Author Topic: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall  (Read 2226 times)

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Offline Mike.

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Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« on: August 10, 2009, 02:39:57 pm »

I scored a week off work, yahoo! It being Summer, the Weasel was fully available for condition-chasing. So with a loose plan to get as high as possible in the Sierra and whatnot, we headed from the Portal for the East Ridge of Russell.


East Ridge of Russell, bzzt

A couple of misfires on the approach brought doubt to our hoped success. Halfway up the Unending Impermanent Gravel Slope which constitutes the actual trail from near Upper BS Lake to the Russell-Carillon col, I knew it was either a bail, benightment or bumblefest to the end. Ah, we'll call it a warm-up exercise. We got a whole week, y'know.


White Mountain Peak

A couple years ago the Weasel, a friend and I walked up to summit White Mountain Peak. Well, we tried to. After our crack-of-noon start, some evil-looking clouds built from the East and appeared quite threatening. Short of the summit we decided to run away, but vowed to return with mountain bikes. I mean, how many CA fourteeners can you pedal off the top of?

Weasel and I guided our vintage spokes past the Bancroft station into the Kingdom of Marmot. I bounced down the first downgrade and came upon my babe stacked in the trail, poor thing. I really should have reinforced that the tires are really hard for the slog up, and they don't handle well that way so go easy. Hindsight. Taking a digger really sucks, and I don't blame the Weas for calling it off at that point. She wasn't badly hurt, but heading back was the right thing. For her! I had to take it for the team, y'know.

Pushing a bike to the top is a real PITA, and slower than hiking at a decent pace. But the road down is a fair exchange for the toil. All the downhill except a short section (covered with softball--volleyball sized rocks) off the summit is rideable for a biker of modest capability. Well worth the 16-mile dirt drive to the trailhead.


Onward...With the Phantom

With us down to a one-person team, the face of the week changed. The Weasel's back and hip were not up to the rigors we had envisioned. Trooper and good-spirited varmint the Weasel is, she gave me a full haul pass for whatever I wanted to do, and jubilantly offered to support me however she could. Talk about an unselfish partner... This woman is a dream. Hell yea I married up.

The weather looked to become stormy and quite cool over the Sierra, which opened up unexpected options. Thursday's high in the Valley was to be 69?. In August?! Unstable weather usually clears out the riffraff, so I thought this as good an op as any to solo Leaning Tower's West Face. As many times as I've done this route, I never soloed it though I'd wanted to for some time.

Rolling over TM, we spotted a buddy's rig and stopped to leave a note. But we were not the first--a note was already there, left by some beloved mutual friends who did the same. They left info on their campsite, so we scooped 'em and surprised our friends by showing up. A great unexpected treat, and a nice diversion from the mission.

My bro, his wife and kid decided they would carry my gear up to the Tower. They even did most of the 4th class. At 10:30am they left me at the dead tree with nobody else apparently around, up or down. Cool weather. Where am I? When is it?

Awahnee looked pretty tempting as I rolled by. Lots of water there, and no people. The best option would have been to fix two off Guano and start up next day, but I hoped to do the route in a day/push so on I went.

I slowed dramatically in the dark but felt decent overall. I didn't keep tabs on the time, as I mainly wanted to "enjoy" the climbing. I knew I was going slow when the light of a new day began showing and I was still climbing. I created an extra "pitch" by stopping at the short belay below Evil Tree Roof. I was willing to take a tad longer on the route to better mix up the activities.

Just before 10am I dumped my little haul bag's contents onto the summit ledge. A quart and a half of my 6L allotment still remained, as did a Double Shot, 1.5 bagel and cheese sammies, candies and a couple unpalatable bars. It was a seemingly big effort to stop, to cease organizing and lay down on the ledge with no muscles flexed. But I handled it!

The descent was routine, but the whole time I was accompanied by a phantom. The phantom also accompanied me on the upper route. In my mind I would be explaining everything I was doing or about to do, as though I were talking to someone. Then, as would happen over and over, I would suddenly note with consternation that I was alone. I've spent a lot of time by myself is these situations, but never felt the presence of the phantom. It was so eerie it was funny. At least I thought so. Can't speak for the phantom.

At the flat spot I wrestled the stuffed piglet over my bulging bandoletta, willing for the final grunt to the pavement. "Babe!" Was the phantom finally speaking? Why no, that's my wife! My little savior showed up, injuries and all, with hot food makin's, water and cold beer at the quintessential moment. My gear hit the ground without a step from the flat spot as the Weasel joined me for an afternoon picnic. Just Sublime. Nirvana. It's a Beautiful Day.

A couple hours later we pulled into the campsite to smiling faces and good cheer. I never even got out. Crawled in the back, pulled a sleeping bag over me. Oh you tee.

