Saturday, July 01, 2017

Flying Buttress With Tom

Tom and Charlie are headed up to Canada to climb the Lotus Flower Tower next month and Tom wanted to get on some alpine granite in preparation. I suggested this route as I'd only done it once before, more than a decade ago with Mark Oveson. I didn't remember much about it, except the very cool roof pitch.

The high in Boulder was only going to be 70 degrees so we figured it would be plenty cold at 12,000 feet in the early morning so Tom suggested we meet in north Boulder at the ridiculously late time of 6 a.m. It felt wrong driving to meet while it was already light enough to climb. This would set the tone for entire day. We never hurried, moving at a casual, conversational pace the entire time. We had great weather nearly the entire day and I enjoyed the relaxed pace.

I was a bit surprised that the Longs Peak parking lot was full, but we had to park less than a 100 feet outside of it. We were hiking just before 7 a.m. We took the lower two shortcuts but stuck to the trail above that. It was warmer than I expected right from the start and we were soon sweating despite the slow pace. We wore just running shoes for the approach, but carried Microspikes and ice axes.

Near the base of the route we could see that axes would be required for the descent and decided to take one pack up the route. We left my pack down in the talus, put on our Microspikes and used our axes to follow a boot track up the lower reaches of the Dreamweaver couloir, which hugs the right side of the Flying Buttress. We'd descend the couloir on the left side.

As we geared up in the talus we could see a rope way up on the second pitch, but couldn't see any climbers. Later, as we scrambled up the lower part of the rib we'd start to hear them. Soon enough we spotted them and then would catch them.

The start of this route is a bit confusing and Tom took some time to sort it out and make sure we were on route. He broke the first pitch into two pitches, but remained in the lead because he really wanted to lead the roof pitch. The first pitch had some 5.9 climbing on it and it felt pretty slick and insecure for one ten-foot section. Each of our pitches ended on big, flat ledges with the exception of the roof pitch.

The second pitch is the 10a crux pitch and I stuck directly to the prow, which required some heady, insecure moves well above a tiny cam. It took me awhile to work out just the right way to do it and I was aware that an option existed further right, in the shaded north side, but I resisted and we climbed this route entirely in the sun.
The flare above Tom is where he's headed. The crux of the pitch is getting into that flare.
Above that crux section there is another steep, very thin 5.9 section, but it's short. Most of the climbing on this route felt bouldery, with short cruxes separated by more moderate climbing. This pitch also wandered around a bit and ended with a pretty spectacular traverse. As I finished climbing this pitch and then belayed Tom up, I was watching the shenanigans above me. Rae was dangling from the rope on the intimidating 5.9+ roof and their pack was dangling as well. There was all sorts to yelling and grunting and frustration as the two struggled to get Rae and the pack over the roof. Her partner, August, belayed just above in order to help as much as possible and haul the pack and apparently made a mess of the ropes. When Tom arrived at the belay we waited for maybe ten more minutes to give them a chance to move on up the next pitch.

Tom led the roof easily and belayed just above in case I had some trouble following with the pack on. I found the 5.8 climbing approaching the roof to be non-trivial, but I was able to turn the roof without incident. The holds on this roof are huge. It looks like you'll have to fist jam the wide crack but I used giant jugs to get over the lip quickly before my arms gave out.
Tom headed to the awesome roof on pitch 3 (four for us)
I led up the next long pitch, right on the prow of the buttress, doing a 5.9+ boulder problem along the way. This problem could easily be avoided by traversing on ledgy terrain on the north side, but I wanted to avoid the shade and like the aesthetics of staying directly on the prow. I belayed on a completely flat section of the ridge, in the sun, while Rae was belaying just fifteen feet from me on a tiny stance in the shade. She wore a puffy down jacket and a heavy layer underneath that. She looked cold. I was warm. She looked like me climbing with Homie, while I looked like Homie. It was nice to be the warm one for once.
This is the last pitch, which looks like a tough #3 Camalot-pitch, but hidden footholds make the climbing 5.8.
Tom followed and we waited at least twenty minutes for them to finish climbing the final pitch, a nice 5.8 hand/fist crack with many footholds that are hidden from you from the bottom of the pitch. Tom led easily and I had fun following. I then dragged the rope up the next section but Tom unroped halfway along this part. We coiled the rope and stowed the gear and scrambled carefully over to the north face of Meeker and then carefully down until we could get into the couloir, where we found soft snow and heel plunged for a bit and then glissaded back to my pack at the base. The hike out was routine. What a great day.

Descending from the summit of the Flying Buttress

No comments: