PSA: There is a huge difference between leaving water jugs for people to stumble upon in emergencies and leaving them just to shed six pounds of weight off your load. 2-3 gallons in my opinion is enough, not seven or eight fucking gallons of water because at a certain point, your just trashing the route for future climbers. I emptied and carried out most of the water leaving 2 gallons. Please, if your going to leave water at least pack out the oldest looking water in exchange for your new water. Leave one, take one….
This time around, it was not us that chose to bust. Instead our haul line was the weak link. We used a 9.6mm haul line and tied it off to our haul bag mid line. I had forgotten ol' the plastic bottle over the knot trick and by the first haul was completed, we had a nice view of the rope's core….
Lloyd and I awoke from our vehicles at 6am just outside of the park in El Portal. We gathered our gear while making breakfast then drove into the valley right around 7. We arrived at the base of Washington Column in great time compared to our first attempt.
I free climbed with a bit of cam-pulling here and there on the first pitch. As Lloyd arrived atop the ledge with the haul bag, thats when I quickly discovered our haul lines condition. With a party of two ahead of us we got a second or two of rest. We re-tied the knot to by-pass the broken core determined to get up to Dinner Ledge. As soon as the part ahead of us cleared the second pitch, Lloyd started aiding up it.
I arrived shortly after with the haul bag and we quickly changed leads. Starting up pitch 3 with a mix of aid/free again I was feeling good. I free climbed the first part but little did I know, I should of went right instead of left about half way up the pitch. The left looked easier in the moment (even though there was a gnarly little roof). I started aiding the roof, and my second placement (Yellow TCU) popped and I soon found my self hanging on my daisy chain. I quickly pulled up, threw in another piece and continued on. I finished the pitch off with some heinous rope drag and shitty hauling.
When Lloyd and I finally sat down atop dinner ledge, Pete (from the other group) started up pitch 4. Lloyd and I discussed our damaged rope and decided it would be safe to not climb any further. As far as I know, we needed two ropes to rappel down from the top and a haul line that isn't shot to haul our bag up if we were to top out and descend down the North Dome Gully. We decided if it would be best to just spend the night on the ledge and rappel down with our climbing line. I cut the line in the middle and fixed a new rope along the dinner ledge. We also cleared out all the excesses water (5 gallons in total).
After a good night of sleep, we awoke to Ryan and Pete (the other group) already jugging up their fixed line. Lloyd and I made a quick breakfast and started our rappel down. We ended up having to tie off the already cut haul line to the climbing line to make it down the route. The haul line barely reached the bolts below. When we got down, Lloyd was itching to get on Jo-Jo a 5.10b/c splitter crack.
Lloyd went up Jo-Jo jamming through the finger crack. As Lloyd went further up, the crack became wider and wider. Lloyd started throwing fist in and eventually it became to much. He took a few times working out the sequence but finally prevailed. I followed and cleaned the route. I had a rough time on the finger section, taking multiple falls. Once the crack opened it self up to use, I used a combination of lay-backs and hand jams to finish off my clean.
After we came down Jo-Jo, we headed back to our cars and Lloyd left the valley and I made my way into El Portal for my rest day. Overall, we accomplished what we wanted. We got our systems down and figured out how to communicate with each other without verbal signals. Even though we had to bail because of our haul rope, I still check this trip off as a successes.
Since Lloyd and I bailed off Washington Column, we were itching to perfect our aid climbing techniques at Sugar Loaf. The weather was gloomy and had a high chance of rain/snow so we decided against it. Where else could we spend a beautiful Sunday? Doing some of my favorite sport climbing at The Emeralds.
The Emeralds (even though public) is not a very popular crag. It sits right on the Yuba River and houses a variety short-very sustained sport climbing. All the walls are clean making whippers safe and fun. Every time I have been there, there has been no more than 3-5 groups in the area and the climbing is spread out for 1/2 a mile or so. All of the bolts and hangars are in great condition, there are mussies at the top of the majority of the climbs and the best part is, your surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Lloyd and I arrived at the entrance to the PG&E service road at about 10am. (The area is a mix of PG&E and forest service land) We made the easy and mild approach to the base of Kudos Cliff. Feeling bold, I decided to warm up on Into The Light 5.10c. I have climbed this route before and it was fairly easy, but boy was I wrong. As a warmup, it was fucking hard. I hadn’t climbed at all but once before this for about a two week period due to a pulled tendon. I eventually trashed my way up the climbed and topped out. Lloyd went up it as well and set up a top rope where we both ran a couple laps on it. By my second lap, I was feeling good. We cleaned the route and made the short walk over to Fast Food Wall.
