Yesterday Stefan texted me asking if I wanted to spend a few hours on the Edge. He's in the midst of a very entertaining battle to own the speed record on that route. This has to be the friendliest speed battle ever. This is not a Hans vs. Dean situation. I agreed because it's fun for me to even be peripherally involved with these incredible athletes. As satisfying as it is to help out a friend, I was also being helped out. Anytime I can have a rope-gun help me dial in the Edge, I take it.
We met Mike Schlauch just below Genesis. He was going up to work some heinous route. Stefan had tried it. I didn't even recognize the name or remember it. We chatted with Mike a bit too long and another party had started up the Ramp Route, headed for Anthill Direct. I figured we'd just wait, but when the belayer didn't even have his shoes on and the leader was placing a piece on the 4th class ramp, I knew we didn't have the patience. Stefan suggested we do Touch and Go and that sounded like the best solution, but then he said we should just solo by these guys and rope up later. The climbing up to the Cave is only 5.6, but it is quite steep in a couple of spots. I'd never soloed this approach before, though it should be in my comfort range. I agreed and the leader nicely let us by. I felt comfortable sans rope and we went clear to the Cave pitch. I didn't want to solo this pitch,. Though I've never fallen on it, it involves an awkward move to get out from the cave and I didn't see much to gain by adding this stress.
Once at the base, Stefan led the first pitch up to the anchors. He moved smoothly and placed three pieces of gear in 70 feet. After I lowered him back down to the ledge he casually said that had taken him 2m33s! You'd think a guy who can climb this pitch this fast wouldn't need to practice further, but the record is so ridiculous now that the teams are concentrating on trimming seconds.
Stefan then led the first and second pitches as one and I followed. I got the first pitch clean again, with a very tight rope from Stefan, but fell off the 10b section at the end of the second pitch. Ugh. Every hold felt desperate here. I think I was just pumped/tired. I then lowered Stefan back down to the start and the TRed the first and second pitches in 3m27s. Impressive. At this point even Stefan was complaining about about the very painful fingertip jamming on that first pitch.
Stefan led the third pitch, placing a single piece of gear in 140 feet. I followed. Stefan led the fourth pitch, the chimney pitch, and then lowered down from the anchors at the top. This is unusual for him to stop at this point, but he was here to practice and the next pitch traverses even more to the right, making lower down problematic. He switched the way he does the lower dihedral, using what he calls "the Hans Method", since I told him this was the way that Hans did it.
I TRed the pitch up to the belay. I climbed it clean, but it took me a good while to complete the moves into the chimney for a couple of minutes I was stuck, pressed into the chimney, but unable to move up because my feet were too low and my hands/arms too weak. I eventually made something work and got to the belay. Stefan climbed the pitch again and led up the crux pitch through the boulder problem and overhanging hand crack and then set up a belay right there, without doing the 5.6 climbing to the top. This was mainly for me - to give me a tighter rope while I flailed on this pitch - but also in case he wanted to lower down and go again. The weather was threatening, though, so he didn't do this.
I used Stefan's beta for the boulder problem and got it clean. Sweet. I rarely get this clean, but Stefan's method seemed pretty reasonable. I went up the ramp and on the duck-around move I really stressed my left knee and it still hurts. I must have twisted it while under pressure from squatting so low. I hope this doesn't linger.
All I had left to do was the final hand crack, maybe 20-25 feet of hard climbing. While I have redpointed the Naked Edge, I feel only my closest friends would believe that after watching my performance on this crack. The only positive thing I can say is that I didn't aid any of the moves. And that's only because Stefan only placed one piece, a #2 Camalot, and it was above the hardest climbing. I hung all over this section and only made it up because Stefan made sure I didn't drop at all when I weighted the rope. I think this was the hardest he worked all afternoon.
I led the last section to the top and we headed down the slabs. I was really tried from the climbing and moved at a glacial pace on the descent. I marveled that Stefan and Jason can descend from the top of the Edge to the bridge in just six minutes! I probably took 20 minutes.
It was a really fun afternoon and I learned some new tricks from the past (and future?) Naked Edge speed record holder.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
My buddy Mark was taken a friend up the Maiden and offered me a free ride up this iconic Boulder-area spire. I couldn't resist that. All the fun and none of the work of carrying the gear, because he also suggested I climb the Fatiron first and then just meet them at the Crow's Nest. Okay...you don't have to twist my arm.
