"Not all those who wander are lost"

Hiking

Maine!

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going

-Beverly Sills

 

After my return from New Hampshire I spent the next 10 days doing two things: fixing my car and trying to climb as much as I could.  Neither worked out quite as well as I hoped, but since it’s far more interesting I’ll write about the climbing now.

 

The first day back I got a ride at 7:30am to get pick up my car from the mechanics.  With nobody around to climb with by itching to take advantage of great sunny day I headed to Clifton anyway.  If nothing more I could at least check out the Big Chick Hill, Fletchers, and Parks Pond areas.  I made Chick Hill my first stop and after a bit of uncertainty managed to find what I thought was the trail and began the hike.  20 minutes later I arrived at the tall slabs that monopolize the climbing.  The rock was still seeping with wet moss covering more than a fair share.  I dropped my pack (70m rope, full trad rack, draws, water, and a few other things made for a hefty load) and wandered out to each end of the crag.  Although the majority was still too wet to climb there were several fun looking routes and even a few promising potential new lines (provided nothing has been put up since the guide book was published 11 years ago).

It looked to be another Wednesday full-pack hike for me.  Rumney, Big Chick…I didn’t like this trend.  Deciding I needed to stop this trend I found a climb.  A line of thin holds and awkward balance moves climbed in overhanging face as it rounded 20 feet up and became a slab which got easier as you continued.  It pulled in at 5.11d, not quite where my endurance is right now even with someone to belay me, so I climbed up the gulley and gave myself a top-rope belay.  For anyone who hasn’t belayed themselves on TR with a grigri, let me say this: it’s a pain.  As I struggled with the beginning moves I found that on a harder route I rarely had the opportunity to pull the rope through.  For the most part, it was like I was leading it…only I fell much farther due to the rope stretch.  All of a sudden I remembered and appreciated normal climbing even more; the kind on lead with a partner belaying.  After some awkward falls, harness wedgies, and a bit of cursing I made it up the first 10 feet of the climb which was certainly the crux.  The rest of the climb was significantly less eventful and, although it was still challenging, didn’t end up with me falling into anymore trees or even falling at all.  Once I cleaned my anchor I decided to call the one struggle good enough for the soaked slabs and headed out.

Of course, one route just wasn’t enough to satiate my urge to climb and it had only been fueled by the time I spent looking at the other climbs.  I made a feeble attempt to find Fletchers Bluff before giving up and going for Parks Pond.  The trail head was easy to find and even had two cars already parked at it.  Happy to see other people who were probably climbers I headed up to the crag ready to introduce myself and maybe even get a real belay.  I got there but didn’t find anyone else there climbing.  Rope soloing was what I was planning on doing anyway so I found something good and went for it.  I set up my anchor on the bottom and made sure it couldn’t pull up.  From there it was almost the same as leading…only way more hassle.  15 feet up I reached the first bolt with another bolt from a branching climb within reach too.  Still unsure of my convoluted rope solo system I anchored myself and tested it out by jumping backward into the air.  The system held before I got to the anchor as it was supposed to and I decided I probably wouldn’t die.  I continued on the climb and rope soloed my way to the top.  I had made the good decision half way through the climb to not protect the last section of very easy climbing so once at the top I only had to reach down to grab my last piece of protection and flip the rope over the tree to avoid troublesome cleaning of my gear on the traversing section.  With my first rope solo experience under my belt I decided that I didn’t want to try it again on run out climbs so I set myself up for a couple more TR self belays before it was time to head out to go watch the Bruins own game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

(Me ready to to rope solo)

 

A few days later I made it back out to Clifton.  This time I wasn’t alone and it didn’t even involve bribing a friend who had never climbed with beer to come belay me.  Jeff, Curt, and I cruised down the road looking for Fire Road 09-13-0 which would lead us in to the crag.  The first road we checked out turned out to be blocked off by small boulders and not the right road.  On our second try we found the right road, distinguished by a pair of small handmade signs, each hidden behind several years of new branches making them barely discernable from the road.  The road bumped and wound through the woods for a couple miles before coming to a fork.  Jeff took the left as he remembered doing that last time he had been to Fletchers many years before.  Just down the road we came to another line of small boulders blocking off the road.  There was no getting around them and they were far too big to move so we ventured back to the fork in the road and took the other option hoping it would lead around and back to the other.  The tree branches tightly hugged the car on both sides while long grass rubbed the bottom.  Again we got to an impassible spot.  The road ceased to be a road and became a small trail, but to our luck a game warden was sitting in his truck in a small area on the side.  We asked him how to get to the cliff.  The returning answer was a muddled monologue where he repeated the same few turns so many times we didn’t know how many times we had to take sharp left turns or bear right but we heard two road names and knew where to begin.  Almost immediately we found out that the game warden didn’t quite know the directions that well when our second turn “at the T in the road” was actually not at T at all.  We continued down several miles of washed out back roads searching for the cliff.  At one point I looked out the window at a pot-hole that had extended over a foot into the road and noticed that it didn’t really end until the bottom of an eight foot drop into the stream below.  We had a couple more bouts of confusion made it to the trail head.  I use the term “trail” loosely; there was a clear opening off the road where it began but after that the trail was nothing more than a deer path that brought us out into a swamp.  We rock-hopped our way around mud and water and even picked up some trail markers just before we got to the crag, but we made it: Sundog Wall.

It’s a large slightly overhanging wall with a spattering of good small crimps and a few horizontal cracks running through it.  Of course I had accidentally put down the book when I brushed my teeth that morning and nobody else had one so we relied on Jeff’s memory of climbing there 10 years earlier.  We started off on what we thought looked like the easiest climb there.  It followed some good small holds up the right side of the face until reaching the top where the variety of nice crimps turned in to one or two pea-sized crystals.  Next we stepped to the right and got on another.  It started off easy for the first half, but abruptly the good holds disappeared and I was left getting into awkwardly high positions at full body extension to reach the next crimp.  Over the last ~15 ft of the climb I think I did three, maybe four, movies.  I looked up the routes later and was happy to see that they were Sunnyside Up (5.11a) and Meltdown (5.11c/d) respectively.  It made me happy even though I doubted the rating on the second one.

Once we had done the two “easy” looking climbs I inspected the crag to see what other routes looked good.  The conclusion I came to was frustrating.  They all looked good.  They also all looked more difficult that I could do with no strength or endurance (damn the last 3 months!).  I ended up settling on route that climbed the slab on the far left side until it crossed a slanting overhanging and continued up the main face.  The slab was thin to say the least but with some interested hand foot matches I managed to get almost to the overhang.  With only one more bolt before the overhang I reached a tough spot.  The only holds were a small crimp and above it a gaston.  I had one good foot on a previous crimp and nothing else.  With full body extension I was able to touch what appeared to be the next hold but even with tiptoeing I couldn’t get my finger over it.  Just as I was trying to get my finger onto the hold I peeled off the face.  The fall was only about 10 feet and jerked me back to the rock.  This sequence of climb, try anything I could, fail, and fall was repeated another dozen times or so but I just couldn’t get to the next hold.  Defeated and frustrated that it didn’t seem hard, I just couldn’t do it; I switched onto Jeff’s old biner and cleaned my draws as I was lowered.  Next time.

