Monday, October 28, 2013

Gunks Routes: Teeny Face (5.10a), Simple Stuff (5.10a), Wegetables (5.10a) & Falled on Account of Strain (5.10b)

(Photo: Climbers on Cool Hand Dukes (5.8), as seen from the optional first belay on Obstacle Delusion (5.9).)

Another October weekend. It was a nice one in the Gunks.

I was climbing with Maryana, one-on-one, for the first time in a long while.

There was once a time when I felt like she and I were in the same place, working towards the same goals. But that was a long time ago. Maryana climbs much more often than I do and now she's much better than I am. Most of the 5.10's I'm trying now for the first time are old hat for her. She has done them enough times that she has them wired. She and her boyfriend Beau recently did a day in the Trapps in which they ran up ten 5.10's in a row, sticking to climbs they both felt familiar with and could knock off quickly.

I'd be thrilled if I could make a list of ten 5.10's in the Gunks that I felt so sure about.

Last Saturday she and I had a great day together. We did a bunch of climbs that I have written about before. Some of them were routes I've been meaning to lead and a couple of them were routes from which I've previously backed off.

(Photo: A leader on High Exposure (5.6+), seen from the Obstacle Delusion belay ledge.)

We started off at the Obstacle Delusion/Insuhlation buttress, just to the right of High Exposure, because Maryana wanted to lead a climb there called Teeny Face (5.10a).

I warmed us up by leading both pitches of Obstacle Delusion (5.9) in one pitch. I followed Maryana up this climb once before, in the spring of 2012. I've wanted to come back to lead it. I thought about trying it when I was at this same formation with Parker on Labor Day weekend this year, but on that day I was feeling kind of rusty so I decided to wait until I was in better shape.

(Photo: Maryana following my lead of Obstacle Delusion (5.9).)

I felt good leading it. It is a solid 5.9, with a tough roof problem and then a challenging endurance-fest through several good overhanging moves near the top. I really enjoyed it and was pleased with how I managed the moves and the gear. There is good pro everywhere you need it, so while I'd say this is by no means an easy 5.9, it is a well-protected one. It features steep Gunks-style climbing at its finest.

(Photo: A climber named Sung leading past the roof on Obstacle Delusion (5.9) after Maryana and I moved on to Teeny Face (5.10a).)

After we were both done with Obstacle Delusion we rapped to the optional belay ledge about forty feet off the ground so that Maryana could lead Teeny Face (5.10a) from there.

Teeny Face is written up in Dick Williams' guidebook as a variation to Insuhlation (5.9), but I think you can get at it from either side, by passing the first overhang on either Insuhlation or Obstacle Delusion and then moving up to the orange face that sits between the two climbs. Whichever way you approach it, the climb is quite nice and worthy of consideration on its own apart from the surrounding climbs. It isn't very long but the crux-- which is really two separate crimpy sequences with good gear in between-- is pumpy and challenging despite its brevity.

(Photo: Maryana below the Insuhlation roof, about to head up and left to Teeny Face (5.10a). Unfortunately the tree branches in this photo obscure most of the route.)

Maryana did a great job leading it. She did one thing I'm pretty confident I'll never be able to do. She climbed through the first crux sequence, placed gear, and then down-climbed back through the first crux to get a good rest! Then she climbed back up and fired through the rest of the pitch. She later said she thought this was a dumb idea, but I was pretty impressed that she pulled it off.

I felt strong following Teeny Face, much better than I did following Parker up the same climb on Labor Day weekend. I've now followed this pitch three times. I've climbed it cleanly every time but have never tried to lead it. I think I know it pretty well now and I should go back and lead it just to add it to my list of 5.10 leads. It is well-protected though the pro is spaced. The second set of crux moves comes above gear, but the gear is super good (yellow Camalot) and the fall should be clean, as the face is flat and steep.

Once we were done with Teeny Face we headed down to the far end of the cliff so I could have a go at Simple Stuff (5.10a), a stem-corner climb I tried once before but from which I backed off, never completing-- or even attempting-- any of the hard moves.

(Photo: Maryana following my lead of Simple Stuff (5.10a).)

The first time I tried Simple Stuff, the weather was terrible. It was brutally hot outside and at the first hard section I'd hesitated and lost my nerve.

This time around, in perfect fall temperatures, I hoped things would be different. But I hesitated again at the same spot. I have heard that people have been hurt when their gear has ripped out at this location. Now that I've been there I understand. Although there are vertical cracks for gear, it isn't so easy to get nuts to seat well for this first hard move.

Luckily for me, someone has fixed a nut up above the first tough bit and with a few twists and reaches I was able to clip the fixed piece before making the move. With my own gear plus the fixed nut I felt very safe. I nevertheless had to step up and down several times before I figured out a way to move up, getting rather tired in the process. And then after moving up I still had to confront what Maryana told me was the crux move, past a bulge.

I botched it at the bulge and had to take a hang. I was fatigued and off-balance, and couldn't make good use of a hold on the right wall. After hanging, I set my feet better and found the move to be not that bad. Then I got through the rest of the pitch without a hang or a fall but it wasn't exactly pretty. I'm sure I could have made it easier for myself in a few spots.

(Photo: Maryana working through the third hard bit, above the crux bulge, on Simple Stuff (5.10a).)

I was a little disappointed in my one-hang performance on Simple Stuff but I took some comfort from the fact that this time I eventually got it done and did not back off. I think that the first hard move will remain the crux for me. I'm not quite sure how I eventually got through this move and I may find it just as difficult the next time I try it. I can visualize the rest of the pitch and I think the other difficult sequences, including the part past the bulge, will be easier for me the next time around.

I don't see Simple Stuff as an "easy" 5.10 and I find it rather mystifying that people recommend it as a good early 5.10 lead. The gear is good for most of the way but it is at times tricky to get bomber pro and at other times it is strenuous to place. The climb is sustained, adding to the challenge. I can think of several 5.10's that are easier to lead. Almost every other 5.10 I've tried, actually.

When Maryana followed the pitch it appeared much more straightforward for her than it had been for me. She arranged herself into comfortable stances in places where I got pumped out. I had thought I was getting good with corner climbs, based on my success on climbs like Bird Cage (5.10b) and Slim Pickins (5.9+). But after working on Simple Stuff I can see I still have a ways to go. I think maybe I just need to stem wider. Sometimes I think I'm already stemmed out, but I'm not getting anywhere. Maryana at times commented that she thought I wasn't stemming enough, even though I felt pretty widely spread out. I should just stem more, even if it seems awkward.

After Simple Stuff it was Maryana's turn to lead and she wanted to hop on Falled on Account of Strain (5.10b). But when we got to the base we found a party working on the first pitch. The second was struggling on the 5.6 moves right off the ground so we figured it was going to be a while before we could get on it.

Maryana suggested I could lead Wegetables (5.10a) and then we could come back. It sounded like a great idea to me. I previously tried for the redpoint on this climb in October of 2012 and I should have been successful. I stopped and took a hang one move from the top, mistakenly thinking I had two tiers of overhangs still to go. After resting I easily did the final move and felt like an idiot. I've been kicking myself ever since.

As I walked over to Wegetables one year later, I was pretty confident that I would send it.

(Photo: Maryana in the thick of the multi-tiered overhangs of Wegetables (5.10a).)

It ended up going very well. I protected the bottom moves the same way I did it last time. The pro here is tricky but I believe what I get there would hold. A low blue Alien in a horizontal won't do much to keep you off the ground but it does guard against the zipper effect. Then I get a tiny micro nut at the bottom of the vertical seam that runs up the low face, and a slightly larger (but still small) brass nut a little higher. Maryana has purchased a secret specialty curved nut just for this climb, which she believes provides an even better placement than the small brass nut. But I couldn't make her weirdo nut work when I tried it and I thought the brass nut was fine. I wasn't too concerned about the gear in any case. I knew I had this part of the climb all sorted out. (The thin face moves are thoughtful but not strenuous.) Falling was not on the agenda.

After the thin early going was finished, I just had to motor through the three-tiered roof. And I'm pleased to say it felt relatively easy for me. I stopped to get good gear at every tier and still had plenty of gas left to get over the top. The holds are fantastic, and they are everywhere.

We can put Wegetables at the top of my list of 5.10 climbs I feel super solid on. Now I just need to find nine more for my day of ten 5.10's...

(Photo: Maryana getting into the crux 5.9 face climbing on pitch one of Falled on Account of Strain.)

After we knocked off Wegetables we went back over to Falled on Account of Strain (5.10b) and found it wide open. Maryana wanted to lead both pitches in one. I was happy to follow her because I had been on the route two years ago and I was interested in getting a second look at the thin climbing on pitch one. I remembered thinking pitch one was a bit of a necky lead and I wanted to see if I still felt this way now. I was also very excited to follow pitch two, which goes through a huge, improbable, multi-tiered roof. Two years ago I led up to this roof but then I chickened out and finished on an easier route to the left instead.

Maryana and I tried to scope out the Falled on Account of Strain roof from the ground. She had been on the route before but neither of us were completely certain where the final roof was to be surmounted. In the guidebook Dick Williams mentions a small, hard-to-find corner at the final roof. We thought we could see it from the base of the climb. It turned out to be easier to see from the ground than from right underneath it.

Maryana did well managing pitch one. The crux moves are pretty well protected, but it is run out for the easier climbing that comes before and after. There is one crucial placement at a spot that resembles the low crux on Red Cabbage Right (5.10b). You have to step up to a great horizontal for the hands, where you place a good piece while your feet are smearing on nothing. Place this piece carefully, because the next couple of moves are still hard and there is no other gear.

Maryana made it through this section just fine and soon she sailed past the bolted pitch one anchor and into the crazy multi-tiered roof that makes up the majority of pitch two.

(Photo: Maryana at the final overhang on Falled on Account of Strain (5.10b).)

Despite her prior experience on the route, Maryana got a little confused about exactly where to go up into the roof. There is a trail of chalk to the climber's left and another path further right. It looked to me as though the left-hand path was the way to go but what did I know, standing on the ground? After some scouting around, Maryana eventually picked the left-hand way and it seemed like a good choice. It was only an instant before she moved up and found a piton at the second-to-last tier. She clipped it and backed it up, then prepared to do battle with the final overhang.

As she reached out to the little hard-to-find corner, it seemed she was right on track but struggling. She found another pin above the roof, on the main face, and managed to clip it, but the noises she was making suggested she was barely hanging in there.

I started shouting encouraging words at her.

"Come on Maryana, you've got this!"

Just then two more climbers walked up. I didn't know them. But maybe they knew Maryana? I never found out. They started yelling too.

I don't know whether Maryana even heard us, but suddenly she had a cheering section urging her over this ridiculous roof.

"Come on Maryana, you can do it!"

She threw a heel and rocked over, making it to the belay stance.

She had done it. I was proud of her; it looked hard. She always says roof climbs aren't her style, but this big roof seemed to suit her just fine.

I managed to follow her cleanly, but barely. I felt fine on pitch one and had no worries. I felt pretty good on pitch two as well. The tiers of roofs are of course very steep and the atmosphere is insane but for most of the way they aren't as hard as they appear. It's all jugs until the final overhang.

But this final overhang is the real deal. It is a tough roof problem. I thought I knew exactly where to reach out for the little corner but I missed the spot twice. You have to lean way out just to paw around out there and you get more and more pumped as you search in vain for the magic hold.

On my third try I finally found it.

I was overjoyed but now I was feeling the namesake strain and I still needed to pull the roof. I did not want to fall. I wasn't sure I could get back on if I fell. I didn't want to have to prussik up the rope to get back on the wall.

More importantly, I didn't want to fail. I wanted to send.

There was no time to waste. I heel hooked on nothing and somehow managed to haul myself up.

Wow, what a climb!  Great face climbing on pitch one is followed by a phenomenal roof on pitch two. I want to come back and lead Falled on Account of Strain IMMEDIATELY.

Our day was done. The wind had picked up as Maryana led Falled on Account of Strain and the sky had grown overcast. By the time we got down from the climb it was starting to drizzle. But it was of no importance. We were both pretty happy with our day.

They say 5.10 is the premier grade at the Gunks. As I work my way further into the grade I'm really starting to see why. There are so many high-quality tens and I've just scratched the surface. It seems like every new ten I'm exposed to becomes my new favorite. Recently it was Stannard's Roof, then it was Bird Cage, and now it just might be Falled on Account of Strain.

I can't believe the season is almost over. It feels like it's just getting started.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekday Fun in the Uberfall: Birthday Biscuit Boy (5.9), Nosedive (5.10b), Red Cabbage Right (5.10b) & More!

(Photo: Peak colors along the carriage road.)

September was a beautiful month.

