Friday, June 10, 2016

First Ascent on the Happy Dome: Man in Heat (2,000 ft 5.8 R)

Daniel and I wanted to get up to the dome above the North Dome, in the Kings Canyon, for a LONG time. Neither of us knew if it was ever climbed, nor did anyone we asked. The approach seemed long, tricky, filled with bushwhacking, rattlesnakes, sea monsters and all the other things that keep the herds out of SEKI. From far away the rock did not seem to be of the highest quality neither..well at least that's what I told everyone who asked me about that wall. We procrastinated for a long time, so long that it took several trips up the North Sentinel to remind us about the existence of the mysterious wall. As the most of the outings with Daniel, we had a great time! It is hard to describe a day like this, as words won’t do it justice. The approach gained about 3,000 ft. There was not much bushwhacking, no rattlesnakes or sea monsters. The climb ended up being very moderate on great rock. Highly featured, yet the features were sloping enough to keep the leader engaged without losing too much focus, yet moving over stone. We did ten full pitches, some with the need to simul climb in order to make a natural anchor. Great views, great climbing, great partner. Maybe I can even say partners. I brought some of Eddie's ashes up with me for the second outing in a row and spread them over the Kings Canyon. We had a great day and his positive spirit was present, so we named the formation The Happy Dome. Since it was a second time I spread his ashes in the area of Kings Canyon, the next time should be somewhere new, hopefully the High SIerra. To cap off the great day, we got back to the car by 5 PM and jumped in the COLD river. It was a HOT day and the name of the route is very appropriate - Man in Heat (IV 5.8 R), pun intended. :)

North Dome with Happy Dome above it
Zoomed in photo of the Happy Dome. Route goes pretty much up the middle

New Routin' on the North Sentinel (pt. 2)

The first trip to the North Sentinel (AKA the Silver Spade) led to almost two full new routes, both of which followed crack systems of high quality. Yet, there were still a load of unanswered questions. The main concern was the obvious splitter on the left side of the formation. How wide is it and is it even possible to get to the base?! Brian and I wanted answers and convinced our partners Caitlin and Chaz to go for another party wall. Aside from the cluster in the end of the day, things went smooth. The approach to the base of the approach pitch took 40 minutes. I found a long pitch of clean hand jamming in a corner for a rope stretching pitch two. Caitlin took us through the only pitch that I didn't totally enjoy, but it got us to the beginning of an INCREDIBLE corner system. The corner system ended up being so good, that instead of traversing into the said splitter, we climbed to the top of the formation. Chaz had the 40 meter glory pitch, I did a squeeze chimney and pulled over the wide overhang crux (5.10+?) and Brian took the last pitch to the top of the route. From there we rapelled back into the corner, below the traverse out of it. From there it required bolting an anchor to the side of the splitter before climbing it. Brian onsighted through the powerful curvy fingercrack and to a steep ledge, which was traversed with aid of sick heel hooks. From there I took a 5.10+ish pumpfest to the top, where I spread some of Eddie's ashes. Due to the incredible quality of the crack we discovered we decided to dedicate the climb to Eddie and dubbed it the Eddie's Crack. Don't think I climbed a granite splitter as good anywhere else. And yes, I have done the Pea Soup at the Needles! The following day, Caitlin and I went up to finish the route Daniel and Adam started a few weeks back. After an approach pitch (35 meters 5.10), three LONG and VERY good pitches (5.10a, 5.10a and 5.8 or 9) took us to the spot where high winds forced them to bail. Next 25 feet ended up being the crux (5.10cish) of the route. After that, the angle kicked back, but the quality stayed great. I continued on for about 65 meters (we had a 70M rope) and built a belay below an OW finish, where all routes merge. Even though we did not bring any cam bigger than 4.5 inches and the crack was a 6 inch OW, I didn't have much trouble doing the 5.8-9 splitter without gear. Practice on artificial cracks in the climbing gym helped a lot! We rappelled the line of ascent and IMO that is the best way off the formation, as it allows you to stash water, packs and food at the base and leave the approach shoes behind. I don't like climbing with a load of extra shit, so to me it makes the most sense. The second option would be to hike towards the base of the Grand Sentinel and hike off using the main gulley. In the future years climbs on this formation will likely become very popular and those who come to climb already have several options. Another must is a dip in the South Fork of Kings River. Refreshing to say the least!

Green - Eddie's Crack III - IV 5.10+
Blue - Eddie's Crack 70 M splitter variation 5.11c
Red FML Crack IV 5.11 C0
Pink - Chasing The Wind III-IV 5.10
North Sentinel from "Happy Dome"

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FA of the North Sentinel via FML (IV 5.11 C1)

The North Sentinel is a striking wall, yet supposedly unclimbed. Likely due to a much larger Grant Sentinel towering above it. Climbed or not, Brian Prince, Daniel Jeffcoach, Brandon Thau and I established the first known route to ascent it's sheer Northwest Face in early May of 2016. To our luck we took a continuous crack system which was taken from the bottom of the wall to the pyramidical summit pinnacle. 

