Sunday, March 1, 2009

East Slabs with the OMTRS

When I found out that the OMTRS was doing a "training" to the East Slabs of Sugarloaf, I immediately wanted to camp out at the cave. Bob Almond immediately took me up on a camping trip, and we put out an open invite to the team.

My main concern for camping out was water. The last time I camped at the cave, I went through tons of water. This time a few factors were in my favor, I wasn't bringing Sasha who can drink a half-gallon a day, it wasn't mid-summer, and I already knew that 4 gallon were stashed there. None-the-less, I was resolved not to eat into the water reserves and carried a full 7 liters of water with me for the week-end. This combined with a rack, a rope, sleeping gear, food and all my bolting tools added up to a heavy pack. Maybe I was punishing myself in some kind of competitiveness, as Josie was also going to be camping at the cave. I recalled from the last OMTRS overnight on Organ Needle that she could carry way heavier packs than me, and also brought 2+ gallons of water with her. We'll see who has the heaviest pack this time.

I was relieved when the hike in went quickly, and wasn't all that stressful. Compared to the Organ Needle hike, the trail was less steep and was shorter. We left the Aguirre group parking by 9am and were at the Cave by 1030.

A pair of the faster OMTRS hikers, two students named Joe and Anne, immediately struck off for the climbs. I hung around the cave for a bit to make sure people could find the place. Dropping my pack, I sauntered off down the "trail" and was just in time to yell at three hikers who were heading up the wron way, towards the top of the East Slab rather than where the routes were. Satisfied that the team was on the right track, I went back to the cave to gear up for the climbing. Bob Almond had given his twin ropes to two of the faster hikers whoe were already there, so I decided that I'd take a few climbers up the Great Bowl route. Josie and Bob Cort were both getting ready to climb, and I had climbed with them before and had some idea of their capabilities, so we formed up a team. The bulk of the OMTRS was arriving at the Cave as we were heading out to the route. We also could see that Joe and Anne had stayed too high on the traversing approach to the East Slabs, and were starting up a climb that wasn't on any of the topos we had brought. I felt somewhat to blame for their misdirection, as I had tried to point them out where they needed to go, but apparently I hadn't been very precise. No matter, they had all they needed for a good time.

The Great Bowl route was Bob Cort's first ever multi-pitch. Not to make things any easier for him, I had to explain to him how a two-rope climbing system worked. Both he and josie made the climb look easy. the most trying aspect of the day was dealing with the cold. While gearing up at the Cave, it was warm and we all struck off in our base layers. As we climbed, the sun quickly disappeared behind Sugarloaf and a chilly breeze struck up. By the second pitch we were all shivering. We briefly discussed exiting the route to the right so as to get off quicker, but my thirst to climb Ingraham's Dihedral won out. I gave Bob Cort my shell (which I thankfully decided to carry for emergencies) and Josie pulled on a purple fleece she had tied around her waste and we forged ahead.

Bob Cort and Josie following the third traversing pitch.

Ingraham's Dihedral was every much as good as I had hoped. The pro was very thin, only small wires in shallow placements but stemming provided very secure stances. The crux moves were exiting out the top of the dihedral, not hard moves really, but 15 ft above only tiny wires and 5.8. I arrived at the belay and just as Karl kiser had mentione din one of his posts, the bolts needed replacing. One was a Star Drive-in, a type of bolt that consists of a nail hammered into an aluminum sleeve to expand it into the hole. Every bolting web-site I've read says this type of bolt is no good, but this was the first time I had ever run across one. Bob Cort and Josie had the lucky opportunity to get a lesson in bolting.

It feels a little odd, showing people how to place bolts when I myself have only done it a hadnful of times. It's not a very complicated matter, but the fact that if you do it wrong you could cost someone his life adds gravity to the subject. we pulled out the Star Drive-in first (I backed up the anchor with a cam first). It came out relatively easily and was in a 3/8" hole, so we didn't have to drill long before we installed our first bolt. The other bolt was a 1/4" pound-in, which also cam out easily. I kept thiking back to when I first replaced bolts out here on the East Slabs, how I couldn't get the bolts out at all, and ended up shearing them off and drilling new holes. Things went so much better this time.

Replacing the bolt anchors at the top of Ingraham's Dihedral.

