Posts Tagged ‘.12a’

Smith Rocks State Park is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing, astounding, awe-inspiring, brilliant, excellent, enjoyable, incredible, outstanding, stupendous, tremendous place to climb rocks. Having been restricted to indoor climbing for the past 6 months, it was prime time to get outside and cut my teeth on the mudpile-that-is-somehow-climbable that exists in the dearth of landscape that is central Oregon. Thanks to final exams finishing for me on Monday morning, my double-length spring break became a week-long trip to Terrebonne with quite a few adventures.

Smith Rocks in the Snow

I believe that the field of meteorology was created for the sole purpose of ruining any prospective climbing plans. 60% chance of rain/snow was scheduled for the day AFTER I was planning to finish my trip, but the predicted precipitation steadily creeped closer and closer. When I left Olympia on Tuesday morning, it was pouring down rain but my psych was still high. Pulling into the park around 11am, it was cold and chilly with a hint of snow in the air. The campsite was relatively empty, these central Oregonians are too spoiled with their consistently nice weather. In western Washington, we climb until thunder and lightning hits; there was nothing that could keep me from getting on the rock.

Nick and I haven’t climbed together for almost two years now, he was back in the Pacific Northwest for his spring break. We started out the day by heading into Cocaine Gully, where I had my ego handed to me in a paper bag, being spit off Vomit Launch – 5.11b with pumped forearms. I forgot how difficult rock climbing is. I didn’t send anything hard, the day was more exploratory in nature for me. Nick gave good burns on Churning in the Wake – 5.13a while I took a look at Heinous Cling – 5.12a and Cool Ranch Flavor Finish – 5.12a, not getting on either.

Single pitch sport is super fun, but definitely isn’t all that Smith has to offer. Zebra to Zion – 5.10a, 4 pitches follows an amazing and exposed dihedral up from Morning Glory Wall, with splitter cracks and well-protected flakes all the way. I like to pretend I can plug gear, so cruising up the second .10a pitch definitely inflated my ego a bit after the exercise in humility that was the day before.

Zebra to Zion
Nick and I, top of pitch 2

Having made plans to rappel off the route after reaching the summit, we were a bit surprised to find two bolts with no rap-rings at the top. Oh well, I thought, we’ll just rap through the hangers instead, something that is frowned upon but isn’t life-endangering by any means. Reaching the lower anchors (top of pitch 3), I was struck with a moment of panic when we tried to pull the rope. It wouldn’t budge. Not even a single centimeter. Fourth class choss greeted us around the corner as an alternative path back up to the summit, but I was wary to tackle the free-solo over the exposed gully with crumbling holds. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and forayed into the mix of mud and boulders. Reaching the summit for the second time, I clipped in a leaver-biner to the anchor, and rapped back down to meet Nick again at the lower anchors. Trying to pull the rope for the second time, it was STILL STUCK. This time, both of us scrambled up the choss together, and prepared for the long hike down Misery Ridge. Having planned to rappel, I had no hiking shoes and did not want to ruin my 5.10 Anasazis. If anyone saw a tired looking climber walking barefoot down Misery Ridge, that was me.

Still trying to pretend to be a trad climber, I spent the next morning on Wartley’s Revenge – 5.11a, a splitter crack renowned as once being “Smith’s most sought after test piece”. Pumped silly and scared out the bum-bum, I took my first medium-large leader fall on gear, which thankfully held. Black Diamond, your C4 cams now hold a special place in my heart.

Wartley’s Revenge – 5.11a

Later in the day, I made a second-go send of Middle Aged Vandals – 5.11c; I was happy to finally find some success with my first “hard” climb of the trip. It really should have been a flash, I called for a take just before pulling to the finish jug. Typical Andrew wuss-out attempt, those who belay in the future have permission to make me take the leader fall.

Dom was the first person to take me out on a real climbing trip, it’s been great to seem him get continued success. With a quick burn just to suss-out the beta, he pulled through for a second-go send of The Quickening – 5.12c, his strongest send at Smith to date. I was afraid I had short roped him on the belay, only to learn that his screaming had been because he was so pumped he couldn’t even hold on to jugs. When I first started climbing, I remember very distinctly Dom telling me that he enjoys routes more than I do, because he doesn’t get pumped. Let it be known that I untied his knot for him.

The Quickening – 5.12c

Dom pulling into the first crux

I was psyched to find some success myself this trip, pulling together a send of Cool Ranch Flavor Finish – 5.12a the day before I left. This was only the second .12a I have sent, it was really gratifying to know that I was able to maintain my fitness over a dearth of outdoor climbing during the winter. Giving it 3 days of effort, I sent on the 3rd go of the day (7th total), barely expecting to pull through the crimpy crux at the top. Apologies to whoever’s blood I may have curdled with my screams when falling off on earlier attempts.

Smith has a lot of really strong people, 5.14 climbers seem to be around every corner. Being a relatively new climber, I still get pretty star-struck when around those who pull two to three grades higher than I do. The cool thing about the locals here is that they’re all really down to earth, and treated me as a friend rather than as a gumby. Ryan Palo, the strong-boy who sent To Bolt or Not To Be – 5.14a just the month before, gave me beta on Cool Ranch Flavor, just as psyched for me to send as himself. Paige Claassen also came into town, although I didn’t build up the courage to ask for a picture, it was inspiring to watch her climb. I hope both of them send their respective projects soon.

