The Road to Space Babble

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Wade Icey

Social climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 5, 2006 - 01:05am PT
In light of recent SLAB banter and since we have many of the past and present protagonists present, as it virtually were, perhaps we could benefit from some mentorious input ala http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=129073&msg=134024#msg134024
same questions, just swap the word slab for the acronymn OW. What say you???
James

climber
A tent in the redwoods
Dec 5, 2006 - 01:50am PT
I'd say, "I'd like to know too."
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Dec 5, 2006 - 11:28am PT
I can tell you the road I took- assuming you've already got 5.10/easy 5.11 face climbing skill. The route has only one 5.11a pitch and the rest are moderate 5.10 and one 5.9 pitch, well within the rating ability of most modern freeclimbers. It's leads do require a high level of commitment and an ability to relax over your feet while working out the moves. The routefinding is mostly straight forward, or it was to us, with a choice of ways to go on the start of the fourth pitch, other than that the route follows an amazing weakness that coaxes the leader up the center of one of the most beautiful and flawless buttresses Middle has to offer. The rock is as good as it gets and breaking holds isn't a factor on the lead. With the exception of the upper part of the first pitch there are no long sections of sustained difficulty. On the second pitch Ron did a 5.10 c mantle that's about 15 feet out and probably the scariest moves on the route, but like most cruxes on Middle, the hard moves are between big postitive holds to go for or downclimb to. If you send that and stay on route the moves are all easier to the top.

What the route requires most is a familiarity with the holds and smears unique to Middle that catch many climbers offguard. The confidence required on SB's sparcely protected leads comes from putting in the hours on Middle's other easier/better protected faceroutes, and the traverse along the base from DNB to SB and beyond, simple as that. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a waste of time to train on other slabs, but there's nothing like Middle rock,

From my experience the sequence of Middle routes leading to the skills for SB would be:

Paradise Lost
DNB
Stoners

Then to the North face Apron. My experience here is limited to routes that were FA's, but I know there's short, well protected routes up there, maybe even better to start on than the above mentioned routes. I haven't done it but The Flakes would probably be a good adventure. How hard could it be if Sacherer and Powell did it in '64?

Freewheelin
Quicksilver
First six pitches of Mother Earth (if rebolted)
Jigsaw (if rebolted)
Black Primo(if rebolted)

Throw in some long hours traversing the base between routes. Get comfortable with texture of Middle, push the limits near the ground.

Don't know the extent to which SB has been rebolted, or how many ascents it's had. If you go for it bring a hammer, some blades, 5 or 6 various arrows, 2 baby angles, a standard angle, even a boltkit and a prybar to replace anything that needs it.

If you like that kind of climbing you're gonna be totally psyched - it's an alltime faceroute.

Kevin
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Dec 5, 2006 - 12:27pm PT
Here is a topo I drew right after we did the route shortly after it was put up by Ron and Kevin. Kevin's suggestions about how to prepare for the route are spot on -- not much to add.



One thing I will note (even the topo notes some of this), the fixed gear was pretty shitty (even right after it was placed). Bolts were not fully drilled, fixed pins (KBs an Bugaboos), were driven into flared spots and the offset prevented them from being fully in or solid. Unless already done, all the fixed gear after pitch 1 sould be replaced. Note the shitty bolt belay (at top of pitch 2) and the two pins at the belay for pitch 3 were very sketchy too. We didn't trust any of the fixed gear.

The second pitch was probably the scariest (at least for me), the 5.10 "mantel" was very funky and the type of move you would only be "comfortable" doing (seemed more like 20+ feet out) if you had done a lot of Middle climbing.

One of the best quality routes I've done on Middle. Still pretty vivid experience after 30 years.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 5, 2006 - 01:25pm PT
Kevin's post is the word on this topic.

My only point of disagreement might be to suggest starting with the better protected face routes on the North Apron before venturing onto the easier run-out ones. You really have to get used to the stone, moves and route-finding. Do Stoners before paradise lost, at least the first four. Stoners has good bolts and better rock.

Space Babble is pure death but hopefully will be restored before you launch. If the anchors have been replaced but if it's not equiped with fixed pins, Grossman pin-bolts, or a community decision to replace pin protection points with bolts, you'll have to know how to use pins or climb bolder than the Fa.

In that case you could consider headpointing it by rapping in from pitch 5 of Kor Beck and TRing it on the way down. That's less adventure but if you're not Kauk/Kevin in your skills, you have to factor a bit of survival into the equation. If it seems you'd survive after the dry run, have at it. That's the way the bold brits go for the death routes.

Peace

Karl



eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Dec 5, 2006 - 02:09pm PT
Space Babble is now on my to-do list. I love climbing on Middle.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Dec 5, 2006 - 02:48pm PT
Karl I've heard the "pure death" description from you before. I'm wondering exactly where you mean that death is an element on the route. Obviously if a belay failed it's death, but that's fairly easy to remedy. There are places on the upper pitches where you could go for a loooong ride, but the climbing's barely 5.9, if I remember, and it would be a pretty clean fall as far as any ledges or large pointy things go. Most leaders who reach that height basically never fall on 5.8/5.9 anyway. I don't remember any groundfall potential above fifteen feet or so, provided the pro holds.

Death is always a possibility when climbing. On our first effort a storm moved in quickly and before we could descend, a basketball sized rock passed between us and the Bircheff Williams at terminal (death) velocity.

As far as dying goes, It does seem like a "pure" place to experience it.

Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 5, 2006 - 03:00pm PT
Kevin, I think that in general folks who have looked at Space Babble and discussed it on ST--Karl in particular--believe that all the original protection needs to be replaced--the original stuff would not hold. I think that you are saying the same thing.

Tell us about the name. Why ‘Space Babble?’
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 5, 2006 - 03:09pm PT
Randy, thanks for posting your topo, showing the fixed pin locations. It's exactly what is needed for restoring the fixed pro on the route. I'd be psyched to rap down it (again) and replace all the bolts - that would be fairly easy to do in one day (hopefully when it's a bit warmer). [Edit: Bruce Hildenbrand already volunteered to team up so there's no reason the simple bolt replacement part of the job can't