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Overhangs and Aspens - Benjamin Rueck

Overhangs and Aspens - Benjamin Rueck
July 02, 2012 -  Benjamin Rueck     

After being fortunate enough to attend the Rock and Ice photo camp and being able to climb with some of the best athletes in the world; I found myself in a unique position of having a few days off before I had to jam it back to the Ol' Junk town for work.
So what was a boy to do...? Answer... get a tank of gas and go travel around for a bit.  I was lucky enough to find myself with a climbing partner that had a few extra days in the country so we decided to try to climb a little more up in Aspen before she had to jet it back across the Atlantic...  the plan was to try to crank through the Orangutan Overhang and finish a climb called Gym Class.


Ok well that was the theoretical plan... my "real" plan was to try to get my finger tips somewhat unmangaled from the previous days and mellow for a bit.  I should have known better... my plans generally go horribly arwy when it comes to trying to rest and being surrounded by pretty rock.      

The adventure started waking up to a crisp Aspen morning... comfortable but kind of sore... at least it was the pleasant version of sore which makes even the most stiff movement bearable and appreciated.  After slowly working movement and energy into my tissue fibers (in other words crawling out of bed and trying to stumble around for a little bit) I had enough focus to fire the synapses in my brain to utter, "mmmmm coffee". I conferred with my partner in crime through hand signals and pointing (speech was not quite there yet) and she pretty much agreed that caffeine would be a necessity to start the day. So we jetted into Aspen's town proper to find sustenance and coffee.
After loading up with Bananas, Bread, and Bagels and a delightful combination of espresso and coffee mixed together- making something called "A shot in the dark"- we headed back up to the crag to give an attempt on the overhang.  At this point in the morning I was super-psyched to attempt climbing, however; as we started to work our way up the approach my soreness and fifth day on began to become apparent.  My calves ached... my back was sore... and the thought of another altitude hike made me kind of jittery... or maybe it was the fact that the approach itself became terrifying.

I'm not sure if I was being a wuss or what, but the approach actually at some point made me kind of nervous... we were slogging through nasty bushes with lichen and loose dirt, while traversing on "ify" ledges over scree fields.  All I can say was thank goodness I had the Guide Tennies on because I am pretty sure without sticky rubber I would be splayed out on an autopsy table with the mortician concluding I died because I was an idiot- but hey I was following a pretty girl... no harm done right?

To spare the gritty details... I finally managed to find myself at the base of the overhanging crack with thorns, burrs, and moss everywhere mostly my hands... but a rather high level of excitement or adrenaline (not sure which).  Staring up at this climb was a mind-bender all on its own... I found myself thinking, "wow people climb this!?" The answer of course is yes... yes they do.  Racked up and ready to roll I watched and belayed as the pros cranked through the climb learning the moves and gear... she made each move very fluidly but, unfortunately she re-opened a cut on her finger and bled over the sloping bulge (this becomes important for me later).  After completing almost all the moves she decided to come down and it became my turn to give the route a shot.

My go at this route was not even close to as cool... or impressive.  To be honest it was kind of nasty... basically my attempt quickly became me pulling on gear and pretending that I was a rock-climber.  The only reason I even managed ot even slightly figure out the boulder problem at the beginning was because there was a little blood trail to follow (I like to think of it as taping the holds outside).  However I did learn a lot about gear placement and how to back clean a route... which was a show all in itself.

Regardless of my poor performance it was an incredible experience... however I was completely worked and unable to really climb at all the rest of the day and after trying another pitch later that afternoon I could hardly even hold on.  My body had rejected me and together the "royal we" decided to call it a day-  the lesson that I learned is that overhang cracks are draining and difficult... I am excited to train for them and try again.  Hopefully finding courage and a lead head will allow me to actually attempt the route- but that is another story for down the road.

Life is good. 


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