Monday, May 26, 2008

First Day at Farley

After Saturday's fun at Cathedral, it was time to stay somewhat local and try something new. "KITT" and "RRC" met at my place at 8am this morning, and we headed off to Farley Cliffs in Erving, MA to explore what we had heard were a few sport climbs in the middle of nowhere. We wanted to judge the ease of getting there, the quality of the climbs, and how many there were. The verdict?

Farley sucks!

We arrived early, and found the approach annoyingly thin and blocked due to falcon nesting. Many of the early climbs, those closest to the parking, were closed, so we had to trek even farther to get to something worth climbing. When we finally arrived, we found the first several climbs soaked in the hot 80-degree sun. The dirt, or rather, sand, was too hot to walk across in my bare feet, and after two climbs, we sought to find shade.

On our way to the shade, the topic of nicknames came up and why "RRC" is "RRC". I've mentioned this before: because he recommended the Red Rocks Casino to "Tattoo" and I as a place to stay while at Red Rocks last fall. The problem with that? Red Rocks Casino is a $400-per-night place to sleep, and we weren't looking for anything that averaged less than $100 per night. Well, "RRC" noted that he had a pretty weak nickname, and "KITT" and I had to agree. We joked around a bit until "RRC" came up with his own nickname of "Killer". Of course, because "KITT" was next to climb and "RRC" was belaying him, "KITT" wasn't thrilled to give "RRC" a chance to earn this nickname. As the day went on, other nicknames were proposed, including "Cleaner", because "RRC" was climbing last and cleaning everything as a result. That was OK, but only OK. He certainly earned the nickname, but it isn't notorious, and thus not worthy of a Greg's-Climbing-Blog nickname. That, and, "Cleaner" and "Killer" kind of mean the same thing (ever see Leon - also known as The Professional?). At the end of the day, I finally came up with a nickname that seemed to fit the conversation: "Mr. Pink". All I wanted was to get him to say, "Why do I have to be Mr. Pink?". Due to the context, I think it fits. Folks, meet the new "RRC", now known as "Mr. Pink".

We played around on a 5.7 (maybe 5.8), 5.10c, 5.9+, and another 5.9 at the end of the day. It was a lazy Memorial Day, and that was OK with us. We got outside, we played around on complete, utter choss, and finished up with an antique ice cream, root beer float, and grilled cheese sandwich at a joint just down the road back toward Boston.

Will I come here again? Oh sure, just like I keep going back to Quincy Quarry. It's here, and there's still stuff to do. But I wouldn't send anyone here unless I was going with them, because I just couldn't bear the thought of sending friends to a crappy climbing area without them having the chance to berate me on the spot and to my face.

On a side note, it turns out that "Ratherbe" ended up at Farley, too, but for some reason we missed each other. Actually, she said she saw us leave, but she did't think it was me in the group because she's never seen me wear shorts before. Kind of bummed that we didn't meet up, but it was probably OK, as "Mr. Pink", "KITT", and I wanted to have a light day, and so we left somewhat early as a result.

For pictures from today, click here

Saturday, May 24, 2008

KITT's First Trad Lead

Little did we know that Saturday would be a day of two momentous events: "KITT"'s first ever trad lead, and another one of Greg's entries into God's Official Monologue Registry.

Thin Air (5.6) - Two or Four Pitches - Trad - Varied Anchors - Greg Led

Pitch One / Two (5.5 / 5.6) - 50 / 100 feet - Fixed anchors - Greg led

We arrived Friday night amid surprisingly light traffic for the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, and camped at my super-secret camp spot that I shall never reveal on this site. Knowing that I had never finished Thin Air (because I had only done the first two pitches in order to rap down to the bolts used for a couple of 5.10s below), and that KITT had never done a multi-pitch climb at Cathedral, we were up early and on the rock at 7am. Of course, I always try to lighten my load first thing in the morning, but this morning I couldn't even start the job, despite the fact that "KITT" vigorously urged me to at least try. This inability was rather serendipitous and not so much at the same time, as we were the first party on the rock, but only by just a couple of minutes. As soon as we were tied in, two parties came up the path and started the congo-line queue that is Thin Air at Cathedral Ledge on a busy, sunny weekend. By the time "KITT" made it to the top of the second pitch, there was at least one other party waiting at the bottom. We timed our arrival perfectly, but it did have its consequences (see monologue below).

To get to Thin Air, find the "Thin Air" trail at the bottom and follow the path that leads directly straight ahead and away from the road (not the left or right). The path will seem broken in a dirty gully as one nears the cliff. Don't worry, though. Just keep going toward the cliff to the bottom of a blank, towering face, turn left, and head up the staircase. Thin Air is the route that is very nearly at the top of the hill (maybe 100 feet from the top), and it has what appears to be a run-out, blocky start that leads to some webbing anchors. This first pitch is almost always run-out to these anchors. In fact, most people combine the first two pitches, and that is what we did.

Pitch Three / Four (5.5 / 5.6) - 60 / 180 feet - Varied - Greg led

Pitch three goes straight up above the anchor and into the wide crack below the tree. One can probably belay here, but I figured I'd just go for the top. I'm pretty sure that you can do Thin Air in two pitches, and that is what I was going to do. However, "KITT" had some rope issues below, and so I had to set an anchor in a horizontal crack about 20 feet above the tree.

The last pitch, which I'm not listing separately because I'm not sure exactly where it starts, was fun until the dirty last section. Either climb the slab to the tree at the top, or stay left in the awkward corner. Because the slab was wet from the previous evening's rain, I stayed in the corner and topped out from there. There are large trees close to the edge that one can use to belay.

Descent: I'm not really sure if there is a rap opportunity off Thin Air. In any case, rapping directly over Thin Air is not recommended because it is such a popular route that you are bound to get in someone's way. The easiest way down is to follow the path to the road and walk off.

Pine Tree Eliminate (5.8+) - One Pitch - 120 feet - Trad - Tree Anchor - Greg Led

However, we did not walk off. Because I'm going to Yosemite in two weeks for the first time, and because I let "Jello" take all the crack leads last year while I played on the faces, I figured that I needed to get some tough crack in my system at least just once before I flew out west.

PTE is the widest of the cracks that are at the last belay ledge above Thin Air. In fact, it is the right-most crack. It eats gear like a dog eats scraps at a drunken family BBQ, and it is one stiff climb. I nearly emptied my rack on the first 30 feet. Thankfully, there's an "OH GOD YES" hold just above the the second bulge, and that is where the route eases considerably. I told "KITT" before I started climbing that two things were a guarantee: that I was going to take or fall, and that I was definitely going to drop stinky bombs all the way up. He asked if I wanted a belay. I said yes, but that didn't change anything that I had just said.

