Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend in the Trapps: Thin Slabs (5.7 Start), Deep Lichen (P3 5.8) & City Streets (5.10b)

(Photo: Mitch starting up City Streets (5.10b).)

Memorial Day Monday was a hot one this year. We awoke to find sunny skies and temperatures expected to reach the mid-eighties.

If only the New Paltz pool were open. Then my wife and kids would have gone there and I'd have been able to climb all day.

But since it wasn't open we planned to drive back to NYC in the early afternoon and Gail and I had just a few hours in which to climb.

As Gail and I walked into the Trapps I could already feel it getting hot. The conditions weren't ideal but I was still determined to try a new 5.10.

First we needed a warm-up. Some friends of Gail's had done Thin Slabs Direct (5.7+) the day before and their discussion of the wild traversing finish, past three old pins, put the climb back in my mind. I suggested we start there. I had led the Direct finish twice before but I'd never led the 5.7 start to Thin Slabs at the bottom of the cliff. I remembered that the one time I followed it I had thought it was tough to get off the ground and that several moves seemed hard to me for 5.7.

Leading the route on Monday did not change my opinion. I easily made the first move up but for several moves in a row I felt the climbing was steep and thin, with gear available everywhere but fiddly to place in the often flaring diagonal crack. It didn't ease off for about twenty feet. Along the way, as I tried to stay calm and shake off the Elvis leg, I decided that this supposed 5.7 start is very much like a slightly longer version of the challenging start of the first pitch of Son of Easy O, which is a hard 5.8. Gail disagrees with me, but I just don't see this right-hand start of Thin Slabs as a 5.7. Sorry.

Some warm up!

At any rate it is good climbing, and I continued all the way to the GT Ledge in one pitch. After the tough beginning the rest of the climbing to the GT Ledge is easy and a little bit dirty at times.

Once I got to the ledge I was disappointed to see that the start of the Thin Slabs Direct pitch was wet. It was yucky just at the opening moves, and not for any of the exciting traverse. We could have gotten through the seepy bits if we were really determined to do Thin Slabs Direct. But I'd done it before so it didn't seem worth it.

We moved to the right to check out the climbs at the left end of the Arrow wall. I'd been interested for years in trying the upper pitches of two different obscure climbs, Deep Lichen and Steep Hikin', but I'd never gotten around to doing either one. These pitches go at 5.8 and 5.6, respectively, and they sit on a wall book ended by the large, dirty Snake corner on the left and the shallower Red Pillar corner on the right. Dick Williams recommends them in his guidebook as nice pitches to throw in after Three Doves (5.8+) or Annie Oh! (5.8).

When we arrived at this wall on Monday, we saw only one clean path up the middle of the wall. We couldn't spot another route between this one strip of clear rock and Red Pillar. We didn't have the book with us and we had no way to tell whether the path we were looking at was the 5.6 or the 5.8. It looked like decent climbing. I saw a few horizontals that looked like they would take gear. I also thought I could spot the crux, a blank headwall about two thirds of the way up, right above a little pod.

It looked like fun climbing on good white rock. We decided to do it.

Later on I looked at the book and figured out that this was Deep Lichen, the 5.8 pitch.

Dick Williams calls it PG but it is actually quite run out. After the initial moves and a few placements, there is a somewhat cruxy thin move up on some small crimps to a better hand rail. This move isn't ridiculously far from the gear but you are a ways above your last piece. You don't want to fall here. Then the climbing continues without any placements for several more moves. This portion of the pitch may be easier than 5.8 (which is probably why Dick gave the route a PG rating) but it isn't much easier. It is still thoughtful climbing and by the time you finally get pro at a bomber horizontal you are likely far enough out that a fall would take you all the way back to the GT Ledge. I felt like I was really out there.

When I arrived intact at the bomber horizontal I threw in two pieces. The gear improved thereafter. The crux did indeed come a bit higher, at the blank headwall above the pod, and I was able to get a good nut right at the top of the pod so I felt well protected for the interesting, delicate and reachy crux sequence.

I liked the climbing on Deep Lichen, though I don't know that I would do it again, now that I know how run out it is. I later checked the Swain guide and found that he describes the pitch as 5.8+ R. I felt satisfied with how I handled the pitch, and I think I have to admit I enjoy the head space that I get into on leads like this (Turdland is another example), where the climbing is less than vertical and you can carefully analyze each move without fear of pumping out. When falling is not an option, the climb becomes a series of puzzles and each critical move, each individual hand and toe placement, gets serious consideration and focus.

