Traveling and Trying Hard when the School Year Ends

19 06 2009

It takes a lot to be successful and in the past many months, as well as the last 4 years, Lizzy has been working hard at Caltech on her Bachelors degree in Geology. She graduated one week ago and is currently celebrating in Smith Rock! It was a bit cloudy for graduation and it even rained a little bit, way out of character for SoCal. Lizzy and I had fun showing her parents around Pasadena between various graduation activities.

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 014The CalTech Class of 2009

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 016Lizzy with friends Deepak on the left and Gabe on the right.

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Lizzy lost in a Sea of graduates.

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Lizzy did it!!

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 104Lizzy with her Hawaiian lei.

After bringing Lizzy and her parents to the Airport on Saturday I snuck away to Idyllwild to get in a bit of climbing.  Saturday night was a bit surreal as much of Idywilld seemed to be stuck in the clouds. Konstantin drove up from San Diego and we camped at San Jacinto State Park which is quite pricey but convenient to the climbing.

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The idea for the day was to do Vahalla as a warmup for the Edge. The Edge is supposed to be super scary and if I could style Vahalla it would most likely not be a problem. Way back in 2005 Hartley and I had tried to climb Vahalla hot off reading stories of the Stone Masters byJohn Long. Hartley brilliantly lead the first pitch which I some how followed and I’m sure both of us fell at least a few times. The 2nd pitch contains the business and neither of us could commit to the insecure smears on lead while above the bolt. We bailed and went to work on Insomnia another climb that was well above our head at the time.

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Now in 2009 I was confident, perhaps too much so, that I could climb Vahalla and so I started up the first pitch. The granite is wild with knobs and scoops and I slowly nervously made my way up to the 1st bolt (there are only 3 for the pitch).  Following Konstantin’s advice I got up a little higher with some tricky stemming and clipped the 2nd bolt and prepared for the crux. I must have spent at least 10 minutes trying to find a way around the next few moves but nothing worked. After too much consideration I transitioned my weight to my right foot while deadpointing for the next crimp.

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The crux was not quite over and I magically held on to nothing as I slowly worked right evidently doing a good job of keeping my weight on my feet. At one point I thought for sure I would fall but I tried hard, as hard as I possibly could, and made the final bump right to a better crimp end eventually the jug. I was relieved as I manteled the next ledge and clipped the final bolt. After a bit of shaking out and advice from Konstantin that I was through the crux and should avoid falling, I made the final few traversing moves and manteled again to log ledge.

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My confidence was a bit shaken but I still had a lot of climbing to go. After following the pitch I lowered Konstantin to an old bolt and tied him off to the anchor as a backup. At the lower position there would be more  rope out and it would follow a straighter line reducing rope drag. I made the traverse right to the bolt and stared at the crux. This time I would not have beta and would hopefully be able to figure out the moves. Shakily I moved up on the poor holds before getting stuck not knowing where to go. Using both hands in opposition just to stay on, I couldn’t make progress. I tried to shift my weight around but lost my balance and fell. I was barely above the bolt and Konstantin gave me a nice catch which helped put my fear of falling at rest.

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I lowered back to the hands free stance below the bolt for my next attempt. It seemed silly and unnecessary to un-clip from the bolt and traverse to and from the belay. Konstantin gave me some beta about going right to a rectangular hold and then up. I saw the hold he spoke of and figured out a better sequence. As I went back up the smears some how felt more secure and I got established with my left on a slopey hold and my right on the poor rectangle. I kept my weight in and reached up left for another sloping crimp.  It was crazy that these holds were keeping me on the wall as I reached up and grabbed an incut divot for my right hand, bringing my feet above the bolt.  I thought I had made it and shook out on the good crimp. Not wanting to blow it and take a big fall I felt around and eventually manteled up with my foot on the good hold. Two moves later I was at the bolt and was ready to enjoy the rest of the 5.10 climbing to the anchors far above. I wandered through the golden granite with a big grin on my face amazed that a climb could make its way up this blank undulating face.

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I didn’t quite sling everything properly and reached the anchors with a bit of rope drag.  For the final pitch I went up and left missing a bolt which I had to down climb and clip after I had given up hope and tied off a big knob. After the Sundance anchors I kept climbing into the SunDike variation which I felt was quite insecure and difficult especially for “5.10a”. I think my mental ability was sapped and I was ready to be done.  We rapped off and I was happy both for sending Vahalla and for taking real fall which is hard for me to do. It seemed that I was not yet ready for The Edge so we made our way to Disco Jesus so Konstantin could have some fun on the sharp end.

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All of the above photos are of  Konstantin leading the 2nd pitch of Disco Jesus. The 2nd pitch features insecure dime edging followed by a crazy smearing sequence on underclings finished off with a hand foot match mantel to a jug rail that leads to the anchors. Photos  thanks to Darshan who’s name I recognized from MountainProject.com and happened to be climbing in the area.

After finishing the three pitch Disco Jesus we ate lunch and I got back on the sharp end for Miscalculation. Konstatin had tried it previously but bailed at the first crux.  As usual I took my time sewing up the crack and slowly making progress with thin locks and insecure laybacking. I got through the first crux and prepared for most difficult part protected by two #5 stoppers before getting in a small finger sized cam. The locks were thin and I suppose that it may have been easier to lay back than to jam it straight in. At the top I remebered to stem and after a bit more climbing I made it to the anchors for the onsigh of the  full value 90 foot pitch.  I had placed all of my small nuts and cams and was left with way too many big pieces on my harness.. Oops!

Even though it was only only 3pm we had climbed 7 hard pitches and were ready to relax. Back at the car we ate a second lunch with a bit of wine from the night before. I was hoping to see a few friends at Tahquitz and while we didn’t see who we expected we ran in to Leah who needed a ride home.  It was a great weekend and really good for me to work on my slab climbing weakness.

This week has been quite busy as Lizzy made her way from Seattle to Smith Rock and I finished up as much work as possible. Tomorrow I will fly up to Portland to relax and enjoy many of the classic routes at smith.

Hope everyone has a great weekend,

Luke


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4 12 2009
Freerider: How I First Climbed El Capitan « Dream in Vertical

[...] knew that we were moving too slow for El Capitan. We retreated to Idyllwild and threw ourselves at Valhalla, still clinging onto the idea of becoming Stonemasters.  The general feeling during my first trip [...]

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