Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 5, 2006 - 10:35pm PT
OK, this is a report from Feb 25, the day after we put up Eric & Ed's Excellent Adventure. A low grey overcast sky sucked the inspiration out of doing anything long and committing that day. We slept in late, I was feeling very good, the morning was relatively warm, and the breakfast feast went on and on.
Eric was in a mischevious mood, "ok, short approach, short climb, rap back to the base? You in?" what was I going to say... "sure". We pack up at the new secret spot and motor off to the "Valley Portal" pullout after the long tunel on 120.
"OK, I know we're not going to do Separate Reality. Where to?" I quizzed Eric.
"Into the tunel, out the drift, and up. Get it from my description at breakfast?"
It isn't like I haven't heard about this before. Eric spied a line that caught his fancy on the "Eiger Sanction" finish to his route Edge of Absurdity, once on top of that route, you rap down to the drift's end and walk back to the car, usually parked on 120 at the west end of the tunnel.
Now every time I had been able I looked down that drift on my way into the Valley and wondered what it was like out there. I know that it was a rap station for climbs below the drift's end, but there is nothing on record going up from the drift's end. So out we walked.
The tunel brings out the crazies in people. Honking horns, someone was screaming, really loud, the whole way through, and the car noise is incredible. A turn into the drift plunges you into the dark, with the end illuminated, but the sides, roof and floor of the drift is impossible to see, at least for my old eyes. Fortunately the floor is uniform, if a bit wet. Getting over the gate is the first crux. Then you get this great instant exposure. Two rap stations on the west side of the opening, the lower with chains must be a bitch to negotiate, a long lean out...
Eric started up on the east side of the drift. Tricky climbing on the blast shattered rock. Up about 30' to a stance to put a bolt in.
"Hey Ed, guess what?"
"There is an old quarter-inch stud here. I bet they went off right"
Eric put in a new 3/8" SS bolt and hanger. We were going left. Several things should have prepared me for the pitch. The first, Eric was rushing to get gear in a very steep section with a lot of obviously loose blocks... he is usually pretty deliberate. Second, there was a lot of small sh#t raining down on me, pinging off my helmet. I couldn't look up at Eric. Near the top, Eric was shouting for SLACK! and I had a nice loop out to the first piece, hellacious rope drag caused by at four 90 degree turns in about 60' of climbing. Eric was on top, and obviously releaved.
Up I go, but sh#t, there is fractured plates sitting around everywhere, and even the edges on the rock didn't look like they were going to stay. It was gripped getting up to the bolt, and then moving past the bolt to a moss band. Blocks sitting on this band were newly knocked off and sitting there, needing only a little encouragement to trade their potential for kinetic.
Traversing over to the steep vertical layback edge I was breaking off holds in my hands. This was not fun. The layback was the most fun, steeper than I thought, but a beautiful edge. The terror was at the top, which was defined by a strata of rotten rock; which Eric traversed. Ugh, sitting in this band was the worst, jingus choss, moving out of the layback and onto some foot holds being careful not to launch too much down. Eric had a whole lot of placements, I was thinking that the rock wasn't good enough to honor its side of the deal.
At this point I was screaming to Eric "YOU GOT ME!", he did, "yes Ed, I've got you", but I wasn't convinced of anything... traversing on stuff that looked like it was going to spall off, every piece I took out lengthened my potential scraping fall, hand holds breaking, I was getting vocal, but the screams were animal vocalizations, more primative cursing than the usual.
Then I was through, and only had to negotiate a short vertical section. "You good there?" Eric asks, "sure, I suppose", "OK, I'm going to redirect the belay, if you go there you'll peel off these loose blocks".
In case you were wondering, I don't actually recommend this climb. If you go, take a helmet, at least for the second. It is probably not harder than 5.9, and the steep layback is the best piece, but not worth the dues you have to pay.
Ah, adventure climbing, what it's all about, wondering what a line might be like and going up it with no idea what you're going to find.
At least I don't have to look down that drift anymore.
If you make the rap down from the drift you are on the slab where Gait of Power and Tunnel Vision start.
We went up.
Eric's Edge of Absurdity follows the outside edge of the slab from the bottom to the top, at something like 5.8. Very exposed climbing.
By the way, Gait of Power looked unbelievable! as did Tunnel Vision.
I think I have the basic vocabulary down for sandstone, not my favorite medium. On all that stuff my early teachers' words still echo in my head "The leader must not fall" which is followed by a fainter prayer "and neither should the follower".