I can't say why I felt so shaky on Thin Slabs, where the pro was great, yet so calm on the supposedly harder and definitely far more dangerous Deep Lichen.

Maybe we rise to the occasion when it really counts.

From the top of Deep Lichen we rapped down the Arrow bolts and found that we were already running out of time. Gail knew I wanted to try a 5.10 and she suggested the nearby City Streets (5.10b). Several weeks ago, while we were doing V-3, right next door, we'd both become intrigued when we watched a climber working hard on this route, trying some pretty weird hand matching and swinging to get through the roof problem. He took a number of short falls on the crux piton, and this guy was substantially bigger than me, so I felt pretty assured about the pin's integrity.

Dick Williams gives City Streets no stars and dismisses it as a one-move wonder. But the fact that it has just one hard move makes it a good entry-level ten and the pin right below the roof makes the climb feel like a very approachable lead.

(Photo: Gail getting set to try the roof on City Streets (5.10b).)

My only concern about the climb was that, in my experience, Gunks climbs that have just one crux move usually have one hell of a crux move. I worried that I wouldn't be able to figure out the sequence and that I'd fail.

But you'll never know unless you try, right?

So I racked up and tried it.

It went well! The initial moves up a shallow corner are moderate and interesting. Then you reach a little shelf beneath the overhang. I could see an obvious, chalky horn up to the right of the fixed pin. But I couldn't tell where I was going over the big roof. I wasted some time going up and down and trying to get a piece into the irregular space behind the good horn. But it wasn't working out and eventually I just stepped up to the horn and clipped the pin, calling it good. I probably should have tried harder to back up the pin.

(Photo: Going for it on City Streets.)

And then I started to work at the crux move. A few missions up and down, testing various potential holds, told me that all of the intermediate holds were crap. I could see the good hold, but it was very far to the left. I thought I might be able to reach it if I set my feet just right.

One good thing about this route is that you can get fully into the crux and if it isn't working out you can climb down out of it and reset. I did this several times, testing various ways to reach over to the left. And when I got my feet up just right and grabbed the jug it was a great feeling.

(Photo: Relieved to have on-sighted City Streets (5.10b)!)

After you get over the roof you still have to make a few moves up a corner and then escape right to the anchor tree. The moves are easy and there is good gear at the top of the corner but be careful because a fall as you move up the corner would not be good. I stuck a nut in a v-slot that was about knee level after I was standing above the roof but I thought this nut was not likely to stay put if it were actually tested.

City Streets may not be the easiest 5.10. The one move is hard. But it might well be the easiest 5.10 to lead. The crux is short, the gear is good, and you can climb up and down to your heart's content.

That was it for me. Gail's husband Mitch came out and met us right as I was finishing the crux of City Streets. After Gail and Mitch had a go at the route, I took off and they kept climbing. It was a short day for me but pretty productive, with two new routes and one 5.10 tick off of my list.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend in the Nears: Yellow Ridge (5.7), Outer Space (5.8), Grand Central (5.9) & More!

(Photo: Gail entering the crux of Outer Space (5.8).)

My wife and I planned for a nice Memorial Day weekend in the New Paltz area with the kids. Our friends Gail and Mitch were kind enough to host us at their place in Gardiner. I expected to climb a bit with Gail, maybe just during the mornings, while the kids hung out at the pool.

One slight problem: it turned out that this year the community pool in New Paltz wasn't open for Memorial Day weekend.

Another problem: the forecast called for a lot of rain.

Oops. We'd have to find something else to do.

Saturday turned into a nice family day. We took the kids to the Walkway Over the Hudson and then went into town for ice cream. The expected rain held off until the late afternoon.

On Sunday, Gail and I got out for a full day in the Nears. There was no rain at all. It was a beautiful day but the iffy forecast kept the hordes away. We knocked off several great climbs in the near Nears, one right after the other. Many of these we have discussed in this space before.

Alphonse (5.8) in one pitch is always a great time, casual and fun. I have led this several times and I realize that I make the same choices every time. I always do the low traverse. Next time, for some variety, I think I need to do the high traverse and maybe try the 5.10 finish. There was a little black snake hanging out in the crack at the back of the dihedral about halfway up, which provided some excitement. Gail misunderstood me when I told her where it was, so as the follower she got to be just as surprised as I was on the lead!