To Bolt or Not To Be – 5.14a

I wish I didn’t have to leave Smith so soon. This little slice of heaven is my favorite climbing destination in the world, and I can’t wait to make it back. For now, I’ll be hitting the gym, pretending to get strong enough to cut my teeth on all the projects I left behind.

Bivouac Area



Posted: September 11, 2010 in Climbing
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What grade do I climb at now? 5.12a went down after 5 tries over three days, for a total of about 6 falls. Does this mean I should start trying harder and harder things? I greatly credit my friends for picking new projects for me, pushing me to ignore my limits, and making me constantly try to improve my climbing. It’s taken a whole season, but I’m finally starting to realize that I’m not a low 10 climber anymore. I can try harder things.

Thursday went (almost) just the way I had hoped it would. Jessica, Micah, and I made the hike up to World Wall 1 in the light mist, hoping and praying that the wall would be dry. And everything was, excluding some climbs to the far left. Micah quickly put up the draws on Aborigine, and I came on behind for a warm up. Forgetting the beta halfway up the climb, I traversed left when I should have climbed up and right, causing me to lose precious energy and gas-out and fall at the final clip. I had fallen, was flash pumped, and worried out of my mind that Rainy Day Women would become a red-point epic, that I would come so close to finishing so many times but never be able to actually do it. As these negative thoughts creeped into my head, I quickly shoved them aside and tried to think of anything but my project at all. I thought about the weather, my lunch, traffic up towards North Bend, anything that would prevent me from thinking negative thoughts about my attempt to come.

After belaying Micah on a quick adventure with a spider (I’ll let him tell the story), I was tying in and chalking up, ready to get on my project. The draws weren’t up on the climb yet, so I was carrying a full rack of 14 quickdraws. To continue keeping my mind off the climb, we kept a light conversation going all the way through the first and second crux, up to the big jugs below the final bulge. I shook out for probably a good five minutes, recovering probably about 80% before the final push.

And then the talking stopped. With perfectly rehearsed beta, I crimped my way through to the crux clip, hit the slopey gaston with my left, and made the big cross-through to hit the victory jug with just the tip of my fingers. AND IT STUCK. I was thrilled, but took another minute or two just to gather my mind together to make sure I didn’t blow it on the final moves to the chains. As I finally clipped those fixed draws, I let out a whoop and yelled with excitement. Man, I love climbing.

In the end, the project went down. What more can I say?


Posted: September 7, 2010 in Climbing
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How many times can I get on a project before I call it good? How many times can I fall before I finally give up? How much effort will I put into a climb to make progression?

This summer, I set a goal to climb .12a, 7a+, E5, VIII+, V4 highball, whatever you want to call it. I believe that the lofty grade of .12 is a breakthrough grade for any self-respecting rock climber, a point at which they can finally call themselves a real participant of the sport. But until recently, I have been intimidated to even attempt anything that hard, for fear of being shut down and making no progress.

The local climbing crew from Olympia has been nothing short of inspiring and motivating, and last Thursday Jimmy and Micah pushed me to give a try on Rainy Day Women, the .12a testpiece at Little Si. It’s a climb that’s kind of a coming of age for the crag, a gateway that opens up all the harder projects on the wall. Last Thursday, without ever giving it a top rope burn, I hopped on to lead the climb, falling low then working out the beta bolt to bolt. I was inspired, and psyched out of my mind. Suddenly, the .12a monster didn’t seem so great, and didn’t seem so difficult to achieve.

Monday rolled around. We hiked back up to the wall. Dom put up the draws for me. After a quick warm-up on Aborigine, I got on the project. I climbed through the lower bulge, took a big rest, chugged up towards the second rest at the good jugs, thrusted upwards, and pumped out just below the last crux! I took the hang, and finished it up in good style for the elusive one-fall. I was psyched out of my mind, having been able to one-fall my project after just one burn.

Half an hour later, I got back on. Made it through the crux, got to the next clip. Then blew it because the carabiner was facing the wrong direction, and fell off trying to clip. One-falled it again.

Third burn of the day. Made the clip. Hit the good sidepull. Gaston, cross for the jug, and MY HAND SLIPPED. I let out a yell that I’m sure people heard in the parking lot below. Dejected and disappointed, I pulled through for my third one-fall of the day.

I should be happy. I made progression on each attempt, and really cannot possibly be closer to achieving my goal. But I am with a heavy heart, for the feeling of failure cast a dark cloud over me on the entire hike down. I hate leaving business unfinished. But at the same time, having a project to return to has left me inspired. How can I not be inspired with so many people climbing so hard around me? Dom warmed up on my project, a stout climb that requires some guts to get on so early in the day. Jimmy got a fourth repeat of Chronic (.13b), arguably the most well known climb on the wall. Micah had a phenomenal day, linking up Technorigine (.12c), Psychosomatic (.12d), and Californicator (.12d) all in one day, coming painfully close to sending Californication (.13a). This is what it’s all about – trying hard and coming back.

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday. This project’s going DOWN.