Sunday, November 29, 2009

Agonizingly Close

So I'm down from the wall now and back in Boulder. I had fun up on the route but didn't manage the send. I did come about as close as possible though.

After redpointing the lower crux on Saturday, Sandy and I hiked to the base with all our gear on Sunday and hauled everything to the top of pitch 3. Early the next morning, I lowered down and worked the crux of pitch 3 (hard 12d). Sandy came down to the belay and I redpointed the pitch first try. We broke camp and then I started up on the next pitch (12a). I had done it years ago on TR, but didn't really remember anything. I decided to go for it pseudo-onsight rather than working the moves first. It took lots of patience figuring out the route because the first section meanders a lot before you get to the crack. I pulled it off though and then did the heavy haul. Pitch 5 goes at 12b and I remembered that it was a bit tricky at the end. I didn't want to waste the energy for a solid onsight try knowing that I could blow it right at the end, so I climbed it first taking rests at every few pieces. I got to the top and lowered down. With most of the beta figured out and the gear sussed, I sent on my next try. At this point, I was a bit tired from the climbing and hauling and decided to aid the next pitch (12c) to save more energy. Once I got to the top, I lowered down and worked it on TR. By the time I got back to the top of the pitch, it was almost dark, so I decided to haul the bag and set up camp -- leaving the redpoint for the next morning.

Hiking the final load up to the base

A scary load indeed!

On Tuesday morning, I first tried some of the moves on the second crux of the route, pitch 7 (13+). This pitch is a 12c thin traverse to a really tough vertical boulder problem on tiny holds. I tried the crux moves a bit trying to remember the sequence I had figured out in the past. After a few tries, a key crystal on one of the crimps crumbled and I didn't think I could do it using the same beta. Luckily, I figured out a slightly different way that wasn't significantly harder. Confident that I had a sequence, I came back to the bivy and lowered down to prepare for a redpoint of the lower pitch. To my surprise, the crack had seeped over night and was unclimbable. So instead, I headed back out the traverse of pitch 7 to try to understand the crux moves even more. After a few tries, the sun came around the corner and I was forced to quit. The rest of the day was mostly spent chilling on the portaledge. At the end of the day, Sandy and I lowered to the bottom of pitch 6 and I redpointed it.

Not much for the hands and tiny feet on the 12c section of pitch 7

Spending a rest day in style

My hope was to redpoint the next pitch Wednesday morning and make it to the final collection of hard pitches that evening. I was confident that I could do the rest of the climb if I could complete pitch 7 because everything else was 5.12 and below except for one 13a bouldery crux move which I had done in the past. Early in the morning, I gave a go at pitch 7. I climbed through the 12c, which was a harsh warmup, and then rested at a no-hands stance for a bit. Then I launched into the crux. I got near the end, but my hand popped off the crimp as I was preparing for the finish moves. I suspected that I crumbled a little part of the crimp, but wasn't completely sure. I tried the move a few times to make sure I could still do it the same way. Then I gave another try, but things went wrong. The moves are so technical and require such a high degree of precision that it's so easy for something little to go wrong. On my third try, I found myself staring down the final hold before things get easier. I only had the crimp with two fingers and the foot I was standing felt bad. I had to make a quick decision: go for the hold now, or try to get things in better position first. I chose to go for the hold and slapped the edge of it just as everything popped off. Unfortunately, I didn't stick it. I couldn't believe how close I had been and kept questioning if I made the right decision. When I got back to the belay, I realized that this attempt had left me with a blood blister at the top of my pointer finger and middle finger on the hand that holds the key crimp. Not good... I drained the blisters and gave one more attempt for the day but didn't come as close. I spent the rest of the day again sitting on the portaledge and making sure the blisters didn't fill back up. I figured I could give another good go the next morning.

My fingers after draining the blood blisters

On Thursday morning, I gave a few more tries but didn't come as close as the previous day. Hindered by bad skin and tired muscles, things just didn't feel as good. I could still do the crux in two overlapping sections, but it just wasn't clicking. I conceded for the day and then had to make the hard decision to go down. It was difficult because I knew I could do this move as well as the rest of the route and I had worked hard to get to this point. Still, the forecast for the next days was grimmer calling for higher winds and perhaps a snow storm. Additionally, I needed to be back in Boulder by Sunday. If the weather had been perfect, I probably would have had enough provisions to wait another day at this point and still climb the rest of the wall. It just wasn't right though and my psyche and confidence had faded.

I really wanted to succeed on the route, but I guess I'll just have to come back to it. Here's a photo of pitch 7 that will hopefully inspire me to get back soon. Can't deny that it is a beautiful place to climb. I just hope more holds don't break before my next attempt.

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