Author Topic: Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts  (Read 2016 times)

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Offline Baltoro

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Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts
« on: November 03, 2008, 04:30:59 pm »
"Witness the Fitless- A Yosemite TR"

So here goes my first TR effort. Caution though; It's very long and there's practically no beta in it and lots of grammar errors. If you want beta let me know. If you want good grammar look somewhere else. I'll add some pics when I can dig the camera out from under the pile of gear in the gear room.

A "bigwall adventure" had been planned for Matt and I for quite a awhile. We'd wisely chose to hold off a year last fall and this year we tricked ourselves into percieved readiness. The plan had Matt there for a week and me there for just over two. We'd get on something "easier" together and then Matt would help me stage for something interesting, ideally Mideast Crisis on Washington Column.

We arrived in the Valley late on Saturday the 4th of November. Sunday saw us sorting ang gawking at basically everything. We'd decided on the West Face of Leaning Tower and carried a load up on Monday. The plan was to carry the last load up Tuesday and fix as high as time end energy allowed and bivy at the base and blast on Wednesday morning. All worked well until we actually had to start the climb.

Matt is a little on the slow side which he'd be the first to admit. This whole trip was going to be a stretch for him and a big learning experience. We anticipated some epic moments here and there, just not quite so early. I decided to do a recon on the "4th class" traverse while Matt finished getting prepped. I carried over the rack and a rope. As it turns out, the traverse is scary. It's fixed for basically all you'd want a rope for but you don't ease into the exposure like a traditional wall. You're a few pitches off the ground before you even leave the ledge. It took me a bit to adjust and feel comfortable but I made it in one piece and went back for Matt, coming up with the best adjectives for how to describe the traverse in a favorable light. I also added a few pieces of gear to help protect the traverse and minimize any swinging if one slipped or broke a hold.

Matt did pretty well on the traverse, a little slow in spots but I think he was feeling okay at this point. Now the first pitches.

The plan was for me to lead and Matt to follow as we figured that would be our fastest arrangement. We'd shortfix everything and ideally fix to the top of three or four today with me cleaning some of it on rap as there's no point in everyone coming up then descending for the night.

Things didn't go quite to plan. The first pitch says something regarding gear to bring. My honest assessment is you could get by with a green 0 and red 1 BD C3 and maybe a cam hook as well. Other than that the first two pitches are all bolts and a fixed head or two and two fixed pins. The bolts are mostly big fat ones too so go fast and confident. I clipped very few of the bolts as I was planning on having gear for the ground ahead and I felt pretty sure I wouldn't fall. I maybe clipped ten bolts on the first pitch, shortfixed to a screamer at the top of the first pitch and clipped another five bolts to the top of the second. I was psyched and feeling really fast and efficient. The two pitches took maybe 40 minutes or so at a guess.

The problem was that now I was out of rope and needed Matt to hit the first anchor and give me more rope. I looked down to see him below the first roof which is still a long ways from the first anchor. Here's how the conversation went:

Ryan: How's it going?
Matt: Uhmmm... Not so good.
Ryan: Is it the jugging or your head?
Matt: Ummm... Both.
Ryan: Ok. Keep going and we'll talk when you make it to the anchor.
Matt: Ok.

Time proceeded to stop and Matt slowly inched upwards. I tried to tell myself that hanging in my harness and being uncomfortable was not nearly as bad as spinning in circles trying to clean draws and being terrified at the void below.

As some point a soloist on Jesus Built My Hotrod proceeds to pull off a plate sized flake. He carefully calls out "Rock" before letting it fly. This gives Matt and I the chance to watch it's path, falling and falling and falling until it smashes onto the slab below. Well at least we'll know for sure where we'd hit instead of speculating.

Finally Matt reaches the anchor. He's worked and there's no point in going up as it's not going to get any better. We decide to bail which is great fun on the Tower. I rap and clean the second pitch which is an adventure in and of itself. Then I send Matt down. We clipped the end of our haul line to the anchor knowing we'd need it to get into the ledge. Matt also left some draws clipped in to ease descent. This system worked sort of until Matt had issues with a prusik backup and more waiting followed. Finally Matt was down and I met him on the ledge. He wasn't hugging the tree as the tree looked like it was as likely to pull you off when it falls but he looked happy to be down. We proceeded to narrowly avoid epicing on the reverse traverse as the sun slipped lower and lower. We made it back to our gear, quickly decided to not epic on the descent taril in the dark and proceeded to have a really good time eating as much as we could so we didn't have to carry it down.

We spent the next few days flailing on V0's and styling up Sunnyside Bench (5.4 3 pitches Grade I). We spent lots of time in the meadow watching the Hans and Yugi show which is amazing in person. Soon Matt would have to leave so we hiked a load up to Mideast Crisis and Matt went on his way.

