Saturday, June 13, 2009

more like it

After anxiously waiting for a break in the t-storms, last Sunday we saw our chance to head back to Tahquitz. We had our sights on The Long Climb (with the Wong variation). Our prior trip to Tahquitz involved a major traffic jam on Whodunit, so I was hoping for an additional parting of the crowds to return to our normal pace. Our original plan was to go on Monday, but after checking the weather forecast Sunday seemed like a better choice. Consequently, we didn't leave L.A. until 10:30 am.

I made a last minute decision to ditch my #4 Camalot in the car despite the 'gear to 3.5"' recommendation. It had been an intensive month of work for both of us and I was feeling lazy about carrying extra gear. We started up the route around 1:30 pm seeing only one party several pitches up. As usual there were quite a few people on Whodunit, but nothing like Memorial Day

Right off the ground I realized that there would be no easing into the grade on this route. It was solid 5.8. My brain was having a hard time adjusting focus from search engine optimization to gear placement and my erratic sleep schedule wasn't helping. I was feeling far from efficient, but I wasn't ready to give up quite yet and pressed onward. At the top of the pitch I selected the left-hand belay to get longer range view of the path ahead. Mummy Crack loomed above me and I hoped that I wouldn't regret leaving my #4 cam in the car.

I prepped Jascha on how to haul his pack (as recommended in the summitpost description) and headed up. I was pleased to discover a nice slot which started out j
ust inside of the crack. This allowed me to climb it more like a lieback instead of doing grovelly chimney/offwidth moves. The only caveat was that the slot angled further into the crack the higher up I went until I could barely reach it. I set my belay slightly short and to the left of the usual spot near the left-facing corner to take full advantage of the sun. With the wind and passing clouds it was starting to get chilly. My belay spot gave me a great vantage point to watch the various parties on Whodunit. The downside was that the gear placements were a bit shallow and sparse. Jascha started up and was having difficulties with his pack getting stuck in the crack below (and out of his reach), so he decided to fully weight the rope to haul up the pack and wear it. It took all of my strength (and a few leg wraps) to hold his 230 lbs while he fidgeted with his pack for what seemed like 10 minutes. OK, so in retrospect my sparse belay was probably not exactly the best plan. I was happy to feel him finally unweight the rope and continue on.

We had several options for the next pitch and I chose the 'crack to slab' option from the route description because it seemed like it required more finesse than burl. The moves turned out to be somewhat tenuous, and I briefly entertained (but abandoned) the idea of traversing back left into the crack. After a few moves I was back on easier ground and soon found the dead mahogany tree that marked the belay.

On pitch 4 I ignored the route description and headed straight up the (5.7+?) crack, which seemed better for rope management. I had a bit of difficultly following the route description afterward, only finding one pine tree above instead of the two described. I decided
to keep going to the next ledge and found the broken piton in the corner as noted in the route. From below I had trouble believing that this was 5.8, but I got a solid nut placement next to the piton to protect the awkward moves.

I finished the climb by going up and slightly right, topping out near the top of Maiden Buttress. I could see where one of the large blocks up top had recently slid off the top (scary). Jascha had a hard time hearing me yell 'on belay', but eventually got the message and headed up. He topped out ~5:15 pm, much better than the >7 hours it took us to get through the Whodunit clusterf**k. It was just the break we needed to get through the next project push.

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