• New Year’s Intentions Rock and Yoga Joshua Tree Retreat Celebration

    Join The Climbing Life Guides and Wonder Wellness Yoga this New Year’s eve to set New Year’s intentions, practice yoga on a mat out in the beautiful wilderness of Joshua Tree (led by Wonder Wellness’s very own beloved Cassandra Davis), and rock climb (all guiding and equipment provided by The Climbing Life Guides). A raw vegan snack lunch, cacao and tea ceremony will finish off the day. Don’t miss this awesome New Year’s Eve celebration in Joshua Tree!

    WonderWellness Yoga's Cassandra Davis

    WonderWellness Yoga’s Cassandra Davis

    Nelson Day

    Nelson Day

    The Climbing Life Guides

    WonderWellness Yoga

    WonderWellness Yoga

  • AMGA Rock Guide Exam for Nelson Day

    The Rock Guide Exam is the last and most difficult exam in the AMGA rock program. It also signifies a greatly desired standard in the rock guiding industry. My aspirations and motivations in taking this exam were both personal and professional.

    Instructor Vince Anderson on day 4 of the Rock Guide Exam

    Instructor Vince Anderson belaying on day 4 of the Rock Guide Exam

    On a professional level, the exam was an excellent source of feedback and direct exposure to excellent guidance instruction via the AMGA Instructor team. I am continually impressed with the high level of understanding and ability among the members of the instructor team, and this exam offered 5 long days of full exposure to the instructor team’s trained eye. All this led to loads of helpful feedback from the team including “things done right” and “things to be improved on”. A great deal of emphasis was placed on the end of day debrief. I found these debrief sessions to be of excellent value for professional development. Some advice I received included: placing a higher emphasis on guiding clients rather than making a beautiful anchor station; giving clients the best real estate at anchors during climbing and rappelling; discussions on the risk management hierarchy when going down from a route; having clients more involved in chores to be done during transitions; discussions on short roping anchoring (single point anchors vs. two piece anchors); and focusing on client comfort and care (getting clients down from a climb as quickly as possible; focus on lowering when possible). All of this advice was provided in a very engaging manner and introduced as discussions during debrief sessions.

    summit of texas flower tower on day 4 rock guide exam

    summit of texas flower tower on day 4 rock guide exam

    As far as personal development, I hoped to learn more tips, tricks, and methods to provide clients and guides working with me a larger pool of tools to draw from. The AMGA Instructor team didn’t fail to bring these to the table as usual. However, as the exam progressed, I quickly found a new personal area of development and growth opportunity. The critical nature of the test, high expectations of personal performance generated by my perfectionist type personality, and performance anxiety in general added a lot of stress to my test environment. This quickly became the crux of the exam for me. When I mentioned the stress to the instructor team, the feedback was quite helpful. Slow down to smooth out movements when setting up technical systems. My tendency is to rush on a long climbing day, and combined with nervousness, this makes for awkward movement and inefficient use of resources (ignoring clients or their ability to assist with transitions). Avoid tunnel vision during approaches and descents (keep soft eyes focus and awareness of surroundings high), and try to guide in areas I haven’t guided in before to develop on-sight guiding abilities. I’ve noticed a tendency in guiding is to return with clients again and again to areas that worked well in the past. While this ensures a good experience for clients, it doesn’t provide guiding challenges to help me develop my abilities further, and it doesn’t expand my knowledge of the area or options for crowded days. These guiding challenges are experiences that play a major role in personal development outside of the AMGA classroom or exam environment. I am greatly appreciative to the AMGA for their instruction and to Osprey for sponsoring this excellent exam and learning opportunity! Thank you! I’m super excited to have passed this rock guide exam, and excited about my future in guiding! I can now say I am the highest certified guide in all of Joshua Tree!

    Instructor Rob Hess following on day 1 of rock guide exam

    Instructor Rob Hess following on day 1 of rock guide exam

  • Climbing Mt. Conness Southwest Face (Harding Route) car-to-car

    August 30, 2016. The alarm went off at 3:30 AM. Incredibly, I had already been awake for the last 20 minutes; I suppose the anticipation of the alarm in conjunction with an epic day ahead woke me up. I pulled on my R1 hoody, Prana stretch pants, beanie, and socks, rolled over to bid Cass farewell and trekked over to Tyler’s sleeper. He already had the coffee going. Epic.

    After our hasty breakfast (Schatz’s coffee cake, eggs and coffee), we drove over to the Saddle Lake’s campground and started our long long day.

    We decided to go car to car on the Southwest Face (Harding Route) to avoid all the hassle of packing tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. over the cross country trek. We also considered it “better style” to complete the route car-to-car. Our rack consisted of a double set of aliens from blue through red, a yellow, red and green c3, a set of RP’s, a set of nuts, yellow and orange metolius TCU’s, a #6 Wild Country cam, a blue Big Bro, 16 slings and a 60m rope. For those who haven’t done the route, the approach hike puts you close to the summit of Mt. Conness, after which you scramble down steep loose scree to the base of the route, climb the route to the top of the mountain, and then scramble slightly down from the summit back to the trail in. We decided to hike in with our larger more comfortable packs, ditch them at the descent notch, and carry our summit packs the rest of the day until we arrived back at the notch.

    Our hike began at around 4:30 AM by headlamp; nice and cold. Neither of us had done the approach previously, and on-sighting the approach by headlamp was a bit challenging. After cruising through the campsite, we followed the road until there was an option to cross the stream. We passed the Carnegie Institute (dilapidated old building) and continued on the nice hard beaten trail for around a mile. We started to get anxious with the beta of “leaving the trail to cut cross country” as described in the Supertopo approach beta. As I was scanning the sides of the trail for any signs of a climber trail, a pair of eyes glowed back at me from about 150 feet away. Eyes that were about 6″ apart and about 3 feet off of the ground. I pointed them out to Tyler, who confirmed “some kind of large cat”. I yelled a growly yell at the eyes and watched them close and move away. This was quite the adventurous start to our epic day, and we both continued to scan the landscape with our headlamps and look nervously behind us on the trail for the next mile. Mountain lions or cougars are serious animals, and if you end up in a fight with one, you are literally fighting for your life! We were quite thankful to have strength and intimidation in numbers.

    After a while, we found a couple cairns and decided that the cross country trek was at hand. We scanned the dark silhouette of the mountain against the black skyline to confirm the shape of a saddle as shown in a picture from the Supertopo guide book. We headed uphill, scrambling cross country while looking for a light trail. After a quarter mile, we found a trail and continued on more easily. By this time, twilight was bringing in just enough light for us to really start identifying our surroundings, and we were excited to find that we had nailed our approach and were on the right path. We scrambled uphill and through the described notch which consisted of a water run off area.