(Trying to figure out the part that I couldn’t get past on High Noon)

I moved over to another route that looked like it had a fun and moderate beginning but past that it was hard to see enough to judge.  As it turned out, I was dead on only, the reason it was hard to see enough to judge was because there just wasn’t anything there.  It was the fourth route of the day I had done on lead on an overhanging face.  After the first 25 feet of moderate fun climbing it quickly became an unbalanced battle between my will and the combined power of the lactic acid in my arms and the sparse sloped holds of the route.  With enough hangdogging I eventually made it to the anchors.  Another route to add to the “get stronger and come back to” list.  Disappointingly it turned out to only be a 5.11d called Gold Rush.  For all the struggle I had hoped it would at least be a 5.12.  At least the one I bailed on turned out to be a 5.12b (High Noon).  After that I climbed the second route again to clean draws off the anchor and we headed back across the swamp to the car.  It was the first day of climbing since being back from my injuries that I was thoroughly exhausted and it made me happy.  Some more days like this and I’ll be back to 12s.

 

(Jeff on Gold Rush.  Everything from the big horizontal crack up that looks good…isn’t)


A little more NH climbing, a lot more rain

There are only 2 choices; make progress or make excuses

-Ellen Mikesell

 

6/5 – Boston

We headed to Boston to pick up Ian after a basketball tournament he played in Saturday.  We got brunch at a restaurant where we met Ian then headed to the Museum of Fine Art to see the Chihuly glass exhibit.  It was quite impressive seeing the glass formed into so many different shapes and combine to form different pieces.

This piece is evidence that artists are crazy.  The inspiration for this was he decided to chuck his glass pieces off a bridge in Finland to see what would break and then had some local kids pick them up in a boat.

And we also visited Egypt on the way back from Boston.

It was a good day but still no replacement for a good day of climbing.

 

6/6 – 5.8 Crag

Ian and I headed over to the 5.8 crag and I got him up his first real climbing routes.  I started on a few easy routes so Ian didn’t have to start out trying to climb 10’s and 11’s.  We moved over and I did Romancing the Stone, a two star 10c, to keep me entertained.

(On the crux of Bolt and Run, 5.9)

(Me Romancing the Stones, 5.10c)

(POV climbing it a second time to clean the route)

By the time I had climbed it a second time to clean it Ian was tired of climbing and ready to leave so after a much shorter day that I wanted we headed back to our camp across the street.  The rest of the day was spent playing horse shoes, hanging out, and avoiding or killing black flies.

 

6/7 – Main Cliff

Ian and I headed back to climb at the Main Cliff after a morning at a local coffee/breakfast/antiques/climbing gear/B&B place.  The first route I got on was Metamorphosis.  It’s a long winding and exposed 5.8.  It starts off some easy face hold up to a nice crack in a corner.  As soon as I reached the crack a cool breeze hit me in the face.  It was a welcome change from the heat of the day even with the shade of the trees surrounding the crag.  I continued up the climb to a big roof where the climb traverses right.  The moves were not difficult, but the exposure was amazing.  With good hands and edges for feet separating me from the ground 50 feet below my heel I traversed across under the roof.  The roof ended and I pulled up over a smaller overhang and into the beating sun.  My pleasant cool breeze was replaced with instant sweltering heat.  I continued up more difficult balance moves up the face to the chains as fast as I could to get out of the sun.  Probably my favorite 5.8 I have ever done, but not difficult enough to satisfy my need to be challenged.

After Ian cleaned Metamorphosis he was drained from some difficulty on the sunny face section and didn’t want to climb for a while.  As soon as he said that I began chatting with another pair of climbers near us and found out that one of them is from Brunswick, also needs climbing partners, and even knew of the local crag I climbed on there last year.  We got numbers and talked of climbing together soon, great success!

Since Ian didn’t want to climb I took the opportunity and lead the way to Millennium Falcon, a 10c which the book says has been described as the best 10 in Rumney.  After an easy traverse to the first bolt it had some difficult crimpy moves up to a good but difficult crack section that exited left onto a glassy slab.  After my left wrist had already been hurting for a couple days the only move onto the slab involved a hand jam with my wrist bent almost 90 degrees while supporting my entire weight.  From there it was easier but fun climbing over a bulge and up the face to the chains.  Once again, it was a spectacular route that involved many different techniques and this time it was more of a challenge.  It was quite painful and a shorter than I would have hoped.

(Finger locks on Millennium Falcon, 5.10c)

With a notice from dad and Ian that I had one more climb before they were leaving I decided to do a highly touted 10a called Underdog.  Unfortunately I accidentally did another climb that was disappointingly easier and not at all what I was hoping for.  We had enough of the bugs and there was no second chance so I packed up and we headed back to our new location at a campground down the road a few miles.

(Heading back to camp in the bus)

On the way there we passed some large boulders on either side of the road that make up “The Pound.”  I was interested, but figured I would check it out later.  Later came sooner than expected.  Ian and I planned to go for a run/ride (me on the bike since I still can’t run on my ankle), but we stopped to get ice at the office.  When I got back Ian had already headed out.  I figured I would catch up with him soon but several miles later I had still not found him when I got to the pound.  Naturally I had my chalk and shoes with me so I stopped to check out the bouldering.  Despite being devoured by mosquitoes I explored the area and did a cool problem.  It started on a pair of small crimps, moved up a side pull crack before falling back to a gaston then shooting for the top.  I found out later it is called The Thwart and is a V3, but it was just the right way to end my day.  Unfortunately that’s not how my day ended.  Leaving in the dark while being harangued by bugs I left my chalk and didn’t realize until I was back to the campsite so I had to turn around a ride all the way back to retrieve it …~6 miles in the dark without any lights.

 

6/8 – Sad Ending

The problem with climbing with your family (if they aren’t climbers) is that they eventually don’t want to climb anymore.  That’s what happened to me anyway.  I couldn’t convince either Ian or dad to climb with or even belay me.  Not ready to give up a beautiful day that could be used fulfilling the purpose of life (climbing everything possible obviously) I packed my rope, all my gear, water, and lunch into my pack and hopped on my bike to ride to the crag.  Of course, it would have worked out better if this was the day that we were just across the road, but even an 8 mile ride with a heavy pack wasn’t enough to deter me.  I got to the parking lot and checked the message board: no response to my note I had left there.  No sign of people around so I went for a quick swim to cool off.  Still no sign of climbers around the parking lots so I decided to hike up and check out some crags I hadn’t seen yet, mainly Waimea.  I only found a couple people, all of whom had partners, but I managed a long hike with a heavy pack before I finally headed back to camp in defeat.  With one of the best places to climb in the northeast at my fingertips I couldn’t even find a person to climb with on my last day, it was heartbreaking.  I love to spend time with friends and family hanging out and enjoying their company, but part of me still feels like any moment that I could be climbing is wasted if I’m not so it kills me even more to spend a nice day just staring at rocks that I can’t climb.

