Saturday, October 29, 2011
(Photo: Coming up the 5.8 pitch one of Mr. P's Wurst.)
So nice to be back home in the Gunks.
After nearly two months away, I longed for the old familiar climbing surroundings.
The long reaches.
I was climbing with Margaret on an October Sunday. She wanted some easy leading and our first target was Three Pines. Unfortunately Three Pines at 9 a.m. already had a party of three on the first pitch and another pair at the base waiting to start. This was hardly a surprise on a Sunday during peak season.
My general policy is not to wait for climbs in the Trapps. In my experience, you always find something else open if you keep looking. Sure enough, we went a little further down the cliff and found Minty (5.3) available so we were in business.
Margaret led pitch one. I think this pitch is a great introductory Gunks lead because it has an early move that seems several grades harder than the rest of the climb. This might not seem like an ideal situation for a new leader to deal with, but it happens all the time on climbs of every grade in the Gunks. You have to confront it eventually, so you might as well start to get used to it when you're leading 5.3!
On Minty, the move can catch you by surprise. You start up this little corner. A big shelf is right there for you to grab, just one step up. But the feet are these tiny, polished little half-pebbles. You have to trust your feet just long enough to step up to grab that ledge.
The move should be no big deal.
But it seems totally possible you could fall here.
So you stand there thinking "This is supposed to be 5.3! How can I be such a failure that I am worried about this little move on a 5.3??"
And you psyche yourself out.
And you try this, and you try that, desperate to avoid this tenuous little step.
Finally you just do the stupid move and feel like an idiot.
Welcome to the Gunks.
(Photo: Past the crux on pitch one of Minty (5.3).)
The other hazard on Minty is that you might go up the wrong corner. The climb keeps moving left, and all the corner systems look alike. The first time I did the route, with Liz, she went up too soon, when she should have continued moving left. But if you make this mistake, you'll likely end up on Tipsy Trees, which is another nice 5.3. So no worries.
To stay on track you should look up for the distinctive Minty tree. It is a pine tree over 100 feet up that sticks out sideways from the cliff. This tree is where pitch one ends. If you keep in mind that you are heading for this tree, you should find the correct route.
(Photo: The 5.2 pitch three of Minty.)
Minty has lots to offer. The steep, juggy climbing you'll find in the second half of pitch one and all of pitch two is especially nice. Pitch three goes at a very casual 5.2 and it isn't terribly long, but it too has good moves out from a corner system and then up jugs to the top.
My personal preference for descending from climbs in the Minty/Snooky's area is to walk a short distance to the bolted rap route at the top of the Madame G buttress. Using the bolted rap route guarantees a safe descent and avoids throwing ropes over nervous leaders on very popular climbs. The problem with this method is that the Madame G rap starts from the GT Ledge and you have to follow your nose and downclimb from the top to find the bolts. If you aren't already familiar with the location it will be hard for you to find it. In the past I have spotted the distinctive tree which grows out at an angle from the cliff right next to the rap bolts, but I must have done this at a time of year in which the trees have no leaves. Last weekend with Margaret I couldn't spot the correct tree from the top and I had some trouble finding the bolts, overshooting the right path and having to work my way back. Still, I prefer these few minutes of hunting to rapping off of the manky anchors which come and go atop the cliff.
Coming down, I could see it wasn't going to be easy to get on another three-star classic. The cliff was looking very crowded. There were parties on Madame G's, on Finger Locks or Cedar Box, on Hyjek's Horror, on almost every climb in sight. Was this a nature preserve? It bore a greater resemblance to Occupy Wall Street.
I suggested to Margaret that we do an empty climb right in front of us: Mr. P's Wurst. The climb, which ascends the right side of the Madame G buttress, is almost always open, even though it sits amidst some of the most popular routes in the Trapps.
I've been wanting to get on Mr. P's for some time, in part because I like the name, which Ivan Rezucha and Rich Perch bestowed on the route in the best Hans Kraus tradition.