To be honest, this really is a 5.8+, despite it's reputation as a stiff climb. I took on nearly every piece that I placed, but it wasn't because the moves were hard. I took because I wanted to scope out each sequence before committing myself (just how I learn things - bit by bit, piece by piece). I think that I can get that clean this year, because each move was a solid 5.8 move. The only difficulty is managing the pump while placing gear. In fact, I don't think this climbs like a crack. It eats gear like a crack, and it certainly looks like a crack, but it climbs like a face climb. Seriously, there are only a few hand jams on the entire thing. The route has solid jugs or crimpers inside the crack itself most of the way up. I definitely recommend this climb, even to those who don't climb 5.8 cracks. It is a G-rated climb, so there is really no danger in trying, unless one is carrying more "baggage" than one should be carrying on such a stiff climb. By the time I got to the top, I was ready to pop (kudos to "KITT" for not fainting - such a good second he is. Definitely recommended to anyone), but I was able to hang on for a little longer just so I could get to the top. Once "KITT" made it all the way up, I looked at him cross-eyed and said, "I'm off to find an outhouse." The following was my stream of thought soon after I said that:
- Walk fast, walk fast...oohh, gotta stop, gotta stop, ease the pain, ease the pain.
- OK, breathe, breathe. Good, move fast again.
- I hope there's a porta at the top. There has to be one. Oh God, gotta move faster, faster...STOP! Let the pain stop. Ease the pain, ease the pain. OK, go!
- Walk fast, walk fast. Where the hell am I walking? There's so many paths here. Crap! That means that I can't just stop anywhere. Shit, shit, shit. There had better be a porta at the top. Move fast. Faster. FASTER! STOP!!! OH GOD, that hurts! Breathe, breathe, breathe.
- OK, at the top. Hum dee dum. Outhouse over there? Nooo. Over here? Nooo. Over there? Noooo. Hmmm... Lots of cars though, and no people. Oh no, here it comes. Move fast, cross the road, find shelter. Shit! There's only paths on this side too. Crap man, where am I going to go? Man I have to go NOW! Breathe, breathe, breathe annnd...walk fast - no STOP! Ease the pain, ease the pain. Gone? Yes. Walk. NO! STOP! Breathe. Wait...wait...wait...RUN!
- OK, so now I'm on the other side of the street. Looking, looking. Argh! Only paths and no portapotty! What the hell man? What do you want from me? I'm only asking for a simple solution here. I have to take a crap. All you have to do is provide cover. Come on! Ooh! Found an off-the-trail set of bushes. Walk fast, walk fast. Dammit. People are getting out their car. Shit, it's a family. Any cute girls? Nope, just kids. Move on and don't worry about them, just walk - no STOP! Ease the pain. Breathe. Is this what being in labor feels like?
- OK, walk again. Niiice, found a baby maple with large leaves. Sorry fella, but those leaves are coming with me. Am I clear? Not yet. Stop. Breathe. Let the pain pass. Slowly...slowly...slowly, slowly, slowly - OK run to the large tree.
- Finally, a place where I can crap in peace. But I only have two leaves. Hmmm...OOH! There's another baby tree with even more leaves just five steps away.
- One step, OW! Two steps, OH GEESH. THREEOWOWOWOWOW!!! Fourrrr, fiv - fuck it I'm going now.
- Drawers down, oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh God yeah. Oh that feels good. Oh yea - what the fuck?!?! Jesus! It's aiming the wrong way! I can't believe I just pissed on the back of my shoe!!! Holy cow! Oh no! No way. Nuh-uh. I don't even want to think the next - did I just shit on myself, too?!?!? Looking, looking, looking, contorting my body into fifteen different positions to see if I did, in fact, crap on myself. Don't see any damage. Stupid idiot. I can't believe you just did that. What a moron. Now my shoe is all wet!
- OK, leaves #1 and 2. Now for #4 and 5, 6 and 7, 8 and 9, two more for good measure (poor tree - he's never going to see puberty, well, who would after seeing what I just did in front of them?)...
- Hmmm...I should cover that up. A few leaves here and there. Wow, looks like nothing's there. Remember that cairn that's not a cairn on Whitney-Gilman? Well, that brush pile isn't a brush pile off the beaten path at the top of Cathedral. Pants up. Look around to make sure no one saw me. In the clear.
- Me (aloud to myself as I walk back to "KITT"): Hey I feel like a brand new man.

Descent: The descent off PTE is the same at Thin Air; it is best to walk off if you're going to the bottom.

Upper Refuse (5.5) - Two or Three Pitches - Trad - Varied Anchors - "KITT" Led

Pitch One (5.3) - 90 feet - Fixed anchors - "KITT" led

Upper Refuse probably would get climbed more than Thin Air if it wasn't half-way up the cliff to begin with. There are several ways to get to the bottom of Upper Refuse: climb one of the lower climbs such as Funhouse (5.7) or Pooh (5.8) and walk to the ledge, walk down the path from the top of the cliff (I only learned this option existed on Saturday, so I don't know where it is), or rap off the top of Book of Solemnity (5.10a). We rapped off "Book."

This rap is a somewhat dangerous station to get to, and to rap off of. First things first, a double rope will get one to the Upper Refuse ledge in one shot. A single, 60m rope will get one down in two raps, and there are rap bolts at the top of the first pitch of "Book." To get to the rap station, one must walk to the right-most edge of the viewing fence (if one is at the top and facing toward the ski area - Mt. Cranmore) and walk down a steep, dirt path until there is a small ledge and dirty gully. Carefully down climb the dirty gully and there is another ledge below that (the second ledge is marble-white). Much-more-carefully down climb this section to the rap bolts. The rap bolts can barely be seen from the bottom of the dirty gully. It is a spicy down-climb, so be careful. Finally, the rap itself is somewhat dangerous and annoying. If there is no one on "Book," then it is a very clean rap down the book-end to the ledge. When going down, keep the belay ledge at the top of "Book" on your right. If it is busy, then you're going to have to wait for the route to clear. The reason for this is because if one raps straight down, thus avoiding the climbers, then one gets to a dangerously casual ledge that is the same height as the Upper Refuse ledge. This is dangerous because these two ledges are not connected (I learned this last year in this post), and the method of getting from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge is just plain nuts (relying on weak vegetation, long legs, and not slipping and falling 200 feet to the bottom). Trust me, you want to rap down Book of Solemnity and not the face to the right of it. Thankfully for us, there was only one party on the route and we were able to rap through them (though not without one of the climbers agitating "KITT" at the top, but that's another story).

Upper Refuse is the left-most climb on the ledge, and is the obvious, low-angle ramp-face to the right of the large right-facing corner. Climb the middle of the face straight up (it will be run-out at first), and keep the smaller, central right-facing corner to your left. Just as you get to an awkward chimney / corner / dihedral, there are two fixed pitons to belay from. We backed these up, but they make for a good belay regardless.

Pitch Two (5.6) - 50 feet - Tree anchor - "KITT" led

This is a very awkward-looking chimney / corner. If you climb it like a crack, then it is harder than advertised. If you climb it like a chimney, keeping the face in front of you and the corner against your back or left-palm as you stem with both your hands and feet, then you'll find this easier. The crux is pulling through the very last section of this large, awkward feature. However, it is protected by a fixed piton on the corner itself (look for the ring on the end), and it should protect well with a large cam, too (we didn't use one here, so I can't say the size - maybe #3 Camalot if I think off the top of my head?).

From there, either stay left in the corner and head to the tree, or climb the crack that leads to the right of the tree. The left looks easier, but I'm not so sure it is. Certainly, the right would require greater technique and / or route-reading skills, but the moves themselves should be the same grade. Belay from the tree if the ledge is empty. Otherwise, set up an anchor in the left corner.

Pitch Three (5.6) - 70 feet - Varied anchors - "KITT" led

From this ledge, either head to the left of the trees, between the trees, or to the right. My preference is to the right, and then staying on the right face all the way up. "KITT" took the middle, and then finished in the crack on the left. I think the left is stiffer than the face, but it certainly looks less intimidating. By the way, I think that is a theme on this route. The right looks harder, but is almost always easier than staying in the corner on the left.

And if one sets the anchor properly, the lead-belayor can belay the leader by sitting on the large root of the tree with one's back against the tree and legs spread out toward the climb. A very comfy belay position that allows the belayor to see clearly the entire route up.

As I noted, "KITT" led this entire route. It was his first ever trad lead climb, and I'm really happy for him. When I got to the top, he was all smiles and happy to have accomplished a pretty scary and technical feat. I can't wait to get him out more now that he's progressing so well. Hopefully his trip home to Germany doesn't diminish his skills, because he seems to be improving in strength, technique, and knowledge by the week. Well done "KITT"!

Descent: The descent is pretty much the same as every other route I've mentioned in this post: walking off is the best method. There are rap opportunities ("Book" to the ledge and then to other rap stations), but I've never used them and can't say for sure what the quality is.

Two more weeks until Yosemite, and only three gym days available due to rain this weekend. Boooo. But hey, I'm not complaining about Yosemite. I hear Tuolemne is open for business. I can't wait!

Click Here For Pics

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Climbing Partner Needed

Wanted: Climbing Partner
Location: New England / NY
About Greg: Greg is a competent climber who is looking to expand his climbing grades into the 5.10 realm on trad and 5.11 on sport. He spends most of his time roaming weekend-to-weekend and camping at the base of Cathedral Ledge in North Conway, NH; across the street from Rattlesnake Mountain in Rumney, NH; uses Rumney as a launching ground for adventures to Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH; at Camp Slime in New Paltz, NY; and various locations in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He thinks he has a good-natured approach to life in general, can be both relaxed and intense, and all with an obvious, yet livable, sense of humor. He will rarely stick-clip a climb, preferring to be able to climb it without that sort of help or not climb it at all. He enjoys trad, sport, and gym climbing, but is allergic to bouldering. He also suffers from a distinct inability to care when someone is whiny, posturing, boring, has an inferiority complex, has a superiority complex that is not of the humorous fashion, stubborn (see whiny), or generally disagreeable.

More about Greg: Greg has been climbing since Jan 1999, when he was first introduced to climbing at Rosythe Quarry in Scotland. He is primarily self-taught, as his first climb ever was a trad climb. However, he enjoys most types of climbing, but does not climb or function well in cold weather. Greg is not an ice climber or boulderer, and he will never become either (he also won't be jealous if you have a winter ice climber, but will likely be disappointed with Lincoln Woods trips over opportunities to go to Cathedral, let's say). Greg has climbed in the US, Scotland, and Switzerland. He is still unsure if he's allowed to consider France and Greece as well, as these were not climbing trips, nor anything more than fun scrambling up rocks using otherwise bouldering techniques - again, he is allergic to bouldering. His climbing resume was hit-or-miss for a few years in the middle of the decade, but he really found his stride when he founded the MassClimbers Yahoo Group sometime in 2004. From this group he has met and climbed with many people over the years. Some of these people have helped him become a better climber and person. For the most part, however, his ability to destroy lives with the quick telling of a poorly thought-out joke is what most people remember from the group. It is over 40 climbers strong now, and even though the dynamics and active members have changed, we still feel a twinge of pride of being associated with one of the most dysfunctional climbing groups ever. What can I say, we love it.

