TR: My visit to the Canoe


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I'm so over it
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 14, 2006 - 12:29am PT
What I Did For My Summer Vacation

For my summer vacation I visited the Canoe. It was really fun. I have wanted to visit the Canoe for a long time so it was fun to finally visit it. Also interesting. It was also a little scary to visit the Canoe. If asked whether I would visit the Canoe or not again next summer I think the answer would be no I would not visit the Canoe again. Because it was scary like that.

Myth has it that way, way up on the Shield Headwall of El Cap there’s a monster flake mysteriously pasted on a blank wall. My homeboy Geoff and I decided to cruise on up there, see if this thing really exists or what. Maybe a real block of rock up there, shaped like a canoe, or maybe just legend like a granite Yeti, or a Samsquamch. It was truly an expedition into the unknown, a dark place on the map. Fair chance one of us wasn’t coming back. But I’ll tell you this: if we happened to find a real block of rock up there, and it happened to be actually shaped like a canoe, well then I planned on hopping on that bad boy and riding it like a pony.

My matey Geoff.
Geoff is from Australia. Australians are basically Americans that swear a lot more and break out this killer accent to pick up sheilas. He works in a tin mine so he can haul like a gorilla on PCP. He does not take PCP as far as I know. The mine he works in is in NE Oz near Cairns, which is pronounced Cans, sort of like the Cannes Film Festival, except Cannes is actually pronounced Can. Geoff is dating a girl whose father is an anesthesiologist. Probably be good for some cash when he kicks off. Geoff is certain that if he proposes to said winsome lass, her dad will immediately propose a celebratory toast after which Geoff will end up immediately and celebratorily and untraceably dead. None of this, while all true, is particularly relevant.

To get to the Canoe you have to climb this route called Flight of the Albatross. (FA: John Middendorf, Will Oxx & Jessica Alba, 1993.) The Supertaco says to avoid the first few pitches of the Albatross, because they are grassy and crappy. So we did. I do everything the Taco tells me to do. From Mammoth Terrace we climbed the first four pitches of Magic Mushroom. They were grassy and crappy.

At Cast Away Mateys Pinnacle (arrrrr!) we finally got onto the Albatross proper. Geoff on the A2:

And up the cool 8th pitch.
Topo calls it C1 or likely 5.10 and yeah, it’s like a Pancake Flake sort of a deal. Geoff got so psyched he liebacked the thing in his boots to the anchor. That’s actually not true. But the pitch was so beautiful I followed it clean on toprope. (Not true either.)

Friggin' kids these days.

To Whipper Will, that is the question. Don’t really recall it being that much fun, but there ya go.

The hunt for the Canoe continues. P10, another cool nailing pitch:
Say what you want about the Albatross (and it does have some blank on it) but I thought the climbing was pretty classic. Plenty of long, clean splitters.

I sure hope it's not too late to catch the pirate bandwagon.
That's Middle Cathedral Rock in the background, BTW. Supertaco's own Roger Breedlove put up some bold free routes on that thing back in the day. (With Jules Eichorn.)

Honestly, this Canoe thing was really starting to feel like a legend. By the fourth day we were well up the headwall and had seen no teetering mystery. This is the eleventh belay, only 100 feet below the Canoe. Where is this thing!?

Ta-da! The Canoe!
Not totally like riding a pony, but a good seat regardless. I mean, come on, it’s a ledge. What were you expecting?

My mom always used to tell me, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.” First, it makes you really think it through when your own mom uses the phrase “mother of disappointment.” But second, she’s right. You ever get so obsessed about something that when it finally happens, you find you could take it or leave it? And not only that, but there’s a million details you overlooked along the way. Well, I’m not saying I was disappointed in the Canoe, but sitting I did realize there was another hardish pitch above I hadn’t been getting psyched up for. And whoa was it a ball breaker. It was a full-on puckerfest, with crap heads and beaks above the ledge. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, it was somewhere on this pitch that the phrase “Fuсk you, John Middendorf” was heard.

Gunning for the bolt 30' up. I was scared, kids. After a couple rivets the pitch sported five or so fixed heads that were of OK quality, and then the beaking started. And by beaking I mean beak tips. You may be wondering what I mean by beak tips. I mean beaks that are this far in:

Maybe one more shot to show off a little more.
I've been telling everybody I know, and already posted it nearly everywhere, but here goes once more: I have a pretty big problem with the Canoe pitch being called ST A3(no R). There is sizeable deck potential from 30’ and potential to rip big from many other places on the pitch. Whipper Will felt right on at A3+ (with two distinct cruxes as marked on the ST) and the Canoe was beyond that. To me it felt harder than any pitch currently on ZM. I’m trying not to whine too much so I’ll say this: I don’t care what that pitch is graded but it is in DFU territory and you better know what you’re doing with a beak.

And that was basically it. We were off onto the Shield, and in another day we were off.

Random Beta and Trivia

1. We hauled two bags including 64 liters of water up the Heart Slabs 1:1 on a Mini-Traxion.

2. Rivets, though rusty, seemed very solid.

3. We had the SW face of the Cap all to ourselves.

4. They have some weird candy in Oz. Geoff brought some Chicos over. Ever had Chicos? Here’s the bag:
I felt a bit awkward eating them but they were sure choclatey delicious!

