Friday, December 21, 2012

Video Trip Report: RedRocks

Late October 2012, I enjoyed a good day of climbing in Red Rock. Fist time climbing there and first video. Cheers

RedRocks from G_Howland on Vimeo.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Climb More Delay Less

Last Thursday I got a text from an old co worker.

"Hey Greg it's Jess. Just wanted to connect with you incase you wanted to climb sometime."
"Hows Sunday?"

As we drove up to our local summer sport crag of Holcomb Valley we caught up about work and life. I found out Jess was pretty new to climbing outdoors as she had been less than 5 times before. I saw a challenge to see how well I could move with someone who would need to be shown most of the tricks. I told her, as I do all of my partners, I like to be on the move the whole day. When I climb for speed I am much more concerned with the overall movement and efficiency of the team rather than a climber sprinting up a route. I told her I would teach her some tricks and, for fun, we will see how many routes we can get done with out redlining all day.

We started with a few warm up climbs and had to deal with the ever growing crowds at this particular crag. Seems that each season increases in the number of climbers out there and since most routes are easier than 5.11 most tend to be beginners. Who knows, maybe I just know what I'm doing now. Holcomb is laid out with Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western Pinnacles surrounding the overly crowded Central Pinnacles. We hit a popular wall that is open and have to share the last route before we leave after about an hour of being there. We manage to knock down 5 routes quickly since they were all off the same anchor. This allows me to just clip and lower back to the ground, have my second climb and clean the route, lower and pull the rope leaving gear at the anchor rather than reseting it each time.

We head over to a lesser known shady wall in the area and knock off 3 more routes, 10a, 10d, and a 5.6 free solo which happened to be my first trad lead ever. It is somewhere around 12:35 at this point that the crowds are really taking over all the popular areas. I decide to take things to a lesser traveled wall in the Northern Pinnacles. On our way over we stop at Wilbur's Tombstone which is home to some moderate friction climbing. Crank out a few of those routes and on the third one I was climbing up an easy crack system and stick my hand into a mandatory pod. I had no cams with me and was just soloing the crack until I was back into bolted climbing. As I pause 25 ft off the deck I pull my hand back for a second to move my feet around and was startled by some crazy looking reptile in the crack. It really looked like a snake as I poked my head around to try to see what it was. I find a sequence with out the hold and tell Jess to check it out. She agrees it looks like a snake. After a little while on the ground I come to the conclusion it was a bat in crack. Still slightly spooky. A miss is as far as a mile though. On to the next area. At this point our pitch count is up to 13 and it's 2:30. We slow pace a little and climb some steep edges. One route only rated 10c gave me a bit of a headache as I got drawn up the easy path and had to do a cruxy traverse back on route. Definitely harder than 10c but only because of operator error. Another 5 routes puts us up to 18 and time for one more stop before taking off. We hit a wall that was crowded earlier that day and I was able to revisit some old routes. Jess tied in first thing for her first lead ever. Definitely psyched I was able to share that with her. I top rope and clean the first route of the day.

At this point Jess is done. I just want to move as quickly as I can and go for quantity before the buzzer goes off. I just move down one route to the next to the next. Tagged a 10c and a 10a. I cruised up to a crack and did what some purists might call my first onsight free solo ever. I had no idea of the rating system or beta on the crack. Just saw it and climbed it. Ended feeling easy and rightfully so it was rated 5.8. At this point Jess is ready to head out but I talk her into letting me do just one more route to hit route 21. I choose an 11c route with sustained 10+ face climbing to a rest right before an 11c slab crux up top. Hardest pitch of the day for last. Let's see if I really am feeling as fresh as I still feel. I make it to the crux and have a few looks at the blank section of wall in front of me. With an edge no larger than the edge of a dime for my left hand and and a side-pull only slightly thicker for my right I knew I would have to trust the microscopic feet I had chosen to get through the next 2 or 3 moves to a horizontal dike with some larger holds on it. I tenuously put weight on my right foot opposing so hard with my right hand I thought the razor sharp edge was definitely going to draw blood. My left leg is extended behind, and far beyond my right for balance as I pull my hips over the high right foot. Move my left had to a small crystal and trust that the nonexistent hold my right foot is on will be enough as I push with all remaining strength I have to get through to the dike. Some how it all comes together and I'm able to make the pitch with out falling.

