Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Windfall to Windchill (V 5.11)

It was a dark Saturday morning and we  were the first car to pull into the Wawona Tunnel parking lot. The view towards Half Dome was as depressing as our mental state - we knew that today our lives would depend on the hard-earned rock climbing skills we polished to perfection at Planet Granite. Over the last two years we bouldered, ran laps on artificial cracks, took Yoga classes, saw children warm up on our projects and spent hours on treadmills. As a final test Gleb and I pinkpointed a yellow 5.11a in a lead cave. We knew that after the clock strikes midnight things might never be the same. I was wondering if the two of us would have a chance to climb as partners ever again. We were about to commit to a notorious Chapman-Worrall route, up a striking wall on the East end of Widow's Tears Amphitheater. Boldness of the First Ascentionists is hard to relate to. We heard they did not leave their quickdraws fixed on the route. In addition, there was a rumor they didn't even bolt the overhanging fist crack. Armed with triple set of Black Diamond X4s, Big Bros, Power Bars and Power Drills we were ready to conquer this giant Yosemite wall by linking up Windfall to Windchill for a total of 13 pitches of TRAD climbing. It was going to be a giant leap into unknown since all we had was a topo from the 1994 Reid Guide. This climb is SO EPICLY OBSCURE, THE SUPERTOPO DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A REFERENCE TO IT!


We pulled into the parking lot sometime much later than we had planned and had a greeting with hundreds of tourists. After putting together a rack we were ready to depart, but after the tourists noticed our "shiny things" and a "climbing rope" they wanted to take pictures. Since both of us are nice guys *cough* ATTENTION WHORES! *cough*, we did not refuse and enjoyed every second of our hard earned fame.

How it really was #NOTDATEPIC

The climb goes up this buttress to the top of Stanford Point #SICKKK!
Widows Tears Amphitheater #HARDMENICECLIMBHERE
Me at the base of the route #RADVIEWDUDE
I told Gleb that I had the approach dialed since I have done it to attempt Widows Tears as an ice climb a few years ago. "About 40 easy minutes," I said, sandbagging us both. After some bushwhacking to the base of the wall it took us a while to traverse the base and find the proper ledge from which the climb begins.
Gleb starting to lead the first pitch (5.10a with really fun climbing) #READY.SET.SEND!
Gleb is super excited about the 5.11 roof #LOOKINSHARPBRO!
View of El Cap and Ribbon Falls #ROCKSNTHANGS!
Gleb leading pitch 2 - 5.11 roof! #SOFT!
Before we got on Windfall we played rock, paper, scissors to divide the leads. I lost, which meant Gleb got pitch one (5.10a lay-back) and two (5.11a-burly roof). On the other hand, I got to lead pitch three (5.8 traverse to the base of an overhang), four (5.11a - overhanging hands, fists and thin hands) and five (5.10c awesome thin hand crack which zigzags up a headwall). 

Aside from a traverse on pitch three, the climbing on Windfall was fantastic. The lichen was present, but not enough to really be noticed. Aside from third we thought the other pitches deserved 4/4 stars. The giant roof and an overhanging crack in a corner took the prize for some of the wildest pitches either of us have done on granite. I did not think there were many pitches that overhang more than The Enema, but on this route I found two!

Widows Tears Amphitheater
Me happy about (barely) sendin the 4th pitch (5.11a). Look at my tag line to understand how overhanging it is.
You can see part of the thin hands start of 5th pitch at the bottom. #WHEREPERMADRAWSAT
Me on pitch 5 (5.10c) #CRANKIN!

We got to the the top of Windfall and Gleb took us to the top of the sixth pitch, an awkward 5.7 chimney. I started climbing up the seventh pitch but had some difficulties locating the 5.10c crack till I climbed up and traversed around a corner and to the left from our belay ledge. This turned out to be one of the best 5.10c pitches I have done in the Valley. Steep fingers and off-hand jamming up a beautiful left-leaning splitter. The crux for me was in the last section before the belay. I had to fight lichen, rope drag, pump but came out on top. Gleb and I thought this pitch wasn't easy. 

