Wildflowers at City of Rocks
Posted by sibylle in Idaho (Monday June 30, 2008 at 10:54 am)


The wet winter we experienced in Colorado extended its effects to Idaho’s City of Rocks. Dottie, the campground host, told us that this year she’d seen the most wildflowers ever. We encountered gorgeous stands of Aquilegia (Columbine) near the creeks lower down and beautiful cacti hiking to the climbs. I’ll share some of these here.




City of Rocks, Bumblie Wall
Posted by sibylle in Idaho (Sunday June 29, 2008 at 3:17 pm)


Miki’s six, Bumblie Rock

From Flaming Rock, we walked to Bumblie Rock, where friends had recommended Too Much Fun, New York is not the City, and Mystery Bolter. There were several climbers on Too Much Fun, so we decided on Miki’s Six instead.
This easy 5.6 followed one of the crack / corner systems up to the right-most of several flakes. I’d seen these cracks many times on previous trips, but now this one had a sling anchor around the top of the flake.
The guidebook (City of Rocks, Idaho: A climber’s Guide, by Dave Bingham) suggested that one “sneak around a tree at the start to get to big holds on low-angle rock”. What this really meant, in practice, is climb up the tree, which conveniently has several logs leaning against the lower portion, until you reach the branches and get high enough to reach the first positive holds. Tristan admirably performed the tree-climbing maneuver while I belayed in the shade.
Once out of the tree, an easy traverse left reaches large chickenheads, knobs, and dishes. We climbed on face holds both sides of the crack, with a rare hand jam in the crack (plus gear of course).

When we finished climbing Miki’s Six, the other climbers were still top-roping Too Much Fun, so we walked around to the Transformer Corridor, to eat, hide in the shade, and take a look at Mystery Bolter, another recommended route. Once I saw the climb, I remembered leading it years (well, ok, maybe decades) ago.
Mystery Bolter was in full sun and it was much too hot to contemplate leading a slippery friction route in that heat. After a pleasant snack and a look at the map, we headed up to Cruel Shoes on Stripe Rock. I’d never done this climb as either I was too lazy to walk so far, or I couldn’t get any of my climbing partners to walk there. However, climbing with my son has the advantage that if I ever want to do a climb with a long approach, he’ll go with me if I offer to buy him enough ice cream. You’d think that at 17, he’d hold out for more expensive bribes than ice cream, but so far, Ben and Jerry’s has done the trick.

City of Rocks
Posted by sibylle in Idaho (Saturday June 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm)


Tristan on Raindance

We arrived at City of Rocks late Thursday, to find that every campsite we looked at was reserved for the weekend. I’d last climbed here years ago - on most of my previous trips camping was still free and sites weren’t numbered. The campsites are now cleaner and attractive, but I was surprised that all sites were booked for the coming weekend.

The next morning, we told the ranger of our plight and she kindly searched the inventory and found three sites that were open for the weekend, one of which we immediately booked. We were lucky, as site 41 is in the trees and behind a small cliff by Bath Rock. At our tent, the rock shielded us from traffic noise and we woke to nothing but bushes in sight, and birds chirping the only sound.

We set off to climb, armed with Dotty’s (the generous camp host) copy of the new guidebook, full of new routes since I’d last climbed here. Dotty gave us a tick list longer that we could possibly accomplish during our few days here, so we decided to start with easy routes that were close by.

Our first climb, Raindance on Flaming Rock, started with a downhill hike from the Flaming Rock trailhead near campsite 31. After about a 10-minute walk, we reached City Girls, a steep 10d face climb that I’d struggled on a few years ago and didn’t envision as a great warm-up. Another 250 ‘ past here we reached the start of Raindance, a pleasant bolted 2-pitch 5.7.

Tristan cruised up pitch 1, past 4 bolts, and traversed left onto the main face. I led through, up pitch two which goes straight to the top. With one rope, we couldn’t rap the route, but instead rappelled down from the anchors for Tribal Boundaries on the other side. While this meant an extra walk back around to the base, it would allow someone who chose to toprope TB that option.
We enjoyed lunch in the shade near the base, and then headed to our next climbs on the Bumblie Wall, a three to five-minute walk north from Flaming Rock.

First Rock Climbing Leads
Posted by sibylle in Italy, finale ligure, California (Tuesday June 17, 2008 at 2:38 pm)


In the Pinnacles, California, about age 10, taking a close look at “Pluto”, my name for the dog’s head formation.

Climbers sometimes ask me, “Where’s a good place to teach my son (or daughter) to lead?”

Or they’ll ask where’s a good place for their wife, husband, or significant other to start leading. Many, but not all, of the easy climbs I listed in my recent post are good for beginning leaders. Mr. Breeze, Alexi’s, and Cornelius are great and cover the gamut of very easy sport to crack climb with gear.
Some of the easy climbs wouldn’t be good for a new leader, such as Gina’s Surprise, which though easy, is quite run-out near the bottom. The East Slabs in Eldorado Canyon might also strain the new leader’s ingenuity when attempting to place gear.

I don’t remember where my first lead with real gear, on a real climb took place. Leading was tricky when I started climbing, because sport climbing and bolted routes did not yet exist, nor did nuts, much less cams exist when I was eight years old.


Tristan, age 7, on his first lead

Tristan led his first climb in Finale Ligure, Italy at age seven. Europeans have a long climbing tradition, and climbing in Germany is a regular family weekend activity, taking the place of the American ball game. As a result, cliffs designed for kid climbers abound with easy routes with short bolt distance, so that the little ones can reach to clip the bolt before making the next move.


