Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joshua Tree w/Derek - Day 3

On the crux pitch of Bird on a Wire (10a R)

Monday Derek and I went climbing with Opediah while Dave and Callie went birding. We left the house around 9.m. headed for the Lost Horse area. Our first route had an approach that was less than one minute and had the intimidating name of Granny Goose. This 5.7 route ascended a short crack up to an undercling traverse over to a wide crack. The wide crack wasn't too bad because of extraneous face holds. I scampered up to the top and Derek followed nicely. Opie climbed the route in his approach shoes sans helmet. He's too cool for helmets and too good for climbing shoes. We scrambled down and moved the car down a couple of turnouts to hike up a gully filled with a jumble of huge boulders. The hike/scramble to the base of the Shorter Wall was strenuous and took us 20-30 minutes. 

At the base of the wall was a couple from Washington D.C. The guy was quite vocal about his mate's shortcomings with leading, belays, etc. Another couple from Denver soon arrived. The D.C. team went at Double Dogleg (5.7) while I started up Smithereens (5.9). This route follows a crack up a steep wall, but the profusion of face holds keeps the difficulty reasonable. I found a two-bolt rappel anchor on a great ledge at the top and Derek and Opie joined me. We rapped and repeated the drill on Young Lust (5.9), which seemed a bit harder. Then we moved to the far right, past the D.C. couple that were toproping a run-out face route called Rock Candy that had four bolts in 100 feet, but allowed for a couple of natural gear placements as well. We climbed Beck's Bet, a 5.8 crack, up to another bolt anchor. We then did Double Dogleg (5.7) and on rappel I thought Rock Candy looked really fun. We pulled the rope and I led the face. It was engaging because of the runouts, but no harder than 5.9. We all agreed that it was an excellent route.

Opediah Chuckwalla, the wizened desert sage and legendary hoary Joshua Tree rope caddy, handled the flaking of our route at the base of each route. Being a full-service rope caddy (legendary no less), he also pulled and coiled the rope after each rappel. He continued performing this service as we packed up and moved down the canyon to a route called Mr. Michael Goes to Washington. This was a fun route that went up a tricky crack and then traversed across a thin face and Derek got to use his recently-measured +2.5-inch ape index to span the gap.

We headed down to the car for a late lunch and then moved the car down a bit further. We hiked up to the Lost Horse Wall - one of the bigger faces in Joshua Tree - and Mr. Chuckwalla guided us to the base. Here we had planned on doing a 5.8 from our trad book, but Opediah sung the praises of Bird on a Wire (10a) and I took the bait. Derek was game and we started up while the OC hiked down to the shade to shoot photos of our daring exploits. I scampered up the first, low-angle pitch and set up a gear belay below the business. Derek followed and soon I was starting up the crux pitch. The first section has positive holds along the edge of a crack and it went nicely and protected well. I arrived at the base of an incipient crack and found two bolts. There was a 3-inch rounded shelf here and I elected to belay, though I had used less than half the rope. Derek followed, pausing at one tricky section but working it out and joined me at the belay. 

This belay was basically a hanging belay, as we leaned out against the anchor. I had the rope flaked across my tie-in line and transferred it over to Derek. He'd never belayed in such a spot before, but it didn't faze him at all and he expertly fed me rope on the next pitch. The climbing above was tenuous, using marginal crack holds and friction footholds, marginally protected by flaring cam placements. I was acutely aware that if I came off, I'd land on Derek. I tried to get him to lean right, out of the fall line, but at a hanging belay there wasn't much he could do. I moved up cautiously and twenty feet above the belay I finally sunk a locker stopper. The rest of the pitch followed a solid crack with good protection and the difficulties eased to about 5.7. 

I found a good stance at the top of the crack and rigged a bomber belay. I wanted to stay in sight of Derek because I figured he'd have some trouble with this bizarre climbing and didn't want him to lose much altitude due to rope stretch in the event of a fall. Derek cleaned the belay and started up. And he kept coming, with nary a pause. It was like he was climbing a ladder instead of the insecure 10a crux. He literally walked it, all the way up to the belay. I said "Great job, Derek," and he responded, "I'm doing the work. I'm not a slacker. I'm baby stepping." Movie/TV lines are his forte.

The last pitch was fun and easy except for one short section near the top. Coiling the rope my sore hands missed our legendary, though less than faithful, rope caddy. We found the scramble descent back to the base and when we arrived Opediah's voiced boomed from across the canyon: "Let's blow this popsicle stand!" We packed up and headed for base camp. 

Granny Goose  5.7 
Smithereens Shorter Wall  5.9 
Young Lust  5.9 
Beck's Bet  5.8 
Double Dogleg  5.7 
Rock Candy  5.9 
Mr. Michael Goes to Washington  5.8 

Bird on a Wire Lost Horse Wall  5.10a

Day 3 Totals: 8 routes, 11 pitches 

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