I get back on the ground and try to bargain for route 22 as there is an 11b I had never done right next door but rightfully calls it. All in all a great result considering we never once had tense moments about moving fast.

We started casually around 945 in the morning and finished sometime around 645. Took 2 or 3 breaks but they were no longer than 20 minutes in length. Climbed up to 11c and didn't over exert at all. There was no yelling or hurrying the whole day just minimal downtime. We just focused on continuously climbing. After all the only thing better than climbing is more climbing. A few things I did in order to move faster and get more routes in:

1) Pack like you have a 3 hour up hill approach. All too often I see people going sport climbing with a bag filled with more gear than it takes to push El Capitan. Rope, Draws, Food, Water. That's it. Sure maybe a guide book if. As long as it really isn't a 3 hour approach, both people should hike with their harness on. The next person to lead should have draws and shoes clipped to their harness. In a small pack (about 15 L) carry the water, headlamps, food, guidebook. The water and guide book up top and the rest near the bottom. The second person should have the rope coiled and tied to their back. Just flake the rope on a rock or the small pack in order to keep it clean. This eliminated wasted time of going into and out of your pack except at lunch.

2) Don't chase classics. It's worth the extra time to do the climbs surrounding the classic at the crag. You'll often be able to use the same anchors which means if you leave draws on the anchor you can do multiple route with only have to set a rappel once. Hiking also wastes a lot of time. You may miss out on one classic because you make it to 3 crags instead of 4 but it's usually worth the extra 9 routes because you did 4 routes instead of 1 at each area.

3) Speed cleaning. I have ethical issues with posting the beta of what this is. If you know then you know. If you really want to know leave a comment and I'll explain. Every area has their own standards and certain areas like Boulder Canyon this is perfectly acceptable and normal. Other areas are really against the practice because it wears through rap rings faster. In the long run it doesn't save as much time as the first two tips anyhow.

4) Just keep moving. This doesn't mean running but it does mean doing things like eating on the hike to the next area. Sitting around and having a huge lunch can be really demotivating. I try to split my lunch into two or three and space them out while I'm moving. Also try to encourage partners to not sit around. I can't tell you how many times I see partners sitting drinking water with the rack a mess all over their harness and the rope needing to be coiled. Make sure everyone is doing something rather than one person doubling the duration of work.

Holcomb Valley Top Out

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ten and Change (Nose In A Day)


Confidence was high as I drove to Yosemite Valley for the first time this spring. I had been talking with my partner Cheyne who had been in Yosemite since the beginning of May. I asked him to climb the day I got in so I wouldn’t have to be troubled with finding a partner for the first day I got in. I shot him a text simply saying “Gold wall/ Silent line” a Grade V 5.10 C2 that I knew we could get through in a matter of hours together. Cheyne called back asking if I wanted to climb The Nose. Most teams take 4-5 days to climb the route but we were going to climb the route in a single day: Nose in a Day (NIAD). Being my main goal for Yosemite all season I can’t wait to say yes. I rolled into the valley around 9:30 p.m. After a pizza in the SAR site I began to talk strategy with Cheyne.

He has a project in mind and wanted to get a feel for a few pitches he had never led on the route. Our plan was to have him lead the whole way and I would simul-climb and short-fix our way up the route. I would jumar the other pitches. We decided to go with a valley alpine start at 7:30 a.m. We made it to the base at started the clock at 8:47 a.m. as Cheyne blasted up the first pitch. We passed 3 teams on the way up to Sickle ledge which is the top of the 4th pitch. One of the teams was Pass the Pitons Pete and his infamous freight train of bags at the top of the first pitch. After a re-rack on Sickle Ledge we simul-climb next pitch and Cheyne fixes the rope high above. As Cheyne self belays through a pendelum I top rope solo the tight-hand crack to the anchor. Since Cheyne had lowered down and swung into the next crack system, I have to lower myself out with my end of the rope. Cheyne leaves me some slack to do this but not enough. I find myself 15 ft from the corner containing the crack system and no more slack to lower out on. I hold the end of my rope in my hand, STRETCH as far as I can, and let go. I swung into the corner adrenaline pumping. I look up to see a climber we are passing wide-eyed as I throw my feet in my aiders and run up the fixed rope.

