Saturday, May 30, 2009

Route info for New Life 5.11b

Today we did not get on the new route. I climbed (thrashed on) New Life with Emilisa Frirdich. Here is the route info.

NEW LIFE (5.11b 5P FA: Trevor Macdonald, Jim Martinello.)

A great route for which I could not find a topo, so here is what I would say. Thanks to Nick Elson for his input. The first 3 pitches are dry even in the rain. If you want to do only P1, 2 and 3 bring 2 60m ropes to rappel.

Rack— 2 camalots from .3 to #3, with extra .75 and #1. Nuts, long slings

Approach: (15-20 min) the route is to the immediate left of Tall Skinny People
Drive between 1 and 1.1 km from where the cement ends and gravel starts on the Mamquam. There is a small pile of stones near the road. The trailhead is past the Angel’s Crest trail.

Walk straight up, following occasional pink and blue flagging. After awhile, you will be on the right side of a white wash-out gully. Just past this, the left side of Zodiac Wall touches down (to your right).

At the corner where the Zodiac Wall meets the forest floor, there is a pink flag hanging. Gear up and leave your pack here. Follow a small ledge which initially descends a few feet, then rises up. Pass one fixed rope, go a bit further and pull up another fixed rope to a boulder at the base of a long white corner. Just to the right of this is the big chasm of Tall Skinny People. Here is a pic of P1.

The route is the corner just to the left of the wide chimney (Tall Skinny People). The pitch goes through the blocky pod, then up and slightly left. P1 ends at a small tree high in the middle of the white face. Just up and left is the layback crack to the 11c pitch.

Climb: P1 5.10a Climb the corner. At or just below the tree, step left into a crack on a ramp. Follow this up past a small tree to a good ledge and a gear belay. A very fine pitch.

P2 5.11b Climb the steep layback/jam crack above, twist through a short chimney, then do some wild stemming and a massive long reach left under the small roof (green Camalot). Belay off the cedar and/or gear. Wild and crazy, burly, but good gear.

P3 5.10c/d depending on your hand size. Fire up the v-slot. At its end, step up and right to a stance and a belay on gear. OR throw in a few long slings (on face and in last pieces at top of V-slot) and link to P4. Burly but good gear and rests.

P4 5.11b Traverse right from the top of the V-slot, doing delicate moves past two pins and some gear placements. Make a cruxy reach right around the arĂȘte and belay off two bolts. Tricky. FAs said this one is 10c...quite a sandbag at this grade, or maybe they just climb ridiculously hard, I dunno.

P5 5.10a/b Do a couple of grunty moves up and left of the belay, then step right into a crack. Move up, then make a massive up and sideways reach under the tree, and continue up until you get into the forest. Straightforward.

Descent: You have 3 options

a) If you only want to do P1 and 2, rap from slings on the cedar tree at the top of P2.

b) Walk along to climber’s left along the trail. Keep looking down to your left. When you see a yellow fixed line, descend to that. Hand-descend the fixed nylon line and keep walking to skier’s left (it’s pretty obvious). Drop through a slot, and at a chain you can setup up a rap or if you feel confident just carefully downlcimb through the treed gully. You will eventually find another fixed line to rappel, and at the end of this, walk off 20m to skier’s right back to your pack.

c) Head up and right onto Astro Ledge and do some of the routes there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day Four: Onward & Upward

OK Day 4 was surprising because...Napoleon was almost on time and he actually had his stuff ready. Today we also had the pleasure of a new team member, one Tony McLane.

Now if you don't know Tony, you really must meet him. He comes from a wonderful lineage of climbers. His father, Kevin, a Brit, arrived in Canada in 1973, after a summer in the Valley, and never left. Tony put up his first route at age 10 or so. When I met him, he wore a shredded brown corduroys, a headband, and had long hair. His rack was a bunch of ancient Aliens most likely stolen from Dad. He rocked Yosemite 1977. I see Tony every winter in the U.S. He is generally unemployed, filthy, and broke...making his father very proud. Like a monk, the man has dedicated his life not to women, wine or work, but to climbing. He currently lives in a car in the yard of a tire shop.