Fast Food Wall hosts some of my favorite climbs in The Emeralds. You walk to the base of the wall and then scramble 10 or so feet up easy 5.5 to a very long 2-3 foot wide ledge. The climbs go above the ledge and the belayer belays exposed on the ledge. (Don’t worry, there are bolts to belay from) The wall has a bunch of climbs varying from 5.10c-5.11d. My previous trips, I have attempted Please Pull Forward 5.10d and have fallen in the middle every time. For months if not years, it has been eating away at me and finally I came back to finish it off. I started up the route and felt strong and clear minded. I made my way through the middle and took a good rest and shook out. I knew what was next, the crux for me. I looked up, planned out my next few moves and executed them perfectly. I topped out at the mussies and was so stoked. Ive never really had a project outside before, so accomplishing this climb was a great feeling. It reminded me that climbing is about accomplishing these goals you set for your self. Lloyd climbed the route next and cruised through it too. I was stoked we both just crushed this climb. Once he lowered off, I decided to throw my self on All Beef Patty 5.11b.
Ive never done a 5.11b outside before so it was something new for me. I know I preach about how climbing isn’t about the grade, but lets be honest, without the grade how are we to distinguish difficulty of climbs from one to another? Its a great system to benchmark your ability and just to know what difficulty the route is. Climbing shouldn’t be all about who climbs the hardest grade, it should be about the feeling you get when you walk away from the route. Sorry for the rant, back to the climbing,
So I start up All Beef Patty and instantly realize this is gonna be challenging. I make it past the second bolt to a gnarly knee bar and barley clip the third. I tried to work my back to the left to a side pull and crimp/nub thing but fell. I was just stoked to have made it to the third bolt, but I wasn’t going to give up so I took a quick rest and pushed forward. I cruised through the remainder of the climb and as I was lowering off, I realized I could totally send this route today. I got down and Lloyd started to make his way up. He couldn’t figure out the sequence after the second bolt and his shoulder was giving him trouble, he decided to lower off. With quickdraws still on the route, I had to climb it to clean it. I was psyched to have another chance on this route. I fell getting to the third bolt a couple times and decided to lower off each time to start clean. On the third try, I stuck the knee bar and went to clip the third bolt when I missed the clip and went to clip again with a bunch of slack when the knee bar slipped and I came with in inches of decking. After that little fall, I took a quick rest, gave it another chance and fell again after clipping the third bolt. I eventually topped out and lowered off. I was a little bummed I didn’t get the send but I have a new project to work for!
I was pretty burnt after my runs of All Beef Patty, I decided to call it a day. Lloyd had some gas left in the tank and burnt out on Wheres The Beef 5.10c. He rappelled down and I packed up my gear. We headed off back to the car both feeling satisfied with our climbing. Our climbing session at The Emeralds reminded me of why I love climbing. The walk back to the car, wanting to turn back to try one more time but knowing your body will fail. The thoughts that run through your head as you walk back, planning your next trip.
It took about an hour or so for the approach and it was heinous with our heavy haul bag. (We only hauled to pitch 3, so we decided to splurge a little) We get to the base of the climb and there was another group starting. We scramble our way to a ledge to wait while their first climber started up. It took a little longer than we expected but by noon, they finally cleared the first pitch.
I jumped on the 10b to aid it and it took me longer than id like to admit. Granted it was my first time aiding on gear (not much trad experience either), but I tried my best to go as fast as I could. I eventually topped out and had an easy haul up the pitch. Lloyd jugged up ready for the third pitch. Lloyd free climbed the third pitch pretty easily and I jugged up after maneuvering the haul bag through the pitch. (Kind of slabby but the haul bag gets stuck pretty easily on this pitch) We walked around dinner ledge, looking for our spots to sleep for the night. We took a quick water/snack break and I started up pitch 4.
