Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dinosaur Mountain Sport Climbing

I went up to Dinosaur Mountain today with Tom and Bruno. Tom and I were recruited to belay Bruno on his project Milkbone (5.13a). Bruno was close to sending it. He'd done all the moves and just needed to link it. He has it down to just two hangs.

We met at NCAR and hiked up the Mallory Cave Trail to the north face of Dinosaur Rock. To warm up, Bruno cruised up a Patience Face (5.12a), making it look super easy. While Bruno led this I went for my own warm-up on Sunnyside II, a 5.0 scramble on nearby Der Zerkle. Detect a difference in our warm up routes? This is very indicative of our respective abilities.

I then followed Patience Face on toprope and got totally crushed. I made it up a few clips before coming off my first time. I got back on and climbed up to the first crux, which I couldn't do and pulled through on the draws. I did the same at the second crux. And again at the finishing section. It felt 5.12 to me while pulling on the draws! There are many hidden or hard to find holds on the route. Bruno called up copious beta to me but my lack of power, endurance and technique were the limiting factors.

Not so with Tom, though. He flashed it! I was super impressed having just been completely stumped. Tom climbed it really well, very smooth. Oh, and the reason I went first was to clean the draws. Tom, like me, is one of those very rare climbers that still likes to redpoint routes, not pink point them.

While Bruno took a go at redpointing Milkbone (yes, a redpoint go, though he'll be satisfied when he gets the pinkpoint), I went off on another scramble. This time up the East Face of Dinosaur Rock (5.5). I was testing out my new scrambling shoes: La Sportiva Mix. The seemed to work pretty well, but I don't think the rubber on them is as sticky as the dot rubber that was on the old Exum Ridge shoes.

When I got back to the base I found a chaotic outdoor gym. People, kids, and ropes were everywhere. I was hoping to get another burn on Patience Face, to pull down Tom's draws, but the rope had been pulled and another team was loitering at the base. Not climbing, but getting ready to climb - a process that would take them another 15 minutes. Dang. I was just going to head out, as I don't enjoy this scene. I have exactly zero interest in going to an outdoor climbing gym. This atmosphere was more crowded than Movement. I train in gym in winter, but when it comes to climbing outside, I want at least a little wilderness or at least a little space from other climbers. Tom could see that I was frustrated and he convinced me to take a burn on Milkbone. I was reluctant, thinking I wouldn't get more than a couple feet up it. There is no chance I'd ever work that route, as it is 3 letter grades above my hardest redpoint and well beyond my abilities. But, given that I was there and at least wanted to get more of a workout in, I reluctantly headed up. I made it up to the start of the crux, three bolts up, and then, after finding the holds useless, starting pulling on draws with gusto. I still had to hang very few seconds, but I pulled myself to the top of the route, nearly without grabbing the rock! I think Tom, belaying me, got in more of a workout than I did. He did a masterful job of keeping the rope tight, despite starting with 200 feet of rope out.

I lowered up and re-clipped the rope into the draws on the way down. Tom was up for a TR lap, but gave it up early as he was running into the rope of another climber on Ultrasaurous and a climber lowering off Patience Face nearly landed on my head while I was belaying. It was a very unpleasant scene and Tom didn't like it any better than I did.

Bruno had led Milkbone, placing the draws, with just two hangs. That was really his second warm-up. He now pulled the rope and prepared to send it. Tom belayed and I shot some video. Bruno is very strong and a really good technical climbers. He uses his feet and positions his body so well. It's very instructive and inspiring to watch him climb. He got up to the first crux, turned the roof onto the pillar, made the clip. Then his feet slipped off, but somehow he hung on and moved up to the next clip, the crux clip. Here, he ran out of juice and had to grab the draw to clip. Dang. He hung one more time just a clip or two above and then finished clean. I don't know, but I think chaos of the scene disrupted his efforts as well.

We packed up and moved over to the south face of Der Zerkle, which has three separate areas of bolted sport climbs. We got on one of the lower routes with a vicious sandbag reputation called April Fools (5.11c). Tom led up, but not without difficulty. He fell off between the second and third bolts. He fell again. He made the third clip and took. He climbed way above the fifth clip, didn't like and downclimbed to take again. Then he finished it. I followed using my now customary draw-grabbing approach and had a hard time imagining how I'd ever do it. The route is very overhung and the handholds are bad, but the footholds are much worse.

Or so we thought until we watched Bruno onsight it. He purposely didn't look up and watch either of us climb it and then he just read it so well and styled it! To me it was the best performance of the day. I asked him how hard he thought it was and he said, "I think 11c is about right." Hmmm... Tom gave it another try, with the draws in place - very unusual for him. He climbed smoothly and got the pinkpoint, looking pretty solid.

We then climbed another, shorter, overhanging route that starts at the bottom of Sunnyside Two. This route is called ? and is rated 11b. This is probably right. If I had trained in the gym more on the steeper gray wall, I'd have been better prepared for it. Alas, I don't usually climb on the steep walls in the gym, telling myself that "I never climb that angle outside." But here I was climbing that angle all day... Or rather, not climbing that angle all day.

Bruno cruised the route easily. I fell off a couple of times following, but for the first time all day, I made the ascent without pulling on the draws! Tom and Bruno were stunned. Tom then led it, easily as well, and I decided to try again, with a bit more beta. This time I climbed it clean, albeit just on toprope. I think I could lead this route in a couple more tries. I'll probably work on that.

That was it. We packed up and hiked back to the car.

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