Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Wedge, Shillelagh

A little over a year since Scott and I climbed the Wedge's West Ridge, we came back to climb the other classic route on the Wedge, The Shillelagh route. Scott has been talking about doing this climb for a while, it's special appeal being how the first ascentionists used a wooden stick to aid up the crux, giving the route it's name. Scott was hoping the Shillelagh would still be there...

I made the mistake of taking Sasha. On the past few climbing trips she's been on, she was great. This time though, the 4rth class scarmbling and heavy bush-whacking were too much for her, and it was all I could do to coax her out of hiding so that I could haul her over obstacles. I got pretty adept at slinging her under one arm and climbing up 4rth class slabs.

I posted the full route description at Mountain Project. My first impressions of the first pitch was that it looked easier than 5.9. I was in for a treat. After the chimney section was a nice ledge and a steep handcrack bulge. It looked like one could escape the difficult moves by reaching around the corner to the left and reaching into a separate crack. But it also looked like I could attack the crack straight on, move up on a good jam, and make a reach for a shallow ledge. I attempted just this and gained the ledge, and was very happy with myself, until I wasn't able to pull up past the ledge. There wasn't a good jam or hold past the ledge, my feet were poorly placed, and the shallow ledge was slightly sloping and I was pumping out hanging on it. I fidgeted for about a minute, trying to position my body right to get through. then I got pumped, and thought about trying to down-climb the difficult jam move in order to get back to the ledge. I didn't get the chance, a slipped off the ledge, and took a tumble.

The fall wasn't very far, maybe 10 feet before my purple camelot brought me to a stop. I don't remember being scared, or really gaining much speed, but I ended up with my head facing down and a massive ache on my back. My leg had caught under the rope and flipped me around. My back must have slammed into the rock, or perhaps the descent shoes tied to my back were crushed between me and the wall. Either way, my back hurt, and my heart raced as Scott called up to see if I was ok. I took about a five minute breather on the ledge, regained my composure and backed-up my purple camelot. Then I jumped back on the climb, this time getting a better foot placement and passing the crux. It's a good feeling: to succeed where once you failed, to triumph after a defeat, and to muster up courage instead of cowering after a thrashing. I felt good belaying Scott up the route, my head clear, enjoying the wonderful views of Squaretop peak.

I led the rest of the route and let Scott finish the last pitch that is shared with the West Ridge Route. We ate a hearty snack of sardines and saltines at the top and enjoyed being at the top.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rough and Ready Hills, Scott's new trad line

Scott has been great this past week, helping to install our new patio door. This morning, he showed up at 9am and finished casing the door, a tricky job due to the walls of our house not being plumb. I guess the reason he's being so nice is that I've been very agreeable to where we've been going climbing this past month. After finishing the job this morning (as well as bacon and eggs grace a Liz) we headed out to the rough and readies to finish off a trad route that Scott has been eying for some time.

Scott's route takes a clean-crack just left of one of his other new unnamed routes. the crack is fun, and well protected and tops out on a ledge about 60 ft high. Instead of stopping here though, Scott continued up over low-fifth jumble of loose rock until he gained a final 20 ft head-wall. this is the kind of climbing most climbers avoid, especially at a sport-area like the Rough and Readies. The only time climbers purposely climb over rotten rock is to reach summits, so this had the feel of training for a mountain route. The final 20 ft was a little better, and it achieved something that very few Rough and Ready climbs do, it attains the top of the crag. We un-roped and meandered around on the plateau above, noting that the other jeep in the parking lot was gone, and commenting on the chossy upper cliffs, and how there could be some routes in there as well.

The second reason for leading this trad climb was to throw a rope over an adjacent roof formation to see if it would make a good route. The over-hanging section was actually pretty good, with good incut holds up the steep section and solid-sounding rock. Too bad the first 30 ft is a chossy mess. I think Scott still wants to bolt it though.

We finished the day with burns on Rough Rider (5.11a) and Brangus Muffins (5.11b), both led by Scott. My arms are not used to these pump-fests.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pena Blanca, Outing with OMTRS

I heard that the Organ mtn Search and Rescue Team (OMTRS) was going to be training at Pena Blanca today and decided to meet up with them. I've known about the team ever since moving to las Cruces. My first climbing partner was an OMTRS member named Steve Kellum and I distinctly remember him not being able to climb on several occasions because he had to train with the OMTRS. I decided then that I was not interested in joining this group, because it would take away from my precious climbing days. Now two years later, i am considering becoming a member. It's not that I have any urge to do mountain rescue, but as far as I can tell, there the closest thing to a local climbing community. I'm eager to meet more local climbers and learn explore more of the Organs, and this group seems to be all for it.

They were easy enough to find, 3 SUVs, one with the OMTRS logo on its side, passed me by near the Volcano, and I quickly caught up with them on the approach to the Garden area. The president, john, welcomed me to join them and up we went. their training mainly consisted of teaching basic rock-climbing skills to new memeber; how to belay, tie knots, basic climbing technique etc... I was happy enough to set up two ropes for them on the Garden Slabs, both new routes for me. The new climbers didn't seem to mind dso much that the routes I set up were on crumbling, and rotten rock, making the climbing sketchy and dirty. I guess their used to La Cueva, and also other "training" scenarios during which rotten rock is all part of the game.

One other climber I had met before at Hueco, Grady, and we set up a few harder routes, one on an un-named formation just up hill from El Diabolo. The corner on the north-east side was challenging and sharp, with a crux move to skin-tearing finger slot. The cooler temps definitely helped keep the skin on.