I have always had my eye on this place and the spring route seems to be the best/classic aid line. Anyone agree or disagree? Or let me reword this... spring route seems the most doable aid line, A4-X isn't really my cup of tea. That story of the faller jugging the leaders belay loop is crazy!(Luca and the Fishes)
Seems like there are so many unlisted routes. Trying to plan an 2014 trip up something from a 1990 topo is tough! haha
Any one been up spring route lately?
Beta on a 2014 rack?
Beta on run outs or any thing else?
Deuce....Thanks for the Babo post. Neat to see the pics, brings back memories of climbing there in the 70's. Noticed mention of Roger Dale on the topo. If you have contact with him, pass on my hello. Please forward his email if you still have it.
In August 1989 I was beginning on the outs with my longtime woman in Ft Collins. Jim Waugh and I had talked a lot about doing the second ascent of Universal Traveler (UT) on the east face and Jim had gleaned the beta from Steiger on the first. In 1981 Steiger and Fig had stashed pins up near Lion’s ledge for many months and had done “Dreams of I’itoi”, then UT, then finished with “the Fellowship”. Waugh had done Dreams with Eric Johnson and has felt his lead of the expando crux was the most mind provoking aid pitch he ever led. The Fellowship was not under consideration for it involved three pitches of A.4 climbing then a 170+ foot 5.10+ X pitch. Steiger had told Jim he sat there for a long time before he pulled the move off. Steiger years later down played the move saying it ‘was not that bad’, but the dude was climbing SOLID and HARD at the time. UT was the steepest route on the east face and was the obvious target with the only caveat that the climbers had to join Humungous Woosey for the scary coffin block pitch before branching off to the new line.
Waugh and I were both in Phoenix and gathered the tools for the ascent. The pin stash had been gone for years so we had to conjure up a new set to leave at the wall. I was thinking of doing the spring route after so leaving the stash could help while I camped out to finish that line. It was August and monsoon time in southern AZ. We knew there would be rain but decided to chance it anyway. Jim was teaching at Deer Valley and had the time off before classes started at the end of the month. I was done with summer classes and only had to ask my boss Bill Sewrey at Desert Mountain Sports (DMS) if I could go aid climbing. Bill, a classically trained desert aid climber and adventurer, had long given up climbing because of progressive spinal disease but enjoyed hearing my tales of self-destruction. My ‘in’ with DMS also allowed me to order a 300’ spool of 11mm rope and cut a “novel” 185’ lead line out of it.
Day 1, Waugh and I had a five day block and left Phoenix pre-dawn for the three hour drive and two plus hour approach. We were able at that time to drive all the way into the Riggs ranch. The house was by this point mostly gutted but had four enormous agaves on the walk down to the front door and five or six metates were built into the front door arch.
It was brutally hot already by 8am but we started busting up the trail. The summer rains had the creek flowing so at the ˝ way mark we jumped in a pool to cool down. Three and a half hours later we landed on lion’s ledge. UT is the first route after scurrying around the big boulder onto the ledge but the area below the route is super rocky and you could not easily bivy near the base. Instead we chose the cush bivy spot under the tree (and start of “the Fellowship”) with the nearby spring which was several hundred feet further. We dumped the contents of the packs and quickly racked up and walked over to the base of the route. After a quick lunch we jumped on the first pitch with Jim starting off the fun and I needed to get accustom to the rock on babo as it was the first time I touched the stuff. Some steep and awkward free moves clocked in at 5.10 and lead to a single bolt anchor. Jim drilled another hole to shore up the lone bolt and I had supplied new old stock Leeper hangers from the ceiling of DMS which at one time held tent displays. The second pitch was casual fifth class with a little aid up some steepness to an all RP belay which I carefully equalized. Jim began jugging and an anchor piece quickly blew out throwing me into a bit of a panic. I drilled a back-up bolt to the belay as Jim jugged up so we would not die---yet. With the sun fading we fixed the anchor a little more and rapped back down to Lion’s ledge to settle in for the night.