King Swing
Gray Bands
Pitch after pitch goes by and before I know it we are standing on Dolt Tower the ¼ time mark for NIAD. Dolt stands with 1100 ft of the best climbing in the world pouring below it. If it were to stand as it’s own wall it would still be big but on the massive scale of El Capitan Dolt tower is simply a checkpoint. As I flake the rope Cheyne fuels and asks how I feel. “Great. It feels like it’s only been a few pitches. I’m not holding things up am I?” I was a little worried about my efficiency cleaning a few of the lower outs. “No. We are moving well together. We have been climbing for 2 hours and 15 minutes and Pete hasn’t even moved.” We share a good laugh and quickly get back to climbing. After a few pitches Cheyne and I get to by far the most fun pitch of climbing I have done: The legendary King Swing. As the route nears the 1700 ft mark the crack system followed to that point ends. The leader leads The Boot Flake lowers down and starts swinging back and forth to the next crack system. As Cheyne is leading I simul the bolt ladder to the base of the boot. Cheyne lowers and swings over to Eagle Ledge and puts me on belay. I tension the rope, run left, run right and left again to the large arĂȘte that requires a devious move over to eagle. Stuck it first go which felt really good. Cheyne and I blast through the Grey Bands with lots of lower-outs on the 5.10 A0 variation and some top rope soloing. Cheyne cruises The Great Roof and back cleans the traverse of fixed gear. This allows me to just lower out rather than clean the traverse. As I start to clean this pitch my ascenders start to crux out. Suddenly my jugs wouldn’t stick as I slid them up. I would slide up my top jug, go to stand in the aider and the jug would drop two feet before it would snag. I was essentially fall after fall onto devices designed to grip the soft rope with sharp teeth. Something I ALWAYS try to avoid. Jugging became strenuous for a few pitches as the terrain steepens and I would have to lock off my arms and visually make sure my upper ascender was engaged. This definitely slowed us down as Cheyne had to wait for me a few times as I figured out how to solve the problem.

The Great Roof. Team leading up Pancake Flake out right.
Re Rack on Camp VI
Cheyne and I met up on Camp VI. We have a quarter of the way left. I’m starting to feel gassed as I sit down on the nice ledge. I hear “ROPE FIXED!” and psyche myself up to jug again. Unfortunatlely it was a free hanging jug and my legs were starting to feel worked. I try to keep positive as Cheyne does everything he can to turbo through the last few pitches. As I come up to the base of the 3rd to the last pitch I start to feel really really fresh again. As I making my way up that pitch Cheyne had clipped a bunch of gear on a traverse and then back cleaned for a ways (by force, not free will I hope). I have no means to lower out so I pull in as tight as I can to the crack, unclip the piece and “slide into home” across the upper reaches of El Capitan with massive amounts of exposure below. This ended up giving me the perfect shot of adrenaline to charge to the summit. Cheyne and I simul the bolt ladder and I clip the last bolt and start the final free climbing on the route. So close and excited to the official pine tree finish I start to run with everything hanging all over my disorganized body. The clock still ticks until the final climber touches the pine tree finish. I touch the tree at 7:45. We finished in 10 hours and 58 minutes, or 10 and change, and I had climbed El Capitan within 24 hours of arriving in Yosemite Valley. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012


One of my long standing todos in Joshua Tree is a gently overhanging 11c off-finger/ringlock crack called Wangerbanger. The line is completely different than anything you would see in Josh. The striking line splits the smooth 80 ft. Northern face of The Rusty Wall. For such a short line it is able to demand all types of climbing. Fingerlocks, off-fingers, handcracks and offwidth. It's truly a Josh classic not to be missed by anyone climbing at the grade. The wall is gently overhanging with a ring lock crux just past halfway up the route. 

