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I can confidently say — and I am not given to hyperbole — that the raspberry fruit slider from Rendezvous Doughnuts is the best fruit-based baked good that I have ever had the privilege of eating.
At first bite, your teeth meet a crispy edge, fried in peanut oil and crusted with granules that are more cinnamon than sugar. The slight crunch gives way to a soft, thick interior. Make no mistake, these are doughnuts, not “donutz.” Unique notes of yeast and flour make up the full and rich body of the pastry.
Then comes the filling. At first, the raspberries bite back. Just as their tartness reaches it peak, the sweetness of the filling rushes in from the sides and evens out the overall effect. The fresh raspberries used in this piece evoked fond memories of the wild berries that I foraged while bikepacking the Colorado Trail last month .
As your teeth sink into the lower half of the dough, the cinnamon sugar provide a satisfyingly dusky bookend to the experience.
As a perpetually-famished, mildly-underweight bike commuter, I have a tendency to inhale my food This is a perpetual grievance from my wife, who with each new dish admonishes me “Now savor it …”. Usually the item is halfway down my esophagus by her third syllable.
This, however, must give us pause.
Rendezvous Doughnuts has crafted an aesthetic triumph.
To end this review at taste alone, however, would be a disservice. Inseparable from the delicately intertwined flavors of the doughnut is the environment in which it was crafted and consumed.
The shop is warm and inviting. The decor is minimal but not sparse. South-facing windows usher in an abundance of natural light. It feels like you’re hanging out in the kitchen of a rural bed and breakfast. Upon entering, I thought of Hemingway … this is a clean, well-lit place.
The same doughnut in another locale would not render as satisfactory an experience. Conversely, importing the lackluster donutz available from other sources in Durango into this location would yield a mediocre result as well. The quality of the goods and their context are closely linked in this case.
Lest this review comes off as starry-eyed fanboy slavering, I will offer a few caveats to my enthusiasm. At the time of publication, the fruit sliders retail at $3.45. Unlike their other, robustly-sized doughnuts (dark chocolate cacao nib, brown butter vanilla bean, cinnamon sugar, caramel bacon), the sliders are smaller. The calorie to dollar ratio isn’t quite as good as the others, but then again, that’s not why you should be there.
The place was popular on both weekend days that I visited, and when the doughnuts sold out, many a crestfallen face was turned away into the outer darkness to the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. For us, the wait times were acceptable for receiving a hand-crafted product, but others waited longer. Faster drink service would ease the wait.
At present, the shop is only open from 07:00 to 14:00, which precludes post-adventure visits (unless they’re really epic and you roll in at first light). I’d really like to hit this place up on a Sunday night after returning from a desert tower weekend mission.
The acoustics of the room are a bit harsh for conversation when the house is full. However, they’re great for an impromptu acoustic jam:
Altogether, my visits to Rendezvous Doughnuts have been heartening experiences. I look forward to returning soon to slowly savor their new creations and enjoy the pleasant ambiance among good company.
As the October sun dropped behind the mountains at 7pm, I knew I was in for a long night.
That morning at 04:45, I stumbled out of the van and started my individual time trial of the Durango Dirty Century course. 92 miles, 12K vertical gain, 70% singletrack.
I finished just before midnight: 18 hours, 45 minutes. That included 45 minutes of mechanical shenanigans and maybe 20 minutes of cattle herding. The starting temperature in town was 33 degrees, with a forecasted high of 50 and sunny.
The course starts with six miles of flat pavement and then a thousand-foot climb up a gravel road to the Hermosa Creek Trail. From there, it’s a gentle twenty miles of singletrack ascent. I felt pretty good doing most of that in the dark — night riding makes the climbing seem to go faster.
It was pretty cold at elevation. I was expecting to generate more body heat on the singletrack climb, but it was surprisingly mellow. I was wearing softshell pants, a longsleeve, balaclava, and wool mittens. My next layer up (rain jacket or down jacket) would’ve resulted in too much sweat, so I rode cold for a while.
Things were going pretty well, but then I ran into a uniquely Western-Slope kind of a delay. Forty cows were blocking the trail, with a cliff on one side and the creek on the other. I started hollering the lyrics to “Rawhide” and they headed up the trail … at all of five miles an hour.
After the first chorus, the novelty wore off and I started verbally abusing the beasts, using my best Robert Downey Jr. from Tropic Thunder impersonation. In response, they sullied the trail with about six metric tons of steaming bovine excrement.
Traction was difficult for the next four miles. I have never seen so much crap come from one animal’s rump, let alone a forty-head. What are they feeding these guys? (Oh that’s right, primo National Forest lands). Every now and then, I was able to pass a couple and inch my way up in the herd. When I finally passed the lead cow, I yelled “See you for dinner!” and resumed a race pace.
