Archive for the ‘trips’ category

Gunks: Uber-classics and a stuck rope


Lidač on Casa Emilio, 5.2.On our way to the Sleepy Hollow area we almost got hit by a massive branch falling off a rotten tree above the carriage road. Me and Ben made a super fast flee-for-your-life dash forward, while Lidač calmly watched the falling wood landing few feet behind her.


Gunks again: Casa climbs



Sundance, Casa Emilio, and Casablanca. All of them are fun, each one is different. Oh, and for real adventure, try the second pitch of Casablanca. Good quality climbing on lichen-overriden rock with some route-finding challenges. 🙂

Pictures from Sundance, Casa Emilio, and Casablanca…

Gunks: Lost and Flying


“Rišo, I think I am falling!”
“OK, I am ready.”
“…but I don’t want to…”
“Well, then you better climb on…”

The rope tightened and snatched me up from the small belay ledge with Ľuboš dangling on the other end. Few people on Arrow, just next to us, turned to see who is disturbing the tranquility of the Sunday afternoon with these barbarian screams.
The second act of Feast of Fools turned out to be not so easy and totally different than the juggy-roofy first pitch. The other route we climbed this day was Pink Laurel, quite a pumpy 5.9 in a broken corner with fantastic variety of moves – anything between underclings, fingerlocks, stemming and jug-hauling. We had made our climbing plans on the day before, while drinking beers and casually talking at the camp. A bad concept, as we found out today, because in the guidebook, everything looked unrealistically casual.

None of us was exactly enthusiastic about climbing this morning, not after a night spent in the makeshift bivy made up from a plastic tarp that Ľuboš brought “just in case”. He anyways escaped to his car shortly before the dawn, leaving me and his jacket behind. Having nothing to cover myself with, I gratefully grabbed the piece of cloth and huddled on a 1.2 meters short sleeping pad which I bought the day before. None of us had expected to stay in the Gunks for two days, but the idea seemed to be such a good one yesterday.

On Saturday, we took Barbara on Andrew, 5.4. The first pitch on the nice, 5.3 slab was especially inviting, and I daresay everybody enjoyed it. Sitting in the “shadow of the Twilight Zone” on the GT ledge, we made the first step toward trouble, by following the guidebook too closely. I made a 50-feet traverse (okay, maybe a BIT longer), as suggested, and found myself below something what might be interpreted as flaky right facing corner, just like the description of P2 of Andrew. Climbing that crack to an ominous overhang was quite stimulating, still, it was getting harder and harder. I was thinking to myself how really tough Gunks 5.4s can be, placed a good cam below the ceiling and reached up. Sure enough, the holds were there, but the climbing got by no means easy. Hanging mostly on my arms, I made an airy 15-foot long traverse to the right. Barbara and Lidač below vehemently refused to climb this and started setting up a rappel anchor. Was this route really Andrew? I arrived to a groove. Just like in the description of Andrew! I put in a solid nut and crawled up the sharp flake in the corner onto small ledge formed by a huge block of rock. The rope drag was not letting me any further, so I made a belay there, pondering that this was THE toughest 5.4 of my life.

Ben came up and cleaned the pitch, and finished off the remaining 20 feet to the top, while I was watching a climber next to us, climbing No Glow according to him. This was puzzling, because if I remembered correctly, No Glow was nowhere near Andrew in the guidebook. It started drizzling, so we hurriedly rappeled down No Glow from a steel cable anchor to the GT ledge, and traversed back to the double-ropes rappel which Lidija and Babs left there for us. I rushed to check the guidebook and Lo! The line we considered to be the second pitch of Andrew (5.4) was in fact P2 of Three Vultures (5.9). Such a bad luck! (Although, I have to say it was still a wonderful route, just not something to do if one is tuned up to an enjoyable 5.4).
Then the skies opened, and the heavy rain drove us back to the car.

And there we were on Sunday, hanging on Feast of Fools, with Ľuboš having taken multiple whippers on one of three bomber nuts set in the short, left-facing crux corner on pitch 2. He hit his ankle, I lowered him. The sharp end was handed over to me, and the prospect of the easy following of this pitch disappeared. Well, at least I didn’t have to bother with placing pro – Ľuboš placed as much gear as I could dream of. The crux was actually quite interesting, reachy, balanced moves between good holds, but a little bit run out. On the GT ledge, we got lured by the fantastic 3rd pitch of Easy Verschneidung, and decided to go with that. A short face to a notch in a big overhang and niiiice numerous buckets! What could be a nicer finish to our first 5.10b in the Gunks?

Quick rappel down the Arrow and even a quicker discussion about what to do now. “Let’s quietly clear the scene”, we have had just enough.