    Tyler on the approach hike in

    Tyler on the approach hike in

    After we arrived at the top of the notch, we trekked across a quite dry meadow for about a quarter mile before heading steeply uphill, following spaghetti trails and aiming for a ridge line silhouetted against the skyline. Once we neared the ridge, we headed climber’s left for a mile, eventually arriving on a large sandy and rocky plateau. We could now see Mt. Conness looming in the distance, and we hiked towards the summit for a while. At last, we arrived at a concrete rock stack statue. We should have stashed our larger carry backpacks here and donned our summit packs, but instead we carried our larger packs all the way to the descent notch, about 100 yards to skier’s left and downhill from here. A couple large cairns marked the decent notch. For those who have not done this descent on the approach, it is quite important to find the correct descent notch. Most of the descent notches cliff out in steep terrain; an uncomfortable ending to an unhappy “oops” situation. Fortunately I had done this descent once before and remembered the approximate location of the correct descent notch. We ditched our carrying packs and donned our summit packs with our water, food, and alpine clothing and other essentials. We arrived at the base of the route at around 8:30 AM and started climbing around 9. The route was still in the shade, but the temperatures were tolerable.

    looking up at pitch 1

    looking up at pitch 1

    We decided I should lead the first pitch, Tyler would lead the technical crux second pitch (5.10c), and I would lead the off width Harding slot pitch. Other than that, the rest of the pitches would “fall as they may”.

    Tyler coming up Pitch 1

    Tyler coming up Pitch 1

    The first pitch was quite dry for us except for a 20 foot section well up the route. This section was quite easy and the wetness did not prove to add any difficulty. I could imagine that earlier in the season the situation could have been quite different. The first pitch was rated 5.9, and it proved to have two sections of rather sustained 5.9 with an easier section in between. Protection was adequate and soon the 100 foot pitch was over.

    Tyler onsighting pitch 2

    Tyler onsighting pitch 2

    Tyler led off on the second pitch. A 5.10a cross-over move followed by a 5.10 roof and more 5.10 climbing above proved to make this sustained 200 foot pitch quite the undertaking! Tyler onsighted and brought me up. This pitch proved to tire me out quite a bit and I was thankful Tyler offered to lead the next pitch as well. Wild and wandering 5.8 climbing that ended in a chimney with tons of rope drag brought Tyler to the base of the Harding slot, and he set up a belay and brought me up. Now it was my turn to lead the physical crux of the route – the 5.10a off width pitch.

    The wandering 3rd pitch

    The wandering 3rd pitch

    Tyler at the 2nd pitch belay

    Tyler at the 2nd pitch belay

    I was up. I grabbed all the gear from Tyler and headed up the 4th pitch. I climbed out right from the belay at first into what looked like easier terrain. Soon I was well above my gear with ledge fall potential below me and desperately thin and marginal gear. I focused on the climbing, footwork, and breathing, and moved back left into the main crack. The main crack became a beautiful 5.9 hand crack for about 30 feet. This deposited me at the base of the main off width crack.

    looking up at pitch 4

    looking up at pitch 4

    I saw one of the “ancient 1/4” bolts next to the wide crack. It was true, these would be worthless to clip. I was happy to have my big green #6 Wild Country cam. I plugged in the cam discovered that the crack was a terrible size for me. Too big for double fist technique, and too small for a chicken wing. Ugh… After playing around with options, I decided to start stemming on the outside of the crack. The terrain was quite vertical at this point, and the rock quality on the right side of the crack was not great, but I slowly made progress up the crack, bumping my big #6 cam along from solid stances. As I neared the top of the vertical section of the off width pitch, the crack widened and my #6 cam was no longer useful. I scanned a small finger crack on the left wall for any possible gear placement, tried to fiddle in a green alien, and eventually gassed out and took on my tipped out #6. Sad to lose the onsight, but not discouraged with my progress, I fiddled in two marginal blue aliens into the top of the flared crack on the left face. Then I got back into the swing of things, grabbed a decent pinch hold on the right side of the crack and bumped my #6 past the flare and back into “good fit” terrain. From here, the crack eased to maybe 5.8 difficulty and I made good progress with heel to toe jams, body scumming inside the crack, and some marginal smearing on the outside of the crack with my right foot. Toward the top of the pitch, the crack again widened, and this time for good. I abandoned my #6 cam in the last best placement and climbed on. I managed to fit my blue big bro in, and then climbed about 25 feet to the end of the pitch above it. Yay, the pitch was over!

    Tyler coming up the Harding Slot

    Tyler coming up the Harding Slot

    Tyler was pretty tired after following the off width pitch, so I took the next pitch, the last 5.10 of the route. It really came down to an super exposed step across move well to one side of your gear, and then it was over. I linked the 5.10 pitch into the 5.8 chimney pitch (I ran it out pretty far after the step across move to reduce rope drag as much as possible). Despite my efforts at reducing rope drag (extending all the alpine draws, running out gear to reduce rope bends), towards the top of the pitch, rope drag became fairly unbearable. I thankfully pulled out the top of the chimney pitch and arrived at the top of the 6th pitch.

    Looking down from the top of the 6th pitch

    Looking down from the top of the 6th pitch

    Tyler coming up the squeeze chimney

    Tyler coming up the squeeze chimney

    At this point, we had finished all of the “tough” climbing and we were able to take a bit of a sigh of relief and “finish the climb”. The wind also started picking up at this point; extra incentive to get off of this mountain! Tyler led up the next 5.8 parallel crack section and 5.9 stemming pitch. He remarked “This is so fun!”. He was in his groove…

    following the 7th pitch

    following the 7th pitch

    I took the rest of the gear and ran up the 5.8 stemming pitch 8 and across 100 feet of 3rd class. This brought us to the base of the last 5.9 section. After I brought Tyler up, he handed me the little gear I had placed and I ran to the top of the 40 foot 5.9 section (barely felt 5.7 at this point). After bringing Tyler up this, we took off our climbing shoes and got into our “comfies” and summited via the last 150 feet of loose third class terrain. I was super tired at this point and huffed and puffed at the elevation and stress of the entire day. I had also somehow managed to forget my sunglasses at my larger pack at the notch, and my eyes were really getting burned up…

    looking down the third class terrain

    looking down the third class terrain

    burned up eyes

    burned up eyes

    summit shot

    summit shot

    By now, the wind was getting pretty intense with 30 mph gusts and cooler temps. It was 4 PM exactly, and we still had a long ways to go. We ate a quick bite of food and started the trek down the summit ridge to our larger packs. We definitely regretted leaving them at the descent notch rather than at the base of the summit ridge, but trudged down to our packs and retrieved the rest of our gear. We had a quick pull of scotch out of my flask (usually stays in my pack) and headed back. My eyes were burning at this point, and hiking became pretty miserable. We managed to get back to our vehicle 14 1/2 hours after leaving. Success! We then ended our day with Mobil station pizza and beers.

     

  • Come work with The Climbing Life Guides in Joshua Tree as a guide!

    Would you like to work as a full time guide in Joshua Tree National Park with a 5 star reviewed guiding company?

