Having recently moved to Ouray County, Colorado, I stopped in to see my friends Jim and Angela Friday afternoon: “We’re going rock climbing up Taylor Canyon,” Jim said, looking through ‘Gunnison Rock’, the local climbing guidebook. “Lots of really easy beginner climbs there.” Hmmm! Maybe Nori would like to go and get an introduction to rock climbing. She had never been exposed to climbing before, and this might just be an excellent spot to learn the basics. The cliffs are composed of a beautiful pink granite with lots of holds and cracks that make learning to climb so exciting and interesting.
Between Gunnison, Colorado, and Crested Butte lies the tiny burgh of Almont, Colorado, the confluence of the East and Taylor rivers which then become the Gunnison river. The Gunnison continues down to Blue Mesa Reservoir, and then cascades through the ancient rocks of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of the most fantastic and beautiful canyons in the country if not the world. Taylor Canyon is likely one of the most interesting, friendly, and beautiful canyons in Colorado. The river is full of fish and fishermen. Pink granite cliffs line the road and were our destination this weekend.
I had promised Nori that she didn’t have to climb, even though Jim, Angela, and I were definitely into the climbing. Being a good sport she consented to at least learn the fundamentals and try it out once. When we arrived, the first and finest cliff was crawling with young climbers, and it didn’t look like we had any chance at privacy, an absolute criterion for Nori to feel comfortable on her first day on the rock. Jim and Angela had secured campsite 19 in One Mile Campground, so we continued to the site, had a nice chat with Jim and Angela and left a few items on the picnic table to secure the place.
Once down to the cliff, we discovered that the Western State University climbing club was just leaving, giving us the entire cliff for the rest of the afternoon. Angela started Nori off with a detailed explanation of the basics of rock climbing while Jim climbed above. While Jim and Angela continued on around to the right to climb harder routes, Nori and I retreated to the left side and practiced the fundamentals. We worked on how to place her feet, how to use the sticky rubber on climbing shoes for friction on steep slabs, and how the hands are used mostly for balance. The afternoon went swimmingly.
For a finale, Nori tied on the climbing rope to her harness and scampered up the first and most famous route on the cliff. It was a fitting end for a great day on the rock.
Back at camp we celebrated with a bottle of “Fat Bastard” Pinot Noir from the Bordeaux region. I stuck with Tecate. Cheese, blue corn chips, salsa, and other goodies seemed to appear and disappear in the back of the Donini’s “Sportsmobile”. As the sun started to go behind the cliffs, we hauled out my giant camp stove that Thor, Sarah, and Daphne gave me for Christmas last year. It was the maiden voyage for the stove, and we were all impressed at the horsepower a camp stove could deliver. Jim cooked on a gas grill: dinner of salmon, elk burgers, corn-on-the-cob, and fresh garden tomatoes drizzled with oil and vinegar and topped with pesto. We welcomed the darkness with another bottle of wine around the campfire.
The next morning I rose early and put the new camp stove to good use, brewed coffee and cooked a breakfast of 9-grain cereal topped with fresh peaches, raspberries and cashews. The sour milk and cream topping was more than Nori could stomach, but I had little trouble putting it away. She poured the milk in the bushes and admonished me…slightly. Well deserved, I’m sure!
Jim and Angela had spied a large crack to climb on a cliff about a half hour walk up the other side of the river. Nori wanted to watch the climbing to learn more. I had a sore hip and was glad for the day off, so we ambled up the track along the stream and watched as Jim did his magic up the rift in the mountain. Daisies were still in bloom, but everywhere else the smell of fall was in the air. Labor Day weekend signals the end of the tourist season. Students are back in school, and family vacations are nearly at an end. Nevertheless, the river was full of fishermen, the campgrounds full to bursting, and mountain bikes flew down the trails. We were untouched by the crowds and had an idyllic hike alongside the river.
By mid-afternoon the responsibility of housesitting for a friend was beginning to weigh on me and I became anxious to return home. On the way out of Gunnison we stopped to see the Labor Day sales, but fortunately escaped with wallet and purse almost intact, save for an on-sale food dehydrator. The cat was still alive when I returned to the house. Whew!