(View from above Waimea, near Jimmy Cliff)

(Waimea left side, all wicked burly routes)

After giving up we packed up camp and headed to Franconia Notch to do Cannon in the morning.  We planned to get a spot near the cliff.  To our disappointment, when we got there the RV spots were just picnic tables and fire rings on the edge of a parking lot.  If the other campgrounds hadn’t been twice as much we would have gone to one of them.  As it was I went for an epic bike ride down the 3 mile hill and back up just in time to catch Ian and dad headed the other direction to go to get dinner.  They had decided it was too hot to cook in the bus and too buggy to cook outside so we went out for dinner.

(Cannon, the ridge on the left above the tip of the tree is what I was planning on doing with Ian)

 

6/9 – Cannon and Thunder

I woke up and packed everything to go before checking the weather to find that there was a high chance of thunder showers.  I grudgingly agreed to not do any routes on Cannon and settled for some cragging on Artists bluff, a small crag across the road from the parking lot that we called camp.  It had a pair of surprisingly good climbs that we tried.  The first was a great airy traverse that was deceptively hard until I pulled a roof and ran out the last easy 50 feet.  The second was 5.12b climb that I hangdogged but managed to do all the moves.  It gave my hope for getting back to climbing 12s if I can build some power and endurance.  They were both fun and we would have stayed to do more but the black flies were outrageous so we headed out as fast as we could.

(Just after the traverse on Special Olympics, 5.10c)

While we were gone dad had bought tickets for the tram to the top of the mountain so after a swim to cool off we headed up the mountain.  As we neared the top lighting illuminated the sky giving us front row seating.  As soon as we reached the top they shut down the tram.  We hung out in the lodge at the top watching the torrential downpour.  Once it passed we hiked up the hill to the lookout deck and enjoyed the view of grey in all directions.  The tram had started up again once we were back to the lodge so we headed back down the mountain.

Once again we loaded up the bus a headed down to the Kancamangus Highway toward Conway.  When we got over the top of the mountains I had a great idea.  I had dad pull over and jumped out with my bike and helmet.  Ian followed suit and as soon as dad was gone we bombed down the mountains for miles until we got to our campground.

(Mountain tops along the Kancamangus Highway)

(Water falls near the highway)

(Perspective of the water)

 

6/10 – North Conway Nightmare

Doubting the enthusiasm for climbing required from my cohorts I decided to go for a morning ride.  I headed back up the mountain for over an hour until I began to worry that they would be waiting for me to leave.  I turned and raced back down the hill making it to the campsite in a third of the time.  It was perfect timing to take a shower, pack up, and head out for North Conway.  We reached town with plenty of time to climb, but Ian wanted to devote a day to doing work that he needed to get done so the beautiful day of potential climbing withered to an afternoon in a coffee shop being productive.  When we had finished in town we headed out to a campground for the night.  The one we had decided upon was ridiculous.  We weren’t quite sure where to go the first time, but uncertainty ended when we saw the enormous sign with granite posts proclaiming “Glen Ellis Campground” surrounded by a manicured flower garden.  The campground on the side of the stream has its own tennis courts, baseball field, beach volleyball court, swimming pool, game barn (arcade), wireless hotspots, and more.

 

6/11 – Rainy Day

The weather predicted rain so I didn’t even bother getting up early.  When I finally got up at 8:30 it was grey out but dry and hopeful.  Confusion and low expectations hindered the start, but eventually Ian and I were planning on climbing at Cathedral Ledge and we were on the road by 11:30.  We got half way there when it began to rain.  Foiled again.  This time I kicked myself.  If I had been up early and rallying Ian to go we could have been there by 8:30 and had 3 hours of climbing.  Instead Ian and I spent several hours in the game barn using the wireless and playing Hoop Fever (pop-a-shot/hot shot) and pulling extra balls out to play HORSE.  Later on we ended up going for a little hike up Black Cap Mountain in the rain.  By the time we were back at the car we were all drenched.

 

Reflecting on the past few days I’ve come to a conclusion I have known for a long time:  I need a good climbing partner!  I need someone who wants to get up early, climb all day, is willing to have an epic searching for a good climb, and then will hang out around the fire after a long day.  It gets tiring when everyone around either wants to sleep in or only do two pitches in a day.  I work hard and I want to play hard so I need someone who goes out with as much zeal as I do.  If this is you, let me know!  Until then, I should get a soloist or something.


Climb the Globe: North America

Life is either a great adventure or nothing

-Helen Keller

 

Howdy Folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, but that’s how my life has been over the last three months:  lots of work, no adventure.  So, without further adieu, the new post.

 

Over the last three months my body has been beaten in so many ways that any trip or climbing was questionable.  It started with throwing out my back the first full day back from Dubai while shoveling snow.  As I pushed a pile snow off snow scoop my back screamed in pain.  I fell to the ground unable to move my back.  I managed to roll over onto my back and lay there in the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing.  After 15 minutes it was numb enough that I could crawl up to my feet and walked back to the house supporting my back by holding my arms straight against my knees.

Unfortunately that was only the beginning.  After my back recovered I hurt my shoulder bouldering my first day back at RIT.  With a week off it felt better and I was starting to get back into my training routine to get in shape for my trip with the real disaster struck.  Wearing bad shoes on muddy ground I rolled my ankle and heard it crack three times.  It turned out to not be broken, but looking back I wish it had.  Instead it was a torn ligament.  A break would take a while in a cast to heal, but now it’s already been 11 weeks and I am just starting to climb again but still can’t even jog.  I spent two weeks on crutches and another three trying not to use it before I finally started physical therapy.  By then I my right leg muscles were nearly half the size of my left and my range of motion in my ankle was about a quarter of normal.  To make it worse I threw out my back again while working on my senior project and got hit by a car while on my bike during my last week at RIT resulting in a pulled shoulder.

Without really climbing since the day I left Dubai I’ve been going crazy and to possibility of canceling my trip didn’t help, but with several trips to the doctors, physical therapy, and my determination to climb the trip is continuing as planned so I present to you…Climb The Globe: North America.

 

Mission:  Find the perfect climb.  It should be a culmination of the entire climbing experience:  the overall adventure, the mental and physical challenges of the climb, the gear that makes it possible, the climbing community and lifestyle, time spent with new friends around the camp fire, the natural beauty of the landscape, and the art of the climb.

Destinations:  Several ideas and a lot of seeing where the road takes me.

Accommodations:  The back of my civic hatchback, a tent, and whatever couches I can surf on.

