Monday, July 14, 2008

Lover's Leap Day Two: Frying Times

Two things surprised me the most when it came to my trip west: the effects of altitude and the heat.

I'll start by saying that I played "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven" by the great Boston band The Pixies (see above) just as I started this (and a few times over and over again). Not that there's anything linked to the song and my below post. I was just fixated on that one song (well, I did listen to "Karma Police" once or twice, too). Actually, I listened to most songs above LOUDLY. It was so me and I enjoy being me. Ten points to anyone who can correctly guess all songs and artists in order (I know it's not fair to do artists due to covers, but I need a random tiebreaker and that's going to be it). Anyway... (lyrics not in any particular order and don't mean a thing with regards to the context around them)...

I've always been a little pudgy around the waist. Even back when I was playing baseball in college, and was in the gym and / or at practice two to three times per day, I had a difficult time keeping up with the prettier boys with ripped chests and abs. The last time I was at a reasonable weight was my senior year in high school when I was 25 pounds less at a whopping 150, which, off the subject a bit, is what my doctor says my body was meant to handle because I stopped growing at age 18 (I'm trying, but it ain't easy). However, despite my chubbiness I have always had a good heart when it came to endurance. I used to be able to, and probably still could today, play basketball for hours on end, and that was after practice. Games upon games were pounded out as players came and went. When practice ended at three or four in the afternoon, I stuck around and played until nine or 10. Of course, my ability diminished over the hours of hard pounding and running, but I still managed to find a style of play that allowed me to keep going. A formerly dislocated knee cap that folded during my last time ever climbing in at Edinburgh's Alien Rock (where my climbing life blossomed after a catastrophic day at Rosyth Quarry my very first time climbing) has kept me from running for the most part, but I can still bike and not feel the need to stop, and it is only my sore feet that keep me from walking until I collapse.
Got killed by 10 million pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey

Another odd fact about my health is that I have the odd sensation of not being hungry while exercising. I can go an entire day of climbing, even after a small breakfast that consists only of a single muffin, and not be hungry and / or eat a single item throughout the day. In fact, I'm rarely hungry after climbing to the point where I could split a bag of rice and a can of chicken with a friend and be just fine (so long as I have a small bag of M&Ms to take care of the salty taste in my mouth). I only eat a Cliff bar for lunch most days because I know I should eat, not because I'm hungry.

Another, final, contributor to my odd metabolism is that I just don't get hungry when hot. For some reason, I eat like a pig during the winter (well, my body is telling me to eat because it gets cold easily) and hardly eat during the summer (this summer being an unfortunate aberration). All of the above factors continued to not surprise me throughout the week in Yosemite and at Lover's Leap, but I was astounded at just how heavy I was breathing during hikes and quick climbing sections. I was also amazed at how energy sapping the heat was despite the fact that I still felt strong. I never felt out of shape, but I did feel as if I should have felt out of shape. It was all very weird.
Everything is going to burn, we'll all take turns

Better with Bacon (5.8) - Four pitches - Bolted Anchors - Mixed climbing - Various leaders

Approach: From the parking lot, take the path at the #8 parking spot and follow the path to the last talus field on this half of Hogsback. Head up the talus field, fade right to where the path ends, and start just to the left of the top of the trail below a thin crack that diagonals left.

We actually took a slightly different path in. When we came to telephone pole #2569, we turned right toward the right-hand side of the cliff. We then had to traverse along the side of the cliff, over the first two talus fields (they may be the same field separated only by bushes), and through thick brush to finally make our way to the base of the climb. It is possible to do this, but there are no continuous paths along the base. I recommend staying below the base until it is time to head straight up to the climb in order to avoid bushwhacking and rattlesnakes (not that we encountered any).
If the devils is six, then GODDD IS HEAVEN!

