Tuesday, November 19, 2013

North Face of The Rostrum (IV 5.11c)

Getting out to Yosemite is always fun, but even better when a good friend is celebrating his birthday. Hamik and I have not climbed together since Peru, but were psyched to try something difficult.

Two psyched guys + birthday climb = The Rostrum

We talked about working up to this route since the Spring. I was skeptical about getting on this Yosemite test-piece in 2013. Concentration of 5.11 pitches seemed high and just a few weeks earlier I got spanked by Don Juan Wall (5 pitch 5.11b). I did not want to fall all over this route and cause a traffic jam. However, I saw photos of other people climbing the Rostrum, got excited about trying it for myself and wanted to see if I can correct some of the things that went wrong on Don Juan. In addition, Gleb and Mark were also joining us on the route to maximize the stoke.
Me starting up the first 5.11 a crux
The Rostrum

Reed's Pinnacle
The Rostrum turned out to be as good as I expected. Pitch after pitch of steep crack climbing made me wonder how did the nature create such a perfect climb?! My personal battle was to avoid overprotecting tough sections and to commit to hard sequences once I managed to place adequate gear. After Hamik led the first pitch, I got my first test – a thin 5.11a section. It was went well and I did exactly what I planned to do. I placed a piece from a good stance, fought off fear, and climbed past the crux till it widened enough so I can get a semi-solid hand jam. It felt good. Hamik took the third pitch to the large ledge where we had lunch and discussed how thin and scary the crux pitch looked. Before jumping to pitch four, I must say the third pitch is one of the best pitches on the route. Not hard enough to spit us off, but very sustained and interesting. It has challenging sections which involve lie backing, stemming, and straight jamming. 
Hamik on pitch 3 (5.10b)
Me on 5.11c crux
Hamik on pitch 5 (5.10d very fun pitch with a powerful lay-back crux)
Hamik higher on pitch 5
Since pitch four is the crux, we used ‘rock, papers, scissors’ to decide whose lead it was. Last time we played this game was on the summit of a 6,001 meter Chacraraju, in a whiteout. We wanted to determine who will abseil from the sketchy anchor first. On the Rostrum this game was much more pleasant! Like on Chacraraju I won. Since I never led a 5.11c pitch I was a little intimidated. I can’t even ‘flash’ 5.11c in the gym! But after picking the rack (mistake #1) I started up. To my surprise I found good finger-locks, placed adequate number of cams, and ran the 5.11c fingers section to a rest stance. The rest stance is sort of active, and I couldn’t get a no-hands rest. I went into the ‘5.11b lie back’ and found it to be very different from what I imagined. It was more like a delicate face climb through a series of flakes. Here I made my second mistake – I got pumped placing a piece right before making the last few moves to the intermediate anchor. Even though I transitioned into the final crack on my left, I did not have any juice to do a thin hand jam. It was a little frustrating because after I fell and took a few minutes to rest the moves seemed trivial. Even though I did not “send” the pitch, and no longer could glorify my mountain-project tick list with “soft, flashed the 11c pitch brah,” I was proud of my attempt. By the way, my first mistake was taking all the gear to link the two mini pitches. Even though it helped us with time management, it did not help me carry less weight. Who knows, if I dropped off all the gear larger than a single BD .5 cam, maybe my ticklist would be a little more impressive!? : )
Mark is stoked!
Showing off the butt or something at 5.10c traverse (pitch 6)
Guy from Europe cruising pitch 5
He is moving through the powerful lay-back on pitch 5
Back to the climb itself, Hamik took the next pitch. Eh… just another one of those amazing cracks with a fierce 5.10d lie-back at the end. If you saw that gnarly youtube video and wondered “How the fuck am I ever gonna climb the Rostrum?!” yes, this is THE pitch. Hamik took a BIG fall going for the glory on the lie-back. If it was my lead I do not think I would have a chance in hell to get it clean. My arms were feeling like spaghetti on the final moves, but somehow I got to the final jug. With the pump through the roof it took me forever, and a small fall, to figure out the 5.10c traverse to start the sixth pitch. Not sure what my mistake was on this section, maybe I just suck at face climbing? But after figuring out the traverse I was surprised by the strenuous climbing ahead. I expected to walk the next section, but getting to 5.10a OW required work, and the OW itself was a bit burly. I expected an Indian Creek style splitter but was rewarded with hand stacking and calf jamming through a few bulges. After I thought about it, I agreed with a 5.10a for this section. If Generator Crack is 5.10c and Vendetta is 5.10b, than this has to be a 5.10a.

Hamik leading the last crux pitch (5.11b)
Campfire that night was awesome
Yosemite as usual was stunning
The Rostrum. Doing the route without falls is a big goal of mine for 2014
Pitch number seven was a bit burly and took us some time. It featured an overhanging hand crack and another mix of crack climbing to the anchors. The final thin crack seemed like the crux to me but I managed to get it clean. Since we started a bit late, took our time climbing the route, and let a party pass, the light left us earlier than we wanted it to. Pitch eight had to be climbed by headlamp. Even though this pitch is considered to be one of the easiest sections of the route, it sure did not feel trivial in the dark. Getting over the roof and into the OW was not easy! After both of us joined my friend Gleb on the summit we walked back up to our cars with moonlight illuminating the path. All of us were impressed by how good the climbing was. Even though I had two hangs, I felt happy about correcting some of my usual mistakes. One step at a time and climbs that I have on my bucket list will end up on the list of goals for next season! The weekend basically kicked ass and I had a lot of fun that night with old and new friends. On the other hand, in a semi-comical fashion, the birthday boy suffered a shiver bivy at a camp ground!