Friday, April 18, 2014

Red Rock pt 3: Levitation 29 (III 5.11c)

When we got back to the car after climbing Inti Watana To Resolution Arete I was psyched we didn't have to ever use headlamps. When I checked my phone and read a text message from Mark, I got even more excited:

“Fuck it! We are doing Levi29 tomorrow. So hopefully you aren’t too worked.”

Well, aside from doing a Grade V route on 6th consecutive day of climbing, I feel great! Some active rest, wouldn’t hurt though. Mark and I settled on climbing Unimpeachable Groping (6 pitch 5.10+) on day 7 and saving Levitation 29 (III 5.11c) for the 8th day. On the way back to the Bay Area I was really excited that my body handled eight consecutive days of climbing. However, those who have heard of Henri Barber’s climbing habits will smirk. If you have not, I would strongly suggest to listen!
Eagle Wall - Levitation 29 goes up the middle of this beast
Mark likes to play around with rocks
Me posing on the approach
Climbing on Unimpeachable Groping was some SERIOUS FUN
Aside from screwing up the approach to Unimpeachable Groping and finding a three man party on the route with another party at the base, the day went great. Party in line decided to climb something else, and we took our time climbing the route on a windy day. Weather in Red Rock have been fairly ‘alpine’ for the whole duration of our trip. Cloud cover and winds made cragging feel a little less enjoyable. Poor man’s Patagonia indeed.

Not much to say about Unimpeachable Groping. It was steep, clean and had cool climbing. Kind of the usual, I loved it. Mark however, wasn't impressed. He was impressed by Levitation 29 though! Since he sprained his ankle on the descent from Epinephrine he didn't get to climb much for majority of our trip. I been climbing my ass off every day, so we decided he will take the evens, which included the 5.11c crux of Levi 29. I would be lying if I didn't admit Levitation 29 was really intimidating to me. 5.11c face climbing. Jesus, I usually suck on 5.11 face in the gym. Crimps are probably my biggest weakness and I sport climb as much as I get laid. Since Mark is stronger at face climbing it was logical for him to take the crux pitch anyway. But at least I had a better excuse for not fighting hard to take that lead.
Mark leading pitch 1 of Levitation 29
Another look at Mt. Wilson
 'Snail eye' before leading pitch 2 (5.11) on Levi 29
We started the approach early and got it done in exactly two hours. We took the low 5th class direct option which seemed fairly easy to follow, but not very direct. There was no scary scrambling on it. Top third of this approach was like walking up a never ending Half Dome. Steep slabs for eternity. As Mark racked up for pitch one another party showed up and got in line behind us. “Great,” I thought, an audience to see me flail like a rag doll. I told them that if they were mega crushers who would be slowed down by a few dudes who want to ‘get up’ the route, they could pass right ahead. They said they weren't in a rush and made a great first impression, which was strengthened by continuous positive communication we had through the day. At times having another party on a route is a nuisance, but these guys only brought joy to my day.
Mark on the approach with Mt. Wilson behind him
Mark following pitch 2
Party behind us on pitch 2
Mark leading the crux - pitch 5
Mark led the first pitch not without huffing and puffing. Even though ‘just’ a 5.10b, this pitch was more interesting than any of the 5.10 pitches we have done on the trip. Next pitch was a 5.11 roof which is supposedly another crux of the route. It seemed giant and I was intimidated. The lead started out well but than I got hit with some insecure stemming and was forced to slow down. After figuring it out I continued up on cool edges, used a two finger pocket to get under a wild roof and than it took me a long time to commit to some action there. After a few false starts I tried to do something I had not much faith in and almost took a fall. Even though falling here would be like falling on top rope, I really wanted to do the moves clean. I was barely able to down-climb back to my stance likely with help from a tight belay provided by my patient partner. After a bit more thinking I figured out a completely different way of putting the moves together. The moves actually went smooth and I got the pitch clean! Mark ran up the next pitch – a fun 5.8, and I took pitch four (5.10b).
Mark following pitch 6
Guys behind us having a blast
Original bolt on route
Another view of Mt. Wilson and the descent canyon
After we got done with the first four pitches, the crux was staring us in the eyes. We heard a lot about it, but seeing it in person was a different experience. Thin face climbing to a short section of fist jams through a roof than crimpy face climbing to the anchor. The pitch was so tightly bolted that I don’t think there would be much difference in a length of fall between leader and a follower.  : )  However, locking off and clipping the draws/rope into the bolts makes it a different game. Mark did really well but messed up the sequence through the roof. I had a desperate time but followed the pitch clean. It took a lot out of me and I was pumped out of my mind. While leading the sixth (5.10d) pitch I thought I was gonna go for a ride mid way up when my footwork and fatigue from following pitch  five put me in a difficult situation. I was really proud of my ability to block off fear of falling, concentrate on pulling hard, making the moves to work my way out of shitty situation and succeed. Mark led the 7th pitch (5.11a) and we were done with the hard climbing. Both of us thought the 6th and 7th pitches were quality pitches with difficult climbing. Some people recommend rapelling after pitch five, but we don't understand why. Last two pitches are 5.8 and 5.9 and we were not sure if we could rappel after those so we rapelled after pitch seven. I was fairly happy with my performance on the route – no falls, no hangs. Since I am a mountaineer at heart, the only regret I have was for not going to the top of the formation, which I am sure will happen at some point in the future. I enjoyed the route very much and the whole outing to Red Rock kicked ass. The climbing style was completely different than what I am used to in CA, which was enjoyable and challenged in the same time. Can’t wait to go back and climb in Red Rock some more!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mt. Wilson - Inti Watana to Resolution Arete (V 5.10+)

