Mutli-Pitch Bliss at Mount Charleston

12 08 2009

Most of the time I think of myself as a sport climber but I really enjoy being high above the ground. Mutli-pitching takes one beautiful places but it is usually reserved for trad climbers. Two weekends ago we indulged and brought only quickdraws and slings while climbing Cathedral Rock at Mt. Charleston.  Despite the many other cool climbs we did during the weekend the three pitch Cathedral Route was the highlight for me.

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3rd classing up some loose choss.

Our weekend started on a negative but enlightening note. Despite arriving Friday afternoon and driving around for more than an hour to the five campgrounds we were unable to find an open. Most of the sites were empty but reserved for that night. In the future it seems that reservations are a MUST HAVE for the the summer at Mt Charleston. We pitched our tent at the free area near Mary Jane falls and took the short walk into the Mary Jane crag since we had lost so much time driving around.

The weather was perfect in the shade up at Mt Charleston and it was nice to be a bit chilly in August.  We both tried to warm-up on an awkward 5.8 and then started working our way through to some of the harder routes.  I soon got on the namesake climb, Mary Jane, and it was amazing. I thought that Lizzy might be able to flash it and so as I climbed I tried to let her know what the moves were like and where the holds were.  This added to the pump but I still managed the onsight. With all the looking up Lizzy was feeling a bit off and I’m sure the elevation (7000+ feet) didn’t help.  Lizzy decided to take it easy and we relaxed while I depumped. Up for a bit of adventure I got on a route that wasn’t in our guidebook and it was exciting with an awkward crux and a fun finale at 5.11-. I convinced Lizzy to TR this route which she sent with a few falls even though it was not her style. It was getting late but I had a bit more energy and did a few 5.10b’s at the end of the crag onsighting one and doing the other 2nd try.  Looking at the book  a bit later I realized I had misread the descriptions and the climbs were actually 5.10a (left) and 5.11a (right) which made more sense and I felt silly for misreading the book.

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Lizzy checking out the upcoming climbing after Pitch 1.

One of the big reasons for going back to Charleston was to give Lizzy a crack at her project from last season, Five Finger Discount.  She had done all the moves and linked different sections but could not get through the techy crux from the ground. Saturday we warmed up on an awesome 5.8 at Robbers Roost before I decided to give Future Days an attempt. This was one of the first routes bolted at Charleston and I had previously been too intimidated to try it. I soloed 15 feet to the first bolt doing multiple 5.10 moves on the way. Some tricky reaches got me to the 2nd bolt and the crux. I felt around for a while trying to find holds but eventually gave up, unwilling to set off  into the unknown and the distant bolt.  A few false starts later I figured out the tricky foot moves and made it through the crux and to the next bolt. The rest of the route was much easier than expected though I still hung at the last bolt before a final hard move and the 20 foot runout to the anchor.
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Looking out at the surrounding hills (The hood is just right of center behind an obvious yellow buttress)

With the crux sequence memorized I sent the route 2nd try and Lizzy climbed it on TR only falling at the first crux. With our warmup complete we left the sunny side of robbers roost (it was hot) and went to the main breezy corridor. Fortunately the project draws we had left on Five Finger Discount were still there and Lizzy was all set for the send! The first part of the route went very smoothly and she took at the crux to save energy and remember the complex sequence. The first few tries were unsuccessful but all of a sudden Lizzy found her zone and did the crux move easily, got the tricky next clip and went to the top!! On her next try Lizzy made the bottom section look super casual and sent the route without a problem!! It was cool to see Lizzy step outside of her box and climb a route that required bigger moves on a steeper wall. In between her tries I had given a burn to my project, The Burgler, but the final moves still seemed hard from the hang so I still needed to gain fitness before any real redpoint attempts.

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Lizzy follows the “alpine” like second pitch.

We spent a bit more time after lunch looking for a campsite for Saturday night but no luck! We were really hoping to move from the free lot since we had not slept well the previous night due to a group of screaming crazies from Vegas that were running around at 3am.

We moved on to The Hood which had a few 5.12’s that I had not tried yet. When we got there the first 5.12a, Rappin Boyz, was wet so I attempted what I thought was Jazz Ma Taz. It had fixed chain draws so I knew I could always bail if it was too hard. The moves were really cool and I made good progress bolt to bolt until the 2nd to last bolt. The final boulder problem involved a powerful undercling sequence followed by a huge reach to a decent hold by the anchor. This section was a show stopper and I lowered off not sure what to do.

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Lizzy shoes a bit of attitude.

