An adventure to the City of Rocks: Thee olde climbee partee


An adventure to the City of Rocks

So for various reasons, Sarah had a week off of work.  

I was going to take Wednesday off work anyways, to observe Yom Kippur.  

I have a job that allows me to take some time off…

So, I took Monday and Tuesday off as well, and we climbed rocks!  This section is a quick note about the camping we did at City of Rocks, in Idaho.  It was my first time in Idaho, so I was kind of excited to see the territory…




Saturday, 19-Sept

  • Pure Pleasure – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah.  Fun intro climb for City of Rocks, gave me a starting idea for what the rock would be like… and how tough the routes would be.  Hint – they’re not easy.

Sunday, 20-Sept

  • Juniper Jam – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Ben.  Ohh man, this route was fun.  Solid crack climbing, with one or two interesting face moves.  Hard for a 5.6, but reminded me a lot of good Joshua Tree climbing.
  • J-tronix (new climb) – Trad, 5.5??? – Led by Ben.  This route, named after Sarah’s dog Jasper, was a route that we led up to help a guy climbing nearby (named Nigel, from England, who was climbing on Solid-Stem cams) who had left some gear on the route.  Really fun… if a bit wonky.
  • Pizza – Top Rope, 5.4 – Led by Sarah.  Pizza was going to the pizza place nearby to get pizza.  We then ate the pizza.  While doing an uber heel hook.  Upside down.  Climbing.  Yes.
  • Intruding Dike – Trad, 5.7 – Led by Ben.  A fun route, with some interesting face moves.  Not too run out or sketchy, but just interesting enough.
  • Breezeway – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah.  This was our summit line, where we finished up on top of the rock outcropping and posed in front of the sunset.  Like the bosses that we are/were.

Monday, 21-Sept

  • Morning Glory Spire.  Skyline route – Trad, 5.8 – Led by Ben.  Holy crap.  This route.  Ohh man.  Long, but broken up into distinct sections.  Tough… but always possible (if you’re willing to throw for a sketchy hold).  Beautiful views throughout.  This was, by far, my favorite route at City of Rocks.  It goes up the side of a huge spire that stands guard at a break in the larger cliff faces, summiting on top of the rock and looking out over the whole of the park.
    The climbing though… ohh man.  I’ll remember this route for years.  It started out with a semi-clean crack, requiring a bit of route finding to make sure that I didn’t dead-end myself in a blank face.  Then it transitioned to a brutal flake system, with a single move through an undercling that… I just… yeah.  Terrifying.
    Then it moved up through another vertical crack system, full of jams and tricams, until the “dinner plates” section – a 25ft runout (aka a section without protection) of extremely easy climbing.  Then – the summit.
    The only bad part about the route was the people climbing after us… they basically chased Sarah up the rock, even after repeated reminders that, should Sarah slip or accidentally knock a rock lose, they’d be smashed off the rock.  Nope.  They just kept up right behind her, and then tried to use the same anchor that I had built once they caught up to us.  I gave them a stern talking-to, after informing him that he could not use my anchor.  Because I wasn’t willing to risk my life, and my partners life, to a random person who wouldn’t be bothered to wait 10 minutes for us to clean out of the route.
    People.  Guh.
  • Norma’s Book – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah.  Ben – “Ohh, I thought it was called “Nora’s book!”  Sarah – “I don’t care.  It’s still called ‘stupid book’ in my mind”.
    This route was… well, here’s the thing.  We did it in two pitches, and we found more rats & rat nests than pitches.  Yep.  3 rats nests along the route.  Not including cacti, sticks, and other gross & annoying detrius.  This route was not fun.  Zero Stars, would not recommend.
  • Colombian Crack – Trad, 5.7, Led by Ben.  This route was super fun, right up until the part where it became annoying and terrifying.
    Colombian Crack starts out as a perfect hand-crack.  Good jams, interesting face moves, and just enough exposure to make it interesting.  Solid protection, but sparse enough that it still makes for a challenge.
    As I mentioned, right up until the part where it becomes annoying and terrifying… Which is 120ft up, with 30ft left to go.  When the crack widens, and becomes what’s called a “flaring off-width”… which is to say, a crack that’s too big to jam your hands/feet into, but not big enough to fit your whole body into.  And flaring, which means that you can’t place any protection into it.  So… 30ft of unprotected climbing, up a crack that’s nearly impossible to hold onto.
    I pretended that I was a train, and trucked on through.  Sarah did the same.  We rappelled off, and made good food and drank good scotch to forget the terror.

Tuesday, 22-Sept

  • Theater of Shadows – Sport, 5.6 – 4 pitches, led by… Ben, Sarah, Ben, Sarah.  Beautiful.  Amazing.  Great Views.  These are phrases that people would use to describe this route.  And those people would be 100% correct.  It was stellar, and amazing, and a GREAT warm-down from Norma’s book and Colombian Crack.  The views.  Ohh man.  And it was warm, thanks to the sun toasting down on us.  And it ended with a long rappel, free-hanging.  Beautiful.
  • Juniper Jam – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah, then re-led by Ben.  This… well, we ran into trouble.  It involved a lost cam, a lot nut tool, a second lost nut tool, a lost sling, and a second lost sling.
    I won’t tell the story here.  It was long and ridiculous and unpleasant.  But, if anyone finds a purple 0.5 Camalot C4, with a nut tool still trapped against the trigger wire, and two slings somehow magically wrapped around the damn stem…
    Keep it.  The damn thing is cursed.  It must be.

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