[warning: this part of the report is climbing-intensive!]
July 13th - Vedauwoo: Day 1
Indy awoke to the bright high plains sun beating down on his tent; got warm in there damned quick! Indy rapidly dressed and tumbled out. Within half an hour the rest of camp was up. Several decisions had to be made: did they want to break and move camp to somewhere else that night (due to the proximity of neighbors), what would the group be climbing, where would they be climbing, and most importantly, what was going to be for breakfast!?
The ultimate decisions were: move camp, climb vertical-type stuff, go to the Nautilus Rock, and Ilana would fix the group pancakes she promised for this trip in the morrow; everyone had to fend for themselves. Indy went out and hunted down a small velociraptor and cooked it on his little campstove.
After breakfast and breaking camp, the group tarried no longer, and headed to The Nautilus. At the parking lot they geared up, and headed in, the long jumble of granite boulders and outcroppings rising out of the flat desert-like plains of Wyoming before them. The rocks induced various comments from those of the group.
"Looks sharp; glad I have my kneepads"
"Looks hard; glad I have my elbowpads"
"I'm toast; I forgot to bring extra tape"
For indeed the rock of Vedauwoo (which, by the way, is pronounced 'vee-da-voo' and is Arapaho for 'Earthborn Spirit') is comprised of a very coarse, 60-grit sandpaper granite, that will shred skin (and muscle, and bone, and...), unless either proper precautions are taken, or you have mutantly tough skin. Indy, having been here a couple times in the past, has experienced this incredibly sharp rock. And completely forgetting his brief stint in the boy scouts so many decades (or millenia) ago, totally spaced picking up any protective athletic tape to wrap his fingers and hands in. Bummer...
The group scrambled up to the base of the climbs themselves, where Indy pointed out Long's Peak sticking up over the horizon to the south (you can see The Dove snowfield fairly easily, and on a very clear day, and/or maybe with optical aid, you can pick out The Diamond). Their first stop was at the Practice Slab, which sports two 5.5 bolted face routes: Etude for the Left Hand and Etude for the Right Hand. It was decided that Indy and the Valkyrie would take on the Etudes. Tony and Mike would move around the corner and tackle something called Petite Tarsalation, and the Cliff Swallow and Britt would dance on Slat (of the Slit, Slat, Slut fame). Indy studied the rock above while the rest moved on to their respective routes.
"Please," said the Valkyrie, "feel free to take the first lead."
Indy thought for a moment and said, "Okay!"
Indy studied Etude for the Right Hand, and counted about 5 bolts, and no other pro on the route. Indy also noted that while the Tome of Vedauwoo Knowledge claimed Etude for the Left Hand was also bolted, no bolts were evident whatsoever.
"We can always top-rope that one," said Indy. The Valkyrie nodded.
Indy tied in, the Valkyrie put him on belay, and off Indy went! And very quickly got stuck. In fact, he didn't even get off the ground. "Gah!!" stated Indy, "The crux is right here!"
Indy re-thought how he would attack this route, stepped up, reached for a nubbin, and...pulled himself onto the rock. A couple more moves and Indy was at the first bolt. A few minutes later Indy was at the rap-anchor chains at the top of the slab. "Yep, the crux was getting off the ground," called down Indy. The Valkyrie lowered him down and prepared to give this same route a go herself.
The Valkyrie, needless to say, climbed with much more grace and style than Indy did, although she tried not to do so to make the poor flatlander feel better. After she was done, the two of them quickly top-roped the boltless Etude for the Left Hand, and then retrieved their rope. Other climbers had arrived and wanted their turn at the Etudes. Indy and the Valkyrie moved on to rejoin the rest of their group.
The Cliff Swallow was playing on Slat when Indy and the Valkyrie arrived. They watched as the Cliff Swallow danced her way up the route; at times she seemed to just float past the rock, and all in all seemed to be having a grand ol' time of it.
The Britt-man, however, wasn't under this restriction, as he was done belaying the Cliff Swallow. A few well-fired stones taught the little ground squirrel some lessons in caution (and whose food he could and could not eat).
Once Indy and the Valkyrie finished, they rejoined everyone again at the base of Slat. Mike and Tony were in the process of doing Slat, while the Cliff Swallow, Britt and the Valkyrie worked on a top-rope problem, Ejector Rejector. Indy played National Geographic Photographer.
Ejector Rejector is best set up as a top-rope, as it is a pretty much unprotectable route. It's not terribly long, maybe being 20-30 feet, but it gets in your face almost right from the word 'go'. You have to work this rounded lay-back flake that gets okay for a couple moves before becoming really difficult to handle. Very strenuous.
