Holcomb Valley


Spring is finally here.  Flowers are blooming, Jasmine’s allergies are raging, and it’s Holcomb Valley climbing season.  Unfortunately, Zane appears to suffer from the same histamine response as his mom.  I spent the morning playing in the weeds with the little guy, and the rest of the day wiping snot from his nose.

Zane plays in the weeds

Zane plays in the weeds

The last time we climbed at Holcomb (November) it was cold and windy.  Last week, Joey and I made a day trip to check things out, and the weather was perfect.  We spent most of the day at the Stone Wall, where we tackled some challenging routes like Vertical Epic (10a), Old Guardian (10b/c), and Arrogant Bastard (11a).  I left with a couple of new onsights, and a very sore hand.  While Joey was racking up to lead Psychedelic Sluice, I tried bounce-testing a OO Metolius Mastercam in a small seam, just a few feet off the ground.  It popped unexpectedly, sending me flying backwards and into a jumble of pointy rocks.  I stupidly reached out with my left hand to stop myself, and tore something at the base of my index finger.  Jasmine insisted that I go to the doctor for an x-ray, and I insisted that if I can get the onsight on Claim Jumper (10a) with a bum hand, it must not be broken.  It was quite swollen the next day, and continues to bother me.

Fawnskin Fire

Fawnskin Fire on 4-21-13

As Joey and I were leaving, a police officer stopped us and alerted us to the fact that they were evacuating all of Holcomb Valley.  Later, I learned that an abandoned campfire had started the blaze near Polique Canyon Road.  We snapped some pictures from the highway, after putting some distance between ourselves and the fire.

Broken hand?

Swollen hand

I was a little worried that Holcomb would be closed this weekend, but the firefighters contained the blaze and re-opened the roads mid-week.  Like the previous Sunday, it was sunny and warm, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.  I drove up on Friday morning with Kori and Anthony, who were able to get the day off from work.  The rest of the group would meet us there in the evening.

Kori & Anthony

Kori & Anthony, getting comfortable outdoors

We spent most of Friday ticking the moderates on Motherload Rock.  I showed Kori how to safely clean an anchor and rappel on Wildrose (5.6), and then she TR’d Fun Police (5.6) and cleaned/rapped down by herself (with a fireman’s belay).  We worked on lead belay technique and Anthony took his first stab at climbing crack, following me on Psychedelic Sluice (5.6).  We found a neat-looking roof problem called Powder Keg (5.10a/b) and I decided to give it a shot, even though I was a nervous about taking a whipper onto a newbie belayer.  I couldn’t commit to the crux moves on my first go, and unfortunately fell at the second bolt below the roof.  I made it on my second attempt, and promised myself that I would return the following day for the redpoint.

Jasmine & Anthony relaxing on Skyy Slab

Jasmine & Anthony relaxing below Skyy Slab

Campground fun

Campground fun

Jasmine, Steve and and Nadia drove up that evening to meet us.  I expected them to arrive no later than 8:00, so I started to worry when the clock ticked past 9:00.  I curtailed my consumption of alcohol and by 10:20, decided to drive back to Fawnskin to see if they were lost or had left me a message.  No more than 10 minutes down the hill and we passed each other, confirming my theory that it’s always wise to just relax and drink more beer.



Meaty goodness

Meaty goodness


Kori’s bourbon and cheese-stuffed Jalapenos


Kori pulls the old “almost fall in the fire” prank (again)

The search for more bolted moderates led us to Skyy Slab the following morning.  I knew that Nadia and Kori were interested in going for their first leads, and figured that a short 5.6 would be appropriate.  I led Naughty Pine (5.6) and then set up a TR so that they could get comfortable on the route.  Nadia did a mock lead on TR, and I gave her just enough slack to keep things interesting.

After working through the moves, both girls felt ready and they ticked their first lead climbs in good style.  Nadia backclipped every single bolt and it wasn’t until she reached the anchor that I realized that I had threaded my Gri Gri backwards, but c’est la vie.  Just kidding.

Jasmine on Skyy Slab

Jasmine on Skyy Slab, Holcomb Valley Pinnacles


Kori at the start of Naughty Pine (5.6)

Kori leading Naughty Pine (5.6)

Kori, looking relaxed on her first lead

Nadia on Naughty Pine

Nadia approaching the anchor on her first lead climb

I scrambled down the hill to try a trickier gear lead called Rotgut (5.9), which allowed us to then TR an adjacent route called Here’s Mud in Your Eye (5.10b).  Neither were particularly noteworthy, I’m afraid.

Jasmine spent most of the day perched on a big, flat rock, as she is often wont to do.  She had to get some studying done for her upcoming urogyn boards, but did manage to get a quick climb in.

Jasmine on Naughty Pine

Jasmine on Naughty Pine


Jasmine & Jason

We left Jasmine on her rock and went in search of Powder Keg, the route that I had hang-dogged the previous day.  I was determined to get it clean.

Nadia on Powder Keg

Nadia makes a big reach on Powder Keg

Jason cutting loose

Jason cutting loose below the roof

Slab to the top

Easier slab to the top

Having already worked through the moves, I knew what to expect and the roof didn’t seem nearly as daunting as before.  Precise footwork over slippery slab below the roof is almost certainly the crux of this climb.  I climbed it clean and set up a TR so that everyone else could give it a shot.  We eventually discovered that starting from the right was easier, but pulling the roof proved too difficult for everyone except Steve, who was able to conquer the problem by summoning his inner boulderer.  Like a nesting Russian doll, Steve possesses many, many, talented former selves.  His long distance hiking self is actually really inspiring, and only 18″ tall.  I’ve only heard tales of his high school wrestling self, who must be really tiny.

Kori sequence

Kori’s sequence

Anthony's sequence

Anthony’s sequence and his first attempt at 10a

Anthony did better than I expected, and I was impressed that he gave it 100% and came so close to pulling the roof.  The rope got caught behind a horn (clearly visible in the picture above) and this impeded his upward progress.  I think he had a legit shot at finishing the climb, and I’m sure he will return to tick the route one day.

Steve pulls the roof

Steve pulls the roof



Gallery of all the images to follow…





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