Monday, July 28, 2008

A Near Miss

There are days when I want to climb for the fun of it, and there are days when I just go with the flow. I rarely feel the need to push myself these days, though I admit that sometimes these moments flare up. Often times, however, I just want to do something, and that is what I decided to do at the 'Gunks on Saturday.

Friday afternoon was restless for me. I had taken the previous afternoon off and felt the pressure of staying late in order to show that I wasn't working the summertime office schedule to an obvious advantage. I had a presentation to propose to my boss on Monday, and only had a moderate amount finished. But sitting on the back of my mind was the sparse number of campsites at Camp Slime. With only a dozen or so spots at the fantastic price of first-come-first-serve free, I've always been stressed about how it would fill up with New Yorkers with less than a two-hour drive during my four-hour drive from Boston. I try to leave early when going to the 'Gunks, but I just couldn't bring myself to go this time. It was then that the phone rang:

- "Ratherbe": Hey, my appointment this afternoon cancelled. Can you leave early?
- Me: I don't know. I left early yesterday. I kind of feel the need to stay until 5pm anyway.
- "Ratherbe": You know there's the bouldering cleanup tomorrow?
- Me: Yeah. I can just imagine what the camping is going to be like. You get in touch with your ranger friend?
- "Ratherbe": I did, but he can't promise anything. He has spots for about four tents, and has eight people coming for the cleanup.
- Me: How many tents is that for eight people?
- "Ratherbe": I asked and he didn't know.
- Me: sigh So what about everyone else? Seems like half of Boston is going.
- "Ratherbe": "Cracklover" and "Ellsworth" are heading down early, probably around 4pm.
- Me: So they'll be on the road before I even get home, and that's if I left now.
- "Ratherbe": Right. I know "Firefly" will likely show up later, so that's good.
- Me: Saves us a spot.
- "Ratherbe": "Sensei" and "Burrito" will probably leave later, too, since he doesn't ordinarily get out of work until 6pm.
- Me: That helps, too. I don't know. I have to ride my bike back and take a shower.
- "Ratherbe": You're driving, so I can meet you whenever. Can I pick you up at work to save time?
- Me: No. The Yankees are in town, and it's already a madhouse here. I'll probably have a difficult time just riding past the Sox player's parked cars.
- "Ratherbe": OK, but you know what leaving late means...
- Me (tapping my foot and squirming in my seat in silence for a few moments with gritted teeth): OK, I'm out of here. See you in an hour. - Click, Buzzzzz

I'm not sure how this happened, but the bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95 that "Ratherbe" had seen 30 minutes before had all but vanished by the time we exited Rt 2. It didn't seem right that there'd be no traffic at 530pm on a beautiful Friday evening, but there it was, an open lane in front of me all the way to I-90 to I-87, and then to Exit 18. We actually passed "Sensei" and "Burrito" on the way before we had to make a pit stop. We never caught up with them again, but we did pass "Cracklover" and "Ellsworth" with about 20 miles to spare. I'm not one who ordinarily deals with going with the flow well, so I was actually happy to see that we were going to beat at least one tent to Slime. In the end, however, that didn't matter. "Cracklover" had once expressed his belief that getting a spot at Slime late on a Friday night was never an issue, and I've never taken that sentiment to heart despite never being shut out (although I've been close twice). By the time we got there, "Sensei" and "Burrito" had just set up camp in what was an incredibly empty patch of woods. In fact, despite all the people from Boston arriving that night, and despite all the people showing up for the cleanup the next day, there were only four spots taken when we arrived. It was a nice luxury to actually be able to walk around and pick the best remaining site.


Nearly all of our routes done on Saturday were at the far end of the Near Trapps. We chose these routes for a couple of reasons: 1) we hadn't really explored this area and; 2) we knew the Trapps were going to be busy and we wanted to get away from the crowds. Luck was on our side as we spent nearly the entire day at the far end and saw only two other parties the whole time.

Near Trapps Approach:

To get to the Near Trapps you'll need to find the Overlook parking lot. While you're not supposed to park here for more than 30 minuets, people park all day anyway. If you park here, park at your own risk as it can get packed, probably more than you'd imagine, as folks will make an annoying third line of cars that nearly blocks everyone else in. From this parking lot, head uphill toward the bridge. At the Route 44/55 sign turn left onto the trail. From the West Trapps parking lot, head to the end of the parking lot and follow that trail to the bridge. Either cross the street under the bridge, or climb the steps and go over the bridge. If going under the bridge, walk left to the route sign. If going over, walk into the dirt parking lot on the other side and turn right out of that lot.

Short and Sassy (5.5) - 60 feet - Trad - Tree Anchor for Rappel - Greg and "Ratherbe" led

Approach: Once on the trail, follow it for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your pace. This path is not as easy or wide as the Trapps carriage trail is, but it is still fairly innocuous. Short and Sassy is a zig-zag crack on a face that juts out about 40 feet from the rest of the cliff. You'll know when you're close when you see a large roof with fixed gear up to your right. This roof is an A3 climb that has never gone free called Spinal Traction (5.6 A3). Short and Sassy is just down the path to the left of this route. If you get to the end of the cliff then you've obviously gone too far.

Short and Sassy: Climb the left-fading crack until it lurches right under a small roof. For easier climbing, go to the left of the roof. For harder but still-within-the-grade climbing, go to the right. From there, head straight up to the tree with a rap anchor attached.

We did this climb as a warm-up, and I was a bit disappointed when I first saw it. It didn't look like much, and I was looking for something that was going to get my blood flowing. This route certainly didn't look as if it would do that, but we were there and had committed to it, so "Ratherbe" racked up and took the first lead. Her initial impression of it was similar to mine, so when she got up into the crack and at the crux (where the crack goes right), she became a bit more impressed with what she was on. I still didn't see it, but when it was my turn, my opinion of it changed quite a bit. This route is aptly named. It may be a 5.5, but it certainly has some spice to it.

Lean and Mean (5.8) - Two Pitches - Trad - Varied Anchors

Approach: Located right around the corner from Short and Sassy (to the right - back toward the parking lot), Lean and Mean starts on a very large boulder that is leaning against the cliff. Start about mid-way up the hill.

Pitch One (5.7) - 70 feet - Tree Anchor - Greg led

Before talking about this route, I want to make a couple of points about the routes in the Near Trapps. Firstly, the only readily available guidebook as of July 2008 that has these routes is the Swain guide. While it is nice to have the Swain guide for reference, it leaves a significant amount of information out that is otherwise useful. For instance, it leaves out not only the grade of each pitch (listing only the overall grade), but also the length per pitch. Secondly, there are some routes where the photos don't match the description and the number associated with the route doesn't match the photo (or the number isn't even in the photo). This route did have an accurate photo, but it did not have the rope length or grade. Therefore, it is important to note that I am estimating the grades and lengths on my own.

The first pitch is definitely the "lean" part of the climb. It is thin and the holds appear to be facing the wrong direction, but that's only from the bottom. Once you're on the route things become clearer. I essentially took the path of least resistance up to a point where the route clearly goes left and around the arrete. The climbing is much easier around the arrete, and the rap anchors can be found on a tree up to the left.

Pitch Two (5.8) - 70 feet - Gear Anchor - "Ratherbe" led

I thought I was getting the money pitch on pitch one, but nothing could be further from the truth. The "mean" pitch is one of high quality that not only includes committing moves, but excellent exposure throughout, and a tantalizingly fearful line from the first belay. This thing looks intimidating until you get on it, and then you realize that you're in for a pretty good ride.

For starters, step left to the edge of the boulder where there is a wide gap between the boulder and the rock face. It's an easy step over open air, but there's no protecting the first move. From there, traverse right along the face toward the steep and menacing overhang. It looks thin, and it is a little, but all the holds are there and the traverse is well-protected. But this isn't even the fun part. The fun part is the overhang itself because even when one approaches it, the overhang looks void of holds and protection. Not only that, but the traverse doesn't feel overly exposed (after the initial step across, of course) because it runs along side the large boulder until about 10 feet before the start of the overhang. Once at the section where the holds seem to disappear, the boulder ceases to below you, and you're faced with steep, pumpy climbing with no gear and a long fall to the bottom. But hey, this is a 5.8, remember?

All I can say is that there are some really cool moves on the overhang that makes this fun. It is well-protected on the left-hand face, and there are a couple of somewhat hidden jugs on the right (on the overhang), too. What makes this 5.8 is that there are really good feet all the way up. You may have to make a few foot adjustments here and there while using the same hand holds, but even someone like me who got turned around in the wrong direction on the most difficult section can get out of trouble. This climb is well worth the long walk in.

