Friday, May 2, 2008

East Slabs of Sugarloaf

Over a month and no climbing, so what do I go and do on my first climb? I go and solo a long 5.5 in the Organs on a slab I've never been to before. To be fair, I've been to Sugarloaf many times, and am pretty familiar with the approach. But the East Slabs aren't even really in sight during the approach. I felt like exploring today. I took my climbing shoes, harness and a light rack and rope "just in case" and Sasha and I struck out for the slabs.

At a small saddle before the slabs I came across a nice camp where it appears that climbers have stock-piled supplies. It looks like the stuff has been un-touched for a long time, and if I needed the water, I'd use it. The rest of the gear was in pretty sorry shape, but the camp looked cozy and I'm already thinking about who I can convince to spend a week-end up there climbing all the slab routes.

At the base of the slabs, I tied Sasha up and scouted out the routes. I was able to identify the starts of most of them, and the rock was beautiful and inviting. Slabs so mellow you could run up them, lumpy hand-holds through-out. After my quick scouting, I decided I'd jump onto the Normal Route.

The start of the route>>

I had a light rack of nuts and tri-cams, as well as my aid hook and a 30 m rope. This is how I justify doing risky things, telling myself if I get sketched out I can simply put in some pro and get through or bail. I should have brought a bolt-kit too, because there isn't much pro you can place on a slab.

I didn't get sketched out though, in fact I felt good. Calm and steady, I made my way up the route. I took my time, and paused frequently to check the topo I had. The light was strong, my focus was good and I let the accumulated stress of the last few weeks flush out of me.

I don't solo climb often, and I always prefer to climb roped up. I thought about this as I made my way over the delicate slab, how much of a difference a rope can make. ON climbs like this one, even being roped up doesn't help much because there are sections of slab over a hundred feet long without any protection. But still, knowing that if something were to go wrong, you have a safety net is a big psychological effect. And it kept my mind occupied for the first 200 ft or so. At some point though, I stopped thinking about how I was doing something potentially dangerous, and simply let myself wander over the rock, and follow the contours and cracks. Exploring and investigating different possibilities. Looking around myself and seeing blank but welcoming rock.

Hopefully I'll be back at those slabs again, preferably with a partner. For now though, I'll curl up with Liz and sleep soundly and contentedly.