Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Ascent of the Watchtower via Moonage Daydream (WI4 M4)

Stressed and sketched on pitch 1
Moonage Daydream on The Watchtower is one of the routes I obsessed about for a while. It is located in Sequoia National Park, which is known for it's giant sequoia trees and striking granite spires. General Grant giant sequoia is the largest tree in the state, and third largest in the world. By a coincidence Moonage Daydream is the longest (about 800 ft or so) water ice climb in CA, that actually forms almost yearly (there are a few other climbs that are longer, but they usually form once in several years, and stay in shape for short weather windows). Aside from being one of the longest, it is rarely done. After climbing it on 2/16/2013 I am 99% sure we were the first ones to climb it this year.

The Watchtower
We got a little wet
Moonage Daydream

Mike and Adam following on the first pitch
Mike on Pitch one
After convincing my partners that an alpine start is better than a cold bivy at the base, we started hiking out from Lodgepole at a very early hour- around 7am! Somehow we managed not to fall into the river while crossing it, and break trail to the base of the climb. 'Good from far, far from good' was the first thing that got on my mind when I saw the climb up close. It looked really well formed from the approach, but now it was obvious that first pitch was not yet formed into a continuous ice flow. This would mean we would need to do some desperate scratching on granite with our crampons! Yay!
Me all smiles on pitch 2 
Adam on pitch 3
Mike enjoying the hanging belay

I took the first pitch and found it a bit spicy. After the first section which was formed in a weird way I transferred right into a left facing corner. At the bottom of it were two pitons with a bail sling. Ignoring the hint, I continued up the unprotected dihedral- on 02/12/2013 the ice here was too thin. I got to a fixed nut with a bail biner and tried to swing over to the ice flow without any success. Ignoring the second point from which other people have bailed from, I went up and encountered the crux of this pitch (it was so awesome I even used a few stein pulls!), which was the climb in the upper dihedral and traverse left to the ice flow. Climbing granite with crampons while placing cams in cracks full of ice keeps you alert. It also keeps you from going fast. This pitch took me forever!
some LULZ
Views are not bad...
Mike on pitch 4
Mike taking it to the top (pitch 5)
Adam and I on terra firma

Since I was a bit cold I asked for the next pitch too, which seemed like a nice wi3+ flow. It went fast and Adam took pitch number three in good style- another wi3+ish quality pitch. All three of us were happy with how quick we moved after reaching solid ice.
Mike took over for pitches 4 and 5. Both of which were long and low angle. By the time we were done with these, our calves were on fire! No wonder- this was the longest ice route for all three of us. We were not done yet though, we still had to break trail for another 400 feet or so through a knee deep Sierra cement. Summit of the Watchtower had a stunning view, and reaching it in winter via Moonage Daydream was an icing on the cake.
View from The Watchtower's summit
Glorious sunset
It was really this good! I did not even add colors! 
Good day coming to an end...