Descent: From the top, head up through the trees and bushes to the left. You should find a path that goes to the left and soon joins a very easy walk-off. The walk-off has signs posting a no-trespassing zone, but there is plenty of room to maneuver downhill and back to the base without becoming a criminal. There is a rap anchor at the top of this route. However, when you see it, you will smartly forget that it's there (think: dead tree).

Hold the Mayo (5.9) - 110 feet - Trad - Gear Anchor - Greg and "Ratherbe" led different sections

Approach: To the right of the large, A3 roof with fixed gear is a prow that is called Muriel's Nose (5.10a). To the right of the nose is a gully with a tree and a five-foot tall block behind the tree. You should see the traverse roof that is the bottom of the prow slightly to your left if standing at the tree.

Hold the Mayo: As noted at the start, some days all I want to do is get away, some days are days to just climb whatever I feel like climbing, and some days are days like Saturday, when I feel OK, relatively without fear and with confidence, and as if I'm finally OK to start pushing my 'Gunks grades. The Swain guide calls this a G-rated climb, and so I figure that if I fall, and if my gear holds, then I'm OK.

"Hey," I said, "Let's do Hold the Mayo. It'll be my first 'Gunks 5.9." Those could have been my famous last words.

This climb has two cruxes: the early traverse and fighting the pump at the top. The first crux wasn't so bad once I figured it out, but the second was what took me off the lead. From the tree, scramble up the block in front of you and on to the slab that is to the right of the traverse roof. Despite the fact that you'll see chalk on the thin crack on the face below and mid-way across the roof, I doubt that this is the path for the 5.9, as there is a 5.10 climb that Hold the Mayo traverses across that has a couple of thin cracks on it. You'll want to head up to the right-hand side of the roof and find the left-leaning, right-hand side pull that will be about five feet above the bush (there's also a huge side pull that is farther to the right and deeper into the bush that is lower than the upper one, but the upper one is the key). Snag that side pull, lean left, and step onto the slab directly below the roof. Carefully walk across the slab and exit to the left. From there, head up the shallow corner until it becomes obvious that you'll need to step right out onto the face. Climb straight up to the top (and I literally mean straight up through the lichen. The chalk that is just left of the large roof on your right may be a way to get to the top, but it's harder than 5.9, in my opinion).

My initial thought when climbing this was to avoid the right-hand side of the traverse and to climb the thin crack below the roof instead. I searched for several minutes for the moves, and even scouted them out a bit before I decided that it was too tough without a lot of pro to protect me on what would have been a nasty fall onto awkward and somewhat jagged rocks below. I even tried the traverse several times and felt my feet begin to slip out from underneath me each time. By this point, I was kind of tired because the moves I was trying were a bit pumpy, and because "Ratherbe" had been belaying me at the start for about 15 minutes, I decided that my next attempt would be my final attempt. As it so often happens, whenever I say this, I figure out a way to get past the crux. It was then that I discovered the seemingly useless side pull and used it to my easy advantage. The traverse is not so difficult, but it does require maintaining a bit of a pump through this section. The hands are good, but not as good as you'd like them to be. And the feet are nice, too, but not as nice as you'd like them to be, and then everything is just a little more scrunched up than preferred. It's easy to miss the juggy undercling near the far left of the roof. This is key to gaining the far-left side pull that will allow you to finally exit the roof / traverse once and for all. Just be careful of the final foot hold as you exit the roof. It's a big hold, but for some stupid reason I slipped on it twice despite there being absolutely no reason for me to slip on it.