Climbing Partners:  A few friends across the country, the Mountain Project partner finder, and whoever I can meet at the crags.

Funding:  A little bit of student loans and graduation money.  Donations and sponsorships graciously accepted.

Ready to go?  Of course!

 

Part I

The first two weeks of the trip is a loop around New England with my dad and my brother in my dad’s renovated 1986 S1800 International School Bus.

 

6/1 – Day 1: the departure

After dropping my civic off at the mechanics to get a checkup and fix a couple problems before I put ~5000 miles on it we did some last minute packing and were headed out by the crack of early afternoon.  Postponing Rumney to accommodate for a trip to the Westbrook Alternative Learning Program’s bike sale, we headed to Peru, Maine.  Bumpy back roads lead us to a “campground” filled with permanent RVs and mobile homes where people even had full decks, sheds, and golf carts to visit the neighbors.

 

6/2 – Day 2: Shag crag

We worked our way up to the crag, carefully placing each foot to avoid any further injuries.  I was not the only one with a bum ankle; dad’s ankle has been bothering him for while as well.  A couple miles later we both made it to the crag without too much pain.  It was spectacular.  To describe it in one word: 5.12.  Almost everything is burley and overhanging.  The climbing area on the crag isn’t huge, but it encompasses the best part of the cliff and would be sufficient for any good climber to be entertained for quite a while.  For those not looking to do 12’s there are a few 10s and a couple easier or for the real hard men there are several 13s. A quick lesson on modern climbing and how to use a grigri got dad’s belaying up to speed.  I did a few of the easy routes and accidentally tried a 5.13a extension which shut me down at the first move.  After a sound trashing by the crag and a large sacrifice to the mosquito gods we headed back to the car.

We also found a local takeout place called “The Bus.”  Naturally we had to stop.

 

6/3 – Day 3: Bike & Bus

We headed to Westbrook in the morning to check out the sale.  I made it there five minutes before it officially started but people were already buying bikes.  After finding out the first two I wanted had already been claimed I found the only remaining road bike my size.  It was in pieces in a large cardboard box from an LL Bean trade in that was donated.  Without knowing for sure that it was the right size or that all the parts were even included I handed over the big bucks: $10.  After putting it together it together, my new 1970s Univega Neuvo Sport (love the ironic name), fit fairly well and was in good shape.

We headed to a friends in Portland to use the internet and get a couple forgotten items.  After the quick stop we headed out for Rumney but didn’t make it far.  At the end of the street something popped and the bus nearly didn’t stop at the intersection.  We backed up three houses to where we came from and got out to investigate.  Brake fluid was pouring out of the caliper.  Eight hours later we had a new left caliper and pads and new pads on the right.  Unfortunately by then it was after 9pm so we spent the night in Portland.  To top it all off while we were working on the bus I got a call from the mechanic saying that it would be $900 to fix my car.

 

6/4 – Day 4: Rumney

A day late and a lot of dollars short we headed off to Maine’s only boarding state.  I cleaned my bike, rubbing off the grit and hunks of grease, while we bumped down route 25 all the way to Rumney.  We got into town and headed to the climbing.  Knowing that I didn’t have much time to climb we went to the nearby Parkinglot wall where I jumped on the only route that was free.  I was still unsure of the route because my guide book, another old book I saw, and a person all gave me different names and ratings so all I knew is it was 5.10something.  It was a long route straight up just to the side of the Holderness Arete.  It started out with a lot of easy climbing until the top third of the route tilted out to a slight overhang.  I reached the top simply because I was unwilling to fall on my first route of the day, in front of so many people, or on a 5.10.  Pumped, I cleaned my draws on rappel, nearly maxing out my 70m rope.

Searching for more free routes I explored down the cliff until I found some routes at the No Money Down wall.  Not bothering to even try to figure out what anything was this time I jumped on a route.  I onsighted it no problem.  Dad even decided to give it a try and, using my shoes, top-rope onsighted it.  He may not have climbed since they began using harnesses or belay devices but he still had better technique than many beginners.  I tried another slightly more difficult route again with no problem.  I finally felt like I had taken it easy enough for the day and decided to tackle a more difficult route.  I found one great looking route nearby.  It started with some thin moves hugging an arête then moved onto the face for some easy moves before reaching a big roof.  It was a great route with some hard moves pulling up onto the roof with no feet but I made it through.

After climbing we headed back to D Acres, a nearby organic farm and permaculture educational center, to camp.  D Acres isn’t quite the image of a farm with big open pastures and lawns.  It’s located on a hillside with small funky buildings made from reused materials, messy gardens every direction, and boulders and stumps abound.  Dad had visited before so he gave me the quick tour: outdoor kitchen, duck ponds, green house, chicken coop, gardens, ox hovel, and piglet pen.

 

More to come the next time I get internet!


World Travels

New experiences are the key to happiness.

-Unknown/me?

 

Alright, it’s official, I need to travel more!  I just got the following ratings.

  • Worldliness:  is a scout
  • Off the beaten track:  occasionally strays off track
  • Roughing it:  likes a bug-free bed and hot showers
  • Danger:  takes a little risk
  • Shrewdness:  Stays alert while traveling

And the map of my travels so far…

 

I’ll admit that I haven’t been to tons of countries, but this thing really needs to account for more than just locations traveled to.  I spent a month in New Zealand living out of a van or tent, I lived in a abandoned van for a month in Moab, and I have camped in the middle of nowhere just about everywhere I’ve been and this has the audacity to say I like bug-free beds and hot showers?  Bring on the bugs!  There’s just nowhere to put if you stay in a Holiday Inn or a ditch (I usually choose the ditch).

I’ll play along with the shenanigans though, I just need to start ticking off places I want to go.  Here are a few on the higher end of the list in no particular order:

  • Patagonia (Chili & Argentina, especially everywhere including Las Torres and Cerro Torre)
  • Mexico (especially El Portrero Chico)
  • Costa Rica
  • Venezuela (especially Mount Roraima
  • Columbia
  • Brazil (especially Agulha do Diabo near Teresopolis)
  • India
  • Spain
  • Greece (especially Meteora & the islands)
  • Italy (especially Italian Alps)
  • Switzerland (uhh, Matterhorn anyone?)
  • Norway (especially Prekestolen)
  • Canada (especially Bugaboos, Squamish, BC, St Johns, and Mount Thor)
  • Pakistan (especially Nameless Tower and the northern mountains)
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Japan
  • Jamaica
  • Cuba
  • South Africa
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Russia (especially Siberia)
  • Turkey
  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Nepal
  • Egypt
  • Morocco

…Remember these are just the ones higher up on my list.

If you can’t tell by the list most of my destinations are based on climbing, but if there’s climbing all over the world why not start with those places?  I have a lot of travelling to do and this doesn’t even account for time in each country!  If I don’t answer my phone for the next 1-50 years you should all know why.

 

More posts about my current adventures in progress and coming soon!


