Saturday, January 3, 2009

La Cueva: West End short-lines

The OMTRS had a training out at La Cueva today which consisted of setting anchors and rappelling/ascending a fixed line. We set up lines on the "Training Wall", a short rotten cliff formation off to the NW of the west end of the main La Cueva rocks. I brought my climbing gear with me and set up a top-rope on Swainson while the rest of the team was getting situated. After people had had enough of placing gear, they took a try on the top-rope. It's been almost three years since I first climbed this Top-rope. This time, I backed up the old 1/4" bolts with a pair of tri-cams. My maxim is "When climbing with the OMTRS, be extra safe". Even with this creed, climbing around the OMTRS still makes me feel inadequate safety-wise. I think this is partly because people sometimes put a lot of trust in my gear and anchors because I have a reputation as a climber. Regardless, several people tried Swainson and no one could figure out the moves. I didn't remember the route being that tricky, but I was beginning to doubt my memory. Memory also has a funny way of messing with your mind. I alos started thinking that maybe I was in better climbing shape back then, even though when we first got to Cruces, it had been almost a year since I had climbed. I eventually got a turn on Swainson and zipped right up it. I still would call the route a 5.9+. It's good to know that I've maintained some kind of consistency throughout my years here.

At around 2pm, the rescue team was hiking out, leaving Bob Cort and myself behind. Bob's been dropping hints about wanting someone to take him climbing at the last few missions, and I was gung-ho to climb today, so we made a good pair. Together we knocked out 6 more short routes in the area, none of which I had climbed before.

Route : Kestrel
Length: 30 ft
Rating: 5.6
Ample. Not very good gear for the anchor though. I was able to use the tricams that were already in place for the Top-rope of Swainson which saved me some time. A bolt at the top would be nice.
Description:The first route we tackled was the short crack system just to the left of Swainson. I had nearly soloed up this entire route while other were climbing Swainson, but decided it would be better to wait for a belayer. The crack is pretty short, and has two large pods which make it distinctive. I stuffed my new #5 camelot in the bottom pod. The second pod took a cam at the bottom, and then I finagled a pink tricam into a pocket above the pod. The final moves exiting the last pod are the most exposed (the ones I didn't want to solo) and I managed to get another small cam in a pocket to protect this move. Bob found the start to be the hardest moves. The first pod is right-leaning and awkward to pull into. He cruised the rest of the route and even was able to get out a very firmly placed tri-cam.

Route : Peregrine
Length: 30 ft
Protection: Difficult to build anchor.
Rating: 5.11
Description: After climbing Kestrel, I wanted to set-up a top-rope on a steep crack-seam just a little bit further east. The top of this route is a nice ledge with a small tree, but not much for gear placements. Luckily, my #5 camelot fit at the very back of the ledge and provided the foundation for our top-rope anchor. I supplemented this cam with two tri-cam placements and use dup almost all the extenders I had in order to have our rope be close to the edge. The route is as hard as it looks. It might be leadable, but is more like a high-ball boulder problem. I started it by lay-backing the seam for about 15 ft. The lay-back petered out and I found myself transitioning to some suspect face holds. The seam is a shallow corner at this point and I was able to stem myself up another 10 ft until I could make a reach out right to a sharp finger jam. If I was to lead the climb, it would almost make the most sense to simply boulder up until you get place a wire in this hold. Only the final moves would be protected, and you could take a pretty big fall. The landing is flat though, but it would still take a lot of guts. The sharp finger jam is bomber, but also very painful. I matched my left hand just above it, shuffled feet around, then reached a second sharp finger jam. This one was not quite as good, but still quite painful. From these holds I was able to pull up and top-out. Bob was able to get up the lay-back section but was stymied by the stemming section. We opted to scramble around to clean the anchor and find the next climb rather than tire ourselves out on this one any more.

There were a few possible routes to the left of Peregrine. Just to the left is the slab that we climb to get to the Tyrolean low-point ledge. Next to this is a very loose looking chimney. Around the corner to the left were two left-sloping crack systems which looked like good rock. These were our next two climbs.

