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Climbing: August 16-17, 2014 (Needles)

Photos: John nearly at the top of Yellow Brick Road, Monica’s flapper (2), Jay climbing up The Howling.

Sometimes you’re weak but you want to keep climbing and sometimes it’s a good idea to just power through. This time, powering through was the wrong answer. Previously at the Needles, I had thrutched my way through the offwidth section on Spooky in the Needles. I had pulled my bicep trying to layback and felt really weak after the climb. Despite this, I decided to climb anyway. John and I had heard from many climbers that Yellow Brick Road was a must-do route so we set out to do that. The route was a little difficult to find. After downclimbing a rather sketchy ~15 foot gully we hiked down towards the Wizard Needle, where the route is located. The start wasn’t obvious but there was a tree with a rappel anchor so John decided that we should rapp down. He went down first to look around for the start of the climb. It became obvious that we were in the wrong place. We ended up climbing, roped up, back up to the rappel anchor which was not an easy task. We basically did an additional pitch of climbing to get back up. The start of Yellow Brick Road was at the rappel anchor. Oopsy.

John started up the climb and linked the first two pitches up to a large ledge which was in full mid-day sun. I felt like I was burning up while belaying John up. I can’t say I was feeling that psyched. The previous pitch, beautiful as it was, left me sluggish and the intense sunlight wasn’t helping to perk me up.

John to looked to be easily climbing up and reached the summit without too much trouble. I started up the route, thankful, to be climbing instead of waiting in the sun. When I got the short roof section I was mentally and physically drained. I tried climbing the roof directly up a wide crack. I think it was a #4 BD Camalot size. I couldn’t get it so I tried to go around left, the way that John climbed up. As a follower, the rope kept pulling me up to the right. I thought I would stick a #2 and #1 into the horizontal crack so I could use it to aid through the roof. No such luck. I tried a few more times. The last time, I clipped a sling through the #2 cam to use it as an aider for my foot as I pulled on the #1 with my right hand. I think my left hand was in the crack as my right foot just dangled. I slipped violently and slammed into the right crack where the #4 was. I was a little shaken and then I looked down at my thigh which was covered in blood. I didn’t think I had hurt my leg so I thought that was weird. Then I saw that my right hand pinky was bleeding quite a bit. I wiped the blood on my pants and saw that my pinky was missing a decent chunk of skin. Oh dear. The blood was dripping from my finger onto the rock below. I wanted out of there.

I put away the #1 and #2 and tried to climb directly up in the wide crack. The adrenaline really helped me out and it felt easy to pull through and up. I met John at the top of the route and we scrambled to get out of there as quickly as we could, which was not quick at all. The descent off The Wizard Needle involved what we thought would be 4th class climbing.  (The Needles is a total 3D maze and sometimes requires going down and then up to get out.) It turned out to be a definite 5th class climb and we had to climb out. John lead and I followed and cleaned. We got a cam stuck, the very #2 cam that I used to try to aid out of the roof which was now stained with my blood. John rappelled down to retrieve the cam.

After that we still had to climb Spooky, again. Lucky for us we could communicate with Jay who set up a top rope from the top I could be dragged, if needed, up Spooky. I slapped a dinky little Band-Aid onto my right pinky and climbed up first. John followed quickly up. We could finally hike the 3 miles out to the trailhead where Jay’s truck was parked. We arrived at the trailhead in the dark and we still needed to drive a short distance back to the Quaking Aspen Campground. After eating some leftovers that our friends graciously offered us, I went to bed. I laid awake most of the night while my pinky throbbed.

I decided then to take a couple week off from climbing.



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