Friday, April 24, 2015

Panther Peak - Krymptonite (FA) - 5.11 650 ft

Some food, some sleep and we were ready for more. Burchy and I woke up at 5:30 am and made a long hike to another cliff. The hike was long because I totally messed up the approach, not because it was supposed to be. But that’s ok, we needed exercise that day. Unfortunately the photos of a crack system snaking towards a sweet looking roof did not reveal all the bird shit that was obvious from the base. No big deal, we scrambled around, explored a few other options for a future return and got back to camp around noon. Some days you score, some days you go back to camp and stuff your face with all the left-over food while starring at beautiful scenery. As long as you don’t get mangled and keep your friend, it is mission accomplished in my book.

Adam following the 4th pitch of Krymptonite
We completed the hike out, relaxed by the river for what seemed like hours and made more food. The life was good, especially after I discovered the rest of my Mango Lassi. Adam and I were not sharing a tent that night, so it was game on! Daniel and Adam S. aka Macronut met us at the trailhead and we came up with a plan for Sunday. Macronut and I were gonna complete the ground up ascent of Krymptonite, while Daniel and Adam Burch were going for a first ascent of a weakness on the neighboring buttress. Krymptonite had two days of work already. Daniel, Macronut and their friend Matt started the line some weeks prior. They completed the first two pitches of awesome crack climbing separated by sections of difficult face. Daniel and I returned and completed the last two pitches of the line and now it was time to climb the line from the bottom!
Adam starting the first pitch of Krymptonite
Tokopah Domes and Mt. Silliman
The Fortress on the left and Castle Rocks on the right
Rappelling to the base
Thank god hand jam on pitch 2
 Our genius plan was to rappel the formation with two 70 M ropes. It would save us some time right? Not really. Adam Burch volunteered to prussic up the ropes because the knot got caught on the edge and it was impossible to pull them. He was really happy to be useful for once. Three person stance got real friendly for the next hour or so, fortunately this bunch does not run out of jokes. With the forecast of 30% chance for afternoon thunderstorms we weren’t excited about such a start but there was not much we could do but climb a little faster when we got to the bottom. Since Adam climbed the first two pitches prior he took the sharp end there and I got the next two. While discussing the route on the approach Adam told me it was harder than Serenity-Sons, which turned out to be a huge understatement. It took me every little ounce of energy to follow the end of the first pitch without falling. Holly shit, I was pumped. “If Serenity-Sons had stuff like that on it, there wouldn’t be as much traffic man! Good lead!” Adam took the second pitch while I recovered my forearms. Second pitch was not any easier. Highlight for Adam was a nice whip when he went for the anchors. Don’t think I have seen anyone recover so fast after such a lengthy fall, the guy clipped the chains a few minutes later. I was impressed, with Adam’s persistence, the quality of the route, pumpy cruxes and beautiful rock. My highlight was taking a whip onto my hand jam when a little foothold I tried using broke off. I was lucky to not hurt my hand or shoulder because my flesh absorbed full force of the slip.
Looking down at clean cracks from above
Adam and Daniel on 5.12 R X bushwhacking
Adam leading the 2nd pitch. Steep!

Adam following the third
When I got to the anchors, again, I was pumped to hell and couldn’t imagine going straight my lead – vertical, cruxy, crimpy and very pumpy. Some kid from my gym would call it a jug-haul warm up, not me, for me it is fairly desperate in a few spots.  I had no other choice though, the clouds looked much closer than thirty minutes earlier. It was obvious that the high peaks in the distance were already getting some major precipitation. So I stumbled into my lead after racking. I began fairly slow and took my time in rest stances. Knowing that I wasn’t fresh and not feeling secure caused me to over-grip. I barely made it through the mantel which serves as an initial mini crux after the first bolt. After that I settled into a rhythm, climbed to the actual crux, took my time shaking out and fired it clean! When I was getting closer to the belay station I was able to hear Daniel and Adam climbing the neighboring line. We hooted and hollered across the way. I was very disappointed my camera crew did not get any shots of me sending the gnar, but such is life.
Fun climbing on the 3rd
Belaying Adam on P3 (photo by Daniel)
I am leading the 4th pitch (photo by Daniel)
 As Adam followed the pitch I got fairly intimidated by the dark clouds which were now closing in. I heard thunder. As I racked to climb the last pitch snow flakes started to fall. The climbing to start the pitch is not too difficult but unless you fiddle some semi solid RPs it is completely run-out. I couldn’t afford to stop so I could mess with gear and climbed about 50 feet before getting in a nut.  After the initial section the pitch is not particularly easy – it climbs up cool edges on an exposed arĂȘte. It felt real airy and a little more stressful figuring out the upper crux with snowflakes blowing in my face, but after dancing around there for a while, I got through it!
Back when the clouds were further away
High quality rock!

Adam following the 4th pitch while I am trying to figure out why my hair is buzzing (picture by Daniel)
Happy as a cat but cold as a dog I belayed Adam when all of a sudden I felt a buzz on my sleeve. “What the fuck was that?!” The buzz spread to my helmet. “An insect? Now?? REALLY?” I hit my upper arm and took off the helmet shaking off my hair. In return, my hair started to move around and buzz harder, “holly shit, I am about to get fried!” “ADAM!” I yelled, “Climb as fast as you can man, I am about to get electrocuted! My hair is BUZZING!” I put the helmet back on and took off some of the metal objects from my harness. I tried taking a few photos of Adam climbing through the storm, and even though I got a few, my camera did not capture a fraction of seriousness of the situation. When I tried to turn the camera off, it would turn itself back on, likely due to all the static in the air. In the moment the excitement of climbing an awesome new route transitioned into a desire for safety. Adam made good time climbing the upper section and we quickly climbed the last pitch – mostly a scramble with a 5.7 step to reach the safety. I made it to a spot where we left our packs to Adam’s yell “My shell flew away!!!” The other two were already up and happy about getting off their climb in time as well. Excitement came back. Stories about the day dominated our hike. With a fun group we had, it felt like we hiked for ten minutes before we were back at our cars. We even spotted a cute little bear as we neared our cars, and none of them were broken into! :)

cute little bear we saw on the hike out
Adam climbing through the gnar on pitch 4
Adam S, Adam B, Me and Daniel (L to R)

To conclude the report I must admit, I am a blessed man to have such good friends and partners. And living in CA does not suck either! Even though the Golden Age of picking the low hanging fruit has passed, those who open themselves to the unknown can have several more lifetimes of exploration.  The Golden Age is now. 

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