Hans put up Madame G's (full name: Madame Grunnebaum's Wulst) in 1943. How many climbers understand the bawdy humor in this classic route's name? I'd wager that very few get the joke. As Susan E.B. Schwartz explains in her biography Into the Unknown: the Remarkable Life of Hans Kraus, the name was not inspired by a real person. Instead, Hans looked up at the buttress and saw two bulges up high that-- to his one-track mind-- resembled a woman's bosom. The route he created begins at a pine tree and weaves between the two breast-like features. Grunnebaum is German for green tree and wulst means bulge. Thus the route's name can be translated in full as "Mrs. Greentree's Boobs."
Once you understand the humor in Madame G's name, the meaning of Mr. P's Wurst becomes obvious. The latter route snakes up right next to Ms. Greentree's bulges, and what could be better nestled in those bulges than Mr. Perch's sausage?
Apart from the name, what interested me about Mr. P's was that no one ever seems to do it. It is always open, despite the fact that Dick Williams decided to anoint it with two stars in his 2004 guidebook. Dick also did his part to make the route more accessible, describing a new start from 50 feet up the gully to the right of the buttress instead of the 5.6 R climbing previously needed to get established on the route.
I think this new start is actually one of the reasons the crowds stay away. The gully looks unappealing and from the ground it is hard to see exactly where you're supposed to jump onto the wall.
It looked to me as though the right spot was about five or ten feet below the rap bolts that are on the other side of the gully. We decided to do pitch one of Northern Pillar (5.1) instead of climbing the gully, with Margaret leading up and cutting left near the top of the pitch to set up a belay either at or near the bolts, from which point I'd decide exactly how to get over the gully and onto the wall for Mr. P's.
Margaret ended up building a belay to the right of the bolts, in order to avoid having parties constantly rapping through as she stood there waiting for me. This worked out fine, although I think it would have been okay to use the bolts so long as she set up on the left side of them. It seems to me that when people rap and pull the ropes from above they usually fall just to the right of the bolts. So if Margaret had anchored into the bolts but stood to the left she would probably have been unaffected by the rapping parties. In the final analysis, it would have been simpler just to go up the gully.
(Photo: Approaching the crux of the 5.8 pitch one of Mr. P's Wurst. From the photo you can get some idea how overhanging the final bits of the pitch are. The other climber in the photo is on Madame G's.)
From our belay at bolt level, I traversed to the gully, downclimbed a few moves, and then made the step across to the other side. These moves are easy, but if you do it this way you need to place pro as you step down, and then again at the other side of the gully, if you want to protect your second. Again, probably it would have been better just to go up the gully.
Now I was finally on Mr. P's. The pitch wasn't difficult to follow. Good holds lead up and around the corner until you find yourself on the right side of the face of the Madame G buttress. The climbing is juggy throughout the first pitch, and the rock quality is generally good. The angle gradually steepens until it becomes overhanging for the last ten to fifteen feet of the pitch. The crux move comes at three ancient pitons. I equalized the lower two and then clipped the third one as well, hoping at least one of them would hold in the event of a fall.
A big move up to a bomber horizontal, a good cam, and another move up to a tenuous stance finished the pitch beneath a roof.
(Photo: Looking down from the hanging belay at the end of pitch one of Mr. P's Wurst (5.8). My belayer Margaret is in blue. The climber in red is descending by the bolted rappel route.)
I found the hanging belay suggested by Dick to be rather unpleasant. There are two ancient pins, plus enough horizontals to place a few cams. It isn't unsafe, but it is truly a hanging stance; I couldn't let go with both hands in order to set up my anchor. Equalizing the cordalette and tying it in a knot with one hand wasn't easy.
(Photo: Approaching the hanging belay at the end of pitch one of Mr. P's Wurst (5.8).)
Pitch two is rated 5.7+. I followed Dick's instructions exactly, moving through the roof at the break and then stepping left. The move was fun and well-protected (you can get a good cam in the break in the roof), but I thought it was a big, reachy move, definitely harder than 5.7. It reminded me of the crux moves on Maria Direct and No Glow, both 5.9.