Upon exiting the traverse, I made the assumption that the crux was near the beginning, and that if there were any 5.9 moves the rest of the way that they'd be singular and not strung together. There is a good rest spot at the end of the traverse, and so I rested for a minute, but not for very long. The corner was right above me and the face climbs out right of the corner seemed solid enough from below. So I headed up into what, at first, seemed to be just a couple of tough moves that turned into a series of sustained 5.9 moves into a cramped corner below a roof. I managed to plug a small Camalot on the inside to protect "Ratherbe" and then a tri-cam on the outside on the face to the right to protect me. There was a fairly large rest for my feet, but the foot hold was steeply angled and I had to keep switching feet just to keep each calf from exhausting itself. By the time I was ready to move out onto the face, I was really feeling pumped both in my legs and my arms. The move out onto the face itself was no picnic, either. It required making a dynamic move straight up off a tiny foot job to a horizontal crack that I wasn't so sure was deep enough to handle this kind of move. After trying the move out from several different directions, I finally gave it a go and snagged what turned out to be a fairly sizable jug. The only problem was that I was pretty much wasted at this point. I looked up and saw another horizontal crack similar to the one I was holding onto. It, too, required a bit of a dynamic move, but more with a high-step-and-go than a balancy lunge. This time, however, I was convinced that the horizontal above the next one was a sloper and not an actual ledge. I knew this because of how the rock behind the second horizontal was fading away from the edge. I couldn't stomach lunging for that, and so I had to find a new way up. Feeling even more wiped at this point, I hurriedly plugged a #1 Camalot, clipped the red rope, and asked "Ratherbe" to take. When I felt the rope pull tight against my harness, I slowly transferred my weight from my arms and legs to the cam. However, as soon as the cam started to take the weight, the rock all around it started to flake away.

- Me: Whoa! Whoa! Shit, shit, shit!
- "Ratherbe": What happened?
- Me: The rocks breaking away. It's crap rock.
- "Ratherbe": So what do you want me to do?
- Me: Fuck. Um. Uh. Jesus. Oh God. Hold on! Just get ready, OK?
- "Ratherbe": OK.

I really didn't want to fall, but I figured I had no choice if I didn't rectify the situation soon. Having little or no juice left, I frantically searched my rack for another cam. After about 30 seconds of swearing and sweating, I finally found a spot for a yellow Alien about six inches to the Camalot's left. I inserted, yanked, clipped and had "Ratherbe" take on the blue rope. I leaned back slowly, hesitantly, and gently felt the strength of the cam take my weight. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked for a backup for the #1 just in case the Alien didn't hold up later on. After a bit of searching, I plugged another cam (one of her Metolius cams) and clipped that to the red rope as well. I then rested for a good 15 to 20 minutes, seemingly with my weight equally dispersed on both cams.

While resting, I scouted out the moves both above me (where the lichen was) and to my right. I already figured that straight up was not the way to go due to the lichen and sloper, so I started to focus my attention to my right, just left of the roof. There was a lot of chalk on what looked like huge jugs on a hand-traverse without great feet. I tested out the direct line to these jugs and decided that going straight up to an intermediate hold would then allow me to easily traverse right. I really liked the fact that the hand traverse was full of jugs, but I was mostly happy because above the traverse, once I got my feet up, were more jugs that would allow me to pull up and over the roof. This was fantastic. I was tired, but I knew that I could eke out enough strength to get up. Finally, after shaking out completely, I went for it.

The first move upward was dynamic and difficult for me, as it took nearly all I had in that one burst just to stand up. I figured that I was tired still, but I didn't figure that my strength had been sapped as much as it had been. But once I got up and grabbed the first jug in the traverse, I felt much better. Still, I wasn't strong enough to stick around and fiddle with gear, so I moved right so long as the hands and feet were good (and they were for a good six feet). At this point, my hands were about seven feet about the cams below me, and six feet to the right. I was now at what I figured was the final crux; I had to move right about three feet more, campus about a foot up to the next level of jugs, and swing my feet up before mantling / jugging up to the next level above that. I did nearly all of this, except for getting my right foot up and over the lip. Once I campused up to the higher set of jugs, and once I got my left foot up over the lip, I made an effort to get into a high mantle twice before I realized that I just didn't have enough in me to go any further.

- Me to myself: Fuck. What am I doing? I just don't have the strength to mantle. I'm going to have to fall. I can't move up, and I can't hold on forever. I have to fall.
- Me: "Ratherbe", get ready. I'm about to take a big whipper.

I felt the rope loosen when she apparently stood up straight. I then felt a slight pull on my tie-ins when she pulled in just a bit. It's funny, but I was about to take at least a 15-foot fall and that tiny pull on the rope gave me the confidence to accept that a fall was imminent. I was actually OK with falling despite knowing full well that this was going to be the biggest fall I had ever taken outside, on trad gear or otherwise. I held on for about four seconds more because I didn't really want to fall despite my comfort in doing so. My left hand greased up a little, and I readjusted it trying to grab a better hold. I was able to do just that, but that little movement caused my sweaty right hand to lose it's own traction and I went...

- Me to myself: Fuck here I GOOOOO! Shit, shit, shit. When's it going to take? Take dammit! Take!

