This is a personal log of what I did for my 64th birthday challenge. It is mainly for my own record so it may be a bit wordy and have a few more photos than some would want but I hope you enjoy. It's my time to spray a little for the old guys. You youngsters can climb 5.10 all day long but it is hard for us old guys.
Click on the pictures to see the full size.
I had big plans for my 64th birthday challenge. My goal is always to try to make it a bit harder than the year before and we had already booked flights so we could climb in Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper Arkansas. Original plan was to try to climb 64 routes 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell style (2 laps per route) and limit the grade to 5.9 and harder. Besides my wife, Natalie, Reed James and David Thompson had agreed to help support by cleaning routes after my laps and help with the belaying. The weather looked iffy but we were optimistic.
Reed picked us up in Springfield Thursday evening and we could see that the weather was not cooperating. The forecast was for rain for our entire weekend so the plan changed. Now I had to just try to get in 64 routes between bouts of rain. Fingers crossed, we decided to start the challenge one day early and maybe get everything done on Friday, even though it was a day before my birthday. Friday morning brought rain. We headed to the ranch and would try to make the best of it. Since most of the ranch's routes were wet and the humidity was at 97-100% I decided to allow more than two laps but to limit my climbs to 5.10b and above, if possible. So the rules were now:
All routes on lead
Nothing below 5.10b
6 laps allowed on 5.10c
4 laps allowed on 5.10b
infinite laps allowed on 5.10d
Ready to start with my faithful belayer, and wife, Natalie.
Lap #1 - Learning to Fly 5.10c
I got a huge flash pump on the first lap dealing with a wet clipping hold at the anchors.
Oh, did I mention it was HOT and HUMID??
Nat used her Belaggles to help save her neck while belaying all day.
SWEATING and only the forth lap!!
Reed showed us his skillz on a 5.11c slab/roof problem right next to my route.
Reed takes a victory whip from the top!
Next up was Jihad at 5.10c
Nat took a break from belaying to do a lap on Jihad
With only two routes in the bag, my sweat was saturating my shoes. It wasn't long before they were totally soaked and squishy.
By the time I got to Log, 5.10c, I was dripping. Check out my shorts in this picture. It had not rained. My sweat was causing my belayer and photographers to dodge the drips that were raining down on them. Pretty gross, I know. But, the weather caused us to make hay while the sun was shining.
Then it rained!
The effects of the rain can be seen behind the crew. Left to right are David Thompson, Natalie, Melissa Jones, and Reed James.
When the rain let up, most routes were running water. But one route remained nice and dry.
Port Side 5.10d was next. It was a real challenge at this point.
Reed took some laps to get the beta for the 24 hour comp.
Natalie gets her lap in with style.
David took a try too.
Torrential rain came again so we decided to bail and try to finish on my real birthday if the weather cooperated.
First day totals.
5.10b - 2
5.10c - 28
5.10d - 2
I had followed my rules and climbed on 7 different routes and was half way done with 32 leads in the bag.
The soaked support crew after day one. THANKS GANG!
No respect. This horse walked right in front of us and then turned and gave Reed the dirtiest look you can imagine!
On to Low Gap diner for an great dinner of pasta, chicken, and sweets.
The desert was to die for!!
The rain continued but we decided to figure out our strategy in the morning. Meanwhile Reed had a great surprise for us. BIG GUNS.
Birthday: more rain overnight and the forecast was for rain both today and Sunday when we had to leave. It was going to be a different kind of challenge to get this done - plan B, plan C, .... plan Z. I will climb 64 routes.
The routes that were dry after the rain yesterday were now wet. I adjusted the rules to allow me to finish before the next rain arrived. I would allow 10 laps on 5.10c and 8 laps on 5.10b and unlimited on 5.10d. This would still put me over what I had done last year as far as grades and lap count. We headed back to where we left off on Friday with hopes of finishing the laps on Titanic and adding a few more on some I had already done. Jihad, Learning to Fly, and Log were running water at the crux or at the top so we worked on Titanic and a 5.10b on Doomsday Wall. We were on our own on Saturday so not many pictures. Most of the laps were on things started the day before, Port Side, Tyler's BDay, TNC Forever and Cracked Rib.
Stick clipping was part of the process.
This one was a requests from my wife.
After a bloody kneebar on my first lap of The Apophis Crater, I fashioned a makeshift knee pad but ended up doing the crux a different way and didn't need it.
So stylish. This may catch on in Boulder!
We were out of climbable routes in this area so we headed to the North Forty in hopes of finding one of the 5.10b's or 5.10c's dry enough to climb. More Better - waterfall, Count Chalkula - wet, Crimp Scampi - wet up top but a last resort at this point. Zeke's Didge Dance, 5.10b was dry but also was very powerful for me. I sucked it up and made the big throw 8 times.
I now only needed 4 more laps. So we headed to Land Beyond to the Tember Wall. Great, dry routes. I started up Tembertantrum 5.10b and above the second bolt, notice a wasp. On closer inspection, there were a lot of wasps. Their little hole-homes were between my face and the third bolt. I took the whip and used the stick clip to retrieve the draws. I started up Sendtember but couldn't remember the beta and backed off. I was pretty toasted. So, we moved around the corner to finish on Panty Moth Invasion, 5.10b. On the second lap, my wet shoe slipped on the crux just above the first bolt and I took to the air. Natalie was attentive and kept be 2 feet off the deck. It's not a challenge if it's easy! I refocused and finished to job.
Ready to finish this thing!
Above the crux and relieved.
DONE, DONE, DONE!
Reed fixed us some juicy, tender, awesome steaks for dinner and a bunch of great Arkansas climbers and spouses came over to help celebrate by drinking some alcohol with us. I didn't get many pictures of the party though. Sorry!
But I did get some of Reed, his beautiful girlfriend Melissa, and his sweet kids, Savanna and Reed Jr (Bubba)
Aren't they cute?
Chad Watkins and Bo Kipling (sorry I forgot the other name) Two of these guys skinny dipped in the raging creek below Reed's house. Only in Arkansas. (out of our view thankfully)
Chris Rost and Michelle
Dave Thompson and Kylie
One more day to climb. Of course the weather was the best of the weekend but it was going to be a shorter day since we had a plane to catch in Springfield later. This was a day for Natalie to get to climb with the crew while I loafed around like a slug and took pictures. Port Side got schooled by Natalie, Reed, Chad Watkins and Bo Kipling.
Nat warms up on a 5.8
Warm up before Port Side
Time to move onto hard trad. Reed was itching to show me Tattooed Lady Direct, a 5.11a trad route.
Crack master prepping.
Floating the first crux.
Nails the dyno even with wet foot holds.
Chad walked it so fast I could get in position for good pictures.
I was a bit tired to lead but was excited to get on a top rope.
I had to hang at the first crux fist jam.
Another hang at the real crux then I at least got to the top.
Beta for Nat, who is really getting the hang of hand jamming.
When you have a choice to jam or layback what would Natalie do?
Bo Kipling took a shot at a flash attempt after Chad devilishly pulled the top rope down. Valiant effort with a whip on a green alien.
And then the rains came AGAIN. We had enough and were ready to head to the airport.
I can't thank Reed James enough for all his transportation, hospitality, logistics. You name it, he had it covered in spades and was always cheerful and helpful in every way. Thanks again buddy. Also big thanks to Melissa for her invaluable help and for David Thompson for aiding with the climbing on Friday. Finally, no words can describe my thanks to my wife Natalie that makes all this possible by sacrificing her climbing so I can reach my goal. Thanks love.
The final tally in the order they were climbed each day:
Learning to Fly
The Apophis Crater
Zeke's Didge Dance
Panty Moth Invasion
Comparing my 63rd challenge to my 64th