Me celebrating on top after leading an incredible 5.10c pitch
Awesome place to hang out #IAMJOHNMUIRBRO
This is the following 5.10a pitch - not bad eh? #SICKMOVES
Looking down at wide climbing at the top of 10a pitch #GNAR
Next pitch was a 5.10a with some interesting climbing. The beginning was especially fun, with finger jamming through a chockstone/loose flake and pulling into a bunch of wide. You pass a tree mid way up and belay under a giant chockstone. Pitch after that was an enjoyable 5.8 squeeze chimney with no pro for a ways. Eventually I got a good piece in and followed the path of least resistance to the belay at the start of a manzanita field. Gleb led us through the 4th class bushwhacking. Personally, I would not even call it class 3. The bushes are so thick that it is hard to move. One would have to work real hard to fall off here. 
Me in the 5.8 chimney #MOREWIDEGNARNOPRO
Gleb on 2nd to last pitch
Looking down at the slab section on the last pitch. My last piece of pro is that shit tree at the start of the ledge #RETROBOLTTHATSHITBRO!
At least the views were still inspiring
Slightly overhanging 5.8 fist crack to finish the climb. YES PLEASE!

Here is when we had a little flash-back from a year ago. When we climbed the Ho Chi Minh trail we looked at the topo of the last pitches and laughed. "Eh a few 5.8s. We will cruise to the top and get down to Pizza deck in an hour." Topo for Windchill mentions "one move 5.10a" and 5.8 climbing to the top of the route. Gleb led the 5.8 pitch prior to last, and I took the 10a pitch to the top of the formation. Even though I will not ruin an experience for those who want to do the route by spraying down the beta, I will mention that this pitch does pack some spice and a fall here would be ugly! 
Gleb on the last moves of the climb #SICKKK!!!
Stanford point is an awesome spot. Another great hike to add to your tick list if you are not into climbing Windchill.
Awesome to see this as you are descending vs several pitches from the summit #NOWWEMAKEOUT

In any case, once you are past this section, very enjoyable section of nearly overhanging fists takes you to the top. Unlike the Ho Chi Minh trail, you do not have to get down the sketchy 4th class ledge system, but take a perfect trail all the way down to Wawona Tunnel parking lot. This climb has incredible views, wild climbing and one is NOT likely to be stuck in line behind other climbers. A great route to put on a tick-list for those who are into incredible climbing off the beaten path. 

BETA: double rack from green alien to BD#4 cam. Three BD.75/1 cams would be nice to have since 5th pitch takes only that size for the anchor. We did not place nuts. Did not bring a #5 cam, and didn't think it was that important to have. #SACKUPBRO!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Red Rock pt 3: Levitation 29 (III 5.11c)

When we got back to the car after climbing Inti Watana To Resolution Arete I was psyched we didn't have to ever use headlamps. When I checked my phone and read a text message from Mark, I got even more excited:

“Fuck it! We are doing Levi29 tomorrow. So hopefully you aren’t too worked.”

Well, aside from doing a Grade V route on 6th consecutive day of climbing, I feel great! Some active rest, wouldn’t hurt though. Mark and I settled on climbing Unimpeachable Groping (6 pitch 5.10+) on day 7 and saving Levitation 29 (III 5.11c) for the 8th day. On the way back to the Bay Area I was really excited that my body handled eight consecutive days of climbing. However, those who have heard of Henri Barber’s climbing habits will smirk. If you have not, I would strongly suggest to listen!  
Eagle Wall - Levitation 29 goes up the middle of this beast
Mark likes to play around with rocks
Me posing on the approach
Climbing on Unimpeachable Groping was some SERIOUS FUN
Aside from screwing up the approach to Unimpeachable Groping and finding a three man party on the route with another party at the base, the day went great. Party in line decided to climb something else, and we took our time climbing the route on a windy day. Weather in Red Rock have been fairly ‘alpine’ for the whole duration of our trip. Cloud cover and winds made cragging feel a little less enjoyable. Poor man’s Patagonia indeed.