The summer of 2007, however, was the most liberating summer of Greg's climbing life. He finally found a partner who was willing to climb every weekend and do all the things necessary to become a better climber and partner. "Jello" will be missed, as he is off to fulfill his goal of becoming a climbing guide in Colorado, but his spirit and sense of humor will not be forgotten. His smelly ass most certainly will not be missed (dude, have you fixed that yet? Seriously). It is also important to note that despite "Jello"'s moving to the Rocky Mountains, Greg will continually try to get him to do one more climb at Cannon (you know which climb I'm talking about) before the season ends. Greg will also try to plan climbing trips out west so that "Jello" can also join in (unless Greg's new partner is a smoking hot female, and then "Jello" gets his own tent). Otherwise, Greg is looking to build upon last year's success. You are welcome to apply. Please see the requirements below...

Partner Requirements:

- Must have some trad and sport experience: 5-10 years preferred, though less experience may be acceptable when directly compared to disposition, attitude, and / or physical or sexual attributes fervently displayed by females.

- Grades: Must be able to lead trad climbs from 5.8 to 5.10, and sport climb into the 5.10 range. Must be willing to think about climbing harder, but without the mindset that climbing harder is always the goal. Greg is not a grade chaser by nature.

- Must be flexible: The job requires travel to different locations most weekends in the spring, summer and fall, willingness to break from the planned climbs if there are crowds, willingness to swap leads, willingness to take leads when not prepared to, compassionate in the face of injury or shameless head games, and friendly with the majority of Greg's other climbing pals. While this climbing relationship should take priority, sharing experiences with others is also expected. There will be times when Greg and the new partner will meet up with other climbers, and, thus, may be required to climb with others with the same patience and respect given to Greg and his partner.

- Willingness to Learn and Teach: Greg will teach you some things. You will teach him some things. We will learn from each other and build upon our experiences. We will do some climbs specifically for building teamwork and efficiency (but not always). We will learn together what the best systems are for the following (not inclusive): rope management at belays, splitting the gear to carry, swapping ropes and gear so that not all of one person's gear is always used (also used with cars), swapping leads, exchanging gear, communication when out of earshot (rope calls), taking a shit mid-climb, picture taking, APPROACHES AND DESCENTS (this one is very important!!), etc.

- Language / Accents: Foul language and severely politically incorrect conversations must be allowed. A fake Scottish accent to have such conversations in is strongly preferred. (btw - "Jello" and I had move beyond the "yo' mama" jokes and were well on to the "yo' dead sista" jokes by the end of last summer).

- Crisis: The inherent ability to remain calm and responsive in an emergency situation is required. If a partner is shaken up (physically or mentally), then it must be OK to end the day. It is more important to fight another day than to die. However, if one strongly feels that an opportunity to die cannot be done at any other given moment (e.g. - the last day of climbing in France where, let's say, the top of the cliff offers great views into a womens' dormitory room at a nude yoga college), then physical and emotional strains can and will be overcome for the sake of giving up one's personal pain in order to allow for another's personal gain. We live together, we die together, except when we live apart and die separately.

- Climbing for Oneself: Ultimately, we all make our own beds at the end of the day (unless we're making the beds for the French yoga students). We all have to sleep in what we make (again, hopefully the above example holds true), and we must live with the lumps as much as the comfy parts. Therefore, it shall be noted that Greg climbs for himself, and he expects any partner to also climb for his or herself as well. Greg is not going to be a rope gun for folks looking for adventure. If Greg does not feel comfortable leading a route, and the partner does not feel comfortable, then the route shall not be led. Greg is willing to climb second if the partner wants to lead a specific route. Greg is willing to lead if a partner does not want to lead a particular route. But Greg will not lead a route just because the partner wants to climb it. Greg also does not expect the climber to lead the routes that Greg is afraid to lead, as well. It goes both ways. Certainly, there will be discussions about which routes to do, as we all have our own desires and tick lists. These are discussions and not peer pressure opportunities. If you want to climb a route, you'd better be ready to lead it, unless I'm willing to lead it, and then you can second. Otherwise, be prepared to leave it for another day.

- Swiss Army Knife Fights: Greg is willing to ditch his and "Jello"'s longstanding tradition of fighting to the death with Swiss Army knives to determine who gets the money-pitch on classic climbs. However, if this tradition is renewed, then one rule must be set forth in advance: when trying to bite off the other's ear, one is not allowed to miss and accidentally bite the other's lip instead. The reason: it looks like kissing. This, of course, is irrelevant if you have female parts and have oiled up in advance.

- (In)sanity: It does not hurt the new partner's chances of partnership if there is a little bit of insanity running in the family. Bushwhacking trips are preferably avoidable, but can be accommodated from time to time. Stories of turning one's car into a roller coaster by driving alongside guardrails in snowstorms are welcome at any moment. Also acceptable are the following: throwing rap ropes into the tree branches that are directly in front of you and allowing photos of your stupidity, climbing cracks anyway despite knowing that a yellow jacket nest is in the sweetest spot of the crack, dropping $50 radios 500 feet (actually, that's not that funny), accidentally smashing cellphone battery chargers in the car door, forgetting clothes, forgetting tents, forgetting sleeping bags and pillows, farting in borrowed clothes (no, wait a minute, that's also not funny), letting one's shit waft less than 10 feet away (third pitch - Whitney Gilman - stay away from the cairn. It's not a cairn), slicing fingers with can openers (another one that isn't funny), jumping naked into public waterways, sharing a single bag of rice with a single can of chicken for dinner, finding the wrong belay station and leaving the partner in a really fucking scary belay spot while you climb choss in search of the route we're supposed to be on, running in the rain and fog on the edge of Cannon Mountain at night, getting naked in the parking lot of Cannon Mountain because we're soaked to the bone and need to change, someday finding the asshole that built the hiking trail that leads from the bottom of the main hiking trail that goes up to the tower back to the climbing parking lot at Cannon and beating the living crap out of him with a lead pipe, hiking in the dark when we don't have a clue where we are, making sounds of female mountain lions in the dark when a mountain lion has been spotted in the vicinity, taking shits mid-climb (Top of Bombardment - stay out of the bushes), and taking lots and lots of pictures while belaying, etc.

Thank you for your interest in this wonderful climbing opportunity. Please inquire for this position by stating your climbing resume and easiest way to contact you in the comments section below. One should not use real phone numbers or e-mail addresses, but should be more clandestine in nature.

Finally, Greg is not responsible for you and your stupidity.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I know nothing of what I'm about to write.

Man, sleeping is such a difficult task. I just can't seem to settle into a nice, deep pattern of unconscious relaxation. There's just something not right about this, and I can't tell what it is. Vertical cracks? No, I don't want those kinds of cracks. Choss? Not today. Not now. Dicey traverses? Sharp pockets? Roofs? No, no, no. No roofs; please no roofs. Stop it with the roofs. Stop it with the roofs. Stop it with the...


Bloody Mary (5.7) - Three pitches - Varied anchors - Trad - "Ratherbe" and Greg led

Pitch One (5.7) - 80 feet - Greg Led - Choice of anchor opportunities

The tent was still damp from the previous evening's setup in the rain, and the loud bombardments of beads dropping off the edges of the leaves kept us in our bags a little longer than we anticipated. I was tucked into my liner as well as my bag, and "Ratherbe" was hidden beneath the puffy fluff of down that kept her warm and sung. There was no time to waste, though. It was her first time out since re-injuring her finger, and only my second time climbing with her. We had to get this weekend in, as it would likely be our only weekend of climbing together before we headed off to Yosemite the second week of June.

