Friday, June 22, 2012

A Visit to Little & Big Cottonwood Canyons, Part Two

(Photo:  Pitch one of Crescent Crack (5.7).)

On day three of our Cottonwoods adventure Adrian and I headed back one more time to Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Our objective was the Crescent Crack Buttress, which sits very close to the mouth of the canyon.  We hoped to do the multi-pitch classic Crescent Crack (5.7), the single-pitch Monkey Crack (5.10a), and if we had time a few other climbs as well.

Crescent Crack

I expected to find on Crescent Crack (5.7) the same kind of high-quality moderate climbing we'd been doing for the past two days.  I thought the crux would come at the climb's unique feature: the off-width crack on pitch two.  I generously volunteered Adrian to lead it.  My plan was for him to cruise the off-width and then I would pray that I could get through it on toprope.  Internet posts about the route suggested that people without off-width experience (like me) suffered on this pitch.  But other posts from seasoned climbers suggested it was not a big deal for those (like Adrian) with the slightest bit of off-width acumen.

I led pitch one and it was a good time, following opposing vertical cracks up to a fun easy chimney.  After a few jitters on the smooth face at the start I settled comfortably into the lead.

From the belay atop pitch one I couldn't see the off-width.  But as Adrian climbed up to it, I could hear his reaction.

"This thing looks awful!" he said.

Then he moved up into it. 

After what sounded like some kind of struggle, he had to take.

He started up again with the same sad result.

I still couldn't see him, but I heard him say "I'm not sure I really want to do this."

Luckily there were two bolts atop a different climb next to the off-width.  I suggested Adrian bring me up, and when I finally got to see the wide crack I didn't really feel like leading it either.  So we decided to bail.  We knew a single rap with our double ropes would get us to the ground.

I now regret bailing.  I could have led that off-width.  I knew what to do.  If I slid my right side into the crack I could have used the lip of the crack as a handrail.  But standing there at the time I doubted myself, and I figured if Adrian couldn't do it then I couldn't either. Only when we discussed the climb later did I learn Adrian was facing the wrong way.  (Someone we met later said that facing the wrong way made the off-width a 5.10a.)  If I'd spoken up at the time Adrian likely could have led it, or better yet maybe I would have done it. 

(Photo:  Our ropes hopelessly tangled below Crescent Crack.)

Abandoning the climb led to a karmic breakdown.  During our raps somehow our two ropes twisted around each other dozens of times and became so tightly wrapped together that we couldn't unravel them (or move them at all) from below.  I have never seen this happen before and I don't know the reason for it, although naturally I do assume it was in some way my fault.

We tried for what must have been an hour to move the ropes, with no success.  Then we decided to walk back to the road.  Maybe we could go to town and buy another rope so we could continue climbing.  Or maybe we'd see some other climbers who might have a better idea. 

I didn't expect to see other climbers, however, as we were climbing on a weekday and hadn't seen a soul all morning.  I thought our day was pretty much ruined.

But then our luck turned.  As we started to put our gear in the car, another pair drove up planning to climb Crescent Crack!  They were more than willing to help us get our ropes back.  All we had to do was wait for them to climb up to the off-width and untangle the ropes from above. 

In the end our tangled ropes cost us a few hours, but at least we didn't have to leave them behind.  And the next pitch was probably the best of our whole trip.

Mexican Crack & Crack in the Woods

(Photo: A leader late in the day starting up the awkward, pumpy dihedral at the beginning of Mexican Crack (5.10a).  We saw this party after we'd climbed it and came back for our packs.)

Once we had our ropes back we trooped uphill to the base of Mexican Crack (5.10a).  The start looked tough, up a steep corner.  Although the guidebook rates this section as 5.9, the climber who helped us get our ropes back described it as the crux of the route.

Adrian got through it with some wide stemming I wasn't sure I could replicate.  Then he went out of sight and almost made it all the way to the anchor, taking a lead fall very close to the end before finishing the route.

(Photo:  Adrian past the tricky dihedral start of Mexican Crack (5.10a), about to go out of sight up the face.)

When it was my turn I approached the corner differently.  I ended up sticking my shoulder into the corner as opposition for the good footholds out left, until I got high enough to get my right foot onto the right wall.  (This was similar to the way we saw a leader do it later, see the photo above.)  After a few moves some juggy holds got me to the stance.  I was happy to have made it through this section without falling, because I did not want to do it again.  It was steep and strenuous. 

