Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Naked Edge Project, Part I: Getting Started

I've been talking about the Naked Edge as a redpoint project for a long time and it's time to make it a reality. Today I started on the project for 2005, but first a brief history of my experiences on this route to date.

The Naked Edge is probably the most famous Colorado climb and certainly the best line of any route in Eldorado Canyon. It was first ascended by Layton Kor and then first freed by Jim Erickson and Duncan Fergusson. The route starts 2-3 pitches off the ground and there are various approach options with the most popular being Touch and Go (5.9) to the ramp and Cave Pitch (5.8), but the fastest being the Ramp Route (5.6) to the Cave Pitch (5.8). Then the Edge consists of five pitches: a 5.11a finger crack, a 5.10b face/crack pitch, a long 5.8+ crack/face pitch with a tricky mantle move, a 5.11a corner/chimney pitch, and the final 5.11b boulder problem to overhanging hand crack. Most people combine the first two pitches into one and some hardmen combine the last two pitches as well.

In 1995 Bruce Bailey took me up this route, leading all but the third pitch. I fell on pitches 1,2,4, and 5, and grabbed tons of gear on the final pitch. Next I did it with Mark Hudon (2000?) in the same style. This time I climbed pitches 2,3, and 4 clean, but fell on the first pitch again and had a horrendous time on the final pitch. Finally, I climbed it with Hardly Manson (2002?) when he onsighted the entire route and I climbed all pitches cleanly, albeit just following. I went back with Hardly in 2003 and led the first pitch with a couple of hangs and TRed the crux a bit, and then rapped off.

Today I met Hardly in the Canyon at 6:25 a.m. Roger Linfield was there with his partner as well. We were both surprised to see another party there. Hardly was shocked to be the fourth car in the parking lot, as he is almost always the first car. Roger and his partner went off to do Neon Lights and we headed for the Edge.

Hardly led Touch and Go to the anchors and I followed and then the Ramp/Cave Pitch to the bottom of the route. Hardly joined me and I started up the pitch. I got up past the first difficulties (rated 10c in Rossiter's book) without too much trouble. There is a fixed stopper and a fixed Blue Alien on this pitch, which come in handy. I climbed cleanly through the last piece of pro before the finishing crux, but then fell off, hardly dropping at all since I filled a key fingerlock with a green Alien. We forgot the blue Aliens, but next time I'll have them to avoid filling this slot.

I hung briefly and then finished the lead cleanly. This pitch is continuous, but never desperate. The fingerlocks are uniformly bad and so are the feet. There is just enough to make this pitch go and I haven't figured out the optimal route yet and don't climb it fast enough. Placing the gear saps energy as well. It will go, but will take a couple more tries, I think.

The weather was absolutely perfect and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We decided to continue since I had never led the 2nd pitch before. This pitch is absolutely stellar! It starts with a runout slab, but the holds and friction here are great. I clipped two bolts and a fixed pin before ducking around to the left side of the arete, where you hit the crux: a tricky corner with marginal handholds and technical feet. The key is a nice hold above that is somehow easy to miss because it is near a very chalked slot in the crack. This slot is marginal, but the unchalked hold below it is great! I didn't use this hold my first two times up this pitch and I thought this section was very hard, but if you use this hold, the pitch feels 5.9 to me. When Hardly followed he failed to notice this hold, like I did my first two times. I suspect others might miss it as well. It is so big and so useful, but you get tunnel vision on the chalked up crack.

We rapped back to the top of the first pitch, as it was time to head to work, but then we couldn't pull our rope. Hardly re-led the pitch in less than 10 minutes and I followed quickly as well. I didn't have to follow, of course, but it didn't take long and it is so fun!

We got the ropes to pull this time (make sure you pull the rope next to the rock so that you don't pin the other end of the pin against the rock) and continued with four more single rope rappels to the ground. We were driving out of the park by 9:30 a.m. with plans to return on Friday morning. I'm not sure if we'll head to the Edge again. I don't want Hardly to get too bored. I told him we can alternate the Naked Edge with whatever he wants to climb.

So, progress was made. One hang/fall on the first pitch and the 2nd pitch is clean and basically wired. The third pitch is moderate and I've had good success following the 4th pitch. The 5th pitch is going to be a big issue, but I need to get up there and start working it.


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