Well, if you are a climber and you weren’t out this weekend and didn’t have a darn good reason, like injury or emergency, then maybe you need to turn in your climber card. It was . . . restoratively gorgeous out there.
There were supposed to be a number of other people coming out with David and me on Saturday, but when I got to his place, they’d all bailed or switched to Sunday. Which meant we could go. . . anywhere. Given that the forecast was for mid-20s with high UV, we ruled out the more notorious high-summer griddles like Home Cliff and the Weir. Then, given that it was just the two of us, and David had been wanting to go to lead Tits ‘n’ Ass and finally make it official – and he wouldn’t be able to go with the Sunday group, too many new climbers – and I anticipated that with all the leaves turning it would be the most beautiful of the areas we can get to. . . we picked Lac Sam, and loaded up the car.
This is quite possibly the best time of year to climb. And Lac Sam guarantees you solitude (it’s just us out there, so far) and beauty. I felt a lot more inspired, and we ended up ticking a decent number of goals.
David setting up on the top of Pink Floyd Wall.
We rappelled in to Pink Floyd Wall first because David wanted to check out where he might be able to put a couple of bolts on the start of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a route that starts out with some big juggy overhanging moves on what is actually kind of crappy rock. It’s a bit friable and feels porous to me. And on the opening overhanging moves, a lead fall would send you off the belay ledge and down some steep terrain: not good. So, we want to get a bolt in on the underside of the overhang, something you can clip before you get off the ground, enough to protect you through those first moves. Then, another one when you get established above the overhang. After that, it’s a straightforward gear lead with great and abundant placements, so we’re going to leave it as a mixed climb. (David opted against hauling the Hilti and hardware out, so we planned bolts but didn’t place.)
I got a reminder about climbing undeveloped rock, though: partway up Shine On I had a small handhold snap off under my fingers. I popped off, and fell. . . and kept falling. . . and fetched up about 10 or 12 feet below where I’d been,whooped, and then laughed like a loon for a bit. I’d been on top rope, of course, but a 70-metre rope has one heck of a lot of stretch to it. It was a totally clean fall, and felt a little like a bungee. Fun. (Getting back onto the climb was a little bit of a challenge, though.)
So after a big fun fall, I was set to pull off some other big stuff, climbing more cautiously (remembering that this rock is undeveloped and you need to be a lot more careful about your moves) but with a fall under my belt to make me a little bolder. Between that and The Shoes of Sharpness, I managed to send Welcome to the Machine (I’ve sent it before, but not, I think, this year). The first challenge is right off the ground, a tricky rockover onto a small foot with a bulge below you; the second is about 2/3 of the way up, when you come up against a chunk of thin face climbing with a sloping ledge for your foot, a couple of vertical edges for your hands, and a biggish move up to a really big solid flake for your left hand. . . I did it way more dynamically than I have before, and it was fun.
Ah yeah. The Shoes of Sharpness. I mentioned that my last pair committed spectacular self-immolation a while back at Montagne d’Argent. I headed off to MEC and spent quite a while agonizing: go with the trusty workhorse La Sportiva Nagos, or try kicking it up a notch with the slightly more aggressive Katanas? After a lot of deliberating, I went with the Katanas, figuring I could resole one of the three pairs of Nagos I already own for long days, multipitch and slabs. The Katanas hurt like a sonuvabitch for the first couple of sessions. I would come off a climb and collapse to the mat to pull themoff desperately. I wouldn’t be able to wear them two days in a row. But slowly, slowly, I’m getting used to them: and slowly I’m learning to love them. I really feel like I’m climbing better in them, in general. Smarter, with more focus. And they stick to the tiniest stuff. At the gym, they threaten to stick to the texture on the wall above the hold I’m aiming for, they’re that sticky.
Anyway, I feel like the shoes gave me a boost heading up Welcome to the Machine.
David’s rope, up the first free ascent of Tits ‘n’ Ass: photo taken from the vantage point of the second, partway up.
After that, David thought it was time to go after his goal for the day: leading Tits ‘n’ Ass, which he bolted a few months ago, and making it official. So we rappelled down to the base and he started up it. I had taken a look at the bolts back in July and they looked . . . run out, but the climbing’s not bad in the long sections. Still, I had mentioned the runout to David at the time, and he’d scoffed and said the bolting was fine. So I laughed at him when, partway up the lead, I heard him say, “Man, these bolts are really far apart. What was the asshole that bolted this thing thinking, anyway?”