Eventually I hit the sun and an aerobic climb up to Bolam Pass. Dirt roads are a bit of a mental block for me, but I threw on some 90’s hip-hop and spun away in 30:42. Along the way I passed a couple of riders on full-squish bikes who had just started their loop.
Finally, I hit Bolam Pass where the route joins the Colorado Trail. As I was filtering water, a truck roared up and dropped off the two bikers. “We cheated!” they proclaimed, a bit bashfully. No worries, sometimes you’ve got to aid the crux. We started the singletrack together, but I immediately tore a sidewall and wasted a lot of time patching it, trying to reseat the tire, and then eventually throwing in a tube. My legs got pretty stiff during the break, but at least it was sunny and not too cold.
Back in the saddle. Fun singletrack led to more fun singletrack. This is some of the best riding on the entire CT, perhaps only tied with the Collegiate Peaks segments.
The hike up Blackhawk Pass (~11,900′) was a bit of a grunt. My two shuttle-biking friends cheered me on from the top. Not going to lie, I was really motivated to catch them.
Dropping down off Blackhawk was vindicating — I had very vivid memories of hiking a loaded bike up that trail, dripping with envy at all the southbounders who got to ride down it. It was just as fast and fun as I imagined then. (I also caught up with the other two and their utterly righteous mountain mutt just as they were turning off the CT and heading for Stagecoach).
The next section featured incredibly enjoyable, low-gain riding along Indian Trail Ridge. The flow eventually gave way to chunky hike-a-bike on the Highline Trail, which is where the sun finally abandoned me.
I grabbed some more water at Taylor Lake, mostly just so I could get the calorie boost from the last of my Tailwind powder. I was down to Cheezit crumbs and a nasty old mint chocolate health bar that I keep in the bottom of my frame bag for times of extreme caloric duress.
I turned on my headlamp and bar light at Kennebec pass and braced myself for six thousand feet of descent in eighteen miles. There were some moments of Type 1 Fun — it’s a killer (almost) pure downhill ride — but after a while it just hurt.
I nearly wept with joy at the sight of Gudy’s Rest, which signified that I only had fifteen hundred more feet to drop, then three miles back to the trailhead.
At quarter til midnight, I reached the van and a very excited Irish wolfhound. I drank a bowl of split pea soup, slipped on some luxurious non-spandex pajamas, curled up next to my wife and drew the curtains on a punishing but rewarding day in the San Juans.
Colorado Trail Northbound, 460 miles in eight days.
Post-ride analysis in italics
– Surly Karate Monkey 1×11 (30:11-42), Ardent 2.25 front and rear Gear range was sufficient for my load. Anything lower and I would’ve been pushing anyways. Tires held up great, no need for fatter with front suspension.
– Cleaveland Mountaineering frame bag. So much storage space! Contained stove, food and occasionally layers.
– CM handlebar harness. Solid, especially with extra ski straps securing it. Contained tarp, sleeping bag, sleep layers. Front pouch contained water filter, CT Databook, phone.
– CM gas tank. Gummies and peanut M&M’s straight in the pouch for easy access.
– CM “Daddy’s Little Helper” hikeabike strap. Absolutely freaking crucial, will never go without one now.
– Osprey 22L. Perfect size. I cut some sleeping pad to ease shoulder pain while hikeabiking. Contained jackets, sleeping pad, not much else. Mostly protective in case of going endo and landing on my back. Wind drag was a bummer on wilderness detours.
– Pringles can taped to downtube. Cardboard rotted, should’ve used a tennis ball canister instead. Contained both spare tubes.
– Cateye Velo 7 computer. Doesn’t register anything below 1mph, so only really good for wilderness detours and as clock. Next time, a GPS watch.
– One 750ml bottle, cage ziptied to toptube/seatpost junction. Convenient spot. Yeah, I only carried 750ML at any given time. A couple rough spots, but sufficient otherwise.
– Patagonia Hybrid 20 down half-bag. Coupled with 8oz down jacket, this was sufficient.
– Golite poncho tarp, ti stakes, P-cord. Set up once, but glad to have it.
– Reflectix car-sunshade sleeping pad from van buildout. Next time, bring an extra square to double up the hips.
– Pearl Seek VII hikeabike shoes + Eggbeater cleats. One Euro size too big. They got heavy after a while. Achilles pain was an intermittent thing; should’ve moved cleats bag.
– Poly gote sox
– Merino sleep socks
– Zipoff pants. I accidentally only brought one pant leg! Left these at the first resupply.
