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.

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