Monday, April 16, 2007


Well, we're sitting at Oak Flat campground, and it's pretty. Pretty wild too, with almost no road (we were grinding out on the "road" here, passing a Land Rover Discovery that turned back). The sun is just now dipping beneath the horizon, and the cooler air is moving over in small breezes. We've already set up the stove, eaten and packed it away again. The dogs have completely become accustomed to our mixing dogfood with gravy washings from the cans of chili or whatnot. They refuse to eat the (admittedly poor) dry food we bought for them. But, after a long day, they'll give in.

And what a long, great day it's been. Last night, we rolled into Phoenix, AZ from Joshua Tree. We rolled into Arizona and got to chat with an old acquaintance, Gary. He's been a good pal to my friend Cedric (mentioned in a prior post) over the years, and was really helpful on giving us bearings to choice climbing just outside the city. He wasn't kidding - we had a great time. We spent last night in a posh hotel and relaxed all night and morning. There's an Ironman competition going on this weekend (Sunday) and having arrived Friday night, we were greeted everywhere by thin-skinned hairless athletes. The guys especially looked gaunt, with deeply sunken cheeks. That’s a neat sport and I admire the physical capability those folks can build up. The competitive nature of it isn't for me though. I like climbing, where you battle your own capabilities with rock features testing you. Sometimes you're hot with your abilities, sometimes not, but never do I feel ranked in a long list of people.

After breakfast in bed, we drove out here and found it no problem. After a short hike down into a dry creek bed, we walked into a 20ft wide slot canyon, water carved from a canal built upstream by a local mining company. The rock faces were full of small ledges and holes, but overall followed a smooth rounded pattern. It was quite sharp and in many ways the face climbing reminded me of Smith Rock. However, this had no nubbins and more cracks (most horizontal) to play on.

We met some local climbers who were just scouting, and they gave us some starting lines to warm up. They felt good, like mid 8's with a harder move now and then. We had the place to ourselves, which was great for a weekend, and just scoped out a climb and then bargained for lead. I won all the leads, simply because Han didn't have the mojo today. Most of the climbs felt okay, without any being much sustained. Some had great stretches of roof moves, some with tiny hands. My last climb of the day went over this 8 foot curving roof, with a clip under the lip.

Both my feet fell out before I was able to regain the lip and throw a foot. Then, as I pulled, a bunch of rock burst under my hand, sending grapefruit-sized nuggets into the canyon. After that one fall, though, I made the anchor and felt great. Hanmi dodged all the big stuff, thankfully!

Hanmi had a fun adventure on a closeby climb. It had "full value" we kept saying, in that it had a bit of face, stemming, body-wide chimneying, and some overhang. All the climbs had something interesting. One had a run-out section where I thought it shouldn't, but then I found an awesome jug just at the top of one's reach at a particularly balancey move. It knocked the whole grade down and made the climb full of laughs. Not knowing any names, we talked of it being named "Faith" for that one move. We may have been influenced by the ridiculous number of Christian evangelical groups singing, babbling and handing shite out in Tempe the night before.

Malo had a good time as well, finding a little stinkbug to chase around. He decided to eat it, and of course it sprayed him full inside the mouth. He spit it out unharmed, then gagged and foamed for a while. I washed his mouth out and told him to lay down. He was a bit less inquisitive after that. Overall though, we're keeping a closer eye on them out here. We found a white scorpion while gathering wood and there's howling animals at night. So, after some extra food and a bit of cojoling, both doggies are snoring away in the tent as I write.

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