I had no regrets from our time together down there. We came and tried and failed and that's ok. There may or may not be a next time for Matt but I was still excited and motivated which was a good thing since I had lots of gear below MC. The plan was to fix to four before blasting and then launch solo.

Mideast Crisis shares its first pitch with Astroman. Now if you're a solid 11c climber headed up Astroman you probably don't think twice about the sandy 5.7 first pitch. But if you're solo aid climbing on an unmodified grigri and your lead limit is 5.10ish then things get interesting. The first pitch is not super clean, with lots of sand and flexing flakes. The pro is not great by my soloing standards but fortunately it is not sustained. This allowed for lots of tugging to feed rope and thinking about avoiding falls onto questionable gear.

I finished and cleaned the first pitch and prepped for the second. It goes at A1 according to the topo. I was hoping to do it clean but brought some pins along just in case. You free out right on evaporating sand hummocks to a crack splitting a roof. A fixed pin starts things off to good cams (.2 C3-.75 or so) to the lip of the roof. A nice big #1 makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. I was feeling pretty good at this point as things were going just fine so far and the crack ahead didn't look too bad.

The roof is topped by a slab, then things go mostly vertical to another slab at the anchor. Some cam hooks and small cams and nuts brought me to an impasse. There was a nice flake that would take a #4 a couple moves away. Sadly I only brought up to a #3, with the #4 hanging at the anchor below. Normally I'm psyched on tag racks for soloing but this would require tagging through a tree so I didn't set one up. The #3 would have to do. It looked like I might be able to shove it up higher but first I ahd to get there. The crack was fairly thin and kind of crumbly at the edges. I still wanted to keep things clean so I hesitated to sink a pin there. There was also a really nice hook placement a foot or so to the left of the crack but my grappling hook seemed to rock a little there. I decided I'd equalize a 000 C3 in the crack and the hook to the left. This kept the hook oriented in it's best position which was slightly askew. I topstepped up, using the flake that I could no reach for support. This soon turned into one of those fraid moves, where you're partially free and partially aid and fully afraid. I could no shove the #3 up higher where things constricted a bit more. I was playing around to get it just right as I was going to backclean the hook and cam if this worked and wanted good gear. That's when the cam blew and things got interesting.

Here's the more or less what I think happened: The cam blew, thus shockloading the hook and orienting it downwards instead of slightly askew. I felt the cam blow and the drop. This drop was quickly followed by a daisy fall onto the poor hook. Well I guess the hook wasn't so poor as it bent the hook to 90 degrees. I discovered this later as before I knew it I was dangling some 30ish ft. below where I was just moments before. I'd backcleaned before the fall so I fell a bit further and the system had a bit of slack in it but fortunately not any mroe as my feet were just about touching down onto the slab above the roof. Whew! I clearly remember being psyched and not scared, at first at least. It happened so fast that there wasn't time to think and I'm proud to say I didn't make a sound. I would've shit myself but my bowels didn't react that quickly and I was so puckered that nothing could get out anyways. I care fully jugged up to figure out which piece was my new favorite on the rack and discoverd it was a red/yellow offset Alien, fortunately pre-recall. Joy!

This time I busted out the hammer and a tiny sawed angle. With every tap my sphincter relaxed a little more. Sigh... My #3 was still above, just waiting for me to clip into it. Sometimes when I get bomber gear I'll clip into it with the rope before putting the aiders on it as I know it's not going to go. This saves me from having to reach down after and clip in. I'm glad I didn't this time as if I had fallen while clipping I would've hit the steep slab for sure. This is also when I noticed my hook was bent. Part of me was psyched and the other part that puts a great deal of faith in his gear was terrified. What else could bend?! After clipping the #3 I could see I was just a few moves from the anchor so I knew I'd survive the next few minutes. Some trickery was required as I didn't feel up to 2 moves of 5.2 and my fvorite hook was bent. Eventually I made the anchor and rapped off, leaving the gear to be cleaned tomorrow.

Going down, I knew it was going to be a tough night of decision making. I was scared, my back hurt from carrying all sorts of shit up here, my stomach felt like I had a hernia and who knew which gear would betray me next. On top of it all I was going to have to battle the ring tailed cat for base camp supremacy. I set up camp and proceeded to eat and drink as that always helps. Washington Column has better cell service than Camp 4 so I called a friend to vent. The plan was to wait until morning before making any final decision. Things might be better then right? Darkness...

The ring tailed cat is evil. There are at least a thousand of them and they are fearless. They don't even really want your food. They want you. I spent the better part of the night fighting them off and praying for daylight. Thumping my empty haulbag with a trekking pole was good at scaring them off but I quickly determined that I was more afraid of them then they were of me. Bastards!!