Borders and Boundaries

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

-Miriam Beard

 

1/8 – Wonderwall day 2

We slept in after the previous evening’s epic.  Finally I mustered the energy and rolled out from under my blanket (I still didn’t get my sleeping bag or pad back so I was just using a blanket).  I started a fire using the well earned wood.  I loaded my pot with the largest portion of oatmeal that could fit, cooking the mix of oats, raisins, walnuts, apple, and banana on the open fire.  It was amazing.  Part of that may have been due to my residual hunger, but it was pretty tasty anyway.  We ate, packed up camp, and headed over to where we wanted to climb.  Ironically camping at the crag didn’t get us started any earlier in the morning.

We started on High rise, a moderate 3 pitch sport route.  I climbed to each set of anchors and set up the belay.  Much to my chagrin the more I climbed the more I realized I could have linked two of the pitches if not all 3.  At least the climb got Sam’s average down to 50% epics on multipitch climbs.  The route put us on top of a big ledge.  To the side were two more great looking climbs on the vertical face continuing up.  I choose Zoot Allures (5.11a) because it was harder and looked less confusing.

(Inspecting my route up Zoot Allures)

I set my camera up using my gear to angle it up at the climb, but unfortunately the ledge wasn’t big enough to get the entire route in the frame.  I started off on some not too difficult but pumpy moves on an overhang.  Pulling through that the route continued on a very sparsely featured face with tiny crimps, smaller than half a pad on my finger.  The climbing continued like this 80 feet to the anchors with occasional good holds thrown in.  It was an excellent climb.  If that description somehow didn’t bore you then you might be interested in checking out the full climb here.  We walked off down a chute between the cliff and the huge slab of rock that High Rise was on.  Back at the bottom we decided to head over to the opposite end of the crag to check out a couple different areas that looked to have some good routes: Mordor and Gondor.

On the walk there we spotted a cave at the base of the cliff.  Depending on where you were the dark and light blotches on the wall of it made it look like there was either a large cat, G’mork from Never Ending Story, or some even larger beast.  The final scramble lead to a shelf at the base of a small face with an 8 ft wide roof at the top.  This is what I came to Mordor to climb: the Uruk-Hai Overhang (5.11a).  I gave Sam an anchor so she couldn’t risk stepping back and tumbling down the slope and started the route.  The face was fairly space, but not especially difficult.  The roof was a beast.  There were good holds through the roof, but by the time I tried to pull the lip back onto the vertical I had no energy left in my arms and no love for the razor edges on the hold I was pulling on.  Sadly I didn’t get it clean, but I managed to grab the sharp rock and pull myself up to the chains.  Cleaning my draws off the route while on rappel was quite an adventure too.  Finishing that I decided there was enough daylight to get in one last route so we headed over to Gondor and climbed My Precioussss.  It was another moderate face climb and ended up being a great end to the weekend.  We headed back down to the car and made it there at the perfect time to get as close to dark as possible without having to actually hike down in the dark.

Thoroughly exhausted from the weekend of climbing and unanticipated hiking we headed back toward Buraymi, the UAE, and Dubai.  We only got as far as the first.  We waited our turn in line at the border crossing again, but instead of the slew of questions this time they just said no.  I, of course, was the problem.  I had officially exited the UAE, but never received an entry stamp from Oman and they would not issue a new entry stamp for UAE unless I had entered and exited another country.  We were handed a set of poor directions that didn’t really show anything and told we needed to go 50km back the way we came.  Annoyed that we hadn’t received any instruction on what to do the first time through when we had told them we were only going to Buraymi we headed back through the land of no country to find the mysterious Oman border.  It actually wasn’t hard to find since it was back the way we came.  In fact, we even passed the small turn off that lead to Wonderwall on our way.  We found the building and went in to get our stamps.  I handed him 200dhs and he stamped my entry and my exit at the same time.  We turned back around and headed for Buraymi, again.  Once again, we didn’t get far.  There was a small shack with a guard collecting slips of paper from everyone who had gone through the border.  We had no piece of paper.  Whether it was because we didn’t actually go through the border or because the guy had just forgotten was unknown, but we were beckoned to pull off the side.  Sam explained our lack of the all important paper to the guard and he got on the phone.  It was decided that a couple dumb Americans were not a security or customs threat and we were allowed to continue on.  Our second attempt to re-enter the UAE proved successful, although the wait in line was much less exciting (they have a TV and on the first attempt they were playing something about climbing).  Back on the right side of the fence we headed back to Dubai, two hours after we first got to the border crossing.

 


Ending the Year in Style

I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads.  Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.

-Rosalia de Castro

 

12/29

I spent the morning cleaning up my room, cleaning my rope and gear, and packing it up to go climbing.  By the time I had finished I felt like I was basically moving out of my room.  I had my backpacking pack filled with my camping stuff (primarily the tent I borrowed from Michelle which took a lot of room) and food, my regular pack filled with climbing gear, my rope bag, and a 5L jug of water.  I got a hold of Brian, a Michigander who’s been living in Dubai for several months who I climbed with at RAK, and we planned to meet at the nearest mall between 4:30-4:45.  I loaded all my stuff into a taxi and headed to the mall.  Unfortunately my driver didn’t really speak English or know where Decathlon (the store where I was to meet Brian) was in the mall.  He dropped me off at the main entrance.  It was still only 4:20 so I figured I would just hang out there so I didn’t have to carry my stuff all through the mall.  After a while I started getting concerned that I still hadn’t heard from Brian.  I tried calling but there was no answer.  By 4:45 I decided to at least walk to the entrance by Decathlon so I asked directions and headed to the NE entrance.  After a while there I decided to go in and check the store only to find out that it was on the opposite side of the mall.  Looking like a fool I tromped back outside and down to the SE entrance.  Please note that every time I walk somewhere I have a big backpack on, my smaller but heavy backpack of climbing gear on the front, a rope bag on one side, and a 5L jug of water in the other hand.  I definitely looked like a vagrant.  Down at the other end of the mall I didn’t have any better luck.  I walked into Decathlon, received some very weird looks, and found out that Brian wasn’t in the store either.  I began to debate calling it quits and getting a cab back to EA since it was after 5:30.  I headed back outside to wait near the parking lot.  Seeing come shopping carts I finally had the idea to get one to carry all my stuff.  An hour late, but still helpful.  Unfortunately it cost a dirham to get and I had no coins.  Instead I waited until an unsuspecting victim exited the mall with a cart and walked to her car.  As she closed her trunk I pounced:  “Would you like me to take that for you?”  “Oh, yes please.”  At last, I didn’t have to haul all my stuff.

A minute later I got a call from Brian saying the grocery store had taken longer than expected and he didn’t bring his phone in, but he was on his way now.  With my cart in tow and ride on the way I headed back into Decathlon and looked at gear until Brian, Renata, and Athina (Renatas adorable 4 year old daughter) arrived.  We headed out at 6.

