A Red River Halloween Day 3: The North 40
|David on Amarillo Sunset|
Miranda Rayne (5.9+): ★★ (OK)
Audie (5.8): ★★ (Fun)
Amarillo Sunset (5.11b): ★★★★★ (A.M.A.Z.I.N.G)
Samurai (5.12b): ★★★★ (Very cool.)
On Monday morning, we woke up and made pancakes. Protein-packed pancakes. They came in a box with an angry grizzly bear face imprint. They were good. Savage. Somewhere in the middle, we added chocolate chips. They were even better. More savage.
We didn’t worry about climbing. It was still too cold. The clouds had cleared, but it was ust barely above freezing. Which is great weather, when you’re bouldering, at the top of Mount Everest, or swimming with polar bears. But it’s not great weather your a wanna-be weekend rockstar sport climber.
But we were men (+ Sevda--but she had to work (boo Mondays), so she couldn’t climb). We would handle the cold.
We settled on PMRP, North 40. There would be several easy climbs. There would be several moderates. There would be several five start lines. Hopefully, there would be sun too.
Lots of people told us about the climbs at North 40: Amarillo Sunset is amazing. The climbs there are awesome. Amarillo Sunset. You have to do it. Oh, and Amarillo Sunset. It is epic. Do it. Just go. Do it now!
So we did.
We drove the white steed of Justice to PMRP, making sure to fully test the suspension on every pothole and rock we encountered. It was always up to the task, and it showed its approval with metal-scraping-rock groans of excitement.
When we made it to the Shire, the warm-up area for North 40, I decided to test my spur-of-the-moment philosophy of not looking at climb grades before climbing them by hopping on a climb that looked relatively easy. Dave-O snickered a little--the last time I did that, the 5.10a/b I thought I was hoping on turned out to be a 5.12a/b (that I still haven't sent)). He was right, as my numb fingers could barely handle the surprisingly pumpy top, which nearly spit me off. It was a 5.9+, Miranda Rayne. It probably would have been more fun had I known the grade (and what to expect).
While I was hopping on Miranda Rayne, Dave-O much more wisely lead the 5.8 next to me. He enjoyed his climb just slightly more than he enjoyed my suffering.
When a big group rolled in, we packed our bags and escaped to our goal of Amarillo Sunset.
|Mor Amarillo Sunset|
Amarillo Sunset is all by itself, tucked away in a quiet corner of the wall, secluded by a diverse canopy of trees. To the right of the climb is a featureless overhanging wall, with a maroon streak separating you from massive, naturally painted orange-ish setting sun; to the left, an overhanging amphitheater, full of beckoning pockets. The small valley is filled by the sound of a trickling stream, fed by the water drops falling from the cliff above. The climb starts on a natural ledge, slightly to the right of the dark maroon streak. It is the only way to make it up this section of the cliff; a lonely line of pockets trending upwards and slightly left.
I would go as far to call Amarillo sunset the King Line of the crag, even though it isn't the hardest. It is the most scenic and the movement is awesome. When you see pictures of the prettiest climbs at the Red, they are of Amarillo Sunset. When you see the climb in person—you can’t help but be stunned.
When I asked who was the most stoked to lead it… I was met with silence and pointed fingers. So I put on my harness, attached my draws, stick-clipped the first bolt (see, I do learn!), and set off.
——Begin Beta Spray Alert!——
The movement is just as good as the climbing. A few hard moves gain a no-hands rest ledge, where you can size of the rest of the climb. It’s obvious you’re going to have to do a big move to and off of a hand sized pocket in the middle of a 6 foot blank section of wall, and you’ve got all day to stare up at it. I even climbed up to it, hung and clipped the draw, and climbed back down. From there, you can see the pockets… but you can’t feel them. And it’s only once you power through the blank section that you realize that these pockets are not jugs—they’re underclings! You’ve got to use all your trickery, body tension, and high-step mastery to get them to feel good… but when you do, the movement is sublime. You clip a few more draws, when you suddenly realize that the pump clock has nearly expired. You look up and there’s another bolt—but you’ve got to hang the draw from a shitty undercling, and its just out of reach. You adjust a little and clip the draw—avoiding a huge (but safe) fall-take a deep breath, and realize that you just need to stand up to clip the anchors just above you. And it’s over.
——End Beta Spray Alert——
B-E-A-Utiful. I was so stoked to have lead it, pretty much nothing else mattered that day. It’s rare that the aesthetic nature of a climb and the movement both live up to the five star rating, but they do on Amarillo. If you are at the Red, and you climb 5.11, you owe it to yourself to do this climb.
David chose to go last—hoping that the three of us would give him enough beta for his flash attempt. Zach went next on top rope. Zach cruised it—taking just below the second to last bolt.
Dave-O was the next victim, electing to give it a burn on top rope. We gave him some beta, emphasizing the big throw needed to get past the blank section. After cruising through the bottom, he got stuck at the crux and refused to throw, convinced that he could beta his way to through the section.... even though there were no other holds. But, somewhere in the process of adjusting his hands and feet, Dave-O accidentally just stood up on the good holds and did the lunge statically! We, Dave-O included, were dumbfounded.
He finished the climb off and came down praising the route.
David was last, electing to do the climb on lead (he later told us that one of his trip goals was leading an 5.11b). And even though he climbed spectacularly, his head wasn’t completely in the game, and he took once immediately following the first ledge. Of course, he then quickly proceeded the fire the crux and flow through the rest of the route, only stopping when he was both pumped and panicked out of his mind (I’m only speculating—he never shows either) at the last clip, right below the anchors.
I must repeat: what an amazing climb. So glorious. I’ve got a hunch we’ll be coming back.
We then had lunch: PB&J.
With a little bit of encouragement from our crew, I hopped on Samurai, a five star line that guidebook prefaced with a description promising unique and awesome climbing experience. Some sustained powerful moves lead to a low stopper crux, which spit me off a few times. I was rewarded for figuring it out with another boulder problem... which also spit me off. Even though I had to take several times, I was stoked: the climb made me step up my game. The moves were more cerebral, and I had to get used to falling. At every boulder problem. Looking back on it, this was the first time I had ever hung my draws on something as hard as a 5.12b.
David also tried Samurai on TR—and after some escapades down low—he made it to the top (another one of his trip goals—trying, or making it to the top—of a 5.12). And then we called it for the day. Even though we only hopped on a handful of climbs, we were stoked--the climbs extraordinary.
I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night. We might have gone to Miguel’s or made some pasta. That’s not important. What was important was that O’Brien introduced us to Bang!, a Spaghetti Western card game that pits a gang outlaws against a Sheriff and his deputies (with a Renegade mixed in). Although we quickly learned the rules, we didn't catch onto the strategy as quickly. One piece of (personal) advice: when playing as Sheriff, make sure that your first move isn’t killing someone you don't know. Although it may seem like a sound gambit, if that first person is your Deputy, the game will end mercifully quick. But your deputy’s memory may last forever.