– Bike shorts
– Poly tights. Wore these every day under bike shorts as a knee sunshade, never even changed out of them at night.
– Poly Button-down shortsleeve
– Pearl Sun sleeves. Super helpful and cooling when dunked in a stream.
– Fingerless leather gloves
– Thin merino gloves.
– Patagonia quarterzip longsleeve. I would wear this at night, then in the morning, then tie it to my pack to dry in the evening.
– Cycling cap. Looks preppy but super helpful.
– MHW Ghost Whisperer hooded down jacket. Crazy light and warm!
– OR Helium shell
– Sunglasses. Ditched at the first resupply … I hadn’t worn them for five years and couldn’t get back into it. Plus the amber lenses made everything look stormy.
– Helmet. Petzl Sirroco climbing helmet, haha. Dual rated and the lightest thing I had.
– Crank Bro’s M19 multi. Thumbs up.
– Tire levers (2). Also used as spoons.
– Tubes (2)
– Patch kit
– Pump. Fell out of frame bag at Tennessee Pass when inverting bike for tarp setup.
– Gorilla tape
– Gorilla glue
– Zipties (8)
– KMC missing links (2)
– Spare cleat and bolts
– Voile rubber straps (2). Super handy, cinched the handlebar harness down quite nicely.
– Headlamps (BD Spot and Ion). Good enough, but I’d rig a bar light next time.
– Extra batteries. Burned through three sets total.
– Minimal First aid kit
– Sunscreen stick. Never used.
– Burt’s Bees chapstick. Constantly used.
– Lighter + dryer lint
– CT databook. Easier to read southbound …
Cooking and Hydration:
– Vargo Ti alcohol stove + 750ml ti pot. Hot food!
– 4oz denatured alcohol
– Sawyer Mini filter. Slow flow … will consider Lifestraw next time.
– 750ml bike bottle, 1L Platypus softbottle, 0.5L Sawyer softbottle
– Phone + earbuds. Bluetooth buds would’ve been nice but at a higher battery drain. Forgot my USB battery charger … that would’ve been nice to have. Charging at resupplies was adequate.
I’d like to think that I’ve pushed myself pretty hard outdoors over the years — solo thru-hiking the CT in twenty-four days, redlining all-day MTB races, burning up on Black Canyon climbs and desert towers. But everything else pales in comparison to the sustained mental and physical depletion that I experienced in eight days of bikepacking the Colorado Trail.
For starters, I now realize that I was sick before I even cranked my first pedal stroke northbound. It was a stressful two weeks leading up to my departure: my wife and I were racing the clock to finish building out our Promaster van before our rental lease expired. I would go to work from 7 to 4, then come home and work on the van til 9, then get up at 5 and get in a bit more work before leaving again for the day. Nutrition was spotty; rest was non-existent — I was already burning the candle at both ends in the frontcountry before even hitting the trail.
Speaking of which, I rode a total of 460 miles in eight days on an average of six hours of sleep per night. Not exactly CTR race-caliber stats, but it felt pretty dang hard nonetheless!
This was by no means an “onsight” of the Colorado Trail. I took several wrong turns due to the surprising difficulty of reading the CT Databook backwards in the dark while sleep deprived and sick. I missed parts of some segments and rode an obscene amount of backtracking bonus miles on others (~40) , including some accidental Wilderness poaching (forgive me, John Muir, for I have sinned!).
I tried writing a blow-by-blow trip report but spent the week of my return violently ill in every possible way, so here are some disjointed pictures and notes.
When I hit Hwy 9, I realized that I was thoroughly sick and needed a break. I rode seven miles into Frisco and checked into a motel, shivering even in a hot shower and under the covers. The next morning I felt a bit better and caught the free bus to Breck to continue the trail, knowing that I was out of time to finish the entire trail within my time window.
Four miles out of Breck, I dug into a turn too hard and burped my front tire. When I went to throw in a tube, I realized that my pump was gone. Somewhere in the past however many miles, it had fallen out of my frame bag, probably when I flipped the bike upside-down to set up my tarp (most likely Tennessee Pass several days before). I shuddered to think that I just cleared the rocky Ten Mile Range with no way to inflate a spare!
I pushed a mile to a trailhead and borrowed a floor pump, then rode into Breck. My weather window for clearing the 32 miles Kenosha Pass segment was gone, so I rode over Boreas Pass to US-285 instead in a storm, rode seven miles of pavement to Jefferson, then hitched to Denver to stay with my sister, then meet my wife and drive home.
