Saturday, May 23, 2009

22 pitches in Eldo

Buzz and I met at 7 a.m. and took things a bit slow to get started. In the parking lot we met a guy and two women who were headed for the first pitch of Rewritten and then cutting over to Icarus. Let left the parking lot at the same time we did. I started up Rewritten at 7:50 a.m. and we took 40 minutes to climb the route. We descended found our party of three just forty feet off the ground and two other parties queued up for Rewritten. It was nice to have that one out of the way.

I started up Great Zot / Zot Face at 8:47 a.m. and placed two pieces of gear on the first pitch, passing, feeling really solid on this pitch. We took 37 minutes to climb that route and descended again and started up Green Spur at 9:47 a.m. As we descended the trail to Green Spur I noticed a party climbing the second pitch of the Yellow Spur. I figured these guys wouldn't be a problem, but we'd meet these guys.

We took 53 minutes to climb the Green Spur and simul-climbed the entire route by using a couple of judicious Ropemans. We descended once again and on the hike down I could see the party on the Yellow Spur leading the 5th pitch. Alright! I thought. They won't be in our way.

We started up Yellow Spur and things went very quickly. I protected the roof with a Ropeman and was set to string the entire route as one pitch until we caught a party at the top of the 5th pitch! In the time it took for the leader to lead half of the 5th pitch and the second to climb most of it, we had descended to the base of the Green Spur, grabbed our gear, walked over to the start of the Yellow Spur, ate some food, drank some water, geared up and led five pitches. Oh well.

We waited 30 minutes for then to lead the last two pitches and then I led up about twenty feet below the second. Since I couldn't move fast with the party above me, this time I free climbed the crux pitch. This is really fun, balancy climbing. I cut left on the Robbins 5.8+ exit and after turning the headwall, I placed a Ropeman and continued up the arete to the summit. Here the going was extremely slow for me as Buzz went slow and cautious on the pin ladder.

Unfortunately, he didn't follow the route I led! He continued up the 5.10 direct finish despite the fact that the rope went left to the fixed pin on the Robbins Traverse. At that point he was royally screwed and I would have been too, except for two things. We had the Ropeman, thank god. Also, I had just barely made the summit where I was pinned for 15 minutes all the while completely baffled at what could be going on down below. The only thing I could think of was that Buzz couldn't climb the route, but I know he pulls on the draws and should have no troble. The traverse is runout and has to be free climbed, but it was just 5.8. I was very confused and more than a little bit concerned. I was trapped as well. I couldn't move up. At one point I knew he had weighted the rope and indeed he eventually weighted the route and did a hand traverse / pendulum to get back over to the fixed pin. This had to be terrifying for him because it was the first time he had to trust a Ropeman and if it didn't work or if I didn't have some slack in the rope or if I hadn't made the summit, he could have pulled me off. If that had happened, I could have died.

But the Ropeman worked as planned and we were fine, but it did concern me greatly how he could climb off route while seconding a route he has done so many times and an exit we had just talked about 15 minutes earlier. We decided in the future to belay all 5.9 pitches for him. In all the cases we have planned I'd be on easy ground anyway, so there wasn't much time to save. I'll just belay him on these sections and then two minutes later I'll be out a hundred feet.

We descended the East Slabs and were back at the car by 1 p.m. We plan to be back tomorrow to practice some different routes.

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