Friday, March 18, 2011

A trio of summits in the Organs

Once again I find myself solo in the Organs, with a pack full of gear. I know I could have tried harder to find a partner for a climb, but I also feel a need to be out on my own. Well, not entirely alone, Sasha came with me this time. After dropping Levin off at daycare, we made it to the Topp Hut Mine around 9:30am. It took another hour to reach the base of the climb I had my sights on, a route up ORP called Orgy. I got Sasha situated with a bowl of water, and then geared up for some solo rope climbing. I had my Wren soloist, and a small rack, but I had in my head that this climb would be so "easy" and comfortable that I wouldn't need much prop, and maybe wouldn't even need to rope-solo. But just in case I got all geared up, attaching the soloist to a make-shift chest harness flaking out the rope in my pack.
Summit of SRE, with old register next to my pack

The first pitch was pretty easy and comfortable, I had climbed it before, and I was hoping the next two would be similar. However, as I started up the 2nd pitch some of the moves and positions left me a little uncomfortable. Instead of giant positive hand and foot-holds, there were some wide cracks, which although fairly secure, never leave me as comfrtable. I negotiated one of these before deciding to anchor and rope up on a nice big ledge. With the rope attached I tackled the next crack section and started to feel a little more confident. At the top of a short crack I made a balancy move left to get into a corner, and placed some more gear, then gained another large ledge. Aboce this ledge was a steeper section, probably the "crux" of the route. I was feeling a some significant rope-drag (the soloist tends to make it more pronounced) and was going to remedy this by pulling up the tail end and stacking it on the ledge I was at. As I started pulling up though, the rope became stuck. Porbbaly this was because of the safety knot I had tied in the end, getting stuck in one of the cracks below. Part of using a soloist properly is tying safety knots in the tail end of the rope, so that if the device doesn't catch properly and starts sliding through, the knot would catch you (instead of running off the rope!). With my knot stuck, I had no choice but to set an anchor and ,make this a short pitch, but then something inside of me said "what the hell are you doing, why don't you just rappel down and do something less risky". Maybe I was feeling nervous about the soloist system, or the fact I was on my own with no good means to get help, or maybe I just am not as confident/risk-taking as I once was. Whatever the cause, I decided to simply rappel back down and give up on a rope-solo climb.
My damaged rope. When did this happen!?
I was feeling kind of down with myself as I made this decision and rappelled to my anchor. It's the same feeling I get whenever I bail off of something that I feel I should have been able to do. I reached my anchor and cleaned it, and that is when I noticed that my rope was damaged. A section near where I had tied into had serious sheath damage, I could see the core though and it looked ok, although it didn't feel too good. A more portentious sign I couldn't have asked for, I really should not be risking myself all alone out in the Organs like this. Luckily, I had already finished the rap, and could down-climb the rest of the way.

Looking up the SE gully of ORP

Sasha was glad to see me when I got down, and I relaxed a bit before deciding what to do next. The day was still early, it was only 12:00, so I decided to try to climb up ORP via the next gully to the south. I had recently received an email from Tom Lepinski saying this route was a good scramble, and that the summit register had some good history in it, so I was excited to get up there. I left Sasha at the base of the ORP butress still, not wanting to get her into a bad position on the scramble. I bush-whacked south and uphill until I came to a broad gully which ascended the southeastern flank of ORP, or maybe you could say the northeastern flank of the Rabbit Ears Massif. The gully was a pretty straightforward hike, not too brushy because it looks like falling rocks destroy vegetation in the gully on a somewhat regular basis. It was nice and cool and afforded nice views of the Rabbit Ears. It topped outing a little saddle between ORP and an un-named tower to the south. I scrambled down to the spot where Tom had left a rappel anchor. I could see why he would, there was a steep rocky section about 10' high to get down, and the down-climb did not look simple. I avoided his rappel though by climbing a little bit down to the west. This was very exposed, with a nice long drop down into ORP's SW gully, but was not any harder than 4th class. Once down this one difficult section, the climb up ORP's S ridge was easy and fun. Not very exposed 3rd class scrambling over slabby rocks. I located the summit register and replaced it with a new one, then re-built the protective cairn around it. After a quick call to my wife, I started back down, already setting my sights on Rabbit Ears Massif.

Instead of the 4th class and exposed scramble I had down-climbed, I climbed directly up to tom's rappel anchor. Climbing up was fun, and not as exposed or dangerous. It was a steep 10 ft, but with generous holds. If it wasn't for the awkward top-out around a boulder, the down-climb would be fun as well. Hiking up to the top of Rabbit Ears Massif was gorgeous. The ridge from ORP all the way up has a nice open pine forest, a rare treat in the Organs. The duff carpet was peaceful and shady, but at any point I could and did step over to the top of the ridge and look out over steep cliffs descending to the west. I scrambled on top of the un-named tower, and then made my way to the summit post of the Rabbit ears Massif. This was only my second time on this summit, but reading through the register I realized that I had never signed the first time. The register must have been covered in a drift of snow that first time I was up here. I had brought a new note-book and jar for this summit, but decided not to leave it. The existing register note-book was in good shape with about half its pages left. It dated back about 6-7 years, so it's probably safe to say it will last another 6-7 more before needing to be replaced. Plus, ti didn't have the same kind of attraction to me as the registers on the more technical summits. there were no entries about which routes people had climbed, really not much climbing history at all.

I drank all but the last gulp of water from my bottle before heading down "standard" way to get back into Rabbit Ears Canyon. Once at the top of the canyon though, I figured I was so close to the summit of SRE, that I might as well bag it as well. In contrast to the nice hiking through pine trees on the Massif, getting over to the saddle between SRE and MRE was a terrible bushwhack through dense mountain mahogany, spanish daggers and cholla. Plus it was in the full sun, and there wasn't much of a breeze. from the saddle I scrambled up the normal route and was feeling exhausted when I slumped onto the summit. I took the final unsatisfying gulp from my water, grabbed the old register, left a new one and immediately started heading down. I was tired enough, but now I wanted more water, and I couldn't get any until back at the car.

How is that I find myself dehydrated again in the Organs? I thought I learned my lesson after the Lost Carabiner route, but here I was again. I had only brought 2 quarts of water, and Sasah had consumed half of that (her bowl was still partially full when I got back to her, but she finished that on the descent). My mistake this time was being convinced that there would be water in the canyon, which Sasha could drink. Last year in March, I had camped in rabbit Ears Canyon next to beautiful green-tea pools, and bubbling streams. I knew this year was dryer, but I think I still counted on there being some water in the canyon this early in the spring. I would have been dead-wrong if it weren't for a tiny scuzzy pool in one of the bath-tub like depressions in the canyon.

With thirst driving me, I got back to Sasha at 3:20. My 3-summit circuit had taken a little over 3 hours. Another hour and we were back at the car, re-hydrating up and speeding off to Las Cruces to pick up my son from day-care.

Self-portrait looking south

No comments: