Saturday, August 13, 2011

Touchstone Wall, Zion

I've been putting this post off for a while. I did this route with Cheyne during our trip to Zion in March:

We had just topped out on Moonlight Buttress. We ran back down to the car with the haul bag, portaledge, ropes and rack. We dumped everything on the ground, turned on the music, and had a Blue Moon that a friend gave us on the drive out. Our celebration lasted one beer as we were having to put together a rack for Touchstone (V 5.9 C2). Our plan was to start early in the morning so we wanted to have everything racked and ready to go. We finally got everything done well after dark, hopped in the car and went to head out. FUCK. The car is dead. We left the music on and the doors open for clearly too long. With it being almost 9:00 P.M. in the middle of March there was nobody in sight that could jump us. Cheyne and I sat for a tense 20 minutes before trying to start the car again. Thankfully it starts. After a filling dinner we were approached by a very interesting, very hick man from Idaho who was in the area looking for his daughter. After explaining to us how he was saved by Jesus Christ he asks for some beer and weed. We give him a beer and he heads back to his trash barrel fire that had grown to about 6 feet high at this point. We set up our beds in the Jeep and try to get some sleep after our strange encounter. We locked the doors.

Alarm goes off. We go back to bed. We wake up to overcast skies thinking it's still early (again we had another high chance of rain for the day). It's almost 9:00. Alpine start it is. We make a quick breakfast and hop in the car. FUCK. The car is dead. Cheyne heads to look for someone to give us a jump since we are already running late. After another 30 minutes of waiting the car fires up on its own. We're finally off.

We finally start to climb around 11. The days are short in March with the sun setting around 7 so we both feel some pressure to move fast. As we are on the third pitch a team is just starting up the route.

Them: "Are you fixing?"
Me: "No"
"You're going to the summit!?"
"Oh. (A bit surprised since it's past noon) Do you know if we can fix the first three pitches with 2 60 meter ropes?"
"No idea. It's our first time on the route"
"Damn, good luck!"

I'm sure they made guess of how high we would make it before we would bail soon after. We made great time though, making it to the summit in just under 7 Hours.Cheyne and I short-fixed the entire route which was really fun. Normally when climbing, a leader climbs up while clipping his rope into gear he places to protect him from falling all the way to the ground. The whole time he is leading he is being belayed by his partner. Once at the top of a pitch, he builds an anchor, pulls up the slack and belays the lower climbing who cleans the gear as he progresses. This puts both climbers and their gear at their high point. In contrast with short fixing, the leader will lead the pitch placing gear as usual, build an anchor, pull up all the slack in the rope, and then fix, or tie off, the rope to the anchor. Instead of the lower climber being belayed he ascends the rope with handled ascenders or jugs. Meanwhile, the leader can now start to make progress on the next pitch with the slack that he just pulled up. There are two options for the leader now: he can either feed the rope through a device called a Gri-Gri that will shorten the distance of a fall or he can let all the slack loop below him. The latter is called a Pakistani Death Loop (PDL). If you fall while death looping, nothing will stop you until all the slack in taken in during flight. This results in falls anywhere from 10 to usually 50 or 60 ft. but can be much much larger depending on certain factors. The PDL is a lot faster but it's only used when you're not going to fall.

I don't remember too much about the route. I know that it was really splitter the whole way. Perhaps not as much as Moonlight but still the route is sweet. Above the second pitch everything goes at 5.11-. I'm awaiting the chance to go back and free the upper pitches. The weather that day was pretty bad. Gusts of wind would knock me sideways at the belay and often the rope would be floating directly horizontal at eye level due to the wind. It was cold. Good route though, easiest big wall approach ever, and the descent isn't too bad. We chose to go down the gully. It was really easy to find all the rappels even in the dark. Most of them were short with scrambling in between. The last two raps were made from hanging belays and there was no 5th class down climbing as the super topo indicates.

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