High season is here! But before things get really crazy, Molly and I decided to sneak off to Penitente Canyon to climb for a few days. With a spring season full of wild weather, the amount of actual climbing we got to do was limited, but we still managed to make it exciting. Penitente Canyon is a beautiful hidden canyon nestled northwest of Alamosa, CO. Made of volcanic rock, the canyon is full of short bolted sport routes with everything from slabs to overhanging huecos.
Day 1 - We left in the morning and and headed west through ominous rain clouds with the ever persistent hope that the weather would be nicer in Pentitente than it was anywhere else...
It wasn't... we arrived in the pouring rain. I promptly decided that the rain was definitely going to blow over shortly and it would soon be beautiful and sunny for the rest of the trip. Anyone who has ever been climbing with myself and has heard one of my ultra-scientific and fact-based meteorology predictions knows that my track record is abysmal, at best. So, it continued to down pour for the rest of the afternoon.
While we set up camp and started to unpack, Molly had a revelation. No, maybe we should call it an epiphany. She had forgotten her harness. That's right. We were on 3-day climbing trip and we only had one harness between the two of us. As a side note, the irony that Molly and I of all people would be short on equipment is truly overwhelming. At this point, most folks would have packed up and turned around, but considering our insane work schedules, we were determined to make this work. At this point it was still raining and we decided that our best course of action would be to drive to Alamosa to do some shopping. After a quick stop in Alamosa, Molly had a new harness to add to her collection and we were good to go, except for the fact that it was still raining...
We decided to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and kill some time until the rain stopped. It was raining so hard at time you couldn't even see the sand dunes. It continued to rain for the next few hours as we wandered the sand dunes visitor center and apparently forgot to take pictures of the sand dunes all together. The rain finally stopped around 6pm as we arrived back at camp, thankfully just in time to start a fire and make some dinner.
Tuesday, Day 2 - It had stopped raining!!! When we woke up the sun was finally out and it was time to do some climbing.
We had the entire place to ourselves and the only challenge of the day was finding routes that were not still seeping water from the rain the day before.
We spent the whole day enjoying the sun and climbed into the late afternoon when some more ominous clouds started to move in. That evening we went into Del Norte on a water run and for some unknown reason decided that we should just keep driving to Pagosa Springs and visit the hot springs for the evening.
Needless to say, we did a whole lot of driving on this trip and seeing as I was on vacation I made sure to stop and be a tourist every chance I could.
Considering neither of us had planned on going swimming on this trip, we made a quick stop at the Pagosa Springs ALCO ("a worse version of Walmart" as one local put it) to pick up the latest in Southern Colorado swimwear fashion. The rest of the evening was spent soaking for hours in the springs trying to decide what pool had the perfect temperature. Once the springs closed we drove back to Penitente and called it a night.
Wednesday, Day 3 - It was raining again, but only when it wasn't snowing....
The weather was awful, so we made a list of climbing locations that were on our way home and decided to see if the the weather was any better at any of them. By the time we passed Canon City and shelf road it had been raining the entire ride home and we had run out of options. Somewhere between Canon City and Colorado Springs we decided that we should go the Rockies-Yankees game that night and finish off our vacation off with a baseball game. After a quick pit stop in the springs, we got back in the car and drove to Denver for the evening. Once at the game we ran into a good friend in the beer line and made some new ones as we watched the Rockies lose to the Yankees on a questionable 9th inning call. As a life long baseball fan, the upside to the Rockies losing was getting to see Mariano Rivera pitch one last time in person before he retires.
So after 3 days and 770 miles of rain, sand dunes, rain, climbing, hot springs, rain, snow and a baseball game our mini vacation had come to an end and it was time to get back to reality and finally return some phone calls.
A collection of stories and adventures from the FAMS director and instructors.