislocating his "circus knee." As the full moon rose in all its glory to the east and the remains of the day sank to the West, I realized that it was time for me to step up and lead the pitch before the sun went down. While a fall was not likely, it would mean slamming backwards into the wall, so I once again reminded myself that Punishment equals glory, and fear causes hesitation, which in turn causes your worst fears to come true...and I jumped. Success! I landed with sure feet on the opposite side, balls in my throat, adrenaline coarsing through my veins. I grunted through the final 30 feet and clipped the rappel chains just as moonlight replaced the last hint of cerulian sky. Austin did the jump accross with no problem and got up to the chains. When life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door...
The first rappel was down the chimney which separated the 2 towers which we had jumped across. After the previous day's adventure, we decided it would be wise to bring two ropes this time and the follower climbed with the second rope trailing and our pack at the end of the rope to haul, except Austin's rope was not 60m anymore since we had cut part of it off. Despite our shortcomings, the double rope allowed us to gain the bottom of the chimney in a single rappel although it required us to pass over the knot. Once we got to the base of the chimney, we followed it to the east scrambling down 3rd and 4th class stuff until the North tower wall dropped away and 2 bolts with a ton of left gear appeared for us to make our final rappel down the remaining face of the north tower. After checking the gear, Austin rapped down while I waited clipped in static to the bolts.
The sleepy suburb of Oak Creek lay about 1 mile to the North and about 200 feet below us, its lights glowing like lost souls in the dessert. Somewhere in the distance a coyote called to its mate and crickets played their nocturnal symphony. The air was cool and dry, and moonlight bathed the valley, illuminating the myriad dessert towers and tree-covered mesas. I stared in wide-eyed enchantment as the moon shadow cast by one formation, climbed the walls of another. Had the weather been inclement, I might have been miserable and worried, but despite our precarious situation, I have never felt more content. It is moments like these, surrounded by beauty and free from the trappings of modern society, in which we are afforded a fleeting glimpse at truth. And then the fire department arrived...major buzzkill!
I watched as 3 fire trucks pulled up, lights blaring, to one of the dead ends on the outskirts of town. Apparently someone had seen our headlamps high on the tower and alerted the fire department. After unsuccessfully trying to signal to us via morse code, they got on the loudspeaker and asked if we were okay. I yelled back that we were fine and within minutes they had disbanded and we were left alone. This had snapped me out of my hippie trance and I yelled down to Austin to see what the hell was taking him so long to rappel...the ropes did not reach. He called "off rappel" and I rapped down to where he was...straddling a huge flake about 2.5 feet thick and detached from the main wall by about 7-12 inches, clipped in to nothing but fate. There was just enough room for the two of us to sit on top of that flake and the first thing I thought was that we would have to leave a #3, 4, and 5 for an anchor. But Austin Suggested that we sling the entire flake, and that is what we did. Using about 40 feet of doubled up standard cordellette, we slung the top of the flake and tied a knot with 2 oval biners through the loop to run our rope through. I was still on rappel from up high and got down to the knot where I used my daisy to go static. I pulled the rope from up high and ran it through the two oval biners, tossed it into the great wide open and was relieved to hear both ends land on Terra firma. The one mistake I had made was that i was clipped in static above the rope and was unable to unweight myself in order to unclip my daisy from the anchor. I could not reach the top of the flake to pull myself up and the face of the flake was completely blank and slightly overhung. So I put myself on rappel and in order to avoid waisting serious time and energy struggling to momentarily unweight my daisy chain and possibly shockloading the anchor, I used the knife to cut the end loop on my daisy...success! I slowly lowered myself to the ground and thanked the climbing gods (SEH, Royal Robbins, Johnny Walker) for delivering me back to flat land. Austin followed down and we began hiking/cactus whacking back to Organic Lightning (my Subaru). After stealthily moving through people's backyards, our feet finally landed on silvery moonlit pavement. We were on the wrong road and strolled around for the next 45 minutes looking for my car, recounting the evening's adventure, and talking about the next one.
I would like to thank Jake and Mel for waiting around for Austin and I while we finished our descent of Dr. Rubo's Wild Ride, and I would like to thank Austin for remaining cool and composed the entire time.