Mt. Wilson has one of the best-looking rock faces that I have ever seen. Combination of steep walls, massive buttresses and multicolored bands of sandstone compliment each other in such a way that makes this particular peak look like a cathedral from a sci-fi movie. Inti Watana (12 pitch 5.10+) linked with the top of the Resolution Arête (24 pitch 5.11+ when climbed in full) seemed like a very aesthetic link up and a fun climb of high quality. After my partner sprained his ankle I thought my dream to climb Wilson would have to wait till next year, but the Internet came to rescue! One of my facebook friends Wayne (thanks a lot by the way!!!) passed my number to Lisa. She was looking for a partner and seemed excited about Inti Watana. It did not take much convincing to get her excited about linking it up to the last six pitches of Resolution Arête. I was a little nervous when she said the longest route she has climbed was 11 pitches. Grade V with a stranger…sounds like a great idea! This time I was in the luck, she moved so fast on the approach, the climb and through the descent that it seemed like she has been crushing grade Vs for years!
Mt. Wilson and I. Decide for yourself which face is more BAD ASS! :) #SHITZABOUTTOGETREALBRO
Some Big Horns around Calico Basin
A climber from PNW on Birdland (5.7). # EPICPITCHBROSEF
Roof high on Inti Watana. Looks hard, but in reality goes at 5.9 with huge jugs
 A few days prior Mark was nice enough to hike over and belay me on a few climbs around Calico Basin. Atoman (5.10a) was a good warm-up. Yin and Yang (5.11a) was the main event. Y&Y turned out to be one of the best single pitch cracks I have climbed outside of Yosemite. Pumpy, intimidating, right leaning, thin crack with a spicy move over the lip. If Yin and Yang was a bit taller it would make any Indian Creek climber drool. Even though it requires a hike to approach and would be easier for those with smaller hands, I was glad we made it out there. On my first attempt it spit me off. Mark lowered me to the ground, we pulled the rope and I got it clean on my next attempt. I was fairly happy to get it clean and ran another lap on top rope. I was surprised because even than the route felt fairly hard. After that we made our way back to Canibal Crag and I got on a bolted climb named Baseboy (5.11b). This is where the real ass kicking started. At the crux I hung like an apple. I think this climb has cured me of any ego I had left. Mark made me feel a little better when he climbed the crux with a sprained ankle/approach shoes and labeled it “very hard.” –“Yeah man, I thought so too.” : ( Than I realized it was my fourth day of climbing in a row. Prince of Darkness, Epinephrine, The Fox and a bunch of bouldering got me tired and I needed rest.
Warming up on Atoman (5.10a). Sweet but short.
Crushing the gnar on Yin and Yang (5.11a)

