Monday, October 3, 2016

Solo of The Evolution Crest Traverse (VI 5.9)

A few years ago I encountered the report about the traverse of the entire Evolution Crest in the AAJ. It got me excited to cover a whole lot of mountain terrain which would be completely new to me, as it shares only two and a half out of sixteen miles of ridge-climbing with the regular Evolution Traverse. It seemed like attempting to solo it in a series of marathon-like days would be a big step up from the car to car climb of the Evolution Traverse, which I have done in 2013, so naturally it seemed fairly damn intimidating and I procrastinated till beginning of September 2016. Ended up with a full package of great views, proper level of exertion, pure fun and 'I wish I had diapers, oh never-mind, too dehydrated to piss myself.' 

The full Evo Crest is double the length of the Evolution Traverse and the number of peaks is more than doubled as well.  It is hard to tell what is the actual number of summits gained along this traverse as there were many major humps with summit cairns, registers and prominence that made them seem like significant peaks, yet many of them were not named on the maps. But who cares really? My objective was to spend a good chunk of time navigating the Sierra Crest while enjoying the killer views and getting my butt, quads, hamstrings and finger tips worked by all the mileage. The First Ascent party climbed it over eight days with "pre-cached food, fuel and supplies along the way." Since I am not very smart and am too lazy to pre-cache gear, I kept things as simple as possible. The game plan was to carry everything needed and climb as fast as possible - Alpine Style biatch! If I can claim such a thing in the Sierra, since these mountains are not 'real mountains' as some expert will tell ya! Well, I am no real climber too, so as a result, over three days, car to car, the gnar was sent and an incredible experience added to the finite journey we call life. Without boring everyone to death by attempting to communicate how special this experience was, let me simply say YES IT WAS and give some crazies few more reasons to put this climb on the MUST DO list!

Before the outing, I was not sure if it was a good time investment, as there was only one repeat and not much information about it, yet as usual the mystery was intriguing and added to the lure. I decided to keep it wild by not trying to gather beta from the guys that did the FA and wanted to complicate things further by climbing the traverse in the reversed direction - North to South. I figured if going that way things could only get warmer. :) And how bad could it be?! The views in the Range of Light would compensate for the shittiest rock. Actually on average the rock turned out to be pretty damn good!

A few additions..

1) The Full Evo Crest is a BAD ASS CLIMB and my hat is off to the FA party - Scott McCook and Kyle Sox.

2) It traverses over a whole lot of mountain terrain (did I say that enough?), doing the crux section of the Evo traverse and is a BIG step up in the amount of exertion, difficulty, the gnar factor and requires a lot more route finding skillz to navigate rugged mountain terrain, which varies from stellar to loose.

3) The only other party to repeat the climb wrote something like "Why do the Evolution traverse, this is so much better!" As someone who has done both, I agree with them. This traverse is VERY WORTH REPEATING, especially if you have done the Evo and are looking to step it up.

"Between Bishop Pass to the south (12,000’) and Piute Pass to the north (11,400’) is a continuously high ridge, unbroken by any major gap and uncrossed by any established trail. The traverse ascends 10 major peaks and a dozen additional summits, crosses five technical notches, and traverses over six of the high summit plateaus that give this section of the Sierra a unique character. The elevation hovers near 13,000’ and includes peaks such as Mt. Goode, Mt. Gilbert, Mt. Thompson, Mt. Powell, Mt. Haeckel, Mt. Darwin, and Mt. Lamarck."

Day 1
 I 'misunderestimated' this day, big time. The only thing I got right is the load of pastries from the bakery's discount lot and the amount of coffee with a shot of hazelnut low-T enhancer. From looking at the map, it seemed like an easy stroll from the North Lake trail-head to Piute Pass and the traverse over to Lamarck col did not look too rugged. So I started hiking from the trailhead not as early as I should have. As I scrambled further along the ridge-line, some of the down-climbs and sections of technical climbing turned out very serious as I tried to keep the climbing to the crest of the ridge. I remember one down-climb as being actually overhanging and fairly loose, which was exciting for someone climbing without a rope. Almost as exciting as an exposed traverse around one of the pinnacles, which I was dumb enough to backtrack and climb. That was less than half way in, before I realized how close I will be to being benighted. By some miracle I got to Lamarck col right before the headlamp was needed and the tiny stream of melting snow was enough to collect water, without having to melt it. In the end of this day I was properly worked, yet I did some nigh photography while getting overwhelmed by what is ahead. Seemed like I climbed over about seven peaks only a few of which would be called major. Felt like slightly less than 10K of elevation gain from the trailhead, but who knows...

