Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Climbing at Millbrook: Realm of the Fifth Class Climber (5.9) and Old Route (5.7)

(Photo: Gail on the last pitch of Realm of the Fifth Class Climber (5.9).)

I got up on Monday morning, looked in the mirror, and found bits of lichen in my ears.

This could mean only one thing:

I'd been climbing at Millbrook.

Sunday was one of the longest days of the year. It was expected to be a beautiful day in the Gunks. The main cliffs were sure to be overrun. Why not head back out to Millbrook, where we might find solitude? It had been more than a year since my first trip out there. I was overdue for another taste of this most mysterious and daunting of Gunks cliffs.

Last year Gail and I had picked off the two most obvious plums, Westward Ha! (5.7) and Cruise Control (5.9). These two great climbs are centrally located and relatively easy to find. They sit pretty much directly beneath the spot where the Millbrook Mountain Trail reaches the cliff.

This time around I suggested we venture a bit further afield, towards the southern end of the cliff. I was eager to check out Realm of the Fifth Class Climber (5.9). There were a few other routes nearby that I thought we also could do.

Realm of the Fifth Class Climber has a reputation for being on the easy side of 5.9, and also for being well-protected. It seemed like a good candidate for Gail and me. I also thought that since it ascends a prominent corner system we could be fairly sure we were in the right place when we started climbing, which is important at Millbrook! I didn't want to mistakenly stumble into 5.11 X territory.

Chris Fracchia (a fount of knowledge about Millbrook) had given me some advice about approaching Realm. He said we should rap in from directly above the climb rather than traversing over to it on the shelf popularly known as the "Death Ledge." The Death Ledge traverses the whole of Millbrook about one third of the way up the cliff, and all of the climbs start from this ledge rather than from the ground because the rock beneath the ledge is crumbly choss. The Death Ledge itself is pretty crumbly in spots, too, hence Chris' suggestion that we avoid it as much as possible by approaching our chosen climb from directly above.

We followed Chris' instructions and it seemed like we were in the right spot. We were able to find a good tree to rappel in from without too much trouble. By a stroke of dumb luck we stumbled upon another experienced Millbrook climber who confirmed we were in the right location, which gave us the confidence we needed to back our butts off of the cliff and into the unknown.

Even though I knew we'd found the right spot, I was nervous, just like the last time, as I stepped into the void and rappelled down the steep white cliff. Millbrook is a little bit spooky, there's just no getting around it.

(Photo: Rappelling down to the Death Ledge. The triangular roof visible up at the top of the photo is pretty much directly above the start of Realm of the Fifth Class Climber (5.9.).)

Once we got down to the Death Ledge, Realm of the Fifth Class Climber was easy to locate, just to the left of our landing point. The guidebook splits the climb into three pitches, but they are pretty short. I thought maybe I'd combine the first two into one 100 foot pitch.

I led the first 5.7 pitch up a right-facing corner without any trouble. The rock was pretty good and the climbing was mellow. I didn't place very much gear, hoping to reduce drag and save my favorite pieces for the crux climbing above. I finished the first pitch in no time and with plenty of gear left. But as I looked up at the intimidating crux of pitch two right above me, I worried that if I continued without stopping I might create some bad drag going in and out of the overhanging corner. And let's face it, I was still feeling some Millbrook jitters. I decided to bring Gail up and to do the route the traditional way, in three pitches.

(Photo: Gail climbing the last bits of pitch one of Realm of the Fifth Class Climber.)

Pitch two of Realm is a great pitch. It climbs another, larger right-facing corner. The crux comes near the start of the pitch as you escape a ceiling, climbing up to and around it and continuing up the corner system. There is a committing move out right from under the ceiling and then a challenging move up on the face with poor footholds, which leads to more good climbing up the corner with better holds. The pro is outstanding. You can place gear pretty much whenever you like in the crack at the back of the corner.

(Photo: Making it look easy, as always! Here I'm working up the corner to the crux roof on pitch two of Realm of the Fifth Class Climber (5.9).)

Full disclosure: I went back and forth several times before I finally did the crux move out and around the roof. It is a committing sequence. But once I put myself out there it went okay. I didn't find it soft for 5.9. Seemed like solid 5.9 to me. I was glad that I had Gail nearby for moral support.

(Photo: Gail reaching the end of pitch two of Realm of the Fifth Class Climber.)

