Saturday, December 4, 2010

Caballo Lake: Happy Dirt Day!

Covered in dirt, but happy to claim a route as my own!

The thing I most wanted to do for my birthday this year was go climbing, and at our last OMTRS team meeting when Bob Almond dangled the lure of putting up a new route at Caballo during our, I was hooked. Marta Reece joined us and we packed up all manner of first ascent equipment; bolts and drill of course, but also crow-bar and chisel, brushes and work gloves. After all, putting up a new route isn't just about climbing some un-climbed line, it's also about cleaning it of loose and dangerous rock, landscaping any inconveniently growing shrubs and dangling from precarious perches  to slowly hand drill bolts. Sounds like good times!

I took the Honda CR-V instead of the Tracker this time, which was pretty comfortable for the three of us plus two dogs. However, I wasn't as willing to bounce it up the rocky road, so we had to hike about 1/4" mile up the road, before veering off on the trail to the Grey Wall. We started off with a couple sport routes that are new additions to the wall since I was last here. I led up Two Face, which was as good as I heard. A clean and solid 5.8, abundantly bolted. There was a crux bulge section down low but the holds were good. The upper section had beautiful stemming in a water worn groove.

Bob jumped on the next climb over to the right next, what I later learned was The Bat, another Lance Hadfield route. I wasn't watching him that carefully as I was scouting out a new line on the lower angled wall to the left of Two Face, but he cruised up it. On coming down he said it was hard, but I decided to pull the rope through and try leading it anyways. Again it had very ample bolts, but was much steeper than the previous climb, and some of the sequences began to require some good technique. There were a coup[le of good rest ledges though so every time I was getting pumped I could reach one of the eldges and rest up a bit. the final crux cam at a steep and hand-hold-less section, around the 10th or so bolt. I took several hangs here trying to work out a sequence, and finally had something that sort of worked. it was very balancy though and I didn't feel good on it at all, and eventually just ended up grabbing the next draw and pulling myself past. My confidence so shattered we turned our attention to the new line I wanted to try.

The line I had chosen was a protectable looking crack on the lower-angled wall to the left of the route, Two Face. I racked up generously, including a bolt-kit and hook in my arsenal, from below it was clear that the crack system petered out about 75 ft up, and while the angle wasn't steep, there was a potentially blank section below the logical finish to the first pitch, a wide ledge with a large acacia bush on it. Worrying about the upper section almost became a mot point though, I had to struggle at the very start to get around a large bush which blocked the start of the crack. I finally turned the bush on its left side (without decent pro) and established myself in the easier crack above. Protection as pretty good, although always a little odd to place. The limestone crack system isn't like what I'm used to. the cracks flare open in wied ways, and often get wider as you go deeper in, making walking cams a hazard. Even though I felt like I had to fiddle with gear, I felt that there were adequate and strong placements. Small shrubs and hedge-hog cactus were easily cleaned out of the crack system, revealing good holds and fun climbing. A broad ledge about half way up had a ton off loose rock on it so I spent some time cleaning it off. I also spent a long time on this ledge digging the dirt out of hueco that was hidden behind a hedgehog cactus. All of the dirt seemed to blow right on my sweaty face, and the hueco seemed impossibly deep. Once excavated though, it became a good large-cam placement, and protected the "blank-looking" slab above.

I anchored myself on the broad ledge and began the business of drilling a rappel anchor. Bob and Marta took off to explore cliffs to the north as I tap-tapped away. Bob recommended 5" bolts for the limestone, and it took me over an hour to get two bolts installed. On rappel, I cleaned out more of the plants from the route, including the large brush at the start, which I had decided was the crux. Using my rock-hammer, i bashed at it until most of the branches fell away, revealing a large hueco and root system. I dug out a lot of dirt from that hueco, it seemed to be about the size of a 5-gallon bucket, and the plant's roots were stubborn.

On the ground looking up, the line looked completely different, fairly clean, and direct (contrasting my own dirty appearance). And a shiny and inviting rappel anchor glinted about 100ft up. This is my Dirt Day route! I hesitate to grade it, the crux was definitely the start, but with the bush gone this might be easier. I would guess it's only 5.7, but after my schooling on the neighboring sport climb, I'm not sure my grading abilities are on target. I guess people will just have to climb it so I can get a second opinion. Unfortunately, by the time I had finished, the sun was going down and we had to hike out, neither Bob nor Marta climbed my new route.

Before cleaning: The line follows the shade border

After cleaning, now go climb it!

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