Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rock Lounge and Durango, CO

The Rock Lounge in Durango is an eclectic place that will fool you from the front side.  It doesn't look TALL enough to be a rock gym.  But once inside you quickly see that the building goes DOWN, making a second floor basement extending up to the main floor.

Rock Jim at The Rock Lounge
When we arrived on a Tuesday morning Kids Camp was going on (it is summer after all).  We listened a bit while the leader talked to the kids.  What a great day camp instructor.  He made sure all the kids were introduced and comfortable with each other, talked about some climbing goals (games maybe ;) and about a potential "outing" to the park later that day.  I am always impressed when I see or hear adults who KNOW how to talk to kids. These kids were lucky and their parent's money seemed very well spent.  

We peeked into the bouldering areas and the yoga room (looking out at the river walk on The Animas River that snakes through Durango) and talked with one of the owners (or the wife of ;) and were told that later in the day, hubby Marcus Garcia would be back and he'd have the beta we needed on how to get to climbing areas in town. NOTE:  She was not without excellent beta herself.  She helped us find our next stop by looking it up online and giving us directions.  We were looking for the Ska Brewery, and with her help, we drove right to it.

Our favorite beer of late has been Modus Hoperandi. Oh the HOPS! When we discovered it was brewed in Durango and we were GOING to Durango, it was a no-brainer.

Pizza and a Crowler.  YUM!
I love my 4" camp pad.
Lunch, which included 2 beers... and a short nap later ;) we had managed to kill enough time. 

We returned to The Rock Lounge around 4pm that afternoon.  This time the place was teaming with the climbing team, but they didn't mind company. Of course the youth of today's climbers always reminds us of how old we are getting.  Then again, we KNOW that we are staying young by even being there.
Looking Down at the trad climbing area.
So we climb on.  The roped climbing in the Rock Lounge is not too plentiful (and if you know ME, I like to be on the bottom end of the rope) but Jim got his fill of Bouldering and did his part belaying me on a couple of 5.7s and 5.8s.  Some of these routes go right over the windows.  Really.  Steel bars straddle the plexiglass windows and holds are placed onto the bars.  There's plenty of shoe rubber on the plexiglass so it must hold up fairly well.  It's just a little weird, climbing on the window.

After onlhy an hour we were done.  Maybe it was the altitude, or maybe those beers had a little more to do with it that we thought. The climbing team was finishing up their workouts and the owner Marcus was available to draw us a map to the area we were looking for.  He's actually working on a revised guide book to the areas, as his first one was out of print.  See Rock Gyms are always a great place to start.  We thought we'd buy a guide at the local outfitters, but they had none either.  Later in the week, we met up with a couple at X-Rock who had their own "well worn" copy of Marcus' first guide.  But for this trip, we found Durango routes on Mountain Project, and his hand drawn maps were a great help as we drove right to the East Animas Climbing and the Watch Crystal Wall.

For your reference: Off of 550 (the MAIN road through town) take 15th Street North - it goes Uphill and splits at Florida (go left)   fyi: Florida might be a state on the east coast, but this is FLO-Reeda to the locals.

Continue on FloRida as it snakes up the hill.  Watch for and Turn LEFT onto Hwy 250 (there's a light, and it's a sharp/weird left turn - so slow down) you then continue on 250 as it goes further up.  This road will cross 32nd Street (which btw is another route from/back to Main Street, further north)

Sign at East Animas Parking
The parking area for East Animas (or East "A") is a RIGHT turn, if you've followed my directions, but obviously toward the rock.. and the area is Marked with a sign but it's inside the parking area (ie: not on the road) So look at turn offs that are NOT driveways, and you'll find this sign (image on right)

The trail uphill is obvious and you go by a memorial marker, then over a bridge that crosses a small side creek and continue up, Up, UP... (when you reach the base of the rocks, you are likely right at Yellow Pages - a 5.6+ classic crack)

The approach is only a half mile or so, with good switchbacks but I was huffing and puffing when we got there anyway.  The altitude was not my friend that day (came up from nothing to 9,000 feet less than 24 hours earlier) and gravity was working harder against me than ever.