Not much to say about Unimpeachable Groping. It was steep, clean and had cool climbing. Kind of the usual, I loved it. Mark however, wasn't impressed. He was impressed by Levitation 29 though! Since he sprained his ankle on the descent from Epinephrine he didn't get to climb much for majority of our trip. I been climbing my ass off every day, so we decided he will take the evens, which included the 5.11c crux of Levi 29. I would be lying if I didn't admit Levitation 29 was really intimidating to me. 5.11c face climbing. Jesus, I usually suck on 5.11 face in the gym. Crimps are probably my biggest weakness and I sport climb as much as I get laid. Since Mark is stronger at face climbing it was logical for him to take the crux pitch anyway. But at least I had a better excuse for not fighting hard to take that lead.
Mark leading pitch 1 of Levitation 29
Another look at Mt. Wilson
 'Snail eye' before leading pitch 2 (5.11) on Levi 29
We started the approach early and got it done in exactly two hours. We took the low 5th class direct option which seemed fairly easy to follow, but not very direct. There was no scary scrambling on it. Top third of this approach was like walking up a never ending Half Dome. Steep slabs for eternity. As Mark racked up for pitch one another party showed up and got in line behind us. “Great,” I thought, an audience to see me flail like a rag doll. I told them that if they were mega crushers who would be slowed down by a few dudes who want to ‘get up’ the route, they could pass right ahead. They said they weren't in a rush and made a great first impression, which was strengthened by continuous positive communication we had through the day. At times having another party on a route is a nuisance, but these guys only brought joy to my day.
Mark on the approach with Mt. Wilson behind him
Mark following pitch 2
Party behind us on pitch 2
Mark leading the crux - pitch 5
Mark led the first pitch not without huffing and puffing. Even though ‘just’ a 5.10b, this pitch was more interesting than any of the 5.10 pitches we have done on the trip. Next pitch was a 5.11 roof which is supposedly another crux of the route. It seemed giant and I was intimidated. The lead started out well but than I got hit with some insecure stemming and was forced to slow down. After figuring it out I continued up on cool edges, used a two finger pocket to get under a wild roof and than it took me a long time to commit to some action there. After a few false starts I tried to do something I had not much faith in and almost took a fall. Even though falling here would be like falling on top rope, I really wanted to do the moves clean. I was barely able to down-climb back to my stance likely with help from a tight belay provided by my patient partner. After a bit more thinking I figured out a completely different way of putting the moves together. The moves actually went smooth and I got the pitch clean! Mark ran up the next pitch – a fun 5.8, and I took pitch four (5.10b).
Mark following pitch 6
Guys behind us having a blast
Original bolt on route
Another view of Mt. Wilson and the descent canyon
After we got done with the first four pitches, the crux was staring us in the eyes. We heard a lot about it, but seeing it in person was a different experience. Thin face climbing to a short section of fist jams through a roof than crimpy face climbing to the anchor. The pitch was so tightly bolted that I don’t think there would be much difference in a length of fall between leader and a follower.  : )  However, locking off and clipping the draws/rope into the bolts makes it a different game. Mark did really well but messed up the sequence through the roof. I had a desperate time but followed the pitch clean. It took a lot out of me and I was pumped out of my mind. While leading the sixth (5.10d) pitch I thought I was gonna go for a ride mid way up when my footwork and fatigue from following pitch  five put me in a difficult situation. I was really proud of my ability to block off fear of falling, concentrate on pulling hard, making the moves to work my way out of shitty situation and succeed. Mark led the 7th pitch (5.11a) and we were done with the hard climbing. Both of us thought the 6th and 7th pitches were quality pitches with difficult climbing. Some people recommend rapelling after pitch five, but we don't understand why. Last two pitches are 5.8 and 5.9 and we were not sure if we could rappel after those so we rapelled after pitch seven. I was fairly happy with my performance on the route – no falls, no hangs. Since I am a mountaineer at heart, the only regret I have was for not going to the top of the formation, which I am sure will happen at some point in the future. I enjoyed the route very much and the whole outing to Red Rock kicked ass. The climbing style was completely different than what I am used to in CA, which was enjoyable and challenged in the same time. Can’t wait to go back and climb in Red Rock some more!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mt. Wilson - Inti Watana to Resolution Arete (V 5.10+)

