Dog day afternoon
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“See you on the bottom or see you in hell,” Bryan said before dropping over the edge.
I had never gone rock climbing prior to moving to Colorado, but I’ve done a lot of it in the past five years, and I’m still not totally comfortable watching a friend disappear off a cliff.
My goal on this trip was to try out a new fly fishing rod, but when camping with Bryan, plans often take a turn toward climbing.
In specific, we were going to bolt a new route today come hell or high water.
High water would’ve been nice as we forgot to bring the essential fluid to the crag on this particular day – one that was very hot and sunny.
We would live, and there was a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon in my Jeep – in case of emergencies.
We anchored off of some scrub oak and juniper brush and tossed a fixed static line over the edge so that Bryan could rappel down and get a good idea of where to set the bolts.
He had already placed anchor bolts days earlier, and couldn’t wait to get the climb finished.
Looking out over the mountains you really get to soak in the area’s extreme beauty.
Looking across the valley, my thoughts drifted to how many feline eyes were watching. In this case, curiosity would not kill the cat, but rather feed it.
We left the dogs behind, as a crag can be a dangerous place for our four-legged friends while cleaning the line and bolting.
This spot, however, is made for dogs.
At the beginning of the short trailhead lies a grave reading “Jack” and “he was a good old dog.”
Hence, the “Old Dog Wall” was born.
There were already two routes bolted at the crag, and we were going to make sure there’d be a third by day’s end.
One with a good dog name.
And there it was: “Good Boy,” Bryan said. “This climb will be called Good Boy.”
We began to suit up, I put on my harness and helmet, Bryan the same, as well as his Bosch drill and a bag full of bolts and bolt hangers.
Only someone skilled at placing routes should ever attempt bolting a new line, and Bryan has placed plenty.
Myself? None, which places me in the unenviable position of belaying.
Most likely for hours.
There’s a climbing term – I won’t print it here, but it rhymes with relay hitch – for those unskilled enough to bolt, but competent enough to belay.
Fifteen minutes in – and two bolts down – something not unlike a biblical plague descended upon me … flies.
Becoming a food source for the biting flies of the crag, one’s mind wanders to portable generators and bug zappers … possibly a Glock, myriad explosives and a few flamethrowers, too.
Looking up, I had to retain my focus.
Belaying may not be glamorous, but make no mistake, your climbing partner’s life is in your hands.
I’d go into a Zen-like trance, ignoring the bugs, and just focus on belaying.
Some may not like that we are leaving bolt hangers on the rock, but in bolting “Good Boy,” we hoped to create a place as much dedicated to climbing as to appreciation of nature.
Except for the flies. I don’t appreciate those.
With the sun glaring in my eyes, obscuring the falling rocks, time passed at glacial speeds.
The occasional passing of various birds of prey was nice, however.
Hours of quiet breezes and peregrine dances; you are making your mark on nature, but nature leaves a far more lasting impression on you.
The sun finally passed over the edge of the rock, and my world was bathed in shadow.
It was magnificent. It felt like natural air conditioning.
Bryan was nearly at the anchors as I got my second wind.
And we had some company now, as our friends Paul and Kate showed up to get in some climbing.
Thoughts of post climb PBRs did little to assuage our thirst, but luckily they brought extra water along.
It was amazing, like we had crossed the Atacama desert and found an oasis.
Full of water, Bryan made the last push and reached the anchors.
Four and a half hours of work — on our day off, too.
It was worth it.
We chatted about the site, discussed our general distaste for Heineken, and relaxed – feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
However, sapped of strength, we bailed on making the first ascent.
We made the tough decision to head out, vowing to return the next day.
Returning back to camp, we marveled at the abundance of wildflowers, and the beautiful Colorado bluebird sky. It had been a good day. We got the route established, nobody was injured, and we still had a night to enjoy music, a fire and spend some time with our loved ones.
As we rounded the bend nearing our camp, we noticed my girlfriend and Bryan’s wife and their two beautiful daughters all taking a walk down the road, those over 21 with wine glasses in hand.
As we pulled to a stop, my dog Ranger came trotting triumphantly out of the woods with a mammoth elk leg in his mouth, I cringed at first, knowing that the thing must be filthy, but then smiled.
One thought occurred in my head: “Good Boy.”
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