After the eventful climbing on Rocket Boy, I (perhaps subconsciously) switched my sights over to bolt protected mixed climbs. The next week, Ryan and I cruised up to a new age classic, the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is a fully bolted 4 pitch variation to the Hyalite test piece Winter Dance. It boasts awesome steep climbing in the most incredible position in the canyon. I got the send two years prior, but I followed the crux pitch and wanted to lead it this time.
P5 of Nutcracker
Descending w/ Winter Dance behind
Later that week, I cruised down to Cooke City with Sam and we established a sweet mixed route. The idea seemed a little crazy to me at first, but once we got through many layers of choss it started to come together. We were able to put up the 2 pitch route on lead, but aided through the majority of the difficult climbing. A week later we came back with fresh arms and both fired the crux pitch. Good times and an ode to a passed friend, Justin.
Sam on the send of P1
Rumors of rare climbs near Cody trickled through social media and soon Matt, Ryan and I were headed down to Wyoming. We dropped in to climb the wonderful flow of Leaning Tree, but were surprised to see tons of ice upstream. After looking around, we took off on a obvious new line to the left. It went in five progressively harder pitches, culminating with a sweet WI5+ curtain topout. We named this unexpected treat Moment's Notice.
The upper pitches of Moment's Notice
The next day we climbed in the South Fork of the Shoshone up Schoolhouse Creek.
Ryan cruising up Schoolhouse
A few days later, I was fortunate enough to be present for one of my best friend's proposal at the top of a nearby mountain. We snapped a few pictures, skied some of the best powder of the season, and followed it up with a thorough celebration that evening.
"Breakfast" at noon the day after
Cheyenne was scheduled to land in Las Vegas soon and with work petering out, I drove South towards the desert. I broke up the drive with a stop in Utah to climb an ice route in a slot canyon (checking things off the bucket list!).
P4 of a route outside Cedar City, Utah
Cheyenne and I got a couple great days of sport climbing in, ticking off a few classics in the area. On one day, we climbed a route called Saracen and another called the Sound of Power. Both clocked in at the same grade, but neither of us could do each other's route. I guess we have different preferences...
Unknown climber trying The Gift
We also climbed a great multi-pitch on the Jet Stream wall called Drifting. Cheyenne doesn't really like this style, so she let me lead all of the pitches.
My uncle happened to be in town for a conference, so we took him out to Red Rock for a quick climb before his flight. He showed up with a growler of beer, which was empty by noon...
Afterwards, we spent a few days resting in Vegas with the company of Cheyenne's mother, enjoying some of the normal tourist activities. We gambled, ate, drank, and enjoyed some shows. My eyes hurt from all of the neon lights.
Looking down Fremont St
The next stop was a place neither of us had been: Zion. We rolled in at dark and looked at the forecast, seeing that we had only one day of decent weather. Somehow I was able to coax Cheyenne into belaying me on an effort on the classic Moonlight Buttress.
We woke up early, but chose to snooze the alarm for a while when we felt how chilly it was. Crossing the river at 8 in the morning really emphasized the temperatures and left us feeling a little doubtful of the outcome for the day.
We got a lazy start an hour later and cruised up the first four pitches in rising temperatures. The warmth fueled us, but the six 5.12 pitches overhead was overwhelming. Cheyenne assured me that I'd cruise it all...
Cheyenne following the P3 traverse
The first difficult pitch went uneventfully and soon we were situated below the crux. I managed to motor up a thin layback (the crux) to difficult flare in the corner. I layed this back to an aid anchor and clipped the rope in. I tried to set a knee bar in the flare, but the pump was overwhelming and I squealed the forbidden phrase: "Takeeeeee!"
Sitting in my harness, I felt defeated and chalked up this ascent as a chance to check out the climb. No pressure now, I suppose... I got back on the rock and finished up the pitch, passing a rest only a few moves after where I hung on the rope.
P6, the crux of the route
The next few pitches were full of self doubt. When you didn't send a pitch low on a big free climb, you don't quite have the same motivation to keep it together up higher. It's like, either way you still didn't free it all, so whats the point of trying really hard?
Cheyenne battled up the beneath me and the thought of bailing lingered. When she reached the belay, however, she immediately pointed out that the hardest part was below us. Why not continue?
Eventually, I gained some more momentum as the pitches kept going down. Near the top, we ran into some folks rappelling the route and their cheers were encouraging enough to fight through the forearm cramping.
Photo courtesy of Nick and Kent, who kindly waited for us
On the final pitch, I ran into Mike, a friend from Bozeman, and he loaned me some nuts (as I must not have read the gear list correctly). The nuts were a little small, but necessary to protect the final 5.12.
Pumped out of my mind and extremely satisfied with a one-hang of Moonlight, I topped out to Mike and a bottle of whiskey 6 hours after leaving the ground. (Sorry, no photos!)
We rappelled uneventfully and cruised down to the river crossing. This time, it felt wonderful to soak my feet in the cold creek and stare up at Moonlight. Although I know I could have held it together for that one pitch, I'm still proud of my effort. If only the pressure of the pitches above hadn't gotten to me... That's the difficulty of onsights I suppose. I can't thank Cheyenne enough for going up there with me and for the encouragement from the folks we passed en route (and also the whiskey!).
Hiking out w/ views of The Great White Throne (L) and Angels Landing (R)
As one chapter ends, a new begins. Next up is a visit to the home turf, California, and a month of festering on a glacier up North. The difficulties of balancing life, love, and work carry on!