October has been a little more spotty. Gail and I were supposed to get together to climb on October 6 but we got rained out. The next weekend I was away. Though little time had really passed it felt as though it had been ages since I visited the Adirondacks with Manny in late September. I had plans to climb with Maryana on October 19th, which was right around the corner. But as the days dragged on I was preoccupied with finding some way to go climbing sooner.

Then a weekday just dropped into my lap.

I had to work a night shift at the courthouse, which meant I didn't need to come in to my office during the day. This happens from time to time.

Ordinarily I would not have considered climbing on such a day. I would need to be in downtown Manhattan, dressed in a suit, by 5:00. This would require me to leave the cliffs at, say, 2:00 p.m. at the latest? It hardly seemed worth it.

But maybe this was no ordinary time.

We were in peak season. Sending season. If we had a truly perfect weather day, maybe it would be worth the drive up to the Gunks from NYC for just half a day.

I mentioned the possibility to Gail, not really expecting much support from her. To my surprise, she said she was on board. She was working in NYC on both the day before and the day after but she was free on the day I could take off.

So we were really going to do this? We are sick people, the two of us.

As the day approached the forecast seemed poor. I was expecting to have to cancel but then the weather suddenly improved. The chance of rain dropped to practically zero. It was going to be pretty warm. We were on again. I drove up to Gail's house in Gardiner the night before so we could start climbing on the early side.

When we left Gail's house at 7:30 a.m. it was already 60 degrees out. It was cloudy and threatening rain as we got in the car but by the time we started climbing it was already clearing up. It quickly turned into just the kind of perfect day I had dreamed of, with ideal temperatures, blue skies and peak fall colors.

Climbing-wise, we accomplished a lot given our limited time. We stayed in the Uberfall and knocked out six pitches before we had to pack it in.

It was kind of a weird day. I backed off of two 5.9's but did well on the 5.10's!

Right after we reached the cliff I asked Gail if she'd ever done Birthday Biscuit Boy (5.9), a no-star climb at the very beginning of the Trapps. She had not. I've been curious about it, just as I'm always curious about climbs in the Uberfall that no one seems to do. I'm always hoping to discover some gem hiding in plain sight, right in the most crowded part of the cliff.

When I was working my way through the 5.9's I thought this could be a good one to knock out quickly and put in the bank-- it is a short route-- but I never got around to it.

Why not today?

We looked it over. It seemed like a one-move wonder, with easy climbing into an alcove and then a short roof problem crux, after which the climb would be finished. I decided to do it.

Of course I was forgetting one of the rules of Gunks climbing, which is that if a climb has a one-move 5.9 crux it is likely to be a doozy of a move.

I climbed up into the alcove with no trouble. I got gear at the roof level. But I couldn't for the life of me figure out the roof. I knew I was supposed to follow a seam that goes up from the right side of the ceiling, but I couldn't find any good holds. I kept climbing up into it, pawing around, finding nothing useful, and then stepping down. I added gear on a few of these trips up and down. Soon I had three pieces protecting the crux. I thought the gear was good but I still didn't want to fall into the blocky alcove. It seemed like a bad idea.

Eventually I gave up and climbed back down to the ground.

(Photo: Gail working at the crux on Birthday Biscuit Boy (5.9).)

I walked around left to get on top of the climb, and then I set up an anchor on a tree and lowered in so we could clean my gear and top rope the route. Gail went first and after some exploring she found a hidden hold that got her over the roof. I felt like a chump for missing this key hold.

When I went back up on top rope I still couldn't see the hold! I don't want to tell you where to look; it would spoil your dream of on-sighting Birthday Biscuit Boy without unwanted beta. I wouldn't be able to live with myself. But the hidden hold is slippery, like polished marble. It is unusual. Once I finally found it I was over the crux.

There is gear to be had after this one move, and then a bit of a run-out up slabby, dirty territory to the trees. I don't think I'll bother to go back to redpoint this one. It just isn't worth the time and effort. It is a stupid little climb.

After our inauspicious beginning we headed over to Nosedive (5.10b). Now, Nosedive is not a hidden gem. It is a very well known, popular climb. But it is a good one for a weekday since on the weekend you will usually have a large audience if you try to lead it. If that idea makes you uncomfortable then weekdays are where it's at.

I wish I could say this was an on-sight attempt but I did climb Nosedive once before, in 2011. I followed Adrian when he redpointed it. Watching him do it was inspiring to me. As usual he was solid through the crux, making sure to stop and place gear even when in the middle of the strenuous layback.

(Photo: Adrian at the crux of Nosedive (5.10b) in 2011.)

I didn't recall any tricks or secrets from my prior ascent. What I did remember was that the climb had some hard moves other then the crux layback. I remembered a sketchy mantle onto a pedestal near the ground, and then some tough moves up a corner, followed by some easier bits and then the steep layback crack to the finish.

(Photo: Looking down from halfway up Nosedive (5.10b).)

This time around with Gail I hoped to be patient and in control, just like my friend Adrian, for my own Nosedive lead.

It went very well. I am proud of this one.

I got good gear for the sketchy mantle. A lot of people place nothing through this hard part of the climb but I got a small nut, sideways but locked in, in a horizontal crack at the same level as the mantle shelf.

The next move up into the right-facing corner was the crux of the whole pitch for me. It is a tough little move, but the gear is good. Gail did it very differently than I did. After that move I relaxed a bit, and the final layback went like butter. I negotiated the footwork well and found it easy to stem out and place pro while in the midst of the finishing flake.

Another win for the good guys! All of a sudden I seem to be on a roll with the 5.10's.

(Photo: Gail getting started on Nosedive (5.10b).)

After we did Nosedive it seemed like it would be a shame not to take a quick top rope run up Retribution just to the left. So we did it. The climb went down easily for both of us. After the multi-cruxed Nosedive it seemed a bit pedestrian, with its one-move rooflet crux. Still, both routes are of very high quality, and both are well-protected leads.

What next? I decided I wanted to lead Dirty Gerdie (5.8+), the climb that goes right up the middle of the huge detached block that sits just to the left of Retribution and Nosedive. I had never led it but I'd tried it on top rope several times. In fact one of my earliest climbing memories is of the time I came to the Gunks with my friend Greg and utterly failed on top rope to get anywhere on Dirty Gerdie. Another time early in my climbing life with my friend Vass we top roped both Dirty Gerdie and Apoplexy (5.9) on the same day and I remember thinking that Dirty Gerdie was the harder climb of the two. I took a fall that day at the low, stand-up move to the first piton. This move seemed very difficult to me at the time but now that I have broader experience I know that this climb is typical of harder Gunks thin face climbs, with long reaches between good horizontals and some mantles and high steps required.