It wasn’t the way I expected the trip to go, but all things considered, it was an excellent journey, well worth the struggle. Much like my thru-hike six years ago, the Trail encapsulated a microcosm of the human experience in a short period of time. I experienced every conceivable human emotion — terror, elation, disappointment, loneliness, peace, joy — and had lots of time to reflect about Life and my small place in it.
Many thanks to the people I met along the way who signed my frame bag with encouragement. One quote in particular stands out, courtesy of a southbound thru-hiker in Segment 23:
“Dig deep!” I yelled to Todd as the first snow flurries began to fall. We were a hundred feet from the summit of Storm King (13,752′) … the peak was starting to live up to its name, and it was a long way down.
The day started at 02:20, ten minutes before our alarm. “You awake?” Todd whispered. I grunted a regretful affirmative. I don’t think I’ve ever slept until my alarm on the morning of a big route.
The day before, we had hiked in thirteen miles from the Vallecito trailhead. It was as casual an approach as you can get for that length. I had the misfortune of carrying a … wait for it …ninety-meter rope since I had just downsized my nylon quiver to move into a van. (It weighed less than my other cords!).
Along the way, we ran into the remains of the last person who attempted the North Face.
On a cheerier note, we ate our fill of wild raspberries and forded a refreshing, knee-deep creek. Smaller creeks and mud were abundant, so my shoes stayed wet for all thirteen miles (in warm temps, I prefer this. On the CT, I went out of my way to stomp in every puddle).
We set up camp near a waterfall about a mile and half from the start of the route. There’s closer camping to be had, but our throbbing feet vetoed any attempts to push on farther. It’s a great spot, but be advised that the air stays wet even a hundred yards from the falls, so wet shoes don’t dry overnight.
While Todd set up camp, I finished the approach and stashed our cord and gear (cams with doubles of orange and red Metolius, nuts and a couple hexes). Spirits were high as we devoured some vague approximation of mesquite chicken-broccoli-rice, set our alarms for “the ass-crack of dawn” and hit the sack well before sunset.
The next morning we mechanically shoveled oatmeal and dried fruit into our gas tanks, strapped on two liters of Tailwind-infused water and stumbled out of camp at 03:00.
Thanks to the reflective markings on the new BD Ultralights, we found our gear cache without too many routefinding woes. We embarked on the first three hundred feet up an “escalator” scree slope — one step forward, two steps back. The start of the climbing was guarded by some bullet-hard snow, into which we chopped steps with a rock.
After a hundred feet of fourth-class, we roped up and began the first pitch just as dawn broke. We enjoyed heartwarming morning sun for most of the route.
A couple 5.7 moves on wet rock made me glad indeed to have the rope along (maybe not all ninety freaking meters of it). By and large, we enjoyed bomber stone.
At the start of the second pitch, I briefly eyed a splitter 5.9ish handcrack, but instead cut hard left and ran out about 150′ of 5.2 traversing or so. The route may have gone up a right-facing dihedral at this point, but it looked harder than 5.7, so whatever. We’re alpinists, not bloody rock climbers.
The third pitch had some real-deal sustained 5.7 (if there is such a thing) that included stemming around a roof. It ended at a commodious ledge (which may or may not have become commode-odious thanks to the generous contribution of an anonymous alpinist).
P4 had a fun, unprotected move right off the ledge that made me consider requesting an alpine shoulder stand, but Ethics Prevailed. After that, it wandered up 170’ish to a huge ledge littered with talus. (There may have been an extra pitch somewhere in there … it’s all good, clean fun). At that point, the official route might involve moving the belay two hundred feet to the right to a gully of sorts. That sounded like too much work, so we went straight up the headwall, which looked like steep 5.8.
A hundred feet and all of my cams later, I revised my initial assessment. In approach shoes, the moves felt like 5.10c, so let’s be fair and give it a 5.9+. I tiptoed onto a Honnold ledge and belayed off a #8 nut and upward-pull-only #0.75. As soon as Todd cleaned my blue Metolius, I sent him a loop and bolstered the anchor, much to everyone’s relief.
The next pitch had some legit 5.10 moves right off the belay, and I plugged cams above my head like it was going out of style. A hundred feet later, I crawled into a gearless chimney and belayed Todd up on a fat-free meat anchor.
On pitch 9 (?) the Beal Joker spread its wings and facilitated 280 feet of fast 5.6. Meanwhile, the clouds darkened, as did my disposition, and this allegedly “flower-strewn route” turned into a looming graveyard. A hundred feet from the ridge, I slammed in three little nuts and started hauling in rope.
The last pitch would’ve been much more fun had it not been framed by ugly cumulusses. Cumuli? Cumulatively, it was bad and we were hauling more ass than a midwestern homeschool family at a 4H festival.
