A Weekend to Remember
Two weekends ago, the world found out that the world’s number one terrorist had been killed here in Pakistan. It was a day of celebration for many people and one that most people won’t forget for a long time, but I’m going to remember it for a different reason. It was the weekend of our first overnight camping trip as a family! Not only that, but we got to do some climbing too…
We packed up our gear in the Land Cruiser and headed out right after lunch on Saturday. After a 2 hour drive through some incredible Karakorum scenery, we pulled into our campsite at the Boulder Factory.
One of my two favorite climbing areas in all of Pakistan, the Boulder Factory is an aptly named pile of boulders situated on the sandy bank of the Shyok River. Beautiful green villages and rugged peaks surround the Factory, yet it is secluded enough to offer a fair amount of privacy (foreigners attract a lot of attention around here). You can see some highlights of the climbing at the Boulder Factory in our full length film, Kushmakush (near the middle of the movie).
Reaiah needed a nap, so we immediately set up the tents and her playpen and unloaded most of our stuff from the LC. It didn’t take very long for her to fall asleep. We couldn’t go very far with her sleeping, but fortunately, there were some great boulders just a few feet from the tents with enough routes to keep us occupied. Laura, Shady and I all climbed several routes and even had some projects picked out by the time Reaiah woke up.
Unfortunately, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and a sudden gust of wind flipped one of the tents with everything inside it. Shady and I battled the wind to get the tent upright and then ran around making sure all of our stuff was secure. We ended up in the tent with Rea and Laura to wait out the storm. It was looking pretty miserable outside and we were all wondering whether we should just pack up and find a hotel in Khaplu. In the end, we decided to stick it out and it was a good thing we did. The wind died down just as Reaiah went to bed for the night and we found a sheltered place to build the necessary campfire for roasting hotdogs and s’mores. To you, hotdogs and s’mores probably don’t stir up much excitement, but for us, they were awesome! American delicacies saved for just such an occasion. The sky never cleared completely, but after playing a game around the fire, Laura and I decided to sleep under the few stars we could see. The sand made for great beds, but we were woken by rain just before daylight and had to bail into the tent with Reaiah. I don’t know how long it rained, but by the time we emerged from the tent, everything was dry and the sky was clearing!
After breakfast, we packed some of our stuff and got Reaiah ready for some exploring.
All of us wandered up the hill with our crashpads and some snacks, intent on finding some new routes to climb. It didn’t take long. We stopped after just a few seconds of walking and quickly found 2 routes to do. Laura onsighted the first one – an easy start to a nice undercling and then a reach to the top. Sunny Days V0 FA. On the other side of the boulder, Shady and I climbed another line with nice crimps and good holds to a tricky top out. Shady got the stand start and I added the sit start. Sunny Daze V3/5 FA. Reaiah had a great time watching us and playing with her toys.
From there we moved up the hill to a route Shady and I had done the day before.
We didn’t stay long because Laura onsighted it too! The next boulder held several lines and we took a quick look before each selecting one to try. Laura went first and again onsighted her route for another FA called Moonbeam V0. It climbs over a low roof on amazing rock.
Shady and I tried another line, but the long reach on the first move was only possible for me because I’ve got several inches on Shady. The remaining moves were easier, but fun. I think it was about V5. On the backside of the boulder a crimper route was waiting for us. After finding the best starting holds (an undercling and low edge) it became quickly apparent that it was harder than expected. The final move was a dyno to the lip from small crimps. I committed to it on my second try and managed to stick it. Another fun climb about V6.
Reaiah was getting tired and hungry by that time, so we headed back toward camp. We stopped at one more boulder on the way down which quickly acquired the name of Prince Charming because of the attractiveness of the line on it. Shady flashed Prince Charming (V0) and I tried a low variation to stay on the face holds which took me two attempts. Beautiful and fun.
Back at camp, we all ate some lunch and did some more packing before Rea took another nap. While she was out, we set our sights on the projects we had selected around camp. Laura got on hers first and nearly managed to conquer the slopey sideclings, but two bleeding fingertips put an end to her climbing. Bummer. Shady climbed a bit more, but he was worn out, so it was left to me. And I nearly failed on my project too. I had tried some of the moves on the overhanging face the day before, but had only managed to get the first couple moves. I knew what I needed to do, but didn’t seem to have the strength needed to match the crux crimp without barn-dooring.
With strength and skin running out, I came up with some new beta for a last effort. And it worked. I matched the crimp, made the long reach to the next small edge and then caught the big jug to top out. It’s a great new route somewhere in the V7/8 range and the perfect end to the trip. I’m still thinking about the right name, but it may have to wait until the next visit to the Boulder Factory….
As for family camping, it was definitely a success. Reaiah did great and now we know we can take her out with us. With a little extra planning we should be able to do multi-night trips just about anywhere. Can’t wait!