Tag Archives: Trad Climbing

Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 2 – Part 2) – 11.4.17

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Traverse pitch from the horn, about to climb the face (have a change of pants ready!) Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P5: From the horn belay I down climbed 15’ to a ledge. Slowly and meticulously I moved climber’s right and headed out into a 40’ airy traverse and finally clipped an old school rusty hanger. From here I had 2 options, get into a rated R chimney on the right and ascend the 20’ up until the first piece of pro, or take the rated R face directly above me and ascend to that same place. I chose the face. I explored the small nubbins with my hands, I chalked up as I planned my line. I started up on the small foot holds and was instantly searching for the next small rock nub that I could use for a hand or a foot. I slowly moved out left before finding a decent line that went back right towards slab paradise. I climbed slowly and very carefully, a fall here would certainly be a huge whipper on a questionable old school anchor. Rock nub after rock nub I moved up and right until finally the angle relaxed and the slab climbing began. Used the dished face until I finally straddled the R rated chute that dropped into nowhere. I slung a large column and finally clipped in, feeling a little more relaxed as I did. I mantled over the chimney chute to nowhere onto a large ledge. I walked around a large boulder and climbed up until I found the base of P6 and set a bomber anchor for Kari. “Climb On!” I yelled down. Following the lead with essentially 2 pieces of protection in 80’ is not fun, especially when you could swing out and seriously get hurt. So the pressure of following was not as relaxed as one may think. I couldn’t see Kari at all as I belayed. All I could is reel the rope in as he climbed. I listened for any noise in the wind and finally it came as he mantled over onto the ledge: “Woop!” letting me know he made it past the chimney. Soon he joined me w a big hi-5 and an exhausted smile. We were both tired, but still had 1 more pitch left.

Time lapse, bottom to top, fun and rated R! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P6: I regathered the gear and grabbed the #4 Kari had been hauling up the whole time. I held onto a 0.75 Camelot (was so happy I had this later) and doubles from #1’s to #4’s. I once again started up, pulling a small roof before finding the off width pitch everyone boasted about. The corner facing wall to my left was blank and featureless and the bulge to my right was smooth and round. Nothing but the crack in front of me and smearing feat were there to aid my ascent. I worked at it, inch by inch, using the back of the crack with hand jams and used my gear as efficient as I could as I climbed. Once or twice I reclaimed a piece from below that I could use again higher up after placing. This pitch was the toughest and most painful! I fought for it, inch by inch, grunting, groaning through the pain. The flared wide crack finally started thinning up and I was so glad to have my 0.75 as it was perfect for the cracks exit. I placed my piece, took a rest, and finally reaching high and left for a really nice rail on the left wall. I knew I had it from there, even though the climbing wasn’t done. I kept fighting, up and on until Zoro finally seemed to give up a little. The pitch angle relaxed, my heart was thumping and the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. I kept fighting, and finally after 6 pitches of grueling technical climbing I topped out and slung a juniper pine at the top of the chossey exit. I set the belay and yelled down to Kari “Climb on!” Soon, after grunting and groaning, pulling hard for it, I saw Kari’s orange and red helmet come into view. I was overwhelmed with what we just did. I slapped his helmet, and the two of us, tired and ready to finish stood on the plateau just below the summit, knowing the technical climbing was done.

Dont mind the butt shot! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson
  • Looking up P6, the offwidth. Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

The Summit Plateau: We stood, beaten and bruised, looking towards the setting sun and the huge summit block that stood in front of us. We dropped our gear and brought just a pack as we walked in our climbing shoes towards the summit. The earth here was fresh and virtually untouched, we did surprisingly find a few footprints. As we neared the summit, the block just continued to grow and we started to wonder if we should have brought gear. We skirted south west of the block poking for weak spots until finally we found a route that went up. We scrambled the C4 route up a chimney crack up the sharp rock until finally we popped out into a large open plateau. The top was huge! We walked towards the south end and found a large cairn with a summit registry hidden below. The views were incredible, we could see the whole of the south rim and a lot of the Colorado River from here. We peered back to the approach we ascended, throughout the day and stood in pure amazement of the Grand Canyon’s beauty.

  • Summit block!
  • Skirting the summit block

We wrote our names in the book, so stoked to finally be standing on top after dreaming of this moment for so long. Kari claimed first Icelandic ascent, and it was nice to thinking that the only way to the top was real climbing. The sights, the air, the feeling, the thrill, made every step worth it. We turned knowing our time was limited as the sun threatened to leave us, and walked towards the north end to find the rappel route down to the base where we started.

Rap Route: The chains were at the top out just to the climber’s right of screaming sky crack, a 5.11 trad route to the climbers left of the NE Arete.

Rap1!

