An adventure to the City of Rocks: Thee olde climbee partee


An adventure to the City of Rocks

So for various reasons, Sarah had a week off of work.  

I was going to take Wednesday off work anyways, to observe Yom Kippur.  

I have a job that allows me to take some time off…

So, I took Monday and Tuesday off as well, and we climbed rocks!  This section is a quick note about the camping we did at City of Rocks, in Idaho.  It was my first time in Idaho, so I was kind of excited to see the territory…




Saturday, 19-Sept

  • Pure Pleasure – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah.  Fun intro climb for City of Rocks, gave me a starting idea for what the rock would be like… and how tough the routes would be.  Hint – they’re not easy.

Sunday, 20-Sept

  • Juniper Jam – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Ben.  Ohh man, this route was fun.  Solid crack climbing, with one or two interesting face moves.  Hard for a 5.6, but reminded me a lot of good Joshua Tree climbing.
  • J-tronix (new climb) – Trad, 5.5??? – Led by Ben.  This route, named after Sarah’s dog Jasper, was a route that we led up to help a guy climbing nearby (named Nigel, from England, who was climbing on Solid-Stem cams) who had left some gear on the route.  Really fun… if a bit wonky.
  • Pizza – Top Rope, 5.4 – Led by Sarah.  Pizza was going to the pizza place nearby to get pizza.  We then ate the pizza.  While doing an uber heel hook.  Upside down.  Climbing.  Yes.
  • Intruding Dike – Trad, 5.7 – Led by Ben.  A fun route, with some interesting face moves.  Not too run out or sketchy, but just interesting enough.
  • Breezeway – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah.  This was our summit line, where we finished up on top of the rock outcropping and posed in front of the sunset.  Like the bosses that we are/were.

Monday, 21-Sept

  • Morning Glory Spire.  Skyline route – Trad, 5.8 – Led by Ben.  Holy crap.  This route.  Ohh man.  Long, but broken up into distinct sections.  Tough… but always possible (if you’re willing to throw for a sketchy hold).  Beautiful views throughout.  This was, by far, my favorite route at City of Rocks.  It goes up the side of a huge spire that stands guard at a break in the larger cliff faces, summiting on top of the rock and looking out over the whole of the park.
    The climbing though… ohh man.  I’ll remember this route for years.  It started out with a semi-clean crack, requiring a bit of route finding to make sure that I didn’t dead-end myself in a blank face.  Then it transitioned to a brutal flake system, with a single move through an undercling that… I just… yeah.  Terrifying.
    Then it moved up through another vertical crack system, full of jams and tricams, until the “dinner plates” section – a 25ft runout (aka a section without protection) of extremely easy climbing.  Then – the summit.
    The only bad part about the route was the people climbing after us… they basically chased Sarah up the rock, even after repeated reminders that, should Sarah slip or accidentally knock a rock lose, they’d be smashed off the rock.  Nope.  They just kept up right behind her, and then tried to use the same anchor that I had built once they caught up to us.  I gave them a stern talking-to, after informing him that he could not use my anchor.  Because I wasn’t willing to risk my life, and my partners life, to a random person who wouldn’t be bothered to wait 10 minutes for us to clean out of the route.
    People.  Guh.
  • Norma’s Book – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah.  Ben – “Ohh, I thought it was called “Nora’s book!”  Sarah – “I don’t care.  It’s still called ‘stupid book’ in my mind”.
    This route was… well, here’s the thing.  We did it in two pitches, and we found more rats & rat nests than pitches.  Yep.  3 rats nests along the route.  Not including cacti, sticks, and other gross & annoying detrius.  This route was not fun.  Zero Stars, would not recommend.
  • Colombian Crack – Trad, 5.7, Led by Ben.  This route was super fun, right up until the part where it became annoying and terrifying.
    Colombian Crack starts out as a perfect hand-crack.  Good jams, interesting face moves, and just enough exposure to make it interesting.  Solid protection, but sparse enough that it still makes for a challenge.
    As I mentioned, right up until the part where it becomes annoying and terrifying… Which is 120ft up, with 30ft left to go.  When the crack widens, and becomes what’s called a “flaring off-width”… which is to say, a crack that’s too big to jam your hands/feet into, but not big enough to fit your whole body into.  And flaring, which means that you can’t place any protection into it.  So… 30ft of unprotected climbing, up a crack that’s nearly impossible to hold onto.
    I pretended that I was a train, and trucked on through.  Sarah did the same.  We rappelled off, and made good food and drank good scotch to forget the terror.

