Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Santa Cruz Dome - The Boardwalk Chimney (FA) 5.8, 540 ft

With the start of the New Year came a few more interesting outings. Pathetic levels of precipitation left the south facing walls dry and extended the rock-climbing season well into January. Since First Ascents and climbing obscure climbs is the thing I enjoy much more than a really hard red-point, I found time to get on one of the peaks that got my attention a year ago while climbing The Watchtower. Santa Cruz Dome sits right across the canyon and even though a few parties have climbed on it, the new route potential was still there.
Our new route goes up the prominent chimney to the left of the roof. Tom and Hunter's line goes over the roof.
Daniel is entertained by the size of Tom's pack. 50lbs of cookware and 20 lbs of bolts.

Beautiful chicken heads that we found while climbing our line

About a year ago I saw the Santa Cruz from the Watchtower. SC Dome is the lower dome in this photo.
The team from the First Ascent of The Fortress re-united. Tom, his dog Sunny, Daniel, me and a new member of the gang Hunter decided to come along. Weekend had perfect weather forecast and we had three days to work with. Before hiking up to the base of the dome Tom, Hunter and I climbed an awesome four pitch route up Chimney Spire. It was a tough four pitch 5.10d called Kitty From Hell. Rarely climbed, but definitely worth a visit. I was really bummed I didn’t bring my camera along since there was a lot to photograph!

Kitty From Hell (4 pitch 5.10d) on Chimney Rock Spire goes up this side of the formation.
Photo by David Hickey (summitpost.org)
The area seemed like a smaller version of the Needles with a little more lichen. The cracks were steep and climbing really fun. I would like to return to climb a few more routes in that area when it is a little warmer…After a good day of climbing we drove to Lodgepole and did majority of the approach in the dark. Bushwhacking and side-hilling wasn’t too enjoyable with 50 lbs of shit on our backs, but what waited for us in the end did not disappoint.
First and second roofs on pitch one.
Me going over the second roof on pitch 1
Daniel about to start pitch two!
Looking down the chimney. No munge in here!

More granite around...

The line Daniel noticed on a previous trip took a massive chimney system up the west side of the Dome. It did not take much work to find it. After examining rest of the rock in the area Daniel and I decided to take the chimney system. Tom and Hunter picked the thin face just right of our route. The climbing in our chimney system looked a bit intimidating at first with a couple of big roofs blocking the way. To my surprise the roofs were not too difficult and the climbing turned out to be very enjoyable. After the second roof was passed with a few cool face moves on the right, the climbing became incredibly fun. A mix of knobs and chicken heads covered the face and allowed me to be very creative with my movement. I had several options – chimney deep inside the crack, OW on the outside or fun stemming on knobs and chicken heads. I took the first pitch for about 50-55 meters and built a belay from slinging the knobs and using a crack to the left of the chimney. Daniel also stretched his pitch for about 55 meters and belayed me on top of a cool flake. What surprised me about our chosen route is the lack of choss and quality of rock. There were really large chicken heads, knobs and dikes all over the place.
View of Alta Peak
On pitch 3 I slung a dike for protection. Thank god the climbing didn't end up hard.
Fun face climbing on pitch 3
Daniel giving birth on pitch 2
Daniel and I were happy with the way our route went.
Daniel was extra happy..
Climbing on the route is varied and could be anything from friction slab, to chicken head pulling and chimneying. While leading the third pitch I did a thin traverse right and followed enjoyable knobs, to a spot with 5.6-7 friction which I protected by a tied off chicken head. Since I did not know how hard the climbing would end up this section seemed a little spicy. I was able to take a deep breath after I got to a cool dike and slung one of its components. This pitch was cool and a total rope stretcher! After belaying Daniel, we gathered our gear and made it to the summit for a few poser shots. Hunter and Tom also completed their line and reported fun climbing. They named their line "Welcome to Wallmart." On the following day all four of us attempted another line on the upper dome but decided to avoid an epic and return for it on a different trip. The year just begun, but there are already countless dream routes waiting...
The Watchtower on the right and Alta peak on the left.