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.

1 comment:

George said...

Great stuff Aaron! Nice meeting you on the approach road. Thanks for showing us we could drive the approach road into the Tooth and Wedge. I hope we'll get back to try the Wedge sometime this spring- it looks awesome! ~G