|Pandemonium - The Secret Cave|
The day started when Keith, my boss, unleashed Tilda. The small scottish terrier was in the door within seconds.
She did her usual jumping around, getting into everything at once and making sure she pounced on on my face, several times.
Tilda and I have a "special" relationship, being how she put a landmine in front of the bedroom door, the first day I had arrived..... and I stepped in it. Luckily, I had a sock on. She's a funny dog.
I was in Las Vegas, working for a few weeks rigging sound panels, in another arena. Our days off work, always proved to have a high since of adventure.
This one was no exception.
|Mason checks out what Brian is doing|
Brian McCray suggested we do a little developing.
Establishing rock climbing routes on an over-hanging limestone cliff-band.
Ok, I said. I'll practice being the photographer.
Documenting a few first ascents sounded fun and this will be the first time I've ever witnessed someone pioneering a sport route.
I've had my fair share of drilling holes, but never with a power drill. I have always done it the old-fashioned way, by hand.
Mostly because power drills are not legal in National Parks and that's where I've done most of my devolping.
Brent Clements was with us and we were going to meet a friend of Brian's, Gary Fike.
We waited for Gary at the "eye sore", a properly named gas station out on Blue Diamond Hwy, near Red Rocks.
I bought a couple of cream sodas, a sandwich and some AA batteries at the store. Hey, if I'm going to be the photographer, I need some power to activate my camera.
|Gary gets out the tools of the trade|
|Gary showed up with his dog Mason, in the back of his truck.
We piled into Gary's rig and made our way to the location of where the action was to take place.
After a few scrapes on Gary's runnerboard and a thirty minute hump up the steep approach, we were at the base.
We chilled for a few minutes, unpacked our gear and then everything started happening at once.
Brian on-sight free soloed a 5.8 face to gain access to a ledge system so he could fix a rope.
By traversing out right on the ledge system, Brian was able to find a good location to install a belay, for a suspect 5.11.
In the mean time I aid rope-soloed an abandoned project started by one of Brian's friends, to try and get some photos off the ground.
Brian was done setting an anchor before I knew it. He rappeled down and Gary took over.
Gary started free climbing the rock, while belaying himself with a Gri-Gri. As he climbed he put little white dots with his chalk, to mark the location for the bolt hangers.
|Brian, equipping Reign of Fire, 5.12b|
|The mouth of the secret cave|
|Brian sending his new route in good style|
|A view from the back of the cave|
|Gary was establishing a new route on my left Brian on my right Brent wandered off toward a ridge that ended with a small peak, in our distance.
There are many different ways of putting up a route. Brian chose his method because of the difficulty of the project. It was impressive to watch him go to work.
He fixed the line, rapped down mid way, put a bolt in the rock and clipped his rope into a carabiner. This was a directional piece to help him get closer to the rock.
He got to the base and clipped in his kit. It consisted of a drill, wrench, bolts, hangers and hammer.
Brian clipped a quick-draw on every hanger he installed.He drilled the last one.
Rapped back down and rigged a top rope.
|Brian on the first ascent of Pandemonium|
|This was to clean the route a little better and to check out the moves before getting onto the sharp end.
Brian hung a few times, cleaned some rock and was at the anchor within 20 minutes
His plan, when getting to the belay was to drill holes for protection, while abseiling down the rope.
I rapped down from the aid-fest I was in, to give Brian a belay on an established 5.12.
This was again, to gain access to a ledge system to pre place an anchor before installing the protection for the new route.
"Where is this rope hanging", Brian asked.
"Right in front of that jug you wanted to go for", I replied.
|Keith Wenz on his project in the cave|
|"Good, I can use the same belay anchors from this existing route", Brian announced.
I took Brian off belay, grabbed my ascenders and went back to the fixed line I had left.
I jumared up to take some shots.
Brian pulled up a line to fix so I could take some photos of the first free ascent.
He came down the line and then pulled it, so he can use it on lead.
Gary was still working on his project. Brent was coming back from his bid on the glorious summit he had been on.
He put Brian on belay with a make-shift harness, made out of slings.
I changed my batteries to the freshies, I bought at the "eye sore" I jumared the line and pendelumned over to a directional anchor, adjusting it at the angle I wanted.
"Ok, I'm set", I told Brian, as I pushed the power on my camera.
"Uhh, OOH .... wait, wait"
"What's going on"?
I changed the batteries again. Checked to make sure they were put in correctly.....
"What the..." That damn store sold me BUNK batteries.
I pulled Brian's camera up.
"Ok", Brian started climbing, looking pretty damn solid
I snapped shots from the original batteries, until they went dead.
Just as the shots were getting interesting, I switched over to Brian's camera.
This might be a blessing in disguise, however.
The reason was Brian's camera had slide film in it.
Brian sent it on his first attempt at the red point.
|Keith, Dakota and Brian getting warm in the sun|
|Brent and Keith warming up in the sun that filters into the cave|
|He named it Reign of Fire - 5.12b.
I started cleaning up the ropes I had strung all over the cliff to get photos.
Brian walked over to Gary's project.
By this time Gary was down, with the route being fully equipped.
Brian volunteered to send it.
I wasn't able to catch most of the action because I was busy cleaning my ropes.
Brian on-sight, red-pointed the first ascent. Even though this route has a lesser grade at 5.11+, he didn't have the advantage of seeing the holds on rappel.
|Fly'n Brian establishing Pandemonium, a suspect 5.13c|
|We cleaned up the base. Gary, Brent, Mason, Brian and I made our way back down the non-existing trail having had another great day at the crags.
The next day we prepared to crank it up a notch, so to speak. We packed up our camping, climbing and in my case, running gear. Ever since I'd met Keith Wenz he's been talking about this secret cave somewhere out in the Nevada desert. Now we planned to take a look at this cave, to see it's potential of good quality, high level rock climbs.
This place was so secret, that Keith threatened to blind fold us on the way in. Instead, we drove in at night and camped somewhere between Las Vegas and Canada.
We were a crew of four, Keith, Brent, Brian and I. We woke up at the crack of dawn, chilled to the bone. Ice and snow, sprinkled most of the peaks. It was another one of those absolutely beutiful days in ife.
|We piled into Keith's truck and made our way to the cave...... We were not disappointed.
Keith said it was going to take twelve minutes to get to the cave. We laughed.
"Are you sure it's not a thirteen minute approach"?, Brent asked. "Yeah, how about eleven minutes"? Do you think we can do it in that", I chimed in while laughing.
I timed the approach, trying to hike it in casual style and tried to avoid looking at my watch. 11:55 seconds. Good estimate.
I turned around to the mouth of the cave and was literally floored, by the magnitude and shear prehistoric beauty.I sat down.
The cave was huge. Two hundred feet from one end to the other. Brian got to work. The route hung at a 45 degree angle. With natural pockets and edges.. I was the designated ground man and "go-for" guy. I took pictures in between helping out. I watched the scene unfold, Brian on one wall of the cave, Keith on the other.
Keith's route, which was supposed to be the warm up, ended up being harder than suspected. Going in at hard twelve, maybe thirteen. The masterpiece that Brian is working on is steep. The best limestone I've ever seen, but that's not saying much.
Brian said it's the best route he's ever seen, that's saying a lot. He also said it was a gift..... from the Gods.
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