The rest of the pitch was easier, but still good. Getting past another roof on its right side requires a couple more interesting moves, and then the route joins Madame G's to the finish.
(Photo: Just over the roof on the supposedly 5.7+ pitch two of Mr. P's Wurst.)
After I pulled up the rope and put Margaret on belay, she immediately took a fall. Then she seemed to have no trouble climbing the pitch. She told me when she arrived at the top that she'd tried the roof my way, found it ridiculously hard, and then had moved four feet or so to the left, where she found 5.7 climbing up past the roof.
So maybe Margaret's way is the right way to do it, since it is 5.7. But it isn't how Dick describes the route. Personally, I enjoyed pulling the roof, and I did exactly what Dick instructed me to do, but if you do it this way the roof move is the hardest move on the whole route, and the 5.7+ pitch becomes more like a 5.9-. So you make your own call.
I would gladly climb Mr. P's again, but I would do it differently. I would just go straight up the gully rather than deal with the bolted rappel freeway and the downclimb/traverse. And I think I would bring a few extra cams and runners and do it in one pitch all the way from the ground to the finish on the GT Ledge. This would avoid the unpleasant hanging belay. And then you'd get one super long pitch of juggy steep climbing, wholly in keeping with other great climbs on the same buttress, like Columbia (5.8) and Madame G's (5.6).
If you do it this way I'm sure you too will end up a friend to Mr. P.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
(Photo: Getting ready to commit to the crack on the 5.6 pitch two of Pete's Farewell.)
It seems I can't get enough of climbing in the Adirondacks.
Columbus Day weekend seemed like a good opportunity to go hiking with the kids. The weather was forecasted to be outstanding, with highs upwards of 70 degrees. My wife and I made last-minute arrangements to rent a house in Keene Valley. We were set for three days of hiking. Then my wife suggested that on one of the days maybe I could go climbing, if I got a partner.
It sounded like a great deal to me. Done! Show me where to sign.
Adrian was willing to come up and crash on our couch so I was in business.
We got a reasonably early start on Saturday and arrived at our first destination, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, by 8:00 a.m. This cliff sits in a pretty location, right above Cascade Lakes. It is just seconds from the road and has a couple very good moderate climbs on it. So it is no surprise that it has a reputation for being crowded. We were lucky enough to be the first party to arrive on our chosen day so we headed straight for the most popular line on the cliff, Pete's Farewell (5.7).
Nominally Pete's Farewell is a three pitch climb, but pitch one is only about 40 feet of 5.2. And in reality most of the 40 feet is fourth class. There is probably just one move that qualifies as fifth class on the whole pitch. As we racked up to get started we talked about how we would divide up the pitches. I said I was attracted to the traverse and corner climbing of pitch two and less attracted to the pure handcrack of pitch three. It seemed like I'd hardly gotten the words out when Adrian was already at the belay point for pitch two, having run up the first pitch while placing exactly one piece of pro.
(Photo: Most of the way through pitch two of Pete's Farewell.)
Pitch two is rated 5.6. It begins with a traverse of 20 feet or so to the obvious corner with a crack at the back. There is a pretty good ledge for the feet all the way over to the corner, although there is a little gap that must be stepped across right at the same time the handholds suddenly seem to disappear. It took a little looking around but I found good hands for the step across, then the foot rail became wider and I walked more than climbed the rest of the way over to the corner.
Once at the corner I had to step up into the crack. This to me was the crux. There is fantastic gear available, but still the move is committing. You have to get into the stem/layback with feet that aren't really great. Once I went ahead and made the move, it was no problem, but I was once again confronted with the same old Adirondack feeling of being sandbagged. I couldn't remember the last time I felt so insecure on a 5.6. Once established in the corner, the next few moves don't require quite the same gut check, and before you know it you're out of the corner and at the belay.
(Photo: A few moves up the 5.7 pitch three of Pete's Farewell.)
