The main objective for today was to climb Smashmouth. The Loobster and I had rapped down this route on our descent from Take Back the Rainbow last year and I thought the rock and the climbing looked great. It was rated in the Super Topo guidebook as 5.11+ but it looked easier and I figured most of it has to be easier, as normally that rating would be enough to keep me away. Having just finished my winter rock gym stint, I was at my strongest and wanted to test myself on this crack.
We biked from the campground up to the tunnel wearing packs heavily laden with climbing gadgets. I dumped my pack at the trailhead and went back down a half-mile to give Loobster a hand with his. We hiked around to the Confluence area and decided to do a pitch or two as a warm-up. We didn't want to delay too long, though, as we wanted to do the route while it was in the shade. The wall it was on faced west, so we did have some time and it worked out well, as I only entered the sun on the last pitch.
I led a 4-bolt mixed route (a couple of cam placements, as well) called Salty Dog Arete. It was rated 5.9, but felt soft for the grade. Whether I was just climbing strong or the routes were over-rated, I didn't know, but I hoped it applied to Smashmouth as well. The Loobster followed it easily and in rappelling off we had ourselves a nice toprope over Crimson King - a striking crack line rated 11b/c. The start of this route is so thin that you'd half be a very small person to get your fingers into it. I fell off a number of times, as I tried to work out a way to climb the start, up to where I could get my fingers into it. I found a very powerful lieback sequence where I was on the very edge of barndooring off. In fact, I did a number of times. Above this move, I climbed it cleanly, though very near my limit. The climbing was superb and very fun, at least with my fingers taped nicely for protection.
We pulled the ropes and headed for Smashmouth before my psyche failed. I had hung all over a route rated 11b/c and now headed to a route rated 11b on mountainproject.com and 11+ in the SuperTopo guidebook we carried.
Smashmouth is four short pitches, with the first one being the longest at 100 feet. I climbed up a 5.6/7 corner to a ledge and then climbed a slanting tight-hands cracks rated 11a. It was hard for a move or two, but I had the power and soon it was over and I was on another ledge. I moved left and up a steep 5.9 crack to a belay on a nice stance from two bolts.
The Loobster was purely here to support me and had no desire to try and free climb the crack. This was his choice, but I think he would have done quite well on this route. Nevertheless, he jugged up the rope and soon I was leading the next pitch, which started with a 5.10+, bolt-protected, face climbing section to a nicely featured crack. I felt the face climbing had one semi-hard move and the rest of the pitch felt more like 5.9 or maybe 10-. The pitch ended at another good stance.
The third pitch was a continuous of the crack, but it was much thinner now, mostly protected by 0.4 and 0.5 Camalots, with some 0.75 Camalots. I had four of each of these cams. The climbing was really fun, with technical, smears for the feet mostly and the crack alternated from sinker locks where I could place gear to marginal jams where I wanted to move off them quickly.
I gained altitude steadily but was getting more and more pumped. I thought the belay was at a certain point where the angle rolled back a bit, but there were no bolts. I continued upwards with no belay in sight. The Loobster called up asking how close I was and, looking up,I saw no end in sight. Then I noticed the bolts just off to my right. I was there! I had such tunnel vision I failed to notice the bolts just two feet right of the crack.
The final pitch was supposedly the crux at 11b and I found it to be the crux. At least, it proved to be the only place I fell off. I made progress pretty nicely up until about ten feet from the final anchors. I was getting tired and had to lock off a hand jam for a huge reach past a thin section of the crack to a slopey pinch. I just didn't have it and fell off. After a brief rest, I pulled the jam even lower and reached a bit higher. This time the pinch felt reasonable and I finished cleanly to the belay. What a great climb!
I had the Loobster lower me from from the top anchors and I cleaned the pitch on the way down. This saved the Loobster from having to jug another pitch, since the descent is to rap the route. Three more short rappels and we were back at the packs. We hiked back to the bikes and the coasted down the hill back to the campground where beers, chips, and salsa awaited us.
After-advenuture weight: 158.6