Ahab 5.10b?


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Trad climber
Golden, CO
Oct 15, 2014 - 11:32am PT
I call it 10a because that's what my guide book says (yellow Meyers guide) and it did not seem out of line for that grade.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 22, 2014 - 05:33pm PT
We climbed it, no one took anyone up it. Just two people capable of doing it. I had led it before, the first time I did the route. If I mentioned it, it was not to remind anyone. It was probably to point out how well Peter climbed back then, how he stormed up the cracks.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Nov 22, 2014 - 06:49pm PT
Thanks Pat. That really was a fun day out, for sure.

Trad climber
Nov 22, 2014 - 06:57pm PT
Peter and Pat, legendary old school American climbers.
Thanks for the memories!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 22, 2014 - 10:37pm PT
As Kevin and others have said...it is totally technique dependent. Some pretty good climbers without the proper technique have been humbled. Do it right, like Keven, Pat, Peter et al, and it's not so bad.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 23, 2014 - 12:17am PT
Karl, it would be much more difficult to face toward the main wall.
That is my opinion. One needs the friction of back against
the main wall. As for Largo, I can only imagine with his great
physique and strong muscles the climb would be two grades harder.
I got thick in the chest for a time, and certain cracks I once
fit in were desperate off-widths on the outside. The thinner
person who fits in will be more solid. So Largo, your opinion
of Ahab being hard would be correct for your solid size and
easier for one such as I. Actually I felt very solid in Ahab
and led it the first time I did it, surprised by how well I
fit into it. One must learn how to do arm-bars and arm-locks,
though, and to heel-toe. My Spiders back then fit perfect,
like standing on boards....

Pratt was wide in the shoulders but thin in his chest, a perfect
build for off-widths. Combine that with his fine technique, and
you had the master. Sacherer too was thin, as was Kamps, and could
fit into the crux of Right Side of Hour Glass, for example.

Royal told me when he discovered Tre-torn tennis shoes they smeared
better than his climbing shoes. He had bad bunions at the time,
and climbing shoes hurt his feet. To discover how well he could
climb in Tre-torns was a kind of joyful revelation. I tried to
get some and could not find them, but one day David Breashears
arrived and brought me a pair. I did all sorts of routes in
Eldorado in them and found some routes substantially easier,
though a few (with difficult edging) harder. Those shoes literally
fell to pieces off my feet, I used them so much. They were, in
a way, a kind of precursor to the modern sticky rubber. When Royal
soloed Ahab, he was possibly in the best shape of his life.

Everyone who does not live in the Valley must get in shape for
off-width, even if you have led hard off-widths in the past.
Each season I would have to spend at least a week remembering
the technique and mindset of the off-width. I have to admit,
though, the Yosemite off-width is a unique experience. Someone
mentioned the Left Side of the Slack. Right at the crux, as
I led it with Higgins, I found a way to lean back in a lieback
move, and I was past the crux suddenly. Sometimes a trick
will work. One of the crux aspects of Twilight Zone, back in
the day, was the lack of protection. With big Friends and
such, that is no longer a problem. I was with Henry when he
led Twilight Zone in fine style. He could do any type of
climbing.... Just a lot of rambling thoughts....

Trad climber
Washington DC
Nov 23, 2014 - 05:23am PT
I led Jardine up the thing in 76. I remember him coming up and saying how far I had run it out. With a 4 hex as my biggest piece I don't think I had much choice.

Royal was in his "Tennis Phase" when he soloed Ahab in Tretorns. I was on the AAU swim team at Modesto Swim and Racquet club and would see him all the time in his whites.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 23, 2014 - 07:57am PT
Kevin, I also climbed the lower part horizontal but with my legs outside and my right arm in a chicken wing above my head and my left arm below. In addition to the secure chicken wing, with my legs sideways, I could catch my knees on the outer edge of the chimney with my feet against the wall as if it were a 2 foot wide chimney. Very secure and easy. The hard part was getting upright to pass the squeeze. The first time, I remember having to back down a foot or so to get my head out.
David Wilson

Nov 23, 2014 - 08:25am PT
Finally led that a few years ago. I'm a big guy so I didn't fit in all. I had a really good left chicken wing but everything else felt insecure and overall it felt much harder than the left side of the slack or Chingando or left side of Reeds.....I was very happy not to slip out of that maw