Pitch One (5.6) - 100 feet - Trad (need micronuts) - Bolted Anchor - "PBR" led

We started our day fairly early in the morning when it was still cool and little sun on the rock. Lover's Leap is great for this during the warm summer months; the the cliffs are in the shade until well into the late morning and there seemed to be a nice breeze moving through the shallow valleys. This was great because we had just been hounded by the heat the past few days in Yosemite, and we really needed to be able to climb without fighting sunburns, dehydration, and the lack of energy wrought by humidity.

This climb was way oversold in the SuperTopo. The guidebook has this wonderful picture of a thin finger crack that fades across a blank face on the first pitch. When we all saw the picture the day before, we thought this was going to be a great climb, especially me who loves face climbs and had just had his ass handed to him in The Valley. To be fair, the first pitch was kind of fun, but it was also 5.6 and where the crack was too thin to use there were other holds on the face to rely on instead. It was at a low angle, too, so even when the feet weren't there they were still there. To climb this pitch, follow the crack until it ends below the large edge where the bolts are. Be careful at the ledge with the loose rocks.

One funny story to tell happened just as "PBR" had clipped his first piece. "Ratherbe" was belaying and I was stashing our stuff off the path when we heard a large animal coming toward us through the bushes. We both looked at ourselves with worried eyes and turned our attentions to the fast moving bushes as they shook closer and closer to us. We watched each branch move all the other nearby branches from one tree to the next up the path that we should have walked up if we had taken the proper approach. I was worried because we hadn't taken the proper path and had taken the bushwhacked approach instead. The worrisome part was that maybe we had awoken a bear or something while rummaging through the bushes that was patiently and intelligently awaiting us to be at our most vulnerable in order to steal an easy snack (I hoped he wasn't looking for a full meal). As the noise got louder and louder, and the moving bushes got closer and closer, we finally saw the the black fur rise above the top of the bushes. I looked at "Ratherbe" and she looked at me with wide eyes. We were collectively silently saying, "do we just run and leave "PBR" hanging?" This sucker was close, too. It wasn't like the bear we saw at Bishop's Terrace (5.8), which was maybe 50 yards away. As the animal go closer, "Ratherbe" looked worryingly up at "PBR" who, in a moment of calm from as a result of having a higher vantage point, looked down on us and the large animal and said, "Yeah, make sure you put the bag up high enough for the dog not to get it, too, not just the squirrels." He turned around, placed his next piece and move upward without hesitation. "Ratherbe" and I looked at each other with holy-fuck grins on our faces while the friendly retriever came up to me and stuck his head under my now outstretched petting hand.
Ever fallen in love with someone, ever fallen in love, in love with someone, ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?

Pitch Two (5.6) - 80 feet - Mixed - Bolted Anchor - "Ratherbe" led
For a minute yeah, I lost myself, I lost myself

Climb straight up to the second bolt and then fade right toward the next ledge and anchor. This is the pitch where it begins to be less of a trad route and more of a slabby sport route.

Pitch Three (5.8) - 90 feet - Mixed (mostly sport) - Bolted Anchor - Greg led
You turn me on, you lift me up, like the sweetest cup I share with you

Despite this pitch being the graded pitch of the climb, it is not the money-pitch. That distinction goes to the first pitch and the fun finger crack. Although, I have to say that I did enjoy parts of this climb. It was a bit run out, something I am kind of beginning to enjoy, and yet bolted appropriately. The only disappointment was that it was a one-move wonder.
You have never been in love until you've seen the sunrise behind the home for the blind

Head straight up the bolts to the roof (crux) and trust the hand holds while making a high-step up. This move is well protected by the easy-to-clip-from-below bolt that is above the roof. The anchors are not far above the roof.

Pitch Four (5.7) - 80 feet - Mixed - Bolted Anchor - "PBR" led

Another pitch that was both nice and too easy at the same time. Head over the series of of small roofs / bulges and into a right-facing corner. Follow the corner up and find the anchors on a small ledge to the left. I played around some as third because "Ratherbe" had cleaned most of the gear ahead of me. The slabs to the right are fun if you're into that sort of stuff.

