(Photo: A climber named Nina leading Easy V (5.3), in between rain storms.)
I take it all back.
Remember when I said I had Coexistence (5.10d) all worked out-- and would maybe send it on my next try?
I even said it wasn't ridiculously hard. It's pretty much like Try Again (5.10b), I said.
I must have lost my mind.
I've been back twice since then and I still haven't gotten Coex clean. I haven't come close. If anything, I feel further away from sending it now than I did before I tried it the first time!
I went back with Gail the very next weekend, on a very hot and humid Sunday. The Mac Wall was quite literally baking in the sun, but I was determined to try Coex anyway. We warmed up on Higher Stannard (5.9-), one of my longtime favorites. For a change of pace I tried the 5.9 direct start, which is thin and without gear for three or four delicate moves. I'd never tried it this way before but I liked it. Dick Williams calls it R-rated in the guidebook but it isn't so bad. You can get a piece at the first horizontal a few moves up.
Everything went well and I was feeling good.
(Photo: Gail on Higher Stannard (Direct Start 5.9).)
Then we went directly over to Coex. I tried to relax, but I was very tense again. It was so hot, and I was really sweating as I negotiated the tricky 5.9-ish moves before the roof. They felt harder than before. Once at the crux, I thought I remembered my beta but I just couldn't get it to work. I must have fallen four times. I stubbornly kept trying the moves the same way, because my beta had been effective one week before! Finally something clicked and I got over the roof, feeling very frustrated.
(Photo: Gail at the roof on Coexistence (5.10d).)
I was back again on the very next Saturday, with Olivier. It was expected to rain in the afternoon but the morning was dry and with the changing conditions it was reasonably cool at the cliff. I thought maybe this time I would sail right over that Coex roof.
(Photo: Olivier getting us warmed up on Something Interesting (5.7+).)
But the weather didn't make any difference. I still couldn't achieve the taste of victory on Coex. I fell several times, again. This time I tried to work to improve my beta, but eventually after approaching the problem from several different angles I still could just barely get over it using a very similar strategy to what worked for me the first time.
I think I have to accept that this is not a terribly high-percentage sequence for me. The crux is always going to feel desperate and I just have to try to hit it fresh and with confidence, and hope for the best.
(Photo: That's me approaching the crux overhang on Coexistence (5.10d). Photo by Olivier.)
Coex only has one really hard sequence on it-- but boy is it hard. I'm not ready to give up on it yet. I'm determined to go back again.
I've found that flailing away at Coex does have one benefit: it makes other 5.10 climbs feel a whole lot easier. Since we were right there, Olivier and I threw a top rope over Try Again (5.10b), the climb next door, and it was like a different world. I can't believe I described the cruxes as similarly difficult, just two weeks ago. I guess they are somewhat similar-- but having done both of them in one session, I'd say the Coex crux is much, much harder.
I also led Mother's Day Party (pitch one 5.10b) while I was there at the Mac Wall with Olivier and I think my experience on Coex helped me with that climb too. Mother's Day Party felt pretty reasonable to me.
This is another Mac Wall ten that I'd tried on top rope once before, but since it was three years ago I couldn't remember much of anything about the moves. I was going for the pseudo on-sight, you might say.
(Photo: Olivier getting started on Mother's Day Party (5.10b).)
I found this first pitch of Mother's Day Party to be really nice, nicer than some of the other Mac Wall tens, in that it isn't all about one roof move. But it is also more committing than some of the others. The pitch has two distinct cruxes. Both cruxes require hard moves above your gear. The first crux involves climbing up some crimpy flakes above a little overlap. The pro is at your shins as you do the move but there is a ledge not too far beneath you so it feels a little bit risky. I ended up placing three pieces in the horizontal crack at the overlap. Then I tested the move several times (until I was just about certain I had it) before firing through it.
The second crux involves steep climbing up a bulging green corner. There are two hard moves, each one leading to a juggy hold. I would have been very pleased to find a gear placement in between the two hard moves. But I couldn't find anything, so I had to carry on.
