Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Globe - FA of The Standing Ovation (1000 ft - III 5.10)

While climbing different formations in the area, I noticed two attractive domes on the same ridge-line with The Prism and the Saber Ridge. Variety of sources revealed that the local climbers dubbed these as Choss Boobs. However, no one knew if one or the other had actually been climbed. Likely due to both of the faces being steep, with multiple intimidating roofs cutting across and the rock which seemed funky. The bigger of the two was especially impressive and at least over a thousand feet tall. The Prism and the Saber Ridge, both of which I climbed earlier in the summer, are composed of solid white granite with awesome features. The rock on the domes looked unlike anything I have seen in the High Sierra, with much of it composed of different shades of red.
The Globe is the bigger of the two. First to climb the other formation, gets to name it! :)
Nice spot to camp in the Lone Pine canyon
Base, with the head-wall looming above
Brian is beat by the sun, but excited about another awesome climb!
The smaller of the two domes, is not that small!
Both Brian and I were puzzled by the mystery and excited to see what it is like for ourselves. From the High Sierra Trail, we took the Lone Pine cut off and continued towards the Elizabeth Pass. When we were slightly above the domes, we cut below the smaller of the two, on its west side. Up close, both of them still looked steep and complex. After some discussion, we decided to take a direct line up the middle of the bigger formation. Go big or go home. Hopefully both. It was the last day of a week long outing, during which we already climbed five new routes. We were happy with how the trip went and focused on finishing it without an accident. The day went better than we expected, with fun climbing, enough protection to keep things from being very runout and awesome views to all sides. The red rock was covered with awesome features, which allowed us to pull several of the roofs on large jugs. Hero climbing at a very moderate grade. Even though the climbing was never too hard, it was never too easy. Terrain we covered had no sign of previous passage and neither had the summit. Much of the face allows for 'have your own adventure' sort of climbing on good rock. 
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Steep! Amazing crimps give way to big orange jugs!
Brian about to pull the final crux
But there is still a big roof ahead..that goes at 5.8 JUGS!
What a great final day of the trip! Back side of the Angel Wings, Hamilton Dome and the towers in the background
The top!!
While climbing, we did not find a nipple and the rock was the opposite of choss, we named the formation the Globe, so that it could fit in with its neighbor to the east - the Prism. During the week long outing we read Shakespeare during the time we did not climb, eat or sleep. Since many of his plays were originally performed in the theater named the Globe, we named the route Standing Ovation (1000 ft - III 5.10), for the wonderful climbing it offered. Even though, we had enough time to attempt the smaller of the two domes, we decided to report it as possibly un-climbed and hope it will attract other climbers to have own adventure in this pristine area. Recent years brought plenty of climbing activity to the walls surrounding the Tamarack lake. Now, the area is rich with established modern gems and much potential for further exploration still exists.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Serpent's Tooth - FA of the Wild West Crack (IV 5.11+)

For a climber, finding the direct line from the bottom of the peak to a spire-like summit is equivalent to winning a lottery.  Emilio Comici's most famous quote is, "I wish some day to make a route, and from the summit let fall a drop of water, and this is where my route will have gone." While fighting our way over the Hamilton Towers from Hamilton Lake, Brian and I were dreaming of awesome crack systems, but we did not expect to find an incredible crack system that led to a spire like pinnacle. Possibly unclimbed summit pinnacle.
A 800 foot+ spire with a splitter going straight to the base of a 40 foot summit pinnacle
Yes, there is a perfect KNEE JAM! (photo of me following the 2nd pitch, by Brian Prince)
Me in a nice rest spot on pitch 3. Route is a crack climbing heaven!

WOAH. It is really difficult to describe what I felt after the initial excitement of seeing this crack system wore off. Although beautiful, it was VERY steep and  intimidating. "We gotta try this thing before we leave," exclaimed Brian. "Hell yeah!" After looking at it for a few more seconds I added, "it looks burly though. Especially the bottom and the top. Two wide overhangs! Not sure if we will have the gear for it. But we can't leave this valley without trying!" For the next three days we focused our attention on everything else that we wanted to climb, saving the beast for last. Deep down, both of us knew we were gonna get our asses kicked by this thing, so we saved it for the last day.

