Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another weekend at Idyllwild

Slab climbing at Suicide
Originally uploaded by slampoud
This Friday and Saturday were Idyllwild climbing days. On Saturday Ben and I racked up to do Whodunit, a classic multi-pitch on Tahquitz. There is some debate as to exactly how many pitches it takes to do the climb. The guide book shows 8, and the mountainproject folks weigh in with 5. In the end it took us 6, but really 5 (you'll see why). I'll refer to the pitches as they are in the guide book, mostly because that's the only place that gives landmarks, so I'm sure what's what.

The route starts with 5.9 slab, which neither of us was up for leading first thing off the ground. We noticed that it would be easy to bypass that first pitch and the second, not terribly interesting crack pitch by climbing on broken blocks to the right of the route (properly, the start of the Swallow and the Gulp), and traversing left on a ledge to the start of the 3rd pitch of Whodunit. So we did, Ben leading that first easy pitch.

The 3rd pitch of Whodunit is the second crux: a 5.9 exit from under a roof capping a chimney. Ben led up to the start of the chimney and realized that he was running out of draws. He made a belay at the base of the chimney, so we broke the 3rd pitch into two pieces. Then he led up to the crux, where he fell on a #4 camalot placed directly under the roof. It was kind of a memorable fall, because I heard him scrabbling, a bit like a cat that jumps onto something and misses, before I felt his weight on the rope. He then aided past the crux and made it out. I followed and cleaned the pitch free, which I was very proud of. In fact, I was doubly proud because I had to do the first half, the chimney, with the camelback pack on my chest, then stop under the roof and switch it around to my back to get around the roof. And somehow I did not fall during all this.

I led the next pitch, which, in hindsight, was the 4th plus half of the 5th pitch by the book, up to a cracked roof. The freakiest part was about a quarter up the nominal 5th pitch. By then I'd climbed up an off-width (right off the belay, where I didn't have the #4, so I sent a rope down for it), traversed right to another crack, and then come to a headwall. There was a big block in front of the headwall, about human sized, and I had a small cam on one side of it. I was deciding which side of it to go in order to go up the headwall, when I realized that human-sized block was free-standing and not well lodged, at that. I almost freaked! My pro depended on it, and I was bear-hugging it when I realized there was nothing around the back, it didn't connect to the headwall. Man! That was bad. I very gingerly switched from the left to the right of the block and found a placement on the headwall, before, again very gingerly, stepping on the free standing block to gain the headwall. I climbed 20 more feet and made a hanging belay with one good and two tipped out cams under the broken roof. I was very unhappy and uncomfortable. The pitch behind me (rated 5.8) had been very emotional and the belay was exceedingly uncomfortable.

Ben had the next pitch, but it wasn't entirely clear which way to go. I suspect we were supposed to jog right to some easy ramps, but after much hesitation, Ben avoided the off-width directly in front of him, and went for some face climbing immediately left of that. He had to aid past that section, and then he continued up for a while. I followed that pitch free to a good belay.

The next pitch was mine, and I was terrified by the way it looked. I had to make it up to a roof, traverse under it and go up a headwall to its right. I went up and spent tons and tons of time contemplating the way to protect it, the way to make the moves, the way to minimize drag. In the end, I'm confident I did most of those things right, but it took me a while. I then followed a shallow crack up to yet another headwall type thing, which I had to yard on my arms to get over, and ended the pitch 10 feet below the summit, with hellish drag, but on a nice comfortable ledge. Ben came up and proceeded up to the summit, claiming those 10 feet as an additional pitch. I refuse to accept this!

We came down the slab descent, doing a post-mortem of the whole climb. It had taken us 6.5 hrs to do 6 pitches, 2 of which were half-pitches. That was woefully slow. I had done everything clean, but Ben had aided through one spot we knew to be a crux, and a second spot where we suspect we went straight when the rated route circumvented it. I was happy with my placements during the climbing, but unhappy with one of my anchors. Ben had overcome the desire to give up at least once. Overall, the climb had felt like it was teetering on the verge of being an epic, but it never became one. It wasn't done in great style, but it was done and done safely, and it was our hardest multipitch together yet. And we both agreed that were we to get on it again, we'd be able to style it in sub-1 hour per pitch no problem.