They left the trailhead at 6 a.m. and I left at 7 a.m. I trotted, laboriously because I feel like I either have no fitness or weigh a metric ton, or both, up the Homestead Trail to the Mesa Trail to the Bridge Trail en route to the Fatiron. The brush at the start of the Fatiron trail looked so thick that I headed up the Maiden approach trail until the off rock road and then went cross-country, mostly on talus, to meet up with the Fatiron's climber's trail. I was happy to leave the main trails and switch to hiking. It was already warm and I was sweating up a storm.
|The upper section of the Fatiron from the summit of the lower section. You can see my shadow at the bottom of the photo.|
|Looking over at the Maiden from the Fatiron. Mark is standing above the bump on the right.|
|Eric finishing the first crux pitch|
I picked my way through the boulders down to the start of the Maiden's super cool and super circuitous North Face route. I climbed up the initial 40-foot face and met Eric on top. He was belaying Mark as he climbed to the Crow's Nest. I put on my harness here and then followed Eric, still unroped, to the Crow's Nest. Mark decided it was quicker for me just to lead on, so I tied in, grabbed the rack and led the usual crux pitch across the north side to a huge ledge.
Eric followed next, belayed from both sides, and he cruised it. Mark soon joined us and I proposed the Walton Traverse (5.7) instead of the usual route, as it doesn't involve any more downclimbing and is more direct, though more difficult. Mark was okay with that and I led it, trying to place as much gear as possible, though there are a few sections where you have to just run it out. This was primarily to protect my seconds, though I didn't mind the gear either.
|Mark finishing up the Walton Traverse|
Eric cruised across once again, only pausing at two sections to decipher the best moves. Mark did the same but paused a bit longer at the last dicey section, since he'd have to do it after pulling the last piece and face a nasty fall if he peeled off. Of course, he didn't fall and was just being 100% solid.
Mark led the last pitch and I soloed up it just above him to take some photos. Soon all three of us were on top and I rappelled first. Mark wanted me to give Eric a fireman's belay, just in case, on the massively exposed and intimidating first rappel. This turned out to be a very good idea. Eric didn't seem to like the prospect of leaning out over 200 feet of high and lowering into empty space. It appeared that he balked at least a couple of times at the lip and that isn't including the FaceTime call he got from his wife after already clipping in to rappel.
|Mark on the final pitch of the Maiden|
|Eric on the summit|
|One airy rappel!|
|Eric at the Crow's Nest at the bottom of the first rappel|
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
|Scott Bennett and Brad Gobright - new Naked Edge record holders|
Wells/Griebel set the record of 26m33s about a month ago when they broke Bennett/Gobright's record of 29 minutes and change. These teams have continually one-upped each other, but tonight it was in doubt.
Bennett and Gobright arrived in Eldo this afternoon and took a warm-up lap on the Edge. EpicTV had a couple of cameraman out to capture the action. One was stationed on a fixed line near the top of the route. The other was on the ground with a $30K digital camera writing to a 128GB solid state drive at the rate of a gigabyte a minute.
The team didn't get started until 6:50 p.m. The light was so dim that I couldn't shoot anything at all. They soloed up to the Edge with Bennett leading the way, as he would for the entire climb. Brad has climbed the Edge sans rope a number of times, so he's a good guy to anchor the team - he's not going to fall. While that is probably true, the team used a couple of Ropeman devices this time to add some additional security. Wells/Griebel use three of these devices.
Scott started leading the first pitch 6m10s after leaving the bridge, putting them 10 seconds behind the record pace. I thought Scott was a bit slower than normal on the first pitch, pausing for seconds to place two pieces of gear. Still, he polished off the 75-foot 11a pitch in 2.5 minutes. He accelerated from there and both climbers topped out by 19m30, a minute ahead of record pace now.
As Scott topped out he was breathing so hard that he warmed the cameraman to give him some room or he'd hurl on him. I didn't think they'd break the record at this point. I didn't think they'd be fast enough on the descent, despite the cushion. I was wrong. These guys can fly and they are seriously fit.
