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