It was absolutely beautiful. By the time Lloyd made it to the anchors, the sun has already set. Our original plan was to fix pitches 4 & 5 and jug up them in the morning but decided against climbing 5. We fixed our rope at the top of four and did a crazy rappel in to the dark down in complete openness. At a certain point you were just floating in the dark watching the rope bend over the corner of the roof. It was a little unsettling to watch your rope bend over a corner like that when you can’t see anything below you and your just watching it, knowing nothing is going to happen but waiting for something to.
We both made it down and the group that let us pass earlier was there to accompany us. We wasted no time in dumping our gear, taking off our harnesses, rolling out our sleeping bags and starting dinner. We had some dehydrated meals and some Jamerson to wash it down. I traded some whisky for some gummy bears and they were some damn good gummy bears. I laid awake in my sleeping bag looking at the hundreds of visible stars and the lights on the valley floor reflecting on my day. I was pretty stoked to have sent Kor roof and happy I was on a big wall finally.
At the middle of the crack, I see the anchors and look further I see which way I should of went and I kicked my self. Well fuck, Im on the wrong crack and its gonna be a little dicy to get back over. I get to the end of the crack and theres a fixed nut in another crack system way up there. I place a green alien in the crack and it is way under cammed AND the crack was wet. I topped step off that and reached out to the wire on the nut and couldn’t clip it. It was such a far reach, I came back down, breathed and tried super hard and barely clipped it. The nose of my carabiner got in and I pushed it through. Nice, Im not totally fucked. I reach over the ledge and feel jugs on jugs on jugs. I pull my self over and scramble down to the anchors. Finally, I finished the pitch. It took a lot longer than expected. Lloyd eventually made his was up.
It was about 2pm on top of pitch 6, Lloyd and I decided to bail. We came to a conclusion that we were going to slow and would have to make a rappel and descent in the dark. We weren’t that prepared for it and decided it would be better if we just bailed now. We lowered down an got to the anchors of pitch 5. The group below us was almost done cleaning, but they shared the anchors with us and we bullshitted for a bit. They were a super sick group of guys that eventually got our rope unstuck. We lowered off pitch 5 to the anchors, gathered our things and made another couple of rappels down to the base. We hiked back to the car feeling satisfied with our experience. Even though we didn’t send our climb, we got within 4 pitches of the top, but we still felt satisfied. It wasn’t really about topping out, it was just fun being on the wall, hundreds of feet up with the exposure and just doing your thing, climbing. It was an amazing experience.
With all that being said, Lloyd and I are already planning another attempt on the wall. Were coming back with a stronger game plan and more time.
I met up with Alex Lloyd, Alex Lotti and Diane. We jumped in the the gigantic Suburban and drove out to Table Mountain. Lloyds Suburban cruised through the dirt road and dropped us promptly at the main trail head of Table Mountain. We did a quick assortment of gear, gathered our belongings and embarked down the trail. We eventually turned left up a climbers trail and followed it as it snaked through the hillside.The trail spat us out into a field of small boulders. Upon crossing it, your atop The Pit. The Pit contains some very interesting sport climbs while hosting many aesthetic, beautiful cracks.
Our group scrambled down to an almost empty Pit and instantly jumped on some nice 5.8 & 5.9 warmups. Lotti and I (Alec) jumped on Bandito (5.8) for a warm up climb while Lloyd and Diane cruised up Granted (5.9) After Lotti finished his nice lead, we lowered off our warm ups and hopped on some other routes. Diane and Lloyd climbed up Go With The Flow (5.9) and I started up AC Devil Dog (5.10d sport). Lloyd topped out and lowered then Diane was cruising back up to clean and rap off. I was getting thrown off AC Devil Dog slipping off the first sequence to the second bolt. (Ive done this route before but there are some hidden holds that are vital.) Once I topped out after a couple falls I lowered off and sat down and rested.