The hit the middle of the bridge at 26m16s. They didn't break it by much, but they are the new Kings of Eldo. Congrats, guys.
I have it on good authority that this war isn't over... Stay tuned.
The 2014 Tour started today with a great linkup on Dinosaur Mountain. We had a great turn-out with ten scramblers showing up to hurt. The course started and finished at the NCAR trailhead and covered the TipToe Slab on the Front Porch to the East Face, South Side of Dinosaur Rock to Sunnyside II on Der Zerkle.
We started a bit after 5 p.m. and the front runners were established early. Stefan, the veteran and multiple Tour winner, went to front, but super fit newcomers Matthias and Ryan went with him. Trailing them were Jon Sargent and Dan Mottinger followed by Tony Bubb and myself. Trailing were Willie Mein, Adam Massey, and Stuart Paul. Paul, also a Tour virgin, was in long pants and carried a pack with his climbing shoes. Switching to climbing shoes at the base of each route is a wise strategy, especially if you haven't done these routes before. Many of our veterans started this way and isn't unwise to continue this way.
I gapped Tony a bit before the base of the Front Porch, but Willie closed to within 20 seconds of me. Up ahead, the Stefan and Matthias gapped Ryan a bit, but Mattias missed the cross-country link-up to the Dinosaur Rock. Stefan stopped to call Mattias back since he wasn't sure of the link-up himself and didn't want to take advantage of Mattias mistake. In the 15 seconds he waited, Ryan caught up and they headed for Dinosaur Rock. These two would stay together for the next two climbs and have a brutal battle on the run out. Stefan was able to endure a bit more pain to take the win and remain the King, but he's the first to say that had Mattias not gone off course, he might have taken the win. Mattias ended up in third.
|The Front Porch's TipToe Slab - the first rock in the stage|
|Dinosaur Rock - the second rock in the stage|
|Stefan and Ryan downclimbing off the back of Dinosaur Rock|
I moved on without Dan and wouldn't see him again until the end of the stage. When I got to Sunnyside II I got another glimpse of Jon and he poured on the gas, because I never saw him again. Just as I started up this last route I saw Mattias run by on his way to the finish. I went the rest of the way solo, hurting badly the entire way. After awhile I wasn't worried about getting caught from behind. When I started the stage I was hoping to break 50 minutes, so I could just back off the pain and jog it in right? Of course not. How could I call myself a Minion if I did that. I thought I had a chance to break 45 minutes, so I suffered. I was a bit embarrassed to be breathing so hard and moving so slowly while hurting so badly.
Shortly after I finished, Dan arrived, covered in trail rash. He had taken a digger running out. The most dangerous part of these races is the run out. The trails are rocky and technical and your legs are tired and you can't see straight. It's less dangerous for me since I can't move fast enough to hurt myself, but the fleet of foot it takes focus and guts.
Tony and Willie had some trouble with the route finding, but persevered to finish, though Willie is pretty sure he didn't do the right route on Der Zerkle, doing a harder, longer route. Tony was followed closely by Adam and Stuart was the lantern rouge.
Full results and times are still pending, but here's what I know now (asterisks are for racers reporting times not from this running):
1. Stefan Griebel, 35:53
2. Ryan Franz, 36:23
3. Matthias Messner, 38:30
4. Jon Sargent, 42:10
5. Dylan Cousins*, 43:27
6. Bill Wright, 44:06
7. Dan Mottinger, 46:59
8. Willie Mein, 49:59
9. Tony Bubb, 57:20
10. Adam Massey, 57:37
11. Stuart Paul, 1:26:14
Friday, September 19, 2014
Sheri and I stayed the night in Oakdale on our way back home from dropping Danny at Stanford. We were driving by 6:30 a.m. the next morning, intent on climbing Tenaya Peak in Touloumne Meadows - the high country of Yosemite National Park. As we pulled into the parking lot at Tenaya Lake a party of three were gearing up. I correctly assumed they were headed for the Northeast Buttress - the route I wanted to climb. I approached them for some…approach beta. Steve Arnold, a very friendly education entrepreneur, appeared to be the leader of the group, told me that we could just go with them. I said we wouldn't be ready to go for a bit and he generously offered to wait, so Sheri and I quickly threw some stuff (water bottle, snack) into a fanny pack and hiked out with them.