Tuesday, 22-Sept

  • Theater of Shadows – Sport, 5.6 – 4 pitches, led by… Ben, Sarah, Ben, Sarah.  Beautiful.  Amazing.  Great Views.  These are phrases that people would use to describe this route.  And those people would be 100% correct.  It was stellar, and amazing, and a GREAT warm-down from Norma’s book and Colombian Crack.  The views.  Ohh man.  And it was warm, thanks to the sun toasting down on us.  And it ended with a long rappel, free-hanging.  Beautiful.
  • Juniper Jam – Trad, 5.6 – Led by Sarah, then re-led by Ben.  This… well, we ran into trouble.  It involved a lost cam, a lot nut tool, a second lost nut tool, a lost sling, and a second lost sling.
    I won’t tell the story here.  It was long and ridiculous and unpleasant.  But, if anyone finds a purple 0.5 Camalot C4, with a nut tool still trapped against the trigger wire, and two slings somehow magically wrapped around the damn stem…
    Keep it.  The damn thing is cursed.  It must be.

An adventure to the City of Rocks: Ye Olde Camping Part


An adventure to the City of Rocks

So for various reasons, Sarah had a week off of work.  

I was going to take Wednesday off work anyways, to observe Yom Kippur.  

I have a job that allows me to take some time off…

So, I took Monday and Tuesday off as well, and we climbed rocks!  This section is a quick note about the camping we did at City of Rocks, in Idaho.  It was my first time in Idaho, so I was kind of excited to see the territory…


Friday through Wednesday, 18-Sept through 23-Sept



The drive to and from City of Rocks was long, I’ll admit.  I took a lot of the driving duties on the way out, since Sarah would be driving the whole way home while I fasted and did the whole “reflect on Yom Kippur and the previous year”.  It was… well… different.  The last long drive I’d taken was the roadtrip in the Mustang – the drive to Smith Rock could sort of count as well, I guess.  But either way, the drive had been in the Mustang.

Which, interestingly enough, drives quite differently from a Ranger.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  The Ranger had a ton of advantages. Lots of room for gear, ability to sleep in the back (I’ll get to that in a little bit) and a solid cab that let us sprawl out a bit more than I normally could.  The lack of being a convertible wasn’t awesome, but I’ll admit that being warm while driving was kind of nice.  Sort of.

But with all those advantages in mind, I still prefer my car.  The handling, power of the engine and the response of the brakes are all tighter, and it just feels more fun to drive.  But Sarah’s truck worked; it went forward when I hit the gas, and stopped when I hit the brakes.  It hauled all our gear, and kept us safe on the 9 hour drive.



Instead of setting up a tent and sleeping pads, we used a truck.

See, as mentioned earlier, Sarah has a nice Ford Ranger with a full cap on the back bed. Instead of bothering with a full tent setup and everything, she picked up some foam padding and I packed a few blankets. It was really nice – a simple setup that saved us a ton of time dealing with tents and sleeping pads, and meant that we would always have our gear safely tucked away… not that I usually worry too much about thieves when rock climbing, but it’s always a nice bonus to put that thought completely out of my mind.

So we slept in the back bed, full of blankets and pads and pillows.

“But Ben, what about eating?  Were you really crazy enough to cook food in the back of a truck, surrounded by fire hazards and other things that make that a bad decision?”

“Ohh you… of course we didn’t do that!”

I mean, we did boil water for coffee in the bed, a few of the mornings.  But as a usual rule, we’d cook meals out in the main campsite that we’d reserved – either over the fire, using wood that we’d picked up, or on the big camping stove that we’d set up on the picnic table.

First night – steaks.  Ribeye, cooked medium rare, seasoned purely with kosher salt, and served with Mac and Cheese.

