As the title of another thread says, "Guidebooks are for gapers."
So maybe it's time for a thread about climbing beyond guidebooks. A thread to celebrate what it's really all about -- fingers and toes touching rock no other fingers and toes have touched.
No long stories to start, but here's a photo of my friend Kieth low on the easy part of the wall during an early exploration of a rock face in southwestern BC. A face where Dick Mitten and I eventually established "Machinehead in Paradise"
Yeah, a long time ago, and hardly groundbreaking at just mid-5.10, but a pretty fun adventure.
Post em up.
We found a cliff about 10 min from Isa's house with about a 10 min approach. . Forbiden Fruit 9+ Sport 90ft.
Isa on the FA. it was getting dark and supposed to rain on sunday so we were in a rush to finish..
fortunately Sunday turned out beautifull so we went back, climbed it again a coupple times and installed a bolted anchor. The taller portion of the cliff looks pretty good but has falcons nesting right now so we won't be able to investigate until late July.. It starts out with 25ft of 5.9 slab to some 5.7 slab then a bit of steeper face to a small roof. the roof goes 9ish but then there are 3 or 4 moves of vicious 11a slab above the roof before it eases off. So we called it 9+ Cold swim afterwards..
Above the roof.
but then there are 3 or 4 moves of vicious 11a slab above the roof before it eases off. So we called it 9+
Publishing 9+ for an 11a climb? Dude, you are evil. Either that or you are trying to bring your new cliff up to the standard of Index.
Index, you ask? It's a crag in Washington, about an hour east of Seattle. And other than having some great granite climbing, it is maybe the most sandbagged major crag in the world.
Or, as Jim Donini said: "If you can climb at Index, you can climb anywhere."
it would be hideously soft for an 11a, its only 3 moves and its thin slab. how do you even rate thin slab? the moves are silly thin though... I probably would have called the climb some kind of 10 but Isa called it 9+ which I agree with. The 9+ rating is legal up to 11a and should indicate that it is not straight forward 9 and likely has some kind of sandbag involved. Additionally the kids up there are 7ft tall and weigh 130lbs... little shits climb circles around us...
the mantle move at the start.
Thanks for chiming in Nick.
I wondered about starting a thread devoted to first ascents on this forum. Most of us here are well beyond the age of charging up unclimbed rock, but I hoped that maybe a few folks would dig out stories of their younger days, and maybe one or two others would post up current stories. (And that maybe a few lurkers would be tempted to uncloak.)
Anyway, thanks for posting your weekend story -- even if you've sandbagged the grade of your new climb so badly that soon young climbers will fall to their deaths with their last words, as they tumble into the void, "But he said it was just 5.9".
Too late tonight to post anything meaningful, but here's a photo from a day a few years ago when our friend Tom (posts here as Moose) experienced the downsides of new routing. Full story to follow tomorrow, but it was a lot more serious than the photo would indicate.
I blamed the top down approach to being conservative in the Covid era. In reality Isa had no interest in belaying a ground up attempt....
Kids these days are too strong to get sandbagged on our routes...
I blamed the top down approach to being conservative in the Covid era
On any route that is mainly bolt-protected, top down is the way to go. Oh, yeah, I know, you don't get the same bragging rights, but everyone who climbs the route after you will thank you.
Maybe that's sacrilege, particularly coming from someone who learned to climb on the insanely runout slabs at Squamish that were bolted ground up, but those aren't really sport climbs. No, the key to putting up a good sport climb is getting the bolts in the right places, and that is a million times easier to do top down (with plenty of top-rope rehearsal) than ground up.
Which brings me to the photo of Tom's knee I posted above...
Mari decided that some bump on Google Earth just 30 minutes east of Seattle might be a cliff. We expended a fair bit of pain and blood getting to it (blackberries are evil) but eventually found something we thought would provide maybe half a dozen good sport routes. We also eventually found a relatively casual approach, and spent a few weekends rappelling in, cleaning a bit of moss (not too bad, for the PNW), and removing the odd loose block.
Tom joined us for what we thought would be the last checking-things-out day before bringing in the drill. While Mari rap-cleaned her proj, Tom belayed me on a top-rope ascent of mine.
Now, bear in mind that I'd already spent two or three days prepping the rig. It was clean, and anything loose was long gone. I just wanted to take a TR burn on it before bolting it for lead. Totally casual, right? And Tom, being a sensible guy, was belaying from way off to the side, just in case I pulled off any dirt or pebbles.
Well, to keep it short, half-way up I mantled onto a ledge... or, grabbed the ledge to start the mantle and peeled off a block the size a washing machine. Which dropped maybe 20 feet and exploded into a hundred bits, one of which flew sideways and nailed Tom directly on the kneecap.