Anyway Tony showed up on his bike and we hacked our way up to the route. Tony agreed to clean our alternative first pitch and jumped on the fixed blue lines, while Napoleon and I jugged up to our former high point. When Napoleon arrived at the tree to which I'd anchored the rope, he freaked. CEdars are generally deep-rooted and solid but Napoleon was NOT happy. So we argued for awhile. I was OK with the cedar but Blicker pointed out that there was no way we were going to be able to move up-- any rockfall woudl drop directly onto the tree. He was right, and we were therefore forced to drill two bolts off to the side of the crack to get the belayer out of the way of the inevitable bombing.

We thrashed around between the tree and the bolts for awhile, Napoleon sternly warning me not to drop big bombs on him. I moved up the final eight or so meters of crack, which were again oddly clean. At the ledge, I reached up to grab a small pillar...and the entire thing shifted. I stepped back down into my aiders. I had to move up and sideways, bypassing this potential 9 foot 500 pound missile which was about to obliterate first me and then Napoleon, who even from 30 feet away I could tell was sweating. I pawed at a couple of crimps, stood up on the ledge...and then realised I'd forgotten to unclip from my aiders. Now I had to down-climb four feet past the Leaning Pillar of Death. The LEPOD groaned as I pinched and squirmed myself into a pretzel shape, unclipped my aiders, and basically jumped sideways onto the muddy shelf. I fired in one bolt and breathed out. The ledge was good-- two feet wide, a comfy stance, you could sit, and the belayer would be out of the line of fire for the next pitch.

"I'm getting the fuck OUT of here!" yelled Napoleon. Although sympathetic to his cause, I thought that we had better get the LEPOD out of the way otherwise we would have to do the same thing next time. So we bickered a bit and then Napoleon jugged up.

When he arrived we started to reef on the LEPOD which shifted and ground ominously. Then some folks walked by and I, panicking, yelled "get the fuck out of the way!" to which they yelled "shut the fuck up and stop for a minute!" which was exactly what rude me deserved.

When the LEPOD finally came off-- it is odd how you can use a nut-tool to shift a 500-pound rock-- it blasted past the fixed lines and thundered down the face. We could feel its progress through our feet and the rope. The 150 meters of cliff shook and the smell of crushed rock wafter up along with Tony's "HOLY FUUUUUUUUCK!"

The real joy however was in seeing the next pitch. You climb about ten feet up and left along our ledge, then it is a shallow slabby dihedral that leads up to the Green Line ledge. Clean, smooth. It will make for some friction climbing and stemming, with possibly gear in its final third. All we need are a 1/4" drill and some of those aid devices that go in rivet holes. The next pitch, we will install one bolt at the lefthand top of our ledge. The we will stand on the bolt (or rock), drill a 1/4" rivet, clip that, move up, and drill antoher bolt. The 1/4" holes will be filled in with epoxy.

We fixed and retreated. Next weekend hopefully Napoleon and Tony will do P5. One person leads and drills, the other is on jugs and is cleaning P4. And then it's decision time...many options for moving up. Lots of cracks up there; we just need to make sure we are on the right one. Anyway thanks Tony for joining the team and stay tuned, folks. More cracks to come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 3: The Horrid and Fabulous Truth

April 2009.

This day we were set to make some big progress. Our ropes had been hanging for eight months in the rain from the top of (putative) P1. We had good weather, dry rock, and two charged batteries. The only thing slowing us down was Napoleon's addiction to Starbucks.

Napoleon got on the fixed ropes and started drilling above the shin-ripper bolt. He drilled four more bolts, screwed around with a few gear placements, then jugged up to the anchor. He put me on and I tried to do the moves on toprope. First problem was, the rock bombing that Kasper and I had done in Fall when we had moved to install the first belay had obliterated the holds at the first bolt. So that was impossible. Above that, the moves were insanely hard-- micro pinches, big reaches, very steep, and little rest. We are clearly going to have to call in a rope gun to send this one. I flopped and cussed my way up to Napoleon, hauled up the pack, and then set off on lead into the crack. Here's what it looks like:

Now if you are new routing on aid, you will know the mix of frustration ("I could free this!") and doubt ("How the f**k are we going to get around THIS?"). The crack is magnificent. .4 Camalots and medium nuts, mostly clean but with occasional wads of dirt. The aid system started to finally make sense and I pressed upward. In an hour I was at what had looked like a big loose block, and found it was actually solid. Above it, however, the crack widened to off-hands and the angle eased off, and there I minced my way through flakes and chunks of random rock, while Napoleon cowered in the meager shade of six overhanging inches of rock and I did my best to kill him with rock missiles. This is an experience you don't get much in Squamish-- the rock is clean and solid, and most of the routes have been climbed loads of times, so you dont' get to try to kill your partner too often. I felt like I was leading on Yamnuska, where people belay with gri-gris. In case the second gets whacked with rockfall, the gri-gril will hold the leader.

