Sunday, March 30, 2008

First Day of 2008

Today was the first day outside of the 2008 season, and I'm quite pleased with how it all turned out. The weather was a bit cool this morning - a stunning 35F, but Quincy Quarry (QQ) is known for being warmer than anywhere else because of the amount of sun that it gets and its protection from the wind. I went there with four people who I don't think I've ever mentioned in the blog before, but get used to these nicknames because I'm sure you'll hear plenty about them as the season progresses: "Ratherbe", "KITT", and "Asshole" (ordinarily, I don't let people choose their own nicknames, but when he suggested it, I jumped on that bandwagon gleefully).

We arrived at QQ sometime before 11am, and it was still pretty chilly. Our initial plan was to hit the Prow, the main section that one sees when entering the quarry, but the ground was kind of muddy, the wind was noticeable, the sun not quite as warm because of the wind, and there were these odd orange flags all over the place around the base of the cliff. We didn't think anything of the flags, though "Asshole" told us that they were up last Wednesday. Ordinarily when one sees these types of things, one kind of assumes there is something going on and to stay away. That wasn't the real reason we walked away, but we were all scratching our heads when we did. The other conditions didn't inspire us, and I was somewhat nervous about not being able to warm up well. My fingers and toes can both be cold in 50-degree weather, and today started in the thirties. I hoped that C-wall would provide a better experience.

So we headed over to said "C" wall, otherwise known as the "Reflector Oven". Can you imagine why it is known as such? It's because it is damn warm in that section of the quarry, and we needed the warmth on a day like today (well, I did). The sun was on the wall the entire day, and when we did walk into the shade, there was a noticeable 10-degree difference, even within a few feet of the sun-shade line.

It was nice that all four of us had ropes and top-rope gear, too. We were also the first people in this section of the quarry, and so we had our choice of climbs to set up. As the day wore on, more and more people showed up, and, thus, more TRs were set up. All in all, it felt like a gym day, except outside. I think I climbed about six ropes today, and about 10 routes all together. Since the climbs in this area are pretty easy (mostly in the 5.4 to 5.9 range), we ended up taking on the challenge of doing variations where we called the juggy sections off. That raised the grades into the 5.10 range, so we did get some quality climbing in and weren't bored at all.

All of the climbs that we did were very crimpy, slick, and balancy. You can see from the pictures that the graffiti doesn't help either. A lot of the grades at QQ seemed sandbagged because of the slickness of the rock. From what I've been told, the grades were honest about 30 years ago. Because they've been climbed, weathered, and painted over the years, they're slick and hard to read. My toes and fingers are feeling the effects of that style of climbing (crimps, smears, balancy high-steps), but it was great to get outside after a long, cold winter.

So the routes we conquered were, in no particular order:

Pink Center (5.6) - A-wall: We actually did a 5.8 variation where we said the large, horizontal cracks were off limits. The A-wall is almost in the far left-hand corner of the section of the Quarry that still has water. If one walks along the water's edge all the way to the other side, it is about 15 feet from the furthest one can walk without going for a swim. This is a low-angle slab.

Blood Streaks (5.9+) - C-wall: The C-wall is otherwise known at the Reflector Oven (because it is so damn warm here), and it is the short, slabby-looking wall that is straight across the water if standing on the grass looking in. Blood Streaks is the climb that follows the red paint (and arrows) to the top. It is almost all the way over to the scramble used to get to the upper path. Don't cheat with the large foot holds on the left. The start is the crux, and if you choose to avoid it, then you've lowered the grade considerably.

Double Overhang (5.6) - C-wall: With this start, there's no way it is a 5.6 anymore. The crux is working up to the first overhang, and then it is smooth sailing the rest of the way. This route, as one would expect, has two overhangs, albeit small ones. There is a nice, juggy undercling just to the left-of-center on the first roof. This route is to the right of Blood Streaks. The bottom seems balancy and tricky, but if one highsteps left and goes left up to the undercling directly then the grade is about 5.8. If one goes right and stays right up to the roof, and then traverses across to the undercling, then this section probably goes at about 5.9. It is solid 5.7 climbing the rest of the way.

Sour Grapes (5.10) - C-wall: This is the blank-looking face to the right of Double Overhang. Try to stay on the face itself without using the
obvious flakes to the right or the flake that runs up the right side of Double Overhang. Look for the highstep on the left and trust the crimps to make this a 5.10b (the book doesn't differentiate between letter grades and says it is a 5.9 - it's not that easy).

Flake Direct (5.6) - C-wall: This is the obvious, triangular block in the middle of C-wall. Routes run to the right, center and left of this block before they all converge at the top of the triangle and go straight up. We did yet another variation and took this grade up to probably 5.9. We did this by staying completely inside the two sides of the triangle, and disallowed all jugs until one got to the top of the block.

Palm (5.8) - C-wall: To the right of Flake Direct is another block that can be climbed from either side. Palm goes up the right-hand side and stays left on the face above. This was a good warmup.

Brown Sugar (5.9) - C-wall: Yet another of our variations
climbed today. Brown Sugar goes up the face of the block, just to the right of Palm. Like other variations, we disallowed using the jugs on the face, sticking simply to the crimps and sidepulls. Once on top of the block, stay directly in the center of the "n"-shaped feature (stemming the two sides of the "n" is difficult). The crux is moving through this section. Trust the crimps, jibs, and smears and you'll get through it OK.

Well, that's about it. We were supposed to go to the 'Gunks this weekend, but poor weather and my crankiness kept that from happening. Then we were supposed to go to Farley, in Western Mass, but there's still a lot of snow on the ground out there, so we chose QQ instead. In the end, not a bad choice. "Ratherbe" brought huge cookies, "Asshole" provided an awesome salsa and chips, and "KITT" and I provided the entertainment.

I'm hoping this is the first of a weekly update. Check back often for new stories (either mine or "Jello"'s), but please remember that it takes time to write these things. So if I'm a little late, please forgive me.

Click here to go to our photos from this day

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