Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SW Ridge of the London Spire

Sunday 4:30 am. Somehow Johnny and I rouse ourselves and stagger with our gear to the truck. After a longish drive we arrive in Willard, UT at 6am and scout for Holmes canyon. We set off in what we were hoping was the correct direction. Soon enough we got into the canyon proper and proceeded to rock, stream, and downed limb hop our way up to where the quartz meets the gneiss. It took a solid 2 1/2 hours and it was damn steep. Now we were ready to start climbing. To justify my lack of photos I should explain that I was test driving a camera my brother had for sale and the batteries crapped out an hour into the route. I had only taken 3-4 pics to that point so I'll get 'em here soon enough. The route we were on is called the Southwest Ridge of the London Spire in the Willard Spires formation of the Northern Wasatch. Lot's of capitals. The route is a grade III 5.7 10 pitch chossy, flaky pile of butt puckering goodness. It follows the most prominent ridge up the spire. It is a lot of fifth class scrambling, but the rope comes out for the insane-o exposure.
We parked our car at roughly 4500 feet elevation and topped out at 9000 feet at the top of the spire. We began leading in blocks with me taking the first three. Everything went smoothly and Johnny was soon leading the next three. The climbing itself was not too difficult as evidenced by the 5.7 rating. It was quite techie to place good gear in some places as TV sized blocks were movable and flakes all had to be checked. I ended up knocking on most of my holds that day to see how hollow they were. Sketchy! Johnny's second pitch took him directly below the Lunch Ledge. We were unsure what the exact route was and it seemed to go to one side of the ledge and then up. I was belaying and Johnny chose left to the North Face. I followed up to him to one of the most exciting belays I've done yet. I was sitting on a pointy flake with my knees pressed against the cliff face and the rope around my feet. As I belayed Johnny up the steepest pitch yet I could look over my shoulder 3000 feet to the bottom. That'll screw with your head game. Johnny dominated the pitch though and we regained the ridge and headed up to the summit. The last couple pitches were crazy with a wandering route, kitty litter holds and loose rock all over. Soon enough we were looking at the summit marker, a stick with dirty undies hanging from it. Neato. We packed the rope and scrambled the rest of the ridge, down climbed some scary fifth class talus and saw a huge mountain goat. After that it was a matter of hiking down that canyon with a little less spring in our step. We were both beat and it took a while but 12 1/2 hours after starting out we were back in the car making plans to never come back.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adventures on the Choss Heap

this weekend turned out fantastic. It's Tuesday night and I can barely move without wincing. What shall we imagine put me in such a state? Some motivated folks and folly. It's been raining frequently the last few weeks and such was the forecast for the Saturday previous. Knowing the rain probably wouldn't begin until late morning myself and my partners met up in the Gate Buttress parking lot at 5:45 am. This required waking myself up at 4:30 for the 50 minute drive. We quickly assessed our gear and scurried puffing up the hill to the Schoolroom Rappel area. We set our eyes on Bushwhack Crack, a solid 5.8 hand crack with a small tree growing directly out of the fissure midway. I had led this shakily a couple of years ago, however shoulder injuries had kept me down for a while and I was apprehensive. I tenderly stepped into the crack and began jamming. I rapidly started a rhythm and made my way to the top. Wow, it felt so good to clip the chains and know it all came together. I quickly rappelled down and partner 2 got on the rope. He was unfamiliar with crack climbing and after a few good attempts opted out. partner 3 tied in and was off. Despite his claims to the contrary he climbed quite gracefully and quickly reached the top and cleaned the gear for our leaving. Since it hadn't begun raining we looked to our left and saw a fine looking climb that was just right for partner 3 to lead. He dispatched the route thoroughly and was back on the ground in no time. As partner 2 tied in I started to take up the slack rope, as his belayer. It was obvious that the rope was stuck. After various shenanigans we ended up with partners 2&3 about halfway up the climb in the freshly started rain. Despite the opportunity for a mini epic they got everything sorted out efficiently and we retreated in the rain back to our cars. All in time to get a 9 am breakfast. To be continued in the next episode.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kicking plants and takin names

planted some belated vegetables in the family garden today. Chances of survival? not so much. Zach and i took the leftovers and stuck them in dirt all over our yard. We are calling it 'chaos gardening'. Got some climbing in Sunday in the Big Cottonwood Canyon. Went up Stuarts Ridge (5.6, 3 pitches). The best part was watching Dave after he took off his shoes cuz his feet hurt. He didn't know anything about the thorny rasberry bushes he would climb through. bummer. If you're gonna be dumb, you might as well be tough.