(Photo: Looking down from most of the way up Dirty Gerdie (5.8+).)

I'd always thought Dirty Gerdie looked like a heady lead, with hard moves above gear to reach questionable pitons. But Gail had led it and she said she thought it was reasonable so I gave it a whirl. And it should have been no surprise that I found Dirty Gerdie to be a great little lead. You do have to climb up above your gear several times, adding excitement to the route and creating the potential for short falls. But the falls should be clean. The gear is good. There are three pitons protecting the cruxy bits but each of these pitons can be backed up if you wish. And the moves are great. The climb packs several nice sequences into a short distance. I thought it was very worthwhile, and the stand-up move was still not a gimme for me. Gail led it with my pre-placed gear after I was done and made this move look much easier than I did. She turned the opposite way (I won't say exactly which). I'll try it her way next time.

After we were done with Dirty Gerdie, Gail suggested we try a climb around the corner on the steep side of the Gerdie Block called Red Cabbage Right (5.10b). This relatively obscure climb probably sees a lot of top rope ascents, although I have never seen anyone on it. I get the feeling it is seldom led. Gail had done it on top rope before and thought it appeared to be leadable. I was willing to check it out.

I looked in the guidebook and found that the right-hand start (which was the way Gail had done it before) is rated R. But I could see a series of tiny seams that I thought might take small nuts. If these were good placements then the climbing would be safe. So I scrambled into the gully to the right of the block and tried to reach over to test out the first two of these seams. One of them turned out to be flaring and useless. I couldn't get anything to stick in there. I got a nut to seat in the other seam but I thought it was really marginal. I wasn't sure it would hold in a fall. I decided I did not want to lead the right-hand start.

The left-hand start has a PG rating in the guidebook. It appeared to me that the crux of the route was the first step up onto a smooth face, and that I would need to reach a thin horizontal with my hands and plug gear there with no real footholds. I was concerned that a fall here might be an ankle-tweaker to the blocks at the base.

I thought the solution I came up with was pretty neat, if I do say so myself. I climbed up a couple of moves onto Red Cabbage (5.9-), which ascends a vertical crack just to the left of the start of Red Cabbage Right. Then I placed a bomber cam, clipped it, and climbed down. Using this pro on Red Cabbage I felt safe making the crux step up at the start of Red Cabbage Right. Still the stance was very tenuous after I made the step up and as I carefully placed an Alien I said to Gail "I really might fall here."

Sure enough, as soon as I clipped the Alien one of my toes popped and I did fall. The Alien caught me and kept me off the ground. I'm not sure I would have been so lucky had I fallen before making the clip. With an armload of rope pulled out I'm not certain the cam to the left would have helped me.

Anyway after I shook off the lead fall jitters I started all over again and led the whole pitch cleanly. So I'm counting it as another 5.10 win for me. It is a pretty good pitch, with the early crux, then some steep enjoyable moves with pebbly jugs up and right to a smoother face with a vertical crack, where another pumpy crux move awaits. (It is a Gunksy crux-- you think you'll have to crack climb but instead you end up finding the hidden good holds and making a big reach.) There is bomber gear for this second crux but in between the first crux and the second there are few placements. I got a tiny nut in a little right-facing corner. I thought it was a good placement but the nut was the smallest one I carry. Until I got to the horizontal just below the upper crux where I could place more gear I was pretty tense about the prospect of a sideways, swinging fall onto this nut. Despite this one issue I would probably do Red Cabbage Right again. I enjoyed it. And it felt not-so-hard for a 5.10b.

(Photo: Gail working up the last bits of Red Cabbage Right (5.10b).)

It was almost time to go, but we wanted to do one more climb. Gail pushed me to lead Trapped Like a Rat. This climb is either a tough 5.9 or, if you believe the guidebook, a (ridiculously sandbagged) 5.7. There is a steep, awkward vertical crack up a corner right at the start. Dick Williams claims the climb is easy if you use the "5.7" face holds to the left of the crack, but he concedes that if you stick to the crack it is a 5.9.

Gail recently led this climb cleanly, using just the crack and not the face holds, and I give her tons of credit because I still haven't led it at all. On one occasion several years ago I attempted the lead but as soon as I confronted the move into the crack I decided I had no desire to do it and backed off.

This time, with Gail, I thought it would be different. But it wasn't. I stepped up to the crack, placed what I thought were two good pieces, and pulled myself up, using both the crack itself and some holds to the left. I thought the next move would present itself but I got stuck. I went up and down a few times. Then I took a hang.

We were running out of time. I tried again. I climbed up again, but it still wasn't happening. I decided to hang again, but this time I dropped onto my top piece from above, and it popped! I still had another big cam right below it so I was perfectly safe. I was left hanging a few feet above the ground. But this was the last straw. I was done for the day with this annoying climb. It is no route to do in a rush anyhow. I'll have to come back and conquer it when I can be more patient and really work it out.

We ran over to Bunny (5.6 direct) and did that one instead, with Gail in the lead. It was a nice mellow way to end our short day.

As we rushed back to the parking lot I thought I had left myself enough time to make it back to NYC. But a forty minute traffic jam at the tunnel foiled my plans. I was still basically on time, but I didn't have any time to freshen up. I've never felt so tired during a night shift but my two 5.10 sends more than made up for it!

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crack-A-Lackin' Adirondack-in' at Poke-O: Fastest Gun (5.10a)

Manny and I had a good day at the Spider's Web on our Friday in late September. That evening we were in Lake Placid, eating sushi and drinking sake. I felt tired. I'd driven five hours the night before after working all day. I arrived late, woke up early, and then climbed some hard routes.

I was tempted to put my head down right there at the dinner table.

But first we had to pick a climbing objective for the next day.

I knew just what I wanted to do. And I thought maybe it would be perfect for Manny too.

It was his first trip to the Adirondacks. In just a few days he'd seen many of the prime areas. He'd been to the Beer Walls, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, and Hurricane Crag with Gail. He'd visited the Spider's Web with me.

But he hadn't yet been to Poke-O Moonshine. It is a major cliff with many many classic routes.

I'd been there once before but I needed to go back, for what seemed like a million reasons. I was most drawn to one climb in particular: Fastest Gun (5.10a).