More pictures from Andrew, Rhododendron, Pink Laurel and Feast of Fools…

Gunks 6/8-10/2007


Still recovering from the last climbing weekend in the Gunks. On Saturday we scored over 12 hours of climbing – I can still feel them. Should not the time spent hanging on rocks be a better measure of die-hard climbing, rather than grades climbed?
Traditionally, on the way to New Paltz we “managed” to make an unplanned detour north of the city by missing an exit from the Cross County parkway. Nice neighborhoods there are, and an intricate road system too.
The big campsite along the road before the bistro was still quite empty at 11pm on Friday. Instantly attacked by huge flying monsters, we decided to make fire to keep them off despite the late hour. Putting my faith in the reliability of the weather forecast and my good luck, I didn’t bother building my tent, since the thunderstorms were supposed to be only “isolated and scattered”. It was anyways insanely hot, and it took me two hours to finally fall asleep.
Raised by traditional mountaineers from my old climbing club, I understand that real climbers get up before dawn. It didn’t quite work out this time, but at 5am when the first mosquito attacked, I could no longer stay in the sleeping bag and rushed to make Jones and Maria aware that the night was over. When I heard no curses, I marched to the car to make some coffee for us on my brand new Primus liquid fuel stove.

Fueled by Eggmen and Mountain Women (delicious sandwiches from the Deli), we greeted the park ranger at 7ish, according to him only the second climbing party that day. Our plan was to climb Rhododendron and Laurel, short clean routes at the Horseman area, before they get crowded. Both Maria and Jones wanted to lead them (their first trad leading venture). The first turn was mine, I left few pieces of protection in, to back up the gear they would place.
After that, we set out to do some real climbing – Arch, 5.5 PG. Lidač, our friend, heartily recommended this one as an adventurous climb, which she enjoyed last year with Ľuboš. My memory brought back some stories of a wasp attack and dropped gear, so I braced myself for the worst.
The first pitch of Arch starts on a big flake, and follows the face past the ledge around a small tree, slung for protection out of habit. I wouldn’t hang my shoes on it, but the psychological advantage of having ANY gear instead of NO gear below my ass was clear. Finally getting below the ominously overhanging arch, it started to be obvious, that just like on almost any Gunks 5.5, passing the exit will be far from being a pleasant warm-up for the beginning of the day. One thing I always start doing when I think I am in trouble is letting out short gasps pronounced with a distinct “Fu, fu!”. For psyching myself up. I was well into doing this, when I pulled the overhang, and found out that it was not over yet; now one had to decide whether to traverse out to the right to a less steeper but holdless terrain, or follow a steep handcrack, with a fine exposure. As usually, I chose the scarier but promising option – the crack. Quite hardish for a 5.5, I don’t think that was the proper way to do it, maybe some variation? Jones felt well stimulated after climbing it, and poor Maria was even hanging at that part.

After the much needed lunch we did Wonderland, 5.8-. The crux move is on a technical, thoughtful, and easy-if-done-cleverly face protected by a nice bolt. After that, enjoyable climbing until the ledge. Finding the third pitch turned out to be tricky. The route crosses Middle Earth, Boms Away Dreams Baby, Wisecrack and some other lines, and all of them are roughly of the same description and difficulty. We chose to try some steepish corner, capped by an overhang, which apparently was not climbed so often – no chalk marked the way. It turned out to be the last pitch of Wisecrack, R-protected 5.5 according to Williams. I found the protection quite reasonable, nothing worse than on any PG Gunks route, and the exposed moves out of the corner were interesting and well worthy of doing.

It was getting quite late when we came down, but still enough time for one more shot. Looking at the bolt-and-pins equipped blank face of Never Never Land, we said why not, and roped up for it. The opening moves were quite bouldery, but okay after plugging a ballnutz into the first horizontal. Few moves higher, just below the bolt, troubles started. First forced to nail-hang on some ridiculous crimps, then clipping the thank-god bolt, I realized that my feet are in pain from my small and worn out gym shoes and toes getting numb rather quickly. I desperately attempted the reachy crux, found some funny holdlets and came plummeting down in the next moment. Good footwork on a virtually blank wall was obviously the key here, and it was also the only thing I was incapable of doing. After falling few more times, burning my ankle with rope and thoughtful hanging on the bolt, I was getting dubious about the feasibility of me finishing this climb. Fortunately, after taking my shoes off for a while, and committing to it one more time, I shaked my way up the crux. The next few moves to the pin were still very thin, but the grim prospect of falling and having to rework the crux set me on climbing efficiently out of desperation.
The headwall at the end of the pitch, when you can almost smell the belay ledge with bolts, is still surprisingly tough – few more 5.9ish moves on a steep face, no idea how McCarthy and Co. could climb this back in the 50s in hiking boots. Happy to have it over, I relaxed on the belay ledge (spacious belay ledges are gooood) and encouraged both Jones and Maria to come up and join me in my suffering. Each of them finding different cruxes on the way up, they pulled the real crux above the bolt much faster than I did.
It was almost eight o’clock when we came down. Quick dinner, few pitchers of beer in the Barnaby’s place in New Paltz, breaking our camp in the woods, and the day was over.

The next morning found us with less enthusiasm and more sore muscles. Savory breakfast in the Deli sort of put us back into mood. An hour later, we were already pulling the first pitch of Drunkard’s Delight. The first few moves on slimy rock right off the ground were the crux, leaving the rest of the route for us to cherish. Arriving below the formidable ceiling with a tree, I set up a belay on the small ledge, not knowing that nowadays most people usually continue up and combine first two pitches into one. Still, having someone up there who would rouse my spirit for the scarish overhang was a reason good enough for calling Jones to come up. Maybe he slipped, maybe he only wanted to test the anchor, soon after he started climbing the rope stretched nicely with him hanging on its end. Seeing that indeed I am belaying, he cleaned the rest of the pitch without hesitation.
The overhang in the second pitch is actually much easier than it looks – it’s even delightful. Waiting for Jones and Maria to join me on the GT ledge, I was watching a disquieting cloud heading to my direction. The last thing we needed was a storm. Within minutes, the whole cliff was engulfed with milky fog. The temperature immediately dropped, it started drizzling and the ground was lost from sight, obscured by thick shreds of clouds. It felt like being in real mountains, the sensation which I unfortunately couldn’t fully appreciate due to teeth-chatter-stimulating gusts of wind getting underneath my pyjamas (hm, I climb in pyjamas). The last corner pitch with yet another overhang was the most welcome warm-up. I guess I was getting tired, because after exiting left from below the overhang and placing a small cam for protecting the short easy face on the top, I moved on without ever clipping my rope to that piece. I didn’t notice until Jones came up, looked at the cam sticking out of the wall, looked at me puzzled, and back at the cam, saying: “Hey Rich, what’s going on here?” An idea of making up some plausible explanation which would preserve my air of competence flashed through my head. I discarded it. Not seeing any rappel tree, I suggested walking along the cliff until we see some webbing with rings. We ended up walking all the way to Betty, and after that, another long walk to get back to our backpacks.
The Last Will Be First was the name of our next venture. High quality climb, semi-exposed and sustained, it offers great lookouts on the mega-classics like Directissima, High Exposure, Modern Times or Keep on Struttin. On the top we met Bill with his partner, having finished CCK and rappeling down our route. After sharing our stories, we were quick to answer his question “What are you doing next” with a prompt “Going home”. It was a long weekend.
Pictures from Arch, Wonderland, and Never Never Land…

Memorial Weekend in Rumney


The long weekend called for climbing trip. After discarding the multipitch Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire due to the prospect of shabby weather, our choice fell on Rumney, coincidentally also in New Hampshire.
During our 3-day stay we visited 4 crags – The Parking Lot Wall, Jimmy Cliff, The 5.8 Crag and The Main Cliff. Each of them has something specific; shortish, easy and mediocre sport lines on the left side of the Parking Lot Wall are dominated by an ultra-popular A Week With Pete 5.2 juggy slab. Just around the corner, where the trail from the main parking lot meets the cliff are several more demanding routes: Juan Valdez 5.10b, a technical crux right at the beginning from a high ledge, followed by a couple of pumpy underclings toward a small chimney, and Espresso 5.10d, the well-chalked overhanging jug-hauling pumpfest to the left of Juan Valdez.
Jimmy Cliff, the most delightful crag I visited in Rumney so far, features incredible rock friction and several aesthetic, classical lines. Lonesone Dove 5.10a is one awesome arete, where, as the guidebook says, proper technique pays dividends. There are several places where I simply had to stop and start thinking about the next step. Although this route is pretty sustained in difficulty, with proper footwork, one can hardly get pumped on it. From the last bolt, there is an option to stay on the arete – step to the right and follow the white-chalked underclings leading to good holds (slightly exposed, interesting moves and definitely recommended), or escape to easier grounds on the left.
Just next to the Lonesone Dove is probably the best 5.8 line in the area, The Junco 5.8+. Pleasantly bolted, and nice variety of climbing techniques (friction, layback). Left side of this part of Jimmy Cliff has a hard-looking overhanging wall – Drilling for Dollars 5.8. It felt slightly harder than The Junco, but not much, and the holds were all there. Care is advisable when clipping the second bolt, as the failure would result in hitting the deck. If your forearms fail you, it’s possible to escape from the last bolt to the left onto the arete, to avoid the physically stimulating direct finish. The unknown chimney (5.6ish) in the middle of this section of the cliff is clean and good for practicing stemming technique. Hammond Organ 5.10d is another cool line, with a technical reachy crux (avoid using the arete on the left).

