Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pena Blanca: Asian Boulder

I really wanted to get out, so after finishing some painting for Liz, Sasha and I drove out to Pena Blanca for a bit of bouldering. I warmed up on the Smith family Boulders. The rubber on my "new" Katana climbing shoes is worn through at the toe and is starting to be a hindrance. So much for having high-performance shoes. I think I trashed them while scuffing up on slab routes.

I checked out some boulders I hadn't been to before, all the way around to the east side of the rock formations. The first boulder with good problems turned out to be a boulder called "The Jewell. On the SW corner of the bolder is a nice hollow with a perfectly formed hold, what appears to be two giant testicles dangling. They are large enough where they need to be palmed and require some decent body tension to pull the first moves. I flashed the exit to the right starting from these holds which according to a local's website is a V1. I also flashed the problem on the SE corner another V1 called Bling Bling. The slabby face looked fun but I wasn't in the mood.

Slightly further up the hill is a large boulder with some wild looking problems. I took one of the shorter ones which started in a narrow cleft between two boulders. It is a short problem but satisfyingly tricky. The starting holds are poor sidepulls. Once on the wall, I needed to do a balancy move to reach a high right hand side-pull. Once on this, I took several attempts to work out some foot-work which got me high enough to go for the top lip of the boulder. A stronger climber could probably hit the top all static, but for me it was a smooth dyno, the kind that you're surprised to actually stick. In faact, I'm not sure I was even gripping hard when I stuck the dyno and remember thinking to myself, "I should be falling, because I'm not gripping". After getting over this shock, I mantled up and was elated. Lowell rates this as V2 and doesn't even give it a name, but it felt like a triumph to me.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rough and Readies: Putting up a new line of bolts

I have climbed things that felt like First Ascents before, top-roped choss piles that surely had never been climbed, and even led obscure little cliffs, but never had I installed a line of hardware and made a permanent mark on a rock saying, "this is my route". That is, not until today. Truth be told, it was not really my route, but Bob Almond's. When we were out last week-end Bob took a fancy to a face to the left of some 5.11s. Bob has an eye for sport routes, and was involved in many first ascents in Potrero Chico down in Mexico. I guess the itch to bolt rock returned, and Bob called me up to see if I was interested in helping him equip the route. It was also convenient that I had bolts and hangers.

We warmed up on Windy Gap Overlook, the first climb one reaches upon getting to the crag and a pretty soft 5.9. What sets it apart from most of the climbs at the Rough and Readies is that it typically requires a piece of trad protection between the first and 2nd bolts. The climbing between these bolts is easier, maybe only 5.6, but you are definitely in groundfall territory by the time you get to the second bolts, and there are good placements for wires, cams or whatever it is you like to use. I lead the route and Bob cleaned and we were ready to get down to business.

The first challenge for our new route was to set up a top-rope. We had two basic options, scramble sround to the top and lower down off of something, or lead up one of the athletic 5.11s next to the new route. Ego dictated that we lead up one of the 5.11s, we were putting up a new route after-all and had to prove ourselves. I got the sharp end for the route, Well-disciplined Monkey, which starts off extremely overhung and pulls a crux at the lip of the overhanging section. I had tried this climb once before a couple years back and the crux chewed me out. It was no different today. After making the strenous clip on the thir bolt a flailed trying to get past the lip of the overhang, making desparate grabs at poor holds and acocmplishing nothing more than muscle fatigue. Not making progress is humbling, so I had Bob lower me and handed over the sharp end to him. Bob climbed the route with intelligence. When he got to the third bolt crux, he had me tack up slack and took a nice rest. Then he tackled the crux with style and finished up the route.

