Monday, June 06, 2005

King's X

I met Stefan in Eldo at 6 a.m. this morning and it was windy and cold (50 degrees). The combination of two was too much for us to try March of Dimes since it was fully exposed to the wind. Instead we went down to the base of the South Face of the Wind Tower did King's X (10d, S). My climbing in Eldo had been going quite well, but this route remains a nemesis for me. I've never led the second pitch, which is nearly always combined with the first pitch these days since both pitches are very short and link easily and naturally. I've redpointed the 1st pitch, which involves some tricky climbing to one very hard section that consists of only a couple of moves. This is rated 10d and is probably the burliest move on the route, but the real meat of the route is the very tricky, very Eldo, climbing above that goes through the A-frame roof.

Stefan geared and led this pitch combination nicely. He had to do a bit of a dynamic move on the first bulge, but was really solid on the upper section. This upper part is continuous and doesn't have any good rests or stances to place gear, at least until you get into the key stem that marks the end of the crux. Until there, you are hanging off one hand to place gear. The climbing is classic Eldorado: tiny holds, pinches, slanting holds, small, technical feet, smearing, complex. It's a very compelling problem to solve. The gear looks dicey when previewing the pitch from below, but some key fixed gear makes the lead reasonable safe. The problem is the gradual deterioration of your forearms as you place the gear and try to decipher the sequence.

Stefan set up a hanging belay about 15 feet above the roof and it was my turn. I cranked the difficult bulge and then shook out and tried to warm my cold hands. I then moved past a couple of pieces of gear until I couldn't get a yellow Alien out of the crack. I worked on it for about five minutes before I placed a red Alien and clipped into it to work the piece. The problem was that his red Alien made it impossible to remove the yellow Alien. I couldn't communicate with Stefan because of the roof and the wind and therefore couldn't call for tension. I could have just fallen off and got the tension I needed, but I decided to unclip the piece and continue up. Once I turned the roof and could talk to Stefan, I'd get him to lower me back down to get the piece.

I moved up to the crux section, which is so cool, but difficult to deciper. I eventually solved the first section and I knew I had to get my right foot high and right onto a good edge, but I couldn't figure out how to get this done and fell off. I was now high enough to talk to Stefan and lowered down, got the piece, and reclimbed up this section, only to fall off yet again. Dang, this is a tricky area. There is one good hold and that's it. One hold for one hand. The feet are terrible here and there is nothing for your other hand. You have to sort of lockoff on this hold and heave your foot out to the right. I'm sure there's a better way to do this, but I couldn't figure it out today. I eventually got something to work.

Once your foot is on this edge, you should have the pitch, though you still need to turn the roof. Some judicious chimney technique, complete with body and head (wear a helmet) scumming got me up to the lip, where I could grab a jug on the right. The key here is to not proceed upwards, since there still isn't much for feet, but to push out into a big stem and get your left foot out onto the lip of the downward sloping roof. Then you can grab another jug on the other side of the "A" and from there it is easy to finish.

I took over the lead and led straight above the belay, which was a different finish for me. I'd had previously gone to the right and to the left. This led directly into Left Out (5.8+, S) and I linked that pitch into a 160-foot lead to a tree. Left Out is an exciting, runout, exposed, fun climb that I highly recommend.

Stefan followed easily and we downclimbed the Bomb to the Boulder Direct back to the ground. It was after 8 a.m. so we decided to call it a morning and headed to work. I need to go back to this climb early and often. I want to learn it's secrets.


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