(Photo: Olivier showing off some fancy footwork in the steep green corner on Mother's Day Party (5.10b).)
After leading Mother's Day Party I remembered that three years before, when I top-roped it, I questioned whether I would ever feel confident enough to lead this climb. Yet on this day I'd just done it on a whim, without a second thought. It felt good to sort it out above the pro and to know throughout that it was all going to be fine. I tried to remind myself that this was great progress and that my constant suckage on Coex was not in vain.
It began to rain as Olivier and I finished Mother's Day Party, and though we waited it out and got in a few more pitches before our day was through, we didn't do anything really notable.
We took a jaunt up Asphodel (5.5), which I hadn't done in many years. It is a high quality, long pitch, up a giant corner. The upper third is kind of dirty and there is some junky rock up there. But before the route turns grungy it is very nice, with fun moves.
(Photo: A foggy view over to Skytop from atop Asphodel (5.5).)
Flashing back to my day with Gail one week earlier:
I was so excited to see how strong Gail is leading right now. She's been climbing a lot lately and pushing herself to take the sharp end more frequently.
Once she and I left the Mac Wall on our hot, sunny Sunday, we went looking for shady climbs, and we found several over the course of the afternoon. Gail led pitch one of Airy Aria (5.8) and I swear she reached the bolts at the end of the pitch in less than two minutes. She had no hesitation at all during the technical climbing up the polished corner. I'm sure I took longer to do the pitch than she did, and I was on top rope.
(Photo: Gail leading Airy Aria (5.8).)
Gail also led pitch one of Oblique Twique (5.8?). I tried gently to suggest that this pitch might not be the best choice. I reminded Gail that it is a one move wonder, that the move is difficult and strange, and that it is hard to protect without blocking the key hold. I did the climb way back in 2010. I had a lot of trouble with it then and have never wanted to return. But Gail shook off these warnings and got it done with nary a hiccup. She managed to place a whole nest of small nuts for the crux move, some of which might actually have held in the event of a fall.
(Photo: Gail leading Oblique Twique (5.8).)
In our hunt for shade Gail and I also found two climbs that were totally new for both of us.
We climbed Tangled Up And Blue (5.8), which goes up a chimney hidden behind a corner next to Simple Suff (5.10a). It is pretty gritty in the chimney (which comes as no surprise) and I got my knees all scratched up as I wormed my way tentatively up this pitch. I thought it was fun-- at least in retrospect! We don't have enough climbs like this in the Gunks. It is good practice for other climbing areas. There is good gear throughout.
(Photo: Gail approaching the chimney on Tangled Up and Blue (5.8). Looks good, doesn't it?)
We also did Lito and the Swan (5.9+), which was probably the highlight of the day for both of us. This climb is an overlooked gem right next to the ever-popular Double Crack (5.8). Lito and the Swan is similarly long, steep and interesting. I think this climb doesn't get done that much because of Dick's PG/R protection rating, which is a shame because there is a ton of great climbing on it.
After you start up at some blocky flakes, you will see two vertical seams heading upward. Be sure to move immediately to the one on the left-hand side. There is a great 5.9 sequence there, with good rock and some hidden holds.
Once you reach a pedestal with some loose blocks, you are at the second crux, a move up the face to the ceiling of a small alcove. There is gear here but I think the PG/R rating comes from the fact that a fall at this point risks a landing on the pedestal. I don't disagree with the rating, but I think there are many climbs in the Gunks with similar risks that are not given the PG/R rating. One example is Mother's Day Party! I don't think the PG/R rating should keep you from doing the climb. Just watch it when you step off the pedestal.
I thought Lito and the Swan had good gear overall, and maybe this was just the Coex effect coming into play again but I thought it was a reasonably straightforward 5.9. I don't know where the "plus" comes in. Gail felt the same way. Whatever its proper grade should be, Lito and the Swan is very worthwhile.
We are officially into summer now. I don't know how many good runs at Coex I might get before autumn but if we have a cool enough day in the near future I'm going to hit it again. I have to send the stupid thing so I can get on with failing to send The Stand (5.11a)!