At the top of the route

By the time we finished the climb and got back to the Cave, the rest of the OMTRS team had already left. Aside from Anne and Joe, no one had gone for the multi-pitch routes. Bob Almond found them a 5.8 TR which a bunch of people tried, but I was extremely surprised that their hadn't been more multi-pitch parties. Several people had brought racks and ropse, so there was plenty of gear to send up multiple parties. A mystery to me. Bob Cort hurried off down the trail to catch up with the rest of theam while the rest of us settled in for the night. Bob Almond had a fire going already and cooked up a feast of sausages and roast veggies. Josie was joined by her husband Matt who hiked up in the evening.

Sunrise on our camp

I really like the Cave camp. it's got room enough for 2-5 people, a neat cooking area and a decent stash of water and equipment. I took a full inventory in the morning while the rest were sleeping.
Cave Camp Inventory March 1st, 2009
A 5 gallon bucket suspended in the cave contained the following
  • MRE (heating packet and silverware only)
  • Paper plates, ~20
  • Food bag containing; lemon lime drink powder, old dried raisins, 1lbd macaroni, 1/2 lb oatmeal, 3 teebags, 1 cherry drink powder, 1 freeze-dried coffe pack and salt&pepper packs
  • Blue plastic cup (16 oz)
  • 2 spoons, 1 fork and home-made chopsticks
  • large roll of paper towels
  • 1/2 roll of Toilet paper
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 4 match books and a lighter
  • 1 can of gatorade powder (very hardened)
  • 5 moist towlettes
  • 1 chicken flavor packet crystals
  • 1 candle stub
  • ~5 sip-lock bags
Other items in the camp include
  • 4+ gallons og water (we added about two more when we left)
  • 1/4 gallon of camping fuel
  • 1 pan
  • 1 small pot
  • 1 small mug
  • 2 plastic tarps (I hiked one of these out which was in terrible shape and threw it away)
  • 1 canvas tarp (also hiked out and tossed)
  • 1 beat up foam sleeping pad (hiked out and tossed)
  • 1 small high-density foam pad
  • 2 metal gratings for cooking
Some critter had tore into the pads/tarps pretty well, but most other items were in decent shape. the critter was also fond of Cholla, and there were cholla spines littered through-out the cave. We did our best clear them out, but you ended up getting them stuck to you, or your stuff. Bob Almond wound up getting a small leak in his thermarest. I added a notebook and paper to the stash to be used as a camp logbook. We'll see if anyone uses it...

Bob Almond, Matt and Josie (top of third pitch)

I let Bob pick the route and he decided on La Mancha with a link-up to Misty for the 5.9 headwall.

Bob on the first pitch (first two pics), Josie styling the crux pitch.

The first pitch gave the most difficulties. Bob was leading up but couldn't see where the anchors were, and was leary about striking out onto the unprotectable slab without knowing where they were. Fortunately we were able to spot them from the ground by scrambling up the slope to the south. Turns out the anchors on this route also need replacing. Unforunately, the two 1/4" pound-ins couldn't be backed up and with four of us hanging from the anchor, we weren't about to unclip from one so as to replace the other. instead, we decided we'd simply add another bolt to the anchor. Bob Almond got started on bolting and handed me the second pitch lead. A clever plan on Bob's part as the second pitch turned out to be completely unprotectable and 140ft to the next anchor. "Groundfall potential" are two words I kept out of my mind as I carefully stepped up the textured slab.

We added a bolt to the 2nd pitch anchor while Bob led up and over to join up with Misty. The first time I climbed the 5.9 corner variation of Misty, I was on rope-solo Top-rope (I had led the easier corner at 5.7) and I ascended by clever stemming. That's how Bob Almond, josie and Matt all tackled the crux pitch. By the time I got to it though, it was calling out to me to do finger locks. In fact, it was almost the perfect size crack for my fingeres. I could just barely get two joints in, for nice tight finger locks. It felt great, but I have to caution myself: it was only 15 ft of steep finger-locks and my fingers were crying out in pain. Plus I hadn't had to place or remove gear while hanging from locks. So before I run out to do 100 ft of steep finger-locks, remember that.

We finished the climb and were back to camp while the sun was still up. We were out to the car right after the sun went down. What an excellent week-end.

1 comment:

Bobo said...

Aaron, thanks for leading us up. It was great, I can't wait to climb again. Every time I learn something new...this time more basic, like bring my shell, and a sling or two.