We decided to climb the route as a party of four so that we could get to know Brandon, as it was the first time Daniel, Brian and I climbed with him. We managed to avoid most of the cluster-fucks and climb with some efficiency - the leader would tag a line and bring up the two followers, one of which would belay the new leader and the other would bring up the fourth. #stillclusterfuckedit 

Most of the belays were cozy and fun - as fun as watching someone battle a hard offwidth could get. After two approach pitches (5.10 and 5.11) we got to the base of the crack systems we scoped. Brandon climbed a pitch to the base of a beautiful splitter, which turned out to be a flaring crack which transformed into a seam fifty feet up from the belay. I bailed from the base and decided to take the wide system to the right. There, I bailed again. Not comfortable running it out up a thin layback flake, I went into a slightly overhanging offwidth of varied #5 size. With two #5s on our rack, a splitter offwidth seemed appealing. I pushed the cam along as I made slow progress and at some point found a nice calf jam so that I could shake out. To my disappointment, the crack never got big enough to knee-jam, although I lost a good amount of skin trying. The crux was transitioning into the chimney, where I found varied, clean climbing inside. 

Daniel found REAL climbing on the 40 meter approach pitch. He is not posing! :)
North Sentinel. The chimney system and the big OW tops out pretty much in the middle of the wall (in this photo)

Brian throwing down some SEKI gang sighns
Brandon and Daniel

Crack into nowhere
Called it FML for a reason!! :)
Me on a little pinnacle on top of the route
Our route is the yellow line. Approach pitches not shown.
On most long first ascents one ends up bringing more gear than necessary, as the required rack is a mystery. Having an extra piece in possession is usually better than needing to place a bolt or having to tag up the piece from the belay ledge, but having a #6 cam crushing your balls in a squeeze is something I will avoid in the future.... 

Brian took the next pitch, which had more awesome climbing. Slightly annoying because we had to perform a pendulum in order to connect to a neighboring crack systems, as the one we climbed ended. I was happy to follow this pitch as some of the climbing was fairly damn cruxy and likely much more fun on top rope! :) Same could be said for the following pitch. We had to drill a bolted anchor on the bottom and the top of it and our doubles in #5 and 6 inch cams were not enough to protect this beast! Brandon took the sharp end and I was happy to climb in a team of four, as talking shit from the safety of belay and following on top rope was much better than leding! The crux was a overhanging tipped out #6 size. #burlbrah. I barely got this spot clean while following and thought it was about a 5.11 Odub. 

Perfect looking splitter, unfortunately far from perfect for rock climbing
Getting into the #5 slightly overhanging Odub through laying it back in the beginning

Brandon figuring out the high feet beta on the crux below the main chimney system.
Chimney makes you grasp for air
Brian on the pitch to the base of the big OW
Brandon about to get into it. To bad you can't see the whole thing. I can summarize it though...about 40 meters of 5 to tipped out 6 camalots with a few bulges and overhangs. MEGA CLEAN and SPLITTER though. One of the best OWs I climbed outdoors. This route was like the mini steck salathe on steroids.

Brian, Brandon and Daniel keeping it gangsta on top.  

Views up towards Bubbs Creek
Daniel getting close...
Daniel took the last glory pitch to a spot where we unroped and continued to the top. We were rewarded with incredible views of The Sphynx, North Dome, Charlotte Dome, Bubbs Creek wall, the Grand Sentinel towering above and the rest of the Kings Canyon with the approaching mean-looking clouds. Getting back was a guaranteed adventure of its own, so we wasted little time on top. About thirty minutes of hiking, one two rope rapell and another single rope rap, took us to a section of 4th and low 5th class downclimbing. The parking lot was reached sometime after 10pm. After enjoying a social dinner, I passed the fuck out and woke up sometime around 7am. Daniel and Adam were gonna go up and attempt another route. Knowing how long the previous day took and needing to be at work on Monday, I threw in the white flag and decided I will do a little hike and organize my gear back at the car. Lately I decided to listen to my body more often. When I am tired or don't feel like climbing, I won't. Sending another route does sound better in numbers, but as activity I do out of joy, do I care to do it when it doesn't make me feel good? Not really.

Ran into two idiots on the way down. One of them is Daniel and the other is me...
Daniel and Adam on the side there. I am no Tom, but this is the closest thing to El Cap report in SEKI! :)
Bubbs Creek Wall looked like a sad slab from the top
The Sphynx

On the way out, I got a few photos of Daniel and Adam climbing mid-way up the wall. A part of me was burning with envy, but my knee and the lower back were burning with pain. Next day, I went to work, following which I had enough PSYCHE to send the gnar at the gym.

Sick beta for sending the Cookie Monster in the Valley. Don't layback, do splits...Just Kidding
Gotta crank brah
Brian on Separate Reality
 And random shots from SEKI

Angels Wings, Cherubim DOme and the Globe above them

The Fin and Castle Rock Spire
Looking west from Eagle Scout Creek drainage