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Big Wall Index => Big Wall Trip Reports => Topic started by: cobbledik on January 08, 2012, 04:25:50 pm

Title: Rapping the base of Leaning Tower
Post by: cobbledik on January 08, 2012, 04:25:50 pm
As I stumble and hobble my way around today on legs that did not fair well from the approach, the first two pitches of West Face, and the descent from Leaning Tower, I attempt to salvage my efforts with a trip report about getting from the start of West Face to the base of Leaning Tower without having to reverse the "4th class*" traverse with bags and kit.

My first wall attempt of the year comes with my first new years resolution: "I will not make plans to solo a big wall unless I give myself MORE than twice as much time as it would take myself and someone else." In a text to my mother, "Soloing would be a hell of a lot easier if I was twice as strong as a single person and twice as fast."

Remembering a post I had read that said two fixed 60m ropes would hit the ground I decided to take the day exploring the base of Leaning Tower (something I had always wanted to do). I left behind a christmas ornament as a gift to future climbers and headed down on my own. I decided to leave my bags at the ledge while I figured out what I'd find on the face. The joy of a bail is all the extra time you have to explore both the auxiliary aspects of the wall as well as the auxiliary aspects of your food supply.

If nothing else, the face of the base of Leaning Tower is a graveyard for lessons learned by people dropping their gear from the overhanging playing field above. I moved across the face, looking for belay stations that would allow for a double rope rap to be made as well. I came across some interesting belay configurations as well as "bolted" stations that did not inspire confidence. The slings on the picture below were in-situ and so I guess someone was inspired at some point.

I hit the ground like a pirate, covered in booty and with a few feet of rope to spare. I'd used a dynamic 60m and a static 200' line. (Later when I came down with the pig, the extra weight on the line gave me about 5 extra feet of rope coiled at the base.) I laid my score on the ground, and headed back up to come down with the pig.

The decision to rap double ropes was made more for the adventurous spirit than need. I would def suggest that should anyone want to come down this way, because the anchors for a double rope rap are suspect to say the least, send one person down with the bags (making sure this person knows how to pass a knot on the way) and the other can gather the ropes back up and backpack the ropes in order to make the traverse to hike down to the partner.

Doing the double rope rap leads first to the treed ledge approx (complete guess, don?t quote me) 60? below the approach ledge. Here there is a healthy tree with some faded slings so I'd suggest being prepared to contribute a bit of your 1" webbing to the cause. What is currently there is as crackling as a campfire and as faded as my dreams of completing West Face in a weekend. If you're against using the tree and want to up the ante, there's a bolt/piton anchor that can be used as your next rap station. Personally, the piton alone in this anchor looks welded beyond all retrieval, which is good because the upper leg of the anchor is on an old 1/4" bolt and the webbing is only threaded through the links on the homemade hanger attached to the rusted 3/8" bolt below it. Nothing like trusting a 1/4" with a possible shockload to the rusty 3/8" below it. Knowing the state of the "anchor" I was going to use next, I was displeased with myself when I unclipped my daisies and started my slow-as-molasses rap to the next station.

Approx 45m below the previous treed ledge is the next hanging "belay" station that  offers you the rare opportunity to place your faith in nostalgic dreams and metallurgic assumptions of yesteryear. Vaguely trying to remember how to tell the difference between the newwer "not die" smc hangers and the older "will die" smc hangers, I dutifully clipped my aiders to the 1/4" bolts and detached myself from the safety of the anchor above. Once my rap was set up, I made the molasses of the previous rap feel like rushing snowmelt as I crept down the wall, careful not to bounce or jerk my way to an express trip down.

Once upon the ground, I set to work gathering up my new found gear winnings and forgetting the raps that I had just made. I do not like making the traverse to get to the beggining of the West Face and other Leaning Tower routes. Making it in reverse feels harder with bags and I doubt I'll ever do it again. One might say that the best way to avoid having to reverse the traverse would be to not bail and to that I respond, "you are correct."

and don't forget, yer'gonna die.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

*There should be an "r" rating for all classes of climbing. I did the traverse in three separate missions and felt uncomfortable each time, too much weight, too much exposure, and too much loose rock. After passing the portion of the rope that has a core shot covered in white duct tape that was placed there by myself well over a year ago, I was able to pull out a basketball sized chunk of the wall - and by "able," I mean, "surprisingly and heart-stoppingly." At least the fear of freezing January weather meant there was no one on the approach that I could see and no response to my yells before letting the missile loose upon the scree field below.
Title: Re: Rapping the base of Leaning Tower
Post by: cobbledik on January 08, 2012, 04:58:15 pm
Unedited video of rapping with the pig with passing a knot that I only manage to sort of mess up. (
Title: Re: Rapping the base of Leaning Tower
Post by: *Mucci* on January 08, 2012, 09:07:35 pm
I rapped that same way, Way gripped at the intermediate belay.

I dig your resilience on the solo efforts.

Thanks for the time spent putting all that info together, good to know

Title: Re: Rapping the base of Leaning Tower
Post by: Baltoro on January 08, 2012, 10:44:20 pm
On a solo mission with the ropes you had it sounded like you could lower the pig via a grigri redirected through the anchor, passing the knot along the way, drop the ropes then redo the traverse in reverse unencumbered by the pig. Then you'd get to do that stretch right below the camping spot without the pig and all the hike down until you pick it up at the base. This tactic probably isn't a good idea if anyone else is above you as despite the steepness things certainly land at the base there but when you have the wall to yourself it seems like a good plan.
Title: Re: Rapping the base of Leaning Tower
Post by: cobbledik on January 09, 2012, 03:07:59 pm
I wouldn't lower the pig off of a grigri redirect because it's virtually guaranteed to get caught either on the ledge below the start of West Face or else jammed into the chimney below that.
As a soloist, it's still better in my opinion to lower on the fixed line with the pig attached to yourself and then hike back up to do the traverse in order to retrieve the ropes (or reascend the ropes for those that are faster/ use less energy doing it that way - which is conceivable since it's a slab) and traverse back around with the ropes. The soloist (like I said the partner would with two climbers) would backpack the ropes out across the traverse.
I WOULD NOT drop the ropes because, like the haul bag, it would def get stuck on the ledge below the start of the bolt ladder.

That area at the base is def in the fall zone for dropped rocks and gear but even with parties above you, I'd say that the danger is minimal compared to making the traverse multiple times to get the gear across to the bivy site safely.
I know that the current rope that is there has been there for at least two seasons (since it was there long enough to have a core shot last year when I covered it with my duct tape) and would not like to test its strength should a real slip and fall happen whilst carrying a load. Granted no one in their right mind should fall on such a traverse but I have seen parties trying to negotiate the traverse with a full haulbag on their bag and relying completely upon the fixed line to slide themselves, or even just to slide their bags across the most exposed section, making the difficulty of the traverse along with the looseness of the rock, frightening. (in full disclosure, I was one of those idiots blindly trusting the same fixed line in my first gumby traverse across.)
Title: Re: Rapping the base of Leaning Tower
Post by: lambone on May 07, 2012, 03:39:58 pm
those anchors look shady as fuck...