Friday, June 10, 2016

First Ascent on the Happy Dome: Man in Heat (2,000 ft 5.8 R)

Daniel and I wanted to get up to the dome above the North Dome, in the Kings Canyon, for a LONG time. Neither of us knew if it was ever climbed, nor did anyone we asked. The approach seemed long, tricky, filled with bushwhacking, rattlesnakes, sea monsters and all the other things that keep the herds out of SEKI. From far away the rock did not seem to be of the highest quality neither..well at least that's what I told everyone who asked me about that wall. We procrastinated for a long time, so long that it took several trips up the North Sentinel to remind us about the existence of the mysterious wall. As the most of the outings with Daniel, we had a great time! It is hard to describe a day like this, as words won’t do it justice. The approach gained about 3,000 ft. There was not much bushwhacking, no rattlesnakes or sea monsters. The climb ended up being very moderate on great rock. Highly featured, yet the features were sloping enough to keep the leader engaged without losing too much focus, yet moving over stone. We did ten full pitches, some with the need to simul climb in order to make a natural anchor. Great views, great climbing, great partner. Maybe I can even say partners. I brought some of Eddie's ashes up with me for the second outing in a row and spread them over the Kings Canyon. We had a great day and his positive spirit was present, so we named the formation The Happy Dome. Since it was a second time I spread his ashes in the area of Kings Canyon, the next time should be somewhere new, hopefully the High SIerra. To cap off the great day, we got back to the car by 5 PM and jumped in the COLD river. It was a HOT day and the name of the route is very appropriate - Man in Heat (IV 5.8 R), pun intended. :)

North Dome with Happy Dome above it
Zoomed in photo of the Happy Dome. Route goes pretty much up the middle

New Routin' on the North Sentinel (pt. 2)

The first trip to the North Sentinel (AKA the Silver Spade) led to almost two full new routes, both of which followed crack systems of high quality. Yet, there were still a load of unanswered questions. The main concern was the obvious splitter on the left side of the formation. How wide is it and is it even possible to get to the base?! Brian and I wanted answers and convinced our partners Caitlin and Chaz to go for another party wall. Aside from the cluster in the end of the day, things went smooth. The approach to the base of the approach pitch took 40 minutes. I found a long pitch of clean hand jamming in a corner for a rope stretching pitch two. Caitlin took us through the only pitch that I didn't totally enjoy, but it got us to the beginning of an INCREDIBLE corner system. The corner system ended up being so good, that instead of traversing into the said splitter, we climbed to the top of the formation. Chaz had the 40 meter glory pitch, I did a squeeze chimney and pulled over the wide overhang crux (5.10+?) and Brian took the last pitch to the top of the route. From there we rapelled back into the corner, below the traverse out of it. From there it required bolting an anchor to the side of the splitter before climbing it. Brian onsighted through the powerful curvy fingercrack and to a steep ledge, which was traversed with aid of sick heel hooks. From there I took a 5.10+ish pumpfest to the top, where I spread some of Eddie's ashes. Due to the incredible quality of the crack we discovered we decided to dedicate the climb to Eddie and dubbed it the Eddie's Crack. Don't think I climbed a granite splitter as good anywhere else. And yes, I have done the Pea Soup at the Needles! The following day, Caitlin and I went up to finish the route Daniel and Adam started a few weeks back. After an approach pitch (35 meters 5.10), three LONG and VERY good pitches (5.10a, 5.10a and 5.8 or 9) took us to the spot where high winds forced them to bail. Next 25 feet ended up being the crux (5.10cish) of the route. After that, the angle kicked back, but the quality stayed great. I continued on for about 65 meters (we had a 70M rope) and built a belay below an OW finish, where all routes merge. Even though we did not bring any cam bigger than 4.5 inches and the crack was a 6 inch OW, I didn't have much trouble doing the 5.8-9 splitter without gear. Practice on artificial cracks in the climbing gym helped a lot! We rappelled the line of ascent and IMO that is the best way off the formation, as it allows you to stash water, packs and food at the base and leave the approach shoes behind. I don't like climbing with a load of extra shit, so to me it makes the most sense. The second option would be to hike towards the base of the Grand Sentinel and hike off using the main gulley. In the future years climbs on this formation will likely become very popular and those who come to climb already have several options. Another must is a dip in the South Fork of Kings River. Refreshing to say the least!

Green - Eddie's Crack III - IV 5.10+
Blue - Eddie's Crack 70 M splitter variation 5.11c
Red FML Crack IV 5.11 C0
Pink - Chasing The Wind III-IV 5.10
North Sentinel from "Happy Dome"