Eldo at 95
The plan was to meet up with Victor and Maja at the airport in Denver, and hit Eldo Canyon on Sunday morning. Only Victor showed up, and we headed to Boulder where the three of us had brunch. Maja went back to Laramie to get ready for a big geology field trip, which meant we couldn't have a three person climbing team, which is useful when splitting up the work into climber / belayer / photographer. The two of us headed out from the Eldo Canyon parking lot at about 1 PM.
Despite the incredible heat, the Wind Tower moderate routes were full of people, I counted six people on Calypso, and so we hiked up to the Redgarden Wall to do Swanson's Arete. Sure enough a party was just starting on the first pitch of Rewritten, with another party waiting. We waited, and the second team went to do something else, so after a while I was on the rock. Avoiding the 5.8 direct start I worked up to a bulge, placed the 00 TCU and started looking for a bucket. I was not going to fall on that gear ... Found the bucket, and kept working up. The whole pitch is really nice, lots of balancy moves, and seems to be indicative of Eldo climbing, which according to the guidebook is more about finesse and footwork than about power. I was glad I had double ropes, as I veered out of my way to find more gear. Midway through the pitch a nice traverse gets you back to the direct start crack and its easy going from there to the belay. One of our stoppers got stuck, and despite half an hour of working on it, Victor failed to retrieve it.
We traversed right to the start of Swanson's, which is actually a really nice climb. It pretty much follows the arÍte. We did two long pitches to the top. Midway up the second pitch, I realized I was missing all our big stoppers, and didn't know what happened to them. Sideways placements of the smaller pieces, and using my cams solved the gear problem for the rest of the route. This mistake was still really frustrating. I must have clipped my shirt with the racking biner before starting the pitch, and the stoppers came off and fell softly enough that it didn't catch Victor's attention. We were both short of sleep, and the sun wasn't helping much. I hope whoever found the booty didn't make too many snide comments... We topped out at about 6:30. We were planning on doing the East Slabs descent, and hadn't left any gear at the bottom of the route. A team that came off Yellow Spur rapped off just before us on the Dirty Deed rap route. I wanted to do the same, to get a chance to look for the gear, but Victor vetoed that, and so we started on the descent. Rain caught up to us, which slowed down the process even further, and we did end up doing two raps after all. That is not a trivial descent, and I would dispute the guidebook assertion that it is the easiest way to get off from routes such as Swanson's and Yellow Spur.
We were beat. Hiking back up to the base to look for the stoppers was just about all I could manage. But I did catch a few minutes of the famous Eldo Canyon sunset light, when the sun came down beneath the cloud cover but still above the high ranges to the West. The rocks really do glow in a unique way.
When all was said and done, we ended up going back to Laramie that night. Maja was quite surprised to find us in front of the door when she got back from work.