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!

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