But as I lay there thinking of what the weekend would bring, I noticed an uncomfortable soreness in my bones that kept me from relaxing. Was I sick? I wondered. My mind, too, was unfocused and wandering. In my dreams, as I walked along the city streets in search of my long-desired escape back to quiet civility and small-town life, I kept seeing the backs of various peoples' heads. Everywhere I looked there were people walking along, talking, eating, laughing, and crying. Suddenly I was home, walking amongst the simplicity I recognized and felt comfortable with. Gone was the dirty air, crowded trains, and dense neighborhoods. Was it really only ten years ago when I muttered the words, "who would ever buy an apartment?" The Buzzcocks Ever Fallen In Love (see play list above) ran from my head to my heart and seeped into my soul. A flutter of excitement made me jump, and suddenly I felt a need to be among these people. I smiled at them and laughed with them as they passed by. I listened to their conversations and identified with them. I felt their pain and suffering, and wanted to console those who were down and laugh with those who were up. But each time I tried to engage them, talk to them, get to know them, something strange kept me at bay. I tried step in front of them to smile and introduce myself, but instead of smiling back they turned away; leaving me with only reflections of blank faces in the windows of the nearby buildings. Faces, I thought. I want see faces.

The trail that leads to Bloody Mary is the second trail after the large outhouse. If you come to the East Trapps Connector Trail that leads downhill to your right, then you've gone too far. At the top of the trail, look for a left-facing corner / boulder / flake that goes up about 12 feet. There should be vertical crack leading up not far from where the corner ends, with horizontal cracks on both sides feeding into the vertical one. Follow the crack to the small tree above, then angle left toward the next tree that is directly below the roof. This second tree could serve as a belay station, but due to the nature of the second pitch, it is recommended that one creates a belay station somewhere below and slightly left of that tree. Setting up below the tree will make the experience of climbing the second pitch more fulfilling. This first pitch has some decent climbing, but the money pitch definitely goes under the roof.

Pitch Two (5.6) - 90 feet - Greg Led - Build your own anchor

"Ratherbe"'s finger has been sore all winter long. She's had x-rays, indifferent doctors, a loose knuckle, and maybe tendinitis; but only maybe because the specialist wasn't really a specialist and didn't really know the difference between his ass from his finger, except that maybe they've met each other in the past. She's a strong climber with a fair amount of experience climbing in the 'Gunks, but the first two pitches were mine just because she wasn't sure how she'd feel leading.

- "Ratherbe": It's a nice crack at the start with a good face to the top of the first pitch.
- Me (in my head): Faces. I want to see faces...

The first pitch definitely provided some nice face climbing, but the second pitch was all pump, traverse, and roof. If you know anyone who complains about being short, then get them to lead this pitch. I guarantee you that they'll carry that pitch home in their pocket as if God was smiling down on them for just those few moves under and past the tree. Tall people beware.

Move up from the belay and into the roof. There's good gear on both sides of the tree, and it is possible to place gear on the right-hand side of the tree from the left side. Traverse under the tree using the small feet on the ledges just above the first roof and the long ledges about a foot below the upper roof. Keep moving right, but don't go all the way into the corner, as that is not where to go over. It may look easier and less steep, but the holds are not nearly as nice as they are about two feet to the left of the corner. So before you get to the corner, move up toward the roof and blindly reach over. The top of the second roof has a huge, long jug that the weakest of climbers could hang from. If you don't feel the huge hold, then you're either too far right into the corner, or not far enough away from the tree. This is an easy move, even if it is a blind one.

Naturally, I did the whole alternating-arm-rest thing for about five minutes before I built up the courage to move through the crunched traverse. Once through it, I immediately headed straight for the corner believing that it provided the easiest option to move over the roof. I was pumped. It was my second straight week of opening with a stiff roof system, and I just didn't want to take a fall first thing in the morning. For some reason I was tired heading into Saturday. All week long I was sluggish and not sleeping well. I rode my bike into work on back-to-back days and on the second day I was winded 15 minutes into my ride, and this was a ride that I tend to only break a sweat on hot days.

First thing...breathe, breathe, breathe...another roof...shake out, shake out...breathe, breathe, breathe...

As I noted, the far right corner isn't nearly as nice as it looks from afar. Upon reaching that spot, I committed and reached over to rounded slopers good enough on a day when I could campus my way up. But I wasn't strong enough this early in the morning, so I backed down to shake out and breathe a second time. Again, I went up to scope out the other holds in the area and came back down disappointed that there wasn't anything to my liking. "Ratherbe" had commented that if I just reached up that I'd find the holds, but I wasn't finding them; and if she was talking about the slopers I was feeling then we both stood a chance to go for a ride because I just didn't feel as if I had it in me to get through those holds. Because the corner only looks nice for going over, it doesn't really have a nice rest spot. So, instead of hanging my entire weight on my dying arms, I flipped myself back under the roof where I could stand somewhat tall and rest on my legs instead of my arms. I shook out for about two minutes before I convinced myself that I could give it my all-or-nothing attempt at going over. But just as I started to swing out into the corner I thought to myself, "just reach up from here, just for shits and giggles." I reached up and... ... ...HOLY SHIT THAT HOLD IS AWESOME! Suddenly, my nightmare wore off and I was off on the upper face straight up to the GT ledge.

Pitch Three (5.5) - 90 feet - "Ratherbe" Led - Build your own anchor

At the GT Ledge, find the right-facing corner as you exit left from the top of the second pitch. It has a tree growing out of the crack, but that's OK. Step up left out of the corner and onto the face, and head up through the gap between the bushes. It's straight up from there to the top.

Descent: I think there are several options here. One could walk left along the trail toward Maria and Frog's Head, but those are popular routes. We went right instead, and before the trail headed uphill, "Ratherbe" veered right toward the edge of the cliff. She spotted a large belay ledge / terrace with a tree slightly below it and to its right. On that tree should be belay slings. Be careful walking down to the tree, as it is somewhat thin getting to the ledge, and steep from the ledge to the tree itself. With double 60m ropes, one can rap all the way to the ground. I am not sure if there is an intermediate rap station for a single rope.

Credibility Gap (5.6) - Two pitches - Varied anchors - Trad - "Ratherbe" and Greg led

Pitch One (5.6) - 80 feet - "Ratherbe" Led - Tree anchor

Sometimes when we are faced with heady challenges we cry. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we curl up in a ball and wait for the pain to subside. And sometimes we realize that there's something missing inside of us that makes us obsess about our perceived lack of abilities, and we take that concoction of fear and determination and spit out the nasty phlegm until the sweet taste authority swirls inside our hearts. Two weeks ago, "Ratherbe" cried and backed off. This time, she stood at the bottom with the added warning of a six-foot snake symbolically sunning itself as if it knew that she lacked the credibility to get past it, let alone the daunting roof mid-way up the first pitch.

We hiked along the path from Bloody Mary to Credibility Gap, so I can only tell you that the path leading up to the route is the fourth path after the East Trapps Connector Trail. Credibility Gap very nearly starts in the same spot as Asphodel (5.5), at the base of a large, right-facing corner mid-way up a slight hill from the top of the path that comes up from the carriage trail. Asphodel climbs the corner up to the right. Credibility Gap climbs the crack on the face, and fades left up on to the ledges before heading up left again and into the roof. The traverse in the roof follows the gap between the roof and corner, and then it turns around the arrete before heading straight up to the tree anchor. I didn't see "Ratherbe" pull past the arrete, but I did see her when I got to the top, and she was all smiles and confidence by the time I topped out. All it took was a large hex and a #3 Camalot to protect the crux. The snake apparently sensed her determination and slithered off before having its own ego crushed. A bad day two weeks ago got turned around into a good day on Saturday. Credibility was reestablished.

Pitch Two (5.5) - 60 feet - Greg Led - Tree anchor

This wasn't so bad, if one can get past the fact that everything looked like choss on the way up. Of course, there was yet another roof to conquer, but I did it despite my growing belief that I wasn't living in a world of happy faces but dark and shadowy overhangs instead. Somewhat disillusioned from this pitch, I was beginning to feel a nervousness settle inside of me. The more I get over a roof, the more I dislike them. I wonder if my dislike of cracks will ruin my experience in Yosemite in a few weeks in the same way? Never mind that, though. No cracks here except for the empty space between the cliff and scary flakes that one must navigate past. Head straight up taking the path of least resistance to the top.

Descent: There is a rap station at the top of the route that one can take all the way down with double ropes. However, be aware that the rap goes right through the tree at the first belay station. It is definitely not easy to avoid the tree on the way down. I recommend flaking your rope from the top as opposed to tossing it. This will ensure that you won't have a difficult job untangling the rope from the tree's branches. "Ratherbe" rapped first and had a difficult time moving the rope to signal to me that she was off-rappel. When I got to the first belay station, she yelled up and suggested I pull there and do a second rap. It was a good idea because the rope was a major pain to pull, and I wasn't even at the bottom.

Madam Grunnebaum's Wulst (5.6) - Three / Two pitches - Varied anchors - Trad - "Ratherbe" and Greg led

Pitch One (5.4 / 5.6) - 50 / 100 feet - "Ratherbe" Led - Tree anchor / Make your own anchor

Again, I can't tell you exactly how to get there except that the Madam G's Trail is the sixth trail after the East Connector Trail. Look for a short left-facing corner that fades right into a boulder / flake. There is a tree growing out of the base of the corner, and the corner starts on a small platform about two feet above the path.