After two very good pitches, I thought the third pitch was kind of a letdown. There is a hard, awkward move up onto a shelf, right off the belay. After that the pitch is pretty easy and not that much fun. You climb up and left to easily skirt two different roofs and then the climb is over. Watch out for some very loose plates on the wall beneath the first roof. 

I wasn't sure where the 5.9 is on this pitch. Maybe it is just that first awkward move.

(Photo: Heading up pitch three of Realm of the Fifth Class Climber.)

After Gail joined me atop the cliff we rapped in again from the same tree as before. I was hoping we could take a short walk to the north on the Death Ledge to do Again and Again (5.7). I was intrigued by this climb's long traverse under a roof on pitch two. Though the climbing isn't supposed to be hard I thought the position under the roof might be very exciting. Also, after the roof traverse this climb meets Cuckoo Man (5.10) and I was considering checking out that climb's final roof problem.

But when we got back down I couldn't find a secure way to cross the ledge from Realm to Again and Again. The Death Ledge just north of Realm is so much worse than it is over by Westward Ha!. It is very steeply sloped and loose. I couldn't see a safe path across, and I wasn't eager to try to make it, even roped up. I pictured myself sliding right off into oblivion.

So we decided not to do Again and Again.

But the only way out was up. We had to climb something.

(Photo: Hanging out on the sloping, loose Death Ledge near Realm of the Fifth Class Climber.)

I had another moderate climb in mind, Old Route (5.5 or 5.7, depending on who you believe). This was the very first climb ever done in the Gunks. It was put up by the great Fritz Wiessner in 1935. Wearing sneakers (!!) and using just a couple of soft iron pitons for protection, he made history, establishing with this climb what would become THE eastern center of American rock climbing for the next half a century.

Gail and I crossed the Death Ledge over to Old Route without a problem. It is south of Realm, in the opposite direction from Again and Again. We pitched it out, staying roped up while we moved on the ledge. I slung some trees along the way. The ledge wasn't as terrible to the south of Realm, but it was still pretty junky and loose. It is just a touch more than 60 meters from Realm to Old Route. I stopped at a tree when I was just about out of rope, and then after Gail came over we scrambled up to the right-facing corner where the climb begins.

Everyone agrees on where this climb starts, at an obvious right-facing corner. But different guidebooks disagree about where the route goes from there. Dick Williams has the climb going straight up the corner until it ends and then veering left up a woodsy dihedral to the top, while Todd Swain sends the climber on a long horizontal traverse after the corner ends, finishing the climb in a totally different place. Chris Fracchia identifies on his website yet another possibility, this one based on Fritz's own recollections as published in Appalachia magazine in 1960. We did the climb this last way, going up the corner just until we reached a bush and ledge, then stepping left to a v-notch and, at the top of the notch, moving back right to the belay at the top of the corner. And then moving left as the Williams guide has it for the second pitch up the large vegetated right-facing corner to the top.

Standing beneath Old Route, we both had to wonder why Fritz picked this line out of all the thousands available in the Gunks. It doesn't look so great. My guess is that he chose it because it looked like it could be climbed. The initial corner has lots of features to grab on to and the part towards the top of the cliff goes up a gully/notch, so Fritz figured he wouldn't get shut down at some massive overhang.

(Photo: Pitch one of Old Route (5.7).)

The first pitch, it turns out, is well worth doing. The initial corner is easy and pretty dirty, nothing to write home about. But the move into the v-slot is a toughie (easily 5.7 or harder) and then the climbing up this slot is clean and interesting. Once you reach a roof and start to traverse right to the belay ledge the moves are easier again and the exposure is really nice. I would think that anyone following Fritz on this traverse in 1935 would have been terrified! If this pitch were in the Trapps, it would have been cleaned up by the passage of human traffic long ago and it would by now be a popular trade route.

But since this climb is at Millbrook it hasn't been cleared of its considerable debris. Every ledge is full of loose rocks-- some small, some the size of cinder blocks. I couldn't get through the pitch without knocking a couple of the small ones off, and I narrowly avoided sending down some of the big ones. The belay ledge, too, is a mess, covered in loose crap. And the trees there are not very useful for the belay. One tree is dead and the other is very small. I chose not to use them. Instead I moved up and left to the next ledge and built a gear belay in some cracks that seemed solid.

(Photo: Finishing the clean climbing at the beginning of pitch two of Old Route (5.7). It is pretty densely wooded the rest of the way.)

