|"Lost" on P2 of Baby|
Our first day was without much excitement: we knocked off Baby (5.6), of which I had never done the first pitch; Drunkard's Delight (5.8), of which neither of us had been on; and Snooky's Return (5.8), of which "Lost" had never led the first pitch. He had never led the third pitch either, and despite his reluctance to lead something he hadn't at least thought about beforehand, I managed to convince him that this was a nice pitch. Unfortunately, the conversation went something like this:
- Me: Yeah, you're going to love it. It's a fun crux.
- "Lost" (pointing up at a dirty ramp below a dirty roof that has a dead tree growing out of a crack directly below the crux): Wait, this is it?
- Me: Yup, it's a fun pitch. Trust me, you'll like it.
- "Lost" (below the roof now): You sure this goes right and not left?
- Me: Definitely goes right. It's all lichen off to the left. That's nothing over there.
- "Lost" (mid-crux): This is NOT 5.7. Are you sure this goes right and not left?
- Me: Trust me, if there's lichen to the left then that means it isn't part of the route. It definitely goes right.
- "Lost" (after pulling around the arete): What the hell Greg? No one does this route. There isn't a clean path anywhere up here. There's more lichen here than to the left!
- Me: Huh? What?
- "Lost" (showering me with chunks of fluttering lichen that he has mass-scraped off the rock): It's a lichen shower! You're taking a lichen shower!
- Me (giggling and trying hard to keep the black-filled sky above me from floating down my shirt): I didn't sandbag you, honest! I remember this as a great climb!
- "Lost": Whatever dude. Here, let me pull some more lichen off for you.
- Me (after pulling the crux and seeing "Lost"'s cleaning job): What the hell do you mean this has never been done! There's an obvious clean path all the way up to the ledge. I can't see any lichen anywhere!
- "Lost": (laughs)
|"Lost" on P2 of Shit Creek|
We awoke the next day both feeling OK, but "Lost" feeling better than me. While I managed to dodge the truck that had hit me a couple of weeks before after Rumney, I could feel the breeze from the passing weight push me around before the draft behind the truck sucked me toward it after it went by. We started on Shit Creek (5.7), which has a 5.6 first pitch that felt way harder than 5.6. It was hot in the sun already by that time, too, so that sapped any energy I had before I got to the belay stance, which, as it turned out, was perched on top of a precarious stack of boulders that felt as if they were going to collapse at any moment. I sat belaying "Lost" up and into the next pitch both sopping wet from sweat and concerned that I could go for a ride downward at any minute. I was grateful to get off that climb, even if it was a route I'd recommend to others.
We stayed in the area and hit the Filipina-Boldville (5.7) link-up just down the hill from Shit Creek. "Lost" led the first pitch, which is a steep, overhanging crack at the start with really nice climbing straight up to the anchors. I took the second pitch, which was a significantly easier pitch at 5.6. In fact, it was so much easier that I felt it was either 5.5 in relation to Shit Creek's first pitch or Shit Creek was really a 5.7+ at the start. Either way, it was nice to lead on something easier. I was simply fatigued from the sun and my lack of ability to recover quickly, but things felt better. Somehow, I felt as if I had made progress in my recovery the past two weeks. I began to look forward to my September trip with "Jello". "Lost" was disappointed that my lead was significantly shorter than the 100 feet promised in the guidebook.
|"Lost" coming around P2 of the Filipina-|
This wasn't the real crux, though. I was battling another issue that came to light enroute, so to speak, right at the second crux:
- Me: Hey, is that a jug up there?
- "Lost": Where?
- Me (pointed toward what I thought was a jug): Right there, up and left.
- "Lost": Um, I don't know what you're looking at. Why can't you see it yourself? You're closer!
- Me: Ah, well, my contacts are dry and everything is foggy now.
- "Lost" (after a few seconds): Wait, what?
It turned out to not be a jug at all, but instead rock with two different colors, the bottom of which was white in a sea of red. Naturally, with such blurry vision, I mistook the white as missing rock (i.e. - a nice side pull or undercling), but alas, it was rounded smooth and of no use to me whatsoever.
