Sunday, November 11, 2012

Climbing in the Far Trapps: Footloose (5.8), Fancy Free (5.8+), Casanova (5.9-) & More

(Photo: Past the sketchy bit on Wegetables (5.10a).

It seems like a long time ago, but actually only a few weeks have passed since we enjoyed plentiful groceries, steady electrical power, ample gasoline, and dryness.

And warmth. It was October, a time of beautiful high-season climbing in the Gunks.

I was fortunate enough to climb on one of these gorgeous fall Sundays with Gail.

I reckoned it was going to be crowded so I suggested we walk all the way down to the far end of the Trapps. It seemed like a good day to attack Wegetables (5.10a), a climb I was determined to send in 2012. I had bailed on the lead a year ago but now I was hoping to get it clean. And I figured that once we trooped down to the end of the cliff we'd find lots of other climbs we could check out.

Gail had spent hardly any time down there so she was more than willing.

The walk down the carriage road was beautiful. The leaves were just barely past peak, a chorus of oranges and yellows. The temperature was perfect, neither too cold nor too warm. I decided to hit Wegetables right away. I didn't want to chicken out after struggling through some 5.8.

So we racked up and I went right at it. The bottom part remains a little pucker-inducing for my taste, with a reachy opening move and then this tiny vertical seam the only option for protecting the low crux. I did okay with the pro, or the best I could do, anyway. I thought my nuts were more attractive than Adrian's were last year (COUGH... that's what she said, COUGH). I still did not want to fall on them. But no worries, I was confident in my beta from last time, so the moves were not a problem.

(Photo:  Gail working through the opening move on Wegetables.)

I tried to psych myself up to power straight through the upper crux roofs, but I fiddled a bit too long with a cam and ended up taking a hang. I was really pissed off when I realized I'd chickened out just below the last overhang. I had thought there were still two to go. I could have made it.

I rested a minute, then punched through to the top. I'll get it next time.

After Wegetables we took the opportunity to toprope the route next door, Tennish Anyone? (5.10c), a fun short climb. It has an interesting move over a little roof to a horizontal and then a pumpy traverse. I think I could maybe lead it, but during the hard traverse it would be strenuous to place gear. The climb is interesting in that the crux horizontal is just above a little overhang. I thought it would be easier to keep my feet below the overhang, but I struggled in the traverse and had to take. Gail, by contrast, got her feet up above the lip and crab-crawled through the traverse. She made it look much easier.

We were having a good time and there was nobody around so we decided to keep on going in the same area. We did the two obscure no-star climbs Footloose (5.8) and Fancy Free (5.8+). Both of these climbs have short first pitches to fixed anchors. Dick doesn't recommend continuing with the lichen-choked second pitches.

(Photo:  Contemplating the awkward move into the bulge on Footloose (5.8).)

I thought Footloose was kind of a waste of time. It has one awkward move up to a little bulge. After that it is a cruise, nice enough but nothing terribly interesting. And the fixed rap station is just a bush. It is alive but it is impossible to judge its strength. I didn't want to use it, so we traversed left over to the Wegetables/Tennish tree. (Even this tree is a bit small for my taste-- we backed it up with a cam the first time we used it.) You could traverse even further. The ledge widens until you find yourself walking off.

While Footloose isn't so hot, Fancy Free is quite worthwhile. Good climbing up a corner leads to an intimidating traverse out a horizontal seam. The handholds for the traverse are tiny crimps and the feet are just smears. It is just a couple of moves to better footholds but the traverse still gave me pause, since even assuming my blue Alien out there was bomber, I was still risking a fall back into the corner. I probably smeared out the traverse for one step too many, making it a touch harder for myself. Gail found a good foothold a couple of steps out that I missed-- if I'd found it I likely would have placed another piece.

I will definitely repeat Fancy Free next time I'm out there. It deserves a star. If only it were longer.

(Photo:  Gail working through the first steep bit on Art's Route (5.9).)

We continued our spree of short climbs with Art's Route (5.9). I struggled a bit when I led this earlier this year, but this time around it went off without a hitch. The upper roof crux is all about footwork, forget what I said last time. I really like this little pitch; both cruxes are unique and challenging. I used a knee again to get through the initial mantel, but then Gail discovered some holds on the left wall that I'd completely ignored, which made it possible for her to do the first crux without any mantel at all. It's so often instructive to watch other climbers. To me one of the beauties of climbing is that every problem has multiple solutions. Sometimes the different solutions work for different body types-- and sometimes your partner just finds a hold that makes you look like a moron.

We still had some time left and I thought it would be fun to check out another obscure Far Trapps no-star special. We looked around a bit and came up with two candidates: Counter Strike (5.9) and Casanova (5.9-). Counter Strike looked like it might be fun, but only for the crux traverse, for which both Swain and Williams recommend multiple big cams.

We decided to try Casanova instead. This was a good decision. We both really liked it.

The climb follows an non-obvious line. Dick's description helps. But Dick makes the climbing sound more difficult than it is. He talks about "intricate route finding," but I thought it was pretty clear where to go. Easy climbing leads up to the right side of a small overhang, then after moving a few feet right you head pretty much straight up the face, wandering just a little left or right to keep the face climbing at 5.7. It is pretty apparent where you are going, because the face is slightly cleaner when you are on the right path. You do have to look around, though, and there is no chalk highway there to help you along. This is high-quality classic Gunks face climbing, with good moves between horizontals.

(Photo:  Gail at the crux of Casanova (5.9-).)

And then the crux turned out to be a little different than I expected. You move up into some overhangs beneath a larger roof, and then traverse left a few feet to escape the ceiling. I thought it would be nothing but steep jugs but once I got fully into it I was surprised to discover that the holds for the moves left are sandy slopers. The pro is very good but I still went up and down a few times before I fully committed to the slopers and got through it. Exciting!

Be warned that after the crux you find yourself in extremely lichenous territory (as you can see in the photo above), with lots of loose rock. The little ledge beneath the crux also has a bunch of loose stones on it, so be careful. In addition, take note that this pitch is over 100 feet. Dick says you need two ropes to descend, but we moved left to belay at the Emilio tree and Gail's 70 meter single rope just made it to the ground.  

Our day was winding down so we decided to head back towards the Uberfall. As we walked out, we looked for a good pitch with which to finish our day. Gail suggested Apoplexy (5.9), and though I wasn't sure I had another 5.9 in me I decided to just go for it. I was psyched when it felt pretty casual. Such a joy. I took my time with it, savoring the moves all the way to the top. In the spring of 2011 this was a milestone lead for me, but now it is just a normal climb, well within my limits. It is a good feeling.

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