The second pitch begins with enjoyable moves up the wall to the left of the belay, and then you chimney/grovel your way to the top up the big dihedral with a wide crack at the back, past bushes, trees and lichen-- lots of lichen. It is all 5.easy climbing. I found it fun up to a point. By the time I got to fighting my way past the final tree I'd had about enough.

I doubt I'll ever do Old Route again but I'm glad we did it once, partly for the connection to Fritz Wiessner and also because the first pitch has some very nice moments.

Realm of the Fifth Class Climber, by contrast, was pretty high quality for most of its length and I would be happy to do that one again.

It was great to be out at Millbrook, no matter what we were climbing. The place has a special atmosphere and it is very enjoyable just to hang out at the belays and up atop the cliff. You feel removed from it all up there, much more so than at the Trapps or the Nears. The ground, the buildings, other climbers... all of them are much further away. The cliff demands caution and respect, but it also offers genuine adventure and some very good climbing. I hope not to wait another year to go back. I'd like to jump on Rib Cracker (5.9), The High Traverse (5.8 by one of the variation finishes), Again and Again/Cuckoo Man (5.7/5.10), maybe even The Time Eraser (5.10-), some time soon.

If we have some agreeable weather this summer (not too hot) I might be able to make it happen in the near future.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chapel Pond Blahs

(Photo: Climber on Drop, Fly or Die (5.11a).)

I knew it would be wet.

It had been a rainy week, with heavy thunderstorms on Friday, continuing into the evening. I almost called the whole thing off.

But it was supposed to be a beautiful day on Saturday in the Adirondacks and I really wanted to go. Maybe in the afternoon Chapel Pond Slab would be dry? Maybe we'd find some dry lines between the streaks of wetness on some south-facing cliffs in the morning?

I missed climbing in the Adirondacks. I wanted to work on my crack and slab skills. I had dreams, my friends. Dreams bigger than any thunderstorm.

And the Dacks was very convenient for my partner Adrian, who was driving down from Montreal. He'd made the five hour trip from Montreal to the Gunks twice recently. It was only fair to give him a break this time around. I could make the long drive from NYC up to the Keene Valley area.

Unfortunately, I only had Saturday available. My daughter and I both had a piano recital on Sunday so I had to be back. This meant nine hours of driving just on Saturday, and my wife Robin wasn't exactly thrilled about it. It seemed a little bit insane to her. (Just between you and me, I think she worries too much.)

"If it's going to be wet, why don't you just go to the Gunks?" she said. "The rock there dries really fast, that's what you always say."

She was right, but she didn't understand. I needed some Dacks action.

I'll cut to the chase: it turned out to be a shitty day for us on Saturday. We should have gone to the Gunks. The irony was that the weather in the Keene Valley area was absolutely gorgeous. But there had been far too much rain earlier during the week.

I got up at 5:00 a.m. and drove out of Brooklyn. The roads were wet but the sky was clear the whole way up.

As I drove in to the Chapel Pond area I was amazed. Not only was the Chapel Pond Slab soaking wet-- which was to be expected-- it was worse than wet. It had a running waterfall right down the middle. Mostly, it seemed, on the route Empress (5.5. X) but also on parts of the Regular Route (5.5), which I had hoped maybe we could do.

In truth, I knew before I drove up that the Slab wouldn't work out. This was no big deal. We could check out some other options. We walked in to the Beer Walls. These cliffs are low and tucked in the woods, so I had no illusions that they'd be much drier than the Chapel Pond Slab. I thought maybe, just maybe, there'd be some dry sections. But no such luck, the entire Upper and Lower walls were absolutely soaked, not just wet but actively running with water in most places.

We walked back out. The Spider's Web looked pretty dry from the road. So we negotiated the talus field all the way up there to find that it wasn't really very dry. It was okay on some parts of the upper portions of the wall but mostly wet on the bottom. All the climbs I'd previously done there were wet, and all the tens I'd hoped to try were also wet.  There was a party there starting one of the 5.11's (Drop, Fly or Die) which was dry except for the very bottom. But I would need good conditions to be brave enough to lead the tens. There was no way I was hopping on a 5.11.

Having struck out three times, we decided to walk over to some of the Lower Washbowl cliffs. These cliffs are not very popular due to the steep, thickly wooded approaches and chossy rock. But you can get there from the Spider's Web without going all the way down to the road, so we decided to try to cross over to a wall called Lost Arrow Face which wasn't too far away

After a filthy, slippery bushwhack we found the wall and it actually seemed to have some dry routes. We found two women from Montreal climbing there.