I finally got to the small pseudo-roof, aided as high as I could, and started to dig through the mud below the tree. I thrashed directly into the cedar tree, fixed the rope, and eyed the crack and dihedral above. There would be about ten more meters of handcrack, an easy mantel onto a solid belay ledge, and above that a shallow blank dihedral (not vertical) of what would be face and friction climbing that led to a big green ledge-- the Green Line. I put myself on and rapped down to a Napoleon who had long since fled the bomb zone for the safety of the forest.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cheating Is Where It's At (Day Two)

I called Napoleon a couple of weeks after my shin-ripper, and the answer was "Can't. I'm taking this girl out climbing." Which raises a number of questions best left unanswered. However, being the consumate social animal that he is, Napoleon hooked me up with one Kasper Podgorski, a more recent Ontario transplant.

I picked up Kasper, along with his micro-rack and bloated Southern Ontario vowels, and drove up to Squamish. The poor fucker had been nicely misled by Napoleon into believing that he was actually going crack climbing on clean impeccable Squamish granite. Heh heh heh...

After our thrash to the base of the route, I realised that tactics wussier and uglier than ground-up would be required. When the going gets tough, the tough hook and nail, but I jug other folks' ropes. The original plan had been to hook our way up the first pitch to the base of the handcrack, drilling bolts along the way. But it was harder and way steeper than we originally had thought. So, we would approach from the side.

We snuck down to the fixed blue ropes that are about 20 meters away from out first batch of bolts and started to jug. We made it to the first set of anchors on these ropes and I realised that this would be a good 5.9 pitch. I then led up and right, through a tree, past a layback flake, and up onto a ledge. I brought tree-cussing Kasper up, and then began delicately, or so I hoped, moving out right along a mass of ledges and choss. In reality it was more like a roped elephant trying to tiptoe through a potter's studio. The only thing louder than my screams and whimpers of fear were the crashes of 200-pound boulders and flakes bombing the forest below. The aim was to get to where the direct version of our route would end its first pitch, at the base of a long and amazing handcrack.

I hooked and hammered in a few pieces, and then got to the base of the handcrack. It was about fifty meters straight down to the deck. I put in one bolt and clipped into it. Then I started peeling off flaky outer rock so I could drill a decent second bolt for our station. I felt a rumble, and then heard a deep CRAAAAAACK. In front of me was a piece of rock about the size of me. It toppled about three inches forward and I lurched in, and found myself with about 500 pounds of rock pressed against my chest. I had myself attached toa bolt on my right with a sling, a seven-foot, 500-pound boulder balanced on me, and the rope going from my harnes off to Kasper on my left. If the boulder peeled, it would rip the rope in half and leave me hanging fifty meters up with no rope. I maneuvered one hand off the rock, flicked the rope over top of the boulder, took a deep breath, and jumped up. The rock kaCHUNKED where my feet had been, and blasted down the mountain. I breathed out and drileld a second bolt.

Kasper came over, dislodged a few hundred more pounds of stone, and we installed an old rope to be our fixed line. Before leaving we looked see an impeccable finger and hand crack, a loooong pitch. The crack started out as surprisingly clean fingers, then passed an odd block and became hands, disappeared from view into a corner, and then broke through a micro-roof and into a tree. I was sweaty, tired and frustrated with the slow pace of things, but this one view reconfirmed that we had a cool project on the go.

We rapped down and tried a few of the would-be direct start moves on top-rope. I couldn't do most of them even minus the drill and the aid rack. The thing was impossible. But we now had a fixed line to the top of the first pitch. And the handcrack beckoned.

