Sunday, June 27, 2010

NRE: West Face Corner Route

I set out with a bunch of OMTRS climbers to the North rabbit Ear (NRE). The exact route we were planning on wasn't set when we started hiking up, but once we got close to the base of the cliffs we settled on a plan. Zach and I were to try a line up the West Face. the rest of the group were going to cruise up Boyer's Chute.

The line Zach and I chose was a large corner system on the far right side of the west face. It didn't look overly steep or difficult from the ground and we were hopuing we could meet up with the rest of the team on the summit. We separated from the rest of the team in the Rabbit Ear Canyon and headed up the gully between NRE and MRE. Right at the point where we were about to pass the south arete of the West Face, we took to the rock. We scrambled up a left trending ramp system which opened up onto a huge ledge on the west face. This is probably where the Ingraham "West Face" route starts. From this ledge, we could look down on the other team at the start of Boyer's chute. We racked up on the spacious ledge, then scrambled up the right trending ramp until we were at the base of the corner system. Here we set an anchor and I started up the first pitch.

There were two bulges in the corner system I had to overcome to reach a big roof. The first one wasn't too hard, but the second one was hard for me, like a V0 problem. The crack provided good jams, but the feet were awkward and the bulge made it so you could not easily see you foot placements. I was breathing heavy at the top of the 2nd bulge and rested up on the nice ledge. An old piton and rappel slings were here. The undercling out the roof looked intimidating. There was a line of holds on the face that could be used to bypass the roof, but I couldn't reach them without doing a crazy dyno, something I wasn't keen on. So instead I tested out the intial moves to the roof, placed high gear and down climbed to the rest-stance. With gear already placed high, I was good to commit to the undercling. It was strenous, but straightforward. To do it right, I had to get my feet up high and smear in the face, putting a lot of weight on my arms. Fortunately it was only 12ft long. At the end I took a breather, than placed a piece back in the undercling behind me to help protect Zach, before setting up my belay anchor. This pitch wasn't too long, but I was tired and at a perfect belay spot to watch Zach. Besides, trying to press on would give me terrible rope-drag.

I had a great spot to watch Zach and took several pictures of him through the crux. He peeled off in the undercling, and jerked me off my feet, slamming my head into the rock near the roof before the anchor held me. I had stupidly given myself a long tether to be more comfortable on the ledge and had not anticipated the direction of pull from a fall. I was stunned but managed to hold onto Zach. He was fine, but I looked battered and was bleeding in a few spots. Thankfully I had my helmet on, if not I could have been seriously hurt. Zach fired the undercling on his second go and by then I was ready to tackle the steep corner/crack above us.

The first 40 ft of the second pitch were perfect, nice jams and stems, good protection, beautiful rock. At the top of a steep 5.9 section of crack there was a low-angled slab beneath a roof/headwall. I rested up and checked my options. To my right there was a steep crack that broke through the roof, but it looked hard and I was already tired. Directly in front of me was a shallow corner system that went right up to the roof and I climbe dup this to see if I could then undercling/traverse left to escape the roof. A fixed wire was at the top of this corner, but the traverse left did not look good. The rood did not provide any undercling holds. I clipped a long runner to the fixed wire and down climbed to the rest stance. A faint seam/slab lead off left from the rest stance and it looked like a few balancy moves would gain a nice ledge system and an easy exit. I committed to this slab, and quickly found it very sketchy. Almost nothing to hold onto, and very thin feet, my pro further than I'd care off to my right, I sucked it in and stuck it out, breathing hard and sweating loke mad. Somehow I managed to get past the few crux moves. it felt like 5.11 slab, but I'm pretty out-of-shape, so it probably wasn;'t that bad. Either way, I was super-psyched to ahve on-sighted this and quickly srambled up to a ledge and belayed Zach up.

After un-clipping from the fixed wire, Zach down-climbed and looked at the slabby moves I had led, and then decided he couldn't do it. He pendulum-ed off to the left to try to find another way, but ended up having to prussic up.

After these two difficult pitches, I was looking for easier climbing above. We were on a nice ledge beneath a big headwall, and I picked my way up weaknesses in the headwall, zagging left, then right, until eventually I trended right far enough to get around the head wall and onto the shoulder which joins with the Davis route. This may not be the most aesthetic pitch, but it worked for us. The upper portion of the Davis route was a steep brushy gully. Steep enough to have some 5th class climbing, but not hard enough to need a belay. We simul-climbed up the gully, weaving around trees and boulders. At one point I spotted a piton and headed towards it only to be thwarted by a steep headwall and too much rope-drag to commit to the move. Instead I traversed around the difficulty and continued to the top of the ridge. At the top, we were in time to spot the other OMTRS team on the final headwall of Boyer's Chute. Zach and I coiled up the rope and scrambled over the last knife-edge like ridge to join them on the summit.