Having a good time on Birdland (my active rest day)
Mark is a  big Marilyn Manson fan 
Rest was the logical thing to do since forecast for Wednesday was showing rain anyway. However, Mark’s ankle felt a bit better and he wanted to try it on something easy. We decided to wake up early and run up Birdland, a 5 pitch 5.7+. It was a perfect choice for a rainy day.  We met a few cool climbers from PNW and had a good time talking and snapping photos. Mark and I managed to finish our climb and get down to the ground before the storm hit. We were back at the hotel by noon.
"That pinnacle looks a little less intimidating!"
This is the BAD ASS face I was talking about earlier
Some boulder got in my way on the approach. He was more messed up than me. Covered in blood after I was done with him :)
Lisa tunneling through the final chock stone on the approach.
Thursday was the big day. With numerous people complaining about the approach being burly we were planning to start it by 6 am. As a LV neophyte I got a little lost on my way to pick up Lisa and we ended up starting the approach close to 7. Not a huge deal, but both of us wanted to avoid the shiver bivy on top of the peak, which was a real possibility if the route took us longer than we anticipated. We found the approach to be fairly well traveled and easy to find. Even though I banged my shin on a boulder and lost some blood, we got the approach done in just under two hours.
Inti Watana tops out on the giant buttress that overhangs above
Lisa warming her hands on P 1 or 2
Cool rock on route
I guess I ran it out a little here. But look at that crack!
The crux of the route ended up in the first few pitches. First was a 5.10 and second is supposedly 5.10+ per guidebook. The rock was soooo cold that we had to find stances after every 20 ft of climbing and do our best to warm up our hands. I don’t think it was that cold when I climbed the Third Pillar of Dana in winter a few years back. Or maybe these are the signs of me turning into a cragger?! : / Due to cold temps the first two pitches went slow and I pitched them out,. After that I was able to link 3rd with 4th, 5th with 6th, 7th with 8th, 9th with 10th and 11th with 12th pitch of Inti Watana, using a 70M rope. The climbing was great and since the middle section of the route is less sustained, we were able to move fast. The difficulties of the route kept the climbing fun, but not difficult enough to make things desperate. There were several memorable pitches, including the S crack and a pitch with a giant roof which goes at 5.9 on huge jugs. However, my favorite pitches were the last few. The angle kicks up to slightly overhanging, the climbing becomes a little more sustained, but stays fun and on positive holds. As you climb closer to the final belay station you have to get over the last crux, a 5.10c roof. As you belay the last pitch of the climb you see the whole route beneath you. Not only the temperatures reminded me of the Third Pillar, the exposure and position makes Inti Watana a must do classic!  This day I felt fairly rested and did not have trouble with climbing the route clean. Aside from Arctic temps and annoying wind, the climbing was pure joy.
Not a bad view
Lisa crushing the last pitch on Inti Watana. Exposure here is great.

Lisa happy on top of Inti Watana. Still quite a bit of rock left to climb.
View from Resolution Arete
Cool class two walkway high on Mt. Wilson
Upper pitches of the Resolution Arête were not as interesting as Inti Watana’s but I was glad we have continued to the top.  There were a few interesting sections and it allowed us to see and understand the geography of the mountain in greater detail. The route finding on the upper pitches is the biggest challenge, and arguably, I ended up doing the hardest moves I had to perform all day here. First was when I took an overhanging wide crack to get up the first giant leaning block (below the 5.8 offwidth – which protects well with a BD #3 and a BD#4 cam that I ended up not placing here at all – the climbing was fairly secure). Second hard move was when we started to simul climb after the giant pine tree which marks the end of sustained climbing. Without much description of what route to follow I went up a ways than saw two wide corners that seemed direct. I protected the first with a BD # 4 cam and left it behind. When I got to the next corner I had to pretty much solo a difficult offwidth. It was about 20 ft tall and I was confident that there would be something big to grab once I reach the top. To my surprise, I found nothing of value, just a giant block that moved towards me when I grabbed it. Moving the block back with my left and changing my diapers with the other hand, I came up with some way to climb the corner. Even though I was blaming Yosemite for not having much overhanging face climbing earlier in the trip, I was glad the Valley taught me to get up wide cracks. I belayed Lisa on top of the offwidth and we unroped a few feet further when we realized the climbing transitioned into second class walking. 

