11d onsight. No way I'd onsight this grade at climb Iowa. It'd be a several month project there!

The wife and I were up in the Twin Cities celebrating our anniversary over the weekend. And of course, I couldn’t resist a visit to a climbing gym while we were there (thanks, honey :) )!

The cities sports two Vertical Endeavors; one in Minneapolis, and one in St. Paul. I chose to visit the Minneapolis location, as it was a bit larger in size.

Since I was without a partner, I was limited to bouldering and the auto-belays. The gym was pretty cool, although a bit dark, and I wasn’t really a fan of their no barefoot policy and chipped rubber flooring instead of mats.  The route grading definitely wasn’t consistent with the grading used at Climb Iowa, which was a decent confidence boost, since I was able to on-sight several 11’s, including an 11d. My on-sight ability ends at 10cd per Climb Iowa’s grading. Unfortunately there were no 12’s on the autos, as given their grading, I might have been able to knock out my first 12! :)

Even though this gym was larger, and had taller walls, I think I still prefer Climb Iowa. Which is good, considering that’s the gym I have full time access to!

11d onsight. No way I'd onsight this grade at climb Iowa. It'd be a several month project there!

11d onsight. No way I’d onsight this grade at climb Iowa. It’d be a several month project there!

Unique auto belay system with lights and sensors.

Unique auto belay system with lights and sensors.

Aaahh! Falling!

Spring is just around the corner, and things are warming up a bit, but the walls at Pictured Rocks are still cold and wet, so it was a good day to visit Iowa’s Winter crag, the south-facing and overhanging Hoot Bluff. Brad, Ron and I left before dawn, fighting heavy fog for the first half of our 3 hour journey to the East.

Due to the ground conditions, we had to hike in nearly a mile through tall prickly weeds muddy corn fields. This took 40 minutes of trudging, so I was already beat by the time we reached the crag!

This would be my first time climbing on lead outside of the gym!  The temperatures were in the 50’s, but man was that rock still cold! It took a couple warmup climbs to get the fingers acclimated and prevent them from going numb.

Unfortunately, even a single redpoint eluded me. Actually, not a single one of us managed a redpoint that day. I worked on “Liberal Tendencies“, an 11a, a few times, and while managing all the moves, I couldn’t put it together in one go. Finding and remembering where all the good holds are is one thing that makes climbing on limestone much more difficult that the brightly colored plastic in the gym!

Fortunately Ron was wearing his helmet, as he took a couple bad falls from the bottom of “Happy Hooker” that had us quite worried, but that crazy old man kept getting right back on! His helmet protected the back of his head from what could have been a concussion, but I’m sure his tailbone was still hurting for the next week.

Overall, I think I prefer Pictured Rocks over Hoot Bluff, for the larger selection of routes in the area.

Nearing the chains on Liberal Tendencies

Nearing the chains on Liberal Tendencies

Aaahh! Falling!

Aaahh! Falling!

High foot

High foot

Brad pulling down

Brad pulling down

Brad working it

Brad working it

Ron pulling on

Ron pulling on

Hueco!

Hueco!

Brad & I in front of "Crimp City". The 11d that helped us win.

The last month has been spent preparing for Climb Iowa’s top rope redpoint comp, “Flock to the Rock”.  Brad and I would be competing in the Advanced Division, both individually, and as a team, and would have 6 hours to redpoint as many routes in the gym as we could. Points were assigned based on difficulty, and you could earn points for the same route twice.

Oh, and did I mention this comp would be in the DARK!? Yes, headlamps only!

This being my first comp, and having been climbing for about 7 months, my expectations were low. Pacing yourself was definitely key. This was a 6-hour endurance fest after all. Some participants went for quantity over quality, climbing as many easier routes as humanly possible. Brad and I went for quality over quantity, climbing the hardest routes we knew we were capable of, and doing them twice, in an order we had worked out ahead of time.

Our strategy paid off!

Individually, Brad placed 2nd, and I placed 4th.  But as a team, Brad and I took 1st! Totally unexpected, but I’ll take it! :)

Climbing hold trophy. Biggest jug I touched all night.

Climbing hold trophy. Biggest jug I touched all night.

Individual Results

Individual Results

Team Results

Team Results

The routes we climbed, and their associated grade/points

The routes we climbed, and their associated grade/points

Brad & I in front of "Crimp City". The 11d that helped us win.

Brad & I in front of “Crimp City”. The 11d that helped us win.

Brad & I with his son & climbing partner, who also took first place team in the intermediate division

Brad & I with his son & climbing partner, who also took first place team in the intermediate division

Trophy and participant coffee cup

Trophy and participant coffee cup