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.

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