5. Got tooled twice during the trip (for OB camping and speeding in Tuolumne) but got off clean each time due to my charm, handsome dirtbaggish looks, and the shiv secreted in my sock. Rangers are people too!

6. Speaking of people and otherwise, I drove home along U.S. 6 aka the Extraterrestrial Highway™ past Area 51. I know what happens inside that compound because I played through Half Life four times. Outside beautiful Rachel, Nev. (ET Highway Rule #1: Whatever you do, do NOT stop the car) I happened upon a Chrysler minivan on the shoulder, shimmering in the classic distress pose—hood up. Which was funny, since the problem was a flat tire. And it was also funny that I violated Rule #1 to be a Samaritan, since I know nothing about automobiles and the gremlins that make them go fast and honk and stuff. But I stopped and tried to help this grandpa get the spare tire out from under the damn minivan. Grandma and what seemed to be two grandkids watched and fretted. The minivan had a hieroglyphic instructional panel indicating some mechanism that winched the tire up under the van, with swirling arrows to RAISE or LOWER and it was funny how little sense it made. Me and granddad, though, working together at full capacity, made slow but steady progress.

I was under the minivan pounding on something critical-looking with a rock when it came out that I was on my way back from “camping” in Yosemite. (Unless you have a spare forty minutes to explain “rock climbering,” just say camping.)

Grandma clutched at her throat and said, “Oh! Yosemite! My isn’t it gorgeous there.”

One of the kids wondered what Yosemite was. Underneath, I broke something.

“Yosemite is a beautiful mountain in Mon—up in Warsh—is it in Wyoming?”

And this was when I realized, still under their UFO, that these people were not from my planet. I crawled out and stood up and looked at their slimy faces. Gauged the distance back to my truck. Should I sprint for that and try to crank her up, or just run into the desert? What sort of aliens were these? Could they warp over and keep me from my truck? Explode it with death rays? Explode me? I had a lug wrench in my hands, that was my only advantage. Maybe these green bastards would waste enough time zipping out of their human suits that I could--

Two cars in the distance. We all watched them approach. It took about an hour and a half, you know how long and straight those roads are. They were two sedans as plain and white as Ford can make them, government plates. Two guys in jeans and black T-shirts stepped out of the first one, in unison. Two guys in green fatigues stepped out of the second, muscley under there for sure, flattops, mirror-shined combat boots. All four in impenetrable black shades.

There was a big silence so I said, “You guys out hunting aliens or what?”

Bigger silence. They stood on their side of the road, and we stood on ours. Cars ticked. The aliens shuffled around a little nervous.

One of the black T-shirt guys said, “Thought maybe you needed some help.”

And the grandma alien took in a breath like she might answer, or might explode his brain, or maybe mine, but I never heard what she said—or did—because I was slamming my truck door and cranking the key and gunning that POS up the long grade out of Rachel, Nev.

All true.

7. Earlier on that drive, on an empty highway, I noticed a little something in the corner of my eye, passing me on the left:
Twenty minutes later they came back the other way. Lost is what they were.

8. You may want more than 10 beaks. I took the 10 listed, lowered off twice (from each bolt) to back clean and got to the belay with a couple left. Not sure what that adds up to. Maybe somebody annoying could cook up a formula: B = (ST + 2BC)^SE, where SE, meaning snail eye, in this particular equation equals, say, ∞. Solving this equation will get you up the Jessica Albatross, and I hope it may solve the world’s energy crisis as well.

9. Curious how we got down off the route? We friggin’ walked, man.

Appendix: Australian/English Dictionary

Budgie smuggler = Speedo

Chockers = full, as in: “I’m bloody chockers, mate. Too many chocolate aborigines.”

Dodgy = jingus, hairball, manky, with teeth, sketch, etc. A great aid word.

Fuсk-all = little or none, as in: “How much rope left?” “Fuсk-all!” “Huh? A lot?” “No! Fuсk-all left!” “What?” “NONE!”

Lollies = candy, excluding chocolate.

Nugs = boobs.

Shits you = annoys you or pisses you off. Again, an extremely useful phrase whilst big walling.

Winter = June-August. Don’t ask, I don’t know what’s going on there.

Wombat = some freakish Oz creature, I guess. Think a gerbil the size of an ox with bunny ears and a scorpion tale with venom strong enough to kill 187 men.

So there you have it. We climbed intrepidly into the unknown with courage and cunning and maybe even what you might call panache. We also ate some Vienna sausages. And if you’re still reading, there’s something wrong with you.

(Thanks Deuce, Mr. Oxx and of course Jess for a very cool route.)
More Air

Big Wall climber
Aug 14, 2006 - 01:28am PT
Thanks for the great trip report! So is the Canoe wide enough to lay down on?

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Aug 14, 2006 - 02:35am PT
There's still time to leave the country man.


I read ALL of it. Way dodgy post though, I thought there were going to be pics of nugs.

