It doesn’t happen often, but every few trips, a climber finds themselves absolutely, unwaveringly infatuated with a rock. For me, the love affair was with Beached Whale (V5) in Yosemite National Park – but for Niko, true love was to be had the moment he set his eyes on Prince Charles, a compression-crazed problem tucked away from the trails at Three Sisters Park in Evergreen, Colorado.
His love affair was something that I, as his faithful woman, knew I could never come between. I accepted this attractive boulder as the new third-wheel in our relationship, and honestly grew quite fond of Niko’s granite mistress. He was a man transfixed, and Prince Charles quickly bit back – it didn’t take more than ten minutes of climbing before Niko managed to tear his elbow open on the boulder.
My trusty first-aid kit was buried beneath my car seats in the parking lot, a 15-minute hike back from our location off the Sister’s Trail – so I worked with what I had in my pack: a roll of climbing tape, and a tampon. I felt proud of my MacGyver moment as I fashioned my bleeding beau a sweet makeshift bandage from my feminine stash. It held up pretty well, considering its hasty construction.
Niko’s dance with Prince Charles was a two-day tango that involved plenty of bloodshed, burning muscles, and my frustration as I attempted to photograph the horribly mixed scene of piercing sunlight and dark shadows. Watching him battle against this boulder was inspiring; he fought with every ounce of his ability, and probably mustered up some strength he didn’t know he had.
Here’s a breakdown of the Prince Charles beta, compliments of Mountain Project: “Start back and to the right side of a giant wedged shape nose. Move into a full body bear hug squeeze of madness. As the wide hugging tapers to a thin point continue up and over the nose heading right or turning your back to the East at the last possible point on the line. Slap your way to the finish.” Yes, it’s as burly as it sounds.
After the first day spent working Prince Charles, we took a short climbing break to prepare for round two. On his second date with his granite muse, Niko convinced our buddy Douso to tag along for the adventure. Two of the strongest climbers I know, it was a treat to watch them exchange techniques, sample footwork, share frustration, and bleed all over the place.
Douso began the day slightly reserved, as if he wasn’t willing to succumb to the seduction of this particular problem. They griped over the compression-heavy style of the route, and plopped down to take angry rests after being shut down on certain moves – but slowly, surely, Douso’s eyes were set ablaze with the same fire that sparked in Niko’s. There is something to be said about the motivation and camaraderie shared by two climbers transfixed by the same hunk of rock.
While the boys spent hours demolishing their fingertips against the rough granite surfaces of Prince Charles, I occupied myself by finding a flat boulder perched directly in the sun. I noshed a bit on pistachios, wandered through the nearby woods in search of photographic gold, and even enjoyed a little cat nap in the sunshine.
Some climbers find it frustrating to attempt patience while accompanying friends who are working a problem that is just way out of their league, but I always enjoy these opportunities for relaxation. So what if there’s no chance of me climbing Prince Charles? Any time that I am blessed to spend outside is a-okay with me.
And of course, I was knee-deep in woodland exploration when I heard the hoots and hollers wafting through the treeline as Niko finally sent his problem. I was disappointed in the instant I realized what had just happened, then went careening through the woods to find Niko parading atop his boulder, beaming with pride. Sure, I missed the chance to snap shots as his made his final ascent, but hell, sometimes it’s just about the victory of a successful climb.