Zero to Hero
By Jason Nelson, November 19, 2012
Zero to Hero -a new mixed climb- came together in a series of pieces. The first began about three years ago… Living in Ouray, with a population of 900, meant that climbing partners could be limited at times. I often filled that gap by establishing new routes. Bolting is something like climbing, but dirtier and different. I liken it to a sculptor removing the debris and unearthing a statue. With rock as loose as it is in Ouray, that means a lot of removing debris.
Inspired by stories of what was happening over in Europe and having climbed-out Ouray’s current “hard man’s mixed climbing” area, the Poser’s Lounge, I set my sights on finding something different. Why did I need to be limited to finding steep rock with ice on it for a mixed climb? While we all like to have ice on our mixed routes for aesthetic purposes, it really limits the options.
And so, I came across the Hall of Justice cave, but it was big and riddled with loose rock. The wall was four hundred feet tall so rap bolting wasn’t an option. The first route took me about three and a half days to bolt over the course of a couple weeks. Solo-aiding and bolting up such a steep piece of rock was a slow going and brutal affair. The wall is so steep that my feet couldn’t touch the wall and I had to stem in the air with my aiders.
Meanwhile, I’d lock off with one arm on the quickdraw I was hanging from, lean back and press the 10-15 lbs of battery powered hammer drill into the ceiling. The drill bit would start to rotate and shake as I tried to keep my shoulder engaged. Dirt poured out of the hole and onto my face, clothes and into my eyes. Each bolting session would send me home covered in dirt, my hips rashed and bruised, and my core muscles completely spent.
Once the route was bolted, I spent about 7 more days over the next several weeks cleaning the loose rock from the wall. The cleaning was accomplished by swinging a big hammer into the rock, much like what you see the chain gangs doing in the movies, except this is done while hanging in a harness.
I sent the route that same year and named it “Holy Girlpile Batman” (M12). It was quite a breakthrough for me as it was the most difficult route I could imagine yet I found myself clipping the chains after only about six tries. I bolted a shorter route in the back of the cave as well as a warm up. After those two, I was spent. The effort was expensive and exhausting. Plus I couldn’t find anyone to climb with me in the cave so I left it alone for a period.
A lot of inspiration comes from those you surround yourself with one way or another. I’ve known Marc Beverly for a number of years now, but we’ve only just started hanging out this year. Seems we have a lot in common; a taste for new routes and we are both “extra-large-size” climbers weighing in at over 200 lbs and both about 6’ 4”.
This winter, Marc came out to visit me and to climb “Holy Girlpile Batman!”. One thing led to another and out came the drill. Over the next couple days, the warm up in the back of the cave was extended out past the lip. It wasn’t completely without adventoure. We established it during a multi-day blizzard and post-holing a hour or so each day up to the cave required a fair bit of motivation. One evening of bolting went into the dark and I took a fall when a bolt pulled out of the roof in some loose rock. Drill, aiders, a hammer were floating with me through the air until coming to a rest on the rope.
The route was brutally steep and there wasn’t a single rest on the 80-feet or so of climbing. I had to learn how to climb such a route. Using your feet when they don’t really touch the wall becomes a challenge. It didn’t take long though and my second day of trying to climb the route found me clipping the anchors.
Sending the route was a success, but as much so, I’ve set the spark for others and it looks as though I’ll have some help in establishing some future lines in this cave. I’m excited to see what the future will hold.
Marc and I decided to call the route “Zero to Hero” in a mocking fashion as the route’s difficulty goes from 0 to 60 almost instantly and once you’re at the top, you’re a hero, or at least feel like one for a moment. That is until you lower off and find yourself too pumped to untie the rope from your harness.