I have been remiss.
I have not been posting.
Mostly this is because I haven't been climbing much. I have been too busy, it has been much too hot, and when I have gotten out to climb the weather hasn't been terribly cooperative. One day a few weeks ago when I went climbing with Maryana we got in just two pitches before it rained all afternoon. (More on that later.)
At times I have felt like this whole year is going to be a bust. I have no time to climb, and when I do get time to climb it is 100 degrees or raining. I've been thinking I need to do something to change my circumstances, so I can climb whenever the mood strikes me. I have a great idea for a blockbuster novel I may write. This literary work will put me on easy street and give me the freedom to climb whenever I want. It will be an erotic story, about a shy young woman who gets involved with an Eskimo who opens her eyes to all sorts of bizarre sexual adventures.
The title: "50 Words For Snow."
I think it will be a big hit.
Last Friday at the start of my family's week of vacation I actually got a full day in the Gunks, with Gail, for what seemed like the first time in a long while. It was hot and humid, but not unbearable. There was a chance of rain but we got lucky as the only storm we saw all day passed us by, hitting us with only a drop or two, as we struggled with the climbs on the Mantel block. (More on that later).
As we hit the mid afternoon I was feeling kind of pooped, and I thought it might be time to pack it in. But then the sun went behind the cliff and with the cooler shady atmosphere I felt a small surge of energy. I suggested we do something easy and Gail mentioned Stop the Presses, Mr. Williams, a climb with a 5.8+ R-rated roof. Gail was thinking we'd do the 5.6 variation. This variation avoids the R-rated roof on Stop the Presses, instead moving right and following a crack over a bulge.
Although Dick Williams doesn't give this variation a name in his guidebook, the crack is described as a distinct climb called Osteo-Path in the Swain book. It looked to me like it might be interesting, so I gave it a whirl.
I thought the beginning of Stop the Presses was okay. It moves up a left-facing corner. The chief difficulty comes in avoiding sticking your shoe in the mud and pine needles at the base of the corner.
Once you reach the top of the corner, still a ways away from the roof, it is time to move to the right about 7 or 8 feet to the obvious vertical seam. After a few moves the seam widens to a finger crack and the crack heads up and to the right through a bulge and over a blank white face. Once the crack ends you find yourself joining Raunchy's final moves to the ledge and belay tree.
I was delighted with the finger crack portion of the pitch. I was reminded of Little Cottonwood Canyon for a minute there. I wish we had more climbs in the Gunks with this kind of movement: fingers locked into a vertical crack, with no real holds outside the crack and precise footwork required. Unfortunately the crack peters out in about two moves.
Despite its brevity the Osteo-Path variation is well worth doing. I think it is a little stiff for 5.6. I would be glad to do it again, but I think it would be more fun to approach it from Raunchy, doing the thin face at the beginning of that climb, moving up and around the corner, and then heading straight into the Osteo-Path crack instead of going back right to the Raunchy corner.
From the tree we decided to do the second pitch of Raunchy (5.8), which neither of us had done before. This was again Gail's suggestion but she must have read my mind, because I've been wanting to do this pitch for a while. I have been curious about several of the second pitches in this area, on climbs like Stop the Presses and High Times, none of which anyone ever seems to do.
Dick describes the second pitch of Raunchy as starting with a 5.5 move onto the face. He also grants permission for the climber to use the belay tree to get started. I didn't want to resort to using the tree but I ultimately used it because I didn't have the recommended ball nut to protect the move and I didn't want to crash right down onto the ledge.
Once I got onto the wall I found out that while the initial climbing on this pitch is easy, the pro is not PG like Dick says. I couldn't find anything at all for at least 25 feet or so, until at last I got a bomber red # 1 Camalot. Then after that one piece I had to run it out at least another twenty feet, back into ledge fall range, before I found another placement. All of this was in 5.3 territory, but still I was not happy about it. Later, on rappel, I saw that I missed a placement early in the pitch in a shallow left-facing corner just to the right of the route. But even if you get this placement, be warned that the runouts on Raunchy's pitch two are substantial.
Once I got past the runouts I had to confront the shitty rock below the crux. There is a hollow flaky thing that is like a long towel rack, attached at the ends to the cliff but seemingly not fixed into place anywhere along its length of at least twenty or so feet. I started to thread a runner behind this thing and then thought better of it.
Worse than the hollow towel rack were the loose plates just below the crux. These plates form the obvious footholds as you start the crux moves, but when I touched one and it moved, I had a terrible vision of the plate-- which was about the size of a half-sheet pan-- hurtling down towards Gail, who was helplessly tethered to the tree. I stepped down and marked this plate with a chalked "X," then went back up to the crux to discover that the next plate over was also loose. But I was committed at this point and didn't try to go back to mark the second loose plate.
After all that, the crux was actually really fun. At the roof, if you move left there is an old pin to clip and a perfect placement to back it up right next to it. Good juggy moves take you right and up through the overhang, with another great horizontal for pro about halfway though. The crux was nothing but good times and probably a bit soft for 5.8.
But just when I was starting to enjoy the pitch it went sour on me again. The last bits up to the GT Ledge are heavily overgrown. You fight to the belay tree through a jungle.
All in all I think pitch two of Raunchy isn't worth doing. The crux is nice, and might offset the weeds and the runouts, but for me the crappy rock just below the crux seals it. I don't have any intention of maneuvering through there again, and I don't think you should either.