|Mark on the small ledge at the base of the fifth pitch.|
Mark has been learning how to jug this year. He was preparing to go up the Nose with Derek and I, but due to variety of factors, including my shoulder problems and weather issues in the Valley, we didn't make our planned trip to Yosemite. As a consolation, we picked a location equidistant from his house in Provo and mine in Superior, which was Colorado National Monument. The weather forecast called for a high of 85 degrees, which was a bit of a concern, but didn't stop us.
The most prominent tower in CNM is Independence Monument. It is 500 feet tall and has a unique, chiseled route up it called Otto's Route, after the first ascensionist. Even with the chiseled holds, the routes overhanging finish is 5.9+. I'd done that route a number of times and it's super fun, but we wanted something more suited to Mark's new skills. We chose the Sundial Dihedral on the southeast face. This is a six-pitch route with a mix of free and aid climbing. Done as free as can be, the only aid is the final-pitch bolt ladder. Done as free as Bill can be, the second pitch (11+/12-) was aid as well. The fourth pitch is rated 11a/b and would be the crux free climbing for me.
We met at the trailhead a bit before 7 a.m. which is a bit later than ideal, but allowed Mark to sleep at his house the night before, though it wasn't a very long night, since he was up at 2:30 a.m. that morning. That was too radical for me so I drove out the night before and had a nice bivy at the Dinosaur Hill trailhead.
|My bivy below a shelter at the Dinosaur Hill trailhead.|
The first pitch is a 5.8 chimney/corner. I found just getting off the ground to be a crank, but things go easier and went nicely up to what I thought was the crux - a powerful lieback move at the very top of the pitch. Following, Mark had more trouble down below where is lack of crack/chimney experience made things difficult, but he worked out a beautiful stemming solution to the final move.
I'd climbed this route once before, long ago, with my buddy English Bob. He had done most of the leading and all the hard pitches, including the second pitch. Bob had tried to free it, but resorted to aid. A commenter on mountainproject.com thought this pitch was 11+/12-, which is definitely too much for me. At first I thought I could maybe french-free some of it, but it's so steep. I got in my aiders and plugged away. The gear is solid and pretty easy to place. I did place two RPs, but the rock is surprisingly hard.
|Mark deciphering the final moves on the first pitch|
I wasn't able to self-belay up the third pitch because my rack was so depleted, but Mark jugged quickly so I didn't have to wait long. I was leading with a trail line and hauled up the pack after each pitch. In the pack we had 2.5 liters of water, which proved a bit light. Though we were in the sun almost the entire time it didn't feel nearly as hot as I expected. I didn't feel my climbing performance was limited by it. We also carried extra gear in the pack. I stowed the aiders in there and we had some extra cams in there as well.
|Aiding the second pitch.|
The fourth pitch is the crux free climbing, for me at least. MP.com recommended bringing four #2 Camalots and we pulled the two extra pieces out of the pack. I avoided looking up at this pitch for too long, as it is intimidating. It overhangs for the first half. In the starting crack were two blocks stacked on top of each other. Both looked very precarious and the top one was completely loose. I put in a piece against the lower block, hoping a fall would just wedge the block tighter. To even get started I had to stretch for a tiny edge, match on it and do a pull-up on it in order to get high enough to swing into the wide crack.
|Mark about ready to start liebacking the finish to pitch three.|
|I'm in the chimney/pod above the crux, but below the awesome handcrack above on the fourth pitch.|
|Mark approaching the traverse at the top of the fourth pitch.|
|Mark after lowering out from the Camalot he left behind (go get your booty!)|
This pitch ended on a huge pedestal on the eastern end of the tower. Three drilled pitons served as the anchor. Mark elected to jug the pitch and soon joined m on the big ledge. The last pitch loomed above us. Protected by 13 bolts, the route followed the east buttress as it steepened from lower angle to slightly overhanging. I could barely reach the first bolt. Once I clipped it, I just grabbed the draw, pulled over as the start of the pitch is separate from the pedestal by a gap, and climbed up to step atop the pin. From there I could barely reach the next bolt and above it the angle eased and I had to free climb up low angle, but sandy slabs for 20-30 feet. Two more bolts and more easy free climbing let to the final bolt ladder which necessitated top-stepping to reach each successive bolt, though angle allowed this without too much difficulty.
|Looking down the fourth pitch from near the top of it.|
|Mark topping out on the fifth pitch.|
|Looking up the final pitch.|
|Mark jugging the last pitch.|
|On the summit!|