    The Climbing Life Guides is hiring one full time rock climbing guide for the upcoming 2016-17 season in Joshua Tree. The season will begin October 1, 2016 and end June 1, 2017. Applicants need to have an AMGA SPI certification and have passed the AMGA Rock Guide course at a minimum, as well as a WFR certification. Applicants can expect to be guiding in a multi-pitch environment at last part of the time.

    The Climbing Life Guides offers very competitive wages (depending on experience and certification level), worker’s compensation insurance, and payroll services (W-2) for its employees. Interested applicants should submit their resumes to:

    info@joshuatreeclimbinglifeguides.com

    Subject: Resume

    Looking forward to working with you!

     

    Nelson Day, Director

  • Map to free camping area on BLM land near Joshua Tree National Park

    Address is approximate. Near the address however is a very large dry lake bed. Camping is free and is anywhere you want (not already occupied). There is NOTHING out here (you will need to bring your own water, table, tent, no bathrooms, etc.), but it is dry, free, and spacious. Enjoy!

    BLM land near JTree camping directions

    BLM land near JTree camping directions

  • Two slings three pieces

    Good video from the AMGA for anchor building

    Anchor building with two slings and three pieces

  • Trip Report: Temple Crag, Dark Star, 5.10c Grade V Alpine

    The alarm went off at 4 AM. I might have already been awake; the tent was at a bit of a tilt, and I had been fighting rolling off/down hill the whole night. Polly and I were camped at the Third Lake outside of Temple Crag. Our objective: Dark Star, a 2,200 vertical foot grade V climb rated 5.10c.

    Looking up at the route

    Looking up at the route

    The hike in to the Temple Crag area the day before had seemed pretty casual for both of us, even with our heavy-ish packs. Polly and I are not super strong hikers, but the hike had only taken us about 3 hours. Interestingly enough, the hike out took us about 3 hours. The guide book (High Sierra Climbing – McNamara) had mentioned the hike would take 4 hours to possibly 8 hours with heavy packs. Not even close!

    Our rack consisted of a double set of aliens from blue through red, a single black alien, two BD 0.75’s, #1’s, and #2s, a single #3, a 70m rope, a full set of metolius ultralight nuts, and 14 alpine slings. We both agreed later than some micro/offset nuts would have been very useful, as well as a few MORE slings. The #3 got placed a LOT as well. We both wore leader/follower packs and carried about 3 liters of water, a rain jacket, food/snacks and a puffy (standard alpine items).

    The information on this route seemed to be somewhat sparse given the classic status of the route, including Peter Croft’s endorsement as one of the best alpine routes in the United States.

    topo - one of the only ones we could find

    topo – one of the only ones we could find

    The route was 2,200 feet of alpine granite, with multiple pitches in the 5.10 range. Our 4 AM wake up was deemed necessary by both of us.

    After waking up, we ate some coffee cake (from Schat’s Bakery in Bishop – if you have’t been, get off your ass!) and drank some “nootch” – vitamin laced water. We left our camp at 4:30 and hiked to the base of the climb by headlamp.

    Alpine sunrise

    Alpine sunrise from the base of the route

    After what seemed like way too much scrambling this early in the morning, we arrived at the base of the climb at 5:15. We were able to identify the start from some photos we looked at. This photo in particular was of critical usefulness.

    First dihedral pitch. Notice the Right facing aspect.

    First dihedral pitch. Notice the Right facing aspect.

    At 5:30, Polly began leading the first pitch. The first pitch proved to be somewhat sustained in the 5.10 range. Polly linked the first two pitches with our 70m rope and belayed me up from a ledge she stepped left onto above the 5.8 dihedral. The bolt shown on the topo in the upper 5.8 section proved to be a rusty old 1/4″ bolt with home made hanger; not really trust worthy, but Polly clipped it anyways.

    The topo had shown a fixed piton belay, but she had not seen one. As I neared her gear belay, I noticed a fixed piton/bolt anchor up and right from where we were perched. The pitons didn’t look great; I don’t think we would have used this anchor even if she had found it. From where we were standing on the ledge, I went up about 10 feet to a really old rusty knife blade that wasn’t even worth clipping. There was a sloping ledge here and the topo had said to move left a ways until the next crack system could be reached. I ended up moving left about 30 feet before I found a right facing crack system that looked somewhat like what I had seen on the topo. I had noticed on the first pitch that much of the rock on this route was of horrible quality. Gear was suspect, and often loose blocks encountered mid-pitch. I was now 30 feet left and ten feet up from the first belay with no protection, and I was looking at a very committing step across (no feet) to gain a crack system. Don’t mess this up! I took a breath and committed and jammed my left foot into the crack system. I had sprained my left ankle a week prior (it was a minor sprain), and this was quite terrifying for me… I gladly shoved a 0.75 BD cam into the crack and moved upwards to the second belay. This third pitch (our second due to linking the first two) didn’t seem much easier than the first pitch with sustained 5.9 and 5.10 moves the entire length of the 180 foot pitch. After what seemed like  very long ways, and using most of my gear, I looked up and right and found the two fixed pin and one fixed nut belay. Whew. The picture below looks a little messy… I was out of slings and ended up using some lockers (the ones my double length and auto block are stored on) from my harness.

    Second belay (third pitch on topo)

    Second belay (third pitch on topo)

    I backed up the system with a BD #1 I shoved behind a flake to the right side of the anchor.

    Polly came up to the belay and swang through on lead.

    Polly following our second pitch

    Polly following our second pitch

    Polly's next lead

    Polly’s next lead

    The next pitch went up and left at around 5.7 for a ways. Then turned into 4th and low 5th class. Polly ran the rope almost to its end before building an anchor and bringing me up. This seemed to end up being the most practical method on many of the upper pitches. We were aiming for a chimney system above us; I led up about another 100 feet from where Polly had built her anchor before building another anchor and bringing her up to the base of the chimney.

    The pitch below the base of the chimney

    The pitch below the base of the chimney

    The topo showed a 5.8 roof leading up to the base of the chimney. I definitely found this roof… and it was quite sustained 5.8 and climbed through horrible quality rock. Much loose rock, questionable gear and massive exposure made this pitch a bit scary.

    Polly pulls the 5.8 roof

    Polly pulls the 5.8 roof

    The next pitch, the chimney pitch, was probably my favorite on the route. Chimneys are not much fun, but the exit moves from this chimney were quite exhilarating. I led up into the chimney not quite knowing what to expect, other than tagging my pack from my belay loop while I clambered up through it. About half way up the chimney, a lot of broken debris had fallen and wedged itself into the chimney. There was a small hole through the middle of the debris, and at first I thought I might be able to squeeze through this hole. Nope… didn’t fit, even with the helmet off. I ended up going further inside the chimney around this constriction. Then up a ways until I could see the chimney squeezing down. Then out of the chimney on the climber’s right side. This involved stepping out onto big holds with 2,000 feet of air under your feet. Amazing!