Of course I made it up, but that ended our day. Despite my insistence that I could, in fact, see well enough to belay and even climb (shoot, I felt I could have led the next pitch at 5.5, a lack of vision be damned!), "Lost" wasn't having any of it. To him, it was better to call it day than to call it a life, so we packed up, went for another swim and dinner, and hit the sack soon after. Well, I didn't hit the sack so early because we stumbled upon "Fashion" and her crew just down from the Uberfall area on the hike out. I went up to their campsite for a beer and chit-chat before retiring, but I slept well after that and that made me think the final day was going to be a good one.
|"Lost" on P2 of Snooky's Return|
I took the lead, however, and went up. The start was harder than I remembered, but I pulled through it and went up to the series of overhangs that made up the crux. I must have stood at the base for thirty minutes trying to find the energy to pull through. I had the nerve to do it, but seemingly not the physical strength. Finally I pulled through the first crux, plugged gear that I thought would never come out ("Lost" later laughed at this because he couldn't get it out and summarily gave me his nut of the same size in replace of my now fixed piece), and panted and heaved oxygen until I was ready to commit to the exposed second crux. Again, this was harder than I remembered it, but I got through it after only a few minutes of working things out. The final crux was more of a technical thrash; I knew I couldn't stay there long so I just did it, and thankfully I made it to the base of the 5.9 finish.
This presented a good rest for me, and I thought about doing this finish because I had never done it before (two of my seconds now have). I remembered the last time I tried it I found it easier than expected, but I was too pumped to pull what was a mantle for me (I'm a little too short to grab the next jug without getting my upper body up higher). In my condition, I knew it was going to be a fall if I tried it, so I finished out right and set up the belay directly above the 5.9 roof. After setting it up, I peered over the edge at "Lost" and shouted, "Hey, if you want to do the 5.9 finish then it's here, if you want to do the 5.8 finish then that's over here." It wasn't until later that I realized I had totally sandbagged him into doing the 5.9 no matter what.
|"Lost" not very confident of getting off the rock|
with daylight after P1 of Blistered Toe
I laughed at my apparent brashness. It had never occurred to me that I had done that. I'm not sure "Lost" believed me, but I swear it was true. However, looking back, I also think it was rather funny, even if I did feel bad that it was the second time I had done that to him (the first being the third pitch of Snooky's).
Our real goal for the day was actually Alphonse (5.8), which is a two-pitch climb that really needs to be done as one, long pitch. It was finally empty (it wasn't all day leading up to this point), and because "Lost" hadn't led this either, he did the whole thing to the top. This route wasn't a problem for either of us because we both think this isn't 5.8, but merely a 5.7 with a hard(ish) single move at the crux. This route reminds me of the old joke: what's the difference between a 5.5 and a 5.7 at the 'Gunks? The the 5.5 has only one 5.7 move. Well, Alphonse is really a 5.6 with only one 5.8 move that, if done with commitment, feels easier than that.
Still, this ended our day. We were both wiped at this point and had a long drive back to Massachusetts. We stopped for dinner and, because I had taken my antibiotic without food (and just after drinking a celebratory beer, which I almost NEVER do after climbing), I gave the driving to "Lost" while I battled nausea and stars in my eyes. We crashed at his place and awoke to a nice pancake dinner with his family (wife, daughter, grandson, and two dogs, one of which hilariously couldn't understand why no one would pet him with the plastic cone wrapped around his head that was meant to keep him from scratching an infected ear). I left after breakfast and was glad we had finally managed to climb together. We both learned something: me about zippering nuts (no gear was pulled on this trip, but I still learned about it) and him about climbing with two ropes to reduce rope drag. "Lost" is a good partner, and a knowledgeable one at that. I hope to get the chance to learn more from him in the future. As for my looming trip in September? I'm ready to roll, so we'll see how things turn out in a few weeks.
Click here for all 2010 'Gunks photos