R1: The first rap was a nice 100’ long free hanging which ended in another set of nice shiny bolts. We stopped at each station, replacing the webbing for the rap rings so fresh stuff could be used by the next climbers.

Coming down Rap1, looking left to Screaming Sky Crack 5.11!

R2: A 60’ rap towards climbers left lead to a ledge with a nice tree and a couple more bolts, ready for fresh webbing on the rap ring awaited.

Setting up Rap 2! Kari works in the golden light

R3: A pretty straight forward 100’ rap down the face led to a large ledge. We worked to climbers left dropping another 10’ to another set of shiny bolts. R4: By this point we were pretty quick about replacing webbing, setting up and rapping down, I would keep my hand on the rope until I felt Kari’s tension release, then I’d start setting up. This time was no different I stood there waiting, hand on the rope, when all the sudden I felt a jerk of the rope and instantaneous slack on the rope. I though What the hell just happened, and I called down to Kari with no answer! There was only 1 way to find out and I set up the rap and had an ascender prussic ready in case I had to re-ascend the rope. I began rapping down, and finally about 60’ down the face Kari’s helmet came into view. “Kari!” I yelled. He answered back saying everything was fine and just come down slowly. Once I reached him I realized I was at the end of the 70m rope, but I was still dangling about 8’ above the ledge. I held onto the rock in front of my face, untied 1 knot out of the end of the rope, and repelled off the end of 1 side of the rope, and safely landed on the ledge. “Whewww!” I exclaimed, happy to be on the ground. Do not try this at home! I did see a set of bolts half way down the rap route that we could have used, but this turned out okay. R5: We found ourselves at the bolts at the top of P1 and relieved there was just a short 50’ rap left as the sun gave off its final rays of light for the day.

Goodnight fella!

We were finally back on the ground, realizing we were on rock for a good 8 hours, between the climb, the summit block scramble, and rappelling with replacing all the webbing as we went. Tired, beaten, but happy to have accomplished out goal, we headed back towards camp the way we came. We hiked through the night reversing every obstacle we ascended, rapping where it seemed logical until reaching camp. We were both beat as we packed up camp and headed back down the red wall, how do people do this in under 24 hours?!

Zoro, still staring us down in the moonlight!
Kari, heading down the slot! Towards the cliff bands!

We descended Sumner Wash and finally found feet back on Clear Creek trail. With our slightly lighter packs we headed back towards Phantom Ranch totally beat. We reached the ranch overlook at about 1am and both looked at each other knowing there was so much more trail before we exited via Bright Angel . . . “let’s have a quick nap”, I said. We pulled out a tarp and our sleeping bags and laid in a pullout of the trail and crashed until 5am. A ringtail visited us in the night attempting to “borrow” a few snacks, probing our bags for weakness. I heard some stirring, woke up and scared the little fella off. By the next morning our packs were covered with his prints.

Ringtail prints =)

We woke, and packed our bags once again and were soon descending into Phantom Ranch. We took a quick pause to re-up on our almost depleted water supply. We snacked up, watered up, and chatted with other trekkers at the ranch with big smiles on our faces. It was only about 9 more miles out via Bright Angel trail. We walked those miles feeling pretty light despite our load. We had somehow accomplished the goal we set out to achieve. The entire day before seemed like a dream as we ascended to the south rim. We glanced back when we could, thinking about the day before and how rare of a chance we had to stand among the few who have summited. What a great feeling, another awesome trek in the Grandest of Canyons!

  • Almost to Phantom!
  • Heading back towards Phantom Ranch

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, apple
  • Time: (Day 2) 7 hours
  • Distance: (Day 2) 10 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 2) 4,800 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 2 – Part 1) – 11.4.17

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Morning begins to break over the canyon

The wind screamed by our tent most of the night, waking us every 15 minutes it seemed. Finally, after midnight, I remember it dying down and getting some solid sleep. The alarm blasted, Bzzzz Bzzz Bzz, man was it time to get up already?! We woke, staying still for a moment checking the time. Sure enough, it was time to start our haul to the base of Zoroaster and hopefully attempt our bid on the summit.

Good morning!

We ate breakfast, packed up camp, and before we knew it, Kari and I were taking our first steps towards the monstrous beast that loomed over our camp just as day began to break. Feet in red dirt we ascended Zoroaster’s arm, chimneying up a small obstacle and soon the next cliff bands stared us in the face. We picked our way through, shimmying up some low class 5 (C5) chimneys, handing packs as we ascended. We moved as quickly and safely as we could. A slip or mistake here would not only cost an injury, but also the goal, and not to mention the excruciatingly long rescue effort. Cliff band after cliff band we somehow found our way through. We pushed further up the arm, and finally after a long slot ascent and a large boulder shuffle, we skirted to the north and headed towards the saddle of Zoroaster and Brahma temples.

