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

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