The left part of the cliff is a huge low angle slab with several bolted lines for beginners. Clip a Dee Doo Dah 5.3 is the best known, 2 pitches of delightful friction climbing, almost scrambling (there’s no lack of good holds if you are climbing in ice skates). The Baker River valley is spread bellow and as you get above the trees, take time to cherish the view as you chat with occasional free-solo climber on the belay stance.
We survived the last rainy night almost comfortably (poor Maria and James in their puddle-equipped tent). The next morning brought sunshine again, so we set off for the final climbing day. Our choice, the 5.8 Crag was ridiculously wet, but after we fought our way up The Terrace 5.8 and Snake Skin Slab 5.8, it dried out a bit. We sent Bolt and Run, an interesting 5.9 line with two small overhangs and nice big holds and started skulking around the occupied tens next to it. A guy, crusing up the Milksnake, mentioned some gorgeous 10b on the Main Cliff, a short walk away, so to avoid waiting for our turn, we hiked up there.

Unfortunately, Armed, Dangerous and Off My Medication 5.10b (who makes up those names?) was also occupied, so we kinda attempted to get onto the ultra-classic Underdog 5.10a, which looked empty. Only, we failed utterly, because after a 3rd grade scrambling, as advised in the guide book in the getting-to-the-line-of-bolts part, and which turned out to be a rather adventurous bushwhacking, we found ourselves several routes off to the right, on top of what we identified as “shrubby ledges”, with Underdog, nor any dog for that matter, nowhere to be seen. Quick rappel from a fortunately placed eyebolt got us back to the ground, this time below the real Underdog. Also occupied, but right next to it, some mysterious 5.10b (Polly Purebred?) with an intimidating ceiling leading to a V slot of the Underdog. Uff, uff, as the most famous Native American hero Winnetou would say. Sending that, I was prohibited from starting climbing anything else, because presumably it was time to pack. Pity on us, because the Main Cliff is by far the most impressive crag (Waimea looks silly compared to it) in Rumney.
More pictures from Rumney…

Climbing at Carderock


Carderock, a small crag of choice for climbing crowds from Washington, DC, has been sitting on my and Alex‘s trips-to-do list for a few months. Not anymore. Here are my few tips and impressions about the place.
Carderock quartz schists were a welcome change after all that jug-hauling in the Gunks and my local climbing gym. The rock friction is nothing to sing about, especially not on a few popular easy climbs on the Hades Heights and Jungle cliffs. Still, interesting thoughtful moves on polished slabs, committing laybacks on cracks, delicate stemming in corners, and a fair number of various chimneys adds to the great variety of climbing there.
Quality of the climbs varies, not everything is solid and I came upon a couple of suspicious flakes with hollow sound, even on the apparently well-traveled lines. Many routes feature large white crystals of quartz sticking out of the rock. Generally, there is a slippery feeling to them, but they are decent, solid holds. Chimneys are sometimes slightly dusty and a home to spider webs, but nothing awful.
Fixed protection is non-existent. People are expected to set their toprope anchors off the trees on the cliff. Fortunately, they are plentiful, I never had a problem to find a tree thick enough for making a bomber anchor. Occasionally they are as far as 25 feet away, so a second rope, static line or a really loooong webbing is recommended. We did not bring any of those, but managed to use one end of our single climbing rope for tying to trees. Because the majority of routes are short (up to 50-60 feet), usually there was enough of the same rope left for toproping and belaying from the ground.
Trad leading is definitely possible on cracks (Spider Walk, Beginner’s Crack, Trudie’s Horror, Easy Layback), and a risky business on slabs, unless you are a very brave solo climber. Be careful with your placements, schists are inherently weak rocks and flakes can break off nicely (prefer placing nuts to cams).
Online information about climbing at Carderock is scarce and incomplete21. We were using a hard-copy climbing guide “Carderock, Past & Present” by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (1990). The book is occasionally confusing and erroneous, and it annoyingly focuses a great deal on climbing history in the area instead of proper route descriptions. After seeing the high standard set by Dick Williams’ Gunks climbing guide for Trapps, this is a not-so-helpful book with much room left for improvements. Well, better than nothing I guess.

Getting there: From I-495, take exit #13 to the Clara Barton Parkway, on the Maryland side of the Potomac near Cabin John. Follow the Parkway North to the first exit, Carderock Recreation Area. At the top of the ramp turn left across the Parkway, right to go under the canal, stay right to the last parking lot.
It’s reasonably easy to get to Carderock by bus #32 from the Bethesda bus station in Washington, DC (about a 30 min ride). Standard fare: $1.25. Tell the driver to drop you off at the gates of the naval base. From there, walk across the bridge over the Parkway, go straight under the Canal road to the park.
Overall, Carderock is a nice little climbing area and I will like getting back there at the next occasion.
My pictures from Carderock.