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 arête, 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 arête 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.


  1. So, you'll be all set for East Ledges at night this time right?

  2. Hah!!!! Thanks for looking... you're a good friend. I'm scared of the EL but I'm confident we'll keep it sane. DrG

  3. Very nice write up! Good times brother, can't wait till the next one.

  4. The photo of you with a hammer could have the caption "If I had a hammer"; I was impressed that the hammer was attached to a line, in case it slipped out of your hand! I was teased this past weekend because I used hot pink duct tape around my hammer (for tent stakes). However, last time I camped, I lost some of my stakes and tools in the grass, and the hot pink wrap makes them lots easier to find!