About halfway up the route Indy found himself at the second crux. "Be sure not to put any protection in your next handhold," cautioned Britt. Indy nodded, looked up to a likely spot, and slotted a cam unit. Once he clipped the rope, Indy tried to move on - only to discover that the bloody cam unit was slotted in exactly the handhold Indy needed to get past the hard section. Indy grumbled to himself a bit. Britt chuckled (apparently everyone else did the same thing). Indy finally, through total lack of grace and subtlety, worked a way through that section that left much to be desired for balance and beauty. From there he sidled over the jumbly boulder-like things, and cruised up the slab.
Up and over the slab section Indy set up a belay, and called down to Britt to prepare to come up. A decidedly female voice replied she was ready to climb. Indy blinked. Now, either the rocks have altered Britt's voice through the echos (an unusual rock characteristic Indy had never heard of before) or Britt done went and had a major super-fast gender-alteration operation performed. Whichever it was, Indy began to belay.
In a few minutes the Valkyrie's head popped around the corner, and the rest of her soon followed. "Ah!" exclaimed Indy, "that explains it."
"Explains what?" asked the Valkyrie, "And if you say I'm Britt with a sex-change operation, I will slot you into an off-width so fast your head will spin."
Indy said nothing.
The two made their way back around The Nautilus and to the group, where they found everyone playing on Folded, Spindled, and Mutilated, another 5.10a route next to Slat.
"What?" said the Valkyrie, feigning innocence, "See? No blood..."
After everyone had their fill on Folded... it was Indy's turn. So he gave it a go. But flailed mightily (now either Indy is still exhausted from all the running around he's been doing the past few days, the altitude (Vedauwoo is at 8200'+) is still getting to him, the route was harder than 5.10a by a lot, or Indy was still just a flatlander gumby climber). He eventually worked through the bottom section (with much verbal abuse heaped on the rock and himself) and found the 'shower handle' hold. Indy's not entirely sure why it's called a 'shower handle', since any shower handle's he's ever held didn't feel like this, but...it was an awsome hold, to be sure! After he got past this section Indy squired, wriggled, and whaled his way through the second crux, and somehow flopped himself up into the flaring slot above. He took his beat up body and went to the anchors to finish off.
At this point the Cliff Swallow and Britt sauntered off to visit a 2-pitch 5.6 route; the rest of the gang played on Ejector Rejector. Mike decided to decline, saving himself for better things. Indy was voted to be the last one to go, and then take down the anchors.
To make a long epic short, Indy had to have the Valkyrie haul his sorry butt up Ejector.... And thus Indy gave the word 'dogging' an enhanced definition. In shame, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safemode for the remainder of the weekend.
"I can't believe he works with my data," thought the Hubble Telescope, "I am sooooo embarassed..."
After this, a quick break back to the cars for recuperation and rest, and then off for...more climbing!
The group ended up going to Walt's Wall. The Valkyrie and Cliff Swallow decided to make short work of Edward's Crack (which was rated 5.6 the last time Indy was here a couple years back, but now for some reason has been upgraded to 5.7). Mike and Tony decided to go look at some routes around the corner, leaving Britt and Indy to play on Friction Slide to Walt's Wall Route to Jake's Variation. Friction Slide proved to be a fun little 5.8 friction route that got dicey-thin for a few moves before jumping onto easier ground. Here the two picked up the second pitch of Walt's Wall Route, and wandered up high. Britt took the last lead on Jake's Variation, which turned out to be a thinly-protected face climb. A couple of spaciously-placed bolts, then..."It's a prairie up here!" shouted down Britt. Indy soon found out that basically after the second bolt there was no protection. Big-time run-out.
Once they were done here, Britt and Indy set up a long top-rope to cover the second pitch of Satterfield's Crack and the Bolder Exit variation.
Then there's Satterfield's Crack, and the Bolder Exit variation. What can I say? Satterfield's Crack, the upper 2/3 of the route, is a left-facing corner with a wide, partially off-width crack that goes pretty much up the main face. The crack itself gets wider and wider and wider until it becomes a chimney. And it keeps getting wider, until you reach a chockstone boulder near the top. Satterfield's Crack, which is 5.8, then goes inside the chimney and pushes through a hole to the right to the top. The Bolder Exit actually finishes climbing the chimney to the chockstone boulder, then out left into space and around the boulder. Bolder Exit is every bit a 5.9.