  • The overscast morning seemed to start slowly
  • Cliff Band obstacles

The footpath grew very narrow, vertical rockface to the right, and sloped dirt leading to a 400 foot drop to the left . . . better keep our heads on in this section! We carefully picked our way through following the footpath, cairn after cairn guided our way. Finally we found the weak spot in the headwall and started to ascend. The first obstacle was a chill class 3 scramble up to a ledge where we found a fixed rope for the next obstacle. We bat-manned up and sere soon past the next C4/C5 section. We followed the cairns as we went, across another rope less climb, up a slab, and finally to the spiciest of the obstacles. It was a good 20’ C5 climb with a fixed rope to guide us up! “How nice of someone!” I thought as we exited the obstacle.

  • Kari squeezes on the small footpath between the rock face and the dropoff

We kept pushing our way up the steep faint trail, following cairns until finally we were face to face with the sheer walls of Zoroaster. None of the faces we could see looked like our climb, so we continued to skirt east across the north face of Zoro. Walking on and on, when all of the sudden we turned right at the arête and stared at the 5.9+ NE Arete route. It was time to go to work! We racked up and Kari put me on belay as I stepped towards the start of the climb.

Skirting east along the north face of Zoroaster towards the Arete

Pitch 1 (P1):  My hands were sweaty as I made my first step towards the start. I plunged them into my chalk bag shaking off the jitters and stared at a large triangle roof a good 25’ up a face. I started up the sandy sandstone face reaching the clearly clean roof. I threw a #3 Camelot on the crack and inspected the face wondering how I would pull the first obstacle. I reached high, and using a nice foothold on the left face I pulled myself over the roof and was soon clipping chains just 50’ off the ground.

Taking on P1, trying to shake out the jitters! Thanks for the pic: Kari Hreinsson

P2: The crack went up and climbers right from here and I followed. There were some fun moves, I stepped up, finding the next hold, repositioning and finding good gear placement. The long pitch meandered up right through the crack around some small trees. Move after move I ascended, sometimes being pushing onto some short slab climbs until finally I reached a tree covered in slings signifying the end of P2. Whew, made it! I threw Kari on belay and he soon followed. Trying to move quickly we spared no time exchanging gear and I set off again!

  • Top of P2 - Tree belay (don't mind the guy thigh). Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P3: The infamous “Crux Pitch”. I move up and climbers right towards a fresh rock scar where a pinnacle used to hold on, creating a chimney for the next pitch (it fell in 2004). There were now 2 options for this pitch: ascend a section of runout slab face climbing with no protection, or a vertical sandstone slopper hold climb. I chose the sandstone, heading almost vertical and slightly climbers left from the tree below. I placed a Camelot #3 deep in a hole/crack with soft sandstone edges and prayed it would hold. I moved up and left, finding a good left foot, dropped knee, intermediate sloper with my left hand, pinching a sandy sandstone shelf with my right hand . . . needless to say it was awkward . . . all of the sudden I was out of position. “Falling!” I yelled down to Kari as I blew off the face! Gravity took over and I fell for a good 20’ whipper before my #3 dug in and held me. Whew!!!! I thought to myself and let out a loud happy yelp “Wooooooo!”  I grabbed my composure . . . this climb could end here. I stood back up and headed back for the same move. “Falling!!!” Boop, once again I was thrown from the face, the # 3 held, my hero!!!! I dusted myself off and looked upwards woundering if this was the end for us. I got back into the same position a 3rd time, only this attempt I threw my right hand up, blind, above the huge sloped rock in my face. To my surprise a bomber hourglass shaped hold!! I grabbed in and rejoiced as I made my next move to climbers left and safety of the next anchor. Sweat dripped from my body and I put Kari on belay.

Looking down the P3 crux (you can see the hour glass bomber hold here at the right hand). I shamelessly “borrowed” this picture from B Kiessel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcGlIpfjoaI)

P4: I stood on a huge ledge and soon Kari joined me after enjoying the same interesting crux as I. We had no time to waste, so I geared up and headed to a crack that was just above the fresh rockscar that moved climber’s right. I continued up this chimney running it out a bit, placing gear only where I had a nice stance. Even with all the runout, I started running low on gear! I found a small tree and looked up past the next chimney and there was still about 30’ above to the infamous horn belay. I decided to just build an anchor here and belay Kari up, breaking this pitch into 2. After some “fun” chimney Kari appeared at the belay, looking a bit tired and ready to be on the horn. I collected the gear he cleaned and headed up the final section of chimney towards the horn. I popped out of the chimney only an arête that ended into a loose slab section. The next place I could throw gear in was a good 20’ away, so I carefully climbed. Smearing my feet and slowly controlling my weight. I worked my way up until I found myself grabbing a bomber hold!! I quickly pulled myself up onto the infamous horn belay with a nice set of anchors. I set the belay, and Kari began to climb, cleaning gear as he went. As he popped out onto the loose slab section, he had the same impression as me: “What is this crap?!” Kari exclaimed!