|High on the route|
|Super fun climbing!|
|Selfie on the summit|
I climbed easily, in no rush, and stopped to take photos and sips of my bottle. I passed a couple of nice ledges and climbed through some short, cool steeper sections. All the while the steep summit cap loomed above me, worrying me only slightly because I knew there was an easy way to get through it and figured I'd find the way. I did and soon I was on top of the peak. The climbing can end directly on the summit if you exit there. The backside is gentle and I immediately spotted a worn trail heading down and west. I started to trot down this trail, yelling "Sheri" every minute or so.
But where was Sheri? I was hoping to see her on the descent, of course, and would have if she had been on the upper trail, but she wasn't there…yet. She traversed west when she left us and got to a steep slab that she didn't like. She sat at the base of it, waiting for me to come down. Eventually, though, the draw of the summit was too strong and the slab was starting to look doable. She cautiously smeared her way up in her vintage Exum Ridge shoes. Above she followed the route pointed out by Steve, which wasn't the one I took on the way down. I suspect when I was in my big boulder field, she was further west negotiating her way to the ridge. She continued to the summit while I waited at the lake, getting increasingly nervous about her. Last year I had worked myself into a near panic when I thought Sheri and Danny were lost and injured on the traverse between Harvard and Columbia (two Colorado 14ers). It was all in my mind then, so I tried not to get too worked up. I walked the road to the lake in case she had aborted the climb and was just enjoying the weather and views. No Sheri. I walked the beach of the lake. No Sheri. I returned to the car. No Sheri. I walked the approach trail until it split into the way we approached the climb and one of the possible descent routes. I waited here twenty minutes and then went back to the car. No Sheri. I thought of how I could find her without missing her again. I decided to wait longer.
|Looking down the route from the summit|
You might wonder why we keep splitting up. I do too. I tried to talk her into the climb with me, reading her all the descriptions about how easy it was. I'd have brought a rope if she had come along, but she was adamant that she wasn't interested in the climb. She ropes up these days only when it is necessary to make the summit. She tried to convince me to hike with her. Perhaps I should have, but I selfishly wanted this climb and convinced myself that everything would be okay. We were both very comfortable with the situation at the start and everything worked out in the end, but it would have been so much nicer if we could have communicated with each other. Perhaps the solution is satellite phones. :-)
I loved this climb. I could easily see myself doing it every time I pass by it. It would be equally fun as a timed, all-out effort, or a casual, eat-a-snack-on-a-ledge trip. Going pretty slow the entire time, this route would go in three hours roundtrip. I should have little trouble doing it under two hours on my next ascent. I might be able to get the roundtrip down to near 90 minutes. Stefan might be able to break an hour. It would make the ideal stage of the Tour de Flatirons if we ever expanded to a nation-wide Tour de Minions. Or maybe just a Tour de Yosemite version. We could do Tenaya Peak, Royal Arches, Snake Dike on Half Dome, Munginella on Manure Pile Buttress, etc. We could invite Hans and Alex to join us, but they'd want to include the Nose as a stage and that would ruin everything…
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
|On the summit of Polemonium|
|Hiking into basecamp|
The only drawback to these trips is that we must leave Derek behind. He's in his junior year in high school and already deep into his tennis season, where he's playing #1 singles (and was 8-0 at the start of this trip). We filled the hole in our team with the venerable, the redoubtable, the indefatigable, the ageless Loobster. While possessing vast experience and a wide array of backcountry and climbing skills, none are as developed nor as valued as his ability to chatter. His storytelling has whiled away many a boring trail mile. He arrived a day earlier and picked up our backcountry pass and bear canister, which provided a constant source of annoyance during the approach, as the hard exterior pounded his back. With me swamped with preparing for the Rattlesnake Ramble (we left for California the same day), Loobster did all the route researching.