The rest of the climb was a joy, up a face with a couple of big moves, and then the crowning glory-- a perfect handcrack going up and diagonally left to the anchor.  I was mystified by the lack of footholds until Adrian suggested I stick a foot in the crack (duh).  It was very enjoyable but steep and relentless.  I had high hopes of making it to the anchor but I got pumped out just shy of the finish and took a hang right where Adrian fell while leading.

I would be thrilled to come back to Little Cottonwood Canyon just to lead this pitch.  Such great stuff.

(Photo:  Adrian doing the step across to the vertical crack on Crack in the Woods (5.9).)

After Mexican Crack, we finished our day with Crack in the Woods (5.9).  We were hoping to continue with Hand Jive (5.8), but there was another party on it.  By the late afternoon the Crescent Crack area was full of climbers.  The easy, short approach makes this a good after-work crag. 

Crack in the Woods was pleasant.  The crack-climbing part is a bit short.  The only really notable thing about it is that I should have led it but I did not.  I handed the lead over to Adrian then found it very straightforward as the second and cursed myself. 

We tried to toprope the adjacent Crank in the Woods (5.11d) but both of us failed to find any way to make it over the roof.

Big Cottonwood Canyon: Outside Corner

(Photo:  Getting started on Outside Corner (5.7).)

On our final day we finally made it to Big Cottonwood Canyon.  We had to be at the airport by mid-afternoon so we chose a limited objective:  Outside Corner (5.7), a four-pitch route often done in three.

I led the first two pitches together and it was like a homecoming for me.  This 5.7 felt like a romp because even though the quartzite in Big Cottonwood Canyon is slippery, unlike granite it has HOLDS.  It has EDGES.  This was the kind of climbing I could relate to.  After the first few minutes I felt very comfortable on the rock and had a wonderful time.

I don't have much to say about the experience other than that the route was really enjoyable.  Great climbing, with tremendous exposure, up a 400-foot buttress.  I wish we had more time to explore other climbs in the canyon.  Outside Corner ended the trip on a high note. 

(Photo: Adrian starting pitch three of Outside Corner.  This is likely the technical crux, with one committing move up into a short handcrack at the beginning of the pitch.)

(Photo:  Following pitch three of Outside Corner, up the exposed arete.)

(Photo:  Getting started on pitch four (north face variation) of Outside Corner.  This may be the mental crux, as good holds and edges take you up and right, steeply, over a vast emptiness.)

(Photo:  Climbing the beautiful twin vertical cracks on pitch four of Outside Corner.)

(Photo:  Adrian arriving at the final overhangs at the top of Outside Corner.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Visit to Little & Big Cottonwood Canyons, Part One

(Photo:  A view towards the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon from the top of Schoolroom West (5.7).)

Last week I got to spend four days climbing with Adrian near Salt Lake City.  It was a wonderful experience, but also a humbling experience. 

We were blessed with four straight days of bluebird skies and temperatures in the seventies.

The terrain in the Cottonwoods is glorious.  The canyons go on for miles and miles.  They feature steep rocky walls interspersed with tree-filled slopes.  Larger snow-capped mountains are visible above the ridge line.  The air is filled with a wonderful fresh aroma, as if the creator sprayed a giant can of piny Febreze over the whole area.  During our visit beautiful purple and yellow wildflowers were everywhere in bloom.

The climbing is great.  So great, in fact, that the Cottonwoods caused me to question some of the bedrock assumptions of my climbing life.

We Gunks climbers hold certain truths to be self-evident, and we repeat these bits of wisdom to anyone who will listen.

We claim that the Gunks has the best moderate climbs, and that Gunks ratings are tougher than everywhere else.

At some level I've always known these dogmatic pronouncements to be the product of chauvinism and regional pride, but the Cottonwoods really opened my eyes to how ludicrous such statements are.

There are fantastic moderate climbs in the Cottonwoods.  We did several of them.  It seemed like we constantly hit the jackpot, like we were picking the very best options in the canyon, but I know the reality is that there are many other classics.  We were only scratching the surface of what we could do. 

And these climbs are hard.  They aren't easy romps with one good move.  To the contrary, the climbs have consistent challenges, and all too often (it seemed like it happened on every one of my leads) the climbs we tried featured at least one total puzzler of a crux that had me cursing about being sandbagged.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Three of our four days were spent in Little Cottonwood Canyon, climbing on granite.  (Technically it is quartz monozite but everyone calls it granite.)  Prior to this trip I had just one day's experience on granite, on Moby Grape (5.8) at Cannon Cliff in NH in 2010.  During our time in Utah I always felt outside my comfort zone on the slabs and vertical cracks that characterize this kind of stone.  I spent the first day backing off of leads when I got scared, but by the end of our time in the canyon I must have improved at least a little, since I left feeling I was being too conservative about leading harder climbs and wishing I'd gone for it a bit more on our last days. 