It was, by this time, after noon and we hadn't climbed anything. We'd been trooping around looking for dry rock for more than two hours. It was about time to do some climbing! We did Excalibur (5.8) after the ladies told us it was dry enough. This is kind of dirty but it is an interesting route up the left side of a pillar which forms a corner, with some really tricky climbing in the corner. Both Adrian and I thought it was harder than 5.8. Maybe we did it wrong?

(Photo: Adrian heading into the tricky bit on Excalibur (5.8).)

Next I started to lead the 5.9 on the wall (Virgin Sturgeon), which the guidebook authors highly recommend. But I got kind of spooked because I couldn't see the bolt above on a blank face and the route ends at some corners that can't be seen from the base of the cliff. I kept worrying the corners at the top would be soaking wet. I aborted and headed over to check out Sergeant Pepper (5.8), which goes up another big corner to the left. But when I got beneath the corner I could see it was very dirty/licheny and the roof exit at the top was dripping water down on me. Yuck. No thanks.

So then I moved left again and did Chunga's Revenge (5.6+). The two women had done Chunga's while Adrian and I did Excalibur and both of them had sent down some sizable rocks as they climbed! So I tried to be careful. This route has a really interesting move left across an orange face to a tree and a ledge with an optional belay. The holds are there but it is a committing step over. And then it goes up a corner to a roof.

(That's me heading up to the crux move on Chunga's Revenge (5.6+).)

In retrospect, I realize that most people end this climb at the optional belay. But I did not. The corner above was full of junky rock and loose flakes. I passed up many opportunities for gear in the bad rock. The roof too had some loose crap and when I got over it and reached the top I built a belay in a crack because the belay tree (which had ancient crusty slings on it) did not appear to me to be stable. I could see it totally falling down if it were weighted. The rock it is attached to up there is all chossy and crumbly.

I brought Adrian up and he found a bolted rap station about ten feet to the right of the tree so I came over to join him. But I thought it was really bad, with just one ancient button-head bolt and a piton, connected by stiff old webbing in an American Death Triangle. Someone had added a more recent sling to the bolt. This sling was still identifiable as blue and it wasn't stiff but it was quite faded, clearly at least a few years old.

Adrian thought the bolt was fine but the whole arrangement gave me the chills. We decided to add a tricam to the anchor with one of our prussik cords and left this gear behind. We both rapped off and, thankfully, nobody died.

Then we hiked down the loose, annoying talus field to the road. I was glad to put the Lost Arrow Face behind me. What a pile.

(Photo: The Lost Arrow Face as seen from the road, with one of the Montreal women we met visible (in a white shirt) low in the center of the wall, leading Virgin Sturgeon (5.9).)

I suggested we go next to Jewels and Gem, a small wall with moderate routes one minute from the road. If it was dry, well then we could lead some routes. If not, we could top rope. We went there and almost all the leadable routes (the ones that go up cracks) were wet. We spotted a dry one, In the Rough (5.7+). This ascends an off-width crack in a corner, and then goes through a good roof problem. Adrian led it. We both enjoyed it. Hallelujah! A good, dry route. So nice. 

(Photo: Adrian on In the Rough (5.7+).)

It appeared a couple of the other routes on this wall were really good-- if only they were dry. The two 5.6 routes appeared to be great natural lines up easy cracks, but they were both dripping with runoff. The dry routes all seemed to have no gear. I thought maybe I could lead the 5.9 variant just to the left of In the Rough, so I started it... and then I backed off when it appeared there were no placements for a long stretch above the initial crack. 

We considered top roping some other climbs but I checked the time and it was already 5:30. We decided to leave. I had lost the mojo and I had a long drive ahead. 

I would definitely come back to Jewels and Gem some time when it is dry for some fun moderates. It seems like a nice little wall.

We both walked out pretty disappointed with our day. We did a lot of trudging for three mediocre pitches.

And the worst was yet to come. I'll spare you the details, but some car trouble kept us from leaving for another three hours. 

Once that was resolved and I finally got out of there I drove home in an over-caffeinated haze, wishing I'd listened to my wife and gone to the Gunks. The day was largely a waste of time and money. But you know, sometimes taking a chance really pays off and sometimes it doesn't. You gotta play to win and all that garbage.

And even if the day basically sucked we still got a little taste of some adventure. 