We did Yellow Ridge (5.7) in two pitches, with Gail taking the crux first pitch and part of the second in one lead. She stopped (unintentionally) at a good ledge that was maybe thirty feet short of the usual second belay, and I took it to the top from there. We didn't plan to do it this way but it worked out very well. We basically split the climb exactly in half.

(Photo: Gail through the opening traverse around a roof on Yellow Ridge (5.7).)

As the second I got to try two different starts to Yellow Ridge: the usual right-hand start, which traverses under a low roof to an off-width crack, and also the direct start, which goes up a nose of rock straight from the ground to the off-width. Gail led up the right-hand start (which has good gear), and after she put me on belay I climbed up and cleaned the pieces under the roof and had her lower me so I could try going direct up the nose. On the direct there is basically one good move with no pro before you reach the stance beneath the off-width. It was nice, I guess, but I doubt I'll ever bother leading this version since the right-hand start is also nice and it has good protection.

(Photo: Chillin' at our unconventional belay ledge on Yellow Ridge (5.7).)

As I led the upper pitch, doing the beautiful, exposed, thin moves up the edge of the yellow face past the pins, and then moving into the great juggy overhangs at the finish, I thought to myself that it just doesn't get any better than this. So much fun. When our zombie overlords discover how much fun rock climbing can be, they will surely make it illegal. So you'd best get out there and enjoy it while you can.

After we finished with Yellow Ridge I wanted to do something more ambitious. So we got set up beneath Criss Cross Direct (5.10a). This is an early 5.10 lead for many people because the crux comes right off the deck and it is very well protected. The climbing involves a steep vertical layback crack in a slimy corner. I've been meaning to try it for a long time, but I confess that I've never done it because the crack looks difficult and very unappealing to me. Every time I walk up to it I think about how greasy it looks, and I end up moving on to something else.

On Sunday I thought I was determined to finally give it a whirl. I reached up and placed a piece, then explored stepping up into the crack, several times. But I wasn't feeling it. I never really committed. Eventually I decided I still wasn't into Criss Cross Direct and we walked away.

We moved on to the very start of the Nears. I was interested in Outer Space (5.8), which I never see anyone doing. This climb traverses a long distance to the left under the huge roofs at the beginning of the cliff.

I really liked Outer Space. It is very interesting and it has some great climbing on it. But it is a somewhat serious lead, despite its PG rating.

The initial move over a bulge is not easy. It has poor hands and tiny footholds and if you blow this move there is no way to stop yourself from going splat on the slab just below. Then after you move up again to clip an angle piton, the crux moves go diagonally up and left using a series of small miracle crimps. The climbing here is very very good but there is no gear and with each move the potential pendulum fall gets bigger and bigger.

(Photo: Gail almost finished with the crux sequence on Outer Space (5.8).)

By the time I hit the jug after the crimps I was pretty far from that angle piton. I really wanted to get a piece in so I hung out to place a nut in a little vertical seam behind the jug. I couldn't get anything great, though, and the nut I placed later popped out. It might have been worthless. I probably shouldn't have bothered but it was still another two moves up to a ceiling where good protection would become available and I was getting a little freaked out.

(Photo: Having moved up into the notch, Gail is making the final traverse to the anchor on Outer Space (5.8).)

The rest of the climb is very well protected, and it has good climbing, traversing under the big ceilings and moving up into a notch along the way. Outer Space is full of good moves, but keep a cool head! It is mentally challenging.

We rapped from the pitch one anchor, electing to skip the second 5.4 pitch to the top.

As Gail followed my lead of Outer Space I kept looking over at Topeka (5.10a), another climb at the beginning of the cliff that no one seems to do. It ascends a big corner just to the right of the popular 5.12 Kansas City and traverses under a ceiling to a nose. It appears to involve several very thin moves out under the roof. It looked hard to me. I was thinking about trying it but after Outer Space I had had enough traversing under roofs for the moment so we decided to look for something else to do.

Gail knew I had been looking to lead the crux pitches of Grand Central (5.9) so she suggested we do that. She would lead the short 5.6 pitch one, and then I'd take it the rest of the way to the top.

(Photo: Pitch one of Grand Central.)

Grand Central is a varied climb and a masterpiece of route finding. It weaves its way left around a roof, then slides back right around the point of an arete to find a crack system that goes at a reasonable grade to the top of the cliff.

All three pitches have their high points. The first pitch is only 5.6 but it has some challenging moves up the twin vertical cracks. The second pitch features an airy traverse with good gear and then steep crux 5.9 moves up, with the hardest moves above some small nut placements. And then the route finishes with a good roof problem.

(Photo: Topping out on Grand Central.)

I felt good leading the second and third pitches together. I had led the final roof problem a few years ago but not the 5.9 face below. It all went well. I placed two good nuts and then fired through the crux face climbing with no worries. I found the climb very enjoyable.

It was getting toward the end of our day so we decided to do one last easy climb, Layback (5.5). I hadn't been on this one since the very early days of my leading, probably back in 2008. I had led it cleanly back then. I assumed that it would be very easy for me now, and that I would just scamper up the 5.5 pitch one. 

(Photo: Looking down pitch one of Layback (5.5) from just past the chimney and chockstone.)

It turned out to be a little bit challenging. I thought the chimney was kind of a grunt. There's no gear (unless you are carrying some really big cams) until you reach the big chockstone. There was no way I was ever going to fall out with my back against a wall and a foot cammed in the crack, so I wasn't worried. I also don't remember being worried in 2008 when 5.5 was my leading limit, which I find surprising. I was similarly befuddled at the namesake layback flake, which goes on for fifteen feet or so. I think I actually did this as a layback in 2008, and it has no gear for its entire length unless you are carrying some really big gear. Maybe I did some research and brought up a big gray or purple Camalot back then, who knows? This time I had nothing I could place behind the flake, so I ran it out. And I didn't lay it back. Why would you do a layback when the flake provides perfect foot jams the whole way up? I was able to thread a runner at the top of the "layback" but it was my first gear in quite a while.

Pitch two is a joy, with 5.easy exposed climbing of a kind that seems to occur only in the Gunks.

(Photo: Gail leading pitch two of Layback.)

Layback is a wonderful old-school kind of climb. I wish we had more chimneys like this in the Gunks. It would be good practice for other climbing areas. Layback was the perfect warm-down for us, just interesting enough and lots of fun.

I felt great about the day we had in the Nears, doing classic after classic, and getting a little taste of something new and sketchy in Outer Space. I was a bit let down that I didn't try anything harder, but I was happy with how I handled the runouts on Outer Space and Grand Central, and I felt like my climbing was solid. I was determined to hop on a 5.10 the next morning, when Gail and I planned to get in a little more climbing before the end of the holiday.

Coming soon: Memorial Day in the Trapps, with Thin Slabs (5.7 direct start), Deep Lichen (P3 5.8), and City Streets (5.10b)!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Favorites in the Trapps: Ants' Line (5.9), Obstacle Delusion (5.9), CCK Direct (5.9) & More!

(Photo: Adrian leading Ants Line (5.9).)

Here in the USA, May 17-18 was just another weekend. But in Canada it was part of a three-day holiday. Good weather plus the extra day off brought a Canadian invasion to the Gunks unlike any I'd ever seen before.

It also brought back to the area a specific Canadian: my longtime partner Adrian, who has been away from the Gunks for two years. He recently moved back east, from Vancouver to Montreal, and though the move is temporary, for the next year or so we should be able to get together to climb frequently, just like old times.

Adrian was in the Gunks for the whole weekend but I was only able to meet up with him on Sunday. I hooked him up with my frequent partner Gail for some climbing on the other days without me. I was jealous of them both but it was nice finally to be able to introduce two of my favorite people to each other. 

I wasn't sure what I could handle on my day with Adrian. Ever since my trip to California I hadn't felt quite right. I'd ended my trip to Yosemite feeling exhausted, and then I got sick with a cold that lingered on and on. After I seemingly got better I went out climbing with Maryana but felt a bit weak. I wanted to go right back to working on some tens but with Maryana I found the eights challenging enough.

On Sunday the 18th, Adrian and I were thinking about going to the Nears, but by 9:30 in the morning the West Trapps lot was already completely full. To my shock, the Stairmaster lot was also nearly full. We had to park all the way back at the Visitor Center. Did I mention that this was at 9:30 a.m.?