The next day we were both feeling pretty accomplished and lazy, so we went looking for the Smooth Soles wall on Suicide Rock. Once there, we lounged around a while, reading about the climbing history of Tahquitz and Suicide in the book, and then we both toproped the leftmost route, Last Dance, a beautiful 10a slab to thin fingers back to slab, and Ben toproped a 10d slab called Blown Out.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend at Idyllwild

Suicide rock from Tahquitz
Originally uploaded by slampoud
This weekend we met up with Emily and Sam at Idyllwild and climbed at Tahquitz on Saturday and Suicide Rock on Sunday.

On Saturday we got on Angel's Fright. As we were racking up at the base, a Canadian guy came by and, after chatting for a little while, we gathered he was planning to rope-solo something in the area. Sam proposed inviting him to join us instead, so Ben and I picked him up. Ben led pitches 1, 2 (the crux) and 4, while I led pitch 3. It was cold, windy and cloudy. Climbing was hard, but belaying was even worse. The pitch I led went really really slowly, even though it was ridiculously easy. I way overprotected it, I think because I felt insecure from being cold and stiff. Standing on lunch ledge and belaying Ben up to the 4th pitch was one of the most miserable moments climbing I've ever had. I was in full-body shiver mode. After descending we gave up for the day and went out for Mexican food.

On Sunday we headed to Suicide Rock. Emily, Sam and Bert (the Canadian guy who joined us) headed up some 5.6 thing, while Ben and I explored. I really really wanted to do the 5.10a starting moves of the Breeze, but I got on it and chickened out because of the dire consequences if I fell. We moved right and I led the Shadow, a 5.8R, instead. That was definitely the hardest lead I've done on gear so far (the exception being the 5.9 Baby Robbins crack, which is only 25ft tall), and a real mental challenge. The climbing was tricky, but not that difficult. But, as the R betrays, there was a real runout section, and the crux was several feet above the last pro. The only way I could manage was to mentally break the lead down into lots of small sections, and take advantage of the bomber stances in-between to rest my mind. Ben followed, and then we came down and he did a problem to the right of Shadow, while I conserved my energy to send the Breeze on toprope. I made it to the bolt without falling, which means, had I been on lead, I would have been ok. But then again, it's hard to know whether having all the extra pro on my harness would have been detrimental to my stability. Then I fell once on the crux move above the bolt. It was fun to work the hard move, and I was rewarded by an awesome easy chimney section in the second half of the route.

All in all, a successful and educational weekend. I pushed my gear grade a bit, and I learned a little about what cold does to my leading ability.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Getting to know the local crag: Mission Gorge

This past Sunday was "getting to know the local crag" day for me. Simone, a fantabulous and super smooth local climber, took me and my gym partner of late, Julio, to Mission Gorge to show us around. Julio had never climbed outside before, and I'd scared off his previous climbing partner when I took him outside. I, on the other hand, had been to Mission Gorge only twice before, once with Julio's previous partner and once with Ben, so I still had (have, really) a lot to learn about the Gorge. We played around the leftmost end of the main wall, always on topropes, and mostly on harder stuff than I would have elected to get on had I been on my own.

I very inelegantly groveled up Knob Job (or Nob Job, depending on which guide you look at), which I hated. Simone said it was the climb that got her hooked, so now I'm waiting to find out what kind of pervert she really is. Then we got on Rock on (the right variation in the dihedral), which is Simone's favorite. Perhaps I should not say "we", since Julio and I only managed to flail and get about two feet off the ground on this 10c. We then did Suzie's wild ride, Hangman, and Crack of dust. I would have liked to have tried Mariah, but after seeing someone even taller than me struggle on it, I think maybe it's a good thing I didn't. All in all, I'd say it was a good day, except that Rock On really munged the backs of my hands, so now I'm hurtin'.