Day 3: Climbing basalt!

Climbing the volcanic rocks of Baños:

Today I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the adventure sports Baños has to offer: mountain biking, canyoneering, climbing or rafting.  This was a difficult decision, considering how much I love all of the first three choices, and that I have never been on a real rafting trip.  

But, it really came down to canyoneering or climbing, my two main loves since moving to Arizona…

When inquiring about the canyoneering, I found out that the guide assists you in your rappels.  Great for safety and liability reasons no doubt, but I knew this would take the fun out of it for me.  And the fact that there was already a number of people signed up sealed the deal.  I prefer people in small doses when enjoying outdoor adventures!

So needless to say, I chose climbing.  No surprise, probably…it had been 5 days since my last climb and I was in need of a fix!! 

The crag was an exposure of basaltic rock cut by the Rio Pastaza:

I quickly discovered how different climbing on basalt is!!  Being used to the textured granite characteristic of most climbing spots in AZ, I could not believe how slippery it was!  Not only were almost all of the holds slopers, but they felt like they’d been greased in butter!!!! Greasy slopers and underclings….my favorite! 😛

Despite some frustration, I made it to the top of the first route and was starting to get the hang of it…

So we continued moving down the crag, and up in grade, towards the river.  The last route we did was 50 meters long of sustained, tough climbing.  Here is pic of my guide rappelling back down:

Although a more difficult climb, I was thankful that there were some hand jams along with the slopers and underclings!  So I felt like I at least occasionally had a decent hand to work my feet up with!  From one slick foot hold to the next. 😉  

But, I made it!  You can see how greased up the rock is in this pic too…

All in all I did 4 routes, all super fun and full of interesting body positioning! Although the slippery rock was challenging for me, it meant that for the first time climbing outside (ever?!?) the rock didn’t draw any blood.  None. Nada!  Those of you that climb with me know how surprising that is!  I like to say, “You’re not having fun until you’re bleeding.”  But today was definitely an exception! 🙂

Although it seemed difficult and frustrating climbing in an entirely new environment, I was surprised how the guides kept saying how I was a very strong climber (uhhh….did you not see my falls??).  Another guide wanted my contact information to climb when he traveled to the SW next year!  AND, he has a friend that may be able to take me out climbing this weekend in Cuenca 🙂

Although I was flattered, I had no idea what grades I was climbing because they use the french system in Ecuador.  5b, 6b, 6b+ and 6c sounded like they should be easy!!  Turns out, they translate to 5.9, 5.10d, 5.11a and 5.11b!!!  On my first time on basalt?!?  No wonder!  Now I’m proud I persisted through them all! 😀

(Hopefully, I will be able to post pictures of me on the wall once my guide sends them to me.)

A las seis de la mañana, vamos a Riobamba!  Next adventure: biking down the slopes of Chimborazo, the tallest peak in Ecuador (and furthest point from the earth’s center)!

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