Mountain Monday: Up in Birdland

Finding yourself above the birds and the helicopters, you’re on top of the world

By Meggan Wenbourne

A look at Pine Creek Canyon. Spectrum wall (where our climb was located) is on the lefthand side of the formation.

A look at Pine Creek Canyon. Spectrum wall (where our climb was located) is on the lefthand side of the formation.

We had an hour approach, on mixed terrain and a five pitch, 750’ climb as our objective for the day. My body has not seen this kind of exertion or that kind of air under my feet in quite some time.

We are in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – not far past the California border into Nevada – and have our eyes set on Birdland, a 5.7+ rated 6 pitch climb (although the last pitch is “fragile and runout”… eww) in Pine Creek Canyon. The clouds have moved in ever so slightly and although the approach leaves us both a bit sweaty, the climbing temperatures prove to be perfect.

I found myself so excited to start up this featured rock, that I could hardly contain myself. These canyons have proven to have the most unique rock I have ever seen and although the features felt very thin at times, I am happy to report that everything held and left me grinning from ear to ear throughout the day.

The one thing that continues to amaze me about climbing is how much more difficult any outside climb feels compared to an indoor route (no matter how sandbagged the rating at the gym may be*). Although I was out of the game there for about seven months, I do like to think I still have the know-how to get my behind up a 5.7 wall, but this climb was different. I found myself completely exhausted afterwards and in need of a good rest and some water.

Each pitch had its own beauty and unique features as we continued up the formation. There was “mindless climbing” where everywhere you placed your hand or foot you would find something to pull yourself up on, there was a neat traverse up a ramp and some incredible face climbing that reminded me of dinosaur skin.

As we rappelled the climb (thank goodness for a 70m rope), I thought back to my first multi-pitch climb ever. I remembered how amazing it felt to look over the edge and realize that I had gotten myself all the way up that wall, past the birds, past the wind and made it to this incredible top out in the vertical world. There really is nothing like waking up, hiking out and climbing with the people you care about most in this world. I am thankful for every day I am able to live out my dreams and look forward to my next opportunity to get some good ol’ fashioned climb time under my belt.

*Sandbagged: when a climb is rated a certain grade, but in reality is much harder for the climber than the rating may let on.
Check out this awesome tutorial on sandbagged routes courtesy of Brendan Leonard.

Canyon overview:  A look at Pine Creek Canyon.  Spectrum wall (where our climb was located) is on the lefthand side of the formation. A look at Birdland: Follow the cat ears from the top of the wall all the way down ... that's Birdland!

Canyon overview: A look at Pine Creek Canyon. Spectrum wall (where our climb was located) is on the lefthand side of the formation.
A look at Birdland: Follow the cat ears from the top of the wall all the way down … that’s Birdland!

The base of the climb gives a person a last couple moments of shade before full exposure for the rest of the climb.

The base of the climb gives a person a last couple moments of shade before full exposure for the rest of the climb.

Following up on pitch 3 on my spiffy, new pink rope.

Following up on pitch 3 on my spiffy, new pink rope.


Meg-IndiansMeggan Wenbourne is an avid climber, mountain biker and backpacker who works and plays in Santa Cruz, CA. She spends her time traveling to the mountains as often as possible to get lost in the pine trees and explore the granite rock of the Sierra Nevada range and has recently developed an obsession with the desert and its red rocks. When not away on an adventure, she can be found eating burritos and training at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, riding amazing trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains or nestled away in her cozy tiny house with cookies and adventure reading.

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