Now why did I denote the pitches above with "/"? Because this route can be done in two pitches, and that is what we did. "Ratherbe" led the first pitch and half of the second pitch to about midway up the face. From the corner, head up the corner / boulder to the first belay station and belay here if you'd like. If not, continue up the left-facing corner / flake and to the right to find sparse horizontals for an anchor. I say "sparse" because it may take a while to find the cracks, but once "Ratherbe" found her spots, she was able to build a solid anchor.

Pitch Two / Three (5.6) - 80 / 110 feet - Greg Led - Bolted Anchors

I had led two roofs already on Saturday. One was predicated by a pumpy traverse and the other by overhanging rock. This was the last climb of the day, and I looked up and saw 100 feet of steep rock, four roofs, and a cloudy sky. Let's just add in for good measure that I don't travel well. I never have. I know so many people who can do a day trip to the 'Gunks: eight hours of return driving and 8 hours of climbing without so much as blinking an eye. Me? Four hours of driving wipes me out...even if it was done the day before (shoot, why do you think I can get to Bar Harbor in four hours from Boston? It isn't because I know a short cut; it's because I can't drive longer than that before going bat shit). Oh, and let's not forget that tents, bags, pads, and really small pillows don't make for light sleeping either. But this is a face...I can see the face...

All of a sudden everyone around me turned and stared. I smiled, and rejoiced as everyone was finally letting me back into their world. "You can go back to the green," I said to myself. With everyone watching I suddenly had options of whom to speak to. "So many people, so many people," I said over and over again. I scanned the crowd looking for the friendliest face; the one I could identify the most with; the one I could laugh and cry with; the one I could speak to; the one that would speak to me. But as I looked for the crimps for lips, the pinches for noses, and pockets for eyes, I saw only ugliness, loose cheeks, dirty sockets, and awkward ears. I cringed at the sight. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes, but nothing changed with each closer inspection. And then, just as I realized what I was seeing, shingles, like the ones on the tops of houses, began to overlap their faces.

- Me: I don't need this.
- "Ratherbe": It's not that bad. See where the two roofs kind of come together, but leave a gap between them?
- Me: That notch up there?
- "Ratherbe": You go there. Once you're past that, head right to the anchors.

Descent: The route ends at the rap station. One rap can be done with double ropes.

We were done at the point. It was supposed to rain, and it had been spitting the entire last climb. We headed back to the car and cooked dinner. "Ratherbe" plopped herself on a rope back and leaned against a rock for comfort while I stretched out in the trunk of her car. "Losbill" and mutaul friends of "Ratherbe" joined us late. We also saw "Strongmadsends", too. There were a lot of Boston folks around that weekend. "Ratherbe" and I must be cool.

Sunday - The Near Trapps

This was the day we were most concerned about. The hour-by-hour forecast had told us to expect rain at about 4pm on Saturday, and 11am on Sunday. Sure enough, we were sprinkled with rain at 4pm on Saturday. We actually expected a lot of rain on Sunday, and felt that if we got up early that we could get down to the Near Trapps and get at least one climb in before being forced back to the car. It turned out that the sun was shining all morning and into the early afternoon. But "Ratherbe"'s weekend of horrors for me wasn't finished. While I had slept heavy the night before, I was still fatigued from Saturday's efforts, and I was concerned about continuing to see faceless bodies in my dreams. I had gone to bed with a headache that somehow felt like dehydration, and had awoken to a muddied head. Could I please see just one face? Just one...

Birdland (5.8+) - Two pitches - Varied Anchors - Trad - "Ratherbe" and Greg led

Pitch One (5.8+) - 100 feet - "Ratherbe" Led - Bolted anchor

The Near Trapps are across the street from the Trapps. There is a tarred parking lot on the left just before the bridge if you've come up from the hairpin turn. From the parking lot, head up the hill just a bit until you get to the road signs. Take a left down the path from there. Birdland is about a ten-minute walk from the road and is the right-hand face on a stemmy book-end. A crack that runs up to an awkward roof splits the two faces. It is on the left of an obvious arrete that runs about half-way up the cliff.

To start, one can make a sketchy traverse from in the corner then up to the face, or one can make the bouldery start just to the right. "Ratherbe" did the corner and I did the bouldery start (odd because I hate bouldering, and this kind of felt like a roof...). I think they are the same grade, but the bouldery start actually puts one in a better position to head right toward the arrete, where the climb goes. Follow the path of least resistance and past the three fixed pins (they are somewhat spread out) to the top of the arrete and a belay ledge.

Throughout this post I've been not-so-subtly pointing out that I wanted to climb faces instead of roofs, and that I was getting pumped by leading nothing but steep rock (bar the one on the first pitch of Credibility Gap) my last two trips to the 'Gunks. I've had my share of fun faces for sure, but the one time when I could have led a face "Ratherbe" ended up on the sharp end. This was entirely because this was her first time out since feeling that her finger was strong enough to climb on again. She wanted me to take the initial roofs out of the fear that her finger wouldn't allow her to get through them. But as the weekend wore on, her finger felt strong; strong enough for her to want to test it on a crimpy route. The first pitch of Birdland was it. The second pitch...

Pitch Two (5.8) - 100 feet - Greg Led - Make your own anchor

The Swain guide notes the second pitch simply as, "Climb over a bulge and up to a left-facing corner, which is exited right to reach the top." Just to be a bit clearer: there is a bulge...and THREE ROOFS after that. Thankfully, the third roof can be avoided thanks to a nice traverse right at the top, but the first two require commitment and route reading skills or else you're going for a ride and probably landing on a pair of rusty, old pins.

From the belay, climb up to the first small roof and step left to get over the bulge. This is considered the crux according to the book, but don't be fooled. The crux is navigating the next two roofs. From there, find the path of least resistance to the first roof and clip both fixed pins on the right. If you are pumped then rest here, because there won't be much rest for the next 15 feet or so, and it's tricky and pumpy climbing.

To get over the first roof, find a crimper high out left, hold yourself steady, and get the jug on the inside of the crack on the right just above the roof with your right hand. Getting your feet high helps to get over the roof, where you can stand up into the wide dihedral, and just below the second roof.

The second roof requires some thinking. There is a nice hole at the top of the stance (bottom corner of the roof) where one can thread the wire of a nut through (remember my trick from City Lights?). I also got a small cam plugged below that, but it wasn't a great placement. The nut is probably your best option. The move here is probably easier than I did it, but one can't simply pull this roof, mainly because it is completely blank on top. Instead, one must use the crimps on the face to the right and highstep with the left leg to stand up. This felt like a very committing move for me, and more like a 5.10 move than a 5.8 (both "Ratherbe" and I felt that the 5.8+ was really the second pitch and not the first). From there, one has a choice: either go straight up through the third roof or walk right to easier climbing. I went right and came back left until I was above where the third roof would have spit me out had I gone over it. Belay from the thin trees at the top.

Descent: Walk along the path to the right and there is a tree with a cable wrapped around an upper branch. One rap on doubles will do. Otherwise, keep going right for another rap station, as this rap is a dangling rap all the way down (no intermediate rap station). There are other rap stations farther to the right that can be done in two raps. The walk-off, which is also to the right (just keep following the path), is not a bad option if you only have a 60m single rope.

Baskerville Terrace (5.7+) - Two pitches - Varied Anchors - Trad - "Ratherbe" and Greg led

Pitch One (5.7+) - 100 feet - Greg Led - Piton anchor

I want to see faces...I want to see faces...I want to see friendly faces...

Finally, it was my turn to relax and have some fun. And despite the name, I wasn't going to end up on the wrong end of a Sir Conan Doyle novel. Not this time. It was my turn to tame the hound this time.

The start is not quite as far down as Birdland. Find some stacked boulders that have a left-facing corner and two trees growing from the same root sticking out of the rock about six feet above the path (there is a small roof directly above the trees). Climb the corner and crack straight up until there is an obvious step right onto to a left-facing flake. This is the crux, and dicey if you don't take care as to not slip. The feet are better than they feel, though, and the flake is juggy enough to follow the small traverse with a high-step with the left foot to clear the blank section in between the flake and crack. Again, this is tricky. Also, this doesn't protect well, but if you have small gear (cams work best) then you should be OK. From there, head up the face and crack to the obvious ledges on the right. There are two old pitons there to anchor from. I recently found that there used to be three pitons there and one of them pulled right out. A 0.5 and 0.75 Camalot will work nicely as backups (there's also a nut placement nearby).

