Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Incredible Hulk - Sunspot Dihedral (IV 5.11b)

Sunspot was one of the few classic routes that I HAD to get on this season. It shoots up the middle section of the Incredible Hulk through a series of steep corners and cracks. Trip reports and word of mouth suggested it was a sustained route and I was a bit intimidated by everything I have heard. To get a good night of sleep and avoid all the useless worries I decided to not look at the topo and swing the leads after one of us gets going. One person would end up with two 5.11a pitches and the other would get the crux 5.11b. Seems like a fair load no matter how you shake it.

The Incredible Hulk. Sunspot goes up just left of the center. You can see the long dihedral system with an orange spot (sunspot) on the left side of it - that's the route!

Some pretty flowers on the approach
And more
We had two days off and no permit, so we decided to day-hike it. The hike in is short and we made good time. We were at the base after about two and a half hours of hiking. There were three (!) more parties that joined us shortly. All were day-hiking as well. Thank god they were climbing Positive Vibrations and we had the route to ourselves. We are not super slow, but when it comes to climbing things at our limit, it is nice to not feel rushed.

One of the spires across from the Hulk. I think I should climb one of them soon

No need for introductions!

PV and Sunspot share the first few pitches. Last year, when I did PV, I led the evens, this time I took odds so I could try leading the finger crack on pitch two. It felt very insecure last year, and on lead it did not feel much better. Cristiano took the next pitch which featured a series of strenuous underclings and a corner with spooky gear. Since we did our homework and brought a few offset cams, the corner was not too bad. I believe a yellow metolious worked well too.
Looking down after we finished with the beautiful 5.11a corner. Favorite lead of my life...maybe!
Cristiano leading the 5.11 b section

View of Crown Point. Good from far, far from good : )
When I joined him on top of pitch three, I was pretty sure the pitch above would spit me off. Not only did it not spit me off, but I spent like two hours leading it. It was 180 feet of sustained stemming, jamming and laybacking – 5.11a. There are some “one move wonder” pitches that are rated 11a, this is not one of them. By the time I was done, I felt pumped, tired, pumped, hungry as hell, sleepy and pumped. Since I have above average fingers and hate laybacking the pitch felt slightly harder than enduro corner – no long hand jamming sections, no perfect stances for a no hands rest and much more distance. Cristiano followed it like a boss and took the crux pitch. While following, I stemmed my way past the two bolts and did a powerful gaston into a layback to pass the crux. I thought 5.11b on top rope should be manageable, but this one took everything out of me and than some. After the crux section, the corner was restored to life and I laybacked and jammed my way up to the top. Next 5.11a was more of the same laybacking. Even though I was fairly beat from sustained climbing below, my fingers went in well and I made ok progress. Cristiano took the next pitch and did not find the easy 5.9 path advertised in the topo. Way he took had a cruxy step right across from the arĂȘte that felt like a solid 5.10 to me. Maybe I was too gassed to know the difference, but soon we were on top of the climb and setting up the rappels.

Sun is setting, we are hiking out!
See ya next time beautiful!
This climb was sustained, difficult (for me), had climbing of amazing quality and on an awesome peak. I liked it so much that I hope to do it multiple times in the future. It was a lot more sustained than PV, and I hope to get a bit stronger so I could climb the route without feeling super insecure on most of the pitches. Even though I did the route without falls or hangs, I would not be surprised if I climbed it next weekend and end up hanging on the rope multiple times. Sorry for lack of the photos from the climb, but I forgot to place a memory card in my camera. Without a memory card my camera was able to only take two pictures total! Rest are from previous trips to the Hulk. In any case, this route is bad ass, if you can, GET ON IT!!! Doing it car to car allowed me to watch the World Cup Final and to consume a load of some really unhealthy chicken wings. Now that I have the hardest route in the High Sierra (per supertopo) ticked I will either retire from climbing or focus on doing first ascents. :)  
World Cup was really entertaining
Fortune cookie after my celebratory chicken-wing feast was a bit creepy 

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