  • Which way do we go?? Oh yea, up! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson
Looking up Second half of P4 (after the tree break), interesting chimney style climbing! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

Kari joined me, as I sat straddling the horn, chilly, fully zipped up in my hoody. We had just 2 pitches left before the technical climbing was over. Although nervous, I was excited to take them on. The traverse was up next and after that the off width pitch. The traverse boasted almost no choices for protection and the offwidth pitch was some hard technical climbing. Kari but me on belay again . . . “Climb on!” he said. It wasn’t over yet!

Sitting on the Horn Belay top of P4, you can see the down climb and the sheer exposure! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, orange, chicken and mashed potato MountainHouse
  • Time: (Day 2) 20 hours
  • Distance: (Day 2) 7 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 2) 1,700 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 1) – 11.3.17

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Zoroaster Temple & Brahma Temple

I stood there, palms sweaty, weighed down by the gear on my climbing harness, looking up at the start of a climb that took us 15 miles to approach, countless hours of training, and almost 2 years of dreaming to bring me face to face with the start of the route. My hoody was zipped up, and I could feel the chilled wind on my legs whipping by on the North face of Zoroaster Temple, deep in the belly of the Grand Canyon. I had plunged my hand into my chalk bag and took my first step towards a climb of a lifetime, and it all became real when Kari called out “Climb On!”

North East Arete: 6 pitches – 5.9+ Trad (click to enlarge)

I started this climbing thing after setting my eyes on the Grand Canyon summit Zoroaster Temple. Its  a magnificent formation that stands tall, guarding the Colorado River, just northeast of Phantom Ranch. All I knew at the time was that it was a technical climb. As my climbing experience increased, I found out that summiting came at the price of 6 pitches of 5.9+ trad climb; that was nothing to shake a stick at. In the Grand Canyon it’s the king of the back country rock climbs, in that to get to the top the easiest route up (NE Arete) boasts this stiff ante. After talking about this thing at nauseam to my friends for almost 2 years, finally my climbing partner Kari was available, my training seemed right, and the weather window opened for a summit attempt. This is my account of our summit attempt:

Day 1:

Kari and I pulled ourselves from the van, groggy and disoriented from the long drive the night before, the short sleep, and the frantic packing, before the bus came hissing to a stop just in front of the Bright Angel Lodge. We scrambled on board, and we were off! After the short bus ride to the trailhead we were finally feet on trail looking down South Kaibab trail and across the canyon to the base of the beast.

Ohh Ahh Point!
The Grandest of Canyons!

Even from Ohh Ahh point Zoroaster stood proud and bold just tempting anyone to attempt a summit bid. We kept on trekking down towards the bottom of the canyon chatting with people and taking in the views as we went. Before we knew it, 8 miles later and 4500 ft of elevation drop, we found ourselves at the doorstop of Phantom Ranch. We threw our heavy packs onto the picnic tables and headed inside to grab some postcards to send home. After a quick rest we loaded up on the 5 liters of water that would last us through the night and the entire next day.

  • Kari, leading the charge, O'Nielle Butte in view, Zoro looming
Just above the Colorado on South Kaibab, gorgeous views

Our packs were heavier than ever, weighing in at a bolstering 53lbs each. The rope, trad rack, camping gear, food, clothes, and finally water was a tough but necessary in order to pull off our goal. We headed up the trail wincing at the weight as it cut into our shoulders. About ½ mile north of Phantom Ranch the Clear Creek trail took off right, east towards Sumner Wash where the “real adventure” began!

53 lbs? Think I need a diet!

We pushed up and on as the two grueling miles gained 1500 feet towards the wash, Kari seemed un-phased by the weight. For some reason that day, it weighed heavy on me. I am not sure if I had met a weight limit that stunted my push, or if I hadn’t trained my legs enough, but I was definitely feeling it as we pressed on. Finally we reached Sumner Wash and diverged from Clear Creek trail. We headed north for the Redwall Notch which gave us access to the Lower Supai Layer and Zoroaster’s arm.

The inner gorge from Clear Creek trail
  • Popping out to see the Colorado after some nice gain on Clear Creek trail
Ascending towards the red wall notch

We grunted on finally reaching the base of the notch and threw packs down for a quick break. We each dropped a liter of water and stashed a little food in a tree to save weight. Soon we were on our feet again, racing against the sun, and heading out climbers right to a nice exposed class 4 climb that would circumvent a 5.7 technical climb (aint nobody got time for that!). We ascended carefully on the sharp rock, looking for the path of least resistance. Soon standing high over a sketchy down climb we looked at our options. There wasn’t much time for debate, so we de-packed and I down climbed as Kari got the packs ready to be handed down by rope.