I got ont the route a few weeks ago and made it through the crux first go and blew the move to a rest. I figured everything out and finished up the route. I thought I would be golden this last weekend when I went for a redpoint. Perhaps my confidence got in the way but I had a worse showing than last time. Mentally things felt really out of line. Mental difficulties occurred after I fell and I hung a couple times working out the sequence. I  will be back in the fall to send this. 

Wangerbanger is the obvious splitter. Photo from

TR: JTree Weekend

Disclaimer: Although this is a Climbing Trip Report only a small amount of climbing is covered. 
Although I highly value climbing, there are times when it is the person on the other end of the rope that makes the experience memorable. 

I had been Jonesing for it. Just the thought of sticking my hand into a sharp crack brought about an eruption of emotion so strong it caused me to let out the loudest monkey call the suburban jungle of sunny Southern California had ever heard. "OOUGGHHHH!" I couldn't help myself. Weird looks meant nothing, as I'm used to being an outsider as a climber in a superficial metropolis. I could feel nothing but the purest form of elation.

Two, going on three years ago I had a peculiar experience. I had just started working at REI and was still as green as the vest I wore everyday. During my first week a co-worker who went by Cass said to me "I'm going on an ice climbing trip to Ouray with other co-worker (I'm still unacquainted with everyone in the store at this point). I'm can't handle him for a week so you really need to come along to make this trip fun." I hesitantly agree. I was psyched on an ice climbing trip but was also pretty sure she had me completely mistaken. After all, I hadn't even met her yet. This experience describes the rest of our friendship. There was no get-to-know-each-other phase or small talk/ease into hanging out period. We immediately considered each other great friends. All too soon after we met Cass and her boyfriend Mark, who I can't say enough good about, moved to Montana. As it happens communication decayed.

It had been two years since I had seen Cass when I received a call she was coming out to California. A wedding she was attending was only an hour and change from me and even less than that from Joshua Tree. Guess where we were headed? On Thursday afternoon I we met in Palm Springs, CA only a short distance from Joshua Tree National Park. I only got lost a few times. Not like me but things were backwards this trip. We darted to the park in separate cars as she could only stay until Friday afternoon and I had the whole weekend free. We booked it with my '98 Ford Ranger redlined at 50 mph thrutching up the last hill into park.

"Let's leave you're car at a motel and I'll drive you back tomorrow afternoon."
"Just pick the least sketchy looking place around."

I had a place in mind that was just passed the park entrance. It wasn't. 15 miles later we get there. Oops. There's mistake #2 in my navigation for the trip. W/e we are close. We blast into the park from the completely opposite direction and I tell Cass about the history and characteristics of the park.

"What does a joshua tree look like anyways?"
"Oh. I'll show you the tree when we drive out. It's on the other side of the park. There is only one you know. That's why it isn't called Joshua Trees National Park."
"Really?! What happens if it burns down?" (bless her heart)
"Then the only thing left will be rocks and rattlesnakes"
"Snakes? Are there a lot"
"Yeah. You can feel them crawl under your tent at night to absorb body heat"
"What the Fuck"
(I would do anything to have free reign running a Yosemite Tour Tractor aka Green Dragon)
. . .
"Well we're here"

Started the day around 5:30 pm in Echo Cove. Decided to try out Touch and Go 5.9. A cool stemming corner to hand crack. I darted off before she could put me on and ended up unknowingly pulling the crux onsight free solo. Top section was a little funky. Another fun josh route that proved to be over hyped. Next we drove out the the Rusty Wall. I had been on Wangerbanger (5.11c) a few weeks before and really thought I would be able to get it this time out. Turns out I did worse than last time. The crux involves tight hands to ring locks and off fingers on an over hung wall. A fall and 2 or 3 hangs and I was through it and to the top. I had trouble getting my mind back into lead mode after the fall. TR'ed the climb after Cass wouldn't lower me and was able to hike through it. It was all mental. All that draws me to climbing and frustrates me to no avail at the same time. Everything just felt wrong and my confidence was suffering. I'll be back strong and get the send next season.