Britt attacked Satterfield's Crack in a different manner: instead of armbars and fistjams, he went up layback style. And when he hit the chimney, he opted to stem it, and make it look a lot easier than what Indy saw it to be! This also allowed Britt to enter the Bolder Exit variation differently than Indy, and pull through it smoothly. Once he was done, he came back down, and the two finished by rapping off. By now the Cliff Swallow and Valkyrie were coming down, and Mike and Tony rejoined the group from below.
As a last climb for the day Britt left the final rappel set up as a top-rope so anyone who wanted could jump on Mantle Route. Only he, Indy, and Cliff Swallow gave it a go; the rest were content in their activities for the day.
Once camp was set, the Cliff Swallow, Britt, Mike, and Indy gathered in the VanAgain for pre-dinner drinks, while the Valkyrie and Tony wandered out into the desert to see what the Weather God was doing. Soon they, too, joined everyone in the VanAgain and everyone had dinner. In the meantime the Weather God decided to start wide-spread pounding of the region. The radio station (with it's hip country music, turned on to add 'color' to the group's enviroment) stated a tornado had been spotted north of Cheyenne, and the whole region was under a tornado warning. 'Joy,' Indy thought, 'the Weather God hasn't beat on me much; now he's going to send tornados my way...'
As the group ate dinner, Indy passed out briefly. Finally, as darkness fell, with the skies filled with a blanket of swirling threatening clouds, Indy worked his way up the hill and back to his tent. He crawled in and rapidly fell asleep. The last sounds he thought he heard were snippits of voices in the wind...
July 14th - Vedauwoo: Day 2
Indy awoke to sunshine the next morning, beating on his tent. He painfully extricated himself from his tent (he was a sore boy) and stepped out, marvelling at how wet everything was. "Boy, heavy dew overnight!" he said to no one in particular.
The plans for the day were to go climbing, then return to Colorado, so Indy took down his tent and packed. As he was draping his tent and fly over rocks to dry in the morning sun, he noticed that the Valkyrie and Tony's tent was a couple hundred yards downhill from where they originally set it up. They were stirring themselves, so Indy went to find out how they got down there.
"Oh, our tent blew away during dinner last night," replied the Valkyrie, "with all our stuff in it, including flashlights. We were wandering around all over last night looking for it."
That explained the voices in the wind.
"Then it started raining, and stormed pretty hard most of the night"
That explained why everything was soaked; Indy was amazed he never heard the storm as it came through. Indy musta been one tired puppy.
After a great breakfast of Cliff Swallow pancakes, the group engaged in much discussion as to where to go. After proposing and rejecting many options, it was settled they would go back in time...to Jurassic Park. The group geared up and headed out (packing extra shock-sticks to keep the dinosaurs off while they climbed). There was some concern about finding Jurassic Park, as they talked to some other people who tried finding it the day before, but failed. Maybe it really didn't exist? But the group decided to give it a shot.
From the parking lot Indy took point (everyone else hung back in case a hungry dinosaur decided to slip from Jurassic Park; it would get Indy first) and headed down the path. The only creature he came across was a snake crossing the path immediately before him. It was a small snake, and decided Indy was too large a meal to try swallowing, so slithered off to the beaver ponds.
The Cliff Swallow commented this trail was too easy to get to a crag. It was flat; every crag/climb she's walked to has been up hill. Not flat like this.
Indy at first mistook Poland Hill for something other than what it was, but quickly got reoriented again (with a little help from the Cliff Swallow) and in a short stretch found the small, faint sidetrail leading right up a hill. Everyone else paused, staring after the rapidly disappearing Indy.
"Where are you going??"
"Does he know where he's going?"
"What's for dinner??"
"Dunno, but the trail goes up, and that usually means climbing!"
The group followed Indy at a distance (for if indeed this led to Jurassic Park, dinosaurs would definitely abound, and...well, while Indy isn't much of a meal, he'd be a good distracting snack so the others could bolt if necessary).
Indy wound his way up to...Jurassic Pass. And spread out in the valley before him was...Jurassic Park Proper (as opposed to the improper Jurassic Park area). It was a hauntingly eerie place. Looked very prehistoric. Isolated. Awesome. Any moment Indy expected a dinosaur to move in the trees below (and eyed out some high ground escape routes just in case). A few moments later the group arrived. "Ooooo!"
The group made their way down into the valley, and began studying the rock walls for orientation and to decided what they were going to set up to climb. And discovered that that they were not alone: there were at least a dozen other climbers (in one or two groups) setting up ropes on some of the routes they wanted to climb. Bummer.
