Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gray Wall Finally!

A couple of days after the Triple Top debacle, I was motivated enough to return to the Crags. I was a little concerned that I might have hijacked my friend, Sean's, crags trip. I ran into his perspective partner at an informal gathering of the Shasta Climbing Rangers and Shasta Mountain Guides at Carr's house the day prior. Nick (one of the climbing rangers), said that he and Sean were planning on going into the crags on the following day. I hadn't heard from Sean in a while and wasn't sure the fat kid (me) was invited. Nick took the liberties that Sean confirmed. Our initial goal was the Magic Rib, but inclement weather and a tight/sketchy belay realigned the destination. Sean was up for trying my new climb on the Gray Wall. I had been trying to snag this as a possible FA for a year now. I was pretty sure it had been climbed, but there has been nothing recorded and most of the older locals denied ever having been up it. The possibility of putting up a new, moderate, multi-pitch route had me salivating like Pavlov's Dog with tinnitus! Weather reports looked dismal, but the approach was pretty easy after I had dialed it in last month and spent all day making a trail weeks prior. We started appropriately early, approached and scrambled to the ledge where we would make the first belay.

BELOW: Nick and Sean. Gruesome dudes at the start eating lunch. It's hard to believe this is what Siskiyou County calls "upstanding citizens!"

I was chomping at the bit and was ready first so they "unleashed the beast" on the 5.3!!! Twenty feet off the belay with no pro yet I start searching... no luck... thirty feet... nope... forty... maybe this is ok? Yuck. The pro was pretty dismal starting and the rock, if it had ever been touched, it had not seen human contact in decades. Most everything was pretty low angle with positive holds and good feet. You just have to not step or grab things that aren't big features. I stretched the 70m to about 60 or so and saw an acceptable pine but it was a little left. Above was another ledge, but I didn't think I had the rope for it. I stopped there and the guys weren't too pissed... thankfully. The weather had turned pretty cold. The boyz had puffies but I brought a light rain jacket. Fortunately my blubber was able to provide adequate insulation!

BELOW: Sean was up next on P2 leading out right then up! A front on the NW is moving in.

The second pitch was another 60-70m go. Although not the hardest of the day, it was certainly the best. It went right up a bullet hard, but polished deep water groove. Pro was excellent when available and Sean really placed only a fraction of the gear I would have. I followed Nick as the third and nearly got smacked by some rock. Well, I actually did get hit but it was on the thigh and not the noggin (or nose). Sean led up to a pleasant and spacious ledge where he belayed from a tree and some other pro.

BELOW: Sean sittin' pretty. Clouds encircling from the south east too!

 Next up was Nick. He launched off into the 5.7ish crux. There was some loosey-goosey stuff on this pitch but Nick kept the rock from hitting the belay. The wind was picking up here. Nick really stretched his pitch. In fact, Sean had to simulclimb about 30' as the second, as did I bringing up the rear.

BELOW: Nick doing what he does best, looking good!

I thought the last pitch would be all me. It was a little steep and I was really dealing with some guillotine terminator death blocks that I was trying to avoid grabbing or sending down the hill. I negotiated a pine tree at the start then it was an easy jaunt up to a "gunsight notch." I had the rope to make it to the top, but the last 60 feet was low angle, through some bushes and a bumper crop of loose rock. I called it quits about 60 feet shy of the top at a giant gnarled pine, which was undoubtedly the recipient of 200 years of rock fall.

With some shenanigans on the last sixty feet we summitted. I had originally wanted to bring a drill, but Sean does NOT like rappeling in the crags... AT ALL. So we attempted to find our day down through this pea soup...

BELOW: I really wanted to see this vista to get a better "lay of the land" for the upper Root Creek drainage. Looks like I'll have to go back. This is the base of Castle Dome... I think.

Before we got started on the descent we gathered up our things hurriedly as the weather had finally moved in. It was sprinkling now into what would grow into a pretty reasonable mountain shower. Even though we were hurrying, I glanced down at my foot and found this right on top of the granite sand.

BELOW: A vintage LONGware RURP. 

A little research showed that these were manufactured in the mid-1960s. I think they actually pre-date the Chiounard Equipment RURPS that we all know and love. I'm a little upset that this is evidence that the line has been climbed before. That's the way the crack crumbles though I guess. Still, I think that I will name it for the future guide as follows: "Unknown (aka The Three Amigos): 5.7 III. 5 pitches." FA: Unknown. I will name it in honor of us three. I thought we might have snagged an FA but I doubt it. What the hell was a RURP doing on top of a 5.7 anyway?!