Much gratitude to my incredible spouse and to my fine, fine friends.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 02:42:05 pm by Mike. »
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

skully

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 07:01:16 pm »
Whoa, you guys get around, huh?
Sorry to hear about the Missus' fall....hope she's feeling better.
Sounds like you got a dose of adventure, anyhow. WOOT!
Ya know, when I'm soloin', I kinda keep up a running commentary, with the phantom, or whomever.
I think it makes me feel not quite so alone.....I dunno.  Good times!

Offline *Mucci*

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2009, 04:20:44 pm »
Very nice  Mike!

The tower has a certain feel to it not found on any other grade V, The Phantom was a cool perspective as to how soloing demands mental control. 

I have done the west face 3 times and feel that I will surely do it again and again, hopefully solo soon!

Good to hear you made the best of your week!

Best to ya!

Mucci

Offline Caz

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2009, 04:53:23 pm »
Thanks for posting Mike. I always like reading your stuff...


Zac
I do this for fun...

skully

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2009, 05:56:02 pm »
Yeah, I agree, Mike has that way of tellin' a story. It grabs ya, And won't let go.
I bet he could make doin' the freakin' dishes sound engaging.
Thanks, Mike.

Offline Mike.

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2009, 07:51:35 pm »
LOL Thanks, guys.


Yea, Mucci, that's one worth repeating. It was my first wall, '86, new to aid. I was scared shitless, and looking pretty lame I'm sure. But I was sure stoked by that route.

It's almost always good in full winter, and the gully is probably less dangerous with some snow in it. Can be deep snow on the approach at the base, but usually minor collections on the route. It's always good for a night out in prime time. Start late enough to have the bivyers out of the way and slink by. Bring a ledge and take a few days on it; I did that with the babe and another couple. It's all great. I don't know more big wall bang for the buck than WFLT..5 ropes, can ya dig that?!

Cheers, mon.
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline cclarke

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2009, 10:01:57 am »
Sounds like good times!  Thanks for tellin' it.


Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2009, 08:45:45 pm »
real nice!

Offline hoipolloi

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 10:43:41 pm »
Good job mike, cool stuff!  Thanks for writing it all down

I soloed the WFLT a month or so ago.  It was a pretty spectacular time, really great wall for soloing.  I found it to be quite intense, I linked the last 2 pitches and when I did the final rap from the summit (the big ledge) down to below the roof... HO MAN I was 40+ feet from the wall in all directions.  I had to jug sideways forever to get to my anchor, it was pretty intense.


I am forming a love hate relationship soloing (I think thats what its all about right?).  I find that the first day is brutal, getting passed the mental struggle of being alone is really hard for me.  Once the second day is moving I begin to feel more comfortable alone with myself.  Its a difficult struggle for me, I understand I am a bit of a "socialite" in that regards.  It has really made me realize the value of a good partner.

I like to "solo" with my girlfriend.  Lead and Haul everything, but have her there for the jugging, cleaning and company (sometimes the most important part for me).

Offline Mike.

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2009, 10:58:39 am »
I agree with all you write about the route and soloing, hoi. Nice job on the route, BTW. I'm all about the Gentleman Solo, too, and the wife seems to enjoy her role. Soloing's not for everyone, and it's good to be honest with oneself about it (maybe not so easy with all the hotshots around making the routes look easy). Likewise it takes time to know. Every soloist dreads certain parts at certain times, I think. Good to be able to distinguish work-a-day dread from hatefully, run-away-from-the-wall-&-sell-all-your-gear type loathing. There are a bunch of really good wall climbers who either have never soloed, or have done it once and sworn it off. Nothing to do with climbing, really, just personality. Love/hate, haha...that's about it.

I missed the full value rap, as I'd unlinked those pitches. But now that the tree is gone...Evil Tree Roof Swing remains, heehee. I had two partners who were to lower one guy out from there, but "in error" they simply cut the guy loose and, boy, did he fly. Next time I was up there with two followers I couldn't resist. It's a clean swing from either belay below the roof. Mwahaha...
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline johnmac

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Re: Weeklong alpine shotgun mission goes small wall
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2009, 11:19:38 am »
I think the love hate thing about soloing walls is pretty normal. I struggle with it at times and I garantee that on every route there is a point in time then I swear that this is my last time... First day is always hard, I've backed off lots of time on the first pitch or two. Just didn't seem right... As the time goes on, I usually get stronger mentally.

The other day I watched vertical frontier and Royal Robbins said something that I think is very true for me, in that you have to climb the route first in your mind before you can climb it physically. I think that's especially true with my solos. Sometimes I need to fail on a route before I'm ready to climb it. Get the rock dust under my fingernails.