It’s been a year of firsts for me in the world of climbing. This spring I was able to send my first trad 5.13, learn how to bolt, and climb my very first FA (first ascent) in the wild west of the Green River in Utah. I am happy to announce I’ve added a new first to the list, sending my first 14b in Rifle, CO, called Stockboy’s Revenge.
First established by Andy Raether in 2005, at the time it was suggested the route was 5.14c. However, through repeat ascents and the discovery of knee-bars and better beta, the general consensus is now 5.14b. Jen Vennon was the first female to send this proud route in the fall of 2011.
My husband Chris and I started climbing in Rifle this year the last week in May, and I was unsure of which project to delve into. I thought since he already knew the beta for Stockboy’s I’d give it a try as well. He had been working on Stockboy’s last fall, and had most of the moves all figured out. In Rifle, having the beta (information about the moves) makes a huge difference in its “climbability.” Plus, how fun to work on the same project as your husband- YEAH! Go Team Weidner!
Ultimately, our beta ended up being very different in the crux, but it was sure nice to at least have an idea of what the heck to do. Figuring out the moves on hard sport routes in Rifle can feel like taking a final exam in organic chemistry- baffling, over-complicated, and impossible to figure out.
After the first few burns with Chris’s help I was hooked. There were lots of opportunities to knee bar (which I love) and it didn’t feel completely impossible- just highly improbable- so I thought I’d stick with it. And so, the Bauhaus, where Stockboy’s is located, became our home away from home. It’s a ridiculously steep crag stacked with 5.13s and 5.14s. Stockboy’s cuts 80 feet right up the middle of a massive overhang.
Anyone who has ever climbed in Rifle in July knows the conditions are less than ideal. The climbing feels SO much harder this time of year. Most of the holds on Stockboy’s are not actually holds — they’re glassy, blocky limestone surfaces with slippery feet, and sloper crimps. Once the temperatures went up moves that once felt reasonable now felt impossible. On the upper headwall there is a down-sloping, one pad crimp that I could not hold onto anymore for the life of me.
But with a little perspective, how could I be bummed at all when I get to be outside in a beautiful place with some of my best friends and get to go climbing?
Chris was in Washington for the month of July to guide for a summer camp and visit his family and friends, so it was a good opportunity to enjoy some girl time in Colorado.
My girlfriends Elizabeth and Gitta were psyched to get outside regardless of the heat. We all experienced negative progress on our respective projects, falling all over our routes where we never fell a few weeks ago. Last weekend temps reached 80 degrees in the canyon with 80% humidity and not a bit of wind. We would come down from the top of the route in our sports bras, soaked from head to toe in sweat. We dreamed of inventing tank tops with built in ice packs to keep our body temps down. We’d dunk our heads and arms in the cool river before climbing. It felt like we were climbing in a sauna.
But we all supported each other and had to remind ourselves that we do not suck. Regardless, we were having fun just being together. We learned to laugh at ourselves and embrace our failures the best we could.
On my first attempt last Saturday I got higher than ever, but I still had four more moves before getting through the crux when I fell. And then there’s the 25-foot headwall above…
My second try started at 7:40pm, allowing just enough time to climb before dark. Gitta and I were determined to get our last burns in before our friend Martin’s 30th birthday party, which was probably raging by now back at camp. I envisioned how nice an ice cold Lagunitas IPA would taste and how easy it would be to just head back to camp, but I had to earn it first. One more try on Stockboy’s for the day.
I started up the climb and barely got through the lower 13b section. The slopey crimps were slippery with my chalked hands that resembled cake batter. I barely made it to the first knee bar “rest.” I felt like a circus contortionists cramming herself into a very small box. Minutes later, despite feeling like my left leg was going to fall off, my arms felt fresh. I was about to enter the crux.
The crux of Stockboys is about 2/3 up the route in what I call “The Bermuda Triangle.” At the route’s steepest section the rock converges into a triangular shape with many sloping surfaces and laughably small crimps. For me, the crux was a haunting 13-move boulder problem that I rarely escaped without falling.
There’s the launch to the wide pinch, the back-twisting, shallow and insecure right knee bar, readjusting until your meniscus and hips scream. The sharp left crimp in the roof, the twisting and leaning out to a right-hand wide pinch…
I MADE IT THROUGH THE ENTIRE CRUX!!! The Bermuda Triangle miraculously had not swallowed me whole. I couldn’t believe I was in the upper double knee bar rest!
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…”
My mind flooded with lactic acid. I had flashbacks of chatting with my friend Jen Vennon, a local badass, about the route weeks ago. She told me how she got to where I was and relaxed a bit too much in the bars and fell out of the rest. She said it took her two more months worth of tries to get back to that rest before she sent.
I could totally see that happening to me.
And then I thought of Steve Hong, who told me he fell above the knee bar rest on the very last hard move to a jug- painfully close to clipping the chains. I calmed down, breathed, and pretended like I was not on redpoint. I prepared myself for failure as the strength in my core rapidly diminished. I had only linked through the 13a upper sequence a few times before. I had no further expectations.
Again, my legs were about to drop off and hit my belayer so I decided to go for it. Dynoing to the “football” hold with feet flying behind me, I skipped the second to last clip and latched the last move to the jug. A few moves later, I clipped the anchor. I couldn’t believe it!
I lowered down to my belayer, Gitta, and wiped away tears of joy. I gave her a big hug and then screamed and jumped around the Bauhaus like a crazy person.
That night we cracked our beers and celebrated around the campfire.
“Cheers to good times and good friends, and sharing our successes and failures. And here’s to cherishing not only the ‘firsts’ in life, but every laugh, every smile, and every minute we get to do what we love with the people we love.”
BIG THANKS to…
My husband, for all the support, beta, belays, and most importantly, for not divorcing me even though I sent your project before you. To Gitta for your awesome send belay and sharing the excitement with me. To Elizabeth for your countless belays, being goofy with me, and all the laughs. And of course, thank you to all my sponsors for the amazing product and all the support!