Thunder-claps threatened our relaxing stay on the summit and the whole group descended down the South Face. We had enough ropes to set up the rappels simultaneously which made the descent pretty quick. The hike out seemed to take fore-ever, we were all pretty beat, but we had a great day, and were all in high spirits.

Friday, June 4, 2010

La Cueva: Purple Poot Revisited

I made a short trip to La Cueva after work today, something I'd like to start doing more regularly. I got to la Cueva around 4pm, but had to park all the way up at the visitor's center due to some road construction being done at the La Cueva picnic loop. Checking in with the "ranger", I learned that with the construction going on, the park/gate is closed at 5pm. Fortunately for me, he offered to leave the outward gate open as long as I closed it on my way out, so I headed out to climb.

The trail from the visitor center takes you right to the Hermit's Cave, which is pretty close to where I wanted to go anyways. I had invited some other climbers to join me, but no one was around so I took all my rope-soloing gear with me. I found some nice shade on the easy slabs under the route I had dubbed "Purple Poot Slab". This is a low-angled, broad lichen covered slab, with several route possibilities leading to the summit ridge. I had climbed it once before on January 13th, 2006 with Liz, and found a single old 1/4" bolt to rappel off of. It had a small purple poot sling on it at the time. Right now, the whole slab was well shaded, and it felt perfect for climbing. Despite the valley getting into the low 100's, and not much breeze being present, the well shaded wall was pleasant climbing temps, a little warm but not hot or oppressive (unlike last weekends sunny melter on Rabbit Ear Slabs). When climbing Las Cruces in the summer, shade is key.

On my own, I decided to explore the left-hand side of the slab, a dirty corner. I rigged up the soloist and started up to the corner. Before even reaching the corner I had some misgivings, I couldn't place any pro until stepping up on some loose foot-holds, and it looked even chossier the higher up I could get. After fiddling around a little bit, I opted for traversing a little to the right and up the heavily featured and easy looking face. this time my judgement was spot-on. the face was very easy (5.4ish) and had slightly better rock. I was able to place a few tri-cams in pockets along the way although I would hardly call it well protectable. There was a logical anchor point before the summit on a broad ledge roughly level with the top of the left-hand corner system. I decided to anchor here, clean the route I had climbed and attempt to top-rope the dirty corner back up. I had nearly rappelled down when Bob Cort showed up around the corner.

I had invited Bob along and was hoping he would show up. It's not that I don't like rope-soloing, but it certainly leaves something to be desired. Bob was interested in leading directly up the middle of the slab, so I left my rope on the left-side and flaked out Bob's rope over to the right, at a thin seam/crack in the middle of the slab. Looking back on my journals now, I think that the start the Bob did was not the one that I had climbed before. I had started at the far-right corner. The start where Bob led up had a "crux" 5.6 move at the start about 10ft up but without any prop. Actually Bob was able to place a wire at this spot, but it was a very marginal placement. After the start though, the climbing was pretty straightforward. Bob led pretty much up the middle of the slab. After the big ledge 2/3 of the way up, he opted for climbing the face instead of staying in the right corner as I had done. He ended up a little bit beyond the purple poot and belayed from the hidden alcove above.

I seconded up and also cleaned my solo-anchor on the way. I brought up my rope as well so that we could descend in s double-rope rappel. When I got to the belay, we both explored the summit a little bit. The summit is a great ridge to explore, you can scramble pretty far off to the west, and there are ways to get up to the other summit blocks as well. despite scrambling around and searching, I didn't find any fixed gear for rappels.

From the alcove belay, a short crack/face climbed up to a summit point and we decided we'd check it out to see if there was a better rappel station from up there. I started out leading up a steep finger crack, but after realizing that it involved a tricky move, (probably wouldn't have been that hard, but I'm still a nervous kleader on steeps) I opted for the more straight-forward route up to the top. It looked like it would be possible to down-climb east and perhaps reach the anchors at the top of Banana Splits, but this seemed a little out-of-the-way and it was starting to get late. We rappelled off a horn of rock back down to the alcove, and then did a double-rope rappel to the ground off of the single 1/4" bolt with the purple poot. The route can no longer be called the "Purple Poot" though because I cut the poot off, and tied on a new piece of bright orange webbing for our rappel.