Typically, when a decent storm rolls into Colorado bringing snow, one would want to head for the slopes or backcountry for some powder turns. Well, Steve, Mike, and myself decided to head west to get out of the snow and onto some sandstone. It wasn’t looking too promising, but we pulled it off and got on some nice cracks and a tower to boot. However, it was indeed some chilly climbing (temps in high 30s at the warmest part of the day), especially in the shade and when the sun was not out. Our original plan was to head to the Fisher Towers to climb Ancient Art, but it is a teetering tower of mud and would not have been safe after a snowstorm (as it wouldn’t have dried properly) nor would have been good climbing karma to climb this tower so soon after it snowed. The harder sandstone near Grand Junction in Colorado National Monument was safer and in no way did we stand a chance of harming the rock.
Instead of driving to some trailhead in the dark and suffering through a cold night in the desert, the young Mike followed Steve and my lead and we all checked into the Comfort Inn in Fruita and had a comfortable night in a warm bed. Steve & Mike had never climbed Independence Monument, the 400′ free-standing tower in Colorado National Monument, via its moderate classic 5.9- route called Otto’s Route. I had climbed it twice, the first time with Jesse Hill and the second time with Kristine, and knew it well. The only issue with Otto’s Route was that the 1st three pitches were on the west side in the shade. It was to be very chilly on the fingers and toes. I was the 3rd wheel along for the ride taking pictures while Steve led pitches 1 and 4 and Mike took pitches 2 and 3. Finally, we got in the sun at the top of pitch 3 and it was a sunny and warmer pitch 4 and summit.
Two double rope rappels and we were down on the ground again around 1:30pm. We started hiking back down Monument Canyon and the high clouds rolled in and blocked the sun yet again. It got pretty chilly. Oh well, at least we had sun for the tower’s final pitch and summit. We wanted to go to the fun 120′ crack route called Wide Load (5.10) that I had climbed before, but a pair of climbers were on it. So, we bouldered around for 30 minutes waiting for them to finish up. Steve set up his phone and speakers to get the Broncos game. Climbing Wide Load seemed tougher than normal because of the cold but all good fun. However, listening to the Broncos game was not fun. Disappointing to say the least.
By 4:30pm, it was just too cold to stay out. Our fingers and toes were numb. We packed up and headed out to the trailhead. All in all, despite a less than favorable forecast, we made the most of our rock climbing weekend and got on some good stuff. I’m looking forward to hopefully another one or two winter trips to the desert.