We knew the Trapps would be a zoo but we didn't feel like walking the extra distance back to the Nears so we decided to just live with whatever climbs we could find in the Trapps.

As we walked down the cliff we looked for any reasonable warm-up climb that was open. We got all the way down to the Bonnie's Roof area before we spotted something suitable. Sleepwalk (5.7) was open, so we jumped on that. I've done it several times. It remains a pleasant pitch, a little bit steep right at the start, as you move diagonally up some flakes and turn the corner to your left. After you move around the corner the climb features clean low-angled face climbing with several interesting moves, all the way to the chain anchor.

(Photo: Adrian following the steep and sometimes creaky flakes at the start of Sleepwalk (5.7).)

We finished Sleepwalk with great timing. Ants' Line, a three-star classic 5.9, had just become free and it was right next door, so we did it. Adrian led up it with efficiency and when my turn came to follow, I was so relieved. I felt like my normal self and cruised up to the anchor. Such a nice pitch and the vertical nature of the crack (unusual for the Gunks) is right up the alley of a western climber like Adrian.

(Photo: Following Ants' Line.)

Looking around after we finished Ants' Line, we found climbers everywhere, most of them speaking French. Some friends of mine from Brooklyn Boulders were just to the right of us, having a mini-epic on Bonnie's Roof Direct (5.9). The leader had taken it all the way to the top of the cliff in one pitch and his double ropes had become caught in the Direct crack. He could move one of the ropes but it was a struggle. They were obviously going to be there a while. I once had a similar problem there, several years ago, on rappel. I started my rap from the Bonnie's tree and after I stepped out over the edge I found that the end of one of my ropes was caught in the crack. I had a devil of a time getting it out while dangling there in the air! (It is a free hanging two-rope rap, all air until you reach the ground.) At the time I dismissed it as a freak occurrence but after seeing another party having trouble with the rope-eating crack I'll be more careful.

Once I felt satisfied they didn't need our help we moved on.

We soon found that Obstacle Delusion (5.9), just a few climbs to the left, was available, so I decided to do that one. It is a great climb so why not? I had to beat back a little anxiety before getting started. I had led this before, just last year, but it is a hard 5.9. It would be a real test of how strong I was feeling.

(Photo: Leading the upper bits of Obstacle Delusion (5.9).)

It turned out to be a test of my memory more than anything else. It can be hard to find the correct path on Obstacle Delusion. The business begins with a tough roof problem, which becomes easier when you know where the good hold is. And then the route negotiates around a couple of bulges, through several small overhangs, to the top.

(Photo: Adrian near the top of Obstacle Delusion (5.9).)

I thought I knew exactly where to reach over the initial roof from my prior experience, but I was mistaken. I struggled when I reached up and found the hold over the roof to be not nearly as positive as I thought it would be. After a few errant reaches and a brief hang (grrrrrrrrrr) I found the sweet spot again, as if for the first time. And then as I got higher on the climb I found myself puzzling over where to go-- to the left around this bulge, or to the right? There was chalk everywhere, in all directions. I was pleased to get through the upper challenges without any problems. Even though I messed up the first roof "obstacle" I felt physically strong and happy with how I handled most of the climb.

We next continued wandering back up the cliff towards the parking lot and found available another old favorite of mine, The Last Will Be First (5.6). It has numerous good moves between horizontals, a rooflet problem and a nice bulge at the finish. Adrian had never done it so I sent him on up. 

(Photo: Adrian leading The last Will Be First (5.6), camouflaged by the bright green young leaves.)

After the great first pitch we abandoned the thought of doing the second, as it was soaking wet. Looking to the right, I entertained the hope that maybe we could sneak onto the crux pitch of Modern Times (5.8+), but there were several parties stacked up waiting. We reluctantly rapped down and kept on walking.

We lucked out again with another three-star classic. We arrived at the base of CCK to find a party just packing up to leave. I was itching to do CCK Direct (5.9) again. It was one of my favorite 5.9's and I had only done it once, two years ago.

(Photo: The 5.5 first pitch of CCK.)

Adrian led the 5.5 first pitch. It was a little bit wet at the bottom but the best part, as you approach the GT Ledge, was dry. This last portion of the first pitch has some good moves on it. It pales in comparison with what comes above and I would certainly never seek out this pitch as a destination in its own right but it isn't bad.

Oh but the crux pitch. So great.

