Tuesday, July 1, 2008

temple time with rico

The time came for our day trip up Venusian Blind on Temple Crag, which Miguel (a.k.a. Rico Suave) originally scheduled back in December. Miguel proposed a 3:30a start, which I negotiated into 4:30 (still ungodly early). Supertopo estimated 13 hours on the low end, which I knew we could beat if we soloed at least the easy (less than 5.6). The smoke from the Clover Fire that had stifled the Sierra views from Bishop dissipated as we moved west and around First Lake the morning light lit up Temple Crag with a pinkish glow. At Third Lake we left the trail and moved southeast across the talus fields. I walked ahead of Miguel, knowing that he'd likely catch up on the snowfield given that I purposefully left my crampons or ice axe at home. The first half of the snowfield below Temple Crag was soft enough to kick half inch steps; however, I was unable to get any purchase on the later half and I hoped that I wouldn't have to use my sharp rock to self-arrest.

As we got approached the base of the route we
noticed five people ahead of us. That number increased to seven, seven on a Wednesday. There were no people on the other routes. I looked at Miguel and said "We need to solo". We climbed up the first two pitches of Class 3 and 4 and paused below the first Class 5 section where the other seven people were gathered around. Miguel put on his harness in preparation, stating that we'd need to at least simulclimb part of the route. I told him that we would see if that was necessary and we headed up a loose chimney variation to the left of the standard start, meeting up with the regular route at the top of the first pitch.

At the crowded first belay we recognized Romain from summitpost. Fortunately, Miguel didn't doddle as he did last year
on the Palisade Traverse, and we escaped the crowd. This is where the route finding became a bit more challenging. I had Supertopo, but it wasn't exactly obvious which of the several towers to take so we guessed. On the more technical sections I kept telling Miguel I'd go up and check it out and each time he followed without asking me to lower the rope. We continued up passing abandoned gear, chalk, and pitons, a good sign unless our predecessors were also off-route. We never did see the infamous "Death Diving Board" and the "scary four foot gap" looked more like a slightly exposed two foot gap. Before long we hit the summit plateau and made our way to the top.

After lunch on the summit we started down toward Contact Pass. The final hurdle of the day was downclimbing the grovely 5.4 chimney (a.k.a. Contact Crack). The
snowfield has softened up enough to plunge step and we hurried down to escape the fall line of the boulder laden moraine. We headed back across the talus toward Third Lake and hurried back to the trailhead. As always with this trail the descent took longer than expected. Total time: 10.5 hours (Supertopo estimate: 13-16 hours)

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