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Whale's Tail Rock Climb

July 17, 2004

I had not rock climbed in two years, and never outside of a gym, and only about four times altogether at that. All of those times had been with my highschool friend Arthur, who had already been climbing for a year or two back then and has not stopped since. In other words, he has four year’s experience and I have none.

Now that I had some of my own equipment, I was ready to climb outdoors for the first time, especially since we were in Boulder, Colorado. So, we went to Eldorado Canyon, where Arthur introduced me to several imposing walls of rock with names of all sorts: the famous “Bastille,” Wind Tower, West Ridge, and so on.

Wanting to learn how to use my new equipment, as well as the basics of “trad” (traditional) rock climbing, I of course was up for nothing more than a novice endeavor. Arthur chose for us a definite beginner’s climb on “Whale’s Tail,” the 5.4 “West Dihedral.”

We made the tricky (because I was wearing flip-flops) journey to the belay point for this route, then “set up camp” as we waited for three other people who were already on the West Dihedral. After they finally cleared, Arthur started his ascent, as I belayed for him.

Once Arthur had anchored himself at the top, I began my climb. It was not entirely vertical, and pretty much all of the holds were jugs, with the crux being just before the top, a small move around a jutting ledge, on which Arthur was already sitting.

When I was about midway up the wall, I heard loud crashing and instinctively joined in the chorus of people yelling “ROCK!” This happened simultaneously as I watched a huge chunk of rock, and several smaller pieces, fall from another part of the Whale’s Tail, missing a belayer just across the way by mere inches! And that was only because he ducked out of the way! The chunks of rock landed far below with a huge crash. There was some yelling back and forth by everyone to ensure no one had been caught in the path of the angry rock, and when all were confirmed unharmed I continued my climb.

This was not a hard climb by any means, but definitely necessary for me to re-familiarize myself with the basics of rock climbing, and it was a great introduction to trad climbing outdoors. The skies were getting dark and ugly just as I made it to the top, so after snapping just a couple pictures, I rappeled back down the slope to the belay point. Arthur followed suit, and after packing up the equipment we headed back out to my jeep. It never did rain more than a few drops.

Tonight we went to Pearl Street and Arthur showed me around. There were a number of booths set up along the outdoor mall strip, strangely reminiscent of Denver’s 16th Street but somehow more comely. The booths were selling all kinds of artwork and various trinkets, and the streets were lined with stores and countless restaurants. There were a number of bookstores as well, which we browsed at length. We ended up eating at The Cheesecake Factory, which I did not know was more than, well, a cheesecake factory. In fact, they had a ‘book’ as a menu, and some great food within. And, yes, we did have some particularly delicious cheesecake for dessert.