Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Queen Creek Canyon

For the long MLK weekend we ventured east for warm temps and to visit a new climbing area. Rebecca, one of my friend's from Bucknell, was visiting Phoenix for work and a climbing trip was born. We picked her up from the airport on Friday night after driving over from San Diego. Highway 8 is pretty desolate and we ran out of gas since the only service station in 80 miles was closed. We almost made it to the next one but ran out of gas just 10 miles short.
A night in Phoneix meant an hour drive in the morning to the crag. When we arrived at the parking lot at 10am it was bitterly cold and windy. The crag could be seen, 200 feet above the road, on the side of the canyon. The cliffs were all south facing and were baking in the sun which was quite a bit warmer than the shady parking lot. We had chosen Queen Creek for this exact reason and it worked out perfectly.
A quick hike up the trail and some 3rd class yielded access to the climbing. We were the fourth group at the crag and that number quickly grew throughout the day. The weather was perfect and you could easily wear T-shirts when you were climbing.
The rock was a type of tuff that is formed out of solidified ash. The climbing was mainly vertical with lots of small pockets and crimps. There was not a lot of chalk on the routes which made finding the next hold a constant challenge.

Kyle, Rebecca, Lizzy and I had a ton of fun on the routes before lunch and had a few routes mostly to ourselves. We went around the corner to some longer routes and found quite the crowd of people. We ate lunch and waited for climbs to become free. Kyle, my climbing partner from SD, did a short climb and established a self belay on a pedestal so that he could take pictures of the nearby routes. The climb in the picture above was the coolest we did all trip. At 11b it had thin technical climbing up a seam to a good rest followed by a bit of easy climbing which led to the technical crux. A zig-zag traverse and then a bit of thin pocket pulling brought one to the anchors. The group climbing this route before us was a talented group of women accompanied by John Sherman. I had no idea that he sport climbed but he floated up this route. He also taught me that Guiness only has 10 calories per ounce, amazing right? Lizzy, enjoying the slabby small hold climbing this route offered, flashed the route which was her second of the grade. Kyle, in the photo above, and I also flashed the route with each of the three of us using different beta for both cruxes. Our second day we went to investigate the Looner crags in the Mine area. The climbs were on worse rock and were sparsely bolted. If you weren't near a crux there was no bolt. The climbing was still fun even though it was not as cool as the previous day.
In preparation for her upcoming visit to Red Rocks, Rebecca lead a bunch of routes this trip. It was great to see her really push her limits on lead. She was climbing really strong and excelled on the sharp end.
While Queen Creek is not a destination climbing area it was fun to be able to climb in such great weather in the winter time. Perhaps if we are visit phoenix again in the winter we will drop by.


1 comment:

Climbing Narcissist said...

Cool pictures, especially the one of the 11b. I really liked that one.