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The Usual and Something New at Cochiti Mesa, New Mexico

September 5, 2004

Author: Larry Earley

Trip Participants: Larry Earley and Norbert Ensslin

Its another beautiful day in the Jemez Mountains. Weather is clear and highs around 80 expected. We reach the area around 9:30 AM and park right near our warmup climbs. Vista Point overlook is totally fantastic. No one in sight. We past a few campers on the way and a few hunters checking out the area. We saw two giant turkeys on the road on the way down to the climbs. They were big and one took flight into the trees. Vista Point has eight climbs but the Falcon guide book doesn't tell you much. The Sport Climbing in New Mexico book has a topo but its out of print. Then a two minute walk and a short rap gets you to Coming of Age (5.6). Five bolts on fair rock gets you the only easy climb at Cochiti Mesa. Just twenty feet away is the super nice Adolescent Fantasy (9+/10a). This is a clean face with five bolts and some great pocket climbing. Thin and technical but not too stiff (9/9+). We scramble on some desperate ledges to our goal Red Zinger (10b). We pass Stridex (11d) and are always amazed at a blank wall overhung with bolts. The ledges are soft volcanic tuff that is crumbling. The fall is only 50-100 feet so watch your step. It seems worse then last year. Red Zinger is really two climbs. It is about 75 feet high with the first half a crumbling soft rock (not really rock) with a super bolted upper face. The crux is leading the first half trad on virtual protection. I get the lead today. I place four pieces knowing if I fall all is lost. The rock is so soft, the gear WILL pull. I get up on the face past two bolts and have the usual trouble. Its thin, no feet and shallow two finger pockets. I bail. Norbert finishes the pitch and I come up barely hanging on through the crux. We top out and have some lunch. There are also a couple other 11s and 12s here but not for us.

We drive a mile and park at the main cliff area. No cars. Its just us and 60 sport routes on a perfect day. We start on the usual Acid Rain (10c). Norbert says this one was the old LA Mountaineers 5.9 warmup. They called it 5.9 before the guide book came out. This is a real mind game. It has to be the lowest angle 5.10 climb anywhere. Well did I say its thin. Well 5.9 feels right. This one is always worth the time. We move on to our usual next climb Just Say No to Crack (10a/b). This is my personal favorite at Cochiti. We both lead this one. We know all the moves and its still an adrenalin rush. We both complain a little and force ourselves to make the moves. Its the best at this grade. Nearby are the super climbs The Prow (11b/c), Another Lichen Nightmare (11a), Dreamscape (12a) and Shadowdancer (12c/d). Top climbers must try these test pieces I have top roped the 11s. WOW. These are beautiful climbs.

Now we have completed our usual climbs and I tell Norbert about a climb we haven't tried. Its called Montana Deviate (9+). He hasn't tried it either. We get there in a few minutes and I remember it now. I guy once was climbing here with his girlfriend. Now I remember. Advice: DO NOT TAKE YOUR GIRLFRIEND HERE AS A DATE CLIMB. I try the start. Fail. Out comes the stick clip. Clip bolt one. Try again. Fail. Norbert says try to stem off the rock nearby. I get up and desperately lunge for a hold and desperately clip bolt two. Hang. Norbert says it looks like an 11 start. Maybe 10+. I try to move up. Fall. Lower off. Norbert's up now. The regular climb has two starts and both are 11s. There is suppose to be a 9+ variation in topo.

Norbert climbs the most amazing display of climbing out of his bag of tricks. Norbert climbs Montana Deviate 5.10+/A0. He hangdogs with the best, grabs quickdraws, steps on bolts, lunges, uses trad gear in blind placements, and somehow gets to the anchors. Did I mention we stick clipped the first bolt and stemmed up a boulder on start. I was laughing the whole time. The gear placement was textbook blind luck. Standing on a bolt and thrusting up a cam blind and then taking and resting. WOW. You had to be there to see it to believe it. You got to give Norbert credit. What determination. I bailed early.

We get to the car and drive to our last spot. We have never been to the Disease Wall. It is 0.8 miles up the road, park in the brush and bushwhack towards the canyon. Follow the gully to the cliff and look for the bolts. There is one 5.9, a few 11s and a few 12s. We are doing some recon for a future trip to the 5.9 Common Cold. We are both amazed at the 11s. We can't see all the routes from the top. There is no sign of a trail or foot traffic. A few old bear cans, but they are old. This area looks great for some hot climbers. Maybe another day. You have to rap off a tree and its 80 feet down to the base of the cliff. All bolted sport routes. Try it and let me know how it goes. Maybe I can come back with Dave Barlow and give it a try too.

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