Spirits and energy were still high as we made the hike back to the car without headlamps. The moon was so bright there was no need the whole trip. Cass and I head over to Hidden Valley Camp Ground to look for the unpublicized park secrets like the Space Station, Iron Door, and Chasm of Doom. As we sat in the space station I realized one of many things this trip. Cass and I have very little knowledge of each  other's past. Our conversations just don't drift from future plans to personal past, rather they focus on enjoying the present and not having a desire to deviate from it. This is something I experience with my closest friends. It's a relief to see we haven't drifted apart over the years.

After a night of cuddling with snakes and a morning of coffee, we darted off to Double Cross (5.7+). No line. If you climb in Josh much you'll be able to appreciate that. We also ran into the legendary Jim Bridwell. Enough said. The day gets even better when we walk up to Sail Away (5.8) and spot a draw in the crack. "BOOTY!" I climb up to it. clean a perfectly placed cam without the use of a nut tool. Wow, I must have done good. I look up to start climbing again and see ANOTHER draw that couldn't be seen from the ground. "BOOTY!" Perfect alien. Can you say Christmas? We climb another 4 or 5 pitches and call it a day as Cass has to make it back to the rehearsal dinner and her car is 30 miles in the wrong direction. Unfortunately this means goodbye between the two of us.

Back in the park it's time to get into NIAD shape. I make my way to Hercule's Crack (5.11d) to stash gear and try to get in as many laps as possible the next day. After a long hike I couldn't find a way to the top w/o aiders. Remaining day went like this:

>Hike Back
>Drive to Intersection Rock
>Shoot the Sunset
>Bouler and Pigpen
>Send Pigpen (V4)
>Dead Car Battery

Solo life on the road wouldn't be exciting without this kind of stuff. Thankfully I was in the campground at a reasonable hour. Hiked to the bivy spot and went to bed, sort of. The moon was so full I had trouble sleeping.

I was almost back to my car the next morning, I could taste the coffee as I was within the 5 minute marker. I trail runner begins to walk in the distance. It's Cass. GAME ON!! Another day of climbing together. Apparently she just couldn't keep herself away. I personally thought she had enough of my antics like not letting her tape for the unforgiving cracks of Josh. Clearly this partnership is meant to be and I'm not about to complain. We shared 7 pitches up to 10d in under 4 hours and called it a day.

Eventually we said until next time. Plans have been made for me to get out to Maine this Fall to climb with her and potentially El Potrero Chico this winter (Probably going to happen w/ or w/o Cass). I'm happy to leave with the feeling that our history of climbing together has only begun. There is no doubt Cass will be featured in many more Trip Reports written here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Power Failure

After half a day of rest from Moonlight Carlos and I planned to climb Touchstone Wall at 5.11 C2. I wanted to approach this as more of a free climb after the first 2 aid pitches. You can leave all of your aid gear at the top of the second pitch and grab it on the way back down if you rap the route. We woke up and had coffee at The Mean Bean to check the weather. 80% chance of rain and snow. "Won't be doing that route today. Sorry Carlos." We decide to head to the base and crag for the day. There are some amazing cracks in the vicinity but I've never been in Zion long enough to crag. We warmed up on Cherry Crack which despite a little awkward start was amazingly splitter. Seems to be the story of Zion. We decided on Tails of Flails a hands to fingers crack in a tight corner. I expected this route to be a bit awkward but it ended up being really cool. Lots of stemming/liebacking and jamming with just the right amount of groveling. Both of these routes seemed tough for me as I was still really sore and tired from Moonlight.

 I had really wanted to get on a thin stemming corner called Dire Wolf but felt guilty as this is still out of Carlos's ability and wasn't sure if I had it in me. I decided to climb Fails of Power instead. I thought this route was an 11a turns out to be an 11c. This thing is all #2s to the first set of anchors. I had to down climb 25 ft to grab more as a #3 wouldn't fit. To the first set of anchors is 10b and above that is 11c. I got to the first anchors fine, though having to milk rests. As I moved into the next section the crack began to thin. It moved down to .75 camalots, a size I definitely more practice on. I spent a couple of minutes on a decent foot trying to get my hands to feel solid. I really thought I had it as my ringlocks felt good but after a few moves I popped out for a 15ft ride. Straight Power Failure. I fell close to the first set of anchors and felt it would take me a while before I could climb to the top set of chains. I down climbed and we top roped the first section racing the ominous rain clouds. Managed to stay dry for the day and drove back to CA that night. Definitely going to get back on this one next time I'm in Zion.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Winter Solo of Moonlight Buttress...IN A DAY!!!

Less than a year ago I climbed my first big wall in Zion National Park. Moonlight Buttress is one of the easiest walls in the country but at the time was by far the most mentally and physically taxing thing I had ever done. As my partner, Cheyne, and I were standing on the summit, he compares Moonlight to his recent winter ascent of Zenyatta Mondatta. "A day of climbing on ZM is probably the same a soloing Moonlight in a day." Soloing (aka. rope soloing) is a type of climbing most commonly practiced on big walls. Your still using a rope but you don't have a partner with you so you have to do all of the work involved. You could say that it's twice the amount of work but because you don't get any rests or anyone to help keep morale up end probably ends up being more. Not being able to process anything more stressful that what we just finished my immediate thought was "I could never do that." We talk as we pack up the gear and get headed down Angel's landing trail towards the car. "No way" I said after some thought while hiking. He revised and said it would be just harder than doing it in a day. Either way, unbeknownst to me, the seed was planted.

Fast forward to the Fall. I had finished my first solo in the valley, I was looking to move onto doing a solo in a push. Initially I thought this would be West Face of Leaning Tower but I partnered up with a potential NIAD partner from the bay area instead to see how we climbed together. I wasn't too worried about not having done WFLT since I had been planning on heading Zion after Yosemite anyways. Plus, the comment Cheyne made and the certain doubt was still looming in the back of my head. It was just something I couldn't ignore for whatever reason. Just as strongly as I had doubted my ability on the summit, I had been beginning to doubt if I had made the right judgment up there. What I had settled on was that there was really no way of knowing whether or not I could until I was standing alone on the summit or spending a frigid night high on the route. I just had to do it.

I set a date of completion, one I had been roughly set on for a while, March 16th, 2012. Getting it done within a year of my first wall was a way for myself to see my progression or lack of. I began to plan. Studying the topo, my notes, pitch lengths, etc. I sort of shifted my attention to cardio and overall fitness rather than climbing strength but I knew it didn't matter to much. Without my head in the right place it wouldn't matter how good of shape I was in. The single most important realization I've had in the past year of climbing is if you're psyched, you're going to do it.

I was seriously scared for a good week before Zion. My mind would switch to all of the uncertainties I had about the route anytime I was able to daydream. What if I get stuck? What is weather going to be like? What does a 25 F low feel like with out a sleeping bag? What if I need to bail? Am I fit enough or will I wear out and sleep on the bivy ledge? I had planned on climbing the route without a tagline as it would just slow me down. This meant that I would have no way off the route except the top.

I got to Zion late Thursday and by Friday afternoon I had hike all my gear to the base. Only thing left to do was hike out stealthily that night to bivy at the base. I ended up sleeping outside the park because Carlos, a partner on the trip with me, wouldn't have anyway to get in without paying. We ended our afternoon with some bouldering which was a great way to get used to climbing on the grainy sandstone again.
Afternoon Shade on Moonlight Buttress

4:00 a.m. I'm wide awake the second the alarm goes off. Never before has an alpine start been easy but this was different. Silence ensued as we packed up and drove towards the park. "Today is going to hurt." I told Carlos. Nothing more was said as we drove to the parking lot. The temps were in the mid thirties as I made the approach across the Virgin River which was certainly not as warm this time of day. I blasted music to keep my mind occupied. By 6:30 I had begun climbing.

The first pitch threw a little challenge my way as there was no good anchor at the base. I ended up soloing around 30 ft. to where I could plug to cams. Pulled up my kit, clipped it to the anchor and continued up the poorly protected slab in the dark. This pitch went really well as I was a little hesitant of the insecure feel while rope soloing in shoes fit like bedroom slippers. I make quick time of the pitch and rap and clean with out a hitch. Into good anchors for the rest of the route I start to free/french free the next pitch. Coming around the roof on P2 is the aid crux of the route. This was the only piece that I gave a wholehearted bounce test to on the whole route. Yellow/Orange offset master was soo nice to have there.