Lloyd jumped on Raw Hide (5.10d) while i belayed him. Lloyd absolutely cruised through Rawhide. He confidently placed every cam with ease and smoothly worked his way up. As he was lowering off through the mussys, a huge group came in from Planet Granite out in San Francisco. They instantly rolled up and started climbing. I got psyched by everyone climbing and crushing, I sent AC Devil Dog on my second go. It went super smooth and even had time to slam a beer on the no hands rest. I lowered off and Diane decided to go climb Cowboy Up (5.9R sport) and she crushed it. She lowered off and a nice gentleman from the Planet Granite crew belayed me on Color Coded Quick Draws (5.10b sport). Through pumpy moves and sloppy holds, the short 30 foot route was soaked on the top. With wet feet, I lowered off and ate my lunch.
Lloyd and Lotti were on Go With The Flow (5.9). Lotti crushed his lead while Lloyd followed. While Lotti was climbing it again, i snagged some of their gear and cruised up Bandito (5.8) again so Diane could practice leading with pre placed gear. I climbed up placing 3 pieces of protection so as I was lowering, I stitched up the climb with nuts so Diane could get a good lead in. She was slowly working up to her first lead on gear (actually placing the cams/nuts) and not just climbing on fixed gear. As she was leading Bandito, Lloyd gave a run Snakebite (5.11a). It was sick watching Lloyd get down and send some serious crack. Even though he fell and took a couple times, Lloyd killed it. Once Diane lowered off I ran up Table Manners on a top rope solo to swing around and get some pictures of Lloyd on the climb. None of them turned out that cool but in the moment I thought it was sick.
Thursday night at 7pm we departed from the Bay Area on our 8 1/2 hour drive down to Joshua Tree. I had just gotten done working 10 hours so I took the first half of the drive down. We stopped for food and switched and I instantly passed out. I soon woke up in the town of Joshua Tree eager to climb. We rolled into the park at about 4am due to food, gas and bathroom stops. I have a sleeping set up in the back of my truck so we had the luxury of pulling over at Hidden Valley Campground to sleep in the truck.
We woke up at 8am very weary from our drive down. We made some breakfast burritos and jumped on our first route of the day, North Overhang. The first pitch is an alright 5.7 warm up. The actual climbing is just easy crack climbing serving no real warm up but at least something to get you going. I set up my anchor in the cave and Doug followed me up. Doug took the 5.9 second pitch. The real climbing is in the second pitch. You walk up the cave to a ledge and from there you can clip the first two bolts. I recommend using an alpine draw for the second bolt. Once you clip those you then work your way out of the cave to the left and once you reach out there is a hidden hand jam that is bomber. You throw the hand jam in, place a .75 and from there,you send to the top. Doug and I topped out, rappelled down Intersection Rock and found our selves in the parking lot minutes later. With one of the most classic climbs now under our belt we were feeling pretty good.
We hung-out at the car for a bit and eventually made our way to The Real Hidden Valley (directly across the road from Hidden Valley). There, we decided to climb Tumbling Rainbow. From the trail head, the rock formation looks wild. It is a giant crack that sits high and mighty upon the valley. We scrambled our way to the base and Doug took the lead. The crack starts out big and soon you find your right arm and leg in the crack while your left hand and leg are looking for something to hold onto. You awkwardly make your way up the diagonal crack to where it becomes vertical. Your then able to work your way up the vertical crack with hand jams and stemming your legs between the corner. We both topped out and began our rappel down.
We both felt exhausted from our lack of sleep and the awkward climbing we just did. We decided to head over to Gunsmoke. Probably the most classic boulder problem in J-Tree. Its a 75 foot traverse that goes V3. No move is harder than V1 and at the highest point in the problem, your no more than 3 feet of the ground. So the low commitment factor and sheer fun of this problem makes it a great place to burn out at the end of the day. Plus you have a beautiful view for the sunset. Doug crushed the problem on his third try while I kept getting shut down at tbe crux half way through the problem. We left Gunsmoke after an hour sesh and headed back to camp for the night.
