The Edge of Absurdity - TR 2010-12-12


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 16, 2010 - 02:26am PT
Trip Report - Edge of Absurdity 5.8+
December 12, 2010
Linda Jarit & Ed Hartouni

There are climbs that defy conventional grading, where the technical difficulty of the moves may not be too high, but the whole route itself seems to require much more attention than the grade would suggest. I got the idea that Edge of Absurdity was such a climb when Linda was handing over gear on the 6th belay and she said, "oh wait, here are the big nuts" and I had wished she could actually give me the source of the fortitude I thought I would need to finish this climb.

The climb's creator, Eric Gable, has a wondeful eye and a generous spirit. Over a period of time Eric took many partners up on this vision he had, to put a route along a promenent edge of a cliff that the eye is drawn to from the Pat & Jack Pinnacle parking area. The line is beautiful, following the soaring flying buttress up Above The Cookie cliff where few routes exist, and, until this route went in, no moderate/easy routes went. Linda participated in the upper pitch FAs, and I had done a variant climb out of the tunnel drift which is best forgotten.

Neither Linda nor I had climbed the entire route, and we had resolved to do it together. You can find topos for the various public projects Eric has completed at Clint's website:, "Above the Cookie" and the overlay shows the approach.

Here is another view of the climb:

I drove in for the day and met up with the crew at the Reed's pullout. We talked, sorted, strategized and decided to go for it... drive west through the long tunnel on CA-120 and park at that end, we did on the south side of the road. Then follow the power lines down, carefully, steep, sand-on-rock slope, the descent becomes obvious quickly.

Down you go, but as the slope gradually eases, keep to the cliffs on your left. You get to the toe of the buttress, then around it just a bit to a blocky start. Linda and I 4th classed the first pitch with a piece attached to a daisy chain to protect a 5.5 move just before the obvious, tall pine tree. A bit up the gully there is an obvious block which you probably wouldn't want to 4th class, and a great stance to belay from... that is pitch 1.

Here is the view looking across the "Cookie Sheet" with the large pine tree at the pitch 1 belay.

Pitch 2 works up a wonderful 5.8 hand crack, that sort of flairs at the top, and was wet for our ascent. Patience and stemming gets you through and you continue to work up to another pine tree which is on your left. A fixed pin can be spied in a step after which the obvious bolt points the way.

Pitch 3 starts by ascending a series of 5.7 mantel moves, each one fun, awesome granite and good protection gets you to the traversing ledges to a single bolt beside a killer crack placement, out on the edge.

Here Linda follows pitch 3 negotiating one of the many mantles.

Pitch 4 has the technical crux of the climb right off the belay. I could give micro-beta, but what you want to remember is: 1) it's not as steep as the illusion of looking over the edge would suggest and 2) step your left foot through...

Linda's lead! working the pockets to the edge

stepping down on a great right foot hold, your heel is feeling the air...

setting up for the step through...

stepping through!

it's over, now where's that protection that Eric promised!!

This pitch wanders out onto some seamed slab, has a couple of bolts here and there and ends up under a blocky corner, no anchor bolts so be creative setting up your belay anchor.

Pitch 5 turns out to be pretty wild too, my lead... you work up into the easy weakness above the belay. You see a sloping, glassy slab and wonder just how this is 5.7? Coaxing you across is a bolt in the vertical wall, so you do the delicate dance to the edge once again, it is 5.7 but you still don't believe it. Relaxed with the bolt clipped you contemplate the arete, the full on boundary of rock and abyss. You can see the moves, you reach up and start to do the moves, you think of just how bad it would be to blow it here, and also that there is no way you are going to blow a 5.7 move, breathing accelerates, heart pounds, time slows... then "WOOT!" you're on the stance feeling good.

But then it starts to become apparent that you might pull the next set of moves on loose rock, dirt, vegetables, and there doesn't look like much in the way of pro... but if you can really stretch you'll find a killer gold-camelot placement, really the only place, and obvious except for the reach.

A few moves and up to a small pine tree.

Linda floats up and takes a look at the topo...