Descent: We rapped in two goes to the bottom with two 60m ropes. A 50m rope should not be difficult to navigate, as there are rap rings at each station.
And I'm free to decide, and I'm not so suicidal after all

Hogwild (5.7) - 110 feet - Mixed - Bolted Anchor - Greg and "Ratherbe" led

After we rapped off "Better With Bacon," we headed down the talus field to a climb that "PBR" said he couldn't stop giggling on the last time he was at the Leap a couple of years before. It was a single pitch 5.7 that was just right for him, and he wanted to share it with "Ratherbe" and I before the end of the day.
Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated

Approach: Start at the path from parking spot #8 and follow the path to telephone pole 2569. Take that right and head up to the base of the cliff. At the base, head left and find the large, obvious, dirty left-facing corner (you'll be below it somewhat when you first see it). Head up the path to the upper level and find the shallow right-facing corner.
Since you said goodbye polka dots fill my eyes, and I don't know why

Look for two bolts within the first twenty feet and follow the bolts to the anchor at the top. This can be rapped with two 60m ropes. Otherwise lowering requires a 70m rope. "Ratherbe" led this first and then "PBR" seconded. They both came down and then I led the route. I really think this could be a sport route if you're comfortable leading 5.7. I think I placed two pieces of gear the entire way up. Or maybe it was just me beginning to feel OK running out sections that I'm pretty comfortable with. Neither "Ratherbe" nor "PBR" would have run out the top the way that I did, but I felt fine, even as the moves became increasingly more difficult.
Everybody move your feet and feel united, ohhh-ohhh-OH!

The typically-Greg story here is that I was going to rap off and clean the route on my way down...except that I forgot my belay device at the bottom ("why do I need my belay device," I thought as I removed all the heavy gear off my harness before climbing, "it's just extra weight"). That was a stupid thing to do, and it wasn't the first time I had done it either. But, since I was up there and had no place to go, I started thinking of what I needed to do next in order to get down. I initially had a brain cramp and suggested that they lower me as if I was on TR, but of course that wouldn't have worked because the knot in the two ropes wouldn't have passed through the gear. The best solution was for me to pull one of the ropes up through the highest piece it was clipped to, drop the end to the bottom, have them tie my ATC to the rope, and have me pull it all the way up again. Naturally, this went about as smoothly as Biz Markie singing his only hit (thank God) "Just a Friend." Firstly, I I had clipped both ropes on separate bolts fairly high near the top (after the run-out section). So I essentially had to pull the rope all the way up just to drop it to have the ATC tied to it. Well, that's not so bad. After all, its only about 100 feet at that point. The bummer? When I pulled one of the ropes up, just as it was a few feet below the last piece, it got stuck in a crack and I couldn't shake it out. Still, that was OK because I could free it on the rap down. The real bugger, however, was that the second rope ran up the same crack and it appeared that it would become stuck in a lower section from the way it was resting. If that happened, then I was screwed. I'm sure I would have figured something out, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Thankfully the second rope didn't get caught and I was able to drop the rope no problem. I was still worried that maybe the ATC would get caught on the way up, but it was a hassle-free ride the rest of the way, despite the fact that it was a royal bitch to get the first rope free of the crack on my way down. But it was eventually OK and we were able to head back to the car just as the sun started to bear down on us.

