Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mt. Conness - SW Face (IV 5.10c)

Bellow average snow year helped me out one more time - Hamik and I managed to climb SW Face of Mt. Conness in mid June! Even though this winter brought a bit more precipitation than last, it already feels like mid August in High Sierra. SW Face was one of the few reasons why I initially thought ability to climb wide cracks was a vital skill to have. At first I couldn't execute a basic heel-toe (for weeks). Than I learned how to knee jam and perform variety of stacks. After a while it actually became fun to learn techniques that depend on practice, rather than ability to crank.
SW Face from Toulumne Meadows
Hamik getting over a stream.

Snow on the approach was hard and perfect for walking - sun cups. No need for crampons.
Multiple different people, including a world class alpinist, told me Harding route was serious business. I can't say I got good sleep the night prior, but what's the worst thing that could happen when you are 30ft above your last piece of pro in a wide crack? Again, my worries were obviously silly - no one falls out of squeeze chimneys! And we did end up sending. But whoever said this route was burly, was correct. It was sustained and did not feel very easy. Climbing was pure fun on rare occasions, and often required some thought to get through crux sections.
Memorial plaque by the base of SW Face
First several pitches
Hamik starting up the 1st pitch. Not a cakewalk.
Even thought we did not end up making stupid mistakes on the climb itself, we made one by leaving our vehicle at 5:15 am. We were up above the descent gully by 7:45 am, but our route did not receive any sun till 9:30! Hamik, I, and our new friend Natalia spent almost two hours bathing in the sun before we made our way down to the base. At least we had something to talk about - on our way up we met two climbers who attempted West Ridge, but bailed, and had a forced bivy. It was a bit fortunate they did not see sock-less Natalia hiking in a pair of sandals on her way to solo her first alpine route. At times it is entertaining to observe people epic, but than you got to snap out and concentrate on avoiding own f-ups. We started down and Hamik started leading at 10:45.
Hamik on pitch two (it was not this steep, but that epic :) )
Looking up pitch 4 (OW pitch)
Old bolt on 4th pitch
Hamik coming up the squeeze chimney (upper part of P4)
Hamik starting up 6th pitch (long and fun)
We climbed the route in 8 pitches and divided it in four blocks of two. Hamik's ability to crush thin cracks and lie backs earned him first two, and my ability to trash my way up OWs earned me the following couple. I thought pitch two and four were two distinct cruxes of this route. Second pitch has a powerful roof with a thin crack (strenuous for a guy with above average hand size) and a delicate lie back section higher. Fourth pitch starts with an awesome hand crack that goes from thin to wide and transforms into an OW. It is protected well by a BD #6, but unfortunately was left side in (my weaker side), and seemed slightly overhanging. Business didn't last too long and I was chimneying up remaining squeeze while adoring the old bolts placed by a FA party. Even thought these bolts are more like a historic artifact rather than a piece designed to keep you from decking, I clipped one anyway. : )

Stemming corner on p7
Hamik is sad about feeling fat
TM and Half Dome as seen from Mt. Conness

Interesting looking swamp
SW face of Conness as seen from the top of descent gully
Hamik led the next two pitches above the big ledge, and I took the last two before we unroped and scrambled to the summit. There was some serious ice fall coming from the corner into which the original route transitions and Hamik took his pitch straight up to a big roof instead. From there he climbed a moss filled hand crack which felt like a painful 5.10c in it's present wet form. Remainder of 6th pitch had beautiful grooves with horizontal dikes that formed great stems or stances for rest. After 6 hours and 15 minutes on route we huffed our way to a hard earned summit. A few weeks prior I appreciated the view of Conness from Half Dome and today it was nice to view Half Dome aligned bellow other mountaintops. We were able to hike out with plenty of time to spare before the sunset. It was a real treat to start my 'alpine' season with a Harding route, hopefully I will do the other route of his on Keeler by the time this year expires.
Lamb Dome with a few climbers climbing 'On the Lamb'
Natalie belaying Hamik on some 5.10 slab
Natalie crushing her first 5.10b slab climb in TM
Sunset from Olmsted
View of HD from Olmsted
Tip of the month for all of you OW lovers out there: do not expose too much skin at work after a weekend of trashing - people will question your sanity if you tell them the truth. : )

Clouds rest
Half Dome
Last rays of sun leaving Half Dome

1 comment:

  1. Great TR--you captured a lot of angles on this day! (the training for the OW, the guys who bivied, the view back to HD after getting the reverse view just a few weeks ago).

    Addendum: Natalie is way badass!