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.