Brian snapping photos on the approach
Brian, the Angel Wings and Cherubim Dome
Back side of the Eagle Scout Creek Dome
A day for a 17 mile approach to Hamilton Lake, a first ascent on Cherubim Dome, a first ascent on the Rowell Tower, two long first ascents on the South Face of Hamilton Dome. Can we put up our fifth route in five days?! We ate our last food, grabbed a bar or two each and made the approach to the base of the forbidding spire. Usually when you get closer, rock climbs appear easier, not this one, it was still scary as f***!
Brian on P2
Steepness of the pitch. That's the tag line hanging in the air!
Brian following the 3rd pitch. Great Rock!!
Pitch 4 - Spliterzville continues!
After fourth classing for a bit, Brian and I roped up. Another heads up pitch with 5.10 face climbing got us to an exposed stance below the business. Brian solved a 5.11 boulder problem to get into the initial squeeze chimney. It evolved into a really cool pitch that I enjoyed on top rope. For Brian it was likely quite gripped due to the fact that our largest piece was a #5 Camalot that he left behind after 40 feet of climbing. Up ahead he climbed the flare which evolved into more excitement in form of face climbing. Some stemming and eventually it turned into a nice crack which accepted protection. We swung leads and I found the next pitch well protected, although I got a fair share of adrenaline. As I climbed up a steep corner, I was rewarded with a great jug. It was flexing, so I didn't want to hang out on it for long. Steep terrain requires a dynamic move to get into a solid hand jam up above, from which I was planning to place gear. As I gained momentum, the jug broke. To my surprise, prior to riding the Drop Zone, I had enough momentum to sink the jam and absorb the shock with my shoulder. After that, a tricky 5.10+ or 5.11- crux got me to another belay stance where I built an anchor. Brian led a great pitch of 5.11 jamming in the continuously challenging corner which I had to try very hard to get clean on the follow. What I saw when I got to the belay station, was what I was fearing for most of our trip to Eagle Scout Creek.
Getting to the top of the 5th pitch
Overhanging slot ...The V SLOT! How is it gonna be?!
Steep and crazy! Check out the tag line to understand HOW steep it is.Me gettin into the V Slot :) This pitch was probably the technical and the wild factor crux. WILDER than the Harding slot! :) 
Get me the hell out of here, 2 hours later!
Brian getting through the overhanging flare

Above us, was a steep corner that culminates with an overhanging flare. A chimney reminiscent of the notorious Harding Slot guards the path to the summit. It was my turn to rise and shine. After the burly flaring hand and fist crack pumped me out to an absolute limit I was facing the overhanging slot. What happened next, will remain a mystery and only those who repeat the route will know if you are able to climb it as a squeeze, offwidth through an overhung flare, face climb or do all of the above. What matters more, is that it was the wildest pitch of my life. A pitch that drained me for two hours and spit me out to the base of the final obstacle - 40 feet of unprotected face climbing to the smooth summit pinnacle.

In the notch, I saw a part of an ancient rappell anchor that likely belonged to the members of the Rock Climbing Section of the Sierra Club. They claimed an ascent of these towers from the North, in 1953. As I started up the face, I expected the top to have an anchor as well, or some sort of a crack where I could make one.  When I climbed up the smooth and unprotected 5.7-8 face climbing, the top was as featureless as the bottom. I sure as hell was not gonna down-climb back to the notch risking death, so I doubt anyone did climb the actual summit in 1953. I drilled a single bolt on top and belayed Brian, who found the pitch as wild as I did. We drank the last of our water and had no more food to enjoy. All that was left is taking in the views and getting a breather after getting utterly zonked out by the monster route we discovered. WOW. Than, we had to find a way down off the formation, hike over the col, pick up the camp, hike back over the pass and find the way down to Hamilton Lake. We had no food, but at least there was more water and we had enough daylight - glass half full!

Five First Ascents in five days and we were not done yet! :)
Brian climbing up to the top

Me on the summit (by Brian Prince)
The Serpent's Tooth is the obvious steep face on the right. The big one on the left, we climbed and dubbed The Rowell Tower (report to come later). As seen from Eagle Scout Creek Dome.
For the most part, the quality of the rock and the climbing was great. If this formation was in the middle of Yosemite, crowds would fight for the right to go up first. Knowing that it is miles away from the trailhead, I would be fairly surprised to hear about the second ascent happening in the next few years. I would say it is a bit wilder and burlier than Astroman, but not as long. The exposed summit block and the direct line of the climb, of course is unmatched. The views of other spires, domes and high sierra peaks are priceless as well. A five star backcountry route!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cherubim Dome: TWO NEW ROUTES!

Dark Angels Have More Fun (IV 5.9+ R - 1,800 feet)
                 FA: Musiyenko, Vitaliy and Adam Ferro

             What Dreams May Come (IV 5.10 R - 1,500 feet)

                FA: Musiyenko, Vitaliy and Brian Prince

Cherubim dome (10,440 ft) is a beautiful rock face towering above the Valhalla. While researching the established rock climbs, I was able to find only one - Archangel IV 5.10+ A0 ( FA: October 1985 EC Joe and Richard Leversee). "Avoiding drilling as much as possible, we took a line up a series of flakes and cracks on the nearly featureless South face. Eight long pitches on superb golden granite," was how the First Ascentionists described their route in the guidebook. With the topo, description and an outline, I was able to locate it on the Southwest side. The whole South Face had NOTHING! Part of me was screaming with joy because it seemed slabby enough for something to go free. However, I did not want to get on a featureless slab that requires a hundred bolts! The wall was well over 1,200 ft in my estimation and per the topo, the original line had only 8 bolts! Not for all the right reasons, I didn't want to place more than that (on both of the new routes we have climbed, we placed only six bolts, two of which for a belay anchor).