At this point we're to go right to the obvious ledge with a live bush and a tall dead pine tree. We depart from the topo and go a bit higher, there's a purple camelot welded into a crack that draws you up as you go right... and then you carefully work the ledges, hummocks, and flakes to your objective. This is also an "alternative" belay for Pitch 6 and Linda already tells me she's going to consider using it...

Here she is, mid-pitch...

...the objective silhouetted against the sky.

It's not a bad place to belay from... and I get pitch 7 thinking I can probably just climb off. From the belay it's a step down getting up-close-and-personal with the bush, then to an obvious ledge with a bolt in it... look around for an easy way up, I did a slightly harder way... but not harder than 5.7, then you find an obvious block sitting on an obvious ledge with an obvious ramp leading up and right with an obvious crack in its back.

The way up is obvious.

Climb about 20 feet up to be away from the looseness, and plop down next to a big manzanita bush.


Linda makes short work of it and we're done, well, almost done.

The day is starting to fade, the north canyon wall putting shadows on the south canyon, but it's still light.

We have to find the rap chains to get into the tunnel, which Eric insists is part of the climb and he announced to us in the morning that it will not be considered an ascent unless we do the rap... but we must also utter the famous dialog...

"Ben, you're limping."

"Cut the rope John, cut the rope"*

which we do... find the chains by going up from the belay into the woods and left onto the rocky bluffs. Work your way west staying near the edge, but on easy ground... eventually you'll find the rap anchors directly above the tunnel hole. You can spot the hole from parts of the cliff as you approach.

This is a great adventure climb (the poison oak on my arm attests to that) but not a climb for a 5.8 leader. It requires the ability to move over loose ground, protect traversing pitches and the mental fortitude to pull moves in really really exposed positions, and calls on your route finding skillz. Linda and I took about 5 to 6 hours on the route leap-frogging the leads, probably an hour to find the start.

It's a great route and a lot of fun, especially with a great partner like Linda, and it's in an amazing position.

* dialog from The Eiger Sanction (1975) directed by Clint Eastwood

Trad climber
San Diego
Dec 16, 2010 - 02:30am PT
Great TR. That looks steep for 5.8!

Dec 16, 2010 - 02:44am PT
Fittingly tour-de-force obscure.

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Dec 16, 2010 - 03:09am PT

Popular now.

Thanks Ed and Linda!!!


Trad climber
Long Beach, CA
Dec 16, 2010 - 03:46am PT
Credit: Rudder

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Dec 16, 2010 - 07:08am PT
Thanks for the TR, Ed. I haven't been in that area since early 1973, when I climbed on the Cookie Sheet. That route looks adventurous enough to be well worth the trip.

Thanks again.

Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
leading the away team, but not in a red shirt!
Dec 16, 2010 - 07:54am PT
Nice one, Ed! Linda is great fun to climb with, huh?

Trad climber
Dec 16, 2010 - 09:01am PT
Nice TR,

Good Beta. Thanks Ed.


Trad climber
Durham, NC
Dec 16, 2010 - 09:42am PT
Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
Dec 16, 2010 - 09:55am PT
Glad to see that you're getting out and having adventures Ed. Thanks for sharing.

Dec 16, 2010 - 10:20am PT
Cool !

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:00pm PT
Oh yeah, adventure is!

Big Wall climber
the range of light
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:01pm PT
That Looks like a blast! Where can you get a topo?

Social climber
Hercules, CA
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:19pm PT
Thanks Ed.

Looks like another one to add to my list of climbs to do.

A pile of dirt.
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:21pm PT
Nice to see the big smiles on your faces when you two returned!


Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:28pm PT
I enjoyed that very much. TFPU.

Gym climber
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
I like the self portrait in the "It's Over" photo!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:36pm PT
I can't wait to do this route. Wanna do it with my brother Angus and he is still healing. Thanks Ed. Were it not for you I would be entirely unaware of this route.

M. Volland

Trad climber
Grand Canyon
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:54pm PT
Above the Cookie:

If this area interests you, check out the Sunshine Cliff:

Trad climber
Dec 16, 2010 - 12:58pm PT
Bump! Nice send. Glad to see able gable still at it.
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