Sunday, April 4, 2010

Solo up the North Rabbit Ear

After spending two days taking care of a sick wife and baby, I earned a day of hiking out in the Organs. Sasha and I struck out up rabbit Ear Canyon with the goal of scrambling up the North Rabbit Ear  (NRE). The Davis route, first climbed by a couple who used to live just a block away from where we live now, was the NRE's first route, and reportedly the easiest. I figured if it is easier than Boyer's Chute, than I wouldn't have much of a problem scrambling up and down it. I did bring a smattering of gear though just in case; some webbing, carabiners and my trusty 30m rope. I even brought a bolt-kit with the intention of replacing the bad bolt anchors on Boyer's Chute... if I had the time.

Sasha and I left the car on the Topp Hut road at 950am and made remarkable time on the approach. I was already past the Citadel after an hour and by 1200 I was at the saddle between the NRE and MRE. Rabbit Ear canyon is still flowing with green-tea pools, about as much as it was a month ago. It's still in prime camping conditions and will probably be this way for another month. I tied Sasha up below the saddle and started up what I thought was the Davis route. Stupidly, I hadn't brought the INgraham guide description with me, so i was relying on my memory. I remembered rappelling the South side of the NRE directly to the saddle and a few bolted rappel stations along this route, so this is where I started. However, I should have taken a hint at the first 25 ft, which was closer to 5.6 than 5.3. The rock here was smooth and clean with a disconnected crack system. the climbing was pretty straightforward but required a balancing move to get from the first crack over to the left onto the next crack. I guess this would be considered the crux.
Start of S Face Direct

After this first smooth section I noted some rappel slings that were just low enough where I could reach the ground with my short 30m rope, always a good thing to know. While down-climbing the start section was feasible, rappelling would be much nicer. The angle eased up considerably after this and I could almost walk up to a spacious belay/rappel ledge. I later learned that Ingraham calls this the "Scooped Out Place". From here I had some decisions to make. There were a couple of nice looking lines leading off the scooped out place. One went directly up from the belay anchor on slabby beautiful granite. Another ascended a series of shallow corners to the right of the rappel anchors. Both of these though did not look 5.3 easy to me, and I wasn't about to try them without proper gear and belay. I was almost ready to descend, but made one last effort by traversing around a corner (~5.5 but secure feeling) to the right. By continuing to the right I was able to find an easier path up block terrain. the climbing stayed in the 5.4 range but was not exposed and always had good holds easily in view. About a rope-length's worth of climbing and I gained a brushy gully that would take me to the summit.
Looking up from the top of the first "crux" 25 ft. Just visible in the middle are two yucca stalks which mark the upper rappel anchors. the scooped out place is below those. I ascended via the blocky terrain on the right-hand side of the photo.

Looking at the new and empty summit register, only one group of climbers had summited since November when John Bregar and I replaced the register. I marked my name and attempted to put a print-out copy of the old register back into the glass jar. Unfortunately, I didn't plan this part very well. The print-out register was 16 pages long, and try as I might, I couldn't cram it in the small glass jar and still have room for the empty note-pad and writing utensils. Eventually I figured something out and got it all stuffed in there, but it's not really well done. I am making a mental note to bring a bigger summit register jar on my next ascent. My summit time was about 1pm.

For a descent, I retraced my ascent route. If I had brought a full length rope, I could have utilized the nice rappel anchors (both anchors have good hardware, except for the beaten up old slings), but instead I carefully down-climbed down to the scooped out place, and then down to the last rappel slings above the initial head-wall. My 30m rope was 5 ft short from reaching the ground, which was good enough for me. I scrambled down to where I had left Sasha and that's when I figured out where the real Davis route started, about 100ft down from the saddle on the west side, a blocky corner system right above Sasha's rest. I could even make out some old poot slings at the top of the first pitch. Next time!
Sasha getting her ears blown while standing next to the green-tea pools
Sasha and I made excellent time back to the car, getting down by 310pm. Overall, we were car-to-car in a little over 5 hours. Not bad for a day out!

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