I saw the anchors flash by my face and I breathed, somehow, a sigh of relief. But as soon as I figured I was going to be caught soon, I realized that I had much farther still to go.

- Me to myself: OOOOH SHIIITTTTT!!! Where's the ledge? Oh FUCK! Ledge! Ledge! LEDGE! SHITTT!!!

I saw the ledge below me coming on quickly and thought that I was either going to pull "Ratherbe" too far up or all three cams out and deck. And if it were the cams that popped, I was going for another ride down onto the jagged rocks below. That ledge came closer by the milisecond and I can tell you the God's honest truth that it is possible to rationally think and prepare a dozen thoughts in a moment of stress that lasted less than a couple of seconds, because just as soon as I prepared to deck, the rope caught me and I thought - light feet, light feet, light feet - tap, tap, tap on the rock, save the knees; shit it's a swing! BOOM! I recoiled off the corner and swung back out to my right, directly below all three cams that held tight.

At this point, I wasn't as shaken by the fall as I thought I would be. Though I have to say that I nearly vomited when I first tried to speak to "Ratherbe" to ask if she was OK. The nausea was simply from trying to speak while catching my breath. Once I collected myself, I asked "Ratherbe" to lower me. I was now about 12 feet below the cams and too tired to even yank myself back up on the rope. I didn't matter what kind of fall I had taken, I was just too pumped to go on.

Unfortunately, that still left a sizable chunk of "Ratherbe"'s rack still on the route. We discussed our options for a bit and finally agreed that "Ratherbe" would TR up to my last piece and give the last few moves a go. If worse came to worst, we could always walk up the walk-off to the left and rap-clean it later. The only concerns we had about her climbing the route were which end of the rope she needed to use. She didn't want to lead anything but the upper moves, but that meant either she topropped it unprotected at the bottom (with a potentially nasty and huge swing on the early crux if she blew that), she TR'd it by unclipping as she went by and re-clipping to protect me, or she just unclipped everything (leaving me, the exhausted one, with the potential swing). She finally decided to TR the route and risk the swing herself. She just didn't think that she had the strength to get through the early traverse and re-clip everything on the way through. So up she went, and through the traverse cleanly she went, too. She commented after getting through it that she wouldn't have wanted to lead it, as it was really pumpy on TR, let alone the lead. She then went up the corner and stepped out on the face and hung at the cams. I talked her through what I had seen, and she decided that she did not want to take the same fall that I took.

- "Ratherbe": I'm going to risk it and head straight up for the lichen. It just looks easier.
- Me: OK, but watch out for the sloper. I just don't think there's much there. That's why there's all that lichen.
- "Ratherbe": I know. Just watch me.

She stepped up from the cams and managed to grab a solid enough stance to plug another cam up high. From there, she went straight up through the lichen and, after a blink, she was up and over and at the top.

- Me: Holy cow. I can't believe that wasn't a sloper.
- "Ratherbe": Yeah, it's a total jug.
- Me: Fuck. Me.

"Ratherbe" put me on TR as the second and I made my way up through the traverse, naturally slipping on the same large foothold as before. I then came up through the corner and stepped out onto the face, and hung. And then I made one move, and hung. And then another move, and hung. I made about 10 moves from the cams to the top and hung at nearly every single one. I was pissed to have trusted the chalk, but glad that "Ratherbe" was able to get us up to the top. For certain, one element of a good partner is someone who can clean up someone else's mess, and she did just that. One thing to note here that I didn't discover until I got to the top is that the upper level of jugs on the traverse that I was on turned out to be nothing substantial at all. Had I made it high enough to depend on jugs that weren't there, I would have had an even bigger fall. It's funny how the rock plays tricks on your eyes sometimes. I swear that the horizontals on the upper face were slopers diguised as jugs, and they turned out to be solid holds. On the other hand, those jugs I was going to depend on were nothing but tiny crimps and pinches. That's the nature of the game, I guess.

Descent: From the top, either walk left toward the walk-off path, or walk right until you hit the path heading right a little farther up from the top of the cliff. Follow that path until it fades down right toward the edge. You won't be able to see the anchors until you've walked into a small, dirty, bushy belay ledge, but there are rap anchors on a tree to the route The Main Line (5.8). We rapped on another party's rope in two raps (there are bolted anchors below), but I think you might be able to rap on two 60m ropes in one go. We were prepared to do that, but had another option and took that instead.

