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.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 16, 2010 - 03:14pm PT
Looks like a good climb for the 2011 FaceLift. Bound to be some junk somewhere around that tunnel that needs to be cleaned up.

Trad climber
Dec 16, 2010 - 03:17pm PT
Thanks Ed,
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 16, 2010 - 03:53pm PT
Cool report and very nice overlay, Ed.
The overlay suggests you went lower on p6 than we did on the mass ascent in 2008?
[Edit: the overlay shows the same way I went; I just had trouble looking for the dead tree on the overlay - thanks for explaining, Ed!]
We went up by the dead tree, which involved a hard/reachy move up some rock with black lichen - I was concerned that might be wet/undoable on Sunday.

Older thread with additional discussion and photos of the climb and nearby stuff:

46 photos from the 4/2008 mass ascent:
(looks like we got a lot more sunlight than you did in December; no surprise, I guess)

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Dec 16, 2010 - 03:55pm PT
Looks like a good climb for the 2011 FaceLift. Bound to be some junk somewhere around that tunnel that needs to be cleaned up.

Can I get in on that one? Please??


Trad climber
Mill Valley, CA
Dec 16, 2010 - 04:09pm PT
Nice! Thanks for the tr-- looks like fun!

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Dec 16, 2010 - 06:05pm PT
Very nice TR, Ed!

This is what real threads should contain: climbing, rather than character assasinations. Again, good job.


Trad climber
The great white north, eh?
Dec 16, 2010 - 06:33pm PT
Nice TR Ed!
Abel Gable sent me the topo a couple summers ago, and it looked like fun, so Jimmy Cooke and I decided to go for it. We did the approach as described, found the start, and roped up.
Pitch 1 was cake.
Pitch 2 was Jimmy's. He cruised it, and I thrashed my was up to the belay.
The mantles on pitch 3 reminded me that I live at a keyboard - my 50 year plus sendentary arms didn't have the juice, and I was the reason we could not finish. (Sorry Jimmy!)
I tucked my tail between my legs and suffered through the long slog back to the car.
Glad your results were different!
(BTW, I hope to return and regain my self-respect someday)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 17, 2010 - 11:45am PT
we went high on Pitch 6, (the "6" on the overlay image above is right next to the tall dead pine tree, hard to see in that lighting) and the whole cliff there was wet, which is why there are so many vegetable friends hanging out there to watch the antics.

looking right, just off the Pitch 5 belay, was not encouraging as is seemed wetter and steeper than going up and right, which is what Linda did...

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 17, 2010 - 02:23pm PT
Thanks for explaining, Ed. I see now the line is the same.
I just got a little confused trying to find the dead tree on the overlay!
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
leading the away team, but not in a red shirt!
Dec 18, 2010 - 01:49pm PT
Climbing Bump.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2010 - 01:54pm PT
although I thought the topo had a warning (it does not), there are Poison Oak bushes that dot the first pitch... I suspect that it is apparent when the bushes have leaves, but this time of year they don't so it is best to brush up on the "stick structure" of PO so that you don't brush up on the bush itself... as I did... not too bad, inside right forearm near the wrist, left arm, inside, near the elbow, between the ring finger and the pinkie of my right hand... I must have been fully in the bush to get those spots and I'm amazed I escaped with the little that I have...

these bushes are the Cerberean hounds that greet you on this particular passage...

Trad climber
Dec 18, 2010 - 02:35pm PT
That looks like a great climb and even greater adventure. We are all jealous up here in the frozen North!
M. Volland

Trad climber
Grand Canyon
Dec 18, 2010 - 03:02pm PT
Poison oak is the Devil! It will touch you when you give in to temptation, and infect you with evil.

Be on the lookout at all times.

Mountain climber
Dec 18, 2010 - 04:23pm PT
Excellent Ed! I am inspired, a friend wants to do arrowhead arete when it stops raining, this might be obscure enough to tempt him!

Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
leading the away team, but not in a red shirt!
Dec 18, 2010 - 05:03pm PT
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
WA, & NC & Idaho
Dec 18, 2010 - 05:32pm PT
Nice Job Ed thanks for sharing,
Looks full on for the grade!

Social climber
san joser
Dec 18, 2010 - 10:17pm PT
Great winter Valley TR. Looks like you guys hit it between all these storms.

The PO on the first pitch is alive and waiting to give you the touch. I stared it down a few years back and chickened out because of it.

Facelift and tunnel: During the '05 or '06 facelift, jstan and I and some gal that worked for the gov't cleaned up the base area. We found those old chairs that got tossed out of the tunnel, numerous beer and pop cans, some steel pipes, copper wire and ceramic insulators, diamond plate, and other debris tossed out of the tunnel. It seems that most everything that gets tossed out ends up about 40' up and right of the the start of EOA and at the far left margin of the Cookie Sheet. We filled our haulbags with as much as we could carry and stumbled down to the road.

Friends and I have taken at least 100 lbs of garbage (mostly abandoned power line junk)every facelift since. There's still more to go. The lighter junk that is tossed out of the tunnel gets washed down a drainage that heads toward the Below the Sheet area. I have unearthed many old pull tab cans down there.

Fortunately I have not seen too much modern trash up there. Perhaps the tunnel opening is not the party spot that it used to be?


Dec 18, 2010 - 11:32pm PT
Really great TR. Thanks for the pics and the awesome in-head narration.
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
leading the away team, but not in a red shirt!
Dec 19, 2010 - 01:32am PT
I really love the name. I gotta do this route.
em kn0t

Trad climber
isle of wyde
Dec 19, 2010 - 02:01am PT
WOW, Ed!

Great TR, great photos, great team. Kudos to you both!

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 19, 2010 - 03:33pm PT
So, C + S, it sounds like there is still stuff at and around the tunnel egress, and more so at and near the base of the route, that could be cleaned up? Boy, that would be a score, picking up tourist and industrial garbage that's actually on a climb.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 26, 2014 - 11:45am PT
the crux sequence is a bit tricky

Linda Jarit leads the 5.8 crux of Edge of Absurdity, frames 9 and 10
Linda Jarit leads the 5.8 crux of Edge of Absurdity, frames 9 and 10
Credit: Ed Hartouni

Oakland, CA
Mar 26, 2014 - 01:45pm PT
Very nice. A good one that I'm going to keep in the pocket for a sunny winter day.

Mar 26, 2014 - 10:19pm PT
After memorizing Ed's photos, I still took three leader falls on this move. Clint backed off it. Approach at your own risk.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 26, 2014 - 10:54pm PT
I backed off that move, but the beta uses the outside left foot, and my left foot doesn't work very well.
So I went "around" the crux by going 60' straight up with minimal pro, then traversed right at that higher level.

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Mar 26, 2014 - 11:32pm PT
Thanks again Ed for your marvelous contributions.
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