Ann, Sean, and I decide to search the Poudre Canyon for some neighborhood sport climbing. We don’t have much to go on – a couple of trad routes in an old book, some beta from a web search, a hint from a local climber. Thus armed, we drive about 15 miles up the canyon to a short tunnel, where I start to poke around. There are supposedly over 100 routes at The Palace area across the river, but it’s too high to cross. Ann and Sean seem skeptical as they watch me scramble up a steep gully to examine the Crystal Wall on this side.
I immediately notice a fixed line on the wall. Climbing up for a closer look, there are several bolted routes with chalked-in ratings. Around the corner are more routes, sans ratings. I follow cairns back down to a rope-assisted descent of the road cut, which we all head back up with our gear.
I single out the easiest looking route. Ann surprises me by asking to lead it. It’s well protected, so I encourage her to give it a try. She does, working through some tricky moves to complete the route with only a couple of hangs. After we’ve all done it we agree the route is probably 5.7, if you figure out the right sequence. It has a loose block near it, but is otherwise quite good.
It’s sunny now, but I have my eye on a face route a little higher up, which I decide to attempt in the sun. I get on it, and do well on stretchy, big moves past the first bolt. It gets tougher at the second, and I try to make the second clip on a 1/4″ sidepull. I’m shaky, Ann is reluctant to give me rope, and sure enough I grease off and plummet groundward. Somehow I have the instinct to lift my legs rather than try to land, and the rope catches me just soon enough to set me down lightly on my butt. That is as close as I ever want to come to decking. I recover and get back on, but after breaking off a hold and taking another fall at the third bolt, I give up. My lesson for the day – if you don’t have the stance, don’t try the clip. Especially on bolt 2.
Looking to escape the sun we go around to the west side, and there we meet Tim on his fixed line, putting up a route. He gives us some beta and even offers to put a rope up on something for us. I get on an 80-foot 5.10b, while he leads a similar 5.10c barefoot. My route is excellent. I’m still feeling a little timid and take some hangs that I regret later, but still thoroughly enjoy the route. Tim has to take off, and we spend the afternoon working the two routes on toprope. They both have a second pitch that 5.12something, but the first pitches are perfect for us. We all leave wanting to return soon.