    After the chimney, I pushed the pitch up another 100 feet to a small stance. Massive rope drag made this push quite strenuous. I was happy Polly popped out the chimney and onto the face and the rope drag ceased.

    ledge above chimney

    ledge above chimney

    I didn’t put much protection on this pitch; if I had, I think the rope drag would have been unmanageable. I ended up putting two pieces inside the chimney near the top exit (red alien and #2 cam), and the rest of the pieces you can see in the above picture. My anchor here consisted of a green alien, blue alien, and red alien. I’m pretty sure I climbed the 5.8 crack shown on the topo above the chimney (about halfway up the next pitch).

    Polly swung through on lead again and proceeded up the face until easier terrain started.

    Polly nearing the top of the first buttress

    Polly nearing the top of the first buttress

    We were pretty close to the top of the first buttress at this point. For the remainder of the first buttress, we unroped and simul-solo’d up. We considered simul-climbing, but the horrible rock quality and wandering nature of the face made this option unappealing. Simul-climbing with questionable gear in bad rock seemed more dangerous than simply coiling the rope up and simul-soloing and avoiding the inherent rope drag.

    We approached the top of the first buttress and crossed the top of the ridge that separated the first and second buttresses.

    crossing the top of the first ridge

    crossing the top of the first ridge

    The rock quality during the simul-soloing was less than ideal, which made us extra cautious with our footwork and trusting any of the rock along the ridge between the first and second buttresses.

    heading up to the top of the first buttress

    heading up to the top of the first buttress

    the top of the first buttress

    the top of the first buttress

    crossing the ridge

    crossing the ridge

    Crossing the ridge involved massive drop off exposure on either side of the ridge. Probably 2,000 feet straight down. This was the main theme of much of this climb – massive exposure, bad rock quality, and simul-soloing across ridges. In other words, gripping and terrifying ridge romping.

    We headed up to the base of the second buttress. The beginning of the next pitch was somewhat ambiguous, but we clambered up to the high point of the scree on the next buttress face and led off from there. Much of this route requires mountain sense. Or using your head to find the easiest looking line to proceed up. Polly led up this pitch, which proved to be somewhat unprotectable face climbing through loose 5.8 terrain and up through a 5.10 crack section. This was quite enjoyable to follow with really fun movement, but I’m sure it was rather terrifying to lead given the horrible rock quality.

    Second buttress first pitch

    Second buttress first pitch

    This pitch ended up being nearly 200 feet long, definitely 5.10, and Polly ran the rope for as long as she could stand the rope drag. After I arrived at the anchor, I swung through on lead. Polly’s anchor was around 20 feet above the business of the route, and 20 feet above her anchor the face turned back into 4th class. I ran the rope for about 200 feet anyways, placing maybe two pieces of pro. As I neared the top of the buttress, I found a suitable anchor spot and brought Polly up. From here on out, we pretty much coiled the rope up and simul-solod. Polly put on her approach shoes here, while I kept my climbing shoes on for the time being. I was still pretty apprehensive about soloing over horrible quality rock.

    cool passage on top of second buttress

    cool passage on top of second buttress

    The way through the ridge line of this climb is not obvious. It requires a lot of route finding and mountain sense. Just when things are looking extremely dangerous/sketchy, passages like the one above show up. Needless to say, massive exposure while crossing loose rocks and multiple sections of unprotectable low 5th class climbing are required to pass along the ridge line.

    Our path pretty much followed the left side of the ridge line system for the first half of the second buttress. We were looking for a 60 foot rappel that separated the second buttress from the third, and we thought we would never find it. About half way across the ridge line between the second and third buttress, we encountered a bit of a scary section. Well, most of it was scary. So a bit of a “scarier” section.

    scary spot

    scary spot

    This section happened when our “follow the left side of the ridge line” abruptly ended with these two options. A very exposed fifth class down climb section (if you messed it up, you would plummet for 1,000 feet to a rocky death), or a sketchy 5th class traverse move that looked a bit easier. I opted for the traverse move, climbing upwards for a few moves. Chalk could be seen on both options, so I picked the easier looking of the two. I snapped a picture of Polly following my lead on this. After this traverse move, a small down climb climber’s right side led us to ledge. We then climbed back up and over to climber’s left of the ridge system and continued up improbable looking 5th class broken-ness.

    Polly wanting to go through instead of exposed "around"

    Polly wanting to go through instead of exposed “around”

    After this exposed left side, we managed to switch sides to the right side of the ridge system which seemed a bit easier.

    the better right side!

    the better right side!

    After about 40 feet of the right side, we swung around the end of a blocky section and found our 60 foot rappel. A slung rock with double non-locking carabiners. The slings were generally in good shape. Finally, we had reached the 60 foot rappel! We rappelled to the climber’s right side of the ridge line and pulled our rope.

    more ridge romping

    more ridge romping

    After the 60 foot rappel, we crossed a few more sections of 4th and low 5th class along the ridge line. We tended to stay on the right side of the ridge line mostly during this last section. In the picture above, you can see the end of the ridge line system, and also the location of two 80 foot rappels. The rappels originated on the side of the last high “peak” seen in the picture. The rappel station was in decent order. After the first rappel, a bit of scrambling up and climber’s right from the obvious landing zone located the second rappel station. This one was in pretty bad shape. I donated a double length sling to the system and rappelled off the locker. All of the rappels were off of slung rocks/horns; the rock was solid. I would recommend bringing a double length sling with you in case the slings are weathered to an unsafe condition.

    Polly on the last rappel

    Polly on the last rappel

    Our topo mentioned a “red cliff and a yellow lichen area”, and passing between the lichen covered area and red cliff. We scrambled upwards towards the red cliff. From here we had the option for an easier down climb, or climbing up and traversing along the face of the red cliff. Eventually we decided to climb up and traverse along the face of the red cliff. This led us to low 5th class down climb shortly after the climb up and traverse over.

    red cliff

    double rappel station locations (can see both stations)

    After the down climb, we looked up and found ourselves at the base of the last long section before the summit. This section wasn’t nearly as exposed, but contained mostly easy 5th class and 4th class scrambling all the way to the top of the ridge line and end of the route. We simul-solo’d up this last section, taking several breaks to catch our breath. We were now approaching 13,000 feet elevation and we could definitely feel the effects of the oxygen deprived air!

    scrambling up the last long section

    scrambling up the last long section

    As we neared the top, we headed towards climber right and toward the obvious highest point of the formation. This highest point proved to be yet another ordeal in accessing with some serious exposure and more 5th class soloing. However, we both committed to the moves and made it to the summit.

    nearing the summit

    nearing the summit

    Polly stoked at the top

    Polly stoked at the top

    After a few moments at the top, and a bit of discouragement at the lack of a summit register, we headed down. We stopped for a small snack and felt a few rain drops, but the weather managed to stay clear. Perhaps it was Polly’s statement “Zeus, no…” that she muttered under her breath, but mostly I think it was just our lucky day. We arrived at the summit at around 3:00 in the afternoon.

