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.

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