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September 29, 2005
I wouldn't say that I have a fear of heights.
I'd say it's more like a healthy respect. But here I was hanging
on this single 10.5 mm rope just below the lip of the triangular
roof on the Prow and gently twisting in the the light 75 degree
breeze. Wryly looking at the quickdraw hanging off a pin in the
corner about 3 feet out of reach, I ask my mentor Mark Synnott
what to do. He leans over the lip, grins and replies, "You're
going to have to lay your body out completely sideways and grovel
like the dog you are!"
I've been in a few very exposed situations, some safe some not
so safe. However the Prow is a different type of beast, at least
to me. For some reason there is very little respite from the feeling
that you are "out there." Following the edge of the buttress
pretty much all the way up, I never got rid of that "airy" feeling
in the back of my mind. The closest thing to it is the pipe pitch
I've been slowly dipping my toe into aid climbing this summer.
I had a really good lesson with Mark about a month ago and I have
gone over to the North End on my own to practicing jugging and
placing gear. This day I was going to get a real lesson in seconding
and cleaning. Something that I figured would be a good practice
for something a bit more ambitious.
We didn't aid the first pitch as it's only about 5.7 or so. Mark
just ran up it quickly, hardly placing any gear. I followed easily
to the regular belay ledge, tho not quite as quickly as I had all
the gear and the tag-line. The next pitch goes up a steep bulge
(5.11c or 5.11d) past a couple of bolts to a hand/finger crack.
Mark aided the start then lowered back down & worked the moves
free. He found an interesting variation to the left that he managed after
just a couple of tries. He then got back on aid, zipped right up
the next short pitch and then on past the belay to the 3rd belay.
It was very interesting to watch Mark freely switch back and forth
between free-climbing and aid, a technique obviously honed by years
of practice. It certainly does make the process go faster if you
feel OK doing it. I was going to wear approach shoes for the climb,
but he had recommended using a pair of comfortable rock shoes.
That made it a lot easier to aid, free a bit, French-free and then
get back in the stirrups.
It took me a bit of time getting started on cleaning the second
pitch. For some reason I didn't get the length of my daisy-chains
right and it was a lot harder than it needed to be. Once I got
that straightened out and figured how to get past the first bulge,
things went a lot smoother. I heard a familiar voice call from
over on Thin Air, "Hey, is that Al Hospers?" It was Brad
White. "Man you look like a Christmas decoration, " he
said. He was probably right.
At the next belay I had to manage the always entertaining lower-out.
I'd never done this before so Mark talked me through the process.
It wasn't all that bad, once I got over the nervousness about all
that slack in the rope! As you lower out onto that right-facing
vertical wall the exposure really kicks in. In addition when you
get to the top of the face, you have to remove some directional
gear, which makes the second, me in this case, swing to the right.
Again, it's highly entertaining.
Location, location, location! The next belay is the one below
the triangular roof and it's certainly a uniquely cool location.
Again you have the drop off to your left and the verticality of
the slab that leads up to the roof and its corner in your face.
Mark freed the
start, aided up to the corner and then freed the roof.
I had some trouble feeding rope out as fast as he wanted with
the GriGri and caused him some rope drag under the roof. That's
something that I need to work on as I don't normally use a GriGri
to belay someone leading free. There was a good tip in one of the
climbing mags recently about just this issue. Still he made short
impressive work of the roof even tho it is 5.11d.
I followed, much more quickly now that I had finally sorted out
my ascenders. When I got to the corner things
got much more interesting. I could see the tension on the rope
as it went through the draws and I knew I was in for some swinging
when I removed the gear. The lower piece was no problem. However
when I got to the draw on the pin in the corner I had a conundrum.
I couldn't pass the piece because of the draw, and I wanted to
avoid unclipping an ascender unless I really had to. Hmmm, it seems
as if this was one of those times when I might have to! Oh yeah,
did I mention back-tying? Of course I've been tying off the main
rope to my harness as I go up on a real regular basis. By doing
this I limit my possible fall if something happened to one or both
of my ascenders. This was a time when I did it again.
I'm looking at about a 5' outward swing when I unclip the draw
from the rope. Of course that's not quite as easy as it looked.
with all the tension on the rope it was hard for me to pull in
with one hand and unclip the biner from the fully tensioned rope.
It took me several tries to get it, and when I did I definitely
took a swing. Of course now I'm hanging at the edge of the lip,
looking at the pin & draw in the corner and wondering how "this
dog" is going to manage getting back in far enough to grab
the draw, much less unclip it from the pin. This is when Mark told
me I was going to have to grovel. <sigh>
Now was the time to take deep breaths, swing on the rope and lay
my body out completely horizontally. My word, that was an experience!
But, after 2 or 3 swings I managed to grab the draw and with a
pull to take off the tension I was able to unclip the biner from
the pin. WHEW, only 12 more feet to go! Mark had placed 2 totally
bomber Alien's at the lip of the roof and it took me a few minutes
to get them out. Again I was faced with the problem of getting
my ascenders over the lip, without undoing them from the rope.
This time I was able to rock enough to slide one, then the other
over the lip. A few minutes later and I was at the belay. Hammered,
but I was there.
We had talked about aiding this last pitch or doing it free. I've
actually rapped down & led this pitch many times, so we decided
just to free the whole thing. Of course Mark walked it like it
was nothing. I was tired, was carrying the tag line on my back
plus most of the rack and it took me considerably more effort than
usual to get started up the crack, but once past that it was pure
fun. I've certainly said it before, but once those tree roots at
the top are gone, it's going to go up at least a grade. It's a
great pitch with wonderful exposure and I was very happy to finish
We sat up by the tree on the edge and ate peanut butter sandwiches
and savored the late-summer afternoon. I was tired, happy I'd crossed
a climb off my list that I'd thought about for a long time and
ready to head home for the afternoon. Mark, he was trying to talk
me into doing another route! <grin>
me into doing another route! <grin>
The world-class climbing area we know as the Ghost (Canmore, Canadian
Rockies) is facing an immediate access threat. There's an online
petition that can be signed, but it WILL BE TURNED IN TO THE
PROPER AUTHORITIES FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2005. That means get
on it TODAY to sign! It'll only take a couple minutes...
You can either just sign the petition, or sign and add comments.
TheAccess Fund's Adopt A Crag will be held at Cathedral Ledge on Saturday October
1st at 9am. The AMC and State Parks will provide some help and tools but
we really need YOUR help to make it successful. The Access Fund has
a bunch of goodies to give away also.
Sat. October 1st
·Meet at the Kiosk at Cathedral Ledge at 9am
·Bring food,water, work-clothes and tools if you got them.
·Basic trail work- water bars, brush in social trails, etc.
As Ranger Erik says, "Here’s a chance to do something
productive instead of talking about bolts."
Friends of Joshua Tree will host the 9th annual Climb Smart gathering
at Indian Cove group campgrounds from September 30 through October
2, 2005. This is the largest gathering of Southern California’s
climbing community, featuring intensive clinics, gear raffles,
food and top notch entertainment over the weekend. This year’s
event features climbing legend Ron Kauk, along with rock stars
Brittany Griffith and Eric Decaria bringing their skills and
multimedia presentations to the fore. A revised format includes
an open toprope circuit for those who just want to crank all
day, then party. Once again, presenting sponsors Adventure 16,
Patagonia, Black Diamond and Wilderness Outings are stepping
up to provide an abundance of quality gear, guides and excitement.
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
|Winter alpinism is hard enough without the added dilemma of free-climbing ethics.|