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.

No comments:

Post a Comment