We walked off to climber's left (skiers right) through pretty easy terrain with only one low-angle slab to negotiate.

BELOW: A dramatic pic of Nick in the weather looking into Root Creek. Castle Dome would be to the viewer's right, but still out of the picture.

Home all wet but before sunset... this time. My biggest regret was that my friend from Seattle, Matt, wasn't able to join us. I had to ask him to cancel at the last minute because of my schedule changes. This one's for you buddy! It was really wet if that's any consolation...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Early May Mini-Epic: Triple Top

Frequently when I climb in the Crags I get home after dark. In general though, I try not to descend sketchy terrain past sunset. I like to hustle down any steeps before the headlamps come out. Last year Darin, Sean and I manzineered our way off of Battle Mountain's "Plum Line." I vowed to not have to do that again.

With a late start Jason and I set out for Triple Top. My goal was not only to climb the original line of Bryron Cross's "Runaway Train" (5.7 III), but also to fix the anchor bolts so future climbers could avoid the single bolt raps that Sean, Ryan and I descended last year. With my Battle Mountain experience long faded from my memory, Jason arrived at my house a little late and we didn't get the car parked and start walking until about 11:00am. I forget how my dilly-dallying delayed departure. Therefore, I will blame him entirely... hah!

BELOW: That fat kid on the approach. "Runaway Train" follows the shaded area to the summit of TT, which looms above. The patch of trees waaaaay up there is "near" the end of the "approach." Ugh...

Jason had no idea of how long the approach would be, but I remembered it being one the longest and most technical in the Crags. Plus, because of the Springtime rains and snowmelt, the approach gully to Triple-top ("Middle Gully") would be more wet. Since it was north-facing, you engineers could probably calculate the friction coefficient for polished granite, coated with shiny, slick, green algae. Plus there are about 3-4 short sections of 4th/5th class to negotiate. Obviously my memory was flawed as I got off route on approach and found myself on some steeps. Jason had enough time to pause and get some shots.

BELOW: Fortunately you can't see the wet spot betwixt my legs!

Even on his worst day, Jason is twice the climber I am. Nevertheless, he called for a rope midway up the approach. It is understandable. It was steep 5th class goo, running with water.
For those of you who've bought the guide book you'll notice that the descent is through some questionable single-bolt stations. Last year, Ryan, Sean and I climbed way left of those bolted stations. We thought we were on a new line and it turns out we were! Speaking to Sean we think an appropriate name would be "Derailed." (5.7 III). And so the next edition will reflect that. This day, Jason and I climbed the actual "Runaway Train." Additionally we found a bolted variation pitch. Just near the last pitch, there's a cool ledge where I stopped for a belay. To climber's left there is a low-angle arĂȘte, where there is sparsely bolted line that looks incredible! If you get back there before me, take a bolt kit and fix them please. Consider adding one or two as well. I saw only two bolts in about 60' and one was crushed (likely by rock-fall).

BELOW: Me on the ledge with the El Cap-like views. (Great pic Jason, thanks). The sparsely bolted arĂȘte is behind me.

We got to Ryan's Sean's and my high-point (last year) at about 5:50pm. Sun was going to set in an hour and ten minutes. I knew we were screwed, but I wanted to get SOME work done. We called it there, one pitch shy of the top. Therefore, I broke out the drill and added a bolt to the highest single bolt rappel. It still needs a chain, but it's closer to being safe. Next time...

If you go up there. Please note you need TWO 70m ropes to descend "safely." Now you can make raps off of two-bolt anchors for each rap except the low ones. See my guide's topo for details. Especially be cautious near the end, because you have RAP OFF THE ENDS of the ropes onto EXPOSED 4th class terrain. Then, you traverse down and climber's left to get to a single bolt anchor. This work down low, I'll save for next time and do it on the climb rather than hurried on the descent. I'll try to get it fixed-up for everyone by the end of summer so we can use a single 70. I'll just need to start earlier! We made it down after sunset, but the sky still glowed brightly. We negotiated the first 5th class descent after regaining the "Middle Gully." This led down to the long, exposed, low-angle slab to the area above where we roped up on the approach. I traditionally rap here anyway. The easy, but slick, 4th class approach was pretty scary after dark. My headlamp needed new batteries and was super dim. With an over-abundance of caution, we made several raps (3 or 4) starting at the mid-point where Jason called for a rope on the approach. We both slipped all-over, even on the raps. I was stoked about our mutually agreed upon "slow and safe" style on the descent. I got home at 12:15AM to a not pleased wife. Jason spent the night at the house with us, exhausted. We were wrecked. Stacy had learned how to make egg-rolls that day and we feasted on them, four hours late for dinner. I was even too tired for a beer. I crashed around 12:45AM. A long day in the Crags. Thanks for a safe return, Jason! Thanks Stacy for not strangling me in my sleep or the next morning when I hit the snooze 6 times.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Springtime Downtime is Crags-time:

Sunday April 21st - Saturday April 27th:

I had a really spectacular week following Wintu Dome. It was a short-cycle work week following Wintu and then I was back at it. Our friends who perennially run the Boston Marathon, were fortunately not there this year and visited on my first day off. We had lunch together and their son went to the Shasta Skate park and BMXed with his Gone Racin' crew from Klamabama. Stephen ran from our house to Bunny Flat - about a 16-20 mile run. No big deal right? Maria Lynn hung with the spouse. All these rad folks visiting but I thought that I should go up into the crags with a saw and clippers to work on my trail. I had scouted it mid summer last year to put up a multi-pitch moderate later. Well, later is the first part of May. So, I had to get to work on the trail before my buddy came and castigated me for making him do work rather than climb. It had been nearly a year since I had been there. No matter! I'm a MAN! I know where I'm going... Not... after a 45min session of manzineering up a north facing 25% slope in the crags, I finally looked over my shoulder to find my objective FURTHER away than when I started. BELOW: Gray Wall. I hope to put up a route on the right and tallest buttress. If I'm right, it will be pretty easy.
I worked on my new Crags project on the Northeast Side cutting chinquapin and moving rocks for the approach for about 4 hours. Fortunately the approach is short and maybe one of the shortest in the Crags - which is why I want to snag it soon. Most will think it's pretty skip-able as the rock quality looks a little dubious.

The following day, I took a rest and worked on the back yard. Caleb and I toiled together and we ran lots of errands. Preparing the house for the Summer landscape project is big news for us. I thought we did a pretty good job, except with the paint matching. The boss says that I have do it again. But hey check out that custom gate and lattice work. Totally pro.

I thought I had plans to climb in the Crags on the following day, but because I'm "Calendar Challenged" as my wife would say, I mixed-up the coming day's climbing schedule. It was fortunate that I did, because my forearms were so burnt from the fighting the manzo  and chinquapin two days before, I took yet another rest day and worked on the backyard again. The day was lazy as I spent 45minutes of painting time chatting-up my buddy from YOSAR. In retrospect, I can see why it didn't match.

The following day I met my internet date, Donald Alarie a climber/photographer from Grants Pass, OR. He's a hell of a guy. We got to know each other pretty good on the walk up to the Ogre. He told me that he and another guy climbed about two-and-a-half pitches up a detached ice pillar on Beck's Tower this Winter. I almost sh!t my pants listening to his harrowing tale of ice and adventure. They had climbed about 2 pitches until Donald, on the sharp end, discovered that the pillar was detached. He still went up another several moves or so! Exercising good mountain judgment, they bailed. BUT, they bailed off a cord wrapped around the ice pillar and a back up pin. I think I threw-up a little in my mouth when he told me that. The jaunt up to Cosmic was nice. He hadn't climbed it in 7 years and was stoked to be back. The climb was just as spectacular as ever. The winds were extremely high that day and didn't allow us to talk while climbing much. Don got a little lost on the fourth pitch and had to down-climb about 40 feet to the belay. Oops. We summited in good style and pretty quick considering we were both out of shape. On the summit when I was taking pics, I found a #1 brassie nut. It was so friggin' small I wouldn't even aid on that thing. I don't know why anyone in their right mind would bring it to Mt Hubris of all places, but I will add it to my El Cap aid rack. I just hope I never have to use it. BELOW: Me stealing the last pitch and Donald striking a pose on the summit.

I had already made plans with my buddy Jason to return to the crags for a third time this week to climb the North West Ridge of Castle Dome. So I cached all the climbing gear and the liter of water I didn't even take a sip from. The NWRoCD was first climbed in 1964 by Bob Rears  (MSARC pg 156-159). I still haven't discovered much more of its history than that, but I suspect someone will inform me sooner or later. JK arrived that night. We had many laughs and reminisced about last month's trip to El Potrero Chico. After a few too many we drug our carcasses to bed. Not surprisingly, we set off the following day with a good "Siskiyou Alpine Start." For the uninitiated, you set the alarm unreasonably early. Then you hit the snooze until your wife threatens serious bodily harm since you wake her up every 10 minutes. The gentle kiss awakens you. SNOOZE. Next it's a nudge. SNOOZE. Then a real push. SNOOZE. Then the threats begin. With that you're awake and make breakfast for everyone. Sip coffee. Poop. Sip more coffee. Watch the news. Talk about climbing. Ultimately you are finally "guilted" into leaving by nonparticipants anxious for you to get out of their hair so they can be productive with what little remains of their morning. 

