WebLog of Past Adventures by the Faulted Geologist

Spring Break 2011

Katfish Katy's Campgrounds, Rocheport, Missouri River

A week before spring break I got a horrible case of poison ivy from clearing the rock face of vines at Cliff Drive in Kansas City. I felt horrible for five days of my spring break, but woke up on Thursday feeling somewhat functional. Despite much interest from friends, few are taking the steps to escape the city. I was surprised when Kaedden kad the a couple days open and had just gotten his harness and gear.

After a trip to Dynamic Earth Equipment Company in Overland Park, KS for some top rope straps and carabiners, we got out of town only a few hours behind the spontaneous schedule.

We camped Thursday night in freezing cold, waking early for coffee and eggs before setting out.


This area may be on private property, but it may be Missouri State property. Any spot visible from the trail is not advised, as State patrol can issue tickets for climbing in areas where it is prohibited. Read more and find routes you can climb in the book, Climber's Guide to the Midwest's Metamorphic Forms by Marcus Floyd.

We continued on after finding too much loose rock in search of a taller cliff from which we could stretch the full rope out. After riding less than a mile from mile marker 173, we came to the striped cliff. From the top one can view I-70 to the North, and the horizon extends across the plains forever. Kaedden picked the right spot top-side on the first try, and with our top rope secure we began to climb up.

I spent much of my time stripping off loose limestone, and it came off in sheets where we climbed. Kaedden dodged shrapnel and cursed my name as I carefully sent massive pieces down. We found areas that were smooth, and finding a path around them was a horizontal. A large crack and sheet blocked the way with little area to test it. We passed up trying a couple other sections until next time.

Once we were tired from clearing rock and climbing, we decided to cast ourselves over the edge. In hindsight, I would have arranged the setup the same, with an extra belay from the top just to get over the edge and make sure your top ropes are set, so don't do this as-shown unless necessary.

Getting over the edge for the first time without footing was literally breathtaking -- it took us lowering by the top-ropes to get our weight on the belay device. Once there, it seemed like the rope was really long and the trees small. Looking at the layers of rock as I descended convinced me that it would be a very difficult section to pass.

My shout of joy before descent echoed in the river valley, mixing with the sound of the river, whipping wind, and hawk calls. I took off running so Kaedden could get a start, clearly in a fit of adrenaline.

Kaedden edged slowly over as I reminded him to breathe. I was okay with myself going over the edge, but risking someone else's life is different. I lay awake that night thinking of how to make things more redundant and safer. Of the ideas were a second belay rope cast from a tree near the center of the top so one could climb back up or cast off the second belay rope and go down. One of the Ascender belay clips from Petzl would be handy, as well as some general small ropes for creating the climb loops.

rock climbing picture

For future expeditions to the top of this hill and others, I recommend getting a bare minimum of 10 meters of strap, which is what we worked with. I will be purchasing lengths of up to 30 meters in increments of five so we can have more settings and stronger rooted trees.

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