  • Grinding on! (photo credit Kari Hreinsson)

Soon after some questionable exposure we were both safe past the obstacle. We looked up the notch to see our next class 4 obstacle to navigate past. Sweaty palms, and labored backs, we carefully ascended a crack, going behind a short stubby bush, and finally taking an airy step across a death defying drop to safety. Whew! We both made it and were definite ready for safe ground. We continued up the class 3 notch towards the top out which was surprisingly tame.

Camp baby!
The sun set as we finished setting up and cooking food, an early bedtime was most definitely warranted!

Finally we popped out and eyeballed a juniper tree with a large flat spot for a nice camp spot. We had made it safely to camp!!! I dropped my pack that had been cutting into my shoulders, with a gasp of relief! We began to set up the tent and looked south to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the Grand Canyon. Zoroaster stared down at us, and we stared back knowing the next day would hold some of the hardest trad climbing (well my limit at least) with no true promise of a summit in sight. Our work was cut out for us and we tucked into bed, trying to get as much rest as possible.

Goodnight old friend

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters (5 liters packed in addition)
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, orange, chicken and mashed potato MountainHouse
  • Time: (Day 1) 10 hours
  • Distance: (Day 1) 12 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 1) 3,000 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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O’Neill Butte – Trad Climb – Grand Canyon – AZ (10.7.17)

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Looking into the belly of the beast!

I smiles as we (Kari, Mahdi, Ethan, Tyler, and I) took the first steps down South Kaibab trail, headed into the Grand Canyon. I’m always get a little giddy going here, no matter how many times I drop in, I always feel like a kid on Christmas morning! Our target for the day was to reach O’Neill Butte, just beyond Cedar Point 2.5 miles down South Kaibab trail and 1600 feet below the rim. Everyone was all smiles, and excited as ever for the day ahead!

View of O’Niell from Ohh Ahh Point!
O’niell Butte, finally coming into view!

Packs heavy with climbing gear and provisions for the day, we trekked in taking in the sights of the vast canyon. We paused briefly at Ohh Ahh point for some pics and pointed out the buttes and temples across the canyon. What a nice day, perfect weather, great views, great company! Finally the butte came into sight. I never thought about it much before, until I started researching and found there was a 5.8 trad route on the east side that could put us ontop! It looked a bit more beastly than I remembered as we neared the base of the large formation.

  • There it is!

The off trailed a bit and soon found ourselves at the base of the story book crack climb and began to gear up. We brought two 60 meter ropes and a double rack, just to account for the unknown above. There wasn’t much information on the ascent in research we did prepping for the ascent. I racked up and started to tape my hands (taping your hands helps cut down on abrasions while crack climbing), and Kari began to flake (lay out) the rope and set up to belay me. I looked up at the first 10 foot climb to a ledge which would mark the real start of the climb, it was time to get moving!

Welp, looks like we found the route!

I reached up high and placed a small cam in a nice crack to get the mojo going, and I pulled a large horn to take the first ledge. As soon as I pulled up on the horn and could get eyes on the back of it, I noticed a large crack at the base of the horn. I backed off immediately! Standing back on the ground I banged on the sides of the rock again, making sure it was sold (well kind of). I once again pulled the horn and was soon standing at the base of the real climb, looking up at a 120’ crack system leading to the summit plateau just below the summit block. It was time to go to work and I jammed my fingers into the crack.

Not sure that skirt is high school legal Mr! (Photo Credit: Tyler Eglen)

Move after move, I worked my way up the crack system. I was stitching up the line pretty good, and I could feel the weight of the double rack on my belt pulling me down. It seemed that the climb consisted of a big move across small face holds/feet with the crack to assist before you reached another good ledge and a rest. I placed a nut, and grabbing the carabiner open to release the single nut but somehow I dropped 3 other nuts!!!! They went plummeting down to the starting ledge below. I scoffed at the silly mistake, and had to choice but to keep on moving.

Getting after it, leading on! Just about to reach the bulge the crux of the route! (Photo Credit: Tyler Eglen)

Finally after 60’ of good crack/face climbing (without knowing it) I found the crux of the climb, a bulge offwidth section that wanted a #4 Camelot. I looked gown and all I had was small stuff up #0.1 to a #3 on me (as research failed me). I reached far far back into the crack and placed my #3 (as it was the only place it would hold), and clipped it in. The move (“The whale move” as it jokingly became known) was to stick a right fist far far back into the crack just where the offwidth became a hand jam, get a high left foot on a small chip at shoulder height on climbers left, and flop like a freaking whale to get up and over the bulge! I let out a loud laboring yell as I grabbed my left foot, helping it high (almost shoulder height) onto the small chip and pulling with my right hand to flop myself beyond the obstacle. It was like the rocks sole job was to throw me off, and it was everything I had to hold onto it . . . this was “fun” on lead!

