Friday, November 27, 2009

Wohlt's Welt Reconnaissance

I took Levin out this afternoon to do some reconnaissance; we hiked up the Modoc Mine Rd and then found Wohlt's Welt. This is what Ingraham describes as "The Highroad to the Central Organs" and from it one can access several peaks including Wildcat and Dingleberry.

Here is Google Earth's rendition of the route up to the saddle between Wildcat and Dingleberry. We only hiked up to the top of Wohlt's Welt, which is the gentle ridge or "welt" that goes from the Modoc rd up to the foot of the rocky cliffs. As far as bush-beating goes, it wasn't too bad, with ocatillo being the dominant shrub/obstacle. It is fairly steep though and there isn't much of a trail so it is slow going. Total distance from the top of Wohlt's Welt down to the Baylor Pass Rd is about 2.5 miles (according to Google Earth) and took us about 1.5 hrs to cover.

View from top of Wohlt's Welt
looking at Wildcat and Dingleberry

Being the first time I took Levin out bushwhacking, I can't resist posting some pictures of him:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

North Rabbit Ear Summit Register

Below is my transcription of the NRE summit register. It was immensely fun to do this, read all the entries from climbers past, learn about new routes. It sure has me psyched to get back up there and climb more. Also I'm now eager to get my hands on the other summit registers and sift through them.

I did my best to record all the original entries, but some pages are badly torn, weathered, or simply hard to read. I noted this in [brackets] in most places. I think I'll print this entire register out on sturdy paper and replace it back with the summit register so that others can read the history. I also will try to archive the originals (and original copy since the 1954-1969 entries were already re-copied once) at NMSU or some other local archive. Finally, the left-hand column estimates the Recorded Summit Ascent # by ascent party. It is approximate, especially in the later decades of the register as pages may have been lost, etc.. By this approximation, our last ascent was the 159th.

Some pictures of the summit register:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

North Rabbit Ear: Boyer's Chute

I was contacted a few weeks ago through Mountain Project by a climber in Durango Colorado who was looking for partners in the Las Cruces area for bagging some of the peaks in our range. It seemed kind of strange that someone from Colorado would drive all the way down here (probably 10 hrs or more) when there are so many high peaks in his own state. But since I am also interested in climbing as many of the Organ Mtn peaks as I can, I mailed him back.

John Bregar was his name, a retired geologist and president of a local mountain club. He made it clear right off the bat that he was not into highly technical routes, and would not be interested in routes harder than 5.5, but that he enjoyed brush-beating up SW desert peaks and wanted to get up some of the more interesting Organ mtn peaks. Many of these have 3rd or 4rth class routes up them described in Ingraham's guide and I've been wanting to check them out as well. After a few email exchanges we settled on climbing Boyer's Chute on the North Rabbit Ear (NRE).

We left Las Cruces early, around 5:45 in order to start the trail-head before the sun had risen. We took only a single 60m rope and light alpine rack. Neither of us wore a watch, so my timeline isn't much good from here on. but it felt that we made good time hiking up the Rabbit Ear Canyon. We left Sasha at the base of the route. a 3rd class slab leading into a deep cleft on the west side of the NRE. After a few hundred feet of 3rd class scrambling, the chute narowed down to a 4rth class chimney. At the top of this was a ratty poot rappel station. This station happened to be at the top of a narrow fin of rock which separates Boyer's Chute from an adjacent chute to the north which appears more difficult. It also looked fun to scramble out to the edge of the fin, but we didn't have time to explore it properly. Next time.

An easy 100ft further and we encountered the first bit of 5th class, a narrow spot with a large chock stone to get around. Total height of this 5th class section is only about 20ft. The easier way is to the right, and John had previously led this way. However, he described it as mostly un-protectable and we opted to try a crack to the left of the chock. John tried leading it first, but quickly learned that it was harder than 5.5. It involves a bit of clever foot-work and stemming, possibly the use of a hand-jam to surmount. I estimated the move to be about 5.8, but it's been a while since I've done much climbing and I could be off. Immediately above this section is another fixed anchor, wire rope and rap-rings.

150 ft further up is the 5.4 crux of the route, a deep chimney with another large chock stone. The right hand wall had some nice cracks for making the climb feel very secure. The 5th class climbing is about 30-40 ft long and an old and decrepit bolted rappel anchor is at the top of it.

The chute turns into more of a right-facing corner system at this point, and stays between 3rd and 4rth class for a while. There was an awesome live-oak in this corner, twisted and growing out across a slab of rock in a way that bonsai cultivators get wet-dreams about. Photos could do no justice. At the top of the corner is a final 4rth class head-wall and then we were at the summit.

I had the fore-sight to bring a new summit register and pen. The existing summit register is really something, providing history all the way back to the first recorded ascent in 1954. It had been painstakingly re-copied in the late 60s. The newer note-book which we signed dated back to the 80s. Since my last ascent in the spring of 2008, only 5 other people had recorded ascents, all via boyer's Chute (and often solo). I carefully packed the fragile records in a zip=lock bag to take down with me. Over the next few weeks, I plan to transcribe the register into an electronic document and post it on the web. If possible, I'd like to try to archive the originals somewhere locally. I also want to print out the completed register and return a copy of it to the summit, so future ascentionists can enjoy reading the mountains recorded history. Maybe it's an ambitious project for me, but I think it will be rewarding.

We descended the chute using the numerous rappel stations and doing a bit of easy scrambling.down-climbing. I think we made 7 rappels over-all, and for the most part didn't have to leave additional gear/webbing as John had already left new stuff when he was up here a month ago.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Adopt-A-Crag: La Cueva

Some folks from the OMTRS organized a trash pick-up at La Cueva. The Access Fund and Toucan market supplied goodies, and a team of OMTRS members, Adventure Crew teens, and church goers spent the morning combing La Cueva for garbage. I found a few really old stashes of coke cans (steel cans instead of aluminum) under some nasty thorns up high on the west end of the rock formations. Overall, there was not a whole lot of trash. Two immediate things come to mind; 1) not very many people come here to trash the place or 2) the recreational users of Las Cruces are good stewards. I prefer #2. Walking around the entire rock formation (not the eastern satellites though) I re-examined all the routes I've done here, and was reminded of how much more is still to do. I haven't seriously climbed here in a while. Well, since Levin was born this summer, I haven't seriously climbed at all. Being back at the cliffs made me reconnect. I know La Cueva isn't the best climbing out there, the rock is chossy, the routes are mediocre. But it is still a nice local spot, easy to get to and with plenty of variety. I hereby vow to make a point of coming back here as frequently as I can.

After the trash pick-up, we set up a couple top-ropes on the Sunny Side around the route Piton Power. Inevitably, this is the area that gets the most attention, but I always feel like it would be better to set up ropes on the back side instead. There's just more stuff on that side, especially for beginners. I'll suggest this next time OMTRS does one of these events.