AAO Ambassador Trip report: James Jenden

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"On Monday, May 28, life got insane. It was the first day of my two-month crash course in field geology. I'm not exactly into doing lots of work, so if it wasn't for the fact that my course is in the Black Hills, I'd probably be going insane right now. Thank God for Custer State park. It's been my saving grace since I got here. During the week, I get to plan climbs  and dream, and on the weekends, those dreams get to come alive. When you spend almost every waking moment during the week looking at a mind-numbing amount of rocks, the chance to get out and climb is certainly welcome. 

Pretty much all the climbing I've done in my short career has been quite safe. In the gym, most of the stuff is toprope, as at Devil's Lake, and all of the stuff I climbed in Joshua Tree was really well protected trad. If you've ever climbed in the Spires, you know what I'm getting at right now. Climbing there is all about guts. About 90% of the routes there are 5.8 and below, but they make up for easy moves with scary exposure and runouts. The East Face of Station 13 is probably the best example of this I've run into so far. My partner Jonie and I were guiding two of our friends up, and so Jonie convinced me that the 5.7 East Face route would be more fun for them than the 5.10 I wanted to do. Resigned to his good reasoning, I started up the chimney that made up the bottom half of the climb. The climbing was easy, fun, and well protected, and then I got out of the chimney. Suddenly, I was looking at a traverse onto a blank face, marked by a single, lonely bolt, and I was twenty-five feet above a C3. I managed to plug a micronut that I had no confidence would hold a fall, and moved onto the face. I'm not quite sure how long those moves to the bolt took, because my mind was pretty much full up with the thought of whipping sixty feet into a chimney (assuming that C3 held), but they were some of the scariest I've ever done. I smiled at the end, and it hit me that climbing in The Spires is all about confidence in your own ability, and being able to have the mental toughness to ignore consequences. It's totally different than anything I've done before, but the more I climb here, the more I enjoy it. Apart from the East Face of Station thirteen, I've taken friends up Spires Two (twice) and Four by the Conn routes, and climbed a fun hands and fists crack called Little Lark. There's also a ton of cool boulder problems that I've put up around here with Jonie. I've enjoyed being in an area where the bouldering is largely undeveloped, and most of the problems we do, we've created.

My Eos 1 tent has served me quite well this summer, along with my Baffin Jacket, and my Hydrogen bag has kept me nice and toasty ."

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...stories of perilous, nay, endless traveling in the ever changing midwest territory...