Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Aid Practice on Country Club Crack

Charlie is dead set on doing the Diamond in winter as part of the Longs Peak Project (LPP). I promised to join him if the weather was great. Unfortunately, it is looking like it might be great this Sunday. Which means we have to go. I have to go. Since Charlie has never jugged before and I needed to practice aid climbing in mountain boots, we met early this morning for a practice session on Country Club Crack (CCC).

CCC is a 2-pitch 5.11b/c. This was a free climbing project of mine years ago. It has a very bouldery face climbing crux on first pitch and an awesome, slanting hand/finger crack on the second pitch. It's a great climb to practice aid because it has great protection. The slanting nature and the roof on the second pitch provided some nice challenges for the leader and jugger.

I was worried that there might be a mandatory free move on the crux slab at the start of the first pitch, but I was able to step high in my aider and stretch way to the right to reach a placement in the bottom of the flaring crack. The crack up to the first belay is in the back of a little flared slot and a bit awkward to aid. We were doing all this in our alpine clothes, boots, and with gloves on to better prepare ourselves for the real deal. It made a few things tougher, like any free moves at all, but the warmth was appreciated, as it was probably only in the high 20's.

We met in Boulder at 6 a.m. and were at the rock by 6:20 a.m. It was still quite dark. We took our time gearing up and laying out the ropes and I started up wearing a headlamp. I do I put this? Like a rhino aiding a steep crack. That's because I felt about as dextrous as a rhino with my boots and gloves on. Oh, and I had only one aider. That turned out to a significant handicap. I know those top speed climbers like Hans and Honnold and Yuji only use one aider, but they also don't climb like a pachyderm.

I got to top of the first pitch and clipped in. I then pulled up all the extra slack in my lead line and fixed it so that Charlie could start jugging. Then I led on up the second pitch. Self belaying, you ask? No! We were using the Yo-Go method invented by Bob Yoho. I led with two lead lines and alternated which one I used. On the first pitch I led just on my yellow line. At the belay, I just ran my pink line through the belay and continued on. Charlie switched from belaying me on the yellow line to belaying me on the pink line. He jug and belay me at the same time and I could just lead normally. It's a very cool method. But you don't want to get confused over which line to clip to each piece!

I inched slowly, laboriously, clumsily up to the roof. Before I got there, I pulled up all the gear that Charlie cleaned from the first pitch via the yellow line, since it wasn't clipped through any gear on the second pitch. The roof is a bit tricky since there are a couple of big reaches. I stretched high and barely placed a marginal cam. I knew it was crap, but I got on it anyway. I cleaned my previous piece  and started to climb up my aider. I got up a step or two when it popped. I fell about twenty feet and never touched the wall, even after I bounced in a soft catch - this route is steep. Charlie wasn't even looking at me and wondered what was up with his Gri-Gri. He looked up and saw me dangling in space. It didn't scare me at all, which was strange, because I frighten easily.

With Charlie yarding rope through his Gri-Gri and me pulling down on the other side of my lead line, I was soon back at my high point and placing an additional piece to avoid the reach to the marginal placement. I continued up to the top of the route and then traversed sideways about ten feet to the three-bolt anchor at the top. I fixed the pink lead line and fixed the yellow line as a rappel line. I rapped down and took some photos of Charlie. This rappel is almost completely free hanging. CCC is such a cool route.

I was so slow that I was going to be late at work. After missing nearly the entire day on the Silk Road last Thursday, I could miss my first meeting without at least informing my team. Charlie told me to take off towards Nederland (a few miles further west) where they had a new cell tower, as we had no cell reception at Castle Rock, which is in Boulder Canyon. So I did. It worked out great. I was back in time to see Charlie still wrestling with the big cam that caught my fall. Apparently it was tweaked and jammed nicely. And I forgot to give Charlier the nut tool. He hauled it and after a bit more struggle, he cleaned it. Great job, Charlie!

Soon he was at the top and rapping back down.  A lesser person (or smarter guy) would be pretty discouraged with my aid climbing speed, but, if anything, he was more excited about climbing the Diamond. Dammit!

1 comment:

Gayla Wright said...

Awesome photos. Great write up. You seem to be gaining confidence as you go. Will the boys be doing this kind of thing on Spring Break? Please keep your scared factor so you will be extra cautious for me. Love you, Mom