We hit the trail probably by 10:00am. I had been experimenting with trekking poles and was pretty sure I'd be able to keep up with Kamperman for my 4th trip into the Crags in less than 2 weeks. I was wrong. He is such a hammer-head I could barely keep up my normal non-stop chatter on the approach. By the time we got to the top of the CDT I was drenched in sweat. We retrieved the gear from where I stashed it the day before and descended the thankfully less-than-full gully to the start of the first pitch. BELOW: Kamperman negotiating the snowy gully.
I had originally tried this route with Jason last year. It ended in failure in the first 15'. The first pitch is really terrifying. You start from a block that is a tumble away from a 500 footer into the abyss of Upper Root Creek. What's more, the is NO PROTECTION for the first 15 feet of climbing and the holds all point the wrong way. The week after we failed last year I went up and shot my rope gun (Sean Malee) up it and we climbed it no problem. I had vowed to Jason that we'd come back to take our revenge! On the first time with Sean, I led pitches 2, 4, and 6. This time I was determined to lead all of Sean's. I dilly-dallied with some spicy pro at the start and then shot off. It was much easier than I remembered. Kamperman bounded up the slabs of P2 without a problem and I slid by on the easily reversible "No Reverse Traverse." JK dispatched the "Potato Chip Flake." I had built the crux up in my mind into something hard, but that day I felt that all Jason's leads were more complex and physical. I was surprised the 5th pitch was over. The belay station is pretty dismal there, and I was less than enthused about my 2 Cam, 1 nut anchor. Jason was nonplussed. He walked up the last pitch. It was one of the best days in the Crags for me in my memory. BELOW LEFT: The fat kid trying not to sh!t his britches. Don't be fooled by that first piece. It's worthless. You must anchor the belayer, because if the leader botches the first pitch you both will take a 300 foot vertical ride down to Root Creek. BELOW RIGHT: "Kampy" on top of P1.
The day following was supposed to be a rest day, but Kaylee was visiting and has been crushing CrossFit in Klamabama. No rest for the weary, I guess. Too bad Caleb missed this one. I did a benchmark girl "Cindy." It's AMRAP for 20min 5-Pullups, 10-Pushups, 15-Squats. I did 13 rounds + 5 pullups and 5 pushups. That totaled 195 squats, 135 pushups, and 80 pullups on my "rest day." Boooo! The girls worked hard on their own WOD. I finished nearly before they started and was able to snap some shots. BELOW: No more cheating you two! You're too strong for that now! In all fairness they had already gone for a run and this was their last round. 
BELOW: That's my girl. Stacy throwing some weight around! Don't mess with me or my wife will throw you around like a rag doll! Stacy swinging the kettle! My oh so clever self-portrait.
That night I was able to imbibe some ales with my colleague, Dave. We continued into day 2 of 3 of Axis and Allies. I played Germany and Japan. He played UK, USSR and USA. BELOW: Germany is looking a little vulnerable with British aircraft carrier and a transports off it's coast, but check out Japan. They have Industrial Complexes in both Kwangtung and India. I have fallen into one of the classic strategic blunders: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia!"

The last day following was cruiser town loop bike ride, capped with finishing the game of Axis and Allies with Dave, and a delicious BBQ with Caleb, Kaylee and the ever lovely - Stacy.

What a great week. Thanks to all of you!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wintu Dome Exploration

This a quick first post to my new blog. I will use it just mainly for an online document that I may refer back to for dates of my activities and to share it with whomever is interested. Right now I'm waiting to get the first 1000 copies of my big project, Mt Shasta Area Rock Climbing. I have been working on this guidebook for nearly 2 years now. I should have all of the first edition by the end of the month. I am very stoked to say the least! Maybe I'll figure out how to link to the Amazon site where it can be found or sell it out of my garage. Local retailers will also have a few copies (I hope).

Saturday, April 13, 2013: Wintu Dome Exploration.

Ryan Galbraith, Steve Webber and myself got a fairly late start from the house. We knew it was going to be a long hike in and rarely done. None of us had ever been to the base, so it was a true Castle Crags adventure.