The way up wasn't readily apparent, so Indy and Britt scouted out ways to the top of the cliff (relatively easy ways, that is). They found something, and Britt returned to the group to gather gear. He and Mike went topside to set up the anchors. The rest of the group convened at the base of the rocks.
With 6 people in Indy's group, and everyone averaging about 4 or so climbs in the course of the day, a lot of climbing was done all total. They only had 2 ropes dropped down, to cover 3 different routes, one with a number of variants. The Cliff Swallow and Britt taped up again (the rock here, like everywhere else in Vedauwoo, is majorly coarse and sharp skin-shredding stuff). Indy borrowed enough tape from them to cover the backs of his hands (in order to attack Sore-O-Pod in the proper manner). He decided not to tape his fingers or anything else (in order to save the diminishing amount of tape for anyone else who wanted to tape up).
Sore-O-Pod is a full-on in-your-face solid handjamming 5.8 route. It starts out right away from the ground as hand jams, and doesn't really let up until you finish on a ledge near the top. About halfway up the crack widens to become offwidthy, but this can be gotten around without doing offwidth technique (most folks in the group went to work the awkward face on the left; the Valkyrie opted to stem through it in awesome style). This route, more than any other climbed this weekend, required that your hands be taped to some degree. At the very least the palms and backs of your hands. This was no gurly-mon climb; this was a hardcore 5.8 handjam route.
First Iteration is a bolted 5.10a face route to the left of Sore-O-Pod. Both can be done on the same top-rope. FI requires that you work up a right-facing corner formed by the main wall and a huge boulder next to it. Awkward. Then when you can 'comfortably' do so, jump onto the main face and go up. On thin stuff. Tiny in places. Smaller in others. Near the top the wall actually pushes out and overhangs a bit. Once here you're to the far left. You step on a three-tiered dinky footledge (with nothing for handholds whatsoever!). You have to take these foot ledges one at a time, as to try and skip a step or two really screws with your balance in a Bad Way (remember, you have no handholds). You then s-t-r-e-t-c-h to the right and grip a dinky tiny small micro-crystal with the tip of a finger, and maybe also a thumb if your hand is small enough, then s--t--r--e--t--c--h w--a--y to the right with your right foot onto another dinky, tiny, micro-crystal. This is your next foothold after the three-tiered 'ledge' system (which you want to be standing on with your left foot as far right as you possibly can!). Then, on these utterly insignificant crystals (which no doubt will break off one day), you rock your weight right and stand. Easier said than done. Then up a move or two to the same ledge shared with the near-top of Sore-O-Pod. A cool route, and solid 5.10a.
CC Left is actually a 5.9 variant to Crichton's Crack which goes at 5.11c (ugh!). The start for both is the same: you worm your way up this shallow, flairing crack formed in a right-facing corner of the main wall and a bulging section below. Once you've scraped enough skin and clothing off doing this, you're on a slabby section that takes you to two opposing corners. The best way to go up this second section is to stem it - which is actually a very cool move here. Zip-zip-zip and you find yourself in a blocky area with huge flakey protrusions. You work your way around these things to the fourth and final section (the third being the aforementioned blocky stuff). You work your way up the corner and crack as is best for you: some find opposing laybacks the way to go, others (Indy) found handjams (avoiding the first layback) and a layback the way to do it. The anchors here are actually huge rap-bolts set in the upper lip of the wall.
Alternate ways up CC Left are significantly harder. Between CC Left and Sore-O-Pod is a line of bolts that does not appear in the latest Vedauwoo guidebook. You can start on this route (pretty funky, but reasonably straightforward; just requires some good arm-strength) then angle right over a sketchy and thin slabby section to reach CC Left. Then finish as normal. Alternately one could attempt the 'nose' arete between the 'official' CC Left/Crichton's Crack start and the bolted line to the left. This is probably the hardest variation, and goes easily at 5.10 (5.10 what isn't quite known; 5.10a, 5.10a/b, 5.10b maybe). You pull yourself up on tight and sharp holds, then desperately clinging to what you can, reach right around the corner to a r-o-u-n-d 'flake'. Pull yourself around the corner using palm-friction and then work your way up the ramp, ultimately reaching the same slabby section previously mentioned. Then up to the top
An alternate finish to CC Left would be to work the right side of the blocky flakey section, up a sweet and awesome flake until higher jugs can be reached. Some people just haul themselves up and through the jugs, but to make it even sweeter, nicer, easier, and more graceful, once you get the jugs, throw a right heelhook around the flake and...voila'! Work your way up and left to the anchors.