I awoke exhausted as I more passed out than fell asleep. I knew I was going down. It would also take me forever to get all my crap down from here, let alone down the North Dome Gully. I wisely chose to bail. Work demands would be calling soon and it was time for this adventure to come to an end. An Angel from Heaven in the form of Ben from the YOSAR site came through and offered to carry a bag down to the bike trail for me. Thank you so much as you basically saved me a day. I already had two bags to shuttle. There was one Metolius Quarter Dome with all the heavy stuff and one Metolius El Cap with the ledge and all the lighter stuff. This produced two obvious names for the pigs: Dense Pig and Tall Pig.

They both had their own personalities and quirks and I would get to know them well before the day was over. I began the descent hating Dense Pig and telling him so every time he threw me off balance. He always replied with something snarky about how he'd much rather be empty and I was the one who put all this shit inside him. Tall Pig on the other hand couldn't have been better behaved. He apologized the few times the top got hung up on branches and seemed to behave himself quite well with none of the backtalk I'd come to expect from Dense Pig.

I'd carry one down aways, set it on a nice rock and go get the other. Soon though things changed as now Tall Pig was getting hung up more often in the trees. Dense Pig kept pointing out how much easier he was to carry and that Tall Pig was intentionally grabbing branches. I told Dense Pig that I couldn't really see what was going on back there and it's not nice to point fingers at others but I think he was right. In Tall Pig's defense, he had the portaledge sticking out the top. The ledge has spent many, many nights in my gear room and none to date on a wall. I don't think it wanted to leave. I can't blame it as neither did I so I promised we'd come back. Eventually all Dense Pig and Tall Pig made it back and I returned to pick up the little pig that didn't get a name as I wasn't hallucinating when I carried it. I was worked and looking at a 15 hour drive to Seattle so I thought it better to crasah one more night in Camp 4 then fall asleep somewhere along the highway.

Again, no regrets on the whole adventure. I had a blast and learned a lot. I feel mentally more prepared and know my way around the Valley a bit. I discovered that I need more of a reserve of strength to solo harder stuff for me and that regardless of how strong or psyched I'm feeling that doesn't make up for a partner who isn't feeling good. It takes two feeling good and all those things are what I came to find, not what the summit of Leaning Tower or Washington Column looks like.

I forget which famous climber said it but it was something along the lines of "After all these years and all these mountains I don't remember the routes or the moves or the summits. I remember the people I did them with and the relationships I built on those climbs." This fit my mindset perfectly. The plan was to come climb with Matt, not come climb something with just anybody. The plan was to try and solo something hard for me, not just get up something. I think we could've done some easier stuff and eased into a bit more. The South Face of WC together or the Prow solo or whatever. We may have succeeded on both routes and ultimately it wouldn't matter. I think I learned and grew as much climbing, flailing and bailing with Matt and by myself as I woud've had I topped out on something else with someone other than Matt. It's not like I'm gonna get a free pair of shoes when I fax my send to the mags anyways.

Since the only climbs we finished were Sunnyside bench and some sick V0 boulder problems I'll refrain from adding a bunch of route beta. I did put together some pretty good beta on both routes prior to leaving so if anyone's interested I'm happy to forward it along or answer questions on the two pitches of both routes I did climb.

The move by move beta TR for Sunnyside Bench will most likey never make it to print as that was just too amazing a climb to try and express into words. It's actually really cool and I highly recommend it regardless of ability. Thanks and I hope you enjoyed my TR.



« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 04:34:25 pm by Baltoro »
Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am too lazy to do either.
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Offline Mike.

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Re: Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 05:26:49 pm »
Proud effort, homey.

We gotta love the emotion. We've all been there; at wits end and loathing every option. Makes me feel a bit "at home" to hear somebody else going thru the gyrations. None of this would ever happen if we did easy stuff all the time. That in itself is consoling when I'm in it.

Way to put the right spin on your experience, Baltoro. Nice report!
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Offline Baltoro

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Re: Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2008, 06:15:18 pm »
Thanks Mike. I meant to put a link in the last winter thread thing so I'm glad it got noticed over here. Hopefully many more to come, maybe some with some summits.
Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am too lazy to do either.
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Offline offset

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Re: Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2008, 07:21:11 pm »
nice writeup d00d...  one of the better 'reverse hump' stories.

Offline Baltoro

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Re: Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2008, 09:16:38 pm »
I figured if it was going to be light on actual climbing it should be compelling in other ways. More often than not almost all of us go down. That doesn't mean it's not worth a write up sometimes.
Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am too lazy to do either.
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skully

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Re: Leaning Tower and Mideast Crisis attempts
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2009, 03:46:31 pm »
I like your writing style, Baltoro.....Y'know, I could've swore my haulbag had a few choice remarks, but I chalked it up to too much hippy lettuce.
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Most folks have bailed a time or two. That shit is just one of the hazards of the territory.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2010, 12:20:47 am by skully »