We met Sunday night at the Brown's Town campground in Bishop where we made final preparations. The next morning we packed our backpacks and drove to Glacier Lodge, the trailhead for Big Pine Creek. We took our time hiking into Sam Mack Meadow. After a couple of hot, dry miles, we dropped into the main drainage and hiked past the three lakes whose staggering beauty was only surpassed by their creative names: Lake 1, Lake 2, and Lake 3. Though it was only 7 miles and 3400 vertical feet, the approach was tiring with our heavy packs. We got to camp in about 4.5 hours, with a number of breaks. It was a bit past 1 p.m. and, after putting our tents, we took our pads down to the idyllic alpine meadow for lunch, promptly followed by a siesta.
|Relaxing in Sam Mack Meadow|
Our plan was to start at 6:15 the next morning. We were hoping to do the roundtrip in eight hours and move camp down to Lake 3 to possibly climb a route on Temple Crag the next day. From our camp at 11,000 feet we only needed to gain 3000 feet to summit. How hard could that be? As confident as we were, both the Loobster and I packed a headlamp, just in case. When morning rolled around the winds were roaring above, though not buffeting our tent. I ignored the alarms, thinking it was too windy to get started. The Loobster finally came to our tent and basically said, "What the hell are you guys doing? It's time to climb. You're not going to let a little breeze stop you, are you?" He was right, of course, and we got up, had cup of coffee, ate a bit and were off by 6:45 a.m.
We followed a good climber's trail up to smooth granite slabs. These provided nice access towards the court of mountains that ruled over the Palisade Glacier. This is an honest glacier, not like what we have in Colorado, and it has a huge moraine. These slabs let us bypass the lateral moraine, but it finally dumped us off at a huge, glacial talus field. This very loose jumble of boulders was made doubly nerve wracking as it was situated atop the glacier itself. Most of the time the boulder and dirt layer was thick enough to deceive us into thinking we were on stable ground, but near the cliff walls at the edge the black ice was completely exposed or covered in a layer of dirt and pebbles less than an inch thick. Sheri asked, "Should be put on our crampons?" "No," I said. The ice was mostly covered anyway and our puny hiking crampons, especially the Loobster's aluminum ones, wouldn't likely even scratch the surface of this ultra-hard ice. Instead, we stepped wisely and cautiously and quickly gained the rock wall below the Sill-Mt. Gayley saddle.
|Approaching the ridge on Mt. Sill|
|Danny high above the Palisade Glacier|
|On the long traverse to Polemonium|
|Sheri on the Knife Edge - the last pitch on Polemonium|
|Danny excited to finally be on top of Polemonium. Mt. Sill is in the background|
|Rapping off the summit of Polemonium|
|Danny climbing back to the Polemonium-Sill ridge|
|Heading toward Polemonium and gazing on the Polemonium Glacier|
|Danny and I on the summit of Mt. Sill|
Obviously Loobster knows how to rappel, but we weren't set up for him to do this easily. Sheri and Danny are not experienced enough to be rappelling here, though that is a skill they probably should acquire. I'm mostly to blame for this, as I haven't practiced it with them and I'm more comfortable lowering them then seeing them rappel. If I lower them, I know they are safe. They can't mistakenly let go of their brake hand and fall. Derek has been rappelling when we go climbing, but I even lowered him when we descended off Isis Tower in the Grand Canyon earlier this year. Danny had no hesitation to being lowered. This is usually the scariest part for anyone, as you have to trust completely in another person. You aren't in control. I was impressed with his bravery and took some satisfaction in that he must trust me. That's key to a safe, quick climbing team - trust in your rope mates. If you don't have this trust, then you shouldn't be climbing with them.
|The amazing, ageless Loobster|
|The horrible, loose glacier talus field - this lies mostly atop the glacier itself.|
|Scrambling up the L-shaped couloir|
Back together again, we downclimbed the anchor above the glacier talus field. Here I lowered Sheri and Danny again and then Loobster rappelled 200 feet down to the talus. While they started the loose, tedious traverse back to the slabs, I rappelled and downclimbed to the talus. After I stowed the rope, I peed. I was shocked to see that my pee immediately washed away the gravel and revealed the black ice below. Indeed it was a very thin veneer that covered this treacherous surface.
|The notch at the top of the L-shaped couloir|
|Temple Crag - next year's goal|
|Sheri and Danny practicing their favorite backcountry pursuit: stream crossing via rock hopping|
|Mr. September in the "Dorks of the Sierra" calendar|