Running out of gear, just past the crux, about to set up an anchor and break the climb into 2 pitches. (Photo Credit: Tyler Eglen)

Finally I was up and through, and after a few other awkward moves I reached the base of a 15 foot crack with beautiful hand jams. I looked down and only had one more #3, there was no way I could protect the next section. The only choice I had was to build an anchor and break the long 120 pitch up into two. I was soon ready and yelled down to Kari “on belay, climb on!” He started climbing up, I couldn’t see where he was until finally I heard him grunting through the “whale move”. I chuckled to myself knowing he was having “fun”. He soon reached the anchors, gasping for air and clipping in. “Fun Right?!” I asked with a big smile!

View from the top of pitch 1 (P1). Kari and I getting ready to swap over, take on P2!

There was no time to loose and we swapped over and I began leading the next section. There was a 15 foot nice hand crack to an awkward transition that spit you onto a ledge that circled climbers left (south) to the actual east face. There was still a good 30’ to climb. I kept after it, climbing on placing piece after piece and after a double gaston move at the end, I topped out and let out a loud “Woop!!!!” I set up an anchor on a large sandstone boulder towards the top and let Kari know I was safe. We then began a centipede climbing/belay style (one person belay from the top of pitch 1 (P1), then when they get there, the top belayer, belay the next climber to the top of P2) to get each climber up to the summit plateau. Tyler popped over the edge all smiles, and soon Ethan did too. Mahdi chose to take it easy and chill at the base for a nice afternoon nap.

  • The end of the tech climbing, looking towards the summit block!
  • Kari, excited to be on the topout!

Once the four of us were up, we headed to the north side of the plateau to reach the summit for the easy Class 3 scramble! Not too long after we were all simultaneously touching the highest rock on O’Neill Butte! With our summit complete we headed back down with hast and found a large tree to rap off of. Tying the two 60m ropes together we rappelled one at a time, quickly down almost the full length once again reaching the base of the formation. Mahdi was waiting with smiles and that fresh nap look! We threw on our packs and headed back up the South Kaibab trail for a nice sunset hike to the rim. What a gorgeous day, I couldn’t believe it, but we just finished all of our first technical summit ascent within the Grandest of Canyons!

  • Rap battle!
  • Kari rapping down the 120' face

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 Nature Valley Granola bars, bag of salt and vinegar, gummy worms
  • Time: 6 hours (we had 4 climbers)
  • Distance: 5 mile RT
  • Accumulated Gain: 120 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.8 Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 2

GEAR:

  • Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4 [in hein sight I would have ditched smaller stuff (0.4 and below) as most of the cams were 0.75 – 4]
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 14 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • (x2) 60 meter 9.8mm Rope
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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SuperSlide & Trail By Fire – Trad Climb – Yosemite – CA (6.22.17)

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Beautiful Views of Yosemite mid route on SuperSlide

Justin and I pulled into the last open parking spot in the Ahwahnee Hotel parking lot ready to start the day in search for a climb called SuperSlide on the Royal Arches wall in Yosemite National Park. A true search it was! Not totally sure where the beginning of the climb started, we stared at the Royal Arch Cascade and began hiking east along the base of the rockface. We found lines of bolts and climbs that looked similar, but it wasn’t until about ½ mile of route inspection and almost 30 mins later that realized we went the wrong way at the cascades, and had to turn around.

Let the search begin!

Arriving back at the cascades, nice and warm from the search hike, we headed west soon taking a climbers trail to the base of the wall and coming face to face with “Trail By Fire” a 5.8 Offwidth crack. The low angle line looked good, but offwidth being what it is, we were sure in for a struggle! Justin racked up and started off the ground making the first few moves rather quickly. The crack was wide, fist stacks, hand fist stacks, and chickenwings were welcome in this flared beast. Justin kept pushing on up the line making some good grunts along the way.

View from the base of “Trial By Fire” (5.8) Offwidth

Offwidth (if you are unfamiliar) is that special kind of climbing where the crack is too big for fingers or single hand jams and usually takes awkward body manipulation movements to ascend the crack, resulting in blood, sweat, grunts, and typically a full body pump afterward. Justin bumped his #5 cam higher as he climbed and kept moving. After the middle section he through the upper relatively quickly, popped on top of a large chalkstone clipped chains, set up an anchor and soon was ready for me to climb on.

