My last blog post was about Turkey and I’m sure my next one will be too as this place is amazing! I have climbed here for years, but it is the last area I need to fully document before the next South Platte guidebook edition can go to press so I’ve been scouring over every nook and cranny. Forgotten and poorly-documented classics have been “rediscovered” and contemporary test-pieces and neo-classics have been unearthed. And if it weren’t for the latter, I’d have been done writing the book months ago. But I can’t seem to move on from the undone and overlooked cracks, the forgotten aid lines and abandoned projects. I feel like it’s as much of a renaissance as an area so picked over and so steeped in history can have at this point. New lines have barely been more than a blip in the last 20 years, and yet, it’s virtually the only place I want to climb at for new lines right now. In addition to putting up a three-star 5.12 on the north face of Turkey Tail (I called it 11+ in an earlier post and got called a major sandbagger by attempted repeats), there’s at least two more lines I’d like to do on the south face of the Tail, not to mention many more smaller prizes on the north face. It’s an exciting time for high-end free climbing with attempts on the second pitch of In Search of Unicorns. It will go, the moves have all been done, but what’s the ethic of replacing a fixed bashie with a bolt on an aid climb that probably hasn’t been aided more than twice, if that, let alone in the last 30 years? From the bolted anchor 70 feet up, you climb a few feet higher, place a #4 stopper, then climb hard, unprotected face moves to a dihedral. It was here that I clipped and weighted a fixed pin, then took a 40+ foot fall, only 100 feet off the deck when the pin pulled. Falling half the route is pretty heady, especially with a massive tree nearby and on vertical terrain. And you still have to go another 10 feet or so to an old, rusting, quarter-inch bolt. As the guidebook author, I don’t know if I want to mess with local politics and place the bolt (regardless of it being ground up or on lead), but I am in favor of one. I passed on the project about a month ago and handed it over to other friends like Cody Scarpella and Joe Mills, but my heart hasn’t seemed to let go, nor my mind… I will most likely return to it.

 

But until that time there’s plenty to do elsewhere. On Turkey Rock itself for example, I brushed off the cobwebs on a 20-year old abandoned sport route put up by Kevin McLaughlin. It sits between two of the most-done routes at Turkey – Gobbler’s Grunt and Southern Exposure. Yet no one seemed to even notice it was there. The line is one of those delicate slabs where there may be a definitive crux, but you could fall at any point. In fact, just below the an

chor I let my guard down and took an awkward, helicopter-style fall while casually traversing a small scoop. I had my legs crossed from stepping through, with one hand behind my back chalking and the other hand sort of palming the wall. My belayer said something, I looked down, lost my balance, and spun off the wall like a top. I took two more lead falls that day just to make it back up to my high point. You sneeze and you’re off. You stay too long in one spot and your shoes ooze off. You don’t pick the right little pimple to step on or micro-depression to crimp on, and you’re off. Move too fast and you’re done-zo. It’s a route where everything has to come together just right and at 130-feet of continuous climbing with old-school bolt spacing – that’s a lot of magic happening at the same time. I called Kevin up that night to tell him I did his route – his excitement was through the roof, which couldn’t be a bigger compliment. But then he asked how hard it was. “I don’t know man, hard. And hard by slab standards, so real hard. 12b?”

He didn’t even laugh. “It’s the only route I ever started that I didn’t finish and I was fit back then. It’s not 12b.”

 

Coming from a guy who put 5.13 on the map in the Platte (even if old books call his routes 5.12 – some of those lines are legit 5.13s), it was hard to argue with. Still, all I could say was “yeah well no one climbs slab anyway so let’s call it 5.12. No one will know the difference. Besides, if someone thinks it’s sandbagged and gets mad, at least I’ll know someone else got on it.”

But that’s what’s been done, how about what hasn’t been done? There’s another half-dozen undone lines I’d like to do, some easy, some hard, all worthy of a couple stars. But all fail in comparison to the last remaining test piece aside from In Search of Unicorns. Three pitches going up the tallest part of Turkey Rock, and on the best stone on the formation. Something says I shouldn’t draw attention to it, yet something also tells me this revival of new routing at Turkey is far from over. Just be sure to get them in before June as I have a dozen routes on the north side of Turkey Rock to climb before the book is printed.