Thursday, October 17, 2013


During the last month I did not pay much attention to my blog. Not because there is nothing to write about, but mainly because I worked increased amount of hours, tried to focus on rock climbing and trained. Thanks to my chocolate cake loving partner Hamik I gained some weight in Peru – easiest way to take responsibility off my shoulders is to blame others. And thanks to week long alpine outings I lost strength for pure rock climbing – there is always an excuse for not “sending.” Training harder and rock climbing more often helped. I feel better already, and weight 11 lbs less than I weighted in the end of August. For the first time since my addiction to the outdoors took off in 2010 I am more excited about pure rock climbing than mountaineering. My plan is to focus on rock climbing and set some ridiculous goals for 2014. If my rock climbing psyche does not die down, it will allow me to climb harder rock routes in Sierra, and hopefully give me the ability to put up own route or two. Oh, and like a true cragger I will need to buy a camping chair. :)
Me rappelling from Eichorn Pinnacle after climbing West Face Direct (photo by Chad)
Panic Pillar - glad I didn't blow it on the last moves :)
Storm clouds in Toulumne Meadows
Since I got Evolution Traverse out of the way, I was able to tick a few more climbs off my list. One of them is the legendary Steck-Salathe (IV 5.10b) in Yosemite. Expecting burly chimneys and trashing I left my camera behind. To my surprise Alix and I started the route around 10 am and survived without an epic. Actually I can’t call it “survived,” the route was enjoyable and we topped out with plenty of day-light for a safe descent. What makes this route stand out is the sustained nature of pitches. While 5.6-5.9 pitches seemed a little harder, 5.10s seemed rated appropriately. Both of us managed to climb this route without falls or hangs with Alix leading ‘The Narrows’ and me getting the ‘Wilson Overhang’ and a 5.10 flare below the narrows.
Sentinel Rock - one of the few major formations I had left to climb in the Valley. Steck Salathe was a blast!

Since I did not take any photos on the Steck Salathe, here is Alix on Book of Job- another awesome wide outing!
Me on Silk Road (IV 5.11) - YES, it is this epic!
Another climb I managed to tick off was The Panic Pillar. Even though less than a pitch in length, and rated as a 5.9, it was a tough mental exercise. Due to lack of protection, a fall from the upper ten feet of this pillar would lead to major injuries and possibly death. “Onsighting” climbs like this is not easy. These last twenty feet of climbing became much more memorable than climbing the West Pillar Direct (III 5.10b) on the Eichorn Pinnacle to start the day. It is exciting to climb on typical Toulumne knobs with a chance for decking, especially when you know that sometimes these little fuckers break off. My partner Chad said it best “Maybe it is 5.9 but no question this is a few steps above Thunderbolt summit block no matter how you shake it.” He loved the outing and took some of the best hero shots of me when I was on top of Eichorn. In addition, we witnessed a full on rescue operation, and helped one of the members of the party to get back to the trailhead. Crazy day.
The Needles.
My friend Chad on Eichorn
Chad on Matthes Crest
With 20% chance of snow showers and high winds in the forecast we decided to climb the Matthes Crest on the following day. Even though I climbed it North to South in 2011, we were chased off the summit by a storm and did not get to climb the Southern end. This time we had enough will to climb the southern section in a progressing wind storm. Even though the south section had less technical climbing, it was still very fun and plenty exposed.

During first week of National Park closure I had plans to climb the Rostrum and the Salathe wall. Since those plans were ruined at first I was a little irritated by it. However, after a four-day trip to the Needles and a three-day trip to Calaveras dome I feel blessed the closure forced me to explore other places.
Me on Matthes Crest (Photo by Chad)
Shadow of me on the Panic Pillar
Rescue helicopter after picking up a person from Eichorn
 In the Needles my partner and I got on Thin Ice (3- pitch 5.10b), Airy Interlude (3 pitch 5.10a), White Punks on Dope (6 pitch 5.9), Don Juan Wall (5 pitch 5.11b), Spooky (2 pitch 5.9) and Fancy Free (3 pitch 5.10b). All of these routes were awesome. Don Juan Wall especially - it totally kicked my ass. I onsighted a few 5.11a climbs outdoors, but on this 5.11b I was not even close. Personally, I think being humbled by the rock was a good thing. It provided me with motivation to work harder and exposed many of my weaknesses.
Pavel following an incredible 5.10b pitch on Fancy Free
Me and Pavel on top of the Voodoo Dome after we climbed one of the best 5.9s in CA - White Punks on Dope
Alix climbing on Atlantis (5.11c)
Since this blog is more of a personal record and no one reads the shit I write anyway, I will post what I need to work on here to see if I can make some adjustments for future climbs. First mistake was placing too much protection on terrain that was sustained and insecure. Even though protection is good, placing it from shitty stances is a big waste of energy, especially when there is a semi-comfortable rest stance less than a body length up. Finding the right gear would also help. On the opening moves I was unable to grab the right cam and got my left hand pumped out of my mind while fiddling with gear. Being too pumped kicked me in the ass till I clipped the anchor. Another problem was tunnel vision – I focused on the crack, while there were really good edges for feet. Next problem was strength and endurance – even though I was able to do all the moves on second pitch, I was too burned out by how sustained the climbing was. So get stronger, pay attention to all the holds, place less gear from shitty stances, and don’t get pumped! I wish climbing at my limit was as easy as talking about it. Anyways, I loved the Needles and as my partner Pavel said “it is like Phantom Spires on steroids.” Solid rock, 3 mile hike to warm up for the day, challenging climbing, and spectacular scenery. What else could a rock climber want? In addition, a few more friends came up for the weekend and we had a few more people to share the good times with.
Pavel following first pitch of Thin Ice (5.10b)
Are the Needles cool or what?
Pavel leading one of the best 5.10a pitches anywhere - Airy Interlude
Calaveras Dome was a great destination, and I am already planning to return. The trip turned out to be very enjoyable not only because the climbing was good, but because my partner was a fellow “internet wanker,” with a great sense of humor. Not only great sense of humor, but he was also a very skillful climber who gave me more than a few useful tips. Not only a skillful climber, but also an amazing cook…since Luke is married and I am straight I will start talking about climbing before this entry gets awkward and transforms into a hero-worshipping thread.