Social climber
Nov 23, 2014 - 10:30am PT
Your technique sounds perfect Kev. That's how I have always done it. Pretty easy that way if you have your technique dialed and aren't too thick in the chest. 10a is a good grade for it. I have done it many times over the years. More times than not whenever I did the center route we would do it on TR. The first time I did it was on lead in 1973 belayed by Jardine. The last time was for Heinz Zak for photos. He was very eager to get his pictures. I think he thought I was trying to avoid him. It wasn't that. Rather, I had hardly climbed for years--certainly no wide routes. I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence. Europeans seem to have a somewhat morbid fascination with this route. It has a rep with them because most haven't mastered the craft like a local who grew up climbing chimneys and off widths. He finally cornered me and I had no choice. I broke out the old 2 inch swami. Harnesses in these things just get in the way. You can't slide the knot around to your outside hip. I briefly thought of doing it on hexes for the total retro look but my hexes were all in pretty poor shape from years of neglect. I was a little nervous hiking up to meet him. Why couldn't this have happened back in the day when I was fit? I kept reassuring myself that, despite the scanty pro, it had always seemed pretty easy. When I got to the base he had a rope hanging down the center route for pictures. Perfect! I told him I wanted to rehearse the thing prior to leading it. Readily agreeing, I think he sensed my apprehension. I tied on and with his wife belaying me I scooted right up the thing stopping at the hand jam pod 50 or so feet up. No problemo. A little extra huffing and puffing but essentially just how I remembered it. Commenting on how easy I made it look, I think he was as relieved as I. Lowering off I arranged my rack and tied into the sharp end. I scrambled up the first easy 20 feet or so to the base of the chimney where I slung a block. Looking up at the gaping maw a bit of my nervousness returned. I was fully aware that if I fell before getting my first piece of real gear in--a bomber wire in a flake deep in the back of the chimney--I would deck. Pushing this aside I started up. I felt solid enough though this definitely wasn't the Mark of old. The relief I gained as each move up brought me closer to that nut placement was balanced by the fear of knowing I was that much higher above the ground. I just tried to relax and let the old instincts take over. Before I knew it I was at the placement. Locking myself in with my legs in hips I removed the wire from my rack reached back deep in the crack slotted it and clipped the rope. Ah! The hard part was over. With the threat of decking gone I polished of the last of the chimney, subdued the transitional wide crack with some foot stacks and reveled in the fist jams that came shortly thereafter. It was nice to know I still had a bit of it in me. Technique is a beautiful thing.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Nov 23, 2014 - 03:51pm PT
I think the reason most of us have memories about routes like Ahab is that back in the day you were supposed to do all those off-width cracks and these entrance level ones came along early when our technique was raw. Once I had done a stack of these things, and got it all dialed on the Geenerator Crack, Ahab and Left Reeds and so forth were suddenly pretty casual - but they always required effort. Harder stuff like Stepping Out and Cream and Hourglass Left (more of an undercling, really) were also doable if your technique was solid. I still remember doing Crack of Despair with Warner and Luke before I had any technique and thought it was the hardest climb on the planet. Man, I got my ass kicked on some of those off widths early on. Too stubborn to quit, I came away with horrific road burns about the knee and elbow. I got pretty handy with off width technique after a decade in the Valley and I still regret never getting up on Basket Case. That sounds like the gem of them all.

Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 23, 2014 - 03:55pm PT
Your method is similar to mine. My right leg stayed below me, with
right foot in heel and toe, but then my left leg high in the crack
and body at an angle, near horizontal, with an arm-lock above my left
shoulder. My right hand pushed against the crack edge at about my
right hip. I felt very solid, and then the rest: perfect handjams.
I could easily see how one could solo this. But if you were big or
in some way did not fit, it could be a nightmare. For me, the Left
Side of the Slack was much harder (especially if you did not find
the lieback move I did).

I think possibly the real danger of Ahab was the point at which the
chimney ends, and one has to change techniques and make the
transition into jams. That kind of a section can be confusing,
if you're not careful, I mean, what with feet still in heel and toe
but hands beginning to jam above...

I actually thought Peter Pan was rather hard. Peter H. and I did it the
same day we did Ahab. Peter raced up it, like nothing,
as he always did, but for me Peter Pan has some strange moves....
It might just be that it is rather continuous.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 23, 2014 - 06:12pm PT
Largo's comments are really good, about the steep learning curve,
and how we had to get in shape and get "dialed in." On Crack of
Doom I expected off-width, but there is none on that climb. There
is every other type of crack: hand jams, squeeze chimney, back foot,
Narrows-like tight squeeze.... The most exciting part of that climb
is the overhanging squeeze chimney of the second pitch, which I found
easy, because I could get in it and get an arm lock with my left arm.
Much like Ahab, steeper but easier.
The crux turned out to be a short wall with a thin crack up through it,
right at the top of the climb, a little pitch that looks trivial... until
you try it.
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