We busted it to the summit as snowflakes began to fall. This was not the time to get the soundtrack to Frozen stuck in my head, but there ya go.
After a few quizzical moments of routefinding, found the correct ridge and descended with all deliberate speed.
As soon as we dropped a hundred feet from the summit, the snow blew past and the sun re-bestowed its benevolent gaze upon us. We greeted it with great fanfare and a rousing rendition of the Monarchy’s classic hit, “Sun.”
The descent was arduous but well-cairned, following the established Class 3 southwest ridge route to an everlasting boulderfield that dropped us to Lake Silex. From there, we glissaded a couple hundred feet, and then pounded more talus back to the meadows.
Camp to camp: fourteen hours. The day before, we had entertained notions of knocking out a couple hours of hiking after completing the route to get a jump start on the trip home. This we dismissed as puerile foolishness, and collapsed victorious at our waterfall campsite. Despite the sudden onset of gravity, we managed to refill water and cook dinner (the same mesquite-jazz-odyssey, but this time infinitely tastier) before falling asleep at 7:30pm.
The next day, we headed home with light packs and even lighter hearts. While hiking, we talked about everything from theology to music theory to nonprofit startups — Todd is without a doubt the most well-rounded person I’ve ever tied in with — but true to form, whenever we passed another group of hikers we deftly changes the topic to hellacious runouts and bicep-curdling rope drag and cheek-clenching exposure. However, nobody took the bait or even asked about the industrial-length spool of pink rope that was playing accordion with our vertebrae.
In conclusion, this trip was a series of answered prayers … 1) we got up and down the mountain in a timely fashion, 2) there was no rain and 3) Todd saw his very first bull moose on the hike out, whose surprisingly amicable behavior sealed the deal that this was a Very Good Trip.
Fun Factor Summary:
Type 1 Fun (immediate gratification, enjoyable in the moment): the views on the approach, pitches 1-4, breakfast burritos
Type 2 Fun (not entirely enjoyable but easily whitewashed in retrospect by selective memory to be loads-o-fun): fording Vallecito, climbing the headwall
Type 3 Fun (not fun at all): the escalator scree, blundering about in the snow, the talus walkoff from Lake Silex down, putting on still-wet socks in the morning.
Or, “How I Learned to Hate Adobe Mud in 128 Miles”
3:30 AM. My alarm won’t go off for an hour, but I’m wide awake. Christmas morning syndrome. Soon I will be pedaling the Tabeguache Trail from Grand Junction to Montrose. My bike, Beatrice, leans against the window, heavy-laden with gear but light of heart.
Ahead of us: 142 miles of dirt and 14,800′ elevation gain across the Uncompaghre Plateau.
Jeremy and I hit the road at 05:00 and pedal a few miles on pavement. On my loaded singlespeed (30:20), I was cutting switchbacks in the road, but the climb went smoothly. (He lives on the backside of Lunch Loops so we skipped the proper start).
At sunrise, we hit Bangs Canyon and got first tracks on some primo downhill slickrock.
Eventually we bottomed out and started climbing. Wet conditions from the previous night’s surprise rain quickly turned the trail into adobe mud. We pushed on (literally), confident that the rising sun would dry the trails.
Time slowed and the world adopted a claymation filter. Thick, sticky mud clogged everything: fork, chain, (Jeremy’s) derailleur, our brains. We resorted to spanking the clodden tires with sticks every hundred feet… Try it sometime, it’s really therapeutic.
Finally we reached the top of whatever and things dried out. We enjoyed a blazing doubletrack descent down to Whitewater. I punctured a sidewall but the sealant clogged it up quite nicely.
We joked about carrying our bikes across 141 so they didn’t touch pavement but then decided we would just “let on” that we did (see also, Huckleberry Finn).
Next up was a long dirt road climb. 30:20 was sufficient, but I would’ve downshifted given the opportunity. We took a quick nap in the shade and then pressed on to meet Jeremy’s wife at the Dominguez-Escalante. She brought blessedly pure water, a new tire for me and cold zucchini egg casserole (baller!)
At this point, Jeremy headed home. Had I known what lay ahead, I may have joined him. Instead, I pointed my knobbies westward, cranked the Darkness, and rode off to my doom like a lamb to the slaughter.
The riding was good until Cactus Park, a veritable sand trap. I felt pretty goofy pushing flat terrain, but at least it was pretty.
Eventually I dropped down to Dominguez Campground, ate garlic mashed potatoes and summer sausage, and slept under a picnic table that I stretched my tarp over. A good thing too, because it rained a half inch.
Day one complete. Fifty miles in fourteen hours… As Jeremy said, a ten-year old Kenyan in homemade sandals could’ve outrun us.