“Yeah,” I said. “He’s probably some cowboy who decided the climbing was so easy he didn’t need to waste hardware. . .”
Personally, I was super pleased that, climbing second, I sent the climb with no falls: the first time I’ve ever made it up without a fall. It’s a great route, really: up some blocky stuff to a bulge which is all broken up underneath but dauntingly holdless on the upper slope. It’s a puzzle rather than strength-based, and if you focus, think, and move slow, you can make it through the bulge, only to discover a stretch of tricky, sloping, insecure climbing before you reach the bolt. After that there’s a decent stretch of just less than vertical climbing with a few interesting moves, and then you get to the most salient feature: the gap between two big roofs, which look enough like breasts from below to give the climb its name. You have to climb up to just below the roofs, then maneuver through the offwidth, flaring gap between them somehow. Sooner or later, you wind up wedged in the gap around your waist, with your butt hanging out below and your feet flailing blind. You find something for the feet, reach up for a magic edge with the left hand, and I wound up chimneying up into the dihedral, pressing my back against the right side. Hey, it worked. As I got through the gap, I whooped.
“And that’s the first time I’ve ever got that thing clean!” I crowed.
“Great,” David said. “Now don’t screw up and fall on the rest of the climb.”
The climb is below me: victory shot at the top of T’n’A.
The rest is a lovely walk up the arete on the right side of the dihedral, then some moves on good ledges and up into the dead easy scramble to the anchor, and I did manage not to do anything stupid and fall, or break a hold and fall. And I was pretty pleased with myself. Again, I had felt like I was climbing smarter, more deliberately, and I had more energy moving into the hard part than usual, because I’d been conserving it. Between that and smart foot placement, I got through it.
We scrambled for the shelter of the trees again (the sun was reallyintense, and it felt like summer) and decided against either of us leading Scylla and Charybdis, just down the crag. We were just feeling too sun-stunned. So we rappelled in and top roped it for the fun of it – it’s possibly one of the best climbs at the crag, with a nice rhythm and a number of big, committing moves up at the top, where you move through a series of mini-bulges. I have attempted leading it before and backed off: it takes some creative gear placement and I don’t think I have enough experience yet to see the gear. Last time I tried, I realized I was asking David about every placement, and once I was out of eyeshot, I’d be screwed: I backed off. It’s still on my goal list: I just think it’s a little further along the trad learning curve.
And then it was time to chill out and do some exploring. We’d already peered at the rock just to climber’s left of the established stuff on Pink Floyd Wall, picking our way over across a gap in the grassy ledge, and thought we saw something up a corner before the rock ran out and got less interesting. There was a neat corner we wanted to check out. So we rappelled off the Pink Floyd anchor, heading off to the left. I was first down this time: trundled some big loose rocks and got to have that moved-rock smell (there is a distinct smell when you move a big heavy chunk of rock off a cliff). But most of the rock looked really solid and the possibilities looked. . . cool.
David rappelling down what might be two new project routes at the edge of Pink Floyd Wall.
There’s a big old cedar curving out of the rock just below a sloping ledge: above it there’s a corner and a steep face, and below it there’s some blocky climbing. I went up under the tree, negotiated my way around it, traversed up the face just a little above the vegetated slope, then got into the corner only to find that all the fun climbing was on the face anyway (and it was really good: a little tricky but there were plenty of holds: the climb itself might come in at a 5.5 or 5.6 once it’s cleaned). It was a really cute climb (sometimes the adjective “cute” is just the one that works). I got to the top and brought David up: he opted for the arete, and said that with the lichen cleaned off it might also be a really good, easy climb in the same kind of range. I have a name or two already picked out for the corner: since it’s part of Pink Floyd Wall, either Ummagumma (I think I like that option) or Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.
So now I just need to clean it, bolt it, and lead it, and it’ll be mine to name. Hah.
And with a couple of new routes identified, and a couple of goals met, and a whole lot of gorgeousness absorbed, we called it a day and headed back into town.