Scott and I hit the Organs again today without a real definite destination in mind, but agreeing that somewhere in the region of the Citadel would be a good place to start. By the time we got into Rabbit Ear Canyon we had agreed to try out routes on Barb's Buttress. I didn't have any topos for this face, but had glanced at some done by Charlie Cundiff, and knew that there was supposed to be a good 5.6-5.7 route on the wall.
When I got back this evening, I drew up this topo using PDF Annotater on Charlie's file.
Route A-1: We didn't have time to jump on this but I marked it because I saw two bolts on the route, and it looks like a good line. Both bolts are 3/8" and appear in good shape. The route looks like it could go from 5.7-59 slab.
Route A-2: This is the climb we jumped on first. We broke it up into two pitches, with Scott leading the first 80ft to a Juniper tree/ledge. The first pitch climbs a short corner and then some loose-sounding blocks to gain the ledge. Climbing isn't that hard (5.7+?) but the rock could be better. The corner is good though. From the ledge, climb left past an old 1/4" bolt (with a shiny 3/8" right next to it) and then up an exposed section of slab. The climbing isn't too hard (5.7+?) but crux moves are 10ft higher than the bolt and are committing. I then followed easier climbing past a bolt and up to a small juniper beneath a headwall. We rapped fromt eh juniper with two 60 ms and hit the ground.
Route A-3: If I had to guess, this is route that I would call Buckey blue from scattered information I have heard from local climbers. We climbed 200 ft of excellent climbing, nothing harder than 5.7. The climbing after the first stunted juniper was pleasant. Ok, so that's not too descriptive but that's how we felt. the rock was solid, and had an aesthetic look, the route follows under an overlap with a top-out crux. Scott belayed from a ledge just underneath a large right-facing corner. I took the final lead and opted not towards a lone 1/4' bolt on a slab, but instead charged up the large corner (5.7). There is a large ledge with an ancient juniper covered in tattered poot slings, and I stopped here rather than continue up what looked like low-fifth. We rapped from the juniper with tw0 60ms and hit the ground.
route A-4: Before heading up the previous climb, I had spied a lone bolt on a slab under a roof-corner problem. After rapping A-3 (Buckey Blue) we still had time for a quick pitch, and I convinced Scott that we should try this roof. The bolt was curious, in the middle of a short slab section surrounded by 4th class climbing. I was skeptical that the bolt led to anything, and doubted even that the roof/corner would go. Just past the bolt and under the roof is a huge hollow flake, which can only be described as a bongo flake. I seem to recall hearing this description for granite flakes elsewhere, but now I understand it: you could pound out a nice rhythm on this flake. the roof proved to be protectable and climbable. It is essentially a boulder problem, being only 8 ft high, but and it took me one failure before I figured out a sequence. By working your feet up high and using a lay-back, I was able to extend my right hand to just below the top of the crack, where it took a weak finger jam. I then attempted to bump my left hand out to the lip of the roof, but was not able to grab anything and was losing my balance in the crack. it wasn't until my right foot accidentally got stuck in the crack lower down in a toe-hook fashion that I was able to balance, and then grab a large jug with my left hand. So how hard was it? If I bouldered more, I could probably relate it to a V1(+), but I haven't been bouldering in a while and could be way off. Scott wasn't tall enough to use my beta, and wasn't able to figure out a different sequence.
The big surprise for me today was seeing another pair of climbers. Because there is so little information about the climbing in the Organs, I find myself believing that climbers just aren't out here these days. I imagine that most of these routes haven't been climbed since the hey-day in the 80's and 90's. But then I see these two climbers, tackling a rock formation on the north side of Rabbit Ear canyon across from the Citadel which I have don't even know the name of. These guys could be climbing all sorts of routes, on unnamed formations, and be familiar with all these old routes I've been trying out this past year. I look around some more and see fresh bail gear on The Nose (on Citadel) which I climbed a year ago, more evidence that people are out here more than I would think. In a way, it makes me feel guilty for wanting to gather and make public Route beta. Part of what I enjoy about the Organs is being able to go out and climb something without any beta. It feels like you are first ascentionist, even if you stumble across old pitons, or new bolts. By trying to publish a guide, would I be taking some of this away from future climbers? It's a ridiculous argument when you think about most other climbing areas in the country, but I see some merit in it. Not having public information on the climbs, means less climbers coming here, less impact to the environment, and more rewarding adventures for those who like this kind of climbing. This argument works best for long-time residents, who have the opportunity to explore the wide-ranging Organs year after year. For climbers who are in town only short periods of time, it could be frustrating; not knowing what places have good routes and are worth the effort, not being able to tap into a local climbing community, because it really isn't there. That's the other issue I have with the lack of information on the climbing here. It seems that the lack of information leads to the lack of a climbing community. Those few who know the ways and routes may only climb in small circles. I have been making forrays into the Organs for 2 years now, and have met only one "Old-timer" local with deep knowledge of the routes here. As a result, my thirst for more information is limited to how many trips I can get in. I'm realizing this is a weak argument, but I think this issue is one which I need to hash out more thoroughly. Maybe during my next climbing trip...