We parked at the large Bridal Veil Falls pullout in Keystone Canyon, and then walked through the grass towards the climb. Soon, the Alaska “X Factor” kicked in. Usually, to reach the top rope anchor on POS, you walk up a ramp of snow. However, there was no snow. We had two choices: walk around on a trail, or go up the ramp without snow on it. We took the ramp.
We should have taken the trail. Unprotected, we planted our tools in frozen moss as we scraped up the low-angle rock. This is one component of the Alaska X Factor: an awkward and dangerous approach to an easy climb.
We reached the top, and then made our way around and down through the forest towards the large tree that would be our main anchor. I thought of the Alaska X Factor again as I batted away devil’s club with my ice tools. Do people in Colorado do this???
Finally, we set up our rope. We went over the components of our anchor system more than once, to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.
There was nothing left to do but rappel down to the bottom. My partner offered to take my picture rappelling but I told her I was too terrified. Putting myself on rappel has always been difficult for me. Once that part was behind me, I felt a huge surge of relief.
Both safely on the bottom, we laughed at how much we had struggled just to get to square one of our day. It was finally time to climb!
The Alaska X Factor got us one more time that day, although we did not realize it until later. That evening, my climbing partner felt a little pain in her leg. When she investigated, she found a porcupine quill deeply embedded. There were a handful of other quills sticking out of her leg as well. She must have smacked into some loose quills near the anchor.
We would return to POS two more times before the snow flew. Each time, we were more sure of ourselves both on the climbing end and the climb management side.
Good snow has whisked us up into the mountains for skiing and snowboarding for now. However, we look forward to continuing to hone our skills this winter.
I am looking forward to becoming more independent as a climber, rather than relying on others to do all of the set up and leading. This may take me a long time, but with the sheer beauty each climb brings, I am prepared to enjoy the journey.