I spent most of the ride up to RAK being the eagle while Athina was the horse until she fell asleep.  We found our camping spot near the crag and set up camp.  I opened the tent I borrowed from Michelle and gawked at its enormity.  It could easily fit 6 people and when set up I could easily stand in it, and not just in the middle.  We scavenged wood, made a fire, and hung out for a while before heading to bed.

 

12/30

I woke up several times starting  at 6am but seeing that nobody else was up continuously went back to sleep until it was nearly 8.  Everyone slowly roused and packed things up.  They wanted to explore the area so we headed up a bit of a canyon.  Remains of old Bedouin buildings were scattered all over the area.  Just before the wadi ended there was a cluster of huts more intact than the rest.  It was neat to see one that, other than part of the roof, was completely intact.  It emphasized the diminutive design of the buildings.  The doorway was only a small square just off the ground only big enough to fit my shoulders diagonally.

We eventually arrived at Zombie Skull, the area where Brian had heard there were 20 new routes, by late morning.  The problem was that there were only a few new routes.   We climbed them anyway although none were very difficult and I alternated between playing with Athina and climbing. While Brian was on the top of a climb a goat meandered across some ledges a hundred feet above him, as if to say “whacha doing down there?”  People think of monkeys as climbers, but I’ve also seen goats do things that most people cant do.

(Click to enlarge so you can see the goat better)

After a couple routes we headed out and went to another area, Disk World.  It had several longer moderate face climbs.  We did one and I wanted to do the hardest one (not that hard overall), but with the sun getting ready to set we headed back to our camping area.  On the way back to the car Athina found a goat horn and a stick and decided she was a billy goat.

(My weekend buddy/entertainment/just plain adorable)

It had been quite a long time since I got to hang out around a camp fire.  We chatted, schemed, and ate around the fire.  More beginner climbers would be climbing with us in the morning so Brian and I decided to head out before 7 to get a few hours of hard climbing in first.  I had abandoned using a tent for the night and strung up my hammock from the thorn tree nearby.  Unfortunately in doing so I had scraped myself up far more than during the day of climbing.  I crawled into my hammock and began my night of sleeping in two hour increments.

12/31

With much difficulty I roused myself at 6 to climb.  After cooking some oatmeal on the fire I attempted to wake Brian.  No luck.  Looks like the early morning climbs wouldn’t be happening.  I scrambled up the nearest ridge and hiked from one ridge to the next all around the area until I spotted signs of life from the camp far below.

We got another late start and headed to Roadside crag.  Brian and I rope gunned some easy routes for everyone else then had some time to do more challenging routes.  I lead Thug Monkey, the 5.11a I had TRed the last time.  I was happy that I cleanly and calmly managed the moves that felt desperate before.  Brian wanted to try another route before then lead Thug Monkey so we pulled my rope and headed around the bend to Peckers Poke.  It was a great layback crack and the first layback I’ve seen in the UAE.  I cruised through it and TRed the unprotectable but quite fun very thin face to the side of it.  From the top I tossed the rope down and headed around to do the same to the two TRs.  Unfortunately once I did this and hiked around to the bottom Brian informed me that one of the ropes got stuck and we needed to re-climb the route to get it.  While Brian chased the rope I headed back up Thug Monkey since Brian decided he didn’t want to do it after all and I had gear on it still.

Eventually we had collected all our gear and loaded back in the cars to go to Farside Crag.  I started on Devils Slide.  I climbed an easy section 25 ft tall before I could clip the first bolt.  From there I fist jammed through 35ft of a smooth crack with bolted protection until it opened up for 35ft of trad in which I decided to only place 1 piece of gear before I decided it wasn’t worth the time.  It was an interesting and certainly diverse climb.  Last, but not least was Angels way: another tall route, this time all bolted, that varied from chimney to face climbing resulting in some great and interesting climbing.

The sun had set.  It was dark in the wadi (canyon basically) as we cruised down the windy road back into Ras Al-Khaimah.  It was New Years Eve and I still had no idea what I was going to do.  After a quick talk with Andy it didn’t seem like much was going on in Dubai so I decided to head to an unknown party in the desert organized by John, the 65 year old climbing machine who has set most of the routes in RAK.  I was uncertain what it would be like but as we drifted through soft sand lights were visible over the dunes.  We crested the hill and all my doubts about this being boring melted away.  Arriving at 9:00 we were already on the late end of things, at least compared to the hundred or so people who were already gathered around the bonfire and many barbecues.  Someone even brought a pair of huge speakers that we blasting from the back of a truck.  We join in the ruckus, meet people, danced, and had a great time.  My New Years Eves seem to have finally recovered from two bad ones in a row.  Now I just want to continue 2011 the way NYE was: climbing and festivities.


East Coast Exploration

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.

-Jawaharial Nehru

 

12/27

Spent most of the day doing nothing but ended up hungry with no food and it was still too early for the dining hall (more of a catered dinner each night).  It was the perfect opportunity to explore the restaurant in the labor camp.  Stan and I ventured out the gates of EA, past the mosque, and across the dusty dirt soccer “field” to the restaurant.  We walked in and took a seat.  A marker board hanging on the wall listed about 12 options.  Not knowing what anything was and not wanting to get something with meat I attempted to ask what was vegetarian.  It was quite confusing because he barely spoke English and I don’t speak any Hindi or Arabic.  After quite a bit of confusion I managed to order Alu Palak which I was pretty sure wouldn’t have any meat and some roti.  The food arrived in a couple minutes.  The roti was the largest I have seen, about a foot in diameter.  The alu palak was not quite such a large portion (and had no meat), but both were excellent.  After we finished up our food we got our check.  11dhs.  My part was only 4 ($1.08).  Great food.  Amazing price.

After dinner I went to play soccer with Andy, Stan, and Omar.  Unfortunately the field had already been reserved.  We went on anyway and played on the unused side of the field.  A kid of the people who reserved the field came and played with us so we played 2v2 with Andy in goal.  He was pretty good considering he was only about 8 and barefoot.  The only problem was that he was scared of Omar after he blasted a shot that Andy unintentionally saved with his face.

 

12/28

We woke up early to head out on a hike to Wadi Wurayah.  Michelle and her friend Akheel picked Stan, Andy, and I up at 5AM to head to the east coast for a hike.  Unfortunately we missed some turns and took a bit of the long way around so we went all the way up to Ras Al-Khaimah, down to Fujairah, then back up almost to Dibba turning our 1.5 hour trip into a 4 hour trip.  Our plan to arrive before sunrise to see some wildlife was further foiled by the terrible directions we got online.  Not quite knowing where to go we stopped at a parking lot next to a dry dam.  We were pretty sure we weren’t at the wadi but hoped we could hike the last bit to it.  We hiked down to the dry creek bed.