The next morning, after a dry night albeit cramped night, I scarfed down some oatmeal and rolled out at 06:00, ready to make up for lost time and pedal myself silly.
Perhaps “roll out” is a bit optimistic of a verb. I pushed up the initial hill, then ran into showstopper clay mud. Unlike the mud outside GJ, this stuff was unwhackable. I eventually removed my front wheel, clipped it to my pack, and dragged my bike uphill for decades.
Some good came out of the experience. I discovered three new hike-a-bike techniques:
– “The Manual.” Remove front wheel, pull bike on a never-ending wheelie.
– “The CBL.” Remove front wheel, flip bike 180, push backwards from the handlebars. Experience backing a trailer is handy.
– “The Drag Queen.” Flip bike onto side, nonfunctional-drivetrain-up, and drag on sidewalls.
Hours later, I encountered a rancher in a truck. The driver assured me that it would dry out soon. It did… an hour of pushing later, it did. Relativity of travel time aside, it was a beautiful sight.
At long last, I hit Divide Road. It took me six and a half hours to travel fifteen miles. During this time, I decided to forgo the fun(?) parts of the Tab and just ride gravel back to Montrose. I also decided “screw ethics” and accepted cold, pure water from an ATV rider. Oh, and a five-mile ride in a Polaris to expedite the Divide segment. Thank God for rednecks.
The rest of the day was a beautiful blur. Lots of pedaling, some pushing, handfuls of peanut M&M’s and dried papaya. Midday nap, repeat.
I eventually hit a sign marking 39 miles to Montrose. I was low on water and getting bored with my snacks, never a good proposition for a hypoglycemic. It was then that I had a spiritual experience.
At Columbine Campground, I encountered two angels (and their mom and grandma). They gave me ice-cold water and a Holsum turkey+Swiss sandwich with sour cream and onion Pringles. If you guys are reading, thank you again for reviving me.
Many miles later, I crested Divide Road and saw Montrose on the horizon. All downhill from here, baby. I blasted down the dirt at 30mph, dropping a couple thousand feet of elevation in the blink of an eye.
One of my climbing club kids (now a blessedly licensed driver) picked me up just outside of town and promptly escorted me to the Horsefly for a Bavarian bacon beer cheeseburger on a pretzel bun.
I fell asleep that night with visions of the Colorado Trail flitting through my mind. No adobe mud there. Maybe it’s time to go big *and* go home…
Afterword: As I ride the bus from Montrose to GJ to pick up my car, I recall that these experiences were almost exclusively Type 1 Fun, even the vicious, viscous mud. I had a great time in God’s own backcountry. Singlespeed was a winner; rigid would be even better. Water sources would be doable provided that you’re not stuck averaging 3mph for 12 out of 26 travel hours. I skipped what is supposedly the hardest section (the Roubideau, 21 miles of steep jeep trail through 15 major drainages) but it’ll still be when I come back for the Grand Loop.
It was my first day at Outdoor Retailer 2017 in Salt Lake, my first time at the show. It’s a big deal: over 20,000 people cram into an expo center that feels larger than Durango city limits. People literally shove products into your hands. And the talking … I haven’t lost my voice like that since being the vocalist of a metalcore band.
One of the products that immediately caught my eye was Rocktape Kinesiology Tape, a stretchy cloth tape intended for therapeutic purposes. Of course, I saw it an thought “tape gloves!” The guys hooked me up with a roll and I immediately made a tape glove for my right hand and wore it the rest of the day. This prompted some great conversations (including their competitors, who were puzzled by what kind of injury would require that tape technique).
Rocktape claims that it “microscopically lifts the skin away from the muscles and fascia, which decompresses the area and promotes blood flow.” Perhaps this would reduce the pump factor while climbing, but what I was most interested in was the durability of the tape due to its elasticity. Since stretchy girlpants always last me longer in offwidths than Carharrts, I figured the stretch factor might create a longer-lasting, slimmer tape glove.
This was definitely going to be an off-label application of the product. Talking to the reps at the Rocktape booth, none of them knew what taping up for crack climbing entailed. I showed them this photo and they immediately got it.
The most promising elements of Rocktape for climbing were these:
Slim fit for thin-hands jamming.
Comfort over long days. RT claims that you can wear it for up to five days, which could be nice for bivying on Astrodog this fall.After the show, Alex and I busted out to Little Cottonwood Canyon for some introvert recharging. We got rained out after two pitches of handjams, but my initial observations were mostly positive:
Durability remains to be seen over the next few days. The finger-notching that I use to secure normal strips of tape above my knuckles didn’t hold up well, so I’ll need to use a different method.