The song on my music player above as I type this couldn't be more appropriate: I'll stop the world and melt with you. I've noted in previous posts how warm it was in Yosemite. We had hoped that Lover's Leap would provide some respite from the heat, but that was not to be. It was approaching mid-day at this point and "PBR" was getting sapped by the sun. I was OK, but I wanted to stay out of the sun in case I got burned ("PBR" and "Ratherbe" will likely laugh as they read this because I had a sunscreen on that was so thick I couldn't rub it in all the way. I spent the better part of my vacation looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost). "Ratherbe" was feeling the heat a bit, and so we decided we needed to rest during what we figured would be the hottest part of the day: the mid-to-late afternoon. So we decided that if we were going to stop then we should go get ice cream from the famous Strawberry Lodge down the road. We hopped in the car and headed down the road to enjoy a hot fudge sundae (me), waffle cone ice cream ("Ratherbe"), and a root beer float ("PBR"). We hung out on the front porch in the shade slowly licking away our relief and watching the world go by until a guy who I swear looked just like someone I took a trip to the Adirondacks with last summer ("Jesus"). This guy kept saying that he had family in Boston, too, but I never asked. We talked, rested, talked some more, sat in the shade, drank water, and all that cool kind of stuff you do when you have nothing to do but do all that cool kind of stuff when you're doing nothing at all. It was fun, but it didn't last all day because "Ratherbe" and I still wanted to get some climbing in that afternoon.

Soon after we finished our treat, "PBR" indicated that he couldn't take the heat the rest of the day and needed to rest up. That left "Ratherbe" and I to climb together the rest of the afternoon, and I suggested that we go back to do Haystack (5.8) just because I thought she'd enjoy the 'Gunks-like roof crux on the second pitch.

Haystack (5.8) - Three pitches - Trad - Make your own anchors - Greg and "Ratherbe" Led


Head up the steps as if going to Campsites 19 or 20 and bear left. Follow the ankle-breaking, rocky path for several minutes. Lover's Leap will be on your right and the back side of Hogsback will be on your left. You'll go past a large boulder with a gurney leaning against it (there's also a sign describing the history of the boulder nearby). After a few minutes of walking past that, start looking for a large, low-angle, slabby boulder on your left. The path is directly across from that boulder, and it goes up toward the left side of Lover's Leap. Watch out for rattlesnakes in the bushes and on the path. We didn't see any, but they are apparently there. Once you're at the wall, and very near where the path meets the wall, there will be a series of ordinary right-facing corners that are very close to each other. There is another right-facing corner that is about 10 feet to the right of these corners. The start of the climb is at at the right-most corner of the series of corners. You will be in between the series and the one that is 10 feet away.
He'll rekindle all the dreams, it took you a lifetime to destroy, he'll reach deep into the hole, heal your shrinking soul, But there wont be a single thing, that you can do

I really noticed the altitude here. I was OK earlier in the morning because we were walking on a relatively flat path most of the way, but once I hit any uphill hike, I began to breathe heavily and felt the need to slow down more than usual. I wasn't tired, and that's the odd thing. The sun may have sapped a bit of my energy, but that wasn't what was causing me to heave. By the time I got to the base of the climb I was completely out of breath and needed a few minutes to drink and bring my breathing repetitions back to normal.
A new royal family, a wild nobility, we are the family

Pitch One Variation (5.8) - 140 feet - Trad - Gear Anchor - Greg Led

When I climbed this route the day before with "Elron" he climbed the corner instead of the face to the right of the corner. This left-hand direct start is 5.6, but if you climb a bit to the right and more out on the face then you'll get into a series of 5.8 moves, one of which turned into a slight mantle with a high-step after the initial mantle push. This was fun for me because because the mantle took place about five feet above my last piece and finished with a no-hands squat-then-stand after I got my feet up from the mantle and high-step. It was thrilling because I knew I could climb this section well, but it was also a bit nerve wracking because I wasn't expecting to have to make such a tricky move that finished with my shoulders a good 12 feet above my last piece. Had I slipped, it would have been my biggest trad fall ever.

I didn't feel any of the effects of altitude on this first pitch because I was moving fairly slowly (a normal trait of mine that I use to ensure I don't fuck myself), but it was warm, and the entire cliff was drenched in sun the with no chance for shade anywhere. The Leap does get cooler the higher up one goes, but don't stick around too long unless you've got pores like a hoolahoop holds water and enough chalk to become a magnesium trader on the Salt Lake Commodities Exchange, and I don't really sweat much.