Pitch Two (5.5) - 60 feet - "Ratherbe" Led - Tree anchor

From the belay, head up and to the left toward a two-to-three-inch crack in a small roof below the larger roof that is directly above. A #1 Camalot will fit nicely here to protect this committing crux to the ledge above. From there, traverse right to the right-facing corner. Climb the corner to the top and belay from there.

Descent: Just as "Ratherbe" got to the traverse, the air changed from calm and warm to blustery and cool. As soon as she got to the top, the rain started to fall. I raced up through the traverse and was met my a slight waterfall in the corner on the last section of the upper part of the climb. By the time I topped out it was beginning to rain enough that we decided to do the walkoff. There may be another rap station nearby, but I can't say for certain where it is. If you find it, and it is near the first pitch belay anchors, and you only have a 60m single rope, then you can rap off the first-pitch anchors, as well.

We hurried down the path so that we could get our gear and bodies out of the rain. I was concerned about finding a spot to rack the gear in our bags so I stopped several times under thick trees with dry ground below them and asked, "is this a good spot?" Each time I asked, "Ratherbe" responded by saying, "no," and continued on without waiting for me to question her wisdom. It was raining harder now, and as we moved down to the bottom I grew more and more concerned about staying dry. I was still in my climbing shoes, and those are painful to stand in, let alone walk downhill on a rocky path in the rain. I stopped again, but "Ratherbe" insisted that we keep going. Again I stopped, and again she kept moving, this time without even saying a word to me. Her silence seemed to indicate that I should trust her. Why trust her when I got thrown on all these roof systems all weekend long? Why trust her when my feet were hurting, it was raining, and I could see perfectly dry dirt below the thick trees above us? Why trust her when she knows I hate roofs....

I continued on, and each time I passed a dry patch of ground I shook my head as I passed a perfectly good spot to stop at. By this time, "Ratherbe" was well ahead of me, and so I felt that I had to continue. I just knew that I was going to get stuck at the bottom of some face with no protection. I knew I was going to get soaked standing under the gap between the cliff and tall, thin trees. I just knew - "Here," she said standing undernearth a massive roof with as dry ground as the desert has in a drought. "Throw your stuff here and we can rack without getting wet." She found yet another roof. Hmmm...maybe her roofs aren't so bad after all.

View the pics here - newest photos are first

Monday, May 12, 2008

Oscar and Chalrie's Fabulous Booty

At some point, climbing takes everything from us. Whether it be roofs, choss, cracks, jug-hauls, or contradictions in the guidebook, a person is sometimes faced with the kinds of challenges that are preferably left better alone. The 'Gunks threw a bunch of nasty breaking balls at us on Sunday, and all were at the very least fouled off. When people say they leave their hearts and souls on the playing field, they mean they give it their all until the game is done. Well, I gave it my all, too, as well as an orange biner attached to a blue sling attached to a blue biner attached to a rusty old pin at the start of a licheny traverse about 100 feet off the deck. I'm hoping it is still there come Saturday. This is my life...

Strickly From Nowhere (5.7) - 3 Pitches - Trad - Varied Anchors - Greg and "Rank" led

Pitch One (5.7) - 100 feet - Bolted Anchors - Greg Led

The Strickly's Trail in the Trapps is the first trail that heads up to the left immediately after the the East Trapps Trail, which heads down to the road on the right. Strickly From Nowhere is pretty much right at the top of the trail head. Find a face with two small roofs that are about 10-15 feet off the ground. Climb the face straight toward the large roof, fading somewhat toward the left side of the roof, or where it starts to become less of a roof and more overhanging jugs. There is a pine tree that one should see about 90 feet from the ground. The pine tree is where the bolted anchors are. Once you get to about 10 feet below the roof, angle left a bit and head straight up the blocky, overhanging rock, keeping the roof to pretty close to your right (no more than a couple of feet away). It is easier to climb slightly higher than the belay ledge before stepping right toward the anchors.

OK, so now that I got that taken care of, you have to know that it was a bit chilly at the bottom of the climb. We awoke at about 7am and were at the bottom of the cliff and climbing by 8am. It was supposed to be a nice day, with the mercury rising up into the upper 60s. But it didn't feel quite that warm that early in the morning, so I chose to wear my long-sleeved, light fleece shirt on the first pitch until it warmed up. I was OK through the first 60 feet or so, despite moving up into the sun. Even then, I like to get my body nice and warm for the first bit of climbing so that I loosen up a little more quickly (yes, I know that stretching helps, as I do a fair amount of stretching before climbing. But staying warm helps to get warm, too). And then I hit the overhang section. This is the conversation that ensued between me and myself as I got into the crux:

- Me: OK, just an overhang. It's 5.7, can't be too hard.
- Me: (grunt) Phew, kind of steep up here.
- Me: (groan, pant, pant) Jesus. Just a little stiff first thing in the morning.
- Me: What the hell, man! (pant, deep breath, pant, pant, deep breath)
- Me: OK, get some gear YOU STUPID SONOFABITCH!!!
- Me: Hooo, having pro in feels nice.
- Me: (grunt)
- Me: (groan)
- Me: (grunt, pant, grrrunt, pant, pant, deep breath, pant, pant, pant, pant)
- Me: You know what? I'm sick of easy overhangs in the 'Gunks
- Me: (puuulllll, pant, pant, pant) God it's fucking hot up here all of a sudden
- Me: Holy Jesus, what did I get myself into?
- Me: (gruunnnt) Oh yeah. Oh God. Holy cow (deep breath, deep breath, deep breath)
- Me: (GROANNNNN!) Oh man, thank God for chains.

And then the next conversation occurred:

- Me: Hey "Rank"!
- "Rank": Yeah?
- Me: I'm taking off my long-sleeve. Can you put it on my bag?
- "Rank": So long-sleeves is a bad idea huh?
- Me: Ayuh. I'm going to send this down. Hopefully it doesn't get stuck on the ledge.
- "Rank": OK, ready when you are.
- Shirt: float, float, float...
- Me: Wow, it's going to clear the ledge.
- Shirt: float, float, floa - catches mysterious current...
- "Rank": You idiot! That couldn't have landed in a crappier spot!
- Random party coming up the path: OH! Get your camera out!
- "Rank" (some moments later): You owe me a beer dude.

What is the lesson of the day? Don't assume that a massive, 30x20-foot gaping hole between the cliff and various trees is a sure shot for a shirt to land on the ground. Click the photos link at the bottom so see how "Rank" finally overcame our first epic of the day.

Pitches Two and Three (5.4 each) - 70 feet each - Build your own anchors - "Rank" Led

Pretty easy to find the way on the second pitch; just climb straight up to the GT ledge above. Because "Rank" was still getting his feet wet on trad climbs, I was taking the 5.7s and he was taking everything below 5.7. Also, because I've had hit-or-miss experiences with the third pitches in the 'Gunks, we decided to do all three pitches just to see what the third pitch was (that, and, I didn't want to miss an great opportunity like "KITT" and I had missed the previous trip on Maria (5.6)). Because the last two pitches were 5.4, "Rank" decided to piece them together. Once on top of the GT Ledge at the top of pitch two - STOP! Trust me, the third pitch is a load of crap. If you want to do it, find a small left-facing corner with a tree and overhang and go up, but don't blame me for the lack of a decent experience.
Descent: I'm not sure exactly how one would get down from the GT Ledge because we continued past that point. However, I believe that if one walked to the left that one would find a rap station on Calisthenic (5.7) / Ribs (5.4). From the top of the third pitch, however, it is easy to walk to the next rap anchors (bolts). Just follow the path left if one is facing the top of the crag (back to the climb). There will be a steep path that heads down and to the left (at a right-facing rock face). The rap anchors are on the ledge below. It is two raps with a single, 60m rope at least (maybe three, depending on how the rap is done). With doubles, it is two raps if one goes straight down. However, with doubles, if one wants to rap all the way to the ground then it is possible. To do this, head straight down until you get about 20 feet above the lowest rap anchors. At this point, you should come across a ledge. On the left of that ledge is a left-facing corner. Head left into that corner and you'll have plenty of rope to get to the ground. This option is apparently the start of Arch (5.5).

Gorilla My Dreams (5.7) - 3 Pitches - Trad - Build your own anchors - Greg and "Rank" led

Pitch One (5.6) - 70 feet - Build your own anchor - "Rank" Led

Let me be clear about this route from the outset, the book speaks of slings that you can use to anchor. As of this posting, those slings are gone, and it is a fairly recent event that took them down according to a climber who knew the route. However, if you find the horizontal block that the Williams guide speaks about, there is apparently a hole where one can thread a sling to anchor from. Still, it is safer to back that up. In any case, there are enough horizontal cracks to build a good anchor. Just pick one and go with it.