Satan's Corner (5.8+)

(Photo:  Adrian past the first crux of Satan's Corner (5.8+) and into the second; there are two more cruxes to come.)

We started our first day looking for Pentapitch (5.8), but discovered when we parked at the power plant that there was no longer a bridge across the stream.  With no way to get to our climb, we drove back downhill to the nearest lot and, seeing climbers above, decided to just hike up and ask them what was good. 

After a somewhat sketchy "third class" approach, we were informed that we were in the Beckey's Wall/Tingey's Terror area.  The climbers we spoke to suggested we try Satan's Corner, which they described as a sandbagged 5.8+, ascending a broken crack system to a horn and then following a ramp up to a final exposed traverse to the anchor.  I assumed I would be fine leading it.  After all, I can hop on any 5.8 in the Gunks without worrying too much.  (I've been dipping my toe in Gunks 5.10's, for goodness' sake.)  But I started up Satan's Corner and upon arriving at the initial cruxy wide vertical crack I felt immediately uncomfortable.  This climb was actually more Gunks-like than most of the climbs we did in Little Cottonwood Canyon-- it had footholds outside the crack and the occasional jug.  But the texture of the granite freaked me out.  It felt unfamiliar.  I had no confidence in my feet.  After eyeing that flaring vertical crack a while I reluctantly asked Adrian to lower me and take over.  He led it just fine but it didn't seem easy for him.

(Photo:  Arriving at the top of Satan's Corner as the second.)

Doing it as the second, I fell out trying to jam that scary opening crack.  Then I laid it back instead and the rest went fine.  What with the tough initial crack, some steep climbing with jugs, a tricky ramp and an exposed final traverse, this was a very high quality pitch.  And if this was 5.8 in the Cottonwoods, it was something of a wake-up call.  5.8 here was going to be no joke.

Tarzan (Sweet Jane variation) to Tingey's Terror (5.7)

(Photo:  Adrian leading the Sweet Jane variation (5.7) start to Tarzan.  His foot is on a jug I couldn't reach to start the pitch.)

Next we moved over to Tingey's Terror, a multipitch route that we hoped to take to the top.  We had to do an approach climb first (Tarzan-- Sweet Jane variation (5.7)), and again I felt unable to commit to the crack that started the pitch and asked Adrian to take over.  I led a second 5.7 pitch (finally, I led something!) that brought us to the real business.

(Photo:  Adrian very pleased to have clipped the first bolt on the runout slab of Tingey's Terror, pitch 2 (5.7)). 

The next pitch was what Tingey's Terror was named for:  a blank slab pitch with long runouts.  The guidebook claimed this pitch had been tamed by the addition of a third bolt, but from the belay I thought it still looked plenty dangerous.  A long traverse (we're talking 25-30 feet) led to bolt number one.  It looked bad for both the leader and the follower, but particularly ugly for the leader, who would pendulum hard into a corner if he fell just before the bolt. 

I was set to abandon the climb but Adrian had a good idea.  He proposed to downclimb a bit to where he could easily cross to a 5.8 variation that went straight up to the first bolt.  He could place pro on this variation, so that even though he'd have a bit of a runout to the first bolt, he would fall straight down if he blew it instead of taking an awful sideways swing. 

It was very smart and worked out really well for both of us.  The runout slab pitch turned out to be pretty easy.  The angle was low and there were lots of features to be found for the feet if you looked around.  Still, you couldn't pay me to lead it... maybe with a little more slab practice.

(Photo:  I'm leading a 5.6 bit up and over leftwards to a 5.8 variation crack/roof traverse finish to Tingey's Terror.  It felt easy so I may have skipped all the actual 5.8 on it.  It was fun with good pro.)

I got another lead in before we finished with Tingey's Terror and then we rapped down without incident.

(Photo:  Adrian following the variation final pitch to Tingey's Terror.)

Becky's Wall (5.7)

(Photo:  Setting off up Beckey's Wall (5.7).)

