Phil came up this weekend for another session of preparing for our trip to the Bighorns in July. Because we have the generous support of the American Alpine Club and The North Face via a Live Your Dream Grant, we want to make sure we have all of the details well-ironed before the trip starts. All this planning means we spend a good portion of the weekend discussing mundane details about food, fuel, and shelter - but at least we get to do this at the crag while climbing.
My right shoulder has been giving me some issues since I was in Joshua Tree, I'm guessing my repeated goes on Saturday Night Live might have had something to do with it. The Doc said it was not my rotator cuff and that a couple weeks of taking it easy would probably have me back to full-speed. I took this as reasonably good news and actually enjoyed my visit with Dr. Furukawa - it is nice to have a doc that understands the needs of an individual training for an event.
Saturday:Given the ailing shoulder an easy day was in order for Saturday, so Phil and I headed to the West Bluff to meet Matthew and John. Our first stop was the Wiessner Wall, where we setup an anchor and rappelled to the base. Then we pulled the rope, and I led the Wiessner Chimney (5.4), and then setup a pair of anchors on Wiessner's Ledge. We proceeded to setup shop on the ledge for a while, toproping and leading routes from the ledge. Several of us led Wiessner Face (5.7) - a close second in the running for best 5.7 at Devil's Lake. We all left the ledge by various means - I followed Johnny up the Upper Wiessner Crack (5.2) before we tore down the anchor and headed to other horizons.
A quick walk led us over to Cleo's Amphitheater where Johnny wanted to lead Queen's Throne (5.4) which is hands down the best 5.4 hand crack at Devil's Lake. I also wanted to lead King's Throne (5.6) but toproped it first because I had convinced myself (without consulting Mountain Project) that it was sketchy, run-out 5.8. It was just a little spicy (very borderline PG13), and I would not want it to be my first 5.6 lead, but it is far from sketchy, run-out 5.8.
After finishing up at Cleo's, we headed up the bluff to Lost Face. Johnny decided to split at this point because he was parked down the fire-road. So Phil, Matt and I setup an anchor and rappelled in. My shoulder was starting to bother me a little, and not wanting to push it too hard I took a toprope lap climbing Lost Face Finger Crack (5.7) into the right side of Lost Face Overhangs I & II (5.8). Matt and Phil climbed a few times and I finished up with a TR lap on Lost Face (5.6) proper.
We walked down to the cars in perfect light as the shadow of the West Bluff slowly made its way up the East Bluff. A beautiful end to an amazing day of climbing.
Sunday morning was a slightly lazy morning, and Phil and I decided to head to Hillbilly Hollow for some sandstone sport climbing. Neither of us was in the mood to push too hard, at least when we left the house. Phil had never been to the Hollow before, and I figured the moderate clip-ups would give us a good way to ease our way up the grades. We started on Curse of the Drill (5.7) and End of the Innocence (5.7) both classics at the grade and originally equipped by my good friend Ron. After that we headed over to the mega-classic Swiss Cheese (5.8) which is probably the best bolted moderate in Wisconsin. Next we did PWB Arete (5.9) a route that would be four stars if it were just a little longer. At this point, my shoulder was feeling pretty good, and I wanted to see where the limit was, so I decided to take a burn on Manic Depression (5.11c) without any expectations. To my surprise I only had to take a short hang at the third bolt after botching some footwork. My interest was piqued. After a short rest and a few false-starts I came back and sent. Suddenly a supposedly light-duty day turned into me sending the hardest sport route I have ever sent - a great way to end a great weekend.