Rocktape is just as sticky as Eurotape on the skin contact, and it has a nice textured surface on the rock side.
The slim fit is a huge plus. Rocktape is slightly thinner than J&J or Eurotape. I used my normal glove method (notched strips down the index, middle and pinky, no thumb loop, wrist strap and a palm strap to prevent rolling).
The elasticity of the tape makes it quite comfortable. I wore it for twelve hours straight and hardly noticed it throughout the day.I’ll update as the week progresses, but for now, Rocktape looks quite promising for crack climbing use, especially for thin-hands jamming.
“Hydrate or die!” Camelbak admonished years ago. Curiously enough, rates of hyponatremia in endurance athletes skyrocketed in response. In their zeal for staying hydrated, runners and bikers were becoming as waterlogged as Edward Abbey’s description of Utah cowboys trying to get drunk on 3.2% beer.
As competitors waddled across the finish line — or collapsed midway from salt deficiency — wiser heads prevailed and realized that regarding hydration, quality was just as important as quantity. Replenishing the electrolytes that we sweat away is vital for preventing cramps and maintaining peak output for all-day activity.
I hate carrying lots of water on a multipitch route. Water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter, and I begrudge it every ounce. On a long route like Scenic Cruise in perfect temps, I barely get by with two liters. On top of that, I need to bring snacks laden with sugar and salt to forestall the dreaded forearm cramps. (There’s nothing worse than having your thumb lock in the crimping position and having to pry it open with your other hand).
I’ve tried many different electrolyte powders, with mixed results. Powerade and Gatorade make my stomach hurt after four hours. Cycling-specific products like HEED and Accelerade left a strange taste in my mouth. Coconut water was effective but expensive. For a while I home-brewed, mixing Kool-Aid or lemonade packets with potassium salt and sugar, or just adding salt and sugar to plain water. None of my recipes were tasty enough to drink all day.
Then one day, I stumbled across Tailwind in the local gear shop. They’re a local Durango company, so I bought a Mandarin Orange individual packet and gave it a try on a hot day climbing Comic Relief in the Black. I was immediately impressed with the subtle flavor, and it kept me going pretty well, even through the hot, disheartening exit slab pitches that I’ve done far too many times.
Since then, I’ve become a huge fan of Tailwind and use it exclusively for multipitch, backpacking, desert cragging and trail running. Here’s what I like most about it:
– Tastes good. I like all the non-caffeinated flavors, especially berry.
– Doesn’t mess with my gut, even during high-exertion trailrunning.
– Provides 100 calories per scoop. I usually load up three scoops per liter. Lately I’ve found that the caloric benefit of Tailwind wholly sufficient — I only bring snacks for “mental pro.” For what it’s worth, I’m hypoglycemic too, so nutrition is a safety concern for me.
– Good calorie to ounce ratio, especially considering you can reduce other snacks.
– At $0.70 per serving, it’s not prohibitively expensive.
– Supports the 81301 crew.
Most recently, I used Tailwind on Atlantis, a south-facing 1300′ 5.11- with some legitimate runouts. Due to scheduling constraints, we had to do climb it in early June with a high of 85 — big mistake. I drank two liters of Tailwind, without which I certainly would’ve found myself cramping or puking. I felt strong the entire day and onsighted my crux pitches. I highly recommend this product for any all-day endurance athletes, especially multipitch climbers.
(Disclaimer: I pay full retail for Tailwind and it’s worth every penny).
Of all the desert towers Layton Kor put up, there’s only one that he ever repeated.
Between that fact and the name of the route, Jeremy and I knew we had to try it. Plus, the Colorado National Monument was in our backyard.
Long Dong Wall on Kissing Couple Tower starts with a steep, sandy finger crack with just enough footholds to keep the difficulty manageable. The pitch ends with a slabby traverse under a bolt that may have been .11a back when the edges were crisp, but nowadays is a bit harder. We gladly french-freed our way past the bolt to a belay alcove.
The second pitch features a stellar chimney whose width varies by how deeply you burrow inside. If it had gear, we didn’t notice: it’s too secure to fall out of.
A third-class romp takes you to the base of the next pitch, a wide-hands and offwidth splitter. After some jamming, you encounter the coolest feature on the route: a knee-and-back chimney that is open on both sides. Killer exposure and no gear for thirty feet. This pitch ends in the “belfry,” an incredible viewpoint from within the heart of the tower.
The fourth pitch requires some full-body stemming to reach a fixed pin. The first time I climbed the route, I couldn’t figure it out and had to stand on Jeremy’s shoulders to reach the holds. The second time,
I got it, but it’s a bit hairy and insecure with both feet on the wall behind you, and both hands in front.