I NEEDED to do Fastest Gun. I'd been dreaming of it all year. For many years, really.

I'd heard great things about the climb from Parker and others. It is a full-length route up Poke-O's main face, ascending over 500 feet in four pitches. Each pitch is reputed to be challenging, with all but the first one rated 5.10a in the Lawyer and Hass guidebook. The first pitch isn't 5.10, but it has something far scarier. It carries the dreaded 5.9+ rating, which so often portends doom.

I told Manny to take a look at the description for Fastest Gun in the guidebook. I hoped he would read about it and get psyched. Sure enough, as soon as he read the first sentence of the entry, which describes Fastest Gun as "perhaps the most sought-after climb at Poke-O, a real prize," he became excited. "Let's do that!" He said. "We should definitely do that one."

We were in business. Now we actually had to climb it.

I volunteered to lead pitches one and three. I thought it was the nice thing to do, since I had read that pitches two and four were the best ones. It also made sense that I do the 5.9+ pitch since it seemed like Manny was a stronger climber than me. If I did the (theoretically) easier first pitch then I'd only have to lead one 5.10 pitch while Manny would lead two.

Still, while it seemed (based on the ratings alone) that I was picking the easier pitches, I had concerns. I was a little apprehensive of the off-width crack that runs up the middle of pitch one. I had no experience with off-widths. But I didn't worry too much about it since I'd seen pictures of people laybacking and stemming past the off-width. (There is one such picture in the guidebook.) So I figured I could handle it. I had bigger doubts about pitch three, which was reputed to have difficult face moves up to a bolt, with only tiny nut placements nearby for pro. I thought this pitch might be pushing it for a beginner 5.10 leader like me. Sketchy face moves above tiny gear sounded scary, but on the other hand I'm pretty good with fiddly small gear. If there were good nut placements to be found I was pretty sure I could locate them.

I knew very little about pitches two and four. It seemed from the descriptions that they involved crack climbing and roofs. Would these be more my style, or less? It was hard to tell.

Was I really ready to tackle a 5.10 lead in the Adirondacks? The last time I'd climbed at Poke-O, the 5.8's had seemed hard. But that was two years ago. In the time since then I'd grown a lot. I figured Manny was solid and if I needed to bail he could take over the lead on pitch three. I just needed to take care not to get committed in a dangerous situation.

After a good night's sleep we awoke to blue skies and crisp temperatures. It was supposed to warm up but it was only in the high thirties as we packed up our stuff at the house in Lake Placid where we were staying. We took our time, getting a leisurely start and stopping in Keene for breakfast before eventually driving over to Poke-O. By the time we reached the cliff it had warmed up so much that I changed into short sleeves as we left the car.

There were several other vehicles parked at the now-defunct Poke-O campground. I feared we'd end up waiting in line to climb Fastest Gun. But this was the low-key Adirondacks, not the overcrowded Gunks. As we walked past Gamesmanship (5.8), the most popular climb at the cliff, I was shocked to find it empty. Fastest Gun was open too. It turned out we were the only party on it all day. And this was on a gorgeous Saturday in peak season!

Gotta love the 'Dacks.

Anyway, this was it. We hadn't exactly gotten out early and we needed to get on with it. The first pitch was my lead, Adirondack 5.9++ with no warm-up. It looked tough, with committing moves up a crack right off the ground and then the off-width. Up above the off-width I could see the steep layback flake which I guessed was supposed to be the crux of the pitch. I looked at the off-width and decided to bring a No. 4 Camalot with me. Maybe I could push it up the wide crack for a few moves and then place a normal-sized piece in the layback flake above.

I had no clue how I was going to get up the off-width. It appeared to me that laying back off of it would feel very insecure, as I didn't see much in the way of footholds. I could instead go into the off-width and climb the crack directly but frankly I had no earthly idea how to do that. It was longer than I'd expected, maybe a couple of body lengths.

Not wanting to chicken out, I headed upward. I got up to the off-width in no time, and found I could place the No. 4 at the bottom of the wide crack. But it wouldn't fit any higher; the crack quickly got too wide. I started trying to figure out what I was going to do. I couldn't make myself commit to laying back off the edge; it seemed very insecure. I started testing the off-width crack, trying to scrunch my side into it. I didn't like that either. I kept trying both ways, back and forth, and not liking either option. Finally I stopped and took a hang.

I was flailing on Fastest Gun already, and we'd just left the ground. I had Manny toss me the No. 5 Camalot and steeled myself to actually try to climb this stupid thing.

Committing to the off-width, I got my right foot and arm wedged in and moved up a few feet. It actually felt fine once I did it. Progress was being made. Then I reached up and placed the No. 5 high in the crack, and now with the cam over my head and a top rope protecting me I scrunched up some more. I found out I could repeat this process. When I got to the top of the off-width, basically level with my big cam, I took another hang, just because I was scared. I'd never done this kind of climbing before.

As I rested there I realized that climbing the off-width had actually been pretty easy. It is a good size for camming one foot across and there are actually some incut holds inside the crack. Once I actually got into the crack there was no way I was going to fall out. If I ever go back I might do it this way again, although committing to the layback would likely work out fine too. If you climb it as a layback you probably don't need the big cams because you can reach a vertical crack off to the right that can take small/medium cams.

In retrospect it all seems like no big deal but at the time I was totally out of sorts. I felt fried. I started moving again. I found the layback flake above the off-width difficult to get into and took another hang before finally doing the real crux and getting up to the easy finishing blocky flakes.

Pitch one of Fastest Gun was not one of my prouder climbing moments. At least I was totally safe about it. You can get pro pretty much everywhere on this pitch. It is a very good pitch, steep and strenuous at the crux. At the time it seemed ludicrous to me that it is rated 5.9+ but looking back I think my problems were all mental. I never fell off of it. I was just extremely tentative because it was so unfamiliar. I feel now like if I went back it would be no problem. Maybe I'm dreaming.

(Photo: Manny in the (loose) finishing blocks on the 5.9+ pitch one of Fastest Gun.)

As I waited for Manny to follow me up pitch one I wondered if I really belonged on this climb. Manny certainly did. He easily followed the pitch, with no apparent difficulties.

I decided to see how I felt following Manny up pitch two. If pitch two went well I would still plan to lead pitch three.

The second pitch is steep. It follows a pair of vertical cracks upward until these cracks become the sides of a shallow chimney. Manny kept calling this chimney "the coffin," which I thought was a poor choice of words, karma-wise. The coffin/chimney, whatever you might like to call it, is capped by a ceiling.