Woman in Finale leading the route next to ours

Megan Emmonds began leading in Penitente when she was very young and lead her first 5.13 at age 13!

Please share your suggestions for climbs well-suited to beginning leaders. Click on the red numeral to post a comment.

Easy Climbs - 5.5 and under
Posted by sibylle in Italy, Colorado (Monday June 16, 2008 at 9:51 am)


Brian Doub at Castle Rock

Easy climbs - 5.5 and under

Recently, someone asked where, with routes 5.5 and under, they could take their young children (four and six) to climb. I’ve described several routes at these grades in my book, Fun Climbs Colorado, as well as earlier in this blog, and list some below.

Mr. Breeze 5.2 ***

Eldorado Canyon

East Slabs 5.0 – 5.4 *
From the parking lot, walk up the road and cross the creek. The low angle east face is directly across the bridge. Walk uphill along the right side of the cliff until about halfway up the talus on the east side.

From about halfway up the talus field, climb up cracks and face to a tree on a good ledge to belay. From here, follow a groove up to the summit. I took my son up this route when he was five years old and he enjoyed it very much. Climbing with three people is helpful for taking small kids up the climb, so that someone can stay with the kids at the belay.

Boulder Canyon
Castle Rock, West Face 5.5 *


Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge
Gina’s Surprise 5.4
Coloradoddity 5.5

Shelf Road
Alexi’s climb 5.5
Independence Pass
Lincoln Creek: Burger Shack Area, Finger Food Wall
Popsicle 5.5

Elevenmile Canyon
The easy routes here are multi-pitch gear routes and thus a little more challenging for beginning climbers, who are inexperienced at removing protection, and for kids who would be left at the belay alone (and have to belay the leader, unless it’s a party of three).

Other areas to which I took my son climbing when he was young include City of Rocks and Devil’s Tower. We climbed in Italy, France and Spain once he was seven years old. Europe is very kid-friendly with well-equipped campgrounds, well-bolted easy routes, and lots of other diversions.

If you’d like to share your favorite easy, kid-friendly climbs, please clcik on the red numeral to comment. Thanks!

Growing Up Climbing
Posted by sibylle in Germany (Saturday June 14, 2008 at 9:37 pm)

Sibyat 2.jpg

Climbing in Germany with my Dad

In Europe with Mom, Dad, cousin, and friend

Road Trip - Tuolomne, Squamish, and more!
Posted by sibylle in Uncategorized (Monday June 9, 2008 at 7:00 pm)


In Tuolomne with my Dad

My son Tristan graduated from high school this May and we’re going on a long road trip. We’ll head first to City of Rocks, Idaho, to break up the drive on our way to California. Then we’re going to climb in Tuolomne and the Sierra this July. After that, we’ll head to Squamish Chief for August and September until the weather gets too cold or wet.

I was looking for some pictures of Tuolomne and found this one of me climbing with my late father, Richard Hechtel, back when I was in college. My Dad first took me climbing in Germany when I was three or four, and started taking me to the Valley when I was about ten. I camped in Camp 4 with both parents and my grandmother – the only climber I know who’s done that (tho’ come to think of it, my son will probably drag me out there in years to come to camp with his kids).

We used to camp at the Sierra Club campground at Soda Springs when I was little. It was a walk-in site, up the gravel road past where the stables now are, atop a little hill. We’d park at the road’s end and hike a little way in to quiet, serene camping with no crowds, RV’s, or rangers. Later, we also camped by Tenaya Lake, where now a large paved parking lot adjoins a small picnic area.

The park service talks of growing crowding, but I think it’s a case of “if you build it, they will come”. Tourists flock to the new Tuolomne campground near the grill, with its large, flat sites that accommodate large RVs, but I don’t think these same people would have parked along the road to Soda springs and hiked in to pitch a tent.

In discussions of how to handle crowding in Yosemite and Tuolomne, I’ve heard of lotteries, limiting entry, and limiting length of stay. I haven’t heard of removing RV sites and building more walk-in tent sites, which would definitely limit the visitor numbers.

Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Wednesday June 4, 2008 at 10:36 am)


Clouds at Sunset in Boulder, Colorado

In “through-hiking, or thru-hiking“, a person walks the entire distance of a long trail, such as the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Colorado Trail. I wonder if there are “through climbers”, who complete every single route in a climbing guidebook? Maybe there are, but it’s called something else?

A colleague recently blogged about “through cooking”, in which a cook finds a complicated cookbook and makes every recipe. The “through cook” Julie Powell cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogged about it. Her blog caught the attention of a high-powered editor and netted her a book contract, resulting in an engaging book called Julie and Julia.

A Google search on ‘through climbing’ yielded no results. Next I tried “thru climbing” and got:
“thru climbing I was able to overcome my fear of heights”, and
“experience life thru climbing”.
Apparently, the idea of thru-climbing hasn’t caught on.

One immediate obstacle might be that most people (including me) can’t climb 5.12 and up; so that would eliminate any thru-climbing attempts by intermediate climbers at areas with more difficult routes.

Several guidebooks concentrate on easier climbs, which brings the concept of “through-climbing” into the realm of everyday humans. These include Weekend Rock Oregon: Trad and Sport Routes from 5.0 to 5.10a,

Weekend Rock: Washington

Serious Play, by Steve Dieckhoff

Fun Climbs Colorado, lends itself to an endeavor by vacationers to climb every route, since it’s aimed at beginning and intermediate climbers vacationing in Colorado.

Please comment if you’ve  ‘thru-climbed’  the routes in the books mentioned above, or if you know of other attempts to thru-climb an area. I had the feeling locals have tried this at Joshua Tree? Click the red number right of the title to comment.

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