Don't worry, Dacks. I still love you and I'll be back. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gunks Routes: Lost and Found (5.6), Unholy Wick (5.8), Diana (5.8) and More!

(Photo: Doing the fun traverse above a roof on Lost and Found (5.6).)

Another sunny Sunday in May, sure to be a crowded disaster in the Trapps. But I had a plan.

I've been repeating myself a lot lately. I wanted to try some different routes. I proposed to Adrian that we could get ourselves up to the GT Ledge in the area between CCK and High Exposure, where there were several quality climbs I'd never tried. I was thinking in particular of climbs like Diana (5.8), Unholy Wick (5.8), Jim's Gem (5.8 and new for me by the higher traverse), Exit Stage Left (5.9), and Psychedelic (5.9+). We could kill most of our day on these climbs, most of which no one seems to do.

At the last minute Gail decided to join us for a few hours before her husband Mitch arrived at the cliff, but this did not alter our plan. She could rap off whenever she needed to go.

I got to the parking lot in high spirits, ready to hit it hard. Gail and Adrian, on the other hand, seemed a little droopy. They had both been climbing for the full day on Saturday and they were feeling tired. They were happy to follow my lead, but it looked like I was going to be calling most of the shots.

We headed on down to the area just left of High E and looked for a warm-up climb to take us to the GT Ledge. No one was on Lost and Found (5.6) and I had never done it so I decided to embrace new routes and lead it. Gail warned me that she thought the bottom bits were run out but I wasn't worried. The guidebook calls it PG and I figured a little bit of run out climbing in 5.6 territory would be no big deal.

The opening moves go up and right over a little bulge to the right edge of a roof. The climb traverses back left over the lip of the roof then heads straight up from there to the GT Ledge.

I placed a piece quickly and then started to move through the bulge. As Gail had predicted, I found a lack of options for my second gear placement. I ended up getting an Alien I wasn't thrilled about in a shallow pocket. But I figured after a move or two I'd be over the bulgy bit and it would be smooth sailing. I had each hand on a good crimper as I moved to the right, so I thought everything was fine. Suddenly my right handhold snapped right off. The hold went flying (hitting no one, luckily) but I didn't. Somehow I managed to stay on the rock. It could have been a little bit ugly if I'd fallen and the iffy Alien had popped. I would have decked.

I tried to just laugh it off.

Gail said, "I can't believe you didn't fall!"

"Well, the reason I didn't is that I'm really kind of awesome," I blustered. "I don't like to talk about it, but it's true..."

Meanwhile, I tried to stop shaking so I could get back to leading the pitch.

It went fine from there. After the slightly sketchy early bit, the traverse left over the lip of the roof is fun and well-protected. Then the climbing from that point to the GT Ledge is easy and kind of undistinguished and dirty.

I wouldn't do Lost and Found again. It isn't that nice. The Last Will Be First (5.6) is just to the right and it is so much better.

When Gail and Adrian joined me on the GT Ledge we took a look at Unholy Wick, which was right in front of us. This climb goes straight up a 5.6 face to a little roof. There is no gear on this face and Dick Williams suggests that you can avoid the runout to the left by following Ken's Blind Hole (5.6) to the little roof. I haven't done Ken's Blind Hole but it goes pretty far to the left and if you go just a step or two to the right instead as you start Unholy Wick off the ledge you can get some gear in the left-facing corner over there. After just a few moves you get to the ceiling where there is ample gear.

(Photo: Climbing up to the initial roof on Unholy Wick (5.8).)

I enjoyed climbing up to the small roof, and the rest of Unholy Wick as well. The climb isn't a great classic and it is kind of broken up into sections but there are a bunch of good moves on it. The guidebook advises you to do it in two pitches from the GT Ledge to the top but I took it all the way in one pitch and it worked out fine. The little rooflet is the first challenge, and then you have to get in and out of a small alcove, moving left along a horizontal and then making steep moves up to a large flake and a small tree. (This is where Dick would have you belay.) All of the climbing to this point is allegedly 5.6, but I thought the moves in and out of the alcove were a little harder than that.

(Photo: Gail has almost reached the flake and tree where there is an optional belay on Unholy Wick (5.8). Despite appearances the route isn't choked with lichen-- it traverses behind the lichen-covered flake and climbs the clean corner barely visible at the bottom of the photo.)

Once you reach the flake and tree the regular route moves left to a right-facing corner, where a single 5.8 move gets you to jugs and then the finish. I thought about doing a 5.9 variation to finish called Bow Tie Ceiling, but it looked very dirty/licheny and difficult, so I just did it the 5.8 way.

