In the past week, I’ve climbed outside at Clear Creek Canyon and North Table Mountain — two predominantly sport climbing areas near Golden, CO.
The results have been highly enjoyable and stunningly recreational. I am still many steps away from my lead goal of a 10b, though my actual climbing strength has been pretty decent. I’ve been spoiled since there is always someone else around to lead 10s and above so I can just screw around in top rope. Here’s how the climbing went:
Clear Creek: lead 5.8 (first outdoor lead in about 6 months), 8+,10a, failed miserably at the crux push of another 10a overhang. The rock here is all gneiss with pretty decent holds. Lots of pulling and reaching required. I feel like I need to hit up more climbs in the area to make a better assessment of the place.
North Table Mountain, Brown Cloud: 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, 5.10b, 5.11a. This crag is surprisingly challenging (sandbagged?). The holds are all open-handed and requires a lot of body tension, jamming, and core strength. I really enjoyed these climbs because none of them seemed particularly height dependent, and my open-hand strength is passable. This area reminded me of Phoenix — everything’s brown, there are angry sharp plants, climbers were really low key, and we had to dodge baby rattlesnakes.
Admittedly, I’ve never seen a rattle snake at a crag, but Colin partially stepped on one in a canyon, and one of our hiking groups accidentally flung sticks at a coiled adult in a famous AZ riparian area.
Spiders? Snakes? Parasitic worms? These things are not remotely scary. The three living things featured below are on the short list of things that legitimately frighten me in the wilderness.
Why they are scary: I first learned of the terrors of the moose from Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. If a moose charges you, you are screwed. Moose are also prone to a particular species of brainworm that makes them even crankier. I even once read a questionable statistic that Moose attacks are more frequent in Alaska than bear attacks due to the sheer number of the moose population.
2. Mountain Lion
Why they are scary: While reclusive, these predatory cats have been known to stalk toddlers and dogs along the trail. Unlike most other animal attack suggestions “make loud noise/walk away slowly/play dead” the best advice anyone can give you during a mountain lion attack is to fight back. Seriously? Standing outside their cage at the zoo makes me hyperventilate. They’re HUGE, they pace around menacingly, and given the horrendous habitat destruction occurring in the United States, I am sure they are very hungry. Hungry for small humans.
Why they are scary: The Sonoran desert has the angriest plants in the world. Many of my favorite climbing places in Arizona are full of these monstrosities of the plant kingdom, and I have spent an alarming number of hikes fantasizing about what would happen if you fell on top of one of these devil plants.
The worst thing you can do hiking in the desert is to wear shorts anywhere in the vicinity of a yucca species. You will bleed profusely. The yucca and related evil cactus species are one of the many reasons I am glad to live in Colorado.