Climbing Log – 4/8/08 – Olive Oil (5.7)

After Constance left, I took a rest day on April 7 because my new partner would not arrive until the evening. I had a couple brief phone conversations beforehand with this new partner, Ted, and I was looking forward to his arrival. He had been traveling and climbing for a few weeks already and he was up to doing some moderate routes, which coincided with my goals. Moreover, he planed to stay in the area for a couple weeks, which meant if we developed a good partnership, I would not have to find new partners and I probably would be able to give Crimson Chrysalis another shot.

I spent most of my rest day in town; I did some laundry, bought some groceries, surfed a long while on the Internet, and had a refreshing shower!! It felt like my stay in Red Rocks was going to enter another brand new phase. This six sense appeared to be quite true. From a voice mail I received from Ted, I learned that his friends, Graham and Peter, were currently in the canyon and they happened to stay right next to my camp site. Right after I went back to the campsite after my luxurious Vegas side tour, I went ahead to greet them. What a surprise, they were the ones climbing Black Magic the day before and we already had a thorough conversation regarding desert weather on Lotta Balls Wall. I had to admit that the world was quite small. They offered me some deserts and hot drink, which injected a warm current into my body.

Ted arrived shortly after. I had to say the combination of Peter and Ted equals a never-ending story. They never ran out of topics, were always enthusiastic about people and affairs around the globe, and had a lot of life experience. I was very much intrigued by their story telling, as I grew up in a totally different region and never lived their eras. Graham seemed to be very mellow; he was always listening to his fellows actively and always displaying his comforting smile. I later learned that Graham had done much great alpine/rock climbing all over the place, no wonder I sensed reliability from him.

Ted and I agreed to do Olive Oil as our get-to-know-each-other climb. Olive Oil is an easy multi-pitch, and various guidebooks mark it as a must-do classic climb. The descent is a hike down, so we did not have to worry about the common and notorious rope-got-stuck issue in Red Rocks. The best thing is that the route gets much sun in the afternoon, and I was longing for warmer climbs.

On the way towards Rose Tower in which the route is located, I could see Crimson Chrysalis. I couldn’t help but detail my accident that happened not long ago and express my desire to finish the unfinished. Ted understood and responded with his willingness if our partnership turned out to be a positive one. We took our time hiking in and chatted quite a bit; at some point, we took an unexpected detour and had a snack break underneath a cool natural cave—that could be quite a nice emergency overnight site if necessary.

It took us a little longer to get to the base than that was estimated in the guidebook. At the base, some people left some warnings with chalk, such as “no bolts” and descent might be an issue and so on. We learned from the guidebook that in perhaps 2002, some unknown party added some bolts to the route; however, the bolts intruded the originality of the route so they might had be removed. It turned out there was in fact no bolts along the way, at least I did not find any. All the anchors we built were either pro anchors or natural anchors.

I started out leading the odd pitches; Ted the even ones. Since we couldn’t find any bolts we only loosely followed the topo and built an anchor to belay the follower when we found the best fit spot. The climb was not as good as expected, in my opinion; I felt that if a route is described as a classic, it should have offered a lot more. There were indeed some highlights: When I followed the second pitch, the finger and hand crack was beautiful, even though it was in fact a face climb; however, if one wants to practice some crack climbing, he could throw in some crack moves. There was a short section of chimney-like feature in the last pitch I led; since it was also a bit overhanging, the move required some commitment—short and sweet. The psychologically haunting part was the last section of the same pitch; it was a run out and I had to step on sketchy hollow flakes, and therefore I walked as careful as a cat.

During the climb, I was also looking across at a route locating in Jackrabbit Buttress, Northeast Face. It was the 8-pitch Aquarium (5.9). The line looked fun and seemed to contain many features, and the top must have sweet views. Only the first two pitches are 5.9s, and the rest is easy. However, the first 5.9 is a overhang and the second 5.9 is a 5.9 run out and the 5th pitch has some off-width 5.8. I had to be realistic so I jotted it down in my to-do list.

The hike down was kind of tedious. And because we had to hike down another gully, not the one leading to the base of the climb, we had to hike back up to gather our left-behind stuff. The approach and descent combined was much longer than the climb and I felt that the climb was not worth the effort; Ted agreed. If I were the author of the guidebooks, I would rate the climb as a 2-star rather than a 3. In any rate, Ted and I enjoyed each other’s company and we both felt confident that our team would grow to be a solid one.

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