The final 5.7 pitch was Adrian's lead, and this pitch yet again felt challenging for the grade to me. The pitch follows a slanting handcrack and it is hard to make the first move up into the crack. Once you're in it you've got another good move to a horizontal before the angle eases to the finish.
I thought the two main pitches of Pete's Farewell were both great, and very different from each other. We descended by rapping down the chimney behind the cliff. There is a fixed line that gets you to a ledge inside the chimney and then a walk over to a set of bolts will put you in a position to get to the ground, at the base of Pete's Farewell, in a single-rope rap.
We wanted to do the other most popular line at Pitchoff, The El (5.8). But unfortunately we were no longer alone at the cliff. Pete's Farewell and The El start at the exact same place, and as we rapped down we could see a party coming up the approach pitch for both climbs, as well as another pair on the ground waiting to start up. We were happy to learn that the first of these parties was planning on Pete's, not The El. I decided to just rap at an angle over to the stance for the start of pitch two of both climbs and get in line to begin leading the El as soon as they were out of the way. We were sort of jumping in front of the party on the ground. Was this wrong of us? I don't know. They didn't complain. Carpe Diem, bitches.
(Photo: At the most exposed moment on the 5.7 pitch two of The El.)
It was my turn to lead again so I took on the big traverse that makes up the second pitch of The El. This pitch heads towards the same corner as Pete's Farewell, but instead of going up at the corner, the traverse continues to the outside arete beneath a little overhang, and then around this outside corner/arete onto the face. The traverse then goes on another 20 or 30 feet until you are beneath a crack system that leads up to a big left-facing corner.
Lawyer & Haas call this a 5.7 pitch. I had a fun time leading it and thought it was totally mellow, perhaps because I'm used to traverses from my Gunks experience. The pitch becomes a touch more steep and thin once you come around the arete and onto the main face, out of your belayer's sight. But there is great pro throughout. I never felt like I was at any risk of taking a swing. And the crux is short; the climbing mellows again after a couple moves.
(Photo: Looking up at the 5.8 pitch three of The El.)
The final, 5.8 pitch of The El is another fun, high-quality pitch, with good face moves up to the big corner and then an awkward escape up and right to the top. I felt pretty good about my escape from the corner. Adrian on lead employed an ass-jam onto the shelf above, but I needed just a brief elbow to get through it. A nice pitch, and sustained too. I wouldn't call it a sandbag but it has several 5.8 moves on it.
We liked The El even more than Pete's Farewell, though both climbs are very worthwhile.
By the time we got down from The El the small cliff had become quite crowded. Since pretty much everyone was there for the two climbs we'd already done, we had our pick of other routes we could still do. But with plenty of time left in our day, we decided to head out from Pitchoff and give Barkeater Cliff a try.
When we arrived at the parking lot (at the scenic headquarters of Rock and River guides) we set off immediately on the Jackrabbit trail. There was an obvious, wide path into the woods that matched the description in the guidebook. After about fifteen minutes on the trail we came to a wooden bridge, as the guidebook said we would, and then we started to look for the cairn to our left that the guidebook said would lead us to Barkeater.
But there was no cairn to be found.
So after a bit we started up left, hoping to cross the correct climbers' trail or stumble upon the cliff. The going was steep. We kept going up, trending right, trending left, looking for rock. But no dice. Occasionally we stopped to listen for the sound of clanking carabiners, or belay commands. We heard nothing.
After who knows how long, I tried to use my smart phone to figure out our gps coordinates. But I guess I don't have the app for that; it was fruitless.
Then I looked again at the map in the book, and I realized something was off. There were two little creeks on the map, coming to a "T" at the wooden bridge. But at the bridge we'd crossed we had only seen one little creek.
I started to think we were in the wrong place entirely, but for some reason we kept bushwhacking around. Finally I suggested to Adrian that we head down and retrace our steps. Maybe we'd missed a turn on the Jackrabbit trail; it hadn't been that easy to follow with all the fallen leaves.
As we started to head back, we ran into another pair of climbers.