Outsiders (5.8) - 90 feet - Trad - Chockstone Anchor - "Ratherbe" led

Approach: Come to a large, right-facing corner that is actually a massive boulder leaning against the cliff (the entire route is on the right side of the boulder). Look for a crack fading diagonally up to the right in line with the leaning direction of the boulder. The crack actually starts in the roof that is about seven feet off the ground. There is a medium-sized boulder to the right of the crack, and the bottom of this boulder is about the same height as the top of the lower roof. If you look up, you should see a large roof well above the top of the boulder. About mid-way up the climb, on the left near the arrete, is a small bush.

Outsiders: Step up onto the boulder to the right and step left into the crack. Follow the crack all the way up to easier but exposed climbing at the top. For easier climbing, once at the bush, step left onto the face and climb back right once above it. However, "Ratherbe", upon advice given by Dick Williams a couple of weekends prior to this one, climbed straight through the bush and found that to be fun, too.

I don't have much to say about this route other that I think it would be a nice route. I didn't fall or hang, but I was really too tired to judge this at all. I'll say that it seemed nice, and that "Ratherbe" enjoyed her lead. At that point, however, I was just a second and belay slave. Whatever it was she wanted to do, she had to lead and / or rap clean on her own. This turned out to be her final route, too, as she was pretty tired from the day as well. It was late, and we were hungry and not looking forward to the 30-minute hike back to the road, 15-minute hike back to the car, and 20-minute hike from there to the swimming hole, with, obviously, a 20-minute hike back to the car and 10-minute hike to the tent. We were tired and just couldn't do any more. So much so that "Ratherbe" finally convinced me, after oodles and oodles of begging, to drive to the swimming hole instead of hiking there. I reluctantly gave in, but was all the happier for it in the end. We took a quick dive in the swimming hole, ate, and rested for a while as the sun slowly set. Before darkness set in, however, we were warned by a ranger friend of hers that there was a 60% chance of thunder showers the next day after 2pm. When we finally got back to the tent, we relaxed in such a way that our morale was going to be better for Sunday's climbing.


Disneyland (5.6) - Two Pitches - Trad - Gear Anchors - Greg led in one pitch

Approach: Disneyland is fairly close to the beginning of the crag from the path, and it is both easy and difficult to miss. It's difficult to miss because it is an obvious, large, left-facing corner that climbs over a ground-level roof and below an upper roof. There is a tree in the corner of the dihedral start. It is easy to miss because, unless you turn around, you'll walk right past it as you come out from under the roof.

Disneyland: As I noted, I climbed this in one go, but I had doubles to help with the rope drag. If you don't have doubles, then make a belay after clearing the initial traverse and roof. This fun climb starts at the tree in the corner and traverses right across the face to toward the edge of the roof and the arrete. There are a couple of different ways to climb the face (high or low), but the crux is definitely the mantle that gains the upper corner where the roof and arrete turn into another corner and roof above. After the mantle, head left to the next roof, go past that to another roof, and then completely ignore the Swain guide.

While it is a nice feature of the Swain guide to have the Near Trapps in it, it is not always a well-advised guide to own. It is affectionately known as the "Swain Death Guide" because of its frequent misdirection. This route is a case in point. The Swain guide notes that after the mantle, one should "climb the dihedral on the left above, to a large roof. Move right (V2) and over the ceiling to the summit." Then the photo shows the route staying left of the third roof on the route, but let me tell you that at the third roof, you want to traverse right. Look, I've noted my ability to trust a guide and misread a route before. It sort of happened the day before on Hold the Mayo, and again the year before on Paralysis at Poke-O. Because I had just taken a huge whipper not less than 18 hours before, I was hesitant to follow the Swain guide's recommendation of heading up left and then traversing right (according to the picture). Why? Becuase the moves into this dihedral that was left of the third roof was not only void of 5.6-type holds, but it was loaded with lichen. True, clearly there are times when the lichen is clearly not the best tell-tale sign of where to go, but the hand-traverse under the third roof on this route was not only obviously where everyone else went, but it was actually still 5.6! Trust me on this one, traverse right under the third roof and climb the face to the top, keeping the fourth roof (the roof that Swain says to traverse under) to your left all the way to the top.

Descent: Walk off to the right. The path is pretty obvious and will bring you back to your gear in less than five minutes (watch out for bandit campers though, as they do exist in this neck of the woods!).