Day 2
Starting from Lamarck Col early morning I climbed over a little summit above it. It had a cairn but no register. The next summit was unnamed on the map, yet is called Mt. Tom Ross and had a register just off the summit. On the descent from Tom Ross I was doing a sketchy downclimb which required me to jump to a narrow ledge from about 10 feet above it. To help myself stick the landing, I threw my pack down. The pack failed to stick the landing and bounced down the mountain for 300 feet. I was more fortunate, which is a good thing. If I did not stick that landing I would be very very dead now. After downclimbing to the pack I noticed a whole lot of things are fucked up, one of the ones that stood out was my camera. From there all the photos were taken with a phone, which is kind of lame yet no too bad! I continued to Darwin, 13,332, Haeckel, Wallace, Crumbly Spire, Clyde Spire West, Clyde Spire West and bivied close to echo col by a small water source on the west side of the ridge. The climbing was great, yet there was a step between the Crumbly Spire and Clyde Spire West which was heinously loose. This step was rappelled by someone in the past as I found tat right above it. Frightening rock but great views. The chimneying followed by an airy mantle move to the top of the West Clyde Spire was wild! That evening I found out a whole lot of other things that got smashed in the pack. One of which was my mattress. The night kind of sucked. Exertion level was very similar to doing the Evolution traverse in a day, without the approach.

Day 3
Was f***ing nuts. Because my mattress got popped, my plan to climb the coming section of the ridge in two days changed to GO FOR THE FINISH. On paper the number of the summits to climb seemed reasonable, yet the mileage was on the extreme side of doable in comparison to the first and the second day. One of the things that indicated that it is possible was my pace on day two - even with all the overnight gear I covered the terrain shared with the Evolution traverse faster than when I climbed it car to car without all the extra weight of the overnight gear. I felt fit and confident to push it. As the day progressed crux sections followed one after another. Mt. Powell dragged on forever, as there are three major parts of it - Pt. John, Pt. Wesley and finally Pt. Powell. A section of the ridge leading to Mt. Thompson had some real gnar, but the crux of the day was getting to Gilbert, which was an especially slow and heinous, very exposed, had great rock and a whole lot of fun. The highlight was committing to a STEEP down-climb on white flakes and black knobs, then seeing a rappell sling off to the side and thinking 'oh crap, that's what the reasonable people do here...' But I survived the down-climb and was on top of Mt. Johnson only a couple of hours before the sunset. Only one peak to go, yet Mt. Goode seemed FAR away. I had no idea what this section was gonna be like and it turned out to have some cool scrambling and a wild finish. After a good ways down and up, as I neared close to what I thought was the summit, the ridge dropped off again! The real summit of Mt Goode was still a good ways ahead. I was stunned, crushed, beat to hell but had no one to whine to, so I down-climbed to a point where I had to move up as quickly as reasonably possible for someone trying to navigate mid 5th class. This section was actually very enjoyable too! Some parts of it were covered in cool black knobs on mostly great white granite. I was actually having a great time, yet the last gendarme ended up being the crux of the Goode's west ridge. I encountered a rappel station, which was bypassed by down-climbing 30 feet with the full exposure of the steep North Face below me. It was a steep, a bit pumpy down-climb on rock that I would not call stellar. After coming home, I checked the MP page and saw that it is described as "what looked to be at least 5.8 down-climbing," by the dude who wisely rappelled there. Yeah, it was not easy and it is hard to put a rating on something done at dusk, with an overnight pack, at the end of the third day of a behemoth climb, while wearing approach Yosemite we call it class 3+ bro!

THE SUMMIT OF GOODE! Was very dark and uneventful, yet at this point the thing that mattered more is completing the descent to the Bishop pass, which was less exciting in comparison to the down-climb described above. And it took a while. Aside from all the peaks, the high point of the day was crashing in a sandy spot next to a big lake where I had a tea-party, powder-drink party and a food party. There was three extra days of food that I had, so me, myself and I were really happy. The party finished around midnight, yet all the emotions, excitement and lack of a functional mattress kept me sleep-less for most of the night. The internet experts would suggest I bring a different type of a mattress, the kind that does not get popped. Yet I personally would bring the comfortable and light thermarest model again.  and hiked 
Following morning I stopped above the scenic Bishop Pass and spread my friend Edward's ashes above it. It was a special moment which reminded me to give my close ones a call as soon as I got reception.

 DAY 1

Somewhere early in the day

Gnar braj

That pinnacle was cool


   DAY 3

Soooo screwed, but Prodigy to the rescue

End of a crazy day. Well maybe another three hours till Bishop Pass.

Hike Out