Friday, March 9, 2012

Pluto's Cave

It's early. It's dark.

The alarm goes off again.

It's too early.

We look outside and the forecast was correct. It's raining.

I make coffee while Jen makes lunch.

I can't see the sun as I pack the car.

It's still raining.

I forget to brush my teeth. Too excited.

Hand warmers.. (check)

I remind myself of what a friend once told me: "No one wants to go skiing at 6:00am. That's why you have to decide to go the night before."

It's still too early

and we don't ski...

We rock climb:

(A short clip of a classic problem. Thanks Kevin!)

Once again we ventured down to Pluto's Cave. Our friend, Eric Stetner, joined us on this trip across the boarder, into California, where we drove out of the rain, past the fruit guards, and into the beautiful Shasta Basin. Mt. Shasta, rising 14,162 feet above the sea is our backdrop as we hike across the rocky, sage-brush plain, before we drop underground, into the lava tubes.

(Mt. Shasta, photo by: Olcay Caf)

(Down in the tubes! Photo by: Eric Stetner)

Legend says, there is a race of ancient people, living beneath the mountain. Here, the Lemurian Connection describes them:

          "The Lemurians living underground, beneath the mountain, are commonly described as graceful and tall – seven feet and up – with long, flowing hair. They dress in white robes and sandals, but they have also been seen in very colorful clothing. They are said to have long, slender necks and bodies, which they adorn with beautiful decorative collars made of beads or precious stones. They have evolved their sixth-sense, which enables them to communicate among themselves by extra-sensory perception. They can also teleport and make themselves invisible at will. Their mother tongue is the Lemurian language, called Solara Maru."

And my favorite part, "They also speak an impeccable English with a slight British accent."

Click HERE to find out more about our Lemurian friends

Seriously, it's pretty funny.

But, I can't say that I've seen anything quite that strange in Pluto's Cave. The weirdest thing, and probably the closest thing to a Lemurian that anyone will ever see in those caves are people wearing giant, 2ft x 4ft rectangle shaped backpacks, scrubbing rocks with a tooth brush, staring at the white skin on their hands, yelling at their feet, making strange white marking on the walls. They call the white marks "ticks." And then they actually climb the walls... upside-down. Weird.

We thought we would partake in similar rituals on our half day at the caves. But, before I talk about our recent trip, I want to go back a ways and tell a little about some of the previous problems that have and are still being climbed.

Last year, Jesse Firestone and I worked out a couple of problems in the main cave that, as far as we know, hadn't been climbed and still haven't been repeated. So, both are looking for a second ascent! The first is called Sexual Being (V7), put up by Jesse. It involves a few dynamic compression moves, toe hooks, a toe cams, and some other fun, interesting moves. I can tell you, it's highly sequential and will probably, never be flashed. The second, Cryptic People (V9), was put up by me and was named after our friends... you guessed it! The Lemurians. It climbs for 25 feet, directly out the center of the cave, requiring a high amount of power-endurance and lots of trickery. The next film shows both first ascents, filmed and produced by our friend, Kevin Curran. Check it out: 

DPM Video from Kevin Curran on Vimeo.

Click HERE to see more on the process of cleaning and working Cryptic People. It was a fun time with a fun group of people!

On our most recent trip to Pluto's Cave, we hung around the main cave tried some of the classics. There are several great warm ups on steep, juggy holds. Here's Jen on The "V3" (V4):

(Photo by: Eric Stetner)

Moving out of the main cave, you will find the arch! The arch rises 20' off the deck and holds one of the toughest and scariest problems at Pluto's Cave. If the height doesn't get to you, maybe the horrible landing or the chossy top-out will. Also, even though I managed to pry several, precarious blocks off the arch... there might be one or two more yet to come off. Yikes! Here is Eric, working the moves on the first V6 boulder problem of the long arch problem: 

(Crimppppp! Photo by: Jennifer Ross)

After the first section, the tricky roof section begins. More knee bars, heel hooks, and toe hooks with my back 12-15 feet off the ground, until I gain the "Bail Jug." The Bail Jug is the last point on the route where bailing is a safe option. In other words, if someone were to fall after the Bail Jug, they might end up with a high-ankle sprain on their right ankle, from landing on one of the many awkward and uneven boulders, putting them out of climbing for months, causing them lots of pain that still lingers to this day. Just sayin. That could happen...

Well, a year has gone by and I'm back on the horse!

(Re-figuring the first section of The Cosmic Game (V9) Photo by: Jennifer Ross)

It's been over a year of trying and failing. It's been almost a dozen trips to Pluto's Cave, in the snow, rain, and the hot summer sun. We're under ground, in outer space, hangin' with Lemurians. Climbing the arch is the cosmic game. It makes me nervous. It tests my ability to focus. It calms me down and it freaks me out. Let me show you: 

(Start to Bail Jug, Filmed by: Camera sitting on Rock)

I am going to climb the arch and I can not wait! I am going to climb from the dusty, cave floor, up and over and out, onto the sage-covered Shasta Basin. It will be warm up there. The sun will be out and my eyes won't be fully adjusted to the light. Mt. Shasta, off in the distance, will be brighter than ever. I will be out of breath and feel the endorphins pumping through my veins as I crawl to top. I will be dirty. My hands will bleed and my mouth will be dry. My whole body will pulse with life.

(From the pit to blue sky!)

The end of this boulder problem is not a small perch atop an island of rock, where I will soon have to search and scoot and crawl my way back down to flat ground. This problem ends on flat ground, surface level, with a mountain staring down at me, saying, "climb me next."

Not gonna happen. I don't climb mountains... So, let's just say my mountain is in a cave, underground.

Although, we didn't finish a whole lot of problems, it was great to be outside, climbing with friends, and working on the next big project. Jen and Eric will get theirs eventually ("The V3"). I can tell. As for me, I need a little more time, a few more pads, and a couple more spotters! Then, hopefully, I can move to another cave.

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