Route : Proving Ground
Length: 50-60 ft depnding on finish
Ample. I used my #5 camelot again but I could have just has easily found a spot deeper in the crack that would have worked. I placed 3-4 more pieces up the route, including a suspect red-TCU in a pocket for the variation finish.
Description: To gain the crack system, I first had to climb up a 10 ft low-angle face. This was the 5.7 section, and while not that difficult, I had to make a conscious effort to avoid to rotten looking holds. Bob popped a couple of these off while seconding. Once I gained the crack, I was able to place some gear, and the rock quality seemed to improve somewhat. The wide crack seemed to be more of a hindrance than anything, keeping me off balance as I climbed up the ramp on good positive holds. The crack does supply ample protection though. I topped out, but didn't find any fixed gear for anchors. Instead of simply building an anchor right there though, I down-climbed 10 ft, and then climbed up an exposed face to the right of the crack. This gains a higher summit, and I build a nice anchor with large stoppers and a big cam. I belayed Bob from this hanging belay. To descend, I lowered Bob off, cleaned the anchor, and down-climbed the ridge a little bit to the east where I remembered a piton rappel was found. I backed up the piton and had Bob lower me off. PHOTO: Me at the top of the variation finish. Most of the route is not visible.

Route: Nothing to prove
Length: 50 ft
Rating: 5.5
Good. I used the #5 camelot again at the crux down-low. Bob noticed that half-way up was a 1/4" bolt stud (no hanger or nut). The top anchor can use the piton and another 1/4" bolt stud.
Description: I pulled th rope down and led up this crack. I remember trying this route solo once, back when the OMTRS did the Tyrolean last year. I didn't get past the first crux, which was a wide section of the crack at an awkward bulge. There are face holds which can be used, but they looked rotten to me and not worth soloing on. Today I had a rope though, and did not hesitate up the crack. I still avoided the rotten looking holds, favoring a chicken wing in the crack instead. I think this may make the route feel a little harder, but Bob showed me that using the holds was quite acceptable (they didn't break at least) and made the moves more straight-forward. After this first crux, the rest of the climb is extremely easy. It left me wondering why someone had even bothered placing the 1/4" bolt at the mid-point. PHOTO: Bob Cort in Blue and myself in Red

It was now 4pm, and I offered to pack it in for the day. Bob rebutted that he still ahd some climb in him, so we walked a short ways east to the next good-looking routes. We passed up the short 5.4s that I've soloed to gain the summit ridge before. These are a good option for descent if you don't want to rappel off the piton on the previous routes.

Route: B-Route
Length: 45 ft
Rating: 5.5
Sparse. Only two small gear placements before I got to the top of the seam.
Description: This route and the next converge at the same point about 40 ft up. The start is very low-angled, so my first protection was about 20 ft up. The route is a left-leaning crack on the low-angled face. At the top of the crack, a small chute/chimney gains a ledge at the top. Good face holds were present along the hole climb, but there were also lots of rotten holds that I tried to avoid. A built an anchor with two ssmll wires and a 0 TCU. I looked around for some fixed gear but didn't see anything. I belayed Bob from the ground and he cruised the route.

Route: A-Route
Length: 45 ft
Rating: 5.6
Sufficient. This crack offered more options and with more frequency than its neighbor. It also had more animal scat in it.
Description: This was the left-hand crack of the two cracks that make an "A". It felt slightly steeper, and slightly more challenging, as the left-hand wall made one have to think about one's balance a little more. Again, I did not protect until about half-way up. The rock was similar, ample positive holds, but many of them suspect looking. I tried my best to tip-toe up. PHOTO: Me on "A"-route

Since I hadn't seen any fixed gear, we had a scheme worked out for the descent. I was to lower Bob off, then clean the anchor. Bob would put me on belay and I would down-climb the ridge to the 5.4 down-climb route, staying on the far (south) side of the ridge so that if I fell, I would fall on the opposite side and Bob could catch me. Turns out this was unnecessary, after down-climbing a few moves I discovered two shiny 3/8" bolts with rappel rings on them.

It was then 5pm, and the park was closing. Since I know Bob checks this blog, thanks again for climbing with me today. I've been wanting to jump on those routes for a while. And there's plenty more at La Cueva to try out for the next time. Also thanks for taking all these pictures. All pictures on this blog and the pages were taken by Bob. It seems that unless I have someone else to be photographer, I don't end up with many graphics to supplement my rambling route descriptions.

1 comment:

Bobo said...

Thanks Aaron. It was fun, I learned a lot, and I'm ready to go again anytime you're willing to take a relative newbie along.