For those of you who don't know him, I should tell you that he is about ten times harder than you are. But taking a lunchbox-size rock directly on the kneecap is tough even if you are Superman. He passed out. Not for long, maybe only 20 or 30 seconds, but (and he can chime in if I'm exaggerating) he was definitely not in this world for that brief time.
Thank Petzl for GriGris, cuz if he'd been using anything else to belay me I wouldn't be writing this.
Fortunately, there was a static line hanging on the route beside my toprope line, and I was able to transfer onto it and rap down. And Tom's kneecap wasn't broken, so he was able to (painfully) jug out, and (painfully) make the mountain bike ride back to the car. But he didn't have much fun walking for the next couple of weeks.
So, yeah, the joys of new routing.
The cliff? Nothing that will make people desert Yosemite, but really close to Seattle, and offering a completely different (i.e. not granite) kind of climbing. Steep pockets. Here's a shot of Mari doing some cleaning.
And the scenery on the approach:
And the approach itself (gated logging road -- too perfect)
super glad you guys were smart and belaying in the right spot and everyone lived.. Looks like some routes on those mountains in the background? yes top down is the preferred method for sport though I have gotten it right ground up quite a few times. If cliff top access is difficult my preferred method is to pick the easiest looking line and do that ground up so that we have both an easy warm up and a way to get up there with all the tools to develop the harder lines.
toby last edited by toby
@David-Harris Wow! Glad all involved survived.
I am reminded of a similar experience at Smith. Not a new route and not nearly as large a block, maybe twelve to sixteen inches cube? Still plenty large enough.
I was on lead and it felt a bit wobbly as I began a test pull. I hollered down to my belayer but he was too busy chatting up his gf/wife and not paying attention. Well, it went. I hollered "rock" and did not fall myself since I really had minimal to no weight on the thing. I don't know how it survived such state at such a popular area. Scared me good. It is one thing to kill yourself, quite another to kill someone else. Fortunately, missed all below. They blamed me and never climbed w/me again after that.
This was probably circa late eighties and still pouts a knot in my gut and makes my palms sweat today. Not a particularly religious person but somebodys' guardian angels were working overtime that day.
@David-Harris that looks like a super cool crag with those pockets..
@NickG Yes, that's what we thought. Steep, pockets and edges, no cracks, easy approach, closer to Seattle than any other cliff... Nothing like it that we knew of in Washington. We thought we'd found something exceptional, and our only regret was that it wasn't much bigger.
But all that went into the bin after I pulled that block off.
Not that we hadn't pulled a hundred blocks off other cliffs, but this one was different in that there was no visible fracture line. I had been up and down that particular climb several times with wirebrush and crowbar, and thought that it was in perfect climbable shape.
So when that chunk of what looked like a totally solid and integral part of the crag peeled off we decided there were better places to spend our new-route energy.
As to the pocketed rock, neither of us had ever seen anything like it. We showed some samples to a geologist friend (Tricouni, from ST) but he couldn't give us anything more than "I don't know. Maybe some kind of sandstone?"
A few pocket pictures:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers pod
is that the scar from the block that came off?? I have heard that sort of thing happens in portero…
What about the mountains in the background. what are they??
@NickG No, nothing in the photos from where the block detached. They're all from a bit lower down.
The mountains visible from the approach are Mt. Index on the left and Mt. Persis on the right. Southeast of the crag we were working on, and southwest of Index. They are big -- not in absolute elevation but in relief. I think the buttresses on Mt. Index would offer close to 4,000 feet of climbing...
...if anyone was far enough separated from reality to climb on them.
why would you not climb them?
@NickG Because, despite the glorious views from afar, everyone who has gone in to jump on those incredible-looking buttresses has come home saying "Not worth it."
Sure, both those mountains have reasonably easy routes to the summits, but the incredible-looking stuff... Well, if you ever come up this way for a visit, I'll be happy to drop you off at the base of Mt. Index...
...and come and pick you up when you realize that, as incredible as those lines looked, you will leave them to someone else.
is it kitty litter? the kind of thing that if it was in Europe in 1936 they would have thrown young men at it with nationalistic pride until someone finally summited....
Enough about failed new routing on the tiny cliff above Olney Creek where I almost killed Tom.
Here is the real deal. One of the best routes I have ever done. The crag is called Zeke's Wall, cuz, down on the highway below, from Zeke's Pizza, you can see it way up there. We called the route "Flow" cuz there is a beautiful waterfall cascading down beside it.
I'll think about a full TR, but here is a teaser, looking up at the fifth (and final) pitch on the last cleaning day...
is it kitty litter?
Pretty much everyone who sets out to climb on the beautiful walls of Mt Index comes back with the same story: The easy lines are kitty litter, while the non-kitty-litter lines are way beyond too hard. As in A4 aid climbing on big (2,000+ ft) walls with a horrible approach.
There has been the odd successful climb (you can look up The Norwegian Buttress), but despite the fact that it is in plain view of anyone climbing at Index, it is just too well defended to get much traffic