1200 miles later...
Trip Start Aug 31, 2010
20Trip End Jan 04, 2011
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Where I stayed
Sand Gulch campsite at Shelf Road
We went to a crag called 'Chocolate Factory' and after struggling on some hard routes, saw a ridiculously hard corner that's in a photo in the Red River Gorge guidebook. However, somebody must have done some serious cleaning before Steve McClure climbed it, because when we were there, it was covered in massive spider webs from bottom to top - quite spectacular!
We did loads of great climbing, although Amanda started running out of easier routes, but Darrell was in his element. He redpointed another 11d, and then a 12a, which is only about the 4th time he's been successful at that grade, so he was very pleased with himself.
We'd had days and days of sunshine, but on Sunday 3rd October, it turned quite a bit colder and wetter. We had decided to have a rest day anyway, but ended up spending most of the morning talking to Linda (as in Lago Linda), because Amanda made the mistake of asking her why she came to America from Liverpool.... Eventually, we got away and went to see the Natural Bridge, a few miles up the road. It's an amazing rock bridge - it looks too perfectly manufactured to be real. To get up to it, we opted for the skylift - a chair lift - and then hiked down past incredible rock formations.
We were at Lago Linda's for just over two weeks and loved it. Apart from the lovely setting and the good facilities, there was such a great vibe. It was mainly climbers there, and everybody was really friendly, chatting and sharing beta (ie. info on climbing routes, for you non-climbers). And Linda herself was great - it's not often you camp somewhere and get big hugs from the proprietor when you're leaving.
So, on Tuesday 5th October we hit the road for the 1200 mile journey to Colorado. First, we went to Lexington airport to sign a new car rental contract (that's another long story - suffice it to say we sorted it out).
On Thursday 7th October, we set off early for Denver. Only in America could the sat nav (Garmin GPS) lady tell you to "drive 441 miles on I-70". We discovered that Kansas is as boring as people had warned us! However, despite the boredom, we eventually reached Denver and stayed in a motel for the 3rd night running - we could easily become accustomed to it. We also went and did some grocery shopping - significant because we were salivating as we walked up and down the aisles looking at REAL FOOD, not just the additive laden junk in the supermarkets in eastern Kentucky.
Unfortunately, after 3 days of glorious weather while we were driving across middle America, once we got to Boulder, Colorado (where we wanted to climb) the weather turned cold again. Then we discovered that there's nowhere at all to camp in Boulder, so we ended up camping about 20 miles away at St Vrain state park, only a few hundred metres from an interstate highway. We got lulled to sleep by the sound of highway traffic!
Saturday the 9th dawned sunny again, so we went back into Boulder to climb the Third Flatiron. The Flatirons are these massive slabs of granite overlooking the city of Boulder. They've got some easy multi-pitch routes, so we did one that's about 800 feet long. The climbing was no problem, and the 3 rappels (abseils) down went OK, but then somehow we missed the descent trail and ended up scrambling and slithering down an unpleasant gully (plus a rappel of a dodgy dead tree) until we finally got onto a proper trail again. Quite an expedition!
The rain set in again with a vengeance on Saturday night and we had to pack the tent up in the rain on Sunday morning. However, now we're in another beautiful place - Shelf Road climbing area, in southern Colorado. The camping doesn't have any water at all, but it does have a vault toilet and it's only $4 a night for both of us. The views of the crags and mountains are spectacular - and it's very, very quiet at night. We do need to bring in all the water we'll need, but we've been able to have a shower at the Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City (30 minutes away) for a donation. We had a great day climbing yesterday in the sunshine, but today it’s pouring with rain and only 55 degrees. However, by Thursday it’s supposed to be sunny and 79 degrees again. Despite the changeable weather, we think we’re going to like it here!