My 24th birthday was this past Sunday, so Matt and I took some time off to go on an adventure. I wanted to go mountain biking on my actual birthday and my cousin Micah lives in Salida, so we drove there on Sunday morning and checked out the S Mountain Trails, (also known as the Arkansas Hills Trails). We met up with Micah when we got into town and took off up the Front Side Trail. It was a rocky start but not too bad on fresh legs.
After Front Side, we went down Lil’ Rattler Trail, which was a nice descent, not too rocky and a lot of fun. We hit Backbone Trail next and continued cruising down that past Sand Dunes and back up and down into a wash. We stayed there for a little bit and chatted and then decided to explore a trail that wasn’t on the map, hoping it would meander back around to the parking area at some point. The trail got really challenging and we ended up going down a wash that may or may not have been an actual trail. But we ended back at the cars and it was a fun adventure.
After biking, Matt and I went to find a campsite. A friend of ours gave us directions to some free sites down by the river south of town. We drove down and set up our tent, then went back into town to eat some dinner and have a beer with Micah. After dinner we were heading back towards our campsite and made the decision to go climbing at Shelf Road the next day and it made more sense to camp there then to wake up in Salida and get there late in the morning. We broke down the tent very quickly, shoved it in the car and took off.
We arrived at The Bank camping area at Shelf Road around 9pm, snagged our favorite campsite, put the tent back up and went to bed. I’m so glad we made the extra trek that night, because getting up in the morning already at Shelf was awesome. We made coffee and breakfast and headed out to the wall early. We chose to climb over in the Gallery since neither of us had been there before. It is located on the far left of the whole area near the sand gulch camping.
In the Gallery area, there is a wall called the Menses Prow. It actually has a lot of moderate routes concentrated in one area, which is unusual for Shelf. After a long-ish approach we started on a 5.7+ called Period Piece. Matt lead it first and then I lead it too and I got some good practice cleaning. It still freaks me out to untie from the rope when I clean, because I am not used to it yet, so it definitely helped to get some practice. The route was fun, with a couple spicy moves, but everything was there.
After Period Piece, we climbed an awesome 5.8 called First Blood. This was such a fun route! I lead it first and loved the different types of moves it offered. The last move was super weird, you are under a roof but you need to move right to the anchors, but the whole thing was well protected and really fun. It looked really scary from the ground but all the moves were there and it was easier than it looked.
We climbed two 5.10s next. Well, I only climbed one of them on top rope but Matt lead them both. The first one called Pueblo Gringos, was short and sweet with some pumpy moves. And the second one was called Menses which had been on Matt’s to do list. It definitely kicked his ass and was so fun for me to watch him get his ass kicked for a change. He made it up to the anchors and rappelled back down, and we got out of there fast because we could see some dark clouds coming our way.
We drove into town to get some snacks and firewood and while we were checking out at City Market we heard someone say there was a tornado warning for Canon City. Back outside, things had started to clear up but the sky was black to the south. Sure enough, a tornado had touched down 10 miles south of Canon City, outside of Florence. Luckily, Shelf Road and our tent was north of Canon City and we were safe. But it was still scary.
The next day, I got up early and it was very gray outside. I made coffee and breakfast and when Matt got up it started raining. We sat it out for a bit and eventually the sun came out and we took off for Cactus Cliff and warmed up on the classic Crynoid Corner. I climbed this route last year on my birthday but I wasn’t leading yet, so I really wanted a lead on this route since it is a classic 5.7. It is such a great route, lots of different moves to be had, stemming, jamming and solid climbing.
After Crynoid we moved further down the cliff to the route Too Much Beef and Not Enough Meat which was on my to do list. I knew it would be a little tricky being a Shelf 5.9 but it actually was really fun and had a little bit of fun slab climbing up to a layback which I hate so I hand jammed it instead to the last bolt and then Matt lead it too and we ate some lunch and moved on.
The last route we climbed was a 5.10a/b called Dihedrus. Matt lead it and took a few falls and I ran up it on top rope before it rained. A lot of the moves were really hard and I was very glad to be on top rope for it. The sky was starting to look threatening to the west after that so we took off and headed home.
I had an awesome birthday vacation and I am so glad we ended up a Shelf because I love climbing there. And for August it actually was not as hot as I expected. I feel like my climbing has improved immensely since I started climbing last summer. I am a lot more confident and strong. I can’t wait to come back to Shelf again soon, hopefully with some more people and more ropes so I can get more climbing in. Maybe even lead my first 5.10!