On October 06, 2013 Alexa Flower and I climbed Center Route on Cynical Pinnacle in South Platte, Colorado.
It was SPECTACULAR! So spectacular that I thought it deserved a post. Why? Well, first of all, I don’t typically climb with other girls or women. I tend to like climbing with guys because they are tougher on me, they don’t take or make shit, they don’t bail as easily on climbs, and I generally just get along with them more. But in this story I go climbing with Alexa, a girl. Big move for me. And second of all, it was awesome.
I was introduced to Alexa a few months ago. We both belonged to this online Facebook group, GOYA (aka Get Off Your Ass). A mutual friend in the group mentioned that we should meet. He said we might get along because we both love climbing and both typically climb only with other guys. Well, it doesn’t usually work out. For me to climb with other women, that is. But I’m always open to the idea, and frankly would love to find a badass girl cohort for scaling rocks. Well, I think ultimately I may have found her….but it wouldn’t be for roughly another five months until we actually had out first climb together.
That first climb was Cynical Pinnacle’s Center Route — and though it was SPECTACULAR, it wasn’t all easy….
The morning was bumpy. We forgot tape, and struggled to find a place that sold climbing tape at 8am on a Sunday morning. We also stopped once for coffee, once to pee, and twice missed our turn. Eventually we arrived at the base of Cynical Pinnacle — a beautiful pinkish granite rock that sticks out from the tree tops on the top of a small mountain. Our psych was still high. We packed our heavy, trad bags and walked down the road about 100 meters to the approach trail. The approach is a slightly-heinous one hour trek up loose gravel led us to the base of the climb. Once we got there, huffing and puffing from the approach, there were already two parties in front of us.
“Bummer,” we said, and set our packs down and waited. It would be another 2.5 hours before we actually started climbing. But all was well. The sun was shining, it was warm. We were in a little alcove that protected us from the wind, and the guys that climbing right above us turned out to be super friendly.
I took the first lead, even though at first I said I wouldn’t. It had been a few months since I led trad and I was nervous! But for whatever reason, when I saw the guy in the party directly ahead of us lead that first pitch, I felt like I could totally do it. Alexa handed me the gear. I geared up up and hauled my ass up that first pitch, fairly proudly. Woo! Alexa came up next. We hung out at the first belay — an anchor built on a small ledge. Alexa led the second pitch, which is the crux. It’s am incredibly sustained hand crack for roughly 80 feet, with two very obvious cruxes. But she’s a boss. She dipped her hands in her chalk bag, and climbed that thing better than any of the guys we’d been watching all morning.
With beads of sweat coming off my face, I met Alexa at the second belay, an uncomfortable perch, aptly nicknamed the “bird poop belay” because it’s covered in slippery bird crap. We stood there and looked at each other, both knowing that the third and final pitch was looming. This was supposed to be the wide part. Mountain Project called for a #4 Camalot — way bigger than fists for us both. We both didn’t want to lead it. We both hate wide crack.
“I really think you should do it,” Alexa said. My heart pounded.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
Even though it scares the crap out of me sometimes, I love trad climbing. I love the nerves, I love the spice, I love the adrenaline. And in this case, Alexa had just crushed the second pitch. It was my turn.
I headed out of the tiny alcove, shaking a bit. I accidentally, but unavoidably, stepped on Alexa’s head a couple of times as I worked into a small chimney and out in the land of wide crack. A few desperate minutes later — or was it an hour?! — I was at the top. Had sent that shit. Yeah!
I was literally ecstatic. That may have been the most challenging trad climb I’ve ever done. So sustained. My body hurt as I belayed Alexa up. We were psyched. We rapped down psyched. We walked/ran/fell down the trail to the cars psyched. We had a road soda psyched. We went to dinner psyched. I went to bed psyched. And I even woke up psyched.
I was psyched on the climb, on my personal lead climbing, but more importantly I was psyched that maybe I’d found a girl climbing partner.
I thought, I’d better write some of this down. So here it is.