The mud from past floods tiled the ground and curled up where it had cracked apart.  We found feline foot prints dried in the mud and small wild melons all over the cracked floor.  Most of the melons were dried up, but a few were still healthy looking.  I cracked one open with my knife and tried a little piece.  It may not have been bad but it certainly wasn’t ripe.  It was the most bitter thing I have ever tasted.  I washed my mouth out immediately.  That didn’t help.  I ate an apple and drank some more water.  Eventually the bitter taste subsided.  We spotted a small offshoot that looked interesting and began hiking up it.  Exploring and meandering we worked our way up the dry bed a little ways passing a hole or den some kind of cat had dug out.  After a bit we agreed that we needed to figure out where we were going a little bit more if we wanted to actually make it to the wadi.  I volunteered to climb up to the top of the nearby peak and see what I can see; Akheel wanted to come too.  I set off scrambling up the ravine as it turned from a moderate hike to true chossaneering.  To avoid pulling off some loose rock, pitching over backward, and tumbling hundreds of meters to my certain demise I shook, hit, pulled, and kicked every rock before I put any weight on it.  I conquered mountain at last and scrambled up to the carren.  I looked around soaking in the 360 degree vista.

From the top I could see back to Indian ocean and Snoopy Island.  Surveying the cry washes to determine the direction of the wadi I noticed a road, paved and all, heading up one branch.  That was where we needed to go.  Our meager directions had lead us to the dam rather than the waterfall of the wadi.  We headed back down to meet up with everyone and trekked back to the car.  The entire hike I had been noticing the abundance of garbage lodged in every crack of dried mud and every recess in the rock.  I began to grab a couple pieces on our way back and before I knew what was going on Andy had joined with gusto so by the time we got back we had collected so many bottles, pieces of foam, and even 5 gal water jugs we could have filled several full sized trash bags.

We piled back into the car eager to get away from the flies the coated everything (as they seem to do in all of the UAE) and headed back down the paved road to take the road we hadn’t chosen before.  We headed on down the road until the pavement ended again.  This time seemed much more hopeful and after walking only a few hundred meters we spotted the wadi.  A hundred meters below.  Our most recent road had lead us to an overlook where we could see the green reeds, lush plants, and waterfall of the wadi, all covered in spray-paint and litter.  I located a spot where I could make my way down the steep scree to get to the wadi.  Akheel decided to brave to slope but Stan, Andy, and Michelle weren’t so brave and decided to go back to what looked like a better path a little farther back.  As I made it down to the bottom I found a small goat skull and a bright scarf.  I named it Fred.

The wadi was great and terrible.  As I mentioned before, it was covered with litter and spray-paint which was quite sad, but it was still beautiful.  I veritable fountain of life in the middle of the harsh desert.  I climbed around the pool of water and inspected it.  It was crystal clear and looked pretty deep.  I looked up to see the ledges above.  Oh yeah.  I went back and walked into the water.  It was cool and refreshing, even to the point of chilly compared to the toasty desert.  I swam across to the deep pool and dove.  It was plenty deep (around 4m).  I got out and climbed back around, convincing Akheel to jump oh the ledge that was about 3m.  Wanting to get pictures of me jumping I waited for our stragglers to jump.  About 40 minutes after us they finally strolled up.  They had decided to try to drive back and all the way up to the wadi, but eventually ditched the car due to the rocky track and walked a ways in.  Once I had recruited a photographer a walked around up to the top ledge.  I stood and debated my leap.  Trying to determine how high it was I asked around and the common answer seemed to be 25m, but I don’t think it could have been more than 20m.  After a minute of contemplation nerves (related to the depth of the water mostly) got the better of me and I moved to another slightly lower ledge.  With Andy’s waterproof camera around my wrist I leaped from the ledge.  Encouraged by the fact that I didn’t even come close to the bottom I ran back to the top and hurled myself off the tallest ledge.


Christmas Craggin’

The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.

– Alex Lowe

 

12/23

Break!  At last it’s christmas break and I have time to climb, explore, and CLIMB!  My plans have been changing constantly, but with any luck I’ll do a lot of climbing, some snorkeling, and camping.

Only my second trip to Hatta Crag, but it already seems far more familiar.  We headed down E44 toward Hatta, passing dunes, trucks, and the boarder checkpoint before we turned off and bumped down the desert track.  The three of us (Sam’s parents came to down for christmas and her dad decided to join us to watch and take pictures) piled out of the car and began to make the trek up the steep hill of scree.  We zig-zagged up the hill around boulders.  Eventually I found myself staring a one such boulder ahead of me.  I had been watching my footing too much and had to back track to get around the boulder, but why go around?  I’m here to climb right?  There were several inviting scoops in the rock so I climbed the few feet up.  As I stepped over onto the flat ground at the top I grabbed a bit of the rock to push myself.  I heard a crack and the slight force I put on the rock broke off a plate the size of a pizza.  I wanted to move my leg that was conveniently directly under this falling plate.  Not having time to shift my weight and not wanting the rock to go bouncing down at Sam’s dad I just held on to it.  I managed to hang on enough to keep it from bouncing off my shin (or would it have been through?) or attacking Sam’s dad and tossed it off to the side.  I was quite happy at my lack of injury until I felt sering pain in my finger.  My left middle finger no longer had skin covering most of the end.  The rock had sliced a section of skin the size of a nickel off the pad of my finger, leaving a flap hanging by one side with a deeper cut down the edge.  Great.  If the long tradition of stupid injuries I inflict on myself this is one of the most frustrating.  I injured myself before even getting to the crag on the first day of vacation when I planned to climb as much as I could the whole break.  Along with the fact that this is current and all my other injuries are just distant memories made this the worst injury a terrible tragedy.  Sam ran back to the car for the first aid kit and we bandaged my finger with gauze and tape.  I now had a finger the size and shape of a small egg.  Obviously this would be a great day of climbing.

We made it the rest of the way up and got down to climbing.  Not using a key finger made climbing significantly more difficult.  I didn’t do anything too challenging because my finger would scream in pain when I pulled hard on my sliced finger.  We did some sport and trad, both of which turned out to be interesting.  Using sport gear wasn’t too much more difficult but unclipping on rappel was much more difficult trying not to use my middle finger.  Trad was a different matter, especially when I was trying to use my left hand to place my biggest piece of gear.  My bandaged finger just couldn’t fit on the trigger between the wires and the stem so I had to awkwardly hold it with another finger while my middle pointed straight.

(Me looking for somewhere to place gear on Sheepshagga, there weren’t many places)

I crested the top and looked around.  The mountains all around were being eaten away.  An infestation of little ants driving trucks were taking away the mountains bit by bit.  This disturbing plague on the land has already taken a large section out of one ridge and will most likely consume the entire climbing crag in the next few years.  Probably just to make more cement used to destroy other areas.  It is terribly had the mountains can’t fight back.  They need some rock-Ents or a Lorax because around here nobody speaks for the rocks.

