Sunday, March 16, 2008
rock climbing lambs
Last Saturday was an awesome late winter/early spring day and we took advantage of the weather by hiking into Dominguez Canyon on the Uncompahgre Plateau. This Wilderness Study Area has an incredible display of petroglyphs all along a perennial stream, the appropriately named Dominguez Creek. The rock units are typical of the east side of the Colorado Plateau. The trail was constructed on the interface between the unconformable Precambrian "Black Rocks" as everyone calls them and the Triassic Chinle Formation. Just overhead are my two favorite formations in the canyons: the Wingate Sandstone and the Kayenta Formation. The Kayenta being a great caprock to the more easily eroded Wingate. These two units together create some of the more easily identified cliffs in the Canyonlands area not to mention that the desert varnish on the red rock creates some fantastic sunrises and sets (as an example, I made my family camp in canyonlands in mid November so that I could watch the sun rise hit the Wingate/Kayenta cliffs on the morning of my 40th birthday).
The Wingate tends to be a more massive cliff with some great crack climbing as in the Indian Peaks area. The Kayenta, I tell my students tends to be ledgey because it was deposited in a more wet environment. This also makes it easier to climb...in some places.
So, as we were hiking out of the canyon, we hear the baying of a young sheep on the cliffs above us. A group of four bighorn sheep were climbing the cliffs and it appeared that they were teaching two young lambs the finer aspects of crack climbing. The mom and dad?? (no anthropomorphizing here) were standing above the two kids cheering them on with a deep baying. One kid made it with little effort, but the second one was having troubles. We would watch him/her get a running start but never quite making the top. Each attempt ended with a fall back to the starting point and an earful of young sheep baying. We never did see the second sheep make it to the top. In the image, you can barely make out "dad" silhouetted against the skyline and a very small white dot that is kid #2 trying to climb the cliff