What can I say about CCK Direct that I haven't said before? It remains one of my absolute favorite pitches. My second time leading it felt a lot like the first, but this time I tried to manage the gear a little better to avoid the horrible drag I created the first time around.

(Photo: Eyeing the opening 5.8 PG/R bits of CCK Direct (5.9).)

The juggy, overhanging climbing off the ledge is good. Then the climbing up the white CCK billboard is fantastic. And finally the move out, down and left, to the finishing notch/roof problem is insanely exposed and thrilling.

(Photo: Working through the overhangs on CCK Direct (5.9).)

Adrian had never been on CCK Direct before and he was pretty impressed with the finishing roof. He wasn't used to these Gunks overhangs any more, but he got through it just fine (just as he did on Obstacle Delusion). He remarked that he wasn't sure how he would have felt leading CCK Direct, but I'm sure he would have calmly dealt with it as he always does.

(Photo: Approaching the final roof problem/notch on CCK Direct (5.9).)

Having done what might be my choice for top pitch in the Gunks, we decided to walk all the way back to the Uberfall to see if we could do Adrian's favorite: Horseman (5.5). I'm very fond of this one too. It gives the fledgling leader an introduction to so many Gunks skills: thin face climbing, corners, traverses, roof escapes, and finally steep climbing on jugs.

(Photo: Adrian leading Horseman (5.5).)

It was a fitting ending to a beautiful day in the Gunks. Although it was as crowded as I've ever seen it at the cliff, we never waited for anything and got on three different three-star routes and two two-stars. Not too shabby.

More importantly, from my perspective, I felt like I was back to my normal strength. The day gave me hope that in the coming weeks I could return to trying some new, harder objectives.

Friday, May 9, 2014

More Fun in the Far Nears: Up Yours (5.7+), Wooly Clam Taco (5.10c), Outsider (5.7) and More!

(Photo: Maryana following Up Yours (5.7+).)

Do you ever have one of those low ambition Sundays?

Last weekend I was climbing with Maryana for the first time in a while. We were talking about where to meet up and she told me her fingertips were trashed and that she wasn't feeling much like setting the agenda for us.

I wasn't really feeling like beating the world myself. I was finally getting over a nasty Spring cold, but I still had the sniffles and felt kind of weak. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. We decided to head to the Nears, where we managed to do a few climbs I'd never done before. Maryana may not have been very ambitious by her own standards, but she at least led a few nines, which was more than I ended up achieving. I didn't lead anything harder than 5.8 all day.

Walking down the cliff, we saw that Up Yours (5.7+) was open, so I decided to lead that one to start our day. I led this climb once before, a few years back, with my buddy Vass. I remembered a hard move right off the ground, but not much else.

I really enjoyed it this time. The low crux move over a rooflet has great gear. Then once you get up on the slab above the overhang, you can place more gear (this is important to protect the follower for the opening move) and then an easier traverse right with no gear brings you to a left-facing corner system. I found myself back in ground fall range before I got gear again, but the moves get easier and easier as you move to the right, so it seemed to me that there is gear for all the moves that matter.

(Photo: Making the crux move on Up Yours (5.7+).)

Once at the left-facing corner system, there is good pro for the second cruxy bit, a layback up some flakes to a little belay tree. I thought this first belay tree was kind of small so I continued up 5.4 territory to a second, larger belay tree at a higher ledge.

Up Yours has quality moves the whole way and even the last 5.4 bit up to the second tree is quite nice and worth doing.

After we were done with Up Yours we thought about doing Elder Cleavage Direct (5.10b), but the hardest part at the bottom of the route was seeping with water. We ended up heading on down the cliff to look for something else.

(Photo: Maryana leading Good Friday Climb (5.9).)

When we got to the Easter Time Too (5.8) area we found all the climbs open, so we decided to stay a while. I'd had a great time running through most of these climbs with Gail last Spring

Maryana led Good Friday Climb (5.9) and then I led Easter Time Too (5.8). They remain great pitches but I didn't feel as solid as I did last year on these same routes. They both felt a little harder than I remembered. Good Friday was thin and continuous, more sustained than I recalled. And the early crux on Easter Time had me feeling a little shaky until I got to the stance and threw in a good piece. 

(Photo: Relaxing now that I'm past the steep start on Easter Time Too (5.8).)