Alphonse (5.8) - Three pitches - Trad - Gear Anchors - "Ratherbe" led in one pitch

Approach: Not sure how to describe this, except that this route is a long left-facing corner that traverses under a large roof near the top. There is a small, squarish roof about two square feet in size just to the left of a small tree growing out of the rock about 20 feet up.

Alphonse: This route is typically done in three pitches due to rope drag. However, with doubles, Alphonse can be climbed in one push. Climb the corner about 60 feet and belay on the face if you want to break this up into three pitches. About 15 feet below the roof, traverse left to the edge of the large roof, and belay here. Otherwise, gain the roof (crux) and fade right to the top. I found myself so tired from the day before (a feeling I noticed on Disneyland, too), that I was having a difficult time focusing on keeping myself close to the wall. And this wasn't happening during moves, but during rests instead. By the time I made it to the top, I told "Ratherbe" that I was going to be her slave, and she could do whatever she wanted. I was too tired to even lead another 5.6, and she might have to rap-clean whatever route she decided upon.

Descent: We rapped from the top in one go on two 60m ropes.

Up Yours (5.7) - 90 feet - Trad - Tree Anchor - "Ratherbe" led

Approach: This route is sort of in a no-man's land, where the path seems to walk past the routes at this section without a head's glance or notice. Walk until you come to a face that has a longish boulder at the beginning. This boulder is somewhat the start of Elder Cleavage (5.10a) if one does the upper traverse instead of the direct start. Up Yours starts about 15 feet right of the boulder, and directly below a small roof and right-fading crack that leads to a left-facing corner / dihedral. To the left of the corner is a slab with a left-arching flake that is the continuation of Elder Cleavage. There is a small tree above the flake, and a large tree above that and to the right at the top of the corner.

Up Yours: Climb straight up to the crack and bump right (crux - about 10 feet off the ground but well-protected) until the corner. Then follow the corner and then the crack straight up to the larger tree. Watch out for the loose boulders at the belay station. "Ratherbe" led this with relative ease (some difficulty at the crux), and then I hopped on for what would be our last climb of the day. Despite my fatigue, I actually had a bit of a second wind on this route and felt as if I could have led it. I had more problems with the upper crack than the lower one, but that might have simply been my fatigue coming back by the time I reached the top.

Descent: Rap off the rap anchor on the tree.

This ended our day, as it was fast approaching 2pm, and we knew the rain and thunder was coming. We hurried back to the lot where we bumped into "Firefly" and "Burrito", who were both waiting for "PBR" and "Sensei" to get out of the rain. Within minutes of us hitting the car, the skies opened up and, for once, we were spared.

Click here for all Gunks Photos (newest photos are first)


Anonymous said...

Greg good job at pushing your limits. I with you. If you feel it, go for it. If not, lay back and wait for another day. Most times it works out.

Glad you didn't get banged up. Hey J! good job on the catch.

I was very impressed with your description of the fall and the play-by-play you went through on the way down. My two longest falls to date have 30+ and I don't remember registering much during my flight time on either.

On the first I remember thinking as I went "Oh Shit! This is bad!" My gear, the only gear I had separating me from some extremely serious consequences, were two cams jammed in a downward facing flare 12 feet below me. Miraculously they held. Got roughed up on that one but not as bad as it could have been.

On the other I only remember thinking at one point "Crap! I'm falling a long way!" I was 11 feet above my gear but had 160 feet of rope out and there was an early traverse on the pitch. With stretch, I was climbing with doubles, and slack in the system I ended up about 25 feet below the gear. Clipped a foot on a small ledge just before I came to a stop. Put me out of commission for a number of weeks.

I too have been Swained, a number of times. It was the only guide I had to the Gunks until a partner presented me with the Grey Dick when it came out.

Regarding Disneyland in Swain, there are two route photos within a few pages of one another. The incorrect one, which is second in the book; the one you refer to, actually shows the 2nd pitch of Sling Time which clearly doesn't get climbed much.

Off to Acadia and Katahdin in the morning. Keep your fingers crossed for us with the weather!


GB said...

Hey Bill,

Thirty feet on two cams is a scary thought. I think that would have caused a bit more stress than mine would have. I'm glad I came through without injury. I was lucky.

And thanks for pointing out the two pictures in the Swain guide. That's the kind of feedback that helps. I didn't know about that photo, and it helps others who may read this to know that there are other resources even in the same book.