Continue climbing up toward a ledge that is about 20-30 feet below the roof that makes the secon pitch crux.
Smear this man across the wall, like strawberries and cream, it's the only way to be

Pitch Two (5.8) - 110 Feet - Trad - Gear Anchor - "Ratherbe" Led

This is the pitch that I struggled on the day before with "Elron". I've noted my struggles on roofs before, but "Ratherbe" always seems OK with them. I guess some people just have a knack and others don't. I would have led this pitch again on this day, too, but I wanted to give this money-pitch to her so that she could enjoy the wonders of this great climb. And she did well, despite the fact that she was disappointed with herself for whining. I told her later that I don't feel that whining is such a bad thing, especially if you stick it out and climb the route clean, which she did. All whining does it get you to verbalize what you're already thinking anyway. Shoot, I whine when I don't crap easily. I just don't see it as a big deal.

For this pitch, climb straight up to the roof, clipping the pin in the crack below the roof. Exit the roof to the left (not over) and climb the awkward crack above. Make sure the only piece that you place in the roof is a medium-sized cam on the farthest outside section of the crack so as to avoid rope drag the rest of the way up. Head up to two stacked right-facing corners and climb the second one (the smaller one to the right) up about mid-way to a small ledge with good gear in the crack.

This is where I started breathing heavy on the climb. I don't know what happened, but I suspect that I started breathing heavily because I wasn't leading. This happened to me the day before, too, with "Elron". I guess I move more quickly when seconding (which makes sense when you think about it) and that doesn't allow me to settle down and let me breathe normally. Despite the fact that I climbed this pitch cleanly and more gracefully this time, I was really out of breath by the time I got over the roof, and for the first time I felt as if it was taking away my strength. Note, this wasn't taking away my energy, but my actual pulling and pushing strength instead. It was a weird feeling and probably my first time experiencing the effects of altitude where it actually affected my climbing. I noticed it the day before, but it didn't take away from my ability to climb, so it didn't feel like much exertion except for the hike up to the cliff. This pitch was different, and I wonder what I could have done differently except to maybe slow down and drink more water beforehand.
When I used to go out, I would know everyone that I saw, now I go out alone if I go out at all

Pitch Three (5.6) - 165 feet - Trad - Gear Anchor - Greg led

I was looking forward to leading this pitch after seconding it the day before with "Elron" because it has some fun climbing and is not as challenging as it may appear. Essentially head straight up to the top and fade left over two more roofs. The first roof is more easily gained by rocking left instead of going over the roof itself. The second roof has a nice high-step that isn't as hard as it initially looks. Gear is difficult to find up at the top for the anchor, so be creative. My anchor was solid, but it wasn't pretty and relied on a large chockstone for two of the three pieces.
I want to break your heart and give you mine

Descent: There are many paths leading down to the main walk-off path. Basically head back away from the edge of the cliff to a clearing in the wooded area and follow the path down left, keeping the stream to your right (if it's flowing). Don't cross over the stream even if it looks as if the trail goes in that direction. "Elron" and I took the proper path down, but "Ratherbe" and "PBR" took a much longer path back the day before because they crossed the stream after topping out on The Line (5.9).
It's another, night out with the boss, following in footsteps overgrown with moss, and they tell me that women grow on trees, And if you catch them right they will land upon their knees

So that ended another succesful day at Lover's Leap. We did eight pitches in all, with some fun moderate slab climbing and a some stiffer roofs, cracks and corners, too. I was thoroughly enjoying myself at the Leap, moreso than I did in The Valley, and I couldn't wait until the next day when we were going to take a shot at Dan Osman's famous speed climb of Bear's Reach (5.7). But before you leave, remember to name all the songs quoted above. No cheating now!

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