Top of Mt. Wilson
Lisa on top of Wilson
Both of us on the summit
Descent from Wilson was actually quite enjoyable
We hiked to the summit proper, had a few bites of food and continued down with plenty of sunlight left in the day. There was not even a chance for a freezing bivy. We had so much daylight that I think we could have climbed the mountain twice if we wanted to. When we got back to the car without needing to use the headlamps all day, we ate more food and complimented each other on the job well done. Having an amazing time on Mt. Wilson with Lisa and climbing a few good pitches with Weston a few days prior made the trip even more fun than I expected. It reminded me that forming new friendships and sharing experiences with people that we would not have met otherwise is just a small part of why I got addicted to climbing.

This was the second part of a report about a week long trip to Red Rock. One more to come...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Red Rock pt. 1: Epinephrine

Climbing in Red Rock canyon has been on my tick list for a long time. I wasn't sure how it would go. Usually climbing in Yosemite or the High Sierra, I fell in love with crack climbing on granite. My face climbing and sport climbing experience was limited, but there were so many crack and face routes in RR which looked amazing that I was super excited to try them all anyway! Epinephrine, Cloud Tower, Inti Watana to Resolution Arete, Adventure Punks, The Fox, Rainbow Wall, Levitation 29, Prince of Darkness, Dream of Wild Turkeys, Frogland, Texas Hold'em, Solar Slab, Fiddler on the Roof, Birdland, Unimpeachable Groping, Crimson Chrysalis, Mr. Choad’s Wild Ride, Yin and Yang, Black Orpheus and the list went on… I WAS EXCITED TO GET OUT THERE AND CLIMB, A LOT of cool looking routes. Problem was that my vacation was only a week and my partner sprained an ankle on the second day of our vacation. However, that allowed me to meet a few more people and him a few days to heal before he resumed to crush. 
Black Velvet Canyon parking lot
Mark following P2 on Prince of Darkness (6 pitch 5.10c)
Weston took me out to do some cool bouldering too
I ended up climbing for 8 days in a row and ticking Prince of Darkness, Epinephrine, The Fox, Yin and Yang, Birdland, Inti Watana to Resolution Arete on Mt. Wilson, Unimpeachable Groping and Levitation 29. Favorite part about the trip was climbing with a few new people. Weston (WML from ST) took me out to climb the super classic Indian Creek style corner crack The Fox and did some cool bouldering with me. Lisa from Seattle was adventurous enough to get on a 20 pitch grade V link up of Inti Watana to Resolution Arête link-up on Mt. Wilson.  
Me leading the last (5.10c) pitch of Prince of Darkness. 
Mark starting up Epinephrine IV 5.9
Mark in the chimney system on the Epinephrine
Looking down the chimney system after linking the last two pitches of it

I will break down this trip into three reports and talk about several main climbs in more details. First report will be on The Epinephrine. Before climbing the route, I thought it was named due to its exciting nature. Epinephrine is the same thing as Adrenaline, which is a hormone secreted by the Sympathetic Nervous System in response to a stress or due to high levels of excitement. After a bit more reading I found out it was not at all the case. The climb got its name because Epinephrine (the drug) saved Jorge Urioste’s life after he got bit by an insect in the process of bolting the upper pitches. He had an allergic reaction, which nearly cost him his life. I didn't find any bugs on the route, but the climbing sure was exciting!
Looking down at the Black Tower. Looks fairly white from here.
Mark leading high on Epi
Mark following somewhere on Epinephrine
Epinephrine is one of the most popular climbs in Red Rock Canyon. To be honest, I totally underestimated this climb. I thought it would be far easier since everyone says “Red Rock ratings are soft,” and 5.9 is something I usually cruise anyway. Even though NEB of Higher Cathedral gives trouble to many Yosemite climbers, I thought Epinephrine is a tougher route. Possibly my new favorite multi-pitch 5.9. At least I can’t come up with another one that I like more. It had a mix of fun chimneys, a few cracks and a lot of cool face climbing higher up. In addition you get to summit Black Velvet Peak.
Me starting to lead the last two pitches of the prominent chimney. I linked these.

