Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Watchtower - Moonage Daydream (Round 2) + Video

After climbing ‘Moonage Daydream’ for the first time, I was impressed with quality of climbing, length, scenery, and happy about absence of crowds in this region. The climb is located literary an hour out of the parking lot, but offers sense of a remote adventure. 
The Watchtower

Also, I became curious about history of it’s First Ascent and in the meantime was able to gather that it was done by John Paul Hudson (who worked in Sequoia as a park ranger). According to my source he did it sometime in February of 1984. Identity of his partner is still unknown to me at this time. Hopefully someone with more information could fill in the gaps.

Video Hamik put together from a bunch of our clips:

My new friend Adam (AKA Burchey) and Casey were planning another attempt at Moonage Daydream, about a month after we (Adam, Mike, and I) climbed it. Tired of lapping big walls of Yosemite (sarcasm), I called up my old climbing buddy, and he was in like a jelly bean. Since Hamik has not climbed this route prior, he was also awarded with the crux pitch (when first pitch is in thin/mixed conditions it feels M4-5ish, and is super fun). In the end, we had a different experience compared to our first trip, but again Moonage delivered loads of fun and excitement.
Approach is scenic

Summit covered in morning fog
With almost a foot of fresh snow that fell a day prior, the scenery in the canyon changed. Trees and granite domes had a fresh silver dusting – It felt like real winter again – such an anomaly this season! It wasn’t only scenery, the approach changed too. As soon as we hit the hills we were breaking trail through waist deep powder. “The hanger” we spotted on our prior climb was also gone.
Moonage Daydream

Spin-drifts were bombing us all day
Hamik on first pitch
Hamik soon racked up and was on his way up the business of the climb. He moved with caution over strange ice growths in the beginning and was rewarded with a bit better ice higher up. This time initial corner on the right had thick enough ice to take a screw. However, upper part of the pitch was still the crux with thin mixed climbing through ice, rock, dirt, and plants. Since I was ‘only following’ and wanted to prevent Adam and Casey from freezing (waiting for us to finish the pitch), I rushed up it without enough precaution.  I was sloppy, and got punished for it by my tool - it blasted me in the face. Like a real nurse I placed a chunk of ice on the wound to stop the bleeding and prevent swelling. It worked and I resumed climbing to the top.

Girls find scars attractive, right?
Back to awesome views...
Since I don’t usually let small f-ups prevent me from having fun on climbs, I took the next pitch and picked a steeper variation than what we took on our prior ascent. After stretching the rope for full 60M pitch I made it (barely) to a rock with a few placements to set up an anchor…a very alpine anchor. : )
Looks a bit different today..
2nd pitch
Alpine anchor...
Hamik on 3rd pitch
One of those things my mom would like
Hiking over to the top
My beautiful screws

From here Hamik and I climbed another two low angle ice pitches to the top. With simul soloing of snow slope between two major ice tiers, we did the whole climb in four 60M rope-stretching pitches. With new accumulation of snow getting to the summit was a real workout. Avalanche conditions didn’t look great either. Forecast showed clouds, but in reality mid-day sun was cooking loaded slopes as we made our progress up. We tried to keep our path away from open snow slopes, but had to cross some anyway. Our worries were confirmed later when Adam and Casey joined us on top. Turned out they got hit with a large slide. Fortunately they were not harmed – avalanche did not hit them head on. What was overall a great outing, also taught me a few important lessons. Hope these will make a difference on future climbs.
Me next to the summit
Watchtower's shadow
Plunging back down
Some good colors on the hike out


  1. Well, I'd say you've never been on Moonage Daydream, but since you've done it twice now...I'll admit to once.

    1. Called my old climbing buddy and he said you never been to the summit, so your ascents don't count anyway. Maggot!

  2. Makes me miss winter. Video was great, especially your terseness at the end.