|High up on Traditions|
|"Fearless" going all out|
|"Fearless" sussing out |
the moves after whip #362
Still nervous, “The Lady” and I met up with “SF” at Taqueria Del Sol for a pre-game meal. Due to a semi-comical miscommunication, “SF” ended up being late but getting his food before we even set foot in the building . Once we finally sat down, I began drilling “SF” with questions, as if increasing my knowledge would in any way calm my mind. After getting my fill of Whiteside trivia, we made our plans. We would be climbing sans packs with our water and sandals clipped to our harness. I made the suggestion that we swing the pitches, giving me the first .11a crux and a .10a crux up high. This plan was crafted carefully by me to avoid the run out first and last pitches. I sure was clever. “SF” obliged with the caveat that we would be linking a few of the pitches to save time. With plans in our heads and food in our bellies, we bade farewell to “The Lady” and set off towards the North Carolina Highlands.
After two and half hours of driving and getting a little bit lost on some curvy, gravel back roads, we arrived at the pull off. It was a beautiful night, clear skies, bright stars, and cool air. Despite my anxiety about the morning's climb, I slept like a baby. I would have gotten away with it if I was properly dressed. The morning chill caused me to shiver the last hour or so of my sleep away and to continue shivering all throughout breakfast at the trail head. After a few cups of rather strong coffee, we were off towards our objective. The second we crossed the bend and were hit by the sun, my shivering days were over. It was going to be a hot one. The approach was fairly uneventful with the exception me being stung by an unprovoked hornet. The first thing that I noticed about the wall was that it was much steeper than I had imagined. It being North Carolina, I most assuredly thought the route would be a slab.
|Slab? Yeah Right!|
As planned, “SF” was leading the first pitch, a rope stretching, seriously runout pitch of 9+ slabbing. Fifteen feet of barely fifth class climbing led “SF” to a chopped bolt and the first crux. If he were to blow it, the results would be serious, a twenty foot tumble into the dirt. After a quick breathing exercise, he committed to the insecure smears and clipped the first bolt, twenty five feet off the deck. Another thirty feet of slabbing on crystal dikes earned him some solid gear and another crux. “SF” began the real run out after pulling the mini roof. The next sixty feet were wholly unprotected friction climbing. Falling would be out of the question, but the climbing was just hard enough that it was not out of the realm of possibility. The last sixty feet of the pitch proved to be the hardest. Just two bolts protects the entire section. I was glad not to be leading.
|Finishing the hairy first pitch|
When I pulled over the lip and the terrain above was exactly as secure and juggy as “SF” described, I immediately felt foolish. The gear may have been sparse, but the holds certainly were not. My only consolation was that I might still have an opportunity to redeem myself. However, since “SF” had just linked two pitches, my chances of doing an equitable share of the leading looked pretty slim. With some kind encouragement from “SF”, I calmly began leading up the slopey jugs that make up the entire midsection of the climb. Twenty feet off the belay, I set a highly suspect tricam. Twenty feet after that, I placed an even worse blue Camalot. Ten feet after that, I got in the most frightening gold Camalot imaginable. If only I had saved the blue! When I finally did get some decent pro, the difficulty of the pitch was over. The belay was as Whiteside as they come, a rusty knife blade piton next to three chopped bolts. After an extended bout of marginal engineering, I finally had an anchor composed of the pin, a funky tricam, and two tiny brass nuts. If “SF” was annoyed with the time I had just eaten up, I could in no way blame him.
|The slabbier right flank of Whiteside|
Not as dedicated as “SF”, I ended up grabbing a draw and through one of the crux moves. It was not intentional. I literally could not find anything at all to grab, not even the thinnest of micro crimps. “SF” assured me there was a little mica side pull, but I certainly did not see it. After my shameful draw grabbing experiment, I got established back on the rock, got a high smear, and busted for the slopey rail above. I barely stuck it, but after the viscous face climbing below, it felt like a handle bar. Because I was on top rope, the pitch was basically over. After botching a mantle thirty five feet above the last bolt and nearly falling, I was glad this was the case. Chances are that I would have started crying or some other embarrassing thing had I been on the sharp end.
|Runout and loving it|
After scrambling through the tree ledge, we were finally ready to begin the last pitch. “SF” originally had said that he was worried about this pitch, but it really did not look that bad. Hoping to redeem myself for my cowardice earlier, I offered to give it a go. We were out of water and both quite thirsty, so I took no hesitation and quickly started climbing. The crux came right off the ledge. I got decent pro right afterwards and romped up the slab above, taking a short break to dig dirt out of a deep solution pocket in order to place a cam. After that, the climbing kicked back to around 5.5, but the pro completely disappeared. I love that sort of thing. Easy, run out slab is one of life's simple pleasures. This pleasure ended quite abruptly when I topped out the route. I realized I was doing so in the wrong place almost immediately, but by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late. I was hopelessly tangled in a web of briers. I could see my salvation two feet in front of me, but it might as well have been a mile away. At least sixty feet above my last piece and being cut to shreds, I grabbed into my camera case and grabbed the leatherman tool “SF” had loaned me. One by one, I broke the prickly vines with the pliers and made slow progress. Twenty minutes later, I had dug a small cave and climbed through it to the top. After belaying “SF” up, he informatively let me know that I had topped out in the wrong place.
On top of the climb, we were a cross between heroes and oddities. Alone on the wall, we were now surrounded by a horde of people taking in the beautiful view from atop the mountain. Most interestingly, we met a deaf and mute man from Korea who used to climb in his youth. Climbing is such a universal language that climbers do not even need formal language to communicate. From hand gestures alone, we discovered he used to climb with pitons and prefers crimps over jugs. After finishing up with our new friend, we loaded our gear up and headed off to the least creative pizza place on the planet. You do not have to believe me, but this restaurant is actually called "The Pizza Place". It may have been the worst pizza in the world, but after climbing my first grade IV up the wildest mountain on the East Coast, it might as well have been a three star restaurant.
|Obligatory scenery shot|