I have never been happier to see other climbers! I figured they could tell us if we were in the right place.
But no. They were new to the area as well, and were also looking for Barkeater. They were just as lost as we were. In fact, they'd come out to Barkeater after bushwhacking for two hours looking unsuccessfully for Hurricane Crag! Now, I have never been to Hurricane Crag. I don't know if it is really that hard to find. But I had to pity these two. Having just spent an hour and a half searching vainly for Barkeater I wasn't about to criticize them.
I suggested to Adrian that we give up. We could go back to the car and drive to the Beer Walls, near Chapel Pond. They'd be easy to find, and we'd still have time for a couple of pitches.
Back at the parking lot, I was about to put my stuff in the car when I saw an obvious, clear sign pointing to the Jackrabbit trail. It was on the opposite side of the lot. Somehow we'd missed this sign when we pulled up. We'd headed down the wrong trail from the very beginning!
We felt like morons for sure.
If you're moronic like us, please take note. There is a sign at the lot that points to the correct Jackrabbit Trail. Do not go on the other obvious (but unmarked) trail that leaves the parking lot. It will not take you to Barkeater Cliff. Once you're on the correct Jackrabbit trail, the bridge and the cairn could not be easier to locate.
Once we found the cliff, I was impressed. Most of the climbs are just one pitch, but the cliff is still imposing, and beautiful too. The remote setting was refreshing after our morning at the roadside Pitchoff Chimney Cliff.
We didn't have time to do much at Barkeater. I wanted to lead either the face climb Eat Yourself a Pie (5.8+) or the crack climb Mr. Clean (5.9). I expected that given my skill set (and the fact that I love to bake and eat pie) I would choose the face climb, but as we examined Eat Yourself a Pie some guys working on a 5.12 told us they thought it was pretty "in your face" for a 5.8+.
I figured if the guys who climb 5.12 think Eat Yourself a Pie is hard, then maybe I should pick the other climb.
And so I gamely went at Mr. Clean (5.9), a wonderful 60-foot handcrack pitch. I do believe I've made some crack-climbing progress in these visits to the Adirondacks, but since jamming still is not my strong suit I felt insecure the whole way up, and wore myself out constantly placing and replacing gear. I brought up doubles of all the bigger cams and I kept leapfrogging the yellow and red Camalots. If I could have relaxed more and placed about half as much gear, I think I would have led it cleanly, but as it happened I did pop out while stemming at the crux, taking a short fall on a perfect cam placement. Then I finished the pitch.
It was an educational pitch for me. Adrian led it after I did, jamming with his left hand and foot the entire way up, at times ignoring very good face holds in the process. After watching Adrian do it, I tried it again on toprope and cruised to the top, no problem. I tried to do it his way but it just seemed silly to avoid the good holds outside the crack and so sometimes I used them. Then after I toproped it Adrian gave it another go on toprope as well, laybacking and stemming the whole way instead of jamming. He still made it to the top but found it far less secure than when he jammed it.
I wish we had just a few cracks like this at the Gunks so I could get this kind of practice there.
Adrian led Eat Yourself a Pie after we were through with Mr. Clean and I have to say that "in your face" is an apt description for it. The pitch starts with thin face climbing left and up to an arete, with pretty shaky pro for the opening move and a bad landing on pointy boulders if you blow it. Then the crux comes as you move into an alcove and make a very awkward escape from the alcove (with good pro). Finally, lower-angled face/slab climbing takes you past two bolts (it might be nice if there were three) to a steeper corner, which leads to a fixed anchor.
A full quality pitch, with tons of good moves, and yet another testament to how serious the grades are in the Adirondacks.
These two climbs were a great introduction to Barkeater. I'd go back in a heartbeat to repeat them and explore the rest of the cliff.
Friday, October 14, 2011
(Photo: a portion of Upper Washbowl Cliff, with a climber visible back in the corner, in the middle of the second pitch of Partition (5.9-).)
I know that I have no special talent for rock climbing.
