Tuesday, November 1

Working With Bikes

Memory is a funny thing. I just remembered once when I used my bike as part of my job.

I used to be cool. I used to be a climbing guide. Ah, in the days before kids! The days before marriage, stability in my life, three meals a day...yeah, I used to take people climbing for money. After I met Mandy she helped me and we were pretty darn good at what we did.

Summit of Table Rock, NC (Linville Gorge area)

Take a trip with me, way back to 2005. October to be exact. One of my most memorable clients was a guy named Bob from Connecticut. Bob was an experienced climber and wanted to hire a guide as a climbing partner for a week of climbing in the Red River Gorge. In October. How can you turn something like that down?

The result was a week of me following Bob up some of my favorite climbs in the area. He asked me for suggestions and I took him to the walls and pointed to the climbs. I belayed Bob as he led and then I followed him. We did a lot of climbs.

I had mentioned one particular climb I wanted him to do, one of my top three favorites, a pinnacle called Minas Tirith (another Tolkien reference you GEEKS!). The problem was that the USFS road where the formation was located was closed due to a landslide.

Summit of Minas Tirith, 1994

I suggested to Bob that we could bike the 2.3 miles out to the trail and do the climb. He was game and toward the end of the week we made plans to do the route.

We loaned Bob one of our bikes and I took the kid trailer (now the apocalypse buggy) along. I left the trailer folded flat, loaded our two climbing packs on it and trailed it along as we rode out the desolate road, enveloped in autumn goodness.

The climb was a success. We didn't see a soul, Bob had a blast and I wished I could incorporate more bike trips with my guided climbing. Alas, it never worked out that way afterward.

The road stayed closed for quite some time. A couple of months later I discovered a nice looking climb that had probably never been ascended while on a bushwhack exploration. It was further out the road than where the pinnacle was located, and a much longer hike to boot.

That crack haunted me. I thought of it often, even dreaming of climbing it once. Finally I couldn't take it anymore. I made my plans and struck out.

A 4 mile bike ride out Indian Creek Road (FS 9b) got me to an older unmaintained road. I locked up the bike and trailer, shouldered my climbing pack and hiked in another mile up Little East Fork of Indian Creek to the base of the pretty little crack.

I built an anchor and eased up the crack, dispatching a moderate crux midway up and a heady and exposed finish to an amazing little perch on top of the cliffline. Then I cleaned the route, packed up my gear and began the five mile trek out.

It was an amazing experience. I had been doing a lot of roped-soloing and was comfortable being out so far on my own. It was a cold, but sunny day and I had the world to myself.

I called the route (get ready for this Tolkien geeks!) There and Back Again.


The marked change in the person I was then and the person I am now...when I did those routes in 2005 I drove from home fifteen miles to the trailhead before biking in to the hiking trails. Now I wouldn't blink at taking the bike the whole distance.

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