    The deproach followed a scant climbers trail down some loose sand and scree for about a quarter mile. We then veered left and followed the trail (marked now with cairns) down some steepening terrain. Our topo had mentioned to stay away from the enticing gully on the climber’s right side, which we did. Eventually we were again down climbing in near fifth class terrain.

    looking for the rappel station

    looking for the rappel station

     

    Luckily, the rappel station appeared shortly after the down climbing shown in the picture happened. The station was to the right of where Polly is shown in the picture, and down about another 30 feet.

    We did a single rappel to the ground and walked back down to the 3rd lake. This decent took us about 2 1/2 hours altogether from the summit to the camp.

    rappel station

    rappel station

    scree slope

    scree slope

    beautiful columbine flowers

    beautiful columbine flowers

    mandatory river crossing

    mandatory river crossing

    We crossed back over the stream that separated the 2nd and 3rd lakes and got back to our campsite in time to be swarmed by hungry mosquitoes. I was extremely grateful to have had some bug repellent with us. We took off our shoes and soaked our aching feet in the ice cold lake water, filtered some water, drank a lot of water, cooked our dinner and went to sleep. Awesome day.. Our hike out back to the cars took us about 2 1/2 hours (1/2 hour faster than the hike in).

    parting look on the hike out

    parting look on the hike out

    I took this picture on the hike out. You can see the ridge lines rather clearly in this shot; it is always interesting to look at a mountain after having climbed it. Your perception of the intimate details of the mountain always changes. This mountain had let us clamber to the top and back down with no major mishaps and with excellent weather. It was a great day!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Hobbit Roof

    I was out in the park one day guiding a client, and someone from Colorado State approached me and asked if they could shoot some video for a project they were working on with Joshua Tree National Park. I was stoked! This video is what came out of it.

  • Trip Report: Rainbow Wall, Original Route (5.12)

    After looking at lots of pictures, reading reviews, and studying topos, Jan and I decided to give this wall a “college try” about a month ago. This wall has a reputation for rock climbing difficulty, sustained climbing (continuos difficulty), excellent climbing, and great rock. We were both stoked to see how we did on this famous Red Rock gem. Our plan was to hike in and bivy (camp without a tent) at the base of the climb on Sunday evening and then wake up nice and early and get on the climb Monday morning. I picked up Jan at Ash’s house on Sunday afternoon around 2:30 and we headed to Red Rock. Our rack consisted of a double set of aliens, a set of c3’s (from purple through yellow), a set of Metolius ultra light nuts, some DMM offset brass nuts, 6 alpine draws, 4 quick draws, and singles of Black Diamond c4’s 0.75, 1, 2, and 3. We used a nice 70m rope. The entire route can be rappelled with a  single 60m rope which makes the rope handling really nice! Since we opted to bivy for the night, we also carried my titanium cooking pots, a MSR pocket rocket, pre-cooked spaghetti, extra water, and oatmeal with fresh blueberries for breakfast. Well worth the weight!

     

    Jan organizing gear in the parking lot

    Jan organizing gear in the parking lot

    As we drove into the park, I was amazed at how many people were there. Parking could be an issue… but just as we pulled into the Pine Creek parking lot, a van was pulling out front and center of the parking lot. What luck!

    We organized our gear, took one last bathroom break, and headed onto the trail. The hike in was rumored to take between 1 1/2 to 3 hours. Our bivy strategy meant we would be carrying extra weight (sleeping bags, mats, stove, food, extra water), but allowed us to not be stressed out on the approach. Red Rock approaches can be quite confusing, and we didn’t want to risk getting lost on a car-to-car push.

    The approach is basically the same as for the Brownstone Wall, (home of Nightcrawler, and excellent 5.10+ climb), which I was familiar with. We took the Ecology Fire Trail short cut and headed up the canyon. If you know the hike, it isn’t really that bad of a hike. If you don’t know the approach, it could be pretty nasty. Luckily we nailed the approach and soon were at the approach slabs to the Rainbow Wall proper.

    _DSC0895

    Jan at the base of the slabs. What a view!

     

    There was no fixed line in place, so I ended up doing some easy fifth class soloing up about 40 feet of rock. I tagged a line and brought Jan up behind me. We located some rappel anchors at the top of this section; very handy information for the hike out! They are marked by some cairns and are on the climber right side of the water fall formation. Nice new anchor bolts, although somewhat difficult to locate since they are painted sandstone brown. There was still water running down the slab face as we climbed up.

    From here it was just a big slab slog to the base of the wall and our bivy spot.

    Jan on the slabs approach

    Jan on the slabs approach

    My friend Josh Janes gave me some “secret bivy spot” beta; a really nice sheltered spot below the mossy slab at the base of the climb. After we finished the calf burning approach up the slab, we found the nice bivy spot and got settled in for the night.

    looking up at the wall on the hike in

    looking up at the wall on the hike in

    The view on the hike in was incredible and intimidating. The wall ahead of us boasted mostly hard 5.11 climbing with a couple 5.12 pitches thrown into the mix.

    The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30. The sun wasn’t up yet, and we ended up rolling over and hitting the snooze button until 6:30. At 6:30 it finally felt warm enough to get out of the sleeping bag, cook some oatmeal, and get prepped for the day. Finally at 7:30 we hiked up the last 100 feet to the wall and got set up. Jan took the first lead up a 5.11d pitch.

    Jan on the first pitch lead

    Jan on the first pitch lead

    About this time I heard some voices approaching. I yelled to Jan “we have company!”. Soon two climbers approached the wall, one of which was Peter Croft! It seems like every time Jan and I get together to climb something rad, Peter Croft shows up. I chatted with Peter at the base of the climb while belaying Jan for a while. The upper section proved to be somewhat strenuous and difficult to read for Jan; we were taking a while and I didn’t want to make Peter wait for us. I offered to let him climb through, which he readily accepted. The belay spots on this wall are somewhat problematic for climbing through. Peter ended up leading up after Jan and building his own anchor underneath the existing bolted anchor. This made for a bit of a crowded situation at the anchor for a while, but we managed.

     

    Peter Croft approaching the 1st pitch belay

    Peter Croft approaching the 1st pitch belay

    Peter Croft checking out the second pitch start

    Peter Croft checking out the second pitch start

    After I scrambled up to the belay, Peter brought up his second, and they climbed on up the second pitch. This was nice! I got to see Peter on lead; I got a bit of a sneak peak of the beta on the second pitch. Unfortunately, allowing the second party to climb through cost us about 45 minutes of daylight. However, this was well worth it considering the passing party included a climbing legend. I noticed while I was following this first pitch that the rock quality was amazing. The rock was clean, sticky almost. Stoke was high!