The pitch eases off after this, but then presents you with one last challenge: you must squeeze through a submarine-hatch of a hole. I’m 5’10 and 140 pounds, and it was doable, but I had to take off my helmet and drag all my gear on a sling. I have no idea how the giant Layton Kor managed to squeeze through there. Heck, he probably punched out the hole in the first place with his #4-Camalot-sized hands.
The spacious summit affords great views of the rest of the Colorado National Monument, including the ultra-classic history lesson known as Otto’s Route. John Otto aided and fraided his way up the tower in 1912 in hobnail boots, drilling pipe holes and chopping steps — long before “ethics” were invented. The route now features an abundance of tricam placements and sloping feet with an old-school 5.8 roof pull that guards the summit.
The Colorado National Monument is a unique haven of excellent desert towers, all too often bypassed by Front Rangers hauling ass down I-70 to get to Moab.
“We climb it not because it’s there, but because it won’t be there much longer.”
-The Layton Kor
There are three definitions of “desert tower.” The first is dimensional: a tower is taller than it is wide. The second pertains to accessibility: the only way up a tower is to climb it. There is no walking up the backside of Castleton to set up a toprope.
The third and most important, however, is intrinsic. A desert tower looks like a desert tower. You know one when you see it.
Standing Rock is a desert tower.
It’s 350’ tall, 50’ wide and has comparable Rock quality to “rye crisps sandwiched in kittylitter.” In my first attempt, I made it a hundred feet … past the car before the heavens unleashed and it started pouring, saturating the already-weak sandstone and rendering it unsafe to climb for two days.
While we were there, Josh and I figured we’d scope out the approach. Instead of a rattly day’s drive on the White Rim 4×4, we were looking for a “government trail” 4th-class scramble down the improbably steep Grandview Point Overlook.
Two hours later, we retired in disgrace. We were unable to find any non-technical descent, let alone something casual enough for a government employee to venture onto. We did find a gully where we could fix two ropes and rap, however, and resolved to return in better conditions.
Scheduling conflicts prevented Josh from accompanying me on the second attempt, so I enlisted the aid of the inimitable, nonpareil desert dirtbag, Tyler Ofsprocket Marlow of Moab.
We returned armed with static ropes for the way down and jumars for the way up, a double set of cams to #3, and a single #4 and #5 (latter wholly unnecessary). A quick rap and downscramble led to a 150’ chimney rap and an hour of pleasant hiking to attain the start of the traditional 4WD-accessed approach. From there, a short fixed rap and a gorgeous forty-five minute stroll through Monument Basin brought us to our objective for the day: the Regular Route, four pitches of steep, shaded climbing on dubious stone. There were only a handful of places on the entire route I would have been ok with whipping. Bring your ice head.
The first pitch began with excellent 5.9 fingers in a corner, then cut under a roof to a face crux over small gear. I used an equalized #0.1 and #0.2 on this pitch and each one thereafter. Tip: don’t stop til you get to the good anchor.
Tyler ventured onto a photogenic traverse on the second pitch, which supposedly led to a splitter hand crack. If those eighty feet were a handcrack, you can call me Pamela Pack. Granted, it took handsized gear, but most the climbing involved awkward bulges where you cut your feet and pull on jugs of questionable parentage.
Pitch three started at the scariest belay ledge of all time. It was a horror show of antique pins and star drives with no supplemental gear. Please bring two ropes so you don’t have to rap from this anchor like we did.
The crux move used to be rated 5.11c, but then a hold broke, much to the relief of all those looking for excuses to A0 the perfectly-placed modern bolt. Nevertheless, the possibility of a factor-two fall on the Bad Ledge plagued the moves required to gain the bolt. Some mandatory spicy climbing over marginal gear and a delicate mantel around an absurd “elephant ear” flake brought me to a ledge with a wizened old star drive, which I slung long and passed by to a ledge with acceptable bolts.
The last pitch was ho-hum 5.8 with great exposure. We flopped onto the summit and were greeted by 30mph winds. Is it just me, or is the whole tower creaking? We didn’t stick around to get the Last Ascent and go sandstone surfing. Three single 70m raps had us kissing the solid ground and vowing never to return … that shitshow of an intermediate rap anchor core-shot our heads something fierce.
After celebratory libations of cold chicken noodle soup, we hiked an hour, jugged forty feet, hiked another hour, jugged a hundred and fifty feet, scrambled thirty minutes, jugged forty feet, and regained the car. Car-to-car in just over twelve hours.
Overall, it was an incredible summit that did not yield itself readily to our efforts. Like the best desert towers, Standing Rock must be earned.