Aug 14, 2006 - 08:46am PT
Yo - I think the quote you Mom was looking for was "Expectation is a Motherfvcking disapointment!" BTW how was climbing with a partner who would lead? Must be nice on occasion.
goatboy smellz

up a peak without a paddle
Aug 14, 2006 - 09:03am PT
"Where is this thing!?"


Social climber
Queensland, NorCal, Iceland
Aug 14, 2006 - 09:19am PT
Awesome trip report!

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Aug 14, 2006 - 09:49am PT
First of all, who is this Jessica? Jessica, jessica, hmmmm? Where for art thou, Jessica? Can't say I remember doing the FA with anyone but Will. Maybe he had her stashed in the haulbag...

Nice TR, "the hunt for the Canoe". I had the same desire when we climbed it. I had soloed the Shield previously, and there was an old rope stuck on the Canoe, and it would flap around the triple cracks on the Shield. I cut off a piece of it then. When we got to the Canoe proper, it was all jammed in there. Took a while to clean out. Not sure where it came from originally.

By the way, I called it, unimaginatively, the "boat", but after seeing Sutton after the ascent, he said, "what, that's a canoe if I ever saw one, eh?"

I think someday the Canoe will fall off the big stone. The ledge it sits on is quite sloping, and it is completely detached from it.

ps, thanks for the kind words while you were leading the pitch above the Canoe, eh?, too!

Trad climber
Aug 14, 2006 - 10:02am PT
We were pre-hauling to heart ledges last Sunday when you guys were up there. All I could think was Im getting ready to get scared shitless on one of the most moderate routes on here (triple D)and thess jackasses sound like they're actually having fun up there above us on some route left of the Shield....It was really amazing to have that side to ourselves after you guys got off and we launched on Monday...full moons, perfect weather, no crowds.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 14, 2006 - 11:18am PT
Hey Ryan. An instant classic. Very nice writing.

Looks like you are making good progress on the ADD/paranoiac/Jessica delusional thing. But, just in case, I am glad you got away—that thing you broke under the space ship was the Cataclysmic Attenuating Necromaniacal Osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullar Euthanasia launcher.

(I don’t see the pictures on my work computer—my company’s attempt to make me more productive—Ha. How little they know about my easy distractibility.)

Best, Buzz

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Aug 14, 2006 - 11:51am PT
p.s. Sure did enjoy seeing the creative sticker modification on your helmet, too!

East Coast US
Aug 14, 2006 - 11:53am PT
Great trip report!

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Aug 14, 2006 - 12:03pm PT

nice TR and Scend!

Social climber
The West
Aug 14, 2006 - 12:18pm PT
Nice! Thanks
I had to go back to look at the helmet, nice work on that, too!

"Why is drinking your (american) beer like making love in a canoe?"

"It's f*#king close to water!"

-Eric Idle, possing as a 'stralian.
Jonny D

Social climber
Lost Angelez, Kalifornia
Aug 14, 2006 - 12:34pm PT
Arrrh! my belley tis' aching. fun post!

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Aug 14, 2006 - 12:36pm PT
Nice TR, yo! I love your writing. please go visit some more cool features so we can read about the trip. Snoopy? Ice Station Zero?

I'm so over it
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 14, 2006 - 02:20pm PT
Hey, boys. Thanks.

Sewellymon, got home and started brewing up a sprayfest and realized...I got no pics of the Canoe! If anybody's got a good shot of the Shield Headwall, post her up please. The Canoe really is up there in the middle of nowhere.

Deucey, yeah, the Canoe will probably trundle someday, but it's on there better than I expected. I have no idea why it is there, geologically speaking, but it's got that little perch at least. I think Boot Flake goes first.

Is that rivet higher on the Canoe pitch original? That stretch between the bolt and rivet was unreal, one move in particular where I kept scraping a beak down the seam looking for it to catch on something, then giving her a tap. Yipe!

Again, I highly recommend the route. It's spectacular and made out of the highest quality stone the Cap can offer.

I'm so over it
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 14, 2006 - 02:27pm PT
Oh, forgot one last beta tip: P11 used a green camalot as noted, but that is not the only cam. Toward the anchor the pitch took 4-5 alien-sized cams. So .75 camalot, blades and LAs, and a handful of cams less than 1".

No reason to belay on CA Pinnacle. From Grey Ledges to 7 is around 180'.

Brian, the Canoe is shoulder width and pretty flat.

PS: Kartch, when are you coming down here, you little schoolgirl?

Trad climber
Gunks end of country
Aug 14, 2006 - 02:40pm PT
Nice TR!

Sitting on the canoe without a paddle.

Probably why it didn't go anywhere.

Aug 14, 2006 - 02:48pm PT
Yo - I'll be there Sept 8-11, Lowe Route on Angels? Scott and I just did El Grande Teton sat (which BTW you should never Google) it was sweet.

And it's school-man YO, SCHOOL-MAN!


Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Aug 14, 2006 - 03:12pm PT

yo you should post your beta on the Route Beta page...yo yo


oooh, ooohhh
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