Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tiki Part 2

Since climbing Tiki Tower a couple weeks ago I've talked to Jeff a bit about the first ascent.  In November 1991 Jeff Widen, Mitch Allen, Paul Frank and Fred Lifton all hiked up to Tiki Tower to climb it.  Paul and Fred stayed at the saddle on top of the first pitch while Mitch and Jeff pushed the route two more pitches to the summit.  The stance on top of pitch two isn't very large so Paul and Fred were likely waiting below until they could jug a line to the summit.  The last pitch however is a bolt ladder, so by the time Jeff topped out it was well past dark as he remembers.  Mitch cleaned the pitch and met Jeff on the summit.  Paul and Fred likely cold from sitting in the saddle for hours wanted nothing but to rappel to the ground and warm up.
The tower itself is named after a small tiki that Mitch brought all the way to the summit.  Jeff and I were looking through his slides from the trip and were disappointed that he didn't have any photos of the actual tiki.
Fast forward a week, to a phone call from Brad.  Every week Brad hosts a monday night bouldering session at his home wall in Three Rivers, CA.  A new climber recently moved to the area and came to the bouldering session last monday night, his name is Mitch.  Brad and Mitch ended up bullshitting about climbing and Mitch says that he climbed a desert tower years ago.  An obscure one named Tiki Tower!  Turns out the Mitch is Mitch Allen and he still has the tiki 24 years later.  What a small world.
Tiki Tower's namesake.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Grand Gulch Spire

I've had my eye on Grand Gulch Spire for years.  This summer I actually planned the trip to Grand Gulch, but last minute decided to climb the Popes Nose instead, since it was 100+ degrees in the desert.  Even though the first ascent was in June, I decided that it would be better to climb the tower in late fall when things were cooler.  Especially since I wanted to approach the tower via a 10 mile hike from Collins Spring as opposed to the .5 mile walk from the San Juan River.  Most people raft down the San Juan and pull over at Grand Gulch to climb the tower.  Logistically rafting is more complicated for me since I don't own a raft.
Water falls in Grand Gulch
Geoff did some research by calling the BLM office in the area to get current conditions on the road into Collins Spring.  They told him that the road was basically impassible and that there was a giant rock slide so the river wasn't accessible from above.  We decided that we would just hike farther and carry all of our water with us.  Luckily we found the road to be dry and although a little rough here and there Geoff thought he could have gotten his Subaru to the TH.  I left the TH with 7 liters of water and Geoff had 8.  Funnily enough there was a ton of flowing water in Grand Gulch, pot holes full of water, and the rock slide was easily crossed.
Pitch 4 traverse
Summit! Luckily no headlamps were needed.
We got to the base of the the tower with enough light that we decided to do the route that evening.  We started climbing at about 2pm and were back on the ground around 5pm.  The route was wide, a little dirty, and chossy in spots but to be expected on a tower that doesn't get climbed that often.  We slept right at the base of the route and in the morning went down to check out the river.  We had walked 10 miles and could see the San Juan River from the tower, we figured we might as well go down to it.  After that we started the long hike back to the truck.  Our legs were feeling the miles from the day before and although our packs were lighter than the hike in, they were still heavy.  It's hard to go light when the rack is a double set through #5 and one #6.
Grand Gulch Spire
Once again, not surprisingly, Geoff and I had a great time adventuring in an amazing area!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tiki Tower

I asked Jeff the other day what I should do on a free day I had, he responded, "solo a tower!"  When pressed as to which one I should solo he responded, "do Tiki Tower!" Jeff Widen put up the first ascent of Tiki Tower in 1991 and it hasn't that many ascents in the past 24 years so it's not surprising he would suggest it.  
Jeff's hand drawn topo.
I left for Tiki at around 8pm, after a day of sport climbing at Golf Wall and margs and mexican food.  I arrived at my camp spot at the Lathrop Trail at 2:30am.  I don't mind a little four wheeling but I'd forgotten how long it takes to drive anywhere on the White Rim!
Airport Tower on the left. Tiki is hard to see on the right of the spiky ridge.
I woke at 7:30 and started to slowly pack the gear I'd tossed into the back of the truck the night before.  The hiking went fast and I was at the base just over 30 minutes after setting out. 
A proud shot of Tiki Tower.
As expected the route was a little dirty and loose here and there but all in all was a great time.  There was brand new tat at the anchor on top of the first pitch but whom ever replaced it seemed to have not made it to the top since the cord on the summit was in bad repair.  

On top of Tiki with Airport Tower in the background.
 I turned on my phone to take a few photos on the summit and was surprised to find that I had great service.  So I spent the next hour enjoying the views and texting friends and family.  Eventually I got cold and decided it was time to head down.
Great route Jeff!

Check out Tiki Part 2 here

Oklahoma Climbers Gathering

Matt has been talking for years about how amazing the climbing in Oklahoma is.  I decided that it was time to find out if this claim had any backing.  I mean it's freaking Oklahoma!

The first stop was The Narrows in The Wichita Wildlife Reserve.  It was a humid day but Matt put me on the classics.  The highlight for me being a route called Arial Anticipation.  Arial Anticipation is out of character for the area, with steep, well protected climbing.  It was a nice mental break from the heady climbing we'd done during the day.  
Ben, Matt and Chase on top of Snakes Head. 
The next day the weather report forecasted rain, so we hung out in Starbucks in Lawton until it cleared then went for a jog up Mt. Scott.  On the third day we planned on cragging at Crab Eyes and Lost Dome.  After a few trad pitches in Testarossas at Crab Eyes and watching Tony Mayas rope solo everything at Lost Dome I was ready to call it a day.  Lost Dome looked to have some good climbing but unfortunately my stoke was low.

Next up we headed to a place called Quartz Mountain for the Bi-annual climbers gathering.  We arrived just before dusk and ran up Snakes Head, an easy 5th class free solo.  It was nice to move over some terrain quickly.  Snakes Head is hard enough to feel like climbing and easy enough to not worry about falling.
Ben on Wild Child
People trickled in all evening and by the time we woke the parking lot was packed.  Matt showed me a bunch of great runout slab routes which were mentally challenging but fun.  The highlight being a route called Last of the Good Guys.
Honestly, more than the climbing I was super impressed with the climbing community in Oklahoma.  Twice a year they have a climbing gathering where everyone gets together to party, hang out and climb.  Even though the climbing community is small and people are coming from everywhere from Kansas to Texas it appears as if everyone that climbs in OK knows each other.  Compare that to Durango where there is a more concentrated population of climbers but many of them don't know each other.  I've been climbing in Durango for 13 years and don't feel like I know all of the long time locals.  All in all I'm really  impressed with the stoke that Oklahoma climbers have for their local crags.  Big thanks to Matt for showing me around is old stomping grounds!
Matt and I cooking dinner.  Photo by Carl Zoch