    Now it was my turn to lead. I started up the wide lieback, clipped the first bolt, immediately popped a foot and fell onto the bolt. Well, so much for that onsight. Now I could get down to business. I climbed up a bit higher and was happy to have brought my #3 c4. This pitch ended up being committing, with lie backing and crimping well above some gear to a bolt. I hung on this pitch several times; it was the hardest pitch for me for the day and I feel it was fairly rated at 5.11d.

    Jan following the second pitch

    Jan following the second pitch

    The pitch ended on a nice ledge. I arrived just as Peter was finishing leading the pitch above me, and his partner was getting ready to follow. Jan followed up the pitch; I could tell this pitch was very difficult for him.

    Jan following the third pitch

    Jan following the sustained second pitch

    The next pitch didn’t look as bad, although it did hold a 5.11c rating. Originally Jan and I were going to swing leads, but after the second pitch, Jan asked if I didn’t mind leading a couple more. I readily agreed. It was a beautiful face/dihedral pitch, and I love dihedrals!

    This pitch had some committing moves above a green alien to a bolt. The green alien placement was crucial to me feeling safe on this pitch, and it was not an obvious placement. I was happy to have that piece in as I pulled through some sustained 5.11 face/dihedral moves well above my green alien.

     

    Jan following the third pitch

    Jan following the third pitch

    The next pitch ended in a roof, and included some tricky foot work. The grade was definitely easier than the previous pitch, although there were still a couple 5.11 moves on it. I was happy to have brought a double set of aliens, although I might have been able to get away with doubles in green through yellow and single red and grey.

    Jan following the fourth pitch

    Jan following the fourth pitch

    Finally it was Jan’s turn to lead again, and he set off up the 5.10c pitch. I could tell the previous pitches had really taken a toll on him; he was climbing quite slowly and placing a lot of gear!

    After the 5.10c pitch, Jan led the more moderate (but run-out/weird) pitches on the rainbow ledge.

    rainbow ledge

    rainbow ledge

    weird squeeze chimney "5.7" pitch

    weird squeeze chimney “5.7” pitch

    This brought us to the 5.8R traverse pitch. Jan wasn’t stoked on it, and eyed it suspiciously for a few moments before committing to it.

    Jan eyeing the traverse pitch

    Jan eyeing the traverse pitch

    About this time, Peter Croft and his partner were rappelling back down the route. Peter shouted over a bit of beta for the traverse climb as Jan led across towards him. Rock climbing beta doesn’t get much better than that!

    After Jan arrived at the next anchor, I followed over and we discussed our strategy for the rest of the climb. We had decided that 5:00 PM was going to be our “stop time” for ascending and we would begin descending at that point. This would allow us to hike down the slabs at the bottom of the route in daylight.

    It was now 4:15, and I was looking at the infamous red dihedral pitch. Absolutely beautiful and yet a bit intimidating.

    The first 5.12a red dihedral pitch

    The first 5.12a red dihedral pitch

    Jan agreed to let me give it a go, so I racked up and went for it. Clipping the first bolt is definitely a no-fall situation. If you fell from the clipping stance, you would land on a ledge/and or your belayer. I lay backed up a couple moves and made the clip. Whew… A couple more somewhat strenuous moves landed me on some good feet on the left side. From here, it was still a good distance to the second bolt, far above the crux sequence. My climbing in Joshua Tree definitely paid off here. The bolt was still protecting me for the harder moves, after which a few easier moves led up to where I could clip the second bolt. If you break down climbs in this fashion, the run out doesn’t seem as bad. After looking over the sequence for a few moments, I high stepped (really high!) with my left foot, crimped down on one of the holds in the corner with my left hand, pressed hard with my right hand, and stood up on my left foot. This let me grab a huge hold with my right hand, bring my feet up, and make a few more easier moves to the second bolt. I had done it first try! Wahoo! From here it was just keeping my head together for the rest of the pitch, which was mostly moderate 5.10 climbing. Wonderful gear (mostly small) protected the climb, and soon I was at the anchors. I had onsighted my first 5.12a trad lead!

    looking down the first red dihedral pitch

    looking down the first red dihedral pitch

    It was now 4:45, and Jan and I decided I should just rappel from here. I looked up at the second red dihedral pitch. “Some day (soon) I will be back for you”…

    Jan looking a bit frazzled/tired before we rappelled

    Jan looking a bit frazzled/tired before we rappelled

    We rappelled down the route, packed up our things, and made it down to the base of the slabs by around 7:15, just as the light faded. Nice timing!

    This was definitely one of the best climbs I almost did in Red Rock, and I will definitely be back to finish this awesome piece of rock!

    Some valuable lessons learned/reinforced on this climb: set a cut off time for ascending and stick to it; finishing a climb is never as important as your friendship/relationship with your partner. We didn’t finish the climb, but we had an awesome time!

  • Fiddling on the Roof and other Red Rock adventures

    It was 6:00 and I was driving to meet Josh Janes at a gas station outside of Black Velvet Canyon. My iPod was on shuffle, and Orion by Metallica came on. It was going to be a good day!

    I met Josh at the gas station and we piled into his Tacoma. My rental Camaro was in no way going to make the trek back into Black Velvet, and I was thankful for his offer to drive us back into the canyon. Our objective for the day was one of his projects: a rock climb called “The Shuffle” rated 5.13a. The route shared the same start as Texas Hold’Em, but later moved right on the wall in order to reach the harder upper pitches. We hiked back into the canyon, harnessed up, and got the easier pitches “over with” in good style. Josh linked the first two pitches and I led the second two. The second pitch I led was 5.10’ish and included a spicy section of marginal pro well above some solid pro in a “no fall zone”. I fiddled with some very small wires before committing to the section, monitored my breathing, my balance, my commitment levels, and plunged through the sequence after mentally noting my fall zone and planned out sequence. I made it to the belay just below the .13a section of rock and brought up Josh.

    The beautiful and spicy .10 pitch on The Shuffle

    The beautiful and spicy .10 pitch on The Shuffle

    Josh is quite a bit stronger than me. I haven’t ever climbed a .13, and he has sent a few already, so I was pretty excited at the prospect of checking out what this grade could be like. Josh went up and hung the draws on the pitch while I belayed and watched him working out some moves.

    Josh on The Shuffle

    Josh on The Shuffle

    After spending some time at the crux, Josh came down for a break and gave me a go at this fantastic looking pitch. I worked my way up the pitch, sussing out each mini boulder problem between bolts. It took a bit of work, but I ended up actually completing all of the moves up to the crux. I gave the crux a few goes and actually got somewhat close to making the initial moves on lead to the next protection bolt. After a few attempts and a few good falls, I lowered back to the belay ready for a break. Josh went up again, nailed the move to the final bolt, and aided up the rest of the pitch. Now it was all set for projecting and I got another chance to go up on top rope and try it out! Super fun. I wasn’t able to complete the 5.13 moves very well, but with an “encouraging” amount of top rope tension, managed to get up the pitch.

    looking down the .13 pitch from the anchor

    looking down the .13 pitch from the anchor

    Josh at the belay

    Josh at the belay

    While this climb remained a project for Josh, it was encouraging to see him working through the moves and figuring out what it was going to take to send this on his next visit to The Shuffle. We rappelled to the base and hiked out. Day 1 of my trip to Red Rock was complete, and what a day!