I've been rather lucky with the 'Gunks this year. I've been three times already and haven't run into crowds yet. I know, it's early, but Sunday was a beautiful day, and according to "Cracklover" and "Ellsworth", Saturday was a nice day as well. In fact, when "Rank" and I arrived at Camp Slime Saturday night, we were stuck with my favorite campsite: Number One, complete with it's immovable boulders that stick six inches up through the bottom floor of the tent (yum, yum - thank God I bought a thick, camping air-mattress). In other words, it was busy at Slime. We kind of felt this was coming because: A) it was Saturday and it was supposed to be decent on Sunday (thus, people were camped Saturday night for Sunday's climbs) and; B) the MUA had cars parked on the side of the road for a good 100 yards on either side of the entrance. Still, we weren't that far down the carriage path and there were only a handful of teams in our area. We had considered moving down to do Madam G's (5.6), but we figured that since we were in an area with some decent climbs that we'd just stick around a bit. So we stumbled over to Gorilla's and chuckled a little bit at the William's guide directions:
- Gorilla My Dreams: "At a right-facing corner with a crack that begins 5 feet above the ground, 20 feet right of Calisthenic"
- Splashtic (5.10a): "On the face 75 feet right of Ribs and in-between two right-facing corners. The left corner is the start of Gorilla My Dreams."

Did you catch that? According to the description in Splashtic, Gorilla My Dreams is the right-facing corner on the left. So yeah, there are two right-facing corners, and one must read the next climb (a 5.10a, mind you) in order to figure out which of the two corners is Gorilla My Dreams. Both of these corners are about 50 feet right of Strickly's.

Anyway, the first pitch goes up the corner and fades right on the face (once clear of the trees in the upper corner - keep them to your left). Make a belay near or around a horizontal block. "Rank" built a perfectly good belay several feet to the left of the block.

The start also has a somewhat hidden jug hold that makes the first move significantly easier that the obvious, burly, left-handed mantle. Instead of using the obvious, juggy horn on the left face on the corner, reach up into the corner, just above the start of the corner, and you'll find a very nice hand-sized crack that you can wrap your left-hand fingers into. Then use your right hand on the ledge that is on the face to step up. You don't even need the horn as a hand hold. It's a foot hold at its easiest, and a hand hold at its hardest.

Pitch Two (5.7) - 100 feet - Build your own anchor - "Greg" Led

This is where the William's guide confuses me a bit. There are no stars in his book describing this route, but I found this pitch to be every bit as enjoyable as the first pitch of Strickly's, and that is a three-star route. Granted, the first pitch is a load of dung, but the third pitch of Strickly's is worse than the first pitch of Gorilla, and the third pitch of Gorilla is fantastic.

From wherever you build your belay, head straight up until the face meets the chossy-looking left-most remnants of the massive left-facing corner. Head right, up into the corner finding the path of least resistance until the GT Ledge is gained at the top of the corner. Either belay from here or walk left a bit through annoying brush until you see two left-facing corners that are somewhat stacked on top of each other and are right below a roof. These corners and the roof are the third pitch.

Pitch Three (5.5) - 60 feet - Build your own anchor - "Rank" Led

Wow, what a great climb this turned out to be. Simply put, climb the two corners and step right just below the roof onto a horn, and then go over. The roof is a bit intimidating from below, but there are several very good holds on the face above the roof, so one never has to campus or mantle to get up. Very different from the second pitch, but every bit as good. It is strongly recommended. I give the first pitch no stars, the second pitch two stars, and the third pitch three stars. This should be a two-star climb in the William's guide. To be fair, even the Swain guide doesn't give it a single star. That's too bad.
Descent: Once at the top of the third pitch, walk about 15 feet to the left to the same anchors noted above in the descent for Strickly's.

Oscar and Charlie Link Up (5.7) - 3 Pitches - Trad - All anchors unknown - Greg led

Pitches One and Two (5.7 each) - 50 feet each - Used bolted anchors at the top of Strickly's Pitch One - Greg Led

I'm beginning to think that my climbing epics aren't necessarily related to when "Jello" and I climb together (most notably at Cannon, twice). Let me be clear: The Swain guide barely talks about this route and does not offer a visual map of the route and; the William's guide contradicts itself. Be sure you know what you are doing before getting on this climb. The contradiction is between the worded description and the visual description. The worded description for the end of the first pitch of Strickly's says this, "Then work up steep rock into the left-facing corner and horizontal at overhang (crux), move around right and up to the bolt anchors at the pine tree." The second pitch of Oscar and Charlie reads as such, "Climb up a bit right to ledge on Strickly's, then work up steep rock and into left-facing corner and horizontal at overhang (crux), move around right and up to bolt anchors and pine tree." Pretty close to verbatim if you ask me.

The problem is that the picture shows this route going through a slightly different section of overhanging rock that is left and up from the overhanging rock on Strickly's. This is important because once one clears the overhanging rock that is up and left of Strickly's one is about 10 feet above and 20 feet left of the pine tree where the anchor is at the top of the first pitch of Strickly's. In other words, the worded description sends climbers to the anchors through the same overhang as Strickly's, but the picture shows a completely different approach. I chose the picture, and this was a mistake.

To start, walk left from the start of Strickly's until you get to the first left-facing corner. Climb the crack up and step right about mid-way up the corner on to the face for slightly easier climbing. The William's guide says to climb the entire corner to the top. I respectfully disagree. That may be fine climbing, but the move to the face is solid and the face itself is good climbing. There is a tree where there are some slings up to the right where one can belay from. I don't recommend doing that because of this link. I just can't remember which tree was affected by the rock fall. It could have been the tree my shirt got caught on, in which case there is no problem because that tree should never be used as an anchor. However, I can't remember, so I would avoid the tree with the slings just in case.

Once past the tree, you'll have to make a decision: either head right and follow the first overhang that goes to the next tree on Strickly's or stay straight up to the next overhang, which is up and left of the Strickly's overhang. If you go left, then when climb up into the overhang you should find two pins about a foot apart from each other in a vertical crack. These are your last two pieces of pro until you clear the steep climbing that is essentially a traverse right for about five feet. There is a large jug / horn with smallish ledges going on either side of the horn that is up to the right of the highest pin (about a foot or so up). Use this horn and right-hand ledge to get your feet up and carefully work across to the arrete on the right. You may feel as if your feet are too high and your hands too low as you traverse across. The feet have obvious and solid jugs, but the hands aren't great until you get around the arrete and on to the face. Note: this is scary and exposed climbing with only a little pro if the pins are backed up. I had to take for about 15 minutes on the first two pins just to rest up for this section. Once you go for it, commit to it and you'll get there. I would say that the moves are probably only 5.8 moves, but you're probably pumped at this point (at least I was, because it was the last climb of the day) and probably a bit nervous, too.

Once on the face, there is another pin directly below a solid under-cling. That pin and under-cling are your next two opportunities to set pro. Also take note that this third pin is about 10 feet higher than the anchors on Strickly's and 20 feet left, as well. While the book says go to the anchors, if you chose non-Strickly's overhang section based on the picture, then go straight up to the GT Ledge. Otherwise, you're faced with a sketchy traverse and down-climb that has absolutely no pro for you or your second.

Well, because I was worried about the rock fall from a month ago, and because I was pumped out of my mind, I chose the traverse and down-climb rather than going straight for the GT ledge. I did this also because I had used all of my draws on the climb up to that point. I still had a few cams, but there was another 40 feet of climbing to go before the GT Ledge was gained. I could have worked around my fatigue, trying to find placements for cams, but I would have had to clip the cams directly, and there was no guarantee that I'd have no rope drag as a result. With me being tired and not wanting 40 feet of run-out rope drag, I chose the traverse and down-climb instead.

There are two traverses to do here: one is low and one is high. I chose the high traverse and "Rank" chose the low traverse. I would have chosen the low one, too, if I had not been to afraid to down-climb from the third pin. "Rank" had the luxury of using the draw on the third pin as pro to down-climb from the under-cling (hence the name of the post). I will somewhat describe the two traverses for you, but if you do either one then you'll just have to trust that the holds are there and that the moves aren't that technically difficult. However, one must deal with the lichen and dirty ledges, as this section clearly hasn't been climbed in a while.

Traverse #1 - the High Traverse: go up to the under-cling so that the pin is about waist-high. Go directly to the right, using somewhat obvious foot holds that are below where the pin is and trust that you'll find a horizontal hand-crack about six feet right of the under-cling that you can't really see from the under-cling. Traverse until you are just about directly above the pine tree, then use the large footholds to down-climb to the anchors.