(Photo: Manny in the early stages of the 5.10a pitch two.)

Manny did well, moving deliberately and placing lots of gear. He seemed to think the climbing was difficult but he sent the pitch on-sight.

I followed it cleanly and really enjoyed it. It is sustained. Steep crack and face moves take you to the chimney. It is hard right from the start, but it is all there. It seemed to me the crux moves come when you reach the twin cracks. It is strenuous and committing until the walls of the chimney become deep enough to allow for some chimney technique. Once you can throw a shoulder into the chimney it gets a bit easier and you can rest. I thought the final moves over the little roof were exciting but reasonable.

(Photo: Manny in the middle of pitch two.)

What an awesome pitch, with great move after great move after great move. Although I couldn't point to any one move that seemed harder than 5.10a, I was still surprised that this pitch isn't considered harder than that. (In the old guidebook Don Mellor calls it 5.9!!) Like pitch one, it seems easier to me in hindsight. There is no one move that is especially hard. It is the cumulative, continuous nature of the difficulty that makes the pitch feel like a sandbag.

(Photo: Following Manny up the final bits of pitch two.)

When I joined Manny at the belay, the moment of truth had arrived. I'd felt fine following pitch two. I knew that pitch three started with easy climbing up to a pedestal. Then there was an optional belay before the committing move into a right-facing corner described in the guidebook. I could certainly go up to that point and then bail if I felt weird about going forward. So without any discussion I took the gear and headed upward.

The moves up to the pedestal went fine. I could test some holds in the committing corner before getting out there, but I wouldn't really know what I was dealing with until I made the move. It seemed like I was heading into less-than-vertical territory with thin moves and small holds. I couldn't see the crux moves up to and past a bolt above. I spent some time fiddling in some small gear. Eventually I was satisfied that what I had was totally bomber. Then I committed to the corner. After one smeary move I found a jug. I had passed the first test, and I could now see the bolt above, not so far away. This built a little confidence.

On the Internet some people complain about the pro leading up to the bolt at the crux. I was determined to place the best gear I could. I got a good small nut, and then another. I moved up again and placed a third micronut, probably six feet below the bolt. I felt that all of these placements would hold but they were small pieces in a little vertical seam. And now I had to make the hard move to the bolt. It appeared to be a balance move, stepping up on small toe holds while making use of a shallow vertical rail for the hands.

I made the step carefully and it went fine. Better than fine, actually. It felt 5.8 to me; it was no problem. I clipped the bolt and knew I was one hard move away from a total sendage moment.

I didn't want to blow it now. I felt very safe with the bolt clipped but I wanted the on-sight, badly. I tried to diagnose the move. There were slippery, small handholds. I could place the right toe on a good indentation, then smear with the left...

I tried it and it worked. In just another step I had better holds. I had cleared the difficulties. All I had to do now was make it through 5.6 territory to the belay ledge. The guidebook suggests that there is scant pro to be found here but I looked carefully through the rest of the pitch and found plenty of placements. I did not feel it was terribly run out.

It was my first 5.10 lead in the Adirondacks. I felt great. I really enjoyed this pitch, and it was so different from the ones that came before it. Thin face climbing used to scare me to death but now I think it may have become one of my strengths. People complain about this pitch and find it frightening but to me it was the easiest of the four.

(Photo: Manny following the easier final bits of the 5.10a pitch three.)

Manny once again cruised up to join me. He was having no trouble so far.

Having finished my leads now I could just relax and watch Manny handle pitch four. It looked amazing and ridiculous, and again totally different from what came before. The pitch involves steep moves up a hanging, blank corner, then a traverse left under a huge roof. It is quite intimidating. This is the only pitch of the four that was rated 5.10 in the old Mellor guidebook.

(Photo: Protecting the start of the 5.10a++ pitch four.)

The very first move requires stepping up the steep slab to an undercling, with burly moves up around left into the hanging corner. It appears there are no footholds to help you get established. Manny struggled here, for the first time all day. He stepped up and slid down a few times, then decided to just get on with it and aid through the first steps.

Once he was established in the main corner he made it up just fine, but it still appeared tenuous and strenuous. About halfway to the big roof the angle eased and Manny seemed to really relax and enjoy the final bits to the top of the cliff.

I really wanted to cap off the day by following this pitch cleanly. I started a little further right than Manny and found out I could get established in the undercling better over there. This required some awkward stepping left to get around the low ceiling and into the main corner, but it was helpful to use the better feet to the right to get onto the wall before moving up.

I felt solid in the main corner. There weren't many indentations in the smooth wall for the left foot, but I found I could almost always wedge my right toe in the crack, so I never really felt that I was about to slip off. I thought the difficulty would be much increased by having to place gear, but still I felt pretty good about how this section went for me. Once the angle eased the moves remained thin but the pitch became much more relaxed and the traversing territory around the upper roof was no big deal, at least for me. Gunks experience can sometimes pay off like that. Traversing around roofs is just another day at the office for me.

This was definitely the hardest pitch of the four, but the difficulty is concentrated in the early going and the final moves to the top are a joy-- or they were for us, since the pitch was bone dry. Lawyer and Haas warn in the guidebook that the upper portion of this pitch is often wet.

(Photo: Heading down.)

Once we reached the top we moved up to the climber's right. We could see a tree with fixed gear for rapping. I was carrying a topo for this part of the cliff which showed a rappel route here. This worked out for us, more or less. I won't bore you with the details of the near-disaster I caused when passing one of the fixed rap stations, thinking our double ropes tied together would reach the next rappel station. The lesson: NEVER pass a rappel station!

Next time I would use the central rappel route, since some of the stations indicated on the topo for our rappel route apparently no longer exist.

I loved Fastest Gun. It is challenging throughout, and so varied. The rock is very good, except for the occasional loose crap you'll find all over Poke-O. The route was a milestone experience for me. I have wanted to do this climb for a very very long time, and it totally lived up to my high expectations. It also revealed areas where I've made great progress (slabby moves and thin face, working with small gear) and areas where I need much improvement (wide vertical cracks). Speed is another issue. We were lucky no one was behind us because we were definitely slow guns, taking most of the day to do four pitches.