By the time we got down from Tingey's Terror I was feeling a bit more comfortable and was eager to lead something else.  Beckey's Wall didn't disappoint.  The guidebook says it is "probably the best 5.7 in the canyon."  It was definitely our best single pitch of the day (really the first two traditional pitches combined in one).  Following a superb natural line, the route climbs a corner up a low angle slab until the slab dead-ends at a perfect vertical flake that goes straight up for about another 50 feet.

(Photo:  Looking down from the top of the traditional pitch two of Beckey's Wall (5.7).)

Although the guidebook claims Beckey's Wall is hard to protect early on, I sewed it up with nuts and Aliens.  (Believe me, it was much much tamer than Tingey's Terror!)  The low-angle slab seemed pretty casual and the vertical flake was awesome, with no jamming required.  

The Green Adjective (Direct 5.10a) & Perhaps (5.7)

(Photo:  The Perhaps area, including Perhaps (5.7) and The Green Adjective (5.10a).  This photo was shot while on rappel from Schoolroom West (5.7).)

On our second day we went back to the same parking lot and walked a little further to the Perhaps area.  Adrian was really psyched to check out The Green Adjective, a well-known 5.9 slab with a finger crack and an optional 5.10a start.  Having gotten our bearings a bit the day before, we had no trouble finding the climb.

(Photo:  Adrian past the 5.10a start and into the 5.9 bit on The Green Adjective.)

This was Adrian's most impressive lead of the trip.  He opted for the 5.10a start and sent it onsight.  He had recently spent twelve days in Yosemite and it showed.  He was really solid.

The climb protects well, although the initial pro is micro.  Thereafter (as you can see above) there are lots of placements.  The 5.8 start to the right seemed by contrast to have no opportunities for gear.

When it was my turn I thought the climb at first seemed impossible.  I expected a finger crack but the seam initially provided little more than a few slippery edges.  And there were no footholds at all.  But with sharpened eyes some bumps on the wall for the feet could be discerned.  I slid off once just a few steps into the climb, but after starting over, I made it through the hard part, and then all the way to the top without a fall.  Maybe I was finally starting to get the granite.  Adrian and I each took another toprope run just for kicks.  Great moves on perfect bullet-hard stone. 

(Photo:  I'm leading pitch two of Perhaps (5.7).  The climber to my left is toproping Gordon's Hangover (5.9).)

After The Green Adjective we turned to Perhaps (5.7), which goes in two or three pitches. 

The crux of Perhaps comes in pitch one.  It is pretty easy going up an initial corner, but then a thin slab traverse past a piton leads to a bolted anchor.  It is kind of a reach just to clip the piton, and then two or three really tense steps of pure friction get you to a good foothold around a right-facing corner, a crack, and some more gear.  I thought this slab was harder than anything on Tingey's.  It didn't feel much different than the Green Adjective to me, frankly, although I know it is much less steep.  I think I was fortunate to lead this because in my opinion the fall and the intimidation factor are worse for the second, who has to make the crux moves after cleaning the placement at the piton. 

(Photo:  Further along the Perhaps traverse, which is not as low-angle as it appears here.)

After the tense pitch one, the rest of Perhaps follows a beautiful and unusual natural line, which goes straight up a corner, then traverses far to the right, then finally downclimbs to the anchor above pitch one of The Green Adjective  (see beta photo above).  For much of the way you're underclinging while your feet are pasted to the slab.

(Photo:  Adrian following the final pitch of Perhaps.  He is still going up as he moves across, and will cross over my head before downclimbing to me at the anchor.)

I elected to stop at the optional belay, because the guidebook warns of the potential for horrible drag when the whole traverse is done in one pitch.  Also I could see the undercling crack widen as it continued and I wanted to make sure I had all of my biggest pieces with me when I got to the final bits before the downclimb.

Leading the entirety of Perhaps was one of my favorite moments of our trip.  It was such a different sort of climb, unlike anything I'd ever done before.  And I think it really helped me feel more at ease placing my feet on featureless granite slabs.

Schoolroom West (5.7)

(Photo:  Adrian on pitch one of Schoolroom West (5.7).)

We finished our second day with Schoolroom West, a five-pitch outing that we knocked out in three.  It has good climbing, but to me it lacked the standout moments and natural lines of the other climbs we'd done so far. 

Adrian linked the first two pitches to start, up discontinuous corners to a good stance. 

(Photo:  Adrian nearing the top of pitch three of Schoolroom West (5.7).)