(Photo: Getting set to rappel from the top of the cliff.)

After we rapped down to the GT Ledge, Gail checked in with her husband Mitch and found out he was on his way, so she left us and Adrian and I continued climbing from the GT Ledge.

We decided to look into the top pitch of Diana (5.8) next. This pitch starts at a distinctive multi-forked tree that is easy to find on the GT ledge. The line Diana follows isn't that obvious from below but it makes sense when you do it. After some face climbing and an easy 5.6 roof, the climb heads up a little right and then left to the right edge of a larger ceiling. You move up diagonally onto the face above the ceiling, which ends up feeling like a roof problem. It is a really good roof problem and I thought it was a little stiff for 5.8. Then the pitch heads up and left again to another crux on sloping holds up into a notch, where you meet CCK for the final couple of moves.

(Photo: Adrian pulling into the final notch on Diana (5.8).)

I really enjoyed Diana. It has two nice cruxes and good protection (though I did not see the piton mentioned in the guidebook). If you are stacked up on the GT Ledge waiting to do CCK I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't do Diana instead. The top pitch is very good.

Adrian and I rapped back down to the GT Ledge and now I was ready for a challenge. My eye was on Psychedelic (5.9+). I was totally psyched to climb into the dirty chimney at the back of the High E buttress. I was ready to fight past a tree to get to the tough roof problem. After that the wild 40-foot 5.6+ traverse would be a fun payoff.

But Adrian had a request:

"Can we do something facey/slabby instead of another roof?"

He was a little tired and a little bored.

(Photo: Unknown climber on Modern Times (5.8+). "I hate you a little bit right now," she said to her belayer.)

I had to admit that all of the climbs I'd planned at this one location above the GT Ledge were of the roofy variety. If we were going to do something different we'd have to look elsewhere. Reluctantly I acquiesced and we descended to the ground to find another climb.

This turned out to be a mistake. It was a nightmare down there.

Everything was occupied. We started out looking for a good climb that wasn't a roof problem-- something like Airy Aria or the first pitch of Carbs and Caffeine-- but when that didn't pan out we just started looking for something, anything that was open. We kept wandering around, always coming up empty. Doubleissima? Forget it. Insuhlation had a group of climbers plus some wailing babies. Another group of adults and children had a top rope on Double Crack and Lito and the Swan! I'd never seen anyone at all on Lito and the Swan before, and I never thought I'd see some pre-teens top-roping it.

We headed back towards CCK and Erect Direction, but no dice.

Finally we arrived beneath Proctoscope and it was open. I needed to get the redpoint on Proctoscope so I volunteered to lead it.

(Photo: In the middle of the crux face on Proctoscope (5.9+).)

It went really well. I think this first pitch could become a climb I come back to again and again. I like the easy off-width that starts it off and the crux thin face is beautiful. The fixed nut at the crux I mentioned last year in my first post on Proctoscope is long gone but I think I was actually hindered by that nut the first time I led the pitch. This time I placed the good cam a few feet below and just climbed right through the crux sequence. My footwork was solid and I felt like I used the handholds just right. It was a nice feeling.

(Photo: Adrian on Proctoscope (5.9+).)

Adrian really liked it too. It was more the sort of thing he was hungry for, something technical and not so thuggish.

By now it was getting late and Adrian had a long drive back to Montreal ahead of him. We could see that the pleasant, casual first pitch of Arrow was open so Adrian suggested he could lead that one and then I could lead something from the ledge to the top of the cliff. I hoped that pitch two of Limelight would be open and it was.

(Photo: Adrian climbing the beautiful flake feature on pitch two of Limelight (5.7).)

If there is a better 5.7 pitch than the second pitch of Limelight I want to know about it! The moves on Limelight are just exquisite and the white sickle-shaped flake that the second pitch ascends is very unusual. It looks as though it will be very difficult to climb but then the holds present themselves, as if by magic. The final traverse is delicate and satisfying.

It was a fitting end to our day. Though we wasted some time searching for open routes we still got on several climbs that were new to me and one that I was familiar with but that I felt proud to send. I plan to make a point of working more of these unpopular climbs into every climbing day. I really enjoy on-sighting and I like the feeling of exploring the more obscure parts of the cliff. And sometimes, as I learned by doing Diana, a less-popular route can become a new favorite.