Mt. Wilson has one of the best-looking rock faces that I have ever seen. Combination of steep walls, massive buttresses and multicolored bands of sandstone compliment each other in such a way that makes this particular peak look like a cathedral from a sci-fi movie. Inti Watana (12 pitch 5.10+) linked with the top of the Resolution Arête (24 pitch 5.11+ when climbed in full) seemed like a very aesthetic link up and a fun climb of high quality. After my partner sprained his ankle I thought my dream to climb Wilson would have to wait till next year, but the Internet came to rescue! One of my facebook friends Wayne (thanks a lot by the way!!!) passed my number to Lisa. She was looking for a partner and seemed excited about Inti Watana. It did not take much convincing to get her excited about linking it up to the last six pitches of Resolution Arête. I was a little nervous when she said the longest route she has climbed was 11 pitches. Grade V with a stranger…sounds like a great idea! This time I was in the luck, she moved so fast on the approach, the climb and through the descent that it seemed like she has been crushing grade Vs for years!
Mt. Wilson and I. Decide for yourself which face is more BAD ASS! :) #SHITZABOUTTOGETREALBRO
Some Big Horns around Calico Basin
A climber from PNW on Birdland (5.7). # EPICPITCHBROSEF
Roof high on Inti Watana. Looks hard, but in reality goes at 5.9 with huge jugs
 A few days prior Mark was nice enough to hike over and belay me on a few climbs around Calico Basin. Atoman (5.10a) was a good warm-up. Yin and Yang (5.11a) was the main event. Y&Y turned out to be one of the best single pitch cracks I have climbed outside of Yosemite. Pumpy, intimidating, right leaning, thin crack with a spicy move over the lip. If Yin and Yang was a bit taller it would make any Indian Creek climber drool. Even though it requires a hike to approach and would be easier for those with smaller hands, I was glad we made it out there. On my first attempt it spit me off. Mark lowered me to the ground, we pulled the rope and I got it clean on my next attempt. I was fairly happy to get it clean and ran another lap on top rope. I was surprised because even than the route felt fairly hard. After that we made our way back to Canibal Crag and I got on a bolted climb named Baseboy (5.11b). This is where the real ass kicking started. At the crux I hung like an apple. I think this climb has cured me of any ego I had left. Mark made me feel a little better when he climbed the crux with a sprained ankle/approach shoes and labeled it “very hard.” –“Yeah man, I thought so too.” : ( Than I realized it was my fourth day of climbing in a row. Prince of Darkness, Epinephrine, The Fox and a bunch of bouldering got me tired and I needed rest.
Warming up on Atoman (5.10a). Sweet but short.
Crushing the gnar on Yin and Yang (5.11a)