Doug and I woke up Saturday feeling like a million bucks. My full size mattress in the back of my truck gave us the perfect night of sleep to send the following day. Doug and I drank some climbers coffee put on by Access Fund and the lovely rangers of Joshua Tree. We eventually made our way to Conan’s Corridor at Jumbo Rocks. We decided to hop of Colorado Crack (5.9) and a shit storm ensued. I lead the crack and through countless takes i made it half way and just got frustrated and decided to lower off to let Doug give it a try. Half way up the crack completely flares out and we couldn’t figure out the style needed to send it. We both can climb 5.10a on gear but our inexperience of the varieties of styles got the better of us. After Doug took a 10 foot fall on a .75,we both got frustrated we couldn’t figure out how to climb this thing. We resorted on pulling on gear through the crux so we could at least top out.
At the start of Gunsmoke, there is a V5 called High Noon. It starts with a big move to a jug then you throw a hand in the crack and top out. Simple enough, but the crack proves real heady and the top out doesn’t help much either. We messed around on that for a bit, each bailing at the crack. Soon the sun was setting and we burned out on a V2 and that was that. We finished our final night off at Joshua Tree with Jamerson and a run through the Chasms of Doom (no beta allowed).
Jordan Drew has been my long time good friend and the person who got me into rock climbing. He actually played a big part in the idea of Ascent Climbing. But other who, he has now moved onto different things like attending classes at Reno and exploring the beautiful mountains surrounding him. Jordan has always been a proactive member in any outside movement so seeing him create "Radical Therapy" has me really stoked. Hes a motivated and creative guy who will produce some very interesting videos down the road. You can checkout his youtube channel below.
Mount Diablo is home to curvy roads, short approaches and good climbing. The most well-known crag on Mt. Diablo goes by the name “Boy Scout Rock”. It lies in Rock City and the approach to the crag from the parking lot is meer five minutes. Boy Scout Rock does not offer world class climbing by any means, but it will keep you busy for the day. It has climbs rating from 5.8-5.12. In my opinion, the lower face of boy Scout Rock offers the best climbing with Amazing Face (5.9) and Bolt Route (5.11c). The rock is sandstone and slabby so you’ll often find your self contemplating whether or not the tiny flake your foot is on will break sending you cheese grading down the wall.
I woke up early after working 24 hours in the past 48 hours to practice aid climbing on Bolt Route. In my opinion it is a great route to practice and perfect your aid climbing techniques. (I am planning to climb my first big wall in April, The South Face on Washington Column)With the route being 70’ and 14 bolts, there is about 5 feet between each bolt. (The start is definitely the crux with a gnarly mono and the first bolt being 8 feet high.) I had no real plan on actually free climbing anything today but my buddy Danny did. We rolled up to the crag and soon after another party joined us. They had a cool session on Amazing Face (5.9) directly left of us. With my approach shoes on and my 5’7 height, I was quickly shut down by the height of the the first bolt. Fortunately for me, there was a log a few feet away I was able to prop up and cheat clip the first bolt.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a gnarly mono pocket on the start of Bolt Route. Danny spent about 10 minutes cranking away at it while his feet slipped from under neath him. Between small crimps and bad feet Danny retired and let me have a go on it. I wasn’t planning on climbing anything today but I was still eager to give it a shot. Ive been half ass projecting this route so I knew the sequence up to the second bolt. I started on the two crimps right next to each other, and for me i have to very statically reach up with my left and tweak my middle finger in the mono. Once my middle finger is secure, I crank up onto it and get my right hand in the pocket directly under the first bolt. I found that pinching the crimps on the climb are easier than hanging onto them. I then get my right foot up high and and smear my left. I move my left hand onto a crimp and bounce it up to a side pull up high. I had trouble getting past the first bolt today just due to not being psyched about it. After a few attempts Danny gladly hopped back on it. He worked it a few more tries and due to time we had to head out.
Danny wanted to try the bolt ladders to retrieve our top rope anchors so he messed around on it. He got up to the second bolt and just couldn’t figure out how to aid climb it. He decided to just free climb it past the second bolt. He had trouble from the start of the climb but he cruised through the climb after the second bolt. My theory is that it is such an attempted climb, the start gets smoothed out making it harder, but the climb after the second remains relatively untouched making for some really good climbing. Danny worked his way up the climb on top rope falling here and there but in the end he had a good send. He cleaned the anchor and rapped down and we headed back down the mountain.