After doing this route I want desperately to return to Poke-O. If pitches two and three of Fastest Gun are good indicators of what the face climbing at Poke-O is all about, then I think this climbing suits me very well. I'll have to find out for sure some time next year.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tough Acktin' Adirondack Acktion, 2013 Edition: The Spider's Web

(Photo: Reaching for the top on Mister Roger's Neighborhood (5.8), pitch two.)

We had quite a good run of weather here in New York this September. There were some amazing days in the Gunks, and late in the month I was lucky enough to return to the Adirondacks to climb for the first time in two years, in perfect temperatures, with the leaves in peak autumn form.

I've been to the 'Dacks on a few prior occasions for climbing, but I've barely scratched the surface of what is available there. I'm always looking for a chance to go back but it is hard because running up from NYC just for one day is impractical/miserable. So I've only managed to squeeze in a couple of days of climbing when I've been up there hiking with my wife and kids, and on one prior occasion I took a day off from work and went for two days, a Friday and a Saturday, with my buddy Adrian.

When I've climbed in the Adirondacks, I've found it difficult. I've felt intimidated by the vertical cracks and unsure of my feet on the non-Gunks rock. I've struggled on climbs that should have felt easy and gone home feeling spanked and sandbagged.

Nevertheless I love it up there. There is endless rock, in beautiful surroundings. I know that if I become a better Adirondack climber, the skills I gain there will serve me well in other climbing areas around the world.

A few months ago, Gail told me she was planning on spending a week in the Adirondacks in late September with her friend Manny. I hadn't met him but I'd heard great things about him from Gail. I knew him to be a strong climber who does a lot of route development in his native Arizona. Gail invited me to join the two of them for whatever part of their week that I might like. I ultimately decided that I could take a day off from work and repeat what I did with Adrian two years before. I'd come up on Thursday night and climb Friday and Saturday, returning home on Saturday night.

This plan ended up working out really well for Gail and Manny because Gail had a social event that came up on Friday night, so instead of joining Gail and Manny to make a party of three I ended up substituting for Gail and climbing with Manny, just the two of us, for two days. We had a good time together, doing some great climbing. Manny turned out to be a really solid climber, a patient belayer, and a skilled photographer to boot!

I headed out after work on Thursday and made the five-hour drive, finding Manny at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery shortly after midnight. We hung out for a while at the bar, having a drink and batting around a few ideas for the next morning. I floated the idea of doing Diagonal (5.8) on Wallface. But Manny wasn't enthused. He was willing to do pretty much anything I wanted but he wasn't too keen on an early-morning start with six miles of hiking (each way) in order to access the climbing. I had to admit I wasn't sure I was really up for such a project the next day either, since it was already practically 1:00 a.m. and we hadn't even left the bar.

When Wallface didn't go over so well I suggested we go to the Spider's Web. This was the opposite of Wallface. Rather than a back-country big wall I was now proposing a mostly single-pitch roadside crag. The approach would be trivial. We could get up whenever we wanted and spend as much or as little of the day climbing as we pleased. I had never climbed at the Web but from what I knew of it I thought Manny would like it. It is known for overhanging vertical cracks, a weak area for me (to put it mildly). But I figured the cracks would suit a western climber like Manny.

I was keen to check out the Web. I wasn't sure how much I could lead easily there. There are a few 5.8's and 5.9's but most of the climbs are 5.10 and up. I figured that even if I didn't lead much I could follow Manny and learn a thing or two.

The forecast called for a sunny, beautiful day on Friday but when we got up in the morning it was overcast, cold, and damp in Lake Placid. We hung around for a while waiting for it to clear, and eventually drove to Keene Valley for breakfast at the Noonmark Diner. Every time I checked my phone I was told the skies were about to brighten, but it never really happened. We kept waiting, and decided to browse a bit at the local climbing shop the Mountaineer, after which we decided we might as well climb. It still seemed a little bit damp out but I hoped the rock would feel okay. It turned out that the rock was fine.

The approach to the Spider's Web isn't long but it is a rugged slog up a talus field, with no defined trail. You can see the cliff off to the left of the parking area. We just kept heading in its general direction and we got there okay.

I was immediately impressed with the cliff. It isn't all that large but its overhanging nature and soaring vertical features make an intimidating statement. We were all alone at the crag and had our pick of lines. I volunteered for the first lead, which seemed to be one of the few quality warm-ups: a 5.8 right in the middle of the cliff called Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

This is not a crack climb. In fact the crux is a roof problem just ten or fifteen feet off the ground, which is then followed by mellow 5.6 climbing up a corner to a ledge with a bolted belay station. The guidebook warns that the early roof problem is "not to be underestimated." I wasn't really concerned about it because this was my type of climbing.

It was no problem. I had to hang out at the roof for a minute because the cam I placed wouldn't seat properly. I kept fiddling with the cam and eventually just got on with it and made the move. Once I was over the roof the climbing eased considerably and it was smooth sailing to the anchor. It is a pleasant pitch. I wouldn't go to the Web just to do it but it is a good climb if you are at the wall. It also is a good vehicle for you to set up a top rope on the harder climbs to its left (see below).

(Photo: Manny almost to the belay for pitch one of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (5.8).)

Manny took the lead for pitch two, a short pitch (also 5.8) up a crack from the right side of the belay ledge to the top of the cliff. There was no descent information for this pitch in the guidebook (which should have been a clue), but we figured there'd be some fixed rappel slings up there, or we'd improvise and find another station somewhere.

We should have looked a little more closely at the pitch before we did it. This second pitch is better left undone. Manny quickly found that the right side of the crack off the ledge is actually a loose flake. Up above this questionable rock the climbing gets dirty and lichenous. Then at the finish there is an uprooted tree trunk hanging over the edge of the cliff, which we tried not to touch but which looks as though it could be easily knocked down. You can see this broken tree stump hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles in the photo above.

Luckily there was a bunch of fixed tat at the top of the pitch for a rappel so it was a simple matter to get out of there.

While I was rapping down to the ground from the bolts atop pitch one I was kind of smitten with a steep-looking climb up a finger crack just to the left of Mr. Rogers. I suggested to Manny that we could easily top rope it from the anchors. When I reached the ground, I looked it up in the guidebook and found out that this was Fear and Loathing in Keene Valley (5.11b), a four-star classic. Manny reset the rope through some of our gear, placed some directionals on rappel, and we were good to go.

The pitch has three sections. The first bit goes up a blank wall for about twenty feet. Then the climb moves left to the dramatic, left-leaning finger and hand crack. At the end of the crack, the climb continues up and left through a final section with discontinuous cracks and features. The route is unrelentingly steep throughout.

