Guest blog by Mike Schneiter.
“So what exactly are we climbing today?” Bob asked in the parking lot of Safeway. I neglected to fully inform Bob what we were climbing today and last night some friends had a good chuckle when he told them we were climbing the Mudwall in Glenwood Canyon. “You know Mike has a site called chossmonkey, right?” I seemed to have left out some information, only telling Bob that we were doing a 10-pitch route in Glenwood Canyon.
The Mudwall in Grizzly Creek, Glenwood Canyon
The Mudwall has a long and storied history, dating back to the 1960s when Layton Kor burned through a number of partners in his forays to the steep, ominous wall that sits above Grizzly Creek. As the story goes, Kor reverted to lying to his partners about what they were climbing, assuring them they were headed to the desert or elsewhere for classic ascents, before turning off the highway at Grizzly Creek, where the Mudwall prominently towers above the canyon.
As I waited at the stoplight to leave Glenwood Springs, I wondered if Bob would grab the door handle and make for an escape. Instead, I soothed him into the belief that surely this day of adventure would be more worthy than any day of clipping bolts and lounging creekside at Rifle.
The Mudflap Girl
Of course, we botched the approach, crossing Grizzly Creek too soon. The worst part was hiking underneath hundreds of feet of hard, relatively clean quartzite, before we found ourselves at the base of the Mudflap Girl, the first pitch being a Fishers Towers-esque crack of munge and dirt. “So how did they decide on this for a start?” Bob wondered aloud. Chris Kalous and Jeff Achey pioneered this route over a couple of years, completing it in 2005. I sheepishly assured Bob that there was probably a good reason.
Finishing the first pitch.
The first 5.8 pitch went smooth despite a lack of gear and some initial hesitation on the frail-looking holds. Soon, Bob was at the belay and racking up for the second pitch when Ryan appeared at the base. Sweet, I thought, a third to share in the fun. The 5.10 roof of the second pitch initially appeared difficult and scary as the wall was covered with a loose, flaky rock that fell off with not much more than a strong exhalation. Jokingly I proclaimed that the rock was surely better up high and too our surprise, it was. The next couple of pitches, while not El Cap granite, were relatively clean and easy to climb. Each pitch was mostly easy 5th class climbing with a short crux where the wall steepened.
Better rock and easy climbing on the third pitch.
The climbing was almost starting to feel casual when things started to get serious again on the fifth pitch. Some good face climbing protected by bolts led to more choss, but we weren’t worried because we, minus Bob, knew what we were getting into. Little did we know that the fifth pitch was just a warm-up for things to come.
Bob, on the fifth pitch, when things started to get interesting again.
Ryan’s next pitch, the sixth was a beautiful corner and some initial fears about rock quality were mostly laid to rest, for the time being. When Bob and I reached the belay we were psyched about the quality, steep climbing on the last pitch. Then, we looked at the belay and realized why Ryan had climbed up and down for a long time setting the belay. One of the anchor bolts was missing, leaving one bolt and no where but a crack 15 feet up for back up.
An endless sea of choss.
Oh well, the next pitch looked classic, the crux roof pitch, rated 5.10+ on the topo. With some trepidation I climbed underneath the roof and looked for gear placements. With knowledge of the unstable nature of much of the rock on this face I seriously pondered if the roof is a feature that will be there long term. A massive crack undercut the roof along the wall, providing good protection possibilities but doing little to allay my fears of massive and deadly rockfall. With gear in place I moved underneath the roof, expecting to encounter some kind of stopper crux. Instead, I found big holds, for both the feet and hands and a fixed pin just above the roof. The pin didn’t inspire a lot of confidence so I reached high to place a #4 Camalot. Sweet, I thought, now I’m on toprope. My first effort to pull the lip of the roof stopped me short because the big foothold I wanted to use was also too close to the roof, thus rendering it useless. Out left was a smaller hold which I had initially avoided because it looked fragile but now I realized that it was the one to use. As I pulled the lip, I half-expected to have the foothold break and I fully expected to find a hard move with small holds or something tricky. Instead, it was just pulling on big incut holds and quickly I was to the top, belaying Ryan and Bob through the roof with hundreds of feet of exposure licking their heels. They too found it easier than expected, suggesting a more modest rating of mid-5.10.
The crux roof on the 7th pitch.
With the crux pitch behind us we seriously entertained thoughts of an easy stroll to the top. Instead, Bob’s lead of the eighth pitch proved to be the most serious of the climb. The climbing was more sustained and it was tricky, not the jug hauling on big incuts that we had experienced on much of the climb. At the top of the pitch, the rock quality deteriorated and with it gear options. A relatively large pillar that Bob placed gear in and climbed on looked like it could topple from the wall and swan dive into the dirt slopes like we had seen many chunks of rock do so that day. We all agreed that it may be the true crux of the climb, physically and mentally. Luckily, Ryan’s lead of the next pitch proved reasonable and he quickly linked it with the tenth and final pitch to bring us to the top.
Ryan, leading the ninth and final pitch.
At the top, we were treated with some marvelous views as we laughed about the stories we would tell about the climb. “Oh yeah, it’s classic, easy 5.8 with solid rock and good gear!” “It’s a can’t-miss climb!” “Tell all your friends, it’s an everyman’s climb!” “Hey Boulderites, why go to Rifle, stop and climb at the Mudwall instead!”
In all seriousness, Mudflap Girl is a route that is classic for a select few and we were glad that we are part of that select crew of choss connoisseurs.
Mudflap Girl on the Mudwall, 10 pitches, 5.10+
After a small amount of drama involving stuck ropes on rappel, we made our way to the base, to the trail below and to the Brewpub, for beers, nachos and burgers. With beer in hand, it was much easier to reflect on a fine choss-filled day in the bag and one storied and unique route under our belts.
Mike Schneiter doesn’t climb only choss, but appreciates the adventure in routes that leave you with a good pile of dirt to pull from your pocket and dig out of your ears at the bar. His wife thinks it’s just an excuse to hang out with the guys instead of climbing the clean routes she enjoys. More of his adventures can be found at chossmonkey.com.