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Kai Lightner: Climbing Maple Canyon

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

After recovering from my incredible “Psicobloc Experience”, Momentum Climbing gym team members agreed to take me to Maple Canyon the next day to climb at the Pipe Dream cave.

The 30 minute, all uphill hike to the crag kind of killed my initial excitement; however, once I reached the cave, it was unlike anything (or place) I had ever seen. Maple Canyon has conglomerate cobblestone rock.  It looks like someone piled massive stacks of small rocks into one huge hill and then super glued it all together.  The cave was a super tall, very overhanging, and pretty amazing!  Quickly, the misery of the hike disappeared, and all excitement returned.  With climbing team friends and an amazing climbing cave, I was in paradise and ready to enjoy my usual half climb/ half hang out session at the crag :-) .

I was glad that my friend, Dru Mack, from the Red River Gorge area (and one of my favorite belayers, next to Mom of course) happened to be in the area and joined us at the cave.  He knows my climbing style and directed me to several climbs that he thought I would enjoy.

I started off warming up on a slight overhanging  5.11c route.  I took my time climbing the route, trying to get used to the cobblestone textures.  Next, I had initially planned to climb The Diggler (5.13a); however, as I was approaching the anchors of that route, I felt really good and decided to continue and complete Mexican Rodeo (5.13d).  I was proud to have onsighted the route.
Next, I moved on to preview (and climb) the classic Pipe Dream route (5.14a).  This is a really neat, extremely overhanging line.  After tying in, I headed up the route across the roof section, and started to get a little confused about the sequence.  I took a while to look over the section, and I tried several sequences to clear the lip of the route.  Someone then shouted out and asked if I wanted beta.  Normally I would say yes, especially since I still had a LONG way to go to the anchors and had already burned a lot of time on the route.  For some reason, I shouted out “No”.  I wanted to figure it out on my own.  After a moment, I came up with another plan, committed, and pushed through that section of the route.  As I continued navigating through the climb, I encountered a few more sections that were not straight forward and I had to keep locking off to search for holds.  As I approached the anchors, then clipped, I was excited to tick off my first 5.14a onsight!

Kai Lightner Maple Canyon via prAna LifeKai Lightner Maple Canyon via prAna Life

I rested a while and decided to take on the toughest route in the cave, Divine Fury (5.14b).  This is a LONG 20 bolt route, which starts in the back of the cave, continued through a long roof section, and then linked up with the final 4 bolts of Pipe Dream.  As I entered the roof section, I quickly got confused and even after asking for beta, I was unable to complete a tough kneebar sequence.  I decided to call take, beg someone to throw up knee pads, and dig in to find a sequence that worked for me.  I fumbled around on the roof for a LONG time trying to find an efficient sequence.   For me efficiency is mandatory on long sport routes.  After falling numerous times, and fumbling my way up to the anchors, I took my shoes off and went over to hang out, eat, and rest.

Jonathan-Vickers_Momentum-Climbing-Gym_Pipe-Dream-Cave_web4A while later, it was starting to get late, so I grabbed my shoes & chalk bag, and asked for one last belay before leaving.  They were surprised that I was going back up on the route.   Especially since I had called take so many times on my first attempt. No one realized that most of my takes were because I was searching for efficient sequences and conserving energy, since I had already blown my first attempt.   I had totally planned to get back on that route and try one more send attempt before leaving.  I was super excited when I climbed my way to the anchors and ascended the route!

Although I only ended up climbing 4 routes, I had a pretty productive and enjoyable day. Hanging out with friends, climbing at a new crag (and a different type of rock), and accomplishing a new milestone made it a perfect climbing day.  Luckily Momentum climbing gym sent their photographer, Jonathan Vickers, with us to capture the day through pictures.   I wish I had more days at the canyon, but I’m glad that I got to sneak one in.  I can’t wait to return to Salt Lake City!  This was definitely one of my most adventurous trips!!

~Kai Lightner, prAna Ambassador

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