Once the group finished beating themselves up on the 3 routes and variants (plus the Valkyrie and Mike went off at one point to do a lead up a slightly easier route in the neighborhood), everyone packed up and headed out. Once back at the cars they stripped of their gear, piled into their vehicles, and blasted back for Colorado, stopping briefly in Fort Collins for dinner at Rio Grande. Then back to Boulder where everyone drifted their seperate ways. The Valkyrie kindly let the over-exhausted Indy crash in her guest bedroom/den for the night.
July 15th - The Plans Change...
Indy awoke from a good night's sleep, said farewell to the Valkyrie, and headed back to Fort Collins, and to the Sherpa-Poe's place. There he checked with the local outdoor shops about snow conditions up in the Winds (heavy snow still being reported) and unpacked to reorganize for the next leg of his trip. In two days he was supposed to meet Cro-Magnon Man and his SO (both whom hail from Maryland and whom Indy has climbed with before) up in Pinedale to tackle Gannett Peak, the highest (and one of the more remote) mountain in Wyoming. There he hoped to find more clues to the Ark - if not the Ark itself!
As Indy was in the middle of taking over Sherpa-Poe's garage again (but intended to un-take it over before Sherpa-Poe got home from work that evening!), a phone call came - it wsa Cro-Magnon Man. And he was down here in Fort Collins!
"We ain't going back!!!" cried the distraught grunt from the other end of the phone, "It's EEEEEVIL!!!!!"
"What is?" inquired Indy.
"We'll be right over and tell you; this is too much for a phone," said Cro-Magnon Man, who then hung up.
Thirty minutes later Cro-Magnon Man and his SO drove up in their bug-covered truck. They stumbled out, looking like hell.
"What happened to you guys?!?" asked Indy
"Eet was the mo-SKEE-toes!!" Cro-Magnon and SO cried out in unison, "They came from outta nowhere! There weren't clouds of them. There weren't swarms of them. There were WALLS OF THEM!"
Cro-Magnon showed Indy the innumerable mosquito bite that covered exposed portions of his body. "We went in fully armored. Had The Clothing, had 100% DEET, and had the latest in Porbiscii-Resistant Netting - NOTHING WORKED! They went right through our clothing like a hot knife through butter. They ignored any DEET we applied - and they ate the Probiscii-Resistant Netting! They were MUTANT MOSQUITOS!!!"
Indy tried to calm the two down.
"And to top it off," mentioned Cro-Magnon Man offhandedly, "once you get back a few miles into the Winds, the snow becomes waist deep. It's 25 miles back to that mountain!"
Indy nodded, understanding. Gannett would not be done this trip. The three of them talked a while longer, and decided to meet in Boulder in the morning, when they would go climbing on something local to there. Cro-Magnon and SO drove off in search of a campsite, and Indy went back to reorganizing his mess.
"What do to...what to do..." muttered Indy. Then...a flash. He remembered the Mt Elbert search, and the cryptic hiker he had met. "'Seek The Potato', he had said...The Potato...The..of course! Idaho!!"
Indy dashed inside and quickly called Caver-Dude, an old friend and ex-coworker of Indy's. "Dude," said Indy, "What are you doing thursday?"
"You coming out here? Cool!" was the enthusiastic reply.
"How'd ya like to help me search for clues to the Ark?"
"How'd you like to go do Borah Peak?"
"Hello?" said Indy, "Hello?? Hello??"
Indy went back out and finished repacking. Later that afternoon he dashed back down to Boulder, to meet up once again with the Valkyrie, and meet for the first time Capt Field, a Full Thrust player who has participated in several of Indy's PBeM B5 scenarios. And to attend the Valkyrie's hosted sci-fi night (which she holds almost every monday evening to show SF movies or shows). Indy brought some Babylon 5 tapes and the group (which consisted of several more people than already mentioned) availed themselves of some season 1 episodes. After a couple of these were shown, Indy headed back to Fort Collins once again.
After returning to Sherpa-Poe's abode, Indy was browsing through Sherpa-Poe's library and discovered several dusty and faded tomes on ancient religious cultures and histories. Randomly flipping through the pages of one book, Indy made a heart-sinking discovery. There was not one Ark - there were FIVE Arks!! (the other four being quietly left out of popular historical recountings)
"Wonderful," groaned Indy, "I've not one elusive Ark to search for, but five of them! Three of which hadn't been heard of before by anyone else..."
Indy retired for the evening, dreaming of Arks leaping over flooded fences...