    I spent the evening at the house of Ash and Randi having some BBQ and trying to convince Randi to come along with us on our next day’s outing to Fiddler on the Roof, a 5.10d R route in Black Velvet Canyon. Randi remained somewhat wary of our ploys, and in the end decided to wait for this route until she felt more comfortable at the grade. Ash and I have taken Randi on a few of our exploits, and her company always makes the climbing more fun and interesting. We were a little sad she decided to stay at home, but were still stoked about the next day’s possibilities.

    A few years ago I completed Sour Mash, a 5.10a multi-pitch route just to the right of Fiddler on the Roof. At the completion of Sour Mash, I rappelled down over Fiddler on the Roof as part of the standard descent. I remember noting the seriousness of the route and deciding that I would never climb Fiddler on the Roof. Happily, things change. I was a different climber and felt comfortable enough at the 5.10 grade to give Fiddler on the Roof a try. The notoriety of this route along with a lot of hype about how classic the route is was all it took to make me start drooling over the route during the last couple of years, and now I felt excited to go back and give this super classic route a go. Ash was also excited, and volunteered to lead the odd pitches. This meant Ash would be leading the run out R rated traverse pitch.

    We met up at his house at 6:30 AM and car pooled to Black Velvet Canyon. This was the second day in a row that I had driven to this destination and completed the approach hike into the canyon. We brought a double rack of aliens, a set of brass off set nuts, a set of nuts, twin/half 60m ropes, 15-ish draws, and cams up to a gold (#2) black diamond C4.

    At the base, several other parties were racking up for other climbs in the area. Climbers are great people. Super friendly, curious, and generally stoked about being outside and getting on good rock with good company. It had been a while since I had climbed with Ash in a multi-pitch environment, and I had really missed his company. I noted this as I led up the second pitch. Ash is such a great friend and supportive climbing partner. A good rock climbing partner truly does make a difference in how a day goes! Ash led the first pitch cleanly and confidently. I was encouraged by how well he moved in spite of his sprained left ankle that he had been nursing for the last few weeks in an attempt to recover before our Fiddler on the Roof outing. I also noticed that the battery on my camera was dead. Sad! This climb would have to be completed without quality pictures… Gross. I did manage to get a few pictures with my iPhone, but the usual quality is lacking (apology).

    The second pitch included a hand crack which narrowed down to a finger crack, expanded back to a hand crack, an awkward step across move to gain a squeeze chimney, squeezing up the chimney for about 20 feet and gaining a narrow crack and then proceeding up to a bolted anchor. What a fantastic pitch! So much variety and good movement in a short distance. As Ash arrived at the anchor, the temperature started to drop. We both donned jackets and shivered at the belay. Ash sniffed out the next pitch at the belay, trying to decide the proper beta. “Does it go up and then right, or just right off of the belay?”. This question was important and required some trial and error before finally figuring out the beta. The first bolt of the traverse was straight out to the right from the belay, but it didn’t look entirely safe accessing the 20 foot distant bolt by heading straight out to the right. Ash ended up climbing up for a ways and clipping a bolt, then down climbing below the belay and climbing up to the bolt to our right. This method proved to be pretty serious, and Ash noted that it didn’t feel like the 5.10- that mountain project had promised. He managed to stay focused on the moves and move up to the distant bolt without falling. Exciting! After gaining the bolt, he quickly moved up to a crack above and headed out through a small overhang. From there on, it was finicky gear and scary run out moves across an exposed roof to the belay a LONG ways away. As I watched, I could feel the tension building in my blood pressure. This pitch looked very, very exposed. This is by far my biggest weakness. Exposure always seems to give me a lot of mental anguish, and this looks exposed and SERIOUS. As Ash gained the belay, I found myself peeing at the anchor before heading out. I took a few deep breaths and started climbing. At each piece of protection, I hesitated, looked ahead for the next protection, looked at the sequence and what was coming, and then removed the pro. At one point, I found myself standing on a tiny edge directly above the lip of the roof. It took a lot of mental muster to remove the pro that Ash had put in and proceed towards the anchor. As I finally stepped up to the anchor, I clipped in and breathed a long sigh of relief. Wow, that was stressful! We both noted that we were extremely happy that Randi had not come along. It would have been unsafe for her to make this passage, and it would have made for a very long day for everyone.

    I looked up at the next pitch, which was the crux and was all mine. The first bolt was about 30-40 feet vertically from the belay. My body started shaking from the cold, and my mind didn’t want to engage with the rock. I tried one of my favorite tactics – delay. Wait a few minutes and see if my situation improved before letting negative self talk over power the situation. As I waited and delayed, I looked at the face. There were actually very positive edges. There was no chalk whatsoever, and route finding looked to be promisingly difficult. Eventually I racked up and set off up the face. I made a few moves on good edges and before I knew it, I was placing a nut 5 feet below the first bolt. The nut was quite fiddly and really didn’t look like it would hold, but it was better than nothing. If I fell from here, I would plunge 30 feet straight down to the anchor and then proceed 30 more feet past the anchor and past Ash to dangle in the middle of the air below the roof. Committing. I fiddled some more, and eventually decided that the sequence looked do-able and that I should go for it before I grew too fatigued from this tenuous stance. I mantled up and found an edge to crimp and clipped the first bolt. Whew! Looking up from here, I really had no idea where the route went. The next bolt was about 15 feet up, but how to get there was a real question. I climbed up to another good edge, placed a black alien, and then climbed up to another good edge. A few feet above me was the second bolt. I found more good edges and creeped up to the bolt and clipped it. Another mental victory and another moment of mental relief. From here, I really had no idea where the route went. I spent about 10 minutes deciding where the path of least resistance was and then clambered up to another fiddly piece of gear. From here, I found a few more good edges and made it up to a decent sized flake, well above my last marginal nut. The biggest cam I had was a gold C4, and it was completely tipped out behind the flake. Ugh… It was all I had, so it had to do. The rest of the pitch went pretty much the same way. More edges, more fiddly gear, more tenuous stances to place it from, and balancey edgy moves upward. Eventually I made my way up to a stance and looked up at the anchor nearly 20 feet away. My calves were completely pumped from all the sustained edging and high stepping and stances, and the rope drag was becoming a real issue. I fiddled in a marginal nut, looked at the sequence for a while, finally committed and made my way up to the anchor. I had made it!