Red - What Dreams May Come (IV 5.10 R - 1,500 ft)
Blue - Dark Angels Have More Fun (IV 5.9+ R - 1,800 ft)
Dark Angels Have More Fun - 10 pitches, 45-90 m pitches. Most were 60m. The line of What Dreams May Come can be seen on the left. The white water streak/groove.
Brownies and a sandwich Bryan and I got at Bearpaw for being awesome 
Bryan taking awesome shots near Hamilton Lake
When it comes to climbing new lines, there are many things to consider. One would be the proposed route you are aiming for. Second would be the amount of gear. The line I was proposing to Adam was an obvious white streak that split the South Face down the middle. It was screaming to be climbed! But as we hiked up and examined the dome from across, it was obviously lacking crack systems. We opted for a line to the right. There seemed to be connectable features that would allow us to get by without as much drilling. We were not sure how much, but it seemed like a better option compared to the steeper, feature-less streak.
What Dreams May Come goes through the black bands and into the obvious white streak splitting the face right of the roof. After the bulge, it works left towards the prominent crack system in the middle of the summit headwall. From what I understand, the Archangel goes left of the big roof on the left, and up the sunlit buttress that makes the left skyline. Dark Angels Have More Fun connects cracks, corners and features on the right side of the formation.
An original flaring splitter
Looking down at the cracks below
A bulge!
We found top notch granite and fun climbing up feature-less slab, cracks, corners, knobs, chicken heads and laser cut splitters that appeared out of nowhere and ended just as abruptly. The line was just as enjoyable as the South Face of Charlotte Dome, but with less choss or scrambling. The climbing never got boring or too difficult. We climbed many full sixty meter pitches to the right edge and up the summit head-wall. From there third class scramble took us to the top. 

Than things got a bit runout...for a 100 ft.
Adam on one of the upper pitches
Domes are not supposed to have splitters! :)

Cherubim Dome rising above the Hamilton Lake and Angel Wings
After adding up the pitches, turned out we climbed approximately 1,800 ft! With difficulties to 5.9+, the climb is usually in the 5.6-7 range. The runouts were sometimes long but not severely. Mental crux was making 5.7ish friction moves to a belay stance, 100 feet above the last gear. This was exactly what we wanted a day after the battle with the Angel Wings - a fun romp up perfect granite. In addition to that, it was a big confidence booster which allowed me to believe a line up the center streak would be a possibility for the future.  
The rock was pretty damn cool all the way up What Dreams May Come
Brian is about to start up the awesome 2nd pitch. Obvious white streak!
Awesome rock!!!!!!!!!!!!! 20/10
Starting up pitch 3...getting through the BULGE! 
Can't get enough of this view!
The bulge had steep juggy slopers! Like in the GYMMM BRAH!! :)
Brian on the 4th pitch
The rock says COME CLIMB ME!
Brian at a belay stance on the final headwall
About a month later, I took a week off work and returned with my friend Bryan. Day following the enjoyable hike in, we got on the obvious line that split the South Face down the middle. Bulletproof granite with cool featured allowed for a several awesome pitches before we reached the obvious bulge that we thought was gonna be one of the cruxes. Delicate climbing took me to the bulge. I found sloping jugs just right of the streak, which made the climbing over the bulge, more manageable then the initial section. On the following pitch, Bryan climbed straight up the streak which turned into an interesting thin crack with orange jugs to the right. After about 850 ft of climbing up the streak it grew into an easy groove, so we decided to traverse left and climb straight up the middle of the headwall, which was very steep and intimidating. As with the rest of the route, things managed to work out better than expected, and awesome crack climbing over a few bulges took us straight to the summit proper! 
Brian enjoying the views from the summit.
Adam and I on top!
The Saber ridge behind Cherubim
You can see that streak from space! :)
Oh the sunsets at Hamilton is never the same..
The variety of climbing styles, immaculate rock and the views make both of the routes some of the best climbs the range has to offer. In my opinion, at least one, should be on a tick list for any climbers venturing out to climb the Angel Wings. Two moderates with no need to climb offwidths, or haul anything larger than a single BD#3 camalot! How awesome is that!? With the available beta, a very excited party could link both in a day, especially if the spring is running and you have a convenient water supply at the base. If I had to choose one, What Dreams May Come would be the route to do, while Dark Angels Have More Fun is still a stellar outing. Couldn't have asked for better partners too!