Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unfinished 2011 Business: Wegetables I've Never Seen Before (5.10a)

(Photo: Adrian past the early cruxy face climbing on Wegetables (5.10a).)

I've been saving the subject of Wegetables (5.10a) for the end of the year. I could have posted about it some time ago. I tried the climb back on November 19. But on that day it didn't work out quite like I wanted it to and I wasn't really stoked to post about my failure to lead the route. After my botched, abortive effort, I hoped that I'd get back to Wegetables before the season ended and send the thing, making for the perfect little post about a 5.10 redpoint lead.

But it never happened. We were fortunate to have some relatively warm days in December, but it was still cold enough that whenever I made it back to the Gunks I craved the warmth of the sun. The idea of trooping down to the shady nooks of swampy Sleepy Hollow to climb Wegetables in the cold was unappealing to me, so I never got down there again.

And now the year is done. The child has grown, the dream is gone. Wegetables will have to wait.

But even if I can't tack on a happy ending, I can tell you what happened on November 19.

Wegetables has a reputation as a pretty soft 5.10. As Adrian and I approached the route, I thought I recalled reading that there is some face climbing with dicey pro down low, but that this climbing is 5.8-ish. So I wasn't too concerned. I expected the real challenge to come at the well-protected three-tiered set of roofs at the top of the pitch.

But once we arrived, I looked the route over and the face climbing seemed kind of tough. I saw a big reach right off the deck leading to some interesting-looking thin moves past a vertical seam that appeared to provide some truly marginal protection opportunities.

I got racked up and stepped up to make the first move... and I blew the first reach, just missing the jug and stumbling to the ground. In the process I somehow ripped up the middle and ring fingers of my right hand. Each finger now sported its own angry red gash and flap of loose skin.

After collecting myself, I taped up the two shredded fingers to stop the bleeding. As I did so I kept looking up at that thin seam, wondering if I could get anything good in there. And I started to wonder if I'd remembered the route backwards. Was the crux climbing actually not up high, but down low? Had I actually read that it was the roofs up top that had the 5.8 climbing? And if the crux climbing is where the bad pro is, did I really want to try this climb?

I started to get really bad vibes about Wegetables. Feeling spooked, I told Adrian I was giving it up. He could lead it, or we could just do something else.

Adrian decided to give it a try.

He got started and I was instantly glad I'd turned over the lead. Well, glad isn't really the word. I was sure I'd been right to give it up, but I was also a little concerned for Adrian. He made the initial reach without a problem, but the next moves were thin and his pro, two tiny nuts in some shallow scars, did not inspire confidence. He stepped up and down a few times, looking for better gear, and eventually placed above the nuts a microcam that neither of us liked. Only two of the four lobes were engaged.

Now I was more worried than before. I told Adrian that since he had this shitty cam above him, putting more rope in the system, he was at risk of a ground fall if he slipped and the cam pulled out.

He went ahead anyway, making the next move and then placing a good cam, allowing us both to breathe a little easier.

(I learned later from my sometime partner Parker that there's a great nut that goes in sideways in the Wegetables low crux. I hope to find this bomber placement when I get back to the route in 2012.)

(Photo: Adrian in the roofs of Wegetables.)

Once Adrian was above the low crux, easy climbing led him to the overhangs. The rest of the way was straightforward, although it looked harder than 5.8 to me. Adrian found numerous placements, then got worn out and had to take a hang in the middle of the strenuous roofs. Then he finished it up, giving me the chance to try Wegetables on toprope.

I found the opening moves difficult, but I worked them out without a fall. I managed the roofs as well, sending the whole pitch on my first try after my initial stumble on the very first move, thereby salvaging a tiny bit of pride.

(Photo: Just past the low crux, posing as a toprope tough guy.)

It is a really good pitch. The low face climbing is unusual for the Gunks. It is beta-intensive and not especially hard once you work out the correct body positions. The climbing up top is completely obvious, by contrast, but much pumpier.

After I finished my first run on toprope we each took one more shot at the pitch. Adrian sent it this time around and I felt like it was significantly easier now that I'd figured out the moves. I was pretty sure I'd laid the proper foundation to come back and fire it off on the lead at some point in the near future.

I just hope I still remember my beta when I finally get back to the route. Wegetables is one of my main goals for early 2012.

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