We opted to place some directionals from the chains above Easter Time Too so we could top rope Wooly Clam Taco (5.10c), which sits just to the left of Easter Time Too. I'd never been on this one. It was worth doing once. We both sent it on top rope. If you contrive to avoid using any of Easter Time Too you'll find a good hard sequence close to the ground, moving up on sharp little crimps to a small left-facing corner. Then there is another tough move up a little seam (the crux), after which it gets easier. It isn't a world-class face climb but there are some good sections. I think it might be a safe lead if you climbed up and placed gear through the crux of Easter Time Too, then climbed back down and started over on Wooly Clam Taco. With an attentive belayer you could climb up to the crux protected by the gear off to the right and then I think the pro for the rest of the way is more reasonable.

But don't take my word for it, I've never tried it! Caveat emptor.

By the time we were done with Wooly Clam Taco the cliff had grown much more crowded, so we moved even further down, almost to the end of the Nears, so Maryana could try Up In Arms (5.9). This was another one I led last year. I need to go back and lead it again, since I had to take a hang when I tried leading it before.

(Photo: Maryana leading the steep early bits of Up In Arms (5.9).)

Dick Williams advises taping up in the guidebook but neither of us jammed very much. It wasn't necessary. There are jugs the whole way. The climb is steep and a little strange, since you are angling left up the face towards a chimney. It's really all about managing the pump and not hesitating too much. I followed Maryana cleanly this time around but I wouldn't say it felt easy.

(Photo: In the chimney after the steep face on Up In Arms (5.9).)

After we got back down I suggested we do Outsider (5.7), a climb Gail has mentioned to me on a few occasions. It ascends the right edge of a huge boulder which also houses a couple of hard 5.11's, Void Where Prohibited and Avoid Where Inhibited. I thought maybe if we had any energy left after Outsider we could top rope one of those.

(Photo: Follow the rope and you'll see me up there leading the last bits of Outsider (5.7).)

I really liked Outsider. It has good climbing up a crack and at the top of the crack you step out onto a slab on the main face of the boulder. If you move up and left you can go to the little belay tree above the Voids but if you move up and right the best part of the pitch is yet to come, up the exposed right edge of the boulder. It is easier climbing than below but very airy and exposed until you emerge on top of the boulder. Up on top the atmosphere is pretty neat. The top of the boulder forms a shelf and there's a big roof over your head. It's like a secluded party space up on the cliff.

(Photo: Up on top of the Voids boulder.)

Once Maryana came up we got ready to rap. There is a fixed steel cable anchor around a coffee table block atop the Voids boulder. The block isn't huge but I figured it was okay.

I got all set up with my rappel and back-up prussik and I stepped down off the boulder, weighting the rig.

Before I moved very far Maryana said "Stop. Come back. Come back. I don't like it."

I looked up, shocked. "What is it?" I asked.

She looked at the block to which we were both attached. "It moved," she said.

Oh crap.

I grabbed the rocks in front of me and hustled back up. Maryana showed me she could shake the block without too much effort. I don't know that it was about to fly off, but it seemed stupid to test it any further. We weren't going to use it. (And neither should you!) I was a little shaken up. I had just been hanging off this thing. I should have checked it more thoroughly.

Maryana had a good idea. She would climb down to the little Voids belay tree, which was maybe 20 to 30 feet below us. We built a gear anchor in a crack and I belayed her down. She was on top rope but she placed a few pieces along the way so that when I followed I wouldn't face too big a fall if I blew it somehow. The downclimb was easy and we both made it to the tree without incident. Then we rapped off of the tree. This tree seemed solidly attached to the cliff but it isn't really all that comforting. It is smaller than I'd prefer.

I was glad to get down. We didn't bother with the Void climbs; we just got out of there.

Next time, after finishing Outsider, I'd probably just keep climbing. There is another pitch that goes up the main cliff behind the top of the Voids boulder. It is the third pitch of Inside Out and it goes at 5.6 up to a ledge with another rap tree. It looks like a nice pitch. You could rap down to the little Voids tree from the top of this pitch or move up and right to the Main Line tree, or just walk off.

Anyway, it all worked out okay. It didn't put too much of a damper on our casual Sunday. But it was enough for us. We were done.

On the way out Maryana showed me her gear beta for Trans Con. I hope next time I'm up there I'll feel ready to get back on the ten train and go for it!