At the beginning of the third pitch came another one of my "Cottonwood 5.7 WTF?" moments, of course at the beginning of another one of my leads.  A blank face left of a wide crack led up to a piton, then a thin move to the right with no feet went around a shallow corner and into the narrowing crack.  It went fine but I think without the piton I would have backed off again, just because I would not have believed this was the correct, 5.7 way to go.

Adrian combined the final two pitches when I incorrectly insisted that the first tree he reached couldn't possibly be the proper belay yet.  After a fun double-tiered 5.7 roof the angle and the climbing eased to the top.  We had no difficulties scrambling over to the rappel line and, with ten pitches under our belts for the day we decided to head out.

We considered heading to a new area on day three, but we were enjoying Little Cottonwood Canyon so much we decided to devote one more day to it before heading somewhere else.  Watch this space for the second half of my report!

Coming up in Part Two:  Stuck ropes & Mexican Crack (5.10a) in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and Outside Corner (5.7) in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gunks Routes: Splashtic (5.10a) & Nice 5.9 Climb

(Photo:  Gail about to make the crux move on pitch one of Splashtic (5.10a).)

What happened to my Spring season?

When I got out to climb with Maryana in late April I was feeling pretty good.  After warming up with Gaston, I followed her up Obstacle Delusion (5.9), then we both cleanly toproped Teeny Face (5.10a).  After that I led Directissima (5.9) from the ground to the GT Ledge in one pitch and we both one-hanged Ridiculissima (5.10d) on toprope.  Finally, Maryana redpointed Retribution (5.10b).  I wanted to try leading it too but we were out of time, so I just followed it.  It was a good day.

And then I got so busy I couldn't find time to climb.  Trials at work, plus a home renovation that required us to pack up all our belongings and move, meant I couldn't find a day on which to play.  I couldn't even find time to write a blog post about Directissima and Ridiculissima. 

The weeks flew by. 

Memorial Day was fast approaching.  I was headed to Utah with my wife and kids for a destination wedding in Park City.  I had plans to stay in Salt Lake City afterwards for four-- FOUR!!-- days of climbing with Adrian.  I was excited to climb with Adrian again, and to see him for the first time since he moved back to Vancouver in February.  The trip promised to be a climbing dream come true, but I didn't want to arrive feeling out of shape on real rock.

I was desperate to go to the Gunks.  I needed a tune-up!

As is my wont, I hatched a plan:  I would tack an extra day onto my Memorial Day vacation and go to the Gunks right before we left town. 

In many ways this wasn't a great idea.  The forecast was not good.  It had been raining for several days.  And I needed to be back early.  Plus I had no partner. 

No matter.  I decided to go for it.  I harassed Gail until she agreed to climb with me for half a day.  At first she begged off, saying some nonsense about deadlines and proposals.  When I told her this was important, that I really needed to climb to be prepared for my trip, she said that some different explanations for my behavior came to her mind.  And then she used some ugly words.  Words I hesitate to repeat, like "obsession" and "compulsion..."

Luckily she is just as fixated on climbing as I am.  She eventually agreed to meet me.  (She had work to do but brought her laptop computer to the cliff.  Talk about obsessed.  I think that woman has a problem:  she works too hard.)

In addition to the climbing, I decided to cash in a gift certificate Adrian had given me for a free weekday rental from the Classic Car Club in Manhattan.  At no cost, I got to drive to the Gunks in a 2007 Porsche Cayman S.  So even if our day turned out to be a bust, I could at least enjoy my time driving around in a real precision speed machine. 

(Photo:  My ride for the day.  Can you believe it?)

It had been a long time since I'd driven a stick shift.  I was afraid that the Classic Car Club people would immediately discover my incompetence with a manual transmission, rip up the gift certificate, and send me packing.  But even though I stalled out three times on the test drive, they nevertheless (unaccountably) let me leave the lot with this gleaming white priceless sports missile. 

"Suckers!!" I thought as I drove away, trying my best to appear as if I belonged in this car. 

I made believe I was an investment banker with a pocket full of Viagra. 

I took corners in third gear.

I passed people on the right. 

I think I got away with it.  That's what happens when you drive this kind of car.  People expect you to be an aggressive asshole and they get out of your way.  I could get used to this kind of driving.  It felt really good.

I sped up to the Gunks in a wet mist but by the time I picked up Gail in Gardiner the rain had stopped and the sun was beating down.  It was a bit hot and humid, but hey, I wasn't about to complain.  We were going to do some climbing!

I pulled my Porsche into the nearly empty West Trapps parking lot and we set off to look for something dry.

