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Big Crimpin’ in CO

Mark Heal on The Dali, V9

On Monday, the 9th of August, Garrett Koeppicus and I were speeding towards LaGuardia Airport. The cab driver was doing 95 miles an hour on the freeway—we tipped him well. After a quick layover in Atlanta for Ben & Jerry’s, our AirTrans flight landed in Denver. We jumped in the car and headed to Estes Park.

The hike up to Rocky Mountain National Park was epic. Like all New Yorkers, I am accustomed to sea-level, so hiking at 11,000 feet was tough. Garrett and I were feeling the mild effects of the elevation, but nothing compared to when my friend Paul Jung was there. He suffered from terrible elevation-induced headaches. What a loser.

We spent the day wandering around, climbing on problems that looked cool. More specifically, we tried Gang Bang, the hardest V8 in the world. Neither of us was successful. After hours of climbing, we trundled back down the trail waiting with the throngs of tourists for the shuttle back to the lower car parks. That night, we were lucky enough to get the last space in the Bear Lake Campground inside RMNP.

After a few days of bouldering at RMNP, we were ready for a well-deserved rest day. We spent the day driving to Mount Evans in Idaho Springs, an hour west of Denver. That night Garrett made us delicious burritos for dinner. After the burritos settled, we started off on the frustrating hour and a half hike into Area Aof Mount Evans. That night, asleep on my crash pad, we were fortunate enough to witness a spectacular meteor shower.

I was psyched to climb at Mount Evans. I had been looking forward to climbing there. Mount Evans had a few classic problems on which I wanted to climb. Garrett and I ran around, scanning the area to see which boulders we wanted to try. We warmed up on The Ladder, an extremely classic V2, and Timeline, a great V3. After these two, we were at a loss for mid-level problems to work on, so we could gear up for The Dali, V9. Our best bet was to jump right on. Two years ago, I had little luck with this problem—I could not master the second move. This trip, I was able to do it second try, keeping my foot on for the large move. Garrett also sent easily.

After that, I began to work on Clear Blue Skies, V12, a typical Colorado crimp ladder. I was quite successful, doing all the moves but one on my first go. Knowing I had another day to climb, as my skin started to hurt, I called it a day. Garrett tried a few other problems and we hiked out.

The next day we decided to climb at the cool new area, Wolverine Land, at Mount Evans. The hike in to Wolverine Land is easy, a 1,500 feet near vertical descent. At the bottom lies Lincoln Lake. We reached the talus and started hopping around, searching for Unshackled, V10 which is the It problem in Colorado right now. We found it by following the screams and yells, which came from the crowd surrounding it. Right by the problem, there is a large, flat rock nicknamed The Beach. We relaxed on The Beach, trying to recover from the elevation. When we felt ready, we put our shoes on and jumped in line behind every other psyched crimper in Colorado. The problem was greasy, and it was hot out—I’m just making excuses, I didn’t send. Garrett, however, crushed the crimpy section, and used his knees for the topout. Our skin was thrashed. We considered trying other problems, but decided we should get started on the hike out instead. We scrambled up the hill, breathing heavily the entire time. Back to the car at 12,800 feet. We laid there and recovered by eating salt and vinegar chips.

We spent that night in a pullout on the side of the road. Garrett set the car alarm off at 3 a.m. We woke up late and headed to town. We found a café with WiFi and spent some hours playing chess. In a few days time, it was my last dayat Mount Evans, before I traveled south to visit my parents. All I wanted to climb was Clear Blue Skies. Temps were bad. I fell off the last move three times, a move I originally did first try. At 77 degrees, it was just too hot to climb and my skin was totally wrecked. I gave up and hung out with Garrett while he climbed All Dogs Go to Evans, V9. By this point, we had hiked so much that we were over it. We relieved to be hiking out for the last time.

That night we stayed with my good friend Gabi Masse. When we arrived, in typical Boulder fashion, seven out of nine of the people there had climbed V12 and harder. They spent the evening gossiping about stupid Boulder drama. The following day, I guest-routeset at The Spot. Their walls have great angles, and I had fun hanging out with those guys. I set three problems, all of which they thought were pretty cool. I had a good session at The Spot with Gabi and Spot setter Garrett Gregor. This was the end of the climbing portion of my trip, and I proceeded to head south. All in all, the scenery in Colorado is fantastic, but the climbing areas we ventured to lacked problems in the V4 to V8 range. The majority of the problems were somewhat generic, still fun but not particularly interesting. After the great grade debate, we were ready to return to the Northeast, where walking along the Gunks carriage road is very easy.

The Dojo Wall at The Spot