  • Starting out
Me, swimming in a sea of rock that is Trail By Fire, trying not to get swallowed whole!

At first glance the crack look pretty simple and straightforward. I started in, hand jams just at the limit of my hands were found but I could still manage. About 10 feet or so off the ground the crack began to swallow me whole. The hand jams turned to chicken wings and the features on the face turned from edges to smears. The middle section proved most challenging for me. I started to sweat and give off a lot of heat with the amount of energy I was putting off just to inch my way up the flared crack. Both feet in, I inched on. Even with the cool air, the rock just radiated the heat I was producing right back onto me. I left like I was in a sauna! After a lot of grunts, groans, and a few rally yells I reached the chains covered in sweat.

  • Linkup Pitch from top pf Trial By Fire to base of P2 of SuperSlide (the chossfest)

Justin jokingly asked if I wanted the next lead, I was so worked I had to rest! Justin led on the next “pitch” connecting Trail by Fire with the start of P2 of SuperSlide (5.9). Justin climbed on into the unknown as the two climbs were not traditionally linked. The next connector pitch was a chossfest. The rock quality was not great and it seemed like everything was covered in moss, plants, or crumbing rock. After some questionable climbing I met Justin at a smile and a hi-5 for the effort leading such a crap pitch! We swapped over leads, I headed up P2. The start was a nice high foot and being weighed down by a doublerack it seemed cumbersome at first. Once I placed my first cam and shook out it got a lot better. The face climbing was chill and soon I was into a beautiful crack and it was time to work! I lead on placing piece after piece, but was soon forced out of the crack just under a small roof. I placed a protection piece, and soon pulled the nice roof onto a ledge that walked left to a tree at the base of P3.

I set up my anchor and belayed Justin up as the rope drag would have become too much to climb further. We swapped leads once again and Justin headed up the clean line with some nice mixed face/crack to link both P3 and P4. Oh the climbing was nice! If there was a questionable hold, there would be a bomber one just next to it or a great handjam to make up for it. I followed on and cleaned the gear as I went. P3 and P4 were really fun, handjam after handjam to bomber facehold and back I ascended the 2 pitches. There was a nice traverse about half way up P3, that seemed sketch at first, then you grabbed a bomb hold and realized the worry was for nothing. The pitches were really fun!

  • Starting up P3

At the base of P5 we meet up again and looked up at the line. Research stated that this supposed to be the crux of the climb. The nice Yosemite 5.9 crack ran out and you were faced with some thin face holds to make the final move to the chains. We debated for a bit, and in the end I decided to let Justin take the lead. Looking back I really wish I would have led out, but such is life, the climb was beautiful! Justin led on and was soon at the anchors, putting me on belay. I soon followed switching between a fun 2 crack system, collecting gear as I went. The second crack finally petered out and the hand jams turned to a thinner finger crack. The climbing was awesome! Full toe engagement and nice solid finger placement all the way to the knuckle were found all the way up the crack to a face, forcing the route left. I swapped to a right foot in the crack and with a solid right hand, moved for a large sloper and a thin left foothold. I stood on the foot, manteling on the sloper and once again was standing side by side with Justin. What an awesome climb!

  • Start of P5
180 View from the top of Superslide

We rapped pitch after pitch as quickly as we could as we watched a storm start moving in from the West. We wrapped P4 and went to pull the rope. Of course, as whenever you are in a hurry, it got stuck on a small flake. James scoffed at the rope and flipped it vigorously to get the fella out. We are about to gear up and re-ascend, when I gave it one last fleeting try. Boop!!!! The rope come free and falling towards us. We hi-5ed and wooped in excitement! With the rap crux behind us we quickly descended to the ground and got back to the car. What an awesome day, one of the best climbs I’ve done to date!

Justin, rapping down P2 of SuperSlide

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 1.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 Nature Valley Granola bars
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 1 mile RT (by accidental rout finding)
  • Accumulated Gain: 500 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9 Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 5

GEAR:

  • Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 14 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Munginella – Trad Climb – Yosemite – CA (6.20.17)

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Yosemite Falls, the first sight of the day!

 

I met my buddy Chris in the parking lot just near Yosemite Falls, waiting with a big smile! There I met Jeff, a new friend, as we gathered our gear. We initially planned to climb a fun multi-pitch traditional (trad) route called Sunnyside Bench near Yosemite Falls. We racked up in the parking lot, grabbed our ropes and packs and headed for the base of the climb. As we approached the falls we noticed the water was raging! This was a record year for snow and thus the flow was on epic proportions. The huge waterfall thundered down before us and its spray covered a huge area around the base. We walked across the bridge, getting wet as we did, towards the base of the climb.

