After the marathon rescue a few weeks ago, I was a little surprised that Ben Nadler was ready to go climbing with me again. This time, we chose a crag closer to the Organ Needle, so when the rescue call goes out we would be there already. It was a perfect day, cool and sunny, and perfectly warm. The approach up to the Tooth was a breeze, even with three dogs in tow. Ben brought his heeler-mutts Dyna and Mo so Sasha was in good company. We decided on climbing Tooth Fairy, mainly because it offered quality crack climbing and Ben seems to think cracks are the only thing worth climbing. Ben took the first lead, taking the standard start up the 5.8 crack. He cruised the pitch, even with terrible rope drag. I've done this pitch before, and should have danced up it, but the 5.9 corner crack caused me to hesitate. I racked up for the crux second pitch which also happens to be the most beautiful pitch of the climb. I don't remember this pitch being run-out, or all that difficult, but I was sweating it today. Before launching into the crux slab moves to establish myself into the crack seam, I must have stared at the wall for a good 5 minutes, thinking "how did I do this before". Eventually I gave up trying to remember and just climbed it, and the moves all became apparent as I reached them. When I got into the seam though, I found it difficult to place some gear. The start of the crack is a very shallow "two-finger" crack. I foolishly tried to through in some cams, and all the placements sucked. I wasn't on a good stance and was starting to sweat more as I fiddled with gear. I could throw out the excuse of using Ben's rack which was unfamiliar to me, but really I should have seen that a large wire-stopper would have been easy to place and just thrown one in. In stead, my arms started getting juiced and I labored up the crack, finally reaching the hand-jams and a good rest. A year after first climbing the route, where's my nerve, and climbing sauviness?
Fortunately for me, Ben took the last lead. The last pitch fights past a small oak in a crack, and then claws up some grassy cracks to a Sotol yucca. After the Sotol, there is a beautiful finger crack for the final headwall. when I climbed the route previously, I avoided all this by staying to the right on 5.8 grassy cracks. The direct finish is much better, but also stouter. Again I was glad Ben lead the pitch, he made the finger-crack look easy plugging in all sorts of gear. It took a good deal of my effort just to follow cleanly. Tight finger cracks are something I'll have to work on. Ben gave me a tip later which I'll have to try out. Instead of having your body hang off the finger jams, you can apply body tension using your abs to both help your fingers lock into the crack with less effort, and to cause your feet to press against the wall harder, allowing you to feel more stable on smaller foot-holds. Photo: Ben Nadler on the final pitch's finger crack.
We only had one rope to rappel the route, which works, but you have to rely on some sub-par rappel anchors, like 1/4" bolts and angle pitons.