Second night – Honestly, I don’t really remember anything aside from the first night, at least specifically.  We did Mac and Cheese, Chicken, seafood chowder (canned, duh) and a few other various meals.  We also ate at Rock City, an amazing pizza place nearby.  They have a pizza called “the garbage pie”, which basically has everything you could imagine on it.  Pineapple, pepperoni, chicken, olives, onions, happiness, joy, and goodwill toward men.

Camping and eating was amazing.

A party weekend in Portland!!!


It’d been a while since I moved to Oregon, and the only chance I’d had to host a party was back when Brian had come out to visit.  Now, hosting dinner parties was one of my favorite things back in Boston, so when Sarah mentioned wanting to throw a party at her place, I got kind of excited…

Doubly so because I had found a place that sold New England oysters, and even shipped them overnight across the country.  See, Oregon has a lot of amazing things, but in my opinion oysters are not one of them… I’d tried them a few times, amd the milky texture just never did it for me.  Old school Wellfleet oysters, straight out of Cape Cod? Now those  are oysters!


Friday, 11-September-2015

I headed home from work about normal time, stopping just long enough to grab the oysters, and take a quick shower before heading into Portland.  Dropped the oysters as Sarah’s house, let Jasper out for a quick walk, and then headed downtown where I picked Sarah up from work.

The plan for the evening?  Sarah is a huge fan of Brandi Carlile, who happened to be playing in town… and she’d happened to buy tickets just for us!  So we had a dinner of a dozen or two oysters, relaxed, and then headed East to the concert, which was being held at this really nice outdoor venue.

After a great Portland concert, what do you do?  Eat delicious Portland food, duh.

And where, pray tell, does one find delicious Portland food?  Why – at the Portland food trucks, obviously!

So, we ate food from the food trucks.  Yummy.


Saturday, 12-September-2015

The day starts with a walk to get sandwiches – delicious paninis are delicious, especially as a quick breakfast, and doubly so when they have avocado on them.

Then – party prep time!  Starts with a drive to the local Wal-Mart-but-not-as-evil location; Fred Myers!  We get good food and new outfits and just generally take our time relaxing.  It’s a lazy Saturday, what do you want from us?  We did buy some tiki torches though, and even got back to the house in time for me to shuck a few oysters and do some last minute cleaning (as well as take a quick shower) before people started showing up.


Then – party time!  People show up.  We eat.  We drink.  We make merry and chat and hang out.

It was excellent, honestly.  I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed my dinner parties back in Boston, and this was a great way to stretch my socialization legs, so to speak.  I did spend a good bit of time working the oysters, but it was a good way to relax and chat with people while doing a job… I’ve found that it’s always easier to make small talk while there’s something to do in the background, so that was a nice way to chat with people


Sunday, 13-September-2015

Sunday was the pinnacle of a lazy, relaxed city Sunday.  We woke up slowly, and made a quick breakfast at the house.  Then got all dressed up fancy (because why not) and took the train down to the city center.

Powells Bookshop, climbing guides, and travel scheming was on the menu, as well as comic books and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  Old Lord of the Rings books were on show, and we even took some time to hit the Portland Store, where they had tons of hip and cool products… not the least of which was a “bearded man” scented candle.

Then we wandered around some more, before meeting up with Dave for more breakfast sandwiches for breakfast!  Second breakfast is always ideal, when there’s an excuse and you’ve done enough walking / adventure to earn it, that is.


Then we kept wandering – relaxing in the grass at a small park that we found, chatting, and just enjoying the sun and the beautiful Northwestern day.

We got home via the MAX, thanks to a quick bit of running to catch a train that showed up a little earlier than we expected, and then set about to getting some stuff done around the house.  Cleaning up after the party, getting some things cleaned up, and generally reorganizing a bit of life.  I took some of that time to hit a bouldering gym called The Circuit, which was nice, but overall the day was relaxed recovery from the party.

And the evening?  Basically the same.  We stuck with our theme of making dinner after a walk, so we head to the equivalent of Whole Foods (A place called New Seasons) and grab some steaks, veggies, and have ourselves an excellent “congrats, you hosted a party!” meal.