I enjoy it and do it as much as I can. But since other things in my life (like marriage, children, and work) also take up lots of time, I don't really get out to climb that often. It's been an awesome year, and I've been lucky enough to take a few multi-day trips to Vegas and the 'Dacks, but even including these trips I don't think I'll get more than two dozen days on real rock in 2011. I know that I am extremely fortunate to get this many days to play outside; two dozen probably sounds like an awful lot to some climbing dads out there. But when you're talking about making athletic progress, let's be honest: it's a joke.
It just isn't that easy to get better when you don't get out that much.
But I also have a firm belief that an ordinary guy like me, an occasional weekend warrior, can be a 5.10 climber. I don't think superhuman fitness or even perfect technique is required. A certain basic proficiency plus just enough experience should, in my opinion, get me there eventually. This year my goal was to take a big step in the right direction by getting solid at 5.9. Over the summer I started to feel like it might be happening. I seemed to be doing well on 5.9 climbs in the Gunks. And aren't Gunks ratings steeper than everywhere else? I started to entertain the notion that maybe I could walk up to a 5.9 anywhere and feel confident that it would be no problem.
But then I did some climbing in the Adirondacks. And I guess I got my ass kicked a little bit. The vertical crack climbing felt unfamiliar. I realized how narrow my Gunks-focused skill set really is. And I discovered that maybe the ratings in the 'Dacks are even stiffer than in the Gunks.
On day one of my recent two-day trip to the Adirondacks with Adrian, I was extremely grateful not to be leading the Poke-O Moonshine 5.9+ Bloody Mary. And I struggled to lead the 5.8+ P.T. Pillar, taking a hang and then a short fall.
On day two, Adrian and I decided to visit Upper Washbowl Cliff. I really wanted to hit the two John Turner classics on the cliff, Hesitation (5.8) and Partition (5.9-). I was also interested in the 5.8 link-up of Prelude and Overture, and the 5.6 Weissner Route. So there were plenty of possibilities available to us.
As we trooped up the hill to the cliff, we passed the single-pitch Creature Wall and found it quite wet. Nevertheless there was a party at the base and a guide setting up numerous topropes for a group.
This was a bad sign. I didn't expect crowds. Where were we, the Trapps?
But we were relieved to find no one at Upper Washbowl. The cliff seemed empty and the trail deposited us right at the base of Hesitation, John Turner's four-pitch route up the center of the cliff.
(Photo: working up pitch one of Hesitation (5.8).)
The crux pitch of Hesitation is the first. It ascends a corner with a crack at the back. Its appearance should have reminded me of my struggles on P.T. Pillar. I was also feeling a bit less than 100 percent after imbibing several of Lake Placid's fine Ubu Ales the previous evening. But for some reason no warning bells went off in my mind and I volunteered for the lead. I didn't intend to wuss out just because the previous day had been hard. I felt I needed to go right back at it. And this pitch used to be considered a 5.7! The new guidebook had upgraded it to 5.8, but note that there is no plus after the 8 on that grade. I figured I'd be fine.
In the end, I did get through it okay. I took no falls or hangs. But I found it hard and committing. The crack was too wide for jamming, I thought, so I mostly laid back off of it, feeling insecure. I had to work up the courage to trust my feet over and over again. All the moves worked out fine, but I took forever, worrying my way to the end.
When Adrian joined me at the top of pitch one he said he thought the pitch was pretty straightforward.
I asked him if he been able to jam the crack, as I'd found it too wide.
"Sideways," he said. "You have to turn your fist sideways."
Jesus, I thought, I really don't know how to crack climb.
No wonder I thought the pitch was hard. I had no idea how properly to climb it! I am such a maroon.
Even taking my incompetence into account, I find it kind of amazing that this pitch was long considered a 5.7. It seemed harder than that to me. It was much harder than pitch four of Gamesmanship on Poke-O. I still don't get it.
(Photo: a sun-bleached shot of Adrian at the end of the pitch two traverse on Hesitation.)
