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.