"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for May, 2014

The Homestead

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As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.

-John Muir

 

From Joshua Tree I headed to Phoenix in time to surprise my dad for his birthday.  A few days of good food and a real bed was a treat, but the longing came and I was quickly scheming more climbing.  The lure of tufas in the US was too much for me to resist so I headed off toward the Homestead knowing only that I couldn’t make it in with my car and there should be someone there for the weekend that was willing to let me join his group.

The first day I managed to hitch a ride in, met Luke in person, and met another friend, Sam, who had just arrived partnerless wanting to spend some time there as well.  The weather was crazy, swinging between snowing, sweating in the sun, and back to freezing cold over when the sun dropped.  I climbed with Sam, Luke, Sandra, and Brent for a couple days, but the weekend ended and we all headed back to Phoenix.  After some rest and a good bit of stocking up, Luke hooked me up with a friend who was going back to the ‘Stead.

I set up camp and for the next three weeks I didn’t see pavement or have any of the standard comforts of the western world.  For the most part I climbed when it was light, ate when I was hungry, and slept when it was dark.  Luke and Sandra became my lifeline, bringing in weekly veggies and water.  On the occasional rest days I improved the camp, gathered firewood, and dug a new latrine.  In short, it was wonderful.

A couple days after I got back Sam came back to the Homestead as well so even during the quiet weekdays there was never any question about finding a climbing partner.  Greece was still recent in my mind so getting back to tufas felt like a return to bliss.

We mostly climbed at the prize and glory of the Homestead, Tufa City.  It get some shade, but faces the fierce Arizona sun for much of the day.  It worked well with the erratic weather we got.  I had never spent much time in Arizona so I was surprised when it snowed four days in the first week.  The weather didn’t usually stop us, and many times the clouds provided much appreciated shade so we could climb at Tufa City all day.

Even after the quality of rock I had been climbing on in Greece, Tufa City held its ground.  It’s by no means as great as Kalymnos, but for tufas in the US, it’s pretty rad.  The wall is jam packed with great lines, mostly from 11 to low 13-.  One particular one, Dead Sea, immediately caught my attention as a really fun climb that involved thin sequential climbing at the bottom which gave way to some fun powerful and pumpy moves higher up.  I managed to pull it together quickly and found myself almost wishing I hadn’t sent it so fast or just wanting to keep repeating it.  It’s that fun.

When the mercury rose and sent us searching for shady climbing we found more great routes at the Rough Rider wall.  It may not have the tufas found on the other side of the canyon, but it did have more routes on high quality limestone, but with blocky features running 110ft to the top of the cliff.  The Riddler was one especially great climb I got on.  The name fit the cryptic climbing on the route which stayed on you for eleven bolts of hard climbing.

The days flew passed and soon I realized that I had finished lots of what I cared about doing.  The quality is great for lots of the rock, but one drawback of the Homestead is that there are only about 12 routes in the 5.13 range and only two harder than 13b.  I think this is largely due to the rock itself, but more hard routes would certainly give the area more pull to strong climbers that might put the crag more into the spotlight.  Regardless, I had a great time and was ready to move on.