We headed over to a climb that Sam had done before and she got her first lead.  It’s great to see other people getting addicted to0.  She doesn’t know it yet, but I even have trad routes picked out, next time we go she’ll get her first trad lead.  Sam’s dad decided he wanted to head down and take some pictures of camels.  Unfortunately the car keys were nowhere to be found.  We decided they must have been dropped or forgotten when we were bandaging my finger.  There was still lots of daylight left so we headed over to do a “steep photogenic” route as the guide book described it.  It was a decent scramble and search to find the area, but we made it and only lost 1 first aid kit along the way.  The route was easy and perfectly framed the climber against the sky and desert a thousand feet below.  Unfortunately with only two of us we had a hard time getting good pictures while belaying.

Not having had any challenging routes yet I decided I had to do something a bit more difficult.  I picked a neighboring route described as consistently pumpy (builds lactic acid in the arms making it hard to hold anything, usually from overhanging routes).  I went for it.  I managed to do the first half of the route without too much difficulty or finger pain.  The crux was a different story.  I had small hold, nothing to actually grip and lots of demand for holding tight with my left hand.  I yelled in pain, grunted, and worked my way around until I eventually made it to the top.  By the time I got there my finger bandage was soaked with blood.

We headed back down to search for Sam’s key.  As we cut across the hill to our path up we walked across the opening of a nice looking small cave.  It even had paw prints in front of it.  We lowered our voices and continued past being very thankful that there was still daylight and we had not heard it yet this trip.  We found the scene of my slicing without too much trouble.  It turned out to be one of the few places on the hill with an abundance of black rocks (coal) which worked nicely to conceal the black key (one of the flip ones so there wasn’t even any metal showing).  None the less we managed to find it and made it down just before dark.


Climbing in the Arabian Desert

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing

– George Bernard Shaw

 

12/10/10

Upon arrival here in the UAE I began searching Mountain Project, Rockclimbing.com, and every other climbing related forum and website I could find.  My efforts paid off.  I had more possibilities for climbing than I had time for.  Friday morning I set off with Samantha, my recruit from the UAE climbing forum (yes the, there is only one).  We were off like a speeding turtle, leaving EA around 9.  The plan was to meet up with some more people from the climbing forum but when Sam called to tell them we would be late we discovered that we were actually 23 hours 50 minutes early.  Thats right, the entire wrong day.  We weren’t about to not climb so we changed direction and headed off toward Oman.  We chatted and before long got to the boarder of Oman.  Passports were checked.  We were white.  We kept going.  Coming from the US it seems like having to go through another country to go climbing would mean it’s a hell of a drive, luckily that’s not true here.  Less than an hour after leaving Dubai we turned off the main highway onto a small paved road then off that a minute later.  We bumped down the “road,” really just a weaving line in the desert that other people had also driven on, looking out for the climbing area and avoiding camels.

With no guide book or directions we relied on Sam remembering what the crag looked like.  Her memory got us there unscathed (though some camels looked ready to trample the car) with only a small detour.  We made the trek up the scree field to the base of the crag.  I turned around and took in the sight.  The desert opened out before us spotting with tree’s on mounds, only the soil they held had resisted the floods.  Past that the spiked foot hills grew into jagged mountains.

The rock is a sandstone and limestone combination which had formed into all sorts of great shapes as it got eroded.  We warmed up then moved over to a very overhanging climb that Sam’s boyfriend had to bail off when it got dark two weeks before.  I mention this because the primary motivation was to pick up a draw and bail biner.  It was an adventure climbing with no guide book and estimating all the grades, but I only had to down climb 10m of one route so it wasn’t too bad.

Over the last couple hours I heard some sort of strange howling noise.  I figure it was nothing and just kept climbing.  The sun was already on the other side of the crag as we packed up and headed out.  By this time the howling had also grown louder and more frequent so we stopped to listen and check it out.  It was pretty clearly an animal in distress and we were pretty sure it was a panther or Arabian leopard since both reside in the area.  Better yet, it was directly between us and the car.  I hurled a rock down the hill in hopes it would run away, but instead it just went silent.  As we skirted wide around to the side avoiding the field of big boulders that so conveniently formed caves where the howling had come from one question stood out:  was it now hunting or hiding?  We continued down the loose rocks.  Despite our arc around the main boulder field we still had to pass several.  Could this one be hiding our demise?  What about the next one?  Descending past one such boulder the large rock I stepped on rolled.  My foot slid off, but the rock kept continued to roll scraping skin off the back of my leg and pinning it under the rock which I also happened to land on.  To get my leg out from under the rock I had to roll it off over my ankle, scraping it even more.  I continued to limp down hill with the smell of my blood in the air.  We came around the last big boulder before getting to the car and I noticed glowing dots in the shadow of the boulder.  Keeping my eyes on the shadow we slowly walked toward the car.  My hands began to sweat, clutching softball sized rocks in each hand.  It leaped from from the dark.  I threw the rock in my right hand with all my strength.  It glanced off the leg of the panther but didn’t slow it.  In two bounds it had covered half of the 60 feet between us.  I hurled the second rock hitting it in the shoulder.  It faltered and almost fell but recovered.  It had slowed giving me the time to grab another rock.  I threw the rock hitting the panther in the head.  It yowled in pain and paused for a second before darting back into the shadows.  We ran the last bit and jumped in the car before it could come back.

We weaved down the desert tracks back to the main road occasionally having to double back to find a route her 4wheel drive SUV could make it on.  Boarder patrol just saw Dubai plates and waved us through.  The dark desert turned into a glowing small town that I hadn’t even noticed on the way through.  Hundreds of 4wheelers, ATVs, and SUVs roamed the streets traveling between town and the desert outside of town where thousands of car lights illuminated the sand dunes.  The area is a destination for nighttime off-roading.  I used the trip back to take advantage of an experienced American perspective on Dubai and learned several important things such as what grocery stores are good and have natural peanut butter.  I say experienced, but she’s only been in Dubai since August when she moved from Idaho for a teaching job here.  Her move to Dubai seemed nearly as spontaneous as mine.  I decided to move to Dubai in 2 days, less than 3 weeks before I left, to live for 3 months.  She had no plan for it until it happened this summer and she moved in August, but moved here (semi) permanently.  Females, take note.

Much to my chagrin I arrived 30 minutes after most of the group left to find an Irish Pub, but it was definitely worth the days adventures.

 

 

Addendum:

For all those who don’t read the comment I added to this post I’m adding it here to quell speculation.

“Ok, we didn’t actually get attacked by a panther. From the part “We came around the last big boulder” to the end of the paragraph is more of what we were imagining might happen as we walked down. We did hear some kinda cat yowling but it was most likely an arabian leopard [actually have found out now that they are rare it it’s more likely a caracal] which aren’t as big (still big enough to mess you up). It sounded like it was in quite a bit of discomfort too. We went wide around and didn’t see it. My assumption would be it was hurt and went quiet to hide from us.”