Traverse #2 - The Low Traverse: Keep the pin about two feet above your head (thereabouts) and use the obvious foot ledges that are about six inches above the top of the roof. Find the hand cracks as you traverse along and step down when above the pine tree.

Below are a few snippets of what was said between "Rank" and I during my lead and his second (in no particular order):

- Me: Keep me tight through this steep section. Let me pull the rope up. If I down-climb, take me tight so that I don't lose ground.
- Me: Watch me through this traverse.
- Me: I'm sorry I couldn't protect this traverse for you. There was nothing to place anywhere.
- "Rank": I can't believe you led this.
- Me: I owe you a beer and dinner.
- Me: I chose the higher traverse, but I wanted the lower one.
- "Rank": I am going to kill you for this.
- "Rank": OK, this is what we're going to do; I'm going to down-climb and we're leaving that draw there.
- Me (once rank was safely at the anchor): I actually thought about going back up to get that draw.
- "Rank": I'll buy you a new one.
- Me: Naw, it's my fault. You gain some and you lose some. Today it is my turn to lose. This was my fault anyway. I deserve it.

We finished our day at that point, and rapped in one go all the way down to the ground (with doubles). Next it was time to pack up the tent and head home. I bought him dinner just as I said I would, and I crashed in my bed at 11pm that night thinking, "One of these days..."

Click here for photos - newest photos are first in the slideshow

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Rain, Falling, Breathing, and Rope Burn

Friday evening was a late one for me. I've been on the Board of Directors of a small, non-profit farm for the past two years and Friday evening was our big, spring fundraiser (a silent auction). I didn't get home until about 11pm, and had to to make a couple of phone calls / e-mail checks before showering and heading off to bed. My inbox confirmed several folks were heading to Rumney on Saturday, and two of my phone calls confirmed that we had enough people going from Boston and back to warrant car-pooling. The forecast had changed a bit from earlier in the day. "Ratherbe" and I were thinking of heading to Rumney on Saturday and either Cathedral or Farley on Sunday, but the weather had played a mildly cruel trick on us by predicting rain for Sunday. One day of climbing at Rumney would have to do.


My alarm had gone off twice by 6:15am. I hit snooze each time knowing that I'd have time to get up, eat, cleaned, and clothed by the time "Ratherbe", "Gammie", and "GGF" met me at my place at 730am. I wasn't driving, so I had no need to get the car ready to take everyone else's gear. I had already packed the day before, and my clothes for the weekend, tent, pad, food stuff, gear, and toiletries were already packed and ready to go. Just a couple of more minutes...


I could feel the edges of my eyes where they had crusted over during the night. My comforter was heavy on my body, and I snuggled against the warm spots in my bed thinking about how premature I was in turning off my heat for the warmer seasons the weekend before. It was consistently in the 60s that weekend, and that was enough to bring the temperatures in my apartment over to a comfortable 70 degrees-plus. Why can't we store room temperature? Why hasn't anyone discovered a way to save excess heat from the summer so that it can be used in the winter, and / or vice-versa with cold weather in the winter? Why do I think about these things in my sle...


Who is meeting us there? And who is meeting me here? "Gecko" was meeting us at Rumney. So was "KITT". "Rank" lived near "Ratherbe" and I tried to connect them the evening before so that "Rank" didn't have to drive to my place just to ride in "Ratherbe"'s car. But it was only about a ten-minute drive from there to here if the connection wasn't made Saturday morning. A few minutes of needed sleep for me wouldn't hurt either of them.


The light in my room was a heavy grey and all but my dark curtains were blurry. I pulled the covers below my neck, felt the bite of the morning air, and pulled them back up again. Would we go to Cathedral and camp if there was snow on the ground?Farley is a much better idea...

RRRRIIINNNNG!!! "Call from "Rath-er-be"..." ...RRRRIIINNNNG!!! "Call from "Rath-er-be"..."

What the? ... RRRRIIINNNNG!!! "Call from "Rath-er-be"..." Crap!

I raced to the phone in the other room just as my alarm clock went off for the third time. When I picked up the phone, "Ratherbe" had the unfortunate news of rain at Rumney, which means we weren't going climbing on Saturday, and probably not on Sunday either as the forecast was now calling for rain all weekend. Bugger, I thought, as I was looking forward to getting on sport for the first time this season. I made phone calls to "Gecko", "KITT", "Gammie", and "Rank", and let them know that we could meet up at the gym at 1030am. Feeling the need for extra sleep, I crawled back into bed and closed my ey...zzzz...

I told you a couple of weeks ago about how I had read about relaxing while falling, and how breathing should help to do that. In that post I vowed to focus on breathing in general, and began taking falls on purpose in order to practice relaxing while falling. I noted that exhaling during a fall helps to relax the body, and that if I extended that focus on breathing toward actual breathing regularly and calmly during climbing that I'd begin to feel relaxed normally, and not just while falling. My goal was to first get used to falling while relaxed by picking a spot on the route before climbing, reaching that spot, and then falling unannounced to my belayor. The intent was to prepare myself to fall even though my belayor wasn't ready (thus getting over the fear of falling unannounced). What I've learned is two things: 1) that this helps get over the fear of falling, but not the fear of that moment before falling and; 2) that it's better practice for the belayor than it is for the climber.

But first things first - the breathing. I knew this was going to be difficult to get used to, but I have learned that if I do pay attention to it that does make a big difference in my overall performance. If you remember, my goal was to breathe at a consistent rate throughout the climb, regardless of the difficulty of the moves. The idea was that I would only make a climbing move when exhaling (as if I were weight lifting instead), and if my breathing was such that I wasn't exhaling when I was ready to move, then I'd wait until I did exhale.

As I noted above, this has helped tremendously, but only when I remember to focus on it. I can't say that I have enough information yet to confirm just how productive this is, but the small amount of evidence that I have collected is conclusive: it works when I get it right, and difficult to control when I get it wrong. Stay tuned, as I hope to have enough "data" collected to come to a conclusion by the season's end.

Now, as for the falling. My approach was to take unannounced falls that I had planned to take before climbing (i.e. - I know when I'm falling but my belayor doesn't). This was to serve two objectives: 1) that I'd get used to falling and; 2) that I'd get used to breathing while falling. Thus far, I have to say that the results have been phenomenal. No more am I afraid of falling, and I'm making falls easier on myself by exhaling when I push off. The problem? I really need a #3 under my objectives. The third would be to train myself to take an unannounced fall when I don't know that I'm falling, and I have realized this lately by watching "KITT" and "Ratherbe" take falls using my approach. It has helped them, but it hasn't helped me (to be clear: "Gecko" never needed my approach. The guy just falls and he's OK).

"Ratherbe" had been worried lately about climbing routes that she didn't know anything about. In fact, it has been worrying her enough such that she's been feeling insecure about disappointing her climbing partners by not being willing to climb something mysterious, regardless of grade. I tried to tell her that it was a phase; that we all go through days where we have good "head" days and bad "head" days, and that her recent experience was merely a bad "head" day. I told her today at the gym that she should take a couple of relaxed falls just to get her head back into a good comfort zone, and she did. She then went on to lead harder and harder routes throughout the day, several of which she took legitimate lead falls on. It should be noted, as well, that she doesn't like leading in the gym in general. So not only did she feel better about taking falls, but she actually took them on hard routes in an environment where she doesn't feel comfortable leading.

I, on the other hand, had no problems taking falls when I knew I was going to - but I shouted "take" whenever I felt as if I was going to take a legitimate fall (instead of just taking the fall). It seems that I'm getting too used to taking falls only when I'm ready. I guess the only way that I'm going get used to taking legitimate falls is if I start leading harder routes and going until I fall. So far, I think my breathing and falling experiment is working, but it isn't producing helpful results yet. There is still time, however, and at least I can say that I'm learning. But I need to apply what I've learned in order to prove that I've actually learned it. Thus fas, my partners are better learners than I am. I hope that I can muster the courage to learn with them, too.

One final note, I learned first-hand today why one should never have one's feet on the wrong side of the rope while leading. I took a fall on purpose and somehow didn't see that my feet were in the wrong place. Just as soon as I felt the back of my left ankle rub against the rope, I felt my ass stay higher than my head. This scared me, and so I immediately pulled my left leg free so that I didn't land upside down. However, I was left with a pretty bad rope burn going across my Achilles tendon. It hurt like a son-of-a-gun then, and also later when I showered. I think it is fine now, but I can easily see how, on a much bigger whipper, someone could sever tendons or loose a foot. This isn't just about preventing an upside down fall, but it's also about preventing potential injuries to your feet. So beware! Always make sure that your feet are not on the wrong side of the rope when above the clip, and if you can't help it, make sure that you are in total control and won't fall. Because I can say first-hand that it hurts like hell.