The new line we equipped shares anchors with "Well Disciplined Monkey", so Bob set a top-rope over the climb and rapped down it placing directionals where-ever possible. He was able to find quite a few placements and it almost looked like you could lead the climb on trad gear, but then, a lot of the Rough and Readies climbs could probably be led by stuffing small cams in the finger pockets. Not only would this remove the best holds from the climbs, but the placements would be un-trustworthy due to the nature of the rock. So despite having placements almost the entire length of the route, we chalked out placements for bolts on top-rope, and cleaned off as much of the loose rock as we could. Bob made short work of bolting the route using is 30 volt hilti cordless hammer drill. Five shiny new bolts lead up out of a rotten crack and traverse out on the steep face and up to the anchors. The bolts are Fixe 3/8"x3.5" at of standard zinc plated steel.
Bob top-roping the route, cleaning loose rock etc.. notice the ample gear placements>>

The route climbed well, although, after leading it we both found some criticisms for how we bolted it. The 1st bolt is fairly high, the second bolt is very difficult to clip, after clipping the forth bolt the rope naturally gets stuck behind a flake and needs to flipped out. Hopefully others will judge our work more favorably, but we were both happy with the climb. Bob named it "Riding Rough on Helen Reddy". Clever, if you know Helen Reddy is, but I didn't. Apparently some famous singer...

Bob leading the route on our shiny new bolts>>

We celebrated the new climb with a pint and burger at high Desert. If first ascents are always like this, than I'm sure we'll be doing more.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Rough and Readies

Bob Almond, Ross Allen and I headed over to the Rough and Readies after an OMTRS trash pick-up in the morning. I haven't been out to the R&Rs for quite some time (since February?) and was pretty sure that the sporty climbs would humble me. We came prepared for cold, as the cliff gets shade all afternoon, but it was actually quite mild and pleasant. I started off our session on Halitosis Monkey, 5.10c. Its a short 5.10 only 3 bolts long, and I figured that even if I pump out quickly I could get through it. Bob flashed up it next and then Ross spent some time working out the crux moves. His height allowed him to reach holds differently than Bob and I had, but he struggled at the crux.

Ross lead up the nearby 5.8 First Move. he claims to not have a very good lead head but he looked comfortable to me. Instead of following him up, I pulled the rope down and led up the short 5.10 between First Move and Halitosis, a little route put up by Scot Jones called Little Brangus. This is another "easy" 5.10 but what makes it exciting is that a fair amount of the holds on the climb are suspect. The clipping hold for the first bolt is a funky chock that looks like it could pop right out on you. Bob cleaned the route.

To my dismay, a small swarm of Bees was attracted to Sashas water dish. I was hoping that the cold weather would have put them into hibernation, but they were still out. Sasha snapped at them, and they got into our boots and chalk-bags, but otherwise were not too much a nuisance. Unfortunatly, their nest underneath Blood Sweat and Steers is still active and none of us were brave enough to hop on one of the routes in that area with the buzzing emanating from the hive.

Instead, Bob hopped on The Paw. He had previously worked out a sequence for the top section that avoids going into the crack on the left. However, on lead, he couldn't remember the sequence. I gave it a shot and wasn't much better. Even Ross with his extra reach couldn't puzzle it out. Eventually, Bob re-worked it out on TR. The key is to grap a small hold at the bottom of a right-handed side pull, but grab it with the left hand. This is not a natural hand to grab the hold with, ut after you work your feet up you can rock up and make the reach to the tiny right-hand crimp under the chains. Its a devious move.

Our last climb was on the way out, on the oddly technical Southern Fried. I had worked this route out previously with Scott and led it. The crux has an awkward clipping hold, then a funny heel-hook traverse to gain the big holds on the left arete and get up to the chains. Even after pulling the crux, I was having a hard time clipping the chains, because the clipping holds under the chains are overhanging and require some decent arm strength. I ended up at a stance a body-length away to the left awkwardly groping out to clip the chains. While we were climbing this last route, another group of climbers was on the North End routes. One of those climbers, Tanner, is an OMTRS member and we chatted a bit on the way down. They had a puppy with them which Sasha was having fun knocking over.