"Is ALL of Squamish like this?" asked Kasper, wiping dirt off his clothes and rock dust from his hair, "I'm fried! Climbing is really HARD here!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day One

After our April 2008 walk, we kept dreaming but stopped doing. I met an amazing woman, and suddenly there was more to do on weekends than climb. Napoleon continued his relentless quest to climb all of the 11+ routes in Squamish. We tried Freeway (5.11c) together. Very hard, very sustained climbing well above gear, plus us being out of shape, plus cruxes being wet, added up to a massive ass-kicking. I went to Colombia for two months. Napoloen was in grad school. And so the line loomed in our minds.

Napoleon-- I will name him this, since he seems intent on conquering every trad route in Squamish, plus he is short, and very stubborn-- has been climbing for I am guess about five years now. He is from Ontario and come out West to do his M.Sc., from which he bailed for the greener pastures of commerce. Napoleon has climbed some 5.12 on gear, has done an aid-climbing course, and is rabidly enthusiastic.

I have been climbing for about 10 years. When I am in shape, I climb 5.12 on bolts and 5.11+ on gear. I ice climb and boulder a bit. In other words, I am at the very low end of climbing's middle class.

Anyway, we finally got on the damned route in Sept of 2008. I had borrowed a drill and aid gear. I had never aid climbed. We thrashed back up to the start of our route. It took me six hours to install four bolts. I had aiders clipped to my rack, my rack clipped to my shoes, and my head up my ass. I looked like a climbing scarecrow, with random tools attached to random parts of my body in wasy designed to frighten climbing-sentient beings. As I moved upward, I started to realise that the route was going to be much harder than we'd thought. We were aiming for a 5.11 pitch of face climbing to get us to what looked like a fine handcrack...but it was steeper, with smaller holds, and much weirder moves than we'd expected.

At around four in the afternoon, with Napoleon scrubbing below me and belaying me on a Gri-gri, my hooks blew, and I tumbled. A very very hard something smashed my shin, and when I came to rest, howling like a disappointed Canucks fan, there was a massive hole in my shin. Something like this:

Luckily I had some very fine goodies in my medical kit. I gulped a couple of tabs of morphine sulphate for the pain and a couple of Ibuprofens for the swelling. We collected our gear and hobbled back down to the car.

"You need to go to Emergency," said Napoleon. Visions of four-hour waits. We went off to the Starbucks to get coffee food and newspapers for the long wait. The bikers preening over their chrome machines and the baristas fiddling with steam knobs turned white when they saw me limping and dripping blood.

At the Emergency, I waited only two hours for the doctor to deal with two ATV rollover accidents, one bad trampoline landing, and what sounded like somebody with something very inappropriate jammed up their ass. When the virry nice Suth Efrican doctor dealt with me, he remarked on the relative safety of rock-climbing and asked my opinion on French Immersion for his kids, and shot me full of something that made me drowsy.

I drove home pretty miserable. Lala was in Romania, I could barely sleep, and the next day, despite gobbling a handful of morphine pills with my morning coffee, I could barely walk for the pain. And my back was killing me.

"You WHAT?" shrieked Lala when she saw the pictures (same as above) on Facebook. Her boyfriend was NOT supposed to come back with injuries. I got a staggering number of comments on these photos, and then Facebook itself weighed in by deleting them, citing inappropriate content. Well you can post links to videos of Iraqis being waterboarded, but you can't show a cut...hmm. Anyway I spent the next 3 weeks being 79 years old, hobbling around on a cane, out of my head on painkillers, the world soft cotton balls and groggy whispers away from my head.

But things healed up, Lala got home and was horrified when the stitches dripped pus and I pulled them out with tweezers, and two weeks later, I had the urge to get back on the horse.

The History

This is the online record of the creation of my first ever rock climbing route.

One year ago, Napoleon and I went for a walk in Squamish to look at an area that we noticed had (a) lots of climbable-looking features and (b) no routes in the guidebook. In May of 2008, we thrashed up to where we thought we'd start (just under the Sheriff's Badge, on the Stawamus Chief, in Squamish, BC)...and found some fixed ropes. So we jugged up the ropes and arrived in the middle of a slabby, treed, kinda boring place. It was wet and humid. It was not very good climbing. It felt like a waste of a day.

But on the way down, Napoleon noticed something off to our right. And we wandered over to check it out. And so was born a dream.