Friday, July 31, 2009

At the Castle with Lord Byron

Years ago I made Country Club Crack (CCC) on Castle Rock a project of mine. The first pitch is a boulder problem face move rated 11b/c and the second pitch is a beautiful hand crack that passes a roof and pinches down to off-fingers at the crux (11b). I eventually got both pitches clean, but that seemed a lifetime ago this morning.

I met Byron at the Justice Center in west Boulder at 6 a.m. and we drove 12 miles up the Canyon to Castle Rock. It had been raining all week and I wasn't surprised to see the first pitch slab moves covered in water. This was my lead, as Byron wanted the crack and felt he was close to redpointing it. I stood in a sling on the first bolt, did one move, clipped and grabbed the draw at the second bolt and then made tenuous moves left and up over wet ground. This was a bit scary, but got to the crack without incident.

The crack itself is rated 5.8, but it's more like 5.9. It has a tricky, flared start and I was a bit desperate here and almost fell off. The rest of the pitch has some challenging moves, but interspersed with nice stances for placing gear. Fifty feet up I clipped the belay bolts and brought Byron up. Byron didn't like the wet slab below any more than I did.

Byron fired the crack pitch up to and over the roof to the leg-hook rest. He looked really solid, placing lots of gear easily. When I redpointed this pitch I had it down so well that I could go further between gear, but I needed to do that to save energy for the crux above. That doesn't seem to be an issue with Byron. He has power to burn.

At the crux Byron plugged a key jam with piece and had to downclimb, place a different piece, and remove the other piece. By the time he did all this, he needed a rest and hung on the rope. So close. After a brief rest, he fired the crux and up to the belay. He made the pitch look reasonable and since I had it down pretty well before, I figured it might go well for me also. Not so much.

The pitch has nice jamming, but it's tight in a lot of places and the crack leans a bit to the left, making it a bit more strenuous because of the difficulty with the feet. I barely made it to the stem rest below the roof and rested quite awhile. I pulled the roof with the thinnest of margins and rested from the leg-hook, though it isn't that restful, as your leg and abdominals are still working.

I climbed up to the crux, pumped silly and hung on the rope. After a rest, I climbed a bit higher and hung again. Finally, I was able to do the crux move and barely do the traverse to the right. I remember this was so pumpy when I first starting working this route and it eventually became really casual. It's back to be being really pumpy.

Ah, the memories... This is a great route. I should start working this baby again and try to get some fitness back. We rapped off and I was at work before 9 a.m.

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