I can see our tent from here!
Interesting note: After we choose a campground (United Campgrounds - with showers and water) and then found the Rock Gym, drove up and out to the climbing areas, our camp site was exactly below (and across the valley) from the base of Yellow Pages, where we started. Oh if I could fly...

This 5.6? trad route is said to be an easy first lead. Wasn't going to be mine that day ;) and even on the friendly end of the rope, I found a couple of the moves harder than 5.6.  The first move alone would make a first time leader nervous, even if he or she had pre placed protection above.  But maybe I missed something.

Yellow Pages crack on
WatchCrystal Wall
Rock Jim (hubby) of course made it look easy and even though I was feeling the effects of the altitude, I followed and cleaned it.  A guide book would have saved us a lot of time however because I lowered down from the top of the climb and Jim rappelled, only to find out later that the gully just to our right, is the common down climb area.  No wonder the girls on what looked like Double Exposure Direct a 5.12+ were looking at us funny.  The easiest climb at on the Watch Crystal and we're rapping down to boot!

Storms rolled in later that day and if you know me, you know I HATE lightening when I'm climbing....who doesn't? So, with both the weather and the altitude pushing me we took a quick (obligatory) selfie and we made our way back to town.
First Durango Route - CHECK
 The next day we went bouldering, then drove to Historic Silverton, Co on the Million Dollar Highway.  It lived up to its name and then some.

With the monsoon storms getting earlier each day, we spent our last day bouldering and scoping out X-Rock and others in the area.  We found it toproped by a cute couple from WI, who incidentally were the ones with the well worn guide book. We watched for a while and decided to get come back later. But not to much later, the skies were turning darker and so we headed to the car to beat the storm..
X-Rock Pinnacle

...back to our tent.....OK OK we went to a bar to wait out the rain... but it was on the way back to our campsite and just seemed like more fun at the time.  We had plenty of time in the tent later that night to play Scrabble and because we United had WiFi, we were able to watch John Stewart and The Daily Show before going to sleep.  Or trying to sleep.  The WIND was relentless and one night snapped a tie down on the rain fly, and we were out in the rain doing the fix it thing!

All in All we found Durango, CO to be a pretty cool place to acclimate for a few days on the way to Telluride or Boulder.  Too bad we weren't on our way to Telluride or Boulder.  Too bad we had to go home.  A long weekend is all we will get until the dogs, cats, horses, chinchilla all move on the better places.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ape Index - Peoria, AZ

July may not be the best time to check out new Rock Gyms in Arizona and if not, Sunday at Noon is probably the worst time, but that's what we did anyway.

Sundays are usually our day at Focus (it brings out the OLD folks, and the kids are not up yet :) so we get the gym pretty much to ourselves.  But this week we headed over to the west side and met Steve Smelser at Ape Index in Peoria.  Rather "low key" from the outside, the inside is painted in bright colors and they have a 30' Roof wall in the image of the earth.  Climb from California to New York in the same day !!

We went online to get the address of the gym, and was immediately offered up a Groupon (not sure how I'd feel about that if I were Ape Index, because Groupon was right on top of them in the search results....selling discounts) so it looked like the daily rate was $20 with gear rental, but they had a $9.99 Groupon for one visit and another for three visits for $30.  So I bought the $30 Groupon thinking that we all 3 could use it that day.  BAD idea (though we didn't mind) it was for one person, 3 visits.  Steve had an old Climb Free coupon he won at a contest last year.  It was expired, but they honored it anyway (good people) and since we have our own gear, Jim got a better day rate.  Since I have the Groupon I can go back if I want (too bad it's way across town)

OK so how is the gym?
In need of a little upkeep I'd say, but it's fun to be in a new place. So I know it's humid these days, but the routes were marked with tape that was falling off, rolled up and or just plain hard to follow.  AND (here's one of my pet peeves) we don't like Brown tape right next to Drab Green, or Neon Pink next to Neon Orange (especially with bad lighting) Remember we are OLD... hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Additionally many of the walls are soft(?) so when you grab a hold the whole wall flexes and in a few places the sheet rock? was broken.  At least I'm talking about the Belay'd routes, so it's not so concerning when the holds flex and creak .