Fun face climbing! PSSSAAAATTTT!!!
 We arrived around 1:30pm on a Saturday and immediately went to climb Prince of Darkness (6 pitch 5.10c) in Black Velvet Canyon. Since the internet experts claim Red Rock ratings are soft I expected 5.10 face climbing would be similar to gym ratings so I linked the first (5.7) pitch with second (5.10b) pitch. In reality, the climbing turned out to be pretty challenging and thin. It took a lot of effort to do the second pitch without takes or falls. Next pitches were mostly 5.9 and were easier but had sustained climbing which never turned into a cruise. Last pitch was the 5.10c crux and my lead. I honestly thought I would land on my partner’s head trying to reach for a tiny hold which was higher than I wanted it to be. Somehow I got through it and managed to get to the top before total darkness fell. Both Mark and I thought this climb was not a super easy 5.10, worth doing, but a bit monotonous. That evening we were magically able to get a spot at a campground. It was a RR Rendezvous weekend, so we were surprised by our luck. The night at the campground was rough. Big gusts of winds did not allow us to get much rest and in addition it started to rain in the morning. Frustrated by the weather we were thinking of going to the city and taking the day off from climbing. By 9am we left the camp but the sunlit peaks grabbed our attention. “Let’s do the approach to Epinephrine and climb it if the rain doesn’t resume. Seems like it is mostly clear out there…aside from that giant cloud to the side.” Mark agreed and we got to the base of the climb around 11am. Not the typical start for such a long route but at least we had the whole thing to ourselves!
View of LV from the top
Summit register on top of Black Velvet peak

Me leading the Fox (5.10+). A great IC-style crack in a corner. Takes you through many sizes and has multiple challenges in one great pitch.

Mark took the first pitch, and immediately found the climbing to be challenging. Just a 5.8. He linked the first two pitches and found a few run outs. Higher up the climbing was fun and less run out. I got us into the chimney system, Mark got us through what is supposed to be the crux, and I found more cruxes for myself by going deep into the chimney when I linking pitches 4 and 5. Climbing mostly in Yosemite, I had no idea the normal route goes mostly on the outside of the chimneys through a series of big edges and cracks. I buried myself deep in and went through one cruxy bulge with a BD .5-.75 size crack through a tough bulge and than through a long squeeze chimney which took me to a bolt. Mark and I had a laugh about it on top of the Black Tower and resumed climbing. The climbing from here was mostly on face holds and thin cracks. There were a few AWESOME roofs that are negotiated on 5.8-9 jugs. Exposure and position above the canyon is incredible.
Calico Basin
I noticed pain in my left hand a few days after falling into some cactus while descending from Epinephrine. There was also something that looked like a broken bone or a foreign object in my hand. I could still climb as long as I didn't have to do fist jams so I resumed climbing in RR and waited till I got back to SF to seek medical help. Doc had a pleasant is not a broken bone! :)
Intellectual humor on the strip

Due to position of this route, it is in the shade all day. Cold temps and frequent gusts of wind forced us to move and even though it is a 16-18 pitch route (if pitched out) we got to the top before the sunset. I was glad I didn’t get on this two years ago as a total noob. Some of the face climbing higher on the route was fairly exciting with runouts that would give me nightmares back in the day. I loved the route, but not the descent. Part ways down Mark sprained his ankle and was forced to take a few days off.  While Mark could not climb, on Monday I got out and met WML - one of the Supertopo users. It was cool to finally climb with a person I saw around the internet back when both of us posted on summitpost. He knew I liked the cracks and took me out to do The Fox (5.10+). It took me through variety of sizes from thin to a full on OW. I found this climb to be pretty tough and not at all softer than some of the classic Valley 10d climbs like Five and Dime, Catchy or Finger Lickin. After leading the climb clean and loving the quality I took a few more laps on TR and we went to boulder at Calico Basin. Even though the first few days of climbing at Red Rock did not at all suck, I was a little frustrated my partner was forced to take some time off. Our trip wasn’t too long and I felt guilty for continuing to have fun while he couldn't.