|Smooth video here.|
Chris is a well-known climber and writer. He climbs 5.14, is good buddies with Alex Honnold, is a guide, and writes for various publications. It was through his writing that I got to know him. He wrote a piece for the local paper on setting goals for the year and I always do this as well. It seemed like we had something in common, though certainly not athletic ability.
Chris told me he wanted to experience speed climbing and asked if we to go out and try it in Eldo. I knew Chris has linked up multiple big wall routes in Zion, all free, in a day, so I thought to myself, "Okay...but we'll be climbing slower than you've already climbed..." But I guess it will be different, since Chris was able to link those routes free without simul-climbing. This was probably wise, as the routes were Moonlight Buttress (12d) and Monkeyfinger (12b). So, his speed came not from a specific technique, but because he's just a very good, efficient climber. And he might have had a really good partner as well...
One of my standard speed circuits is to link up Long John Wall (5.8, 5 pitches) with the Yellow Spur (5.9 or 10b, depending upon start and finish, 7 pitches) and possibly tacking on Calypso/Reggae (5.8, 4 pitches with the downclimb), and the Bastille Crack (5.8, 5 pitches). I'd done the full link-up in under two hours before, but we wouldn't be going for that kind of speed. This was just going to be a fun, casual outing.
We met early and after one false start (I forgot the rope!), we were off. We brought a 100-foot rope and though I did carry a belay device, I never used it and don't usually on something like this. When simul-climbing, in general, you have the strongest climber going second, especially if you forget to the bring the Ropeman devices for protecting the leader against the second falling off. Hence, I led both routes.
I brought my standard Eldo rack (doubles of cams up to #2 Camalot, one #3 Camalot) except that I didn't bring any stoppers and I brought three extra slings. The idea is to lead each route as a single pitch and I did this.
We hiked over to the Long John Wall and I gave Chris the drill on how it would go and then I said, "See you at the Yellow Spur," and was off. I didn't move particularly fast, but tried to just move steady and place solid gear before any crux move. It went well and Chris never held me up (big surprise there, huh?). I topped out, looped a sling over a horn and started downclimbing the backside of the West Ridge. When Chris topped out, he untied and I pulled down the rope, coiled it and continued down to the gully, then across it and over to the Yellow Spur.
Chris regrouped with me at the start of the Yellow Spur and we re-racked. We repeated the procedure on the Yellow Spur and it went smoothly. I was stumped a bit at the thin, tricky section over the lip of the roof on the second pitch, but took my time and made sure I was solid. I decided to finish on the easier Robbin's Traverse instead of the direct finish for two reasons. First, I was running out of slings. Second, and more importantly, I usually put a Ropeman above this section so that if the second falls off on the crux, it won't pull me off the runout 5.6 I'm climbing above. I knew the chances of Chris falling on 10b were small, but the climbing is very delicate and it is possible for even him to fall. I was more likely to fall there, of course, but I'd be safe if I fell, just not if he fell.
I love the pin ladder section. It is such a cool position and so delicate and you have to really stay in balance. At the top of the route, I loop the rope over the very summit and downclimb off towards the descent gully while Chris is climbing the last pitch.
We coiled and descended the East Slabs. I needed to get to work, so we called it a morning after just those two routes. We did the roundtrip from the car in two hours. Chris seemed to enjoy it and hopefully we'll be out again next week.