Day 2, We jugged to the high point and Jim set off on the traversing A.3 pitch. Mostly pretty casual nailing and clean gear lead past some rivets to a hanging belay off Friends. I was pumped for the aid crux pitch which went out a series of roofs 160’ off the deck. nailing and reaching for rivets and bad pieces I made my way out to the edge of the roof where a rotten pod thwarted every placement I had. I stack, shimmed, stuffed, crammed everything I could into this loose hole that only grew as I tried to put a piece in. Jim was dying in slings and I had been on lead for 4 hours on essentially a 35’ pitch. Beaten, I asked Jim for the drill which he denied me until about the fifth request. I was going to just place a rivet but Waugh demanded I put in a 3/8 which I knew would add time as I had to reach out a 3’ roof to drill. Probably an hour later I finished and finally stood on my chicken bolt and was able to reach a 1.5 friend crack for a belay along with a pin or two. With the day done, I lowered down and jugged into Jim and we bailed for the evening.
Day 3, We had made plans over the evening to haul a bivy set with us and bust for the summit. Loading the bag we slumped over to the base of the route and began the 160’ air jug to the top of the third pitch. Once there, we continued above the roof to the 4th pitch with backpack and all. Jim set out on the “5.7” pitch. The topo showed wandering to a block belay which we could not quite make out. Jim went up 60’ and hit hard ground. Down climbing he then tried left which was a dead end, then right, then left again. So far 4 hours have been spent on the 5.7 lead. He finally opted for the center variation. We had had two good clear days but summer in southern AZ can be touch and go. Our luck was about to run out. Jim started up harder territory which he said was in the 5.10 range. In the middle of the crux a foot hold busted and Jim at this point was easily 40’ out from the last “piece”. Keeping his shiat together he continued through and started trending left to a double refrigerator sized block pasted to the wall. I glanced out east and saw very dark clouds moving fast. As Jim tied off the block and set a sole 1.5 friend I let him haul the pack and I jugged at breakneck speed for the belay.
The storm was under a half hour out and above us 35’ was a brush covered ledge. As lightning flashed behind us Jim raced up as I hurried to just get him on a hip belay. I heard an angle being smashed in and a quick “off” as I pulled the friend to start the short jug and groans of Jim’s disappointment that the welcome ledge was a bust. The rain started. Jim started wailing on the drill to back up the 1” angle he had placed. He hit so hard, so fast, and so regularly that he earned his unofficial title “waughmachine” that moment. As I arrived at the belay, and in what seemed like seconds, we made the decision to bail as heavy rain and active lighting came dumping down. I rapped down to the belay above the roof but somehow failed to procure any pieces worth a sh#t for the belay so I docked into the chicken bolt I drilled yesterday. Foolish me, I was carrying the 45 pounds of bivy gear, water, and food on my back. My legs stuck under the roof, water from the entire upper wall was funneling into my crotch as Jim rapped to me. I don’t remember looking around as the frequent lightning strikes flashed just outside my visual field. I knew one of those strikes had our name on it, I was just waiting. In a complete clusterfu#k, Jim pulled the lines and set the raps up. We knew it was 160’ from the 3rd to the ground, but we only hoped that my custom lead line would make the stretch. All I can still recall was rain and the booms. I guess there were the flashes, but I was ready to be history. Jim started the rap but the lines were drenched. Feeding the ropes through his stich plate- each bounce translated to the sole Leeper hanger flexing under our loads. I screamed to Jim but he could not make it any smoother. He was not going to make Lion’s ledge proper. The rain continued, the thunder and lightning intimidated, the hanger flexed, and Jim slowly lowered to the end of the lines and hit the slabs below the base of the route. With my partner’s weight off the hanger a little comfort eased in but the storm continued its rage. Collecting slings I had to make an aider to stand in to set the rap. Finally I started the rap but the pack pulled me back like a turtle and Jim thoughtfully belayed me from the rope he had pulled up to the ledge. I finally arrived at Lion’s ledge shaking like a martini and physically exhausted. Jim and I hugged as we realized I’itoi was only f$%king with us and we would see another day.
The rest of day 3 and 4
We went on to start Luca that trip and stay close to the ground and hidden from the rain. Two more trips out we would make the summit in November of ’89 by a new line without soiled undies.
(sorry for errors in grammer etc)
Luca and the fishes =black, UT high point-top of pitch 6=green
Thanks for that story, Rick. Really enjoyed it. I was up on Lion's Ledge a few weeks ago scoping out routes. It's way over my head, but I was able to ID the line of Harvest Moon...do you know if it's ever been freed, or even had a second ascent?
PS-I climbed Humungous Woosey a few years ago and while there were a lot of smaller loose rocks, I definitely don't remember any "scary coffin block pitch." Did somebody trundle it...or did it just fall off one day?!