(Photo: David almost to the GT Ledge on Silhouette (5.7+).)
Last Sunday I met up with David to climb in the Gunks. The weather was gorgeous and I was feeling pretty good. I wanted to hit one of the 5.10's on my list, and for some reason I was focused on Feast of Fools.
I also wanted to do some other climbs in that same area. I hadn't done much in this little section of the cliff. Apart from Hans' Puss (5.7 and a great route all the way to the top), I had not done any of the climbs on the buttress that sits to the right of the Arrow wall. I was interested not just in Feast of Fools, but also the two hard 5.9+ routes on this buttress: Proctoscope and Proctor Silex. I was also intrigued by Silhouette (5.7+), a climb to which Dick Williams grants two stars in his guidebook but which he also warns is not for the beginning 5.7 leader. I was even interested in an obscure 5.8 on the far-right edge of the buttress called Man's Quest for Flight.
Silhouette seemed like a nice way to begin the day, in spite of its PG-R rating. It sounded like the part with thin pro was right off the starting ledge. I wasn't too worried about handling the 5.7 climbing, provided I could find the route and not feel lost. I figured I could always back off if I didn't like the look of things.
It is easy to spot the starting ledge/pedestal for Silhouette from the ground. It is about 40 feet off the deck and the usual way to get there is to scramble in from the right, passing the start of Andrew and actually beginning the climb a fair distance off the ground. When we arrived, however, there was a party on Andrew. To avoid getting in their way we elected to climb directly up to the pedestal from the bottom, starting just slightly to its right. This climbing is easier than 5.7 and the pro is fine. Soon enough I found myself on the little ledge atop the pedestal contemplating the PG/R section of the climb.
There are a number of placement opportunities right at the top of the pedestal. I put a good cam in one of these slots and then began the real business of the pitch. The line isn't completely obvious but there are good holds-- just follow the path of least resistance, trending left off the little shelf at first, and then back right. After a few moves I found some gear and a piton, and shortly after this, as I placed another piece, I realized I must have cleared the supposed PG/R section. I guess that until you get some gear, you might hit the little ledge at the start if you fall. So I don't argue with the protection rating. But still, I don't think this climb is poorly protected by Gunks standards. There are many many more poorly protected PG climbs at the Gunks, see for example Moonlight (which we climbed later the same day). I thought the gear on Silhouette was fine.
And the climbing is great. The route wanders up the face to a roof and then you work your way to the edge of the roof on the right (where there is another pin) and pull over. The climbing up to this point is very nice but then the real fun begins, as the route follows a vertical crack system all the rest of the way to the GT Ledge. This is a good hand/fist crack. You could jam the whole thing (which I should have made myself do, for practice), but you don't need to as there are other holds. You can throw in a jam whenever you like, though, and in this section above the little roof pro is always available. The hardest moves on Silhouette are in this section, and it is G-rated all the way.
The way we did Silhouette, in one pitch to the GT Ledge and starting from the ground, it is a rope-stretcher. I was almost at the very end of Dave's 60 meter ropes by the time I made it to the GT Ledge. There was enough rope left for me to set up the belay on the ledge, but not much more.
Silhouette is a great route. It has interesting movement, good rock, and varied situations. Keep your head together for the first few moves and you'll be fine.
(Photo: Dave heading up Andrew (5.4) off the GT Ledge, on the way to the obvious V-notch of Moby Dick (5.8).)
Once we made it to the GT Ledge Dave decided to lead Moby Dick (5.8), a variation that starts up Andrew (5.4) but then veers left to an obvious V-notch when Andrew traverses right. There is another variation called Android (5.8) which starts further to the right and then crosses Andrew to arrive at Moby Dick's V-notch. It doesn't seem that either Android or Moby Dick is very popular, despite the fact that you can see Moby Dick's notch from the ground and it just begs to be climbed. I had never done it so I was happy to follow Dave up Moby Dick.
(Photo: In the V-notch of Moby Dick (5.8), placing pro.)
Dave made pretty quick work of it. It looked like an interesting traverse left and then a few good moves through the notch.
When I got up there I found it highly worthwhile. The move left to get under the notch is airy and then getting through the crux takes technique. The obvious comparison is V-3, a very popular 5.7 climb with a fun V-notch. Moby Dick's notch is harder and a bit longer. On V-3, as soon as you get your back into the notch you're basically done. Moby Dick, by contrast, is more of a stem problem with a few moves in succession. Good climbing and unusual, with good pro.
The only negative to Moby Dick is that it takes fifty feet of so-so 5.4 climbing to get to the good stuff. I suppose this is where the 5.8 Android start comes in to save the day. I'll have to try that some time. The guidebook description is confusing, but I bet when you get up there it all makes sense.
After we got back down to the ground I went to look at Feast of Fools but it was a nightmare over there. A large party had a top rope on Feast and another group was laying siege to Supper's Ready (5.12). It was all to be expected on a beautiful Sunday, but I was still disappointed. I consoled myself by knocking off a couple of 5.9's that I've been wanting to lead for a while: No Glow and Keep on Struttin'.
I was particularly happy about Keep on Struttin', a 5.9 that in my opinion has at least two little sections of 5.10 on it. I linked pitches two and three together into one lead. This combined pitch has to be one of the very best pitches in the Gunks. Both of the roof sections are solid 5.9 challenges but to me the cruxes come, first, at the thin moves below the first roof right off the GT Ledge, and second, at another face move off of a poor intermediate crimp right after you clip the bolt. Then after you make this hard move up to the good holds you have to move left through the pumpy roof. Here the main challenge is to place pro without flaming out. I think my solution is a good one. If you lean left from the stance above the bolt, placing a good cam as far to the left as you can reach, you can make the next few moves to the awesome horn without placing anything else. Then, with the horn in your grip, you can place one more piece and then gun it up over the overhang.
After the second roof, as you enter the traditional pitch three of Keep on Struttin', the character of the route changes completely, to a beautiful technical corner plus a few more interesting reaches around obstacles, all on that great white Arrow rock that you find on many of the upper pitches in this part of the Trapps. What a fantastic line!
After leading No Glow and Keep on Struttin' (and, I admit, flailing for a while trying to follow Dave up the bouldery start of Three Vultures (5.9)), I was feeling hot and tired, and my fingertips were sore. I decided to forget about 5.10 for the day and cool us down with Moonlight (5.6), which I hadn't done in nearly five years. It was a great finish to the day, but it merits its own post. Watch this space for my exciting account of Moonlight, yesterday and today!