Monday, February 16, 2009

Jtree misadventures

Ben and I met up with a bunch of other folks at J-tree this three-day weekend. We got rained out today, but Saturday was gorgeous, and yesterday was a good climbing day despite the cold.

On Saturday we went to Feudal wall and Short wall in the Indian Cove area. We warmed up on Donna T's crack on the Short wall (a supposedly 5.5 crack that I thought was much easier than that). Then we climbed Court Jester, a 5.7 off-width, and the Castrum, a 5.10a just to the left of it on the Feudal wall. Finally we went back to the Short wall and sent Toe Jam express and S.O.B. in style.

Sunday was a lot more eventful. We went to the Echo Rock area planning to get on Double Dip, which Chiru had suggested might be a good first lead. Our friends jumped on that first, so we moved a little to the right, to Stichter Quits, a 5.7 slab climb we'd seen a couple climbing. We talked to them and they assured us it was "mellow" if a little run out. So Ben got on it, but didn't have the stomach for it first thing in the morning, so I took over after the first bolt. I led up to the fourth and final bolt before the anchor. I took a fall between the third and fourth bolts, but it was nothing to write home about; tried the move a more direct way and made it. Then I realized the run-out was basically the top 40% of the route, and decided I wasn't really cool with that long of a potential fall. Ben toproped it from the fourth bolt, made the same decision about the run-out and we bailed -- note to self, I owe him a biner -- essentially having made it 60% up the route. Still, it was a super fun lead while it lasted...
We then decided to move to some of the routes further back and to the right from Echo rock. We got on Eff Eight, a 5.8 flaring, left-sloping crack. Ben was making his way up this awkward beast, having placed two cams, when he called for a take and took a fall. The rest happened really fast: the top TCU pulled and Ben decked just to my left as I flew 3 or 4 feet up the rock. The first piece held. I was looking at Ben trying to figure out how he'd landed and what was broken, but he assured me I'd caught him and it had been a soft landing. Then he went, "you can lower now", and that's when the silliness of the situation hit me: Ben was on his ass on the ground and I was locked off four feet off the ground, hanging off a piece of pro that had just taken a giant load and could pull out and dump me on my ass any second... So we put a toprope on that bitch and climbed it, and decided any crack crumbly enough for gear to pull out of qualifies as choss.

Just before toproping Eff Eight we'd seen a guy free solo a crack across from us on the back side of Echo Rock. So on the way back we threw a rope on it and climbed it. That was Finger Food, a 5.10a.

So now having climbed two 5.10a's, I'm forced to say they must be rated that high because of the difficulty in leading them, because as toprope climbs they really don't rate 5.10a in my book...

After Finger Food, things got really cold really fast. We checked out Echo Cove and decided against any of the routes there, and called it a day.

So, yeah, two lead falls on the new rope, one of them 13 feet to the deck after a TCU pulled. And my whole right side, the one that stopped Ben's fall, is killing me. But Ben's alive, which is about as good as it gets.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Yesterday was supposed to be a "maintenance" low key day at the gym. However, I did a 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, a hard traverse and a v2 at least. So much for maintaining.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

El Cajon and Woodson

This was a really fun climbing weekend, my first in San Diego. Ben drove down Friday night, and we had cheesesteak sammiches. On Saturday morning we drove out to El Cajon mountain. We made the approach in an hour and forty minutes (where the guidebook said an hour and a half) and I nearly died. It was a long, hot, uphill slog. There was a party of three on Leonids and a pair on Crystalean, so we went even further left to No Burritos. We could tell a couple bolts were damaged but were hoping things would look up further up. Ben went up and protected a couple spots with cams only to find there was no good way to reach the closest anchor. So he built an anchor with cams and lowered off, and we resolved we'd rap down to them from above to retrieve our gear. We then went even further left and started up the 5.5 ramp. We turned left at the bolted two pitch route Buffalo Brothers and went all the way up that. It's rated 5.8 on the diagram and 5.7 in the text of the guide book, but I think 5.7 is about right. It was really fun. We then rapped down, traversed the ramp and rappelled down the line of Crystalean, making a stop and a short lead up to retrieve our gear, and then all the way to the bottom. Then Ben toproped what looked like the first pitch of Crystalean. The downhill de-proach was far faster than the approach, but no less unpleasant to rickety-kneed me.
Sunday we headed to Mt Woodson, another place with an uphill slog of an approach. We were fascinated by Lie Detector, which was way too hard for either of us to attempt, but were resolved to try our luck on the Robbins crack on the back of the same boulder (technically the backside of the same crack, in fact). We dilligently did the warmup problems on the boulder behind Robbins, but they were scant preparation for the real deal, which the guide calls "sweetest 24ft crack in the world". Ben started up, fell on his first placement, then aided the rest of the way up. I flailed up, hanging on the rope a couple times. Actually, someone must have been watching me top out, because there was cheering and clapping, but it was embarassing. Then Ben toproped it and slipped once, but otherwise did fine. Then I messed around a bunch, discovering that if I focused on two hand jams and only a left foot jam I could get through the bottom hard section a lot faster and without barn-dooring off to the right. Then Ben flew up it and broke down the anchor. After that we hiked to the top of the mountain and sat in the shade realizing that we were completely good and spent. We headed down, pausing to send a 5.8 hand to off-width problem, but then called it a successful day. That Robbins crack is going to eat my brain until I get on it again, I just know it. I'm now determined to practice my jamming skills like mad.