We found the other 5.12 that I wanted to try, I believe it was called Borne a Snake, and it looked really desperate and there was no chalk meaning it had not been climbed recently. After talking to a few locals I realized the route I  had just tried shared the start with Jazz Ma Taz but had a totally different finish. This explained the chalked 12+ that I had seen on the rock though the local told me he thought it was super hard and likely 13a. The final boulder problem had been really desperate and everything made more sense. With no other routes in mind I wanted to see how far I could link and gave it another go.

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Out of the shade for a summit shot!

My lack of limestone fitness showed instantly as I had to rework the sequence to the 4th bolt on the fly since I couldn’t hold on the same way as my first try. I thruched a bit got the clip and fully committed to the next sequence making a hard pull left to a sinker jug. My fingers stalled on the deadpoint just beyond the hold and I though I wasn’t going to be able to fall into the big pocket. With encouragement from Lizzy I made it a bit further but found another sequence where my beta was too strength intensive for the link. After a few falls I made some good progress on the top boulder problem but still couldn’t work out how to get my right hand in the last undercling.

Lizzy was a bit low on motivation, which often comes after sending a hard project, and we moved on to some easier climbs. I lead a painfully sharp 5.10a slab just left of the Corrosion cave which I knew Lizzy would not like and we decided to call it a day. The night seemed to be going well, at the free lot, until two groups of loud campers showed up and dashed our hopes of sleep. One memorable and loud saying from the group was how it “only midnight” and there was lots of night left (I assume to keep us from sleeping and continue partying).

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Trying not to get too excited by keeping it silly!

The next day I was not feeling up to trying any more hard climbs and Lizzy was not ready to start climbing on the hard routes at the Hood. I wanted to climb either the Imaginator (of which I had done the excellent first pitch) or the Cathedral Route. Lizzy chose to go to a new area and after a bit of a long hike for Charleston (45mins) we found our self at the very chossy base of Cathedral Rock. A few loose rocks fell from the summit while we were racking up and I was a bit anxious that I had left my helmet at home.  After some exploring the multiple ledge systems I found the bolted starting belay so Lizzy and I got ready to climb. The Cathedral Route is on a north facing wall and we both changing into pants and Lizzy brought her R1 and light windbreaker.

Cathedral Route TopobA topo I made thanks to Beta Creator.

The book noted the route could only be rapped with two ropes so we brought our shoes to walk off on the hiker trail from the summit. The book also said the last pitch was 120 feet which we though might be workable to rappel with a 70m rope. The first pitch was the crux and a brutal warmup. The start seemed steep and I had to fight the pump on the many reaches between flat edges.  A little over halfway up the holds ran out and I was faced with sharp quartz bands running across the limestone face. I was right next to the arete and had to make an off balance move to get established on the slab. The next 25 feet were full on and I thought I might fall off at any point. Luckily I made it, passing a sporty runout in some bad rock, to the final crux before the anchor. I must have spent 20+ minutes at a good stance trying three different variations before discovering a small sidepull. This tiny hold helped me get my feet up and I made a few laybacking move to the anchor.

Lizzy followed with only 2 falls some how avoiding the flash pump that plagued me. The 2nd pitch was much easier since the dark bands now stuck out a good ways from the wall leaving one to two inch edges. Pitch two was almost vertical and I thought it felt more like 5.10c/d compared to the 10b given in the book.  I made it to the anchor knocking off only one rock from the chossy corner that led to the anchor. Pulling hard got me through the funky first 2 bolts of the final pitch. The next section, to the 3rd bolt and above, was so fun with perfect jugs appearing at the limit of my reach. An exciting slab move with my feet noticeably far above my last bolt had me yelling with joy. A nice rest set me up for some more steep jug pulling and the crux of the last pitch. I struggled to hold on to awkward underclings while reaching as high as I could search for the next hold. A small crimp gave way to a series of triangular flat ledges and more slabby limestone. The last part was a bit less feature and I was moving as fast as possible pinching large limestone features trying to avoid the pump.

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Luke cleans up some trash from Cathedral Rock

At the anchor  the middle mark of our rope was at the 3rd bolt so Lizzy decided to carry our shoes on the final pitch. I confirmed her decision when I pulled up the rope and the middle mark was almost 10 feet below me.  For convenience someone could easily double up the final protection bolt to create a rap station which would allow the whole route to be rapped with a 70m rope. Right now the final anchor is in a very logical place since it allows you 3rd class access to the summit. We strolled down the hiker trail and then I hiked a very direct route back to retrieve our packs. On my way back  I filled  my crampon pouch with bottles and cans and saw so much trash that still had to carry the final cans to the base.  Check out those old Budweisers!!

We had a great weekend but it will sadly be a long time before we go back to Charleston.

– Luke

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One response

13 08 2009
J V

I went up the Imaginator route last summer. Cool wall – that rock can get quite sharp/pointy. Fingery place huh –

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