    Fiddler 2

    Crux pitch of Fiddler on the Roof

    All in all, I think I was on the crux pitch for nearly an hour on lead, and I was exhausted. Ash made his way up to the belay and looked how I felt. We looked up at the next pitch. More run out climbing that looked serious and sustained with problematic route finding. Ash racked up and went for it. The first bolt off of the belay was about 40 feet up, and the way there was not obvious. Ash headed way right and then worked his way up to the bolt. About 30 feet off of the belay with no protection, the climbing got harder. Ash found a stance and found the nerve to calm his breath and then proceeded to make tenuous moves over balancey edges and crimps. He made it to the bolt and then happily clipped it. I was definitely relieved, but probably not nearly as relieved as Ash. I was proud to have been there for Ash as his partner. Ash headed up to the next bolt and clipped it. The moves past the second bolt to gain a third (and distant) bolt were not obvious. The route finding was tenuous, and Ash tried a few variations before finally committing to a sequence. As he moved upward, he lost his balance and fell about twenty feet onto his sprained ankle. We were done for the day.

    With a little bit of creative thinking and solid use of our twin/half ropes, we managed to make our way over to the anchor above the crux pitch of Dream of Wild Turkeys. We rappelled from there with a minor mishap of getting our rope stuck on a rappel pull. As we got to the ground, we were both excited with our successes for the day.

    fiddler 3

    Rappelling off of Fiddler on the Roof

    That evening, Laura and I had an early Valentine’s Day dinner date of oysters, sushi and ceviche. I would be in Ouray, Colorado for Valentine’s Day, so this was our Valentine’s date. The next day, I would be climbing Honeycomb Chimney with Randi.

    I showed up at Ash and Randi’s house at around 7:00 AM, got gear organized, and packed into Randi’s Nissan small SUV. After about a 45 minute drive, we were at the parking lot and racking up. Today we would ditch the bags at the car and hike in with only our harnesses, gear, ropes, and a small climbing backpack that contained food, water and layers of clothing. Neither of us had been up to the buttress in question, but with frequenting the book beta (pictures on our iPhones), we managed to make our way up to the proximity of the start. We made a small mistake on our approach and ended up under some easy 5th class looking terrain. I roped up and went up a small flake/detour that looked “fun” but dirty. I built a belay off of a tree and brought Randi up. Although Randi did fine on this approach pitch, her banana, which was in the follower pack, didn’t make it.

     

    Randi's banana mess

    Randi’s banana mess

    At least she had the opportunity to eat the banana before the entire pack became a banana split.

    With a little bush whacking, we moved to the right about 30 feet and I racked up for the first pitch. What a relief from the previous day’s outing. The pitch was all big holds and good jams. At the top of the pitch, I looked around for a spot to build an anchor. There was really nothing up there! After a few moments, I spotted a slot/tunnel that passed through the rock and would accommodate a cordillette. I stuffed the cordillette through the hole slinging a good sized column of rock, pulled all the slack up until I heard Randi say “that’s me”, and put her on belay. After Randi arrived at the anchor, we flipped the rope stack so my end was back on top and I led up the second pitch. I had only brought gear up to a size 5 friend, and the first reasonable protection needed a size 6 (the largest Technical Friend) cam. Looks like I would have to keep going until I found more protection higher up… The pitch exited the large crack to the right and started up a juggy face. As I climbed up on big holds, I noticed that much of the rock was friable and appeared breakable. After about 50 feet, I started to get pretty nervous. Finally I found a hole in the face that a gold C4 would go into and placed the cam. I felt much better now that I finally had some protection that would keep me from taking a 100 foot fall! I climbed up higher and found the pitches crux, a 5.7 roof. I placed a red C4 here and started pulling up over the roof. My right foot was suddenly loose and as all the weight shifted to my hands, and I realized that I had broken off a foot hold on the roof. The rock whizzed downward and I let Randi know it was coming. This route certainly had not seen very much traffic… I pulled up to a good sized ledge which signified the end of the 200 foot pitch and found a tree to sling as an anchor. I yelled down to Randi to take me off belay and barely made out a response. After Randi arrived at the anchor, we packed the rope into a back pack and hiked up about 100 feet of 3rd class terrain to the next belay.

    The next pitch was the namesake honeycomb chimney and looked both beautiful and fragile from the belay stance. Excellent climbing with somewhat marginal gear brought me to the next anchor position. Again, no place for a gear anchor! I instead wrapped a large rock with my end of the rope and tied a figure 8 out of the rope. I hauled up the rope until Randi let me know all the slack was gone and brought her up.

    The honeycomb chimney pitch

    The honeycomb chimney pitch

    What an amazing pitch! Randi broke off a foot hold as she climbed up to the anchor. More evidence of the route’s unpopularity.

     

    From here, the route proceeded up through a stemming section to a squeeze chimney. We restacked the rope to put me on the sharp end and I headed up the pitch. Again, without a number 6 cam, there was no protection options available. I climbed all the way up through the squeeze chimney without any protection. Once I gained the security of the squeeze section, I felt much more relaxed. The pressure of the chimney on both sides of my body made me feel much more secure. I removed my shoes and jacket from my harness and “tagged” them from my belay loop to allow me passage through the chimney. This section was really narrow! Just below the end of the pitch, I managed to find a spot to put a red alien in and pulled up onto a belay edge. The anchor on this pitch was very similar to the previous pitch; a slung wedged boulder.

    can you spot me in the squeeze chimney?

    can you spot me in the squeeze chimney?

    Randi had never been in a squeeze chimney before, and as I brought her up I tried to help her with instructions on how to jam her body into the crack. She did fantastically and soon she was with me at the anchor.

    Randi in the squeeze chimney

    Randi in the squeeze chimney

    From here, we only had some 4th class scrambling and one more 5.9 corner pitch before we were done with the climbing portion of our day. With a little route finding, consorting with the mountain project app, and looking at pictures, we arrived at the base of the 5.9 corner. This pitch looked amazing!

    Last pitch

    Last pitch

    I racked up and headed up the pitch. The first section included about 20 feet of squeeze chimney moves, and then a crux that required moving out of the squeeze chimney and into the corner. As I progressed up the corner, I stemmed, jammed and lay backed up the system to the top of the climb. I was now at the top of the climb and stoked to have had the opportunity to climb such an excellent pitch!

    top of the route

    top of the route

    I built an anchor somewhat distant from the edge of the climb and extended the anchor using the climbing rope. This allowed me to keep good visual contact with Randi as she climbed up behind me. She did great! I got a few pictures of her on the corner.

    honeycomb chimney 4

    Randi on the last pitch

    Rand stemming the last pitch

    Rand stemming the last pitch

    Randi at the top

    Randi at the top

    All that was left now was the descent. The book had been pretty ambiguous as to how this was to be achieved, but after some deliberating, we found what we considered to be the best option: 5 single rope rappels to the base of the climb.

    rappel route

    rappel route

    We headed up and right and found a large tree with some rappel slings on it. After rappelling from this tree, we headed downhill again and somewhat right to a two bolt rappel station.  After committing to this rappel station, we landed on a large ledge with another rap station. This sequence of events continued until we reached the base of the formation. From here, we hiked out and made it back to the car at around 4:00 PM. Awesome day and an excellent climb to end my adventures in Red Rock on this go around.

     

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