Having a good time on Birdland (my active rest day)
Mark is a  big Marilyn Manson fan 
Rest was the logical thing to do since forecast for Wednesday was showing rain anyway. However, Mark’s ankle felt a bit better and he wanted to try it on something easy. We decided to wake up early and run up Birdland, a 5 pitch 5.7+. It was a perfect choice for a rainy day.  We met a few cool climbers from PNW and had a good time talking and snapping photos. Mark and I managed to finish our climb and get down to the ground before the storm hit. We were back at the hotel by noon.
"That pinnacle looks a little less intimidating!"
This is the BAD ASS face I was talking about earlier
Some boulder got in my way on the approach. He was more messed up than me. Covered in blood after I was done with him :)
Lisa tunneling through the final chock stone on the approach.
Thursday was the big day. With numerous people complaining about the approach being burly we were planning to start it by 6 am. As a LV neophyte I got a little lost on my way to pick up Lisa and we ended up starting the approach close to 7. Not a huge deal, but both of us wanted to avoid the shiver bivy on top of the peak, which was a real possibility if the route took us longer than we anticipated. We found the approach to be fairly well traveled and easy to find. Even though I banged my shin on a boulder and lost some blood, we got the approach done in just under two hours.
Inti Watana tops out on the giant buttress that overhangs above
Lisa warming her hands on P 1 or 2
Cool rock on route
I guess I ran it out a little here. But look at that crack!
The crux of the route ended up in the first few pitches. First was a 5.10 and second is supposedly 5.10+ per guidebook. The rock was soooo cold that we had to find stances after every 20 ft of climbing and do our best to warm up our hands. I don’t think it was that cold when I climbed the Third Pillar of Dana in winter a few years back. Or maybe these are the signs of me turning into a cragger?! : / Due to cold temps the first two pitches went slow and I pitched them out,. After that I was able to link 3rd with 4th, 5th with 6th, 7th with 8th, 9th with 10th and 11th with 12th pitch of Inti Watana, using a 70M rope. The climbing was great and since the middle section of the route is less sustained, we were able to move fast. The difficulties of the route kept the climbing fun, but not difficult enough to make things desperate. There were several memorable pitches, including the S crack and a pitch with a giant roof which goes at 5.9 on huge jugs. However, my favorite pitches were the last few. The angle kicks up to slightly overhanging, the climbing becomes a little more sustained, but stays fun and on positive holds. As you climb closer to the final belay station you have to get over the last crux, a 5.10c roof. As you belay the last pitch of the climb you see the whole route beneath you. Not only the temperatures reminded me of the Third Pillar, the exposure and position makes Inti Watana a must do classic!  This day I felt fairly rested and did not have trouble with climbing the route clean. Aside from Arctic temps and annoying wind, the climbing was pure joy.
Not a bad view
Lisa crushing the last pitch on Inti Watana. Exposure here is great.

Lisa happy on top of Inti Watana. Still quite a bit of rock left to climb.
View from Resolution Arete
Cool class two walkway high on Mt. Wilson
Upper pitches of the Resolution Arête were not as interesting as Inti Watana’s but I was glad we have continued to the top.  There were a few interesting sections and it allowed us to see and understand the geography of the mountain in greater detail. The route finding on the upper pitches is the biggest challenge, and arguably, I ended up doing the hardest moves I had to perform all day here. First was when I took an overhanging wide crack to get up the first giant leaning block (below the 5.8 offwidth – which protects well with a BD #3 and a BD#4 cam that I ended up not placing here at all – the climbing was fairly secure). Second hard move was when we started to simul climb after the giant pine tree which marks the end of sustained climbing. Without much description of what route to follow I went up a ways than saw two wide corners that seemed direct. I protected the first with a BD # 4 cam and left it behind. When I got to the next corner I had to pretty much solo a difficult offwidth. It was about 20 ft tall and I was confident that there would be something big to grab once I reach the top. To my surprise, I found nothing of value, just a giant block that moved towards me when I grabbed it. Moving the block back with my left and changing my diapers with the other hand, I came up with some way to climb the corner. Even though I was blaming Yosemite for not having much overhanging face climbing earlier in the trip, I was glad the Valley taught me to get up wide cracks. I belayed Lisa on top of the offwidth and we unroped a few feet further when we realized the climbing transitioned into second class walking. 

Top of Mt. Wilson
Lisa on top of Wilson
Both of us on the summit
Descent from Wilson was actually quite enjoyable
We hiked to the summit proper, had a few bites of food and continued down with plenty of sunlight left in the day. There was not even a chance for a freezing bivy. We had so much daylight that I think we could have climbed the mountain twice if we wanted to. When we got back to the car without needing to use the headlamps all day, we ate more food and complimented each other on the job well done. Having an amazing time on Mt. Wilson with Lisa and climbing a few good pitches with Weston a few days prior made the trip even more fun than I expected. It reminded me that forming new friendships and sharing experiences with people that we would not have met otherwise is just a small part of why I got addicted to climbing.

This was the second part of a report about a week long trip to Red Rock. One more to come...