Pitch two, rated 5.7, was Adrian's lead. This pitch is where Turner felt the need to hesitate on the first ascent, and it's easy to see why. An exposed traverse with so-so feet takes you out to the end of an overhang. The climbing above is easy but there's no way to tell from below.
The traverse really isn't bad. The feet are thin at first but they get better as you move across and the pro is also solid until you reach the end of the roof. Still, it is exciting, and once you clear the overhang the easier climbing up and left to the belay point has precious little pro. I have to give Adrian credit, he managed to place two micro-nuts that I thought were good in the runout part of the pitch.
(Photo: The start of the 5.6 pitch four of Hesitation.)
The last two pitches are nice, but in my opinion less memorable than the first two. A long 5.5 pitch three leads to the final corner that is ascended by pitch four. After an awkward move or two to get established on the wall (see photo above), good positive edges on the right face take you to the top. It seemed to me to be fairly graded at 5.6, a fun end to an outstanding multipitch climb.
(Photo: Starting up the Weissner Route (5.6). First ascent 1935!)
By the time we found the right-side rap recommended by Lawyer & Haas and had a little lunch, it seemed like the day was already slipping away. I wanted to make sure we got to do the second pitch of Partition (5.9-), which the guidebook lists as the best pitch on the cliff. And truthfully I wasn't feeling like challenging myself all that much on lead any more. So I proposed to Adrian that we do the first two pitches of the Weissner Route (5.6), which would place us in a good position from which to climb the final pitch on Partition.
Adrian led pitch one, which is now graded 5.6 but historically was considered a 5.5. The crux comes at an obvious, square block that forms an overhang with a fixed piton underneath. Adrian puzzled over the move for a minute before powering up the crack on the left side. When it was my turn, I thought I actually found a more elegant solution, using the right edge of the block as well as the crack on the left. But I had to marvel at Fritz getting up this in mountain boots in 1935. And 5.5?? I've never been on a 5.5 with moves like this.
(Photo: Adrian almost to the top of Partition (5.9-), in the final off-width section.)
As I emerged from the easy, quite enjoyable 5.4 second pitch of the Weissner Route, I had no trouble finding Partition. It is a another Turner route so, no surprise, it follows a vertical crack in a corner. This corner is very imposing and it widens at the end to an off-width. The kicker on the day of our ascent was that it was also wet right before point where the crack widens. Once again we were looking at a route that had been upgraded by Lawyer and Haas in their recent guidebook, to 5.9- from 5.8+. It sure looked hard to me, steep and sustained, and there was no telling what that off-width at the end would be like.
I wondered if we could even climb it with the wetness but there was a party just rapping off and they said it wasn't too bad. Adrian was psyched to get on it so I graciously allowed him to lead it.
He didn't exactly make it look easy, but he got up it without any real trouble. All the way up he was very pleased with the hand jams.
When the rope came tight on me, I knew it was now or never. I was going to jam my way up this crack or I wasn't going to get up it. And for the most part it was a success. Hand jam after hand jam, the crack was very secure. It seemed to go on forever. I hadn't taped up, and the back of my right hand got ripped up a bit, but not too badly. As I finally neared the off-width I thought I might be on my way to a send, but then the crack became very wet. I tried to jam it and my hand slipped right out, causing me to take a fall oh so close to the finish.
Trying again, I slipped out once more.
As I paused to rest I looked around and realized I was failing because I was missing a diagonal, ramp-like series of dry holds on the right face of the corner. I had gotten tunnel vision, and had become for the first time in my life TOO focused on the vertical crack, ignoring the other holds.
Once I woke up and saw the holds to the right, I got easily up into the off-width, which ended up requiring no off-width technique. There are good holds at the top of the slot and the final move out of it plays out like a Gunks climb, with a couple horizontal jugs providing the means of escape.
Partition was the pitch of the weekend, we both agreed. So awesome. I want to go back and lead it clean. And even though I fell in the wetness while seconding it, I view my time on Partition as a success. Maybe I'll look back on it as the pitch that finally made me into some kind of crack climber.