Our goal was "Batman Returns." (MSARC: pages 166-167). This route was originally put up by Charles "Rokchuk" Porter over about 6 months in 2003-2004. It is a 4 pitch grade III SPORT climb. That's right. I know of no other multi-pitch sport climb in the Crags. I can say with some authority that there are none. What's more and much to Rokchuk's credit, the entire route was hand drilled. According to Rokchuk, he hand drilled every bolt. The bolts aren't chintzy or shallow either. They all have well camouflaged and thick hangers. All 3/8". Anchor bolts are beefy 1/2"ers!!! I'm surprised he didn't have carpal tunnel syndrome afterwards.

It took a bit of Google-Earth and negotiation between the three of us to decide on an approach. We decided to go up the CDT until after the achieving the Castle Dome plateau. I had camped several times on southern flank of the plateau at a semi-permanent rock fire ring, 100 yards left of the CDT. From here it was mainly Grade 1 Manzineering (MZ-1) with an occasional MZ-2 move. It was mostly easy traversing up and down but there were the occasional steep degenerating granite slabs that had to be negotiated. Ryan was nursing an ankle overuse injury. As always I am nursing my weak knee and the ever enlarging waist-line.

After some hemming and hawing about which gully to descend, I finally decided on the middle of three. I chose well. The gully starts fairly low angle and brushy with no significant exposure. Then, on descender's right a steep and deep chasm opens up just next to what I suspect is an elderly, blue, fixed-rope. Sheath was exposed and it needs replacing. I have some candidate ropes if someone wants to go do it. Pack out the old ropes though. The descent was easy but slick and moist, with lots of loose moss. The rope was welcomed. Not sure if it would have held a fall, but fortunately none of us tested it.

We made it to the base at about 1:15pm taking about 2 or more hours.

The first pitch is 5.11+ or 5.10+A0. The crux of the whole route is really the first 6 bolts. They are closely spaced and if you have a cheater stick, you could comfortably go bolt to bolt until the climbing eases at mid pitch. Webber was basically off-the-couch, but thankfully led P1. He hung a few times in the crux but polished it off with ease. I elected to use a prussic and my gri-gri. I jugged the entire pitch in this fashion, making sure I tied back-up knots. BELOW: Webber at the top of P1.

The second pitch was originally going to be mine at 5.9. Unfortunately, I was taken aback at the relative blankness of the granite slab and the sea of nothingness around us. We were already pretty exposed and my enlarging belly seems to be inversely related to the size of my balls. So I gave it up to Ryan. He dispatched it easily. I had to hang, of course. Very embarrassing. The holds were really good. I think if this got climbed a little more the "sugar-cookie" feel of this wall would turn into more of a Yosemite hardness. BELOW: Ryan launching off onto P2. Not wanting to tell a lie, I did tilt the camera in Ryan's favor on this one! Sorry Ryan.

The next pitch, three, was supposed to be Ryan's, but Webber and he haggled. I must say that although I hung on this pitch, and I would have been pretty scared to lead it, that it was the "money-pitch." The bolts were reasonably close. The crimps were reasonably positive and there was a definite mid-pitch crux that offered a little closer protection. This went at 10a/b, but being un-easy on granite and slabs in general I cursed more than my fair share. Slabs.... grrrr. The start of the pitch is what first caught my eye several years ago when I was scouting the Battle Mountain approach. Looking South East across Wintu Canyon from the base of the "Plumb Line," this dome definitely attracts your attention. It seems speckled with golf-ball like dimples. I thought then that I would come back for that to put a first ascent right through them. Little did I know that I was beaten to the punch by two other parties nearly 10 years before. Such is the Crags. BELOW: The fat kid, belaying Ryan before the good holds run out. The belay is just above the obvious roof. The crux is below that on that blank headwall. Great lead Ryan!!!
I was able to snag the last lead on P4. It was an embarrassingly easy 5.5 that still had me panting like an old dog in August. The summit was picturesque and in the fading sunlight I was able to get some pretty nice pics of Ryan. What did I learn today? I need to lose 20lbs and work on granite slabs (slabs in general). They have always seemed the domain of Zen Masters and I have always preferred the cracks and weakness. Maybe it's because I hang on gear too much. What a great day. Thanks gentlemen. Again you are the reason I climb. Steve thanks for sharing with me. Much love to you. Ryan, you have become such a bad-ass, it's pissing me off! BELOW: Ryan... Illuminated.