Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Golden Cliffs with Eric

Last Saturday E and I hooked up for a little climbing down in Golden. The weather forecast looked decent for Saturday (sunny and mid 50's) so we planned on hitting Clear Creek again. There was some scheduling issues at first because Eric was supposed to cook for Tracey's parents on Saturday evening so we settled for an early start. Then Eric came down with a nasty cough. It was so bad that Tracey's parents canceled dinner! But did that deter Eric from climbing? No way! He called me Friday night and with a groggy voice routinely interrupted by fits of hacks, told me the good news. He could climb all day! So we angled for a more civilized meeting time of 9am at Noa Noa for some breakfast and java.

Saturday dawned clear and bright. I could tell it was going to be a good day on the rocks. Eric was a bit late for breakfast but made up for it by picking up the tab. He downed two burritos in the time it took me to finish a bagel. That boy is a machine. His cough was better and once fed, we were set to jet. We dumped the gear into his car and roared out to the canyon. Unfortunately, we weren't the only thing roaring through the canyon. We pulled into the pullout for our cliff and the car literally shook with the wind. We could see where we were planning on climbing and although it was sunny, we could see trees fighting to stay rooted. A couple climbers hopped out of the car in front of us in full puffy jackets with hoods and hopped around trying to stay warm while they loaded up. Eric looked at me and said "I only brought shorts" and then broke into a fit of coughs. I looked down at his legs to verify his story. He was not lying. We needed an alternate plan. We discussed heading to the Spot in Boulder (a bouldering gym) or a climbing gym in Denver but we ended up settling on checking out the Golden Cliffs instead.

The Golden Cliffs are a cliff band at the top of a big hill overlooking the town Golden and the Coors brewery. They face south and literally cook in the sun. I had climbed there a few times before but never had much fun. The rock always seemed kind of strange. But it looked warm and out of the wind. With the help of the internet (iPhone!!) we found the parking lot, which was already nearly full. Apparently we were not the only ones looking for warm rock. Looking up at the cliffs we could see many groups either already up there or making their way slowly up the long hill.

Packs were quickly thrown on after stripping down to t-shirts and sandals and an uphill slog ensued. It passed quickly because we had plenty to talk about and before we knew it, we were at the base of a cliff already crawling with other climbers. With no guide book we just picked a route that looked good and racked up. Eric took first go and easily fired the first route of the day, after which I re-lead and cleaned it. We repeated this cycle all day. I was amazed at how liberating it was to climb without a guide book. We just climbed whatever looked fun. Fortunately, the Golden Cliffs are packed with routes. Throughout the day we climbed about 8 routes and didn't wander more that 50 yards from where we started.

The weather was to die for, especially considering it was January. Sunny and still. I spent half of the day without a shirt on and got my first sunburn of the year. By the time lunch rolled around the crag was packed with your typical sport climbing scene. People and dog everywhere. Someone had a banjo. All the stereotypes were represented. The 10-year old leading routes that were too hard for me. The guy yelling beta for every move. The couple completely outfitted with all the latest and most expensive gear, all of it shiny, new and matching. Regardless, the vibe was fun and festive. Everybody was there to climb and have a good time.

Around 4 the clouds started to build, the temps began to fall, and I was feeling worked. I could tell Eric was feeling it too so we bagged one more route (which turned out to be the best one of the day) and headed down. I ended up only taking one picture that day. Mostly because the climbing wasn't very picture worthy. Here is a shot as we were packing up to head down.

Eric dropped me off back at the truck and we parted ways, both feel exhausted. It was a great day of relaxed climbing with an old friend and no guide book. And the rock was much better than I remembered. Excellent!

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