Ashley climbing "Slopers of Controversy."
I've wanted to get back to Needle peak since my first trip with Scott, late last fall. The pass over the Snowy Range usually opens on Memorial Day weekend, and I've had this trip planned for months. It's amazing how well the plans worked out. On Saturday, I showed Ashley some of the boulders Scott showed me on the last trip. We did some classic problems on the "Prairie Shrine" boulder, and then headed up the gully.
A nice moderate on the back of the "Stanley" boulder.
Eventually we made our way to the top of the ridge. The problems seemed less concentrated on this trip. At one point I thought I had missed the boulders somehow, but then found them farther ahead. Hiking with Scott, the boulders were right there. Hiking with our kids, and the extra gear they needed, made the area feel more spread out.
I decided not to try to get them down to "Heart Strings." We were right next to "Thievery Roof" so we jumped on it. We weren't sure where the line went. Topping it out looked scary. We decided to traverse across it till it slabbed out in a corner. It's a fun gymnastic problem with a pumpy finish.
Rain had been falling on the mountains around us all day, and it looked like it was beginning to move our way. On the hike out we met Davin and Marla. It was beginning to rain, and we were worried about getting out with our van. Davin and Marla hiked out with us. The road in is sketchy even when dry. It has foot deep ruts someone made the last time the road was wet. We got in the van as soon as we got to the parking. So we didn't get much time to talk. The drive out was nerve racking. The tires kept getting caked in mud, and it was difficult not to slide into the ruts. Some other climbers somehow made it in with a Honda Odyssey, and they left after we did. It seems miraculous to me that they were able to make it out.
Feeling lucky that we made it out. We calmed down in the hot springs at the Saratoga Resort and Spa. It has a large warm pool, and hot pools enclosed by teepees.
The hotel has a western decor tastefully decorated with just a little taxidermy.
The hot springs were really nice after the day of bouldering, but overall we were disappointed with our hotel experience. The room was very expensive, and very small. The walls let sound through like they weren't even there. We could hear everything people said or did in the neighboring rooms, and one of our neighbors snored loudly all night. I would have slept better in our tent out at Needle. They also have a ridiculous rule that you can't bring in your own food. They want guests to eat in their restaurant, but we just wanted our cereal. We ended up having to eat breakfast at a picnic area off of the grounds. Not something we felt good about after paying for a room. We tried to make the best of it though.
We drove back out to Needle to meet Davin and Scott at 9:00. I tried to drive all the way in, but our tires picked up mud again, the front tires slid into the ruts, and my back tires started drifting towards a ditch. I decided to back up, but we were stuck. Ashley took the wheel, and I pushed. We managed to get unstuck, but didn't want to risk it a second time. Davin and his friends Brian and Austin helped us out by taking our pads. John Sherman gave us a ride in.
John wears a helmet when climbing, which suggests that he is safety conscious. But he spent much of the day way off the deck topping out uncleaned first ascents. He brushed holds as he went, grabbing lichen, and insecure looking features with barely a second thought. He wouldn't even look down to see if pads were still beneath him. I got this photo of him warming up, but most of the time I felt like it was a better idea to grab a pad to throw under him than to grab my camera. He climbs strong, and is quick with jokes I can't repeat on my blog. I'll never be able to think of bobcats and mountain lions the same way again.
After a few warmups, and a good problem on the "Square Tower," Davin took us to "The Axe." It's a difficult traverse, that kept Ashley and me occupied for many attempts while Davin, Brian, and Austin put up a couple first ascents. Eventually Ashley linked it using some tiny crimps to avoid the standard dyno finish.
I'll need one more session on the line. Scott and John spent time working a difficult line that goes straight up from the start of "The Axe." Widely spaced crimps over a bulge. I couldn't come close to making the span.
Thimble spent the day eating bones and grass.
Ashley and I were too worked after "The Axe" to keep climbing. The group moved on, and we moved out.
I can't wait to get back.