Manny went first and though it did not look easy, he almost got up it. He got to the top of the crux crack about halfway through the pitch, complaining about the lack of footholds, but moving upward all the while. Finally he got stuck and took a hang. Then if memory serves me he got through the rest of it without a fall. I was impressed. It was not a cakewalk but he nearly sent it. He grumbled that it seemed harder than 5.11b to him. I didn't think I had enough experience with the 5.11 grade to say whether something is properly graded 5.11b. But I regularly feel that Adirondack climbs are hard for their grades, even the ones that Lawyer and Haas have upgraded in their recent guidebook, so I was not surprised to hear Manny say this.

When it was my turn to try Fear and Loathing I fell all over it. It was not an impressive performance. The initial face is surprisingly juggy and I had no problem there, although I wasn't sure how a leader would protect this bit as I didn't see many opportunities for gear. I had real trouble making the transition to the crack. After falling a few times I got into it, then made it to the top of the crack. I found the rest of the pitch to be easier, though not by much. My memory is getting hazy about the particulars, but if I had a recording I'm sure it would show a bit more hanging/falling (and more than a little desperate lunging) before the pitch was finally over.

By the time I reached the belay ledge I was kind of wasted. This climb was a real wake-up call to me. After flailing on it I understood what the Spider's Web is all about. It would be great to come back and work this climb, and the others like it on this wall, until I could climb them smoothly. I'd be a much better climber afterwards.

Later in the day another couple came to the cliff and Manny and I saw the leader cruise up Fear and Loathing (as well as another hard 5.11 called Romano's Route) with an ease that made both of us ashamed. He was hanging around, calmly giving his partner advice, in places where both of us were desperate just to hang on and make another move. His follower was only slightly less impressive. She climbed Fear and Loathing deliberately but with good technique, never coming close to falling off.

There is an even harder climb just to the left of Fear and Loathing called Only the Good Die Young (5.11c). This one can be top-roped from the same chains. You probably don't even need a directional as it is pretty much under the fall line. But Manny and I had had enough of the 5.11's for the moment, so we decided to move on to something a little more casual for us to lead.

We shifted to the left and Manny had a go at leading Esthesia (5.10a). This single-pitch climb ascends an obvious crack in a corner, passing a small roof and then another one, finishing up a wide crack that can be climbed as an off-width or a strenuous layback.

(Photo: Manny getting past the first roof on Esthesia (5.10a). The right-facing stem corner of Slim Pickins (5.9+) is visible to the right.)

Manny did a good job on this, though I hope he won't mind if I disclose that he did get a little bit fumbly. He made it up the crack and over roof number one with no worries. At the second roof he struggled to place pro. We had read the entry on the climb, in which some claim a purple No. 5 Camalot is useful to protect the crux, while others insist it isn't necessary. Manny had elected not to bring the big purple cam, and once he arrived at the roof he regretted it. He tried to reach high and place a blue No. 3 but it didn't work out and he ended up accidentally dropping it to the ground. At that point he decided to come down and get the purple cam. So I lowered him, he got the gear, then he went up and fired it, ascending the final crack straight in with fist and foot jams. He was able to really sew it up, too, with the No. 5 cam placed at the bottom of the off-width and then two No. 3's in quick succession.

When I climbed Esthesia as the second I thought it would be good practice for me to try to climb the crux using crack technique also. But I found it very difficult. I tried to reach deep into the crack to get a secure fist or hand jam but I didn't feel good about it. And the start of the crack was so steep I had a hard time seeing how I was going to get a foot established in the crack. It just didn't feel right. After a minute of testing it out I switched gears and did the crux using the layback. This went well but it would be much more committing on lead. I think I could place the big cam from below before getting into it, but once I got into the layback position I imagine it would be hard to place the other gear.

(Photo: Trying to conceptualize jamming the big crack on Esthesia (5.10a).)

I thought this was a really good pitch but a hard 5.10a, and this is one of those 5.9's that got upgraded to 5.10 in the new guidebook! The 'Dacks are just full of sandbag 5.9's.

Esthesia was hard enough that even though I followed it clean I wondered whether I was really ready to lead the 5.9's and 5.10's in the Adirondacks.

There was no way to find out without trying, so I racked up to lead the neighboring climb Slim Pickins (5.9+). This is a technical climb up a blank-looking corner. It requires stemming and face-climbing up to a ledge about three-fifths of the way up, and then a hand-jam crack opens in the corner for the final moves.

Although the guidebook reports that the crux is in the technical corner below the ledge, I was most worried about the jam crack at the top. I wanted to be sure I had the appropriate gear for the top, so I tried to conserve my Nos. 2 and 3 Camalots. This was a mistake. I passed up an obvious placement for a big cam not far off the easy ramp at the bottom, assuming I'd find other gear in short order. But I did not. And after two or three hard moves I knew I was in ground fall range. I carefully made another move up as I apologized to Manny for going so far without gear, and then got a bomber placement. After this there was great gear the whole rest of the way.

(Photo: Manny at the crux of Slim Pickins (5.9+).)

I hesitated a bit at the obvious crux, a spot at which you have to commit to one wall and a couple of poor crimps. When I went for it I had no trouble with the move, and once I was up on the ledge I realized that I needn't have saved the larger Camalots for the jam crack, as there is other gear.

Once past the crux I cruised up the jam crack (yesssss!) and felt pretty good at the top. If I'm not mistaken-- and I am not proud to admit this-- Slim Pickins was my first clean 5.9 on-sight lead in the Adirondacks.

(Photo: Manny following the final jam crack on Slim Pickins (5.9+).)

For once I didn't feel sandbagged, probably because the crux thin face climbing up a stem corner was a type of climbing I could relate to. Slim Pickins is a really nice climb. It is sustained, technical and interesting.

It was already getting late in the afternoon and Manny was feeling tired. I briefly considered trying to lead TR, a 5.10a just to the right of Slim Pickins. But after just five pitches I was feeling a bit worn out too, and we had another day of climbing scheduled for Saturday. So we packed it in.

I left the Spider's Web satisfied that I'd made some progress and rudely awoken to what I still need to learn. I would LOVE to come back to lead Esthesia and some of the other tens like the aforementioned TR and On The Loose (5.10a), and to follow some of the other 5.11's. I don't know when it will happen but I want to make it a priority.

Coming soon: day two in the Adirondacks with Manny, in which I am both humbled and triumphant on Fastest Gun (5.10a)!