We didn't find anything dry.

There was wetness everywhere but the cliff seemed to be less soaked as it got higher.  We decided to do something with an easy start.  Strictly From Nowhere was open, so we did Strictly's to Shockley's.  We were using Gail's 70 Meter rope; I knew I could get from the bolts atop pitch one on Strictly's all the way to the top of the cliff in one pitch.  I felt great leading both pitches.  I was so comfortable, I was unfazed by the copperhead I found nestled in a crack halfway up Strictly's.  I was particularly happy with how Shockley's went; I managed the roof with much less awkwardness than in the past and got to the finish without any significant drag. 

I wasn't so out of shape after all.  Maybe it was time to try a 5.10?

We were close to Splashtic, a climb I'd glanced at a month earlier with Maryana.  It looked dry now.  Gail encouraged me to try it, saying she thought there was pro for the crux and that if I decided to bail I could escape around the corner to the right.  And the 5.10 bit appeared like it would be short.  It seemed the steep wall which began the climb was only about 30 feet high.  After one or two hard face moves between horizontals it looked like the whole thing eased off to a low-angle romp. 

I had no intention of doing the R-rated 5.9 pitch two.  I didn't know how we'd get down without doing another pitch but Gail said she thought there was some kind of fixed anchor up there to the left.

I racked up and did it.  My analysis:  I think this is a pretty good easy 5.10.  It isn't a great pitch by any stretch of the imagination.  But if you are trying to get your feet wet in 5.10, as I am, Splashtic provides a short steep face with just a couple of hard moves on it.

You can come into the middle of the face from the right or the left.  The right may be a little easier but there is no pro for the move that gets you established on the wall.  I came in this way at first but couldn't work a C3 into the only little crack that is available.  So I stepped down and tried it from the left, where there is a good slot for a cam and a hard, steep move to get up on the wall.

Then it's just a few moves of nice climbing to the jug below the crux.  I got a nice piece in the obvious slot just below the jug.  Don't block this whole slot because you might want some space available there.  I don't want to give the move away so that's all I'm saying about that. 

Also, because I'm a chicken (and a safe chicken at that), I placed two more small Aliens in another horizontal a few feet over to the right and a foot or so higher.  These cams took a little more work, because the horizontal is sort of flaring.  But I thought they were good.

With three solid pieces in, I felt ready for the crux, which is a long reach to the next horizontal. 

I stepped up and gave it a whirl.  And I almost made the reach but didn't quite have it.

So I stepped back down, not weighting the rope. 

Trying again, I made it!  Whoa, my second 5.10 onsight, just like that. 

Once up above the steep face, I moved left to the Gorilla My Dreams corner instead of right to the former Gaston belay, since I knew from my previous trip to the Gunks that the Gaston station was gone. 

As Gail had remembered, there was a rather small tree with some good-looking slings and rings in this vegetated corner to the left.  I put in a piece to back up the tree while Gail climbed the route but then she went ahead and removed the piece after she finished climbing, using the fixed station alone for lowering.  The station seemed good enough for body weight, certainly. 

With not much time left in our half day I suggested we do Nice 5.9 Climb, another 5.9 tick on my list that I hadn't led yet.  I had done this one on toprope a few years ago with Nani and I had struggled at that time with the crux move, falling several times before finally getting it.  Earlier this year I had done it in wet conditions, again on toprope, and it seemed much less mysterious.  I figured now I would lead it quickly-- it is short-- and we'd go on home.  It was on the way out right at the beginning of the cliff.

In one sense Nice 5.9 Climb resembles Splashtic as a good introduction to its grade.  The crux is just one move, an escape out of a corner with an overhang, and it is well-protected.  (There is an upper crux but it is just a little bit of 5.8 steepness, much easier than the lower crux, in my opinion.)

In another sense, however, I don't think Nice 5.9 is a great introductory 5.9, because that one crux move is really pretty tricky.  It is a stand-up move in which you have to get your weight over your high foot just right.  If my memory were erased and I had to onsight it right now I'm not sure I'd get it clean the first time. 

But last Wednesday with Gail it went fine, although as with Splashtic I had to step up, step down, think it over, and try it again.  At which time I got it, without ever weighting the rope.

And so I went home happy with my climbing, and ready (I thought) for Utah.  Little did I realize that the granite slabs and cracks of Little Cottonwood Canyon would humble me, making this day in the Gunks seem like a distant memory. 

Stay tuned.  I'll tell you all about it next time.