Crossing the bridge, the falls were raging!

We reached the start and noticed the entire first pitch was drenched in water. Let down, but not beat, we went for plan B just on the other side of the falls, called Munginella. It was a fun trad route (5.6), and a good introduction to Yosemite multi-pitch climbs – and a chance to get my feet wet on Yosemite granite rock. We took off up the climber trail and soon found ourselves at the base of the first pitch zero (P0 – scramble pitch) of the climb. We tossed anything we didn’t plan on carrying with us in the nearby trees, threw our helmets and climbing shoes on and headed up the chill class 3 scramble to the base of P1, signified by a nice large tree.

  • Start of climbers trail

The sun was already beating the climb as we sorted the rope in the shade of the base of P1. Chris was first up to lead, I would belay him from below and once Chris reached the top of P1 he would belay both Jeff and myself as we simul-followed, leaving me to clean all the trad gear from the route and take the next two leads. We double checked each other’s knots and gear before Chris took off on the first pitch!

  • Chris starting Up P1

Methodically and quickly moving up and over the rock, Chris climbed on. He would pause every few feet to place a solid piece of protection (pro), clip in an alpine draw and then his rope, before moving on and up the route. Making it look like cake as he took down the first pitch, me and Jeff chatted on about what we did and what brought us to the valley. To ensure we wouldn’t run out of gear, we were carrying a double-rack. It was a bit heavier but we just rainbowed up the route, practicing good placement on the fun climb. It wasn’t long before Chris was at the top of P1, anchor set up, hanging from his belay, with both ropes through his ATC guide, calling down for Jeff and myself to start climbing.

Here we go! The first pitch was fun, the rock was warm form the sun but it was cool to the touch in the shade. It seemed very porous, ready to suck up any drop of sweat from your hands, so we chalked well as we climbed. I paused at each piece of pro, retrieving it from the rock and clipping it to my harness. It just kept getting heavier as I climbed. I grabbed the tree and climbed up to the right of Chris, clipped into the anchor and took the sights in. As soon as I got there we began the changeover and Chris started loading me down with the doublerack. I tightened my harness tighter as the weight started pulling down on me.

Looking up at P2
Chris ascending P2

It was time to roll, I lead out trailing a second rope behind me to belay Jeff once I reached the top of P2. The handholds were great and movement over the rock was really fun! I reached the first crux and placed a solid piece below a first baby V notch roof and moved under it. A crack ran through the small roof, just perfect for a handjam. I reached up with my chalk-covered right hand and slid it into the crack. Man it was bomber! I wedged it in further, flexed my hand, pulled my feet up and pulled up and over the roof. I placed my next piece around a nice bomber tree and continued up the face, moving left before the next crux – a larger slippery roof.

  • Chris on the crux roof on P2

I placed pro, moved my hands up, and finally found a nice chip out right to place my foot. I pulled my weight out right and stood on the foot to find some  nice jugs. Past the roof was a nice wide ledge just below an old beat up piton that had been hammered in years ago. I threw in a cam, nut and slung the piton to create an anchor. Soon I had Jeff and Chris set up on top belay and they began to climb up the face. We were soon all smiles at the top of P2. I snapped pictures of Chris just below the roof making it look bit spicier than it was just for fun. I was thirsty form belaying in the sun drenched anchor, so as soon as Jeff reached the P2 topout I chugged water from my bag he was carrying for me. Wasting no time, I set lead out on P3.

Looking down from the belay station at the top of P3

P3 was an interesting, short climb. I moved up the face and left into a protectable corner and placed a large #4 half way up the corner. This area got a bit funky and the body movement seemed a little awkward. Like anything, working one bit at a time, soon had me pulling the top pf P3 and setting up a belay. Jeff and Chris warned me that there was a bunch of loose stuff at the top of the climb and to be especially careful. The head-sized boulders teetering on the top of the pitch were a menacing bunch. I belayed from a solid tree and soon both Jeff and Chris were above the final corner, all smiles about the warm climb.

  • Nasty loose rocks at the top of P3

Man, what a good initiation to Yosemite! We soon cleaned up all our gear and took a nice walkoff/rap to get back to the start of P0 and retrieve all our gear that we left behind. I was so happy to be there, in the climbing Mecca of the US, where it all started. So excited for the climb we just finished and all the climbs to come this week, this was just the beginning! Thanks Chris and Jeff for my first taste of trad-multipitch in the valley!

Final rap at the end of the walkoff

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 2 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 Nature Valley Granola bars, 1 bag of gummy worms, 1 bag of Salt and Vinegar Chips
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 2 miles RT
  • Accumulated Gain: 300 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.6 Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 3

GEAR:

  • Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 2 x 60 meter 9.8mm Rope (Rainbow + Red)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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