By the time I get to the top of the pitch it had become light out and temps are not bad now since I've been moving for a bit. At the top of the pitch I see a giant kit of gear, a portaledge, two ropes fixed on the next pitch and three New Mexicans huddled back in an alcove. They had apparently been yelling to see if I had wanted coffee but with a mean banjo being blasted into my ears from Mumford and Sons I had no clue. I take them up on coffee since I wasn't going to have to lead the next pitch. I had no choice. It was a pin ladder with a bunch of fixed lines and draws left in place. Luckily it won't detract much since it's by far the easiest pitch of the whole route. They make me coffee and take the only pics on the route.

Sorry no camera this time. It's not so much a weight thing as it is a time issue when soloing. Bottom line: if you're not doing something you're wasting time. Down time doesn't exist when you're by yourself.

Rapping to Clean Pith 2

I ended up really enjoying that fact. It was almost easier to always be doing something. I usually psych myself out when I'm not. I kindly took them up on the coffee offer and chatted with them for probably 30-45 minutes. I tried to not give myself a time advantage since I wasn't leading pitch 3. I was afraid it was already around 9 when they told me it was only 7:40!! 2 pitches down and in only 1:10. WHOOOO! I moved up to the rocker block after coffee, had a bagel and started leading again.

About to Jug. Everything I have with me is on my back in this picture.

To the Rocker Block!

No pitch defines Moonlight like the dihedral on pitch 4. It's a 180' pitch that takes yellow master cams for days. Perfect gear the whole pitch. I back cleaned aggressively on this pitch since I only had 3 finger size cams with me. I felt totally safe as there are areas to leave other sizes as pro. I really gained a rhythm here. Place, clip, step, step, step, place clip, step, step, step... Felt good to have everything be basically thoughtless.

The climbing changes character at the rocker block. The rock gets to be a much better quality, the route steepens and the cracks become SPLITTER!!


Pitch 5 has a really nasty flared chimney on it. Getting into the damn thing is tough and awkward. It was great the feel all the air under my feet though. Once I was that the sideways aiding tickery I had to figure out a way to how to clip the bolt. This is where my favorite trickery occurred. I didn't want to lug big bros or a heavy #6 for one 5.8 move so I went with the I'll figure it out. tried to top step in my aiders but I was still a good 8-10 inches from the bolt. I moved back down to my piece, take off the rack and camel back and clip into a piece of gear. Now working my way back up, I stand on the rack and back pack and STRRRRREEETCH to clip the bolt. Nailed it and had a little laugh at the lengths I would go to avoid a little bit of awkward chimney. The aiding continues to be a little strenuous in a corner but you end on a perfect ledge to sit and say "Thank God"

This pitch was the only one on the route I wasn't really enjoying myself. My music had died and the climbing was a big grovel. *Should have thrown a chimney climber on my rack* Ironically this is where I had a major mental block last year when cleaning. I didn't exactly enjoy the pitch but it was way smoother than last time. Felt great to jug the pitch again except this time with confidence and rhythm.

I link the head wall into 2 long pitches. I took 3 purple 0.5 C4s and #3 Metolius Master Cams. Every placement was bomber!!! I placed one after another until I realized I had back cleaned for 50 ft off the anchor. This route really is that good. Since I was linking pitches I really had to run things out. The head wall pitches are basically those size cams for the whole pitch. Last year I placed nothing but #3 Masters for the whole length of pitch 6! I had 6 pieces in this size but it was run out for linking pitches. I'd advise taking more if not very comfortable with the whole process.

As I racked up the for the final pitch I was in the dark again. I was a little nervous since this pitch wanders a bit more and has small stopper placements. The second move off the belay was a bit tricky. Sort of a blind small cam but it was plenty good. As I moved to what I thought to be the crux I was welcomed with tons of BOMBER stoppers. Felt good to finally have pro under me.

