Friday, October 8, 2010
Gunks Routes: No Glow (5.9)
(Photo: My partner Adrian just above the crux on the 5.9 pitch two of No Glow.)
Not far past the Arrow wall, just before CCK, No Glow occupies a part of the Trapps that is crowded with classics. Dick Williams gives the route two stars in his latest guidebook, but it seems to me it is a bit less popular than it ought to be. I reckon this is for two reasons: (1) the first pitch is only 5.4, and (2) the second, crux pitch begins with some R-rated climbing. But these issues shouldn't deter you; No Glow is a really fun climb. Pitch one involves good, typical 5.4-5.5 Gunks face climbing. Pitch two is outstanding. I recommend the route highly, but as you will see, I think it will be better for you if you climb with double/half ropes.
The main challenge with pitch one is finding the correct start. If you walk down the carriage road to the distinctive Andrew boulder, the next blazed trail up the talus will take you directly to the base of CCK. Walk climber's left around the large right-facing corner and continue past another prominent left-facing corner system that ascends all the way to the GT ledge (this is the Moonlight corner). It is another thirty or forty feet to the base of No Glow. Look above, at least halfway to the GT Ledge, for an obvious, jutting right-facing flake that forms an overhang. Then look down beneath this flake for blocks stacked against the wall about 30 or 40 feet off the ground. Below these stacked blocks is the start of No Glow, up a ramp-like set of features to the blocks.
The start has no pro for 15 or 20 feet. You can see from the ground where your first pro will be; there are good cam placements there. The climbing to this point is quite easy, but it might unnerve a new leader to go so far before the first gear placement. Once you reach the stacked blocks my recommendation is to leave them alone. You may be tempted to place gear in the cracks amongst these blocks but there is no reason to do so; there is a good crack for pro on the wall to the right. It is also just as easy to climb the route without touching them. From the blocks you should aim for the flake, following your nose up the wall past numerous horizontals. There is a horizontal pretty much wherever you might want one, and numerous ways to climb; I tend to meander a little, following the opportunities for placing gear. Getting past the flake is not difficult, but in my opinion it is the steep crux of the pitch. Once over the flake head pretty much straight up to the big oak tree/rappel station on the GT ledge.
Pitch two begins just to the left, in the prominent left-facing corner. Climb into the corner and then traverse out right beneath the overhang around the outside corner and onto the main face, with your feet just above the first lip. This is the part of the pitch that Williams describes as rated 5.5 R, but I don't think it is really R-rated if you use double ropes. There is a bomber vertical crack at the back of the corner for pro. If you place gear here with a long runner you won't create a ton of drag and you'll be protected just fine for the first insecure step of the traverse. After this first step the traverse is much easier, with no worries around the outside corner to the face. Once on the main face I would immediately place pro using my OTHER rope so as not to create an ocean of drag.
After the fun traverse, the climbing steepens up a shallow dihedral to the roof crux. There's a pin and a good crack for pro here. Then pull the overhang (think undercling and a long reach), clip the second pin, and make a smeary step up to a good stance. Pretty easy for 5.9. The rest of the way you'll find good, thoughtful but easier climbing to the top on marble-like rock similar to what you experience on the nearby Arrow wall.
Your double ropes will also be helpful with No Glow's descent. There are rap rings at the top on steel cables around trees. I believe you can make it to the GT ledge with a single 60 meter rope rap from here, but from the GT Ledge to the ground requires two ropes. If you only have a single, walk climber's right on the GT Ledge around the corner to the tree above the first pitch of CCK. From this tree one a single 60 meter rope will get you to the ground. Or from the top of the cliff walk climber's left to the Arrow bolts (two raps with a single) or climber's right to the bolts at Ken's Blind Hole (three raps with a single).