Overall, it was a nice change of pace from my regular climbing schedule. Last weekend I was out at Table Mountain absolutely crushing sport routes in hot weather and being dehydrated to a casual week at work. It was nice just having a relaxed day of easy approach and fun rope climbing. Its a nice reminder that you don’t have to go out every weekend and send 5.11, you can just hangout with one of your buddies and mess around on top rope and aid climbing.
Wine, choss and sending (mostly choss). Those are the three things you'll be getting when you climb at Mt. Saint Helena (specifically Table Rock). Its a well known fact that ST. Helena holds some of the chossiest climbing in the bay area. Its also a well known fact that its home to the longest multipitch in the bay area, Aloha Patrol.
On Sunday, Mitch, Danny and I hit the two mile approach to Table Rock looking to red point Aloha Patrol. Mitch just moved from New York to the Bay Area of California. Danny and I have been out to Aloha Patrol a couple times before and decided this four pitch climb would be a great introduction to Bay Area climbing.
Both Danny and I personal goal for the day was to work out and red point the crux third pitch. (5.11b). Mitch just wanted to send it and could care less.
The climb starts with a variation for the first pitch, either start on Standard Issue (a pumpy but juggy 5.10d) or White Flag (a crimpy more precise 5.11a). (White Flag is the better of the two) Danny jumped on White Flag and crushed it. It starts off slabby and then the crimps come out as soon as you hit the head wall. The rock was cold and our finger tips colder as the wall sat in the shade. Mitch and I were below freezing and taking turns running into the sun which was slowly making its way onto the route.
Danny then topped out on White Flag and went ahead onto the second pitch to save time. The second pitch is rated 5.10b which is a great let up after the crimpy first pitch. Danny set up the anchors and soon Mitch was climbing up the first pitch. He falls at the head wall on the crimps (definitely the crux of White Flag). After working out the problem for a minute or two he sends up it easily. As soon as there was enough space between him and I, I started my way up. I too fell at the head wall. It took me at least ten tries to work the sequence. You are on two crimps with your left foot under you and your right foot is high near your knee. You pull up on your right and for me (being shorter) its a little throw with your left to a juicy crimp. But the left side of the crimp is sloppy and I kept hitting the sloper portion of it. After working that sequence I eventually topped out on the second pitch with the rest of the crew. My moral was a little low after getting shut by the first pitch and my body was beat physically from the previous days at the gym, I was having doubts about this third money pitch.
Mitch was stoked and decided he was going to send the third pitch (5.11b). (Remember, Danny and I goal was to send this, Mitch was just trying to get on the wall and have a good time.) Mitch cruises up the first 1/3rd of the pitch then gets to the crux. Its a little traverse on decent crimps and horrible feet. Danny and I were below watching Mitch in anticipation as he crushes our project. Mitch cruises through the crux, rest on the fat undercling then sends the rest of the pitch. Danny and I below were cheering and crying that our homie crushed our project.
Danny was so motivated, he decided to lead the third pitch as well and not follow on top rope. Danny starts off crushing it, eases through the little crux traverse and gets to the undercling. (vital rest spot) He shakes out, then sends up the awkward head wall and is fighting his way. It looked like he had it in the bag until he fell getting over the slopping section. He took a nice 15ft fall and was devastated he fell on the top out. We boosted Danny up and he finished the pitch already planning to be lowered and hit the third pitch again. As Danny put me on belay I wasnt feeling the climb at all. It was hard to be stoked when your freezing and sore but I mustered it up and absolutely crushed the third pitch. I would be happier about it if it wasnt on top rope but I just wasnt feeling it that day.
Mitch tops out on pitch four and Danny and I lower down to the bottom of pitch three so Danny can have a second go on it. We get to the anchors and Danny is ready to send. He cruises through the crux traverse, rest on the under cling and gets to the spot where he fell previously. With enough grunting and yelling he tops out and sent his project. I lowered Danny while Mitch was repelling off the fourth pitch and met up with us on top of the second. We double roped rappelled to the base of the climb all cheerful every one sent the climb. Even though I didn't accomplish my goal I had in mind, my friends crushed theirs. It was great being in an environment where even if you had a shit climbing day, your homies crushed and sent their projects. I couldnt be mad at that, and the fact there was beer and pizza after.