 I moved steadily towards the summit at a slower speed. I had really began to slow at this point. I was no longer high stepping and was really affected by fatigue. I had 12 hours to lead the pitch so I knew I would make it so I just focused on not blowing it this late in the game. The final pitch as per the topo really wore me down. I kept looking up knowing I was close only to pull bulge after bulge to another section of wall. All I wanted to see was the  the last section of slab. The 5.7 R slab proved to be easy, even in the dark. It's really just one move and there actually is a #1 and #2 bd to be had. Finally I plop onto the summit. I take a bit of a beak and celebrate. Finish whats in my camel back and get down to rap. I hit my one hitch on the route. My rope gets wedged into a rack when I'm 10 ft. from being completely done. Being so tired I felt a natural emotional reaction about to come out. I forced myself to look at the chains laugh and say "Could be worse" crisis avoided. A jug to the top and pull the unstuck rope up behind me.

I did it!! I didn't feel like stopping I was in such a mental flow that I felt and actually had the thought of going to tag on Touchstone. "How much longer until 24 hrs?" My phone says 10:30. 16 hrs. Temp is 31 F. I tell myself that I'll have to do a link up next time. (As I write this I realize that another seed has already been planted. Haha). Mentally I was fried from being so focused for so long. I had a thousand yard stare going as I tried to focus on simple tasks like getting some food into my system. As I eat I realize how cold it is as I start to shiver in an insulated jacket. Settling into my sleeping bag I realize I'm  exhausted.

I can't believe that a route this good exists. It's so uniform for such a long time. The position nothing short of amazing. I can't wait to go and free this thing.

Overall, soloing really is a lot of work. I moved twice as fast as the average team with 1/2 the amount of people. I figure I did at least 4 times the amount of work as last time. It really took a toll on my body. My fingers were beyond swollen and my feet the next day look like duck feet they were so big. In the end though, it doesn't matter how much torture you put yourself through it's simply incredible to have been there.

As for strategy:
Did the route in 6 pitches with a 70 linking 2/3, 6/7 and 8/9.
You can rap the whole route with a 70 M rope. **I have not done this. I have only been told. I know that you can make it from the top of the dihedral to the ground and from the summit to the bivy. I have been told that you can make it from the bivy to the base of the chimney. I believe the final rap will require to fix your rope. Either have one stashed or come back with another to retrieve your line**

My Rack:

2    #1 Metolius Master Cams
2    #2 Met. Masters
1   0.4 Black Diamond C4s
3    #3 Met. Masters
3   0.5 Black Diamond C4s
2 0.75 BD C4s
2    #1 BD C4s
2    #2 BD C4s
Offset Mast Cams 0/1 to 3/4
DMM Alloy Offsets
BD Wires 4-11
~18 Draws half trad/alpine (could have taken less)
8 or 9 lockers (could have taken less)
1 Double length (didn't use)
Gri Gri 2, Jugs, Aiders, Etc.
70 M 9.8 mm Metolius Rope

5 L Water
3 Cliff Bars
10 packs of homemade Energy Gel
Sendwich (Peanut Butter & Nutella Bagel)
Pair of gloves
Small Camelback and Bullet Pack
Metolius Big Wall Stuff Sack L (Great Rope Bag)
*Notice no chapstick... Big mistake*

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moment of Commitment

Wow. It's been a while since I written anything down here. I still have to give the whole recap on my Fall in Yosemite. I'll get around to that in the upcoming weeks. Probably going to change things up soon. The look is gettin stale.

My current sights are in soloing the classic desert line Moonlight Buttress (V 5.8 C1+) in a day. To come back and do this within one year of my first wall would be a huge progress marker for myself as MB was my fist big wall. I've planned and figured out a strategy however, the voices full of anxiety, doubt, and overall fear won't shut the hell up. It's never easy to prepare for such a big climb. Often, a summit can have a path in time leading to it that is far longer than what the non-climber realizes. This is certainly the case with Moonlight. I may not have realized it immediately, but this climb was first a thought in my head on March 18th, 2011 (the day I topped out the route the first time) and the voices have been talking non-stop ever since.

The mental dialogue is overwhelming. Every time I have climbed a wall though I have had a very distinct moment before hand when I know that I'll summit. I fall into a meditation like state of peacefulness. All the outside bullshit that strays my mind is gone. All self-talk dissipates. When it comes, I know I'm committed. I know that there is a 0% chance of a Bailure on the route. Yesterday, I had my moment. I am fully committed.