Me leading 3rd pitch of Don Juan Wall (5.11b)
Really good Mexican food on the way home
The Charlatan. Spooky (5.9) and Fancy Free (5.10b) go up this beautiful spire.
On the first day we climbed “War of the Walls.” It is a IV 5.10c and seemed like a good choice since we wanted to be fairly well rested for “Silk Road” (IV 5.11) – a very sustained climb. I was reminded that at this point I should warm up FOR 5.11, not warm up ON 5.11. I decided to take a 5.11 finger crack as a variation to start the route and got worked. At the little roof before getting into the finger crack proper I made the same mistake as on Don Juan wall – I took a crapload of time placing my first cam from a shitty stance (the pod was tricky). Even though I was able to pull myself over the little roof and into the finger crack my endurance gave up on the last few moves of it and I took a few falls on the same spot. Rest of the pitch went well, but not quick. Majority of it was a thin hand crack, with an overhang in the middle. Red and green camalots size is not my strength, so I took my time climbing rest of the pitch, which resulted in no more falls.
top of the second pitch on War of the Walls. I linked the first two.
Here Luke linked this 5.10c pitch with two more!
Luke following on 5.9R pitch
I linked the first pitch with the next 5.10c pitch and ended up on the belay station with 0 cams! Luke linked the next three pitches into a 70M epic. It started from a really cool 5.10c traverse under a roof, pulled the roof and passed through a 5.9+ corner. 5.9s on this route were not freebies. My next 5.9 pitch was a sustained corner with delicate climbing. Next two pitches were also 5.9, but on slabby face. Luke led the first slab pitch and I led the second. Seemed like his had a few harder moves, and mine had a longer run-out between bolts. At one point you are climbing without being sure at all if you are on the right path to the anchor- you don’t see it! After Luke linked the last two low 5th class pitches we decided to skip the summit and find the beginning of Silk Road. We were down in 5 long rappells and had much better luck finding the start to Silk Road. Earlier that day it took us forever to figure out where the hell War of the Walls begins. 

Top of the 5.11 fingercrack. Variation to first pitch on War of the Walls.
Luke following p3 on Silk Road. 
View of Hammer Dome
Luke starting to lead an epic 180ft lie back
On Saturday we climbed the Silk Road, and were impressed by the quality and sustained nature of this route. It challenged both of us in different ways. I was happy to climb more lie-backs since along with slab, finger cracks, off hands, face-climbs and flared chimneys it is one of my weaknesses. Silk Road however, was more than lie-backs, and was much more burly than its name suggests. Along with sustained lie backs it had interesting crack systems, slabby face, and a really cool stemming section. I was stunned by the quality of this route and thought it deserves much more traffic than it receives. On the money pitch you lie-back up a sustained corner and come to a spot where the crack ends. One must transition into a stem and palm their way up the corner. Luke and I agreed it was one of the coolest pitches both of us ever climbed. We got done with sustained pitches of Silk Road at 3pm. Since there were only about three hours of daylight left and both of us suffered from “snail-eye,” we decided to rappel and devour a few plates of food. Indeed a very good choice. For dinner Luke prepared us tasty dishes on each of the nights. He has a portable three burner stove on which he cooks gourmet food. No wonder he is married, and I am single – who wants a tosser with a jetboil?

Me on pitch 4
Following the long lie-back pitch
After lie back pitch is done with you 
Happy Vitaliy on crux slab pitch
Anyway, this last month was really fun. Not only did I climb at several new spots, tick off a few more climbs, but I also had a chance to climb with a few more people. Even though I like to climb with my regular partners, at times it is important to get out with others and see how they do things. Since Yosemite is opened again I am hoping to celebrate Hamik’s birthday with a well known Valley classic that is sure to have a huge line on Saturday. After that we will be allowed to eat a cheesecake and re-stock for next week – I am turning twenty seven on the 24th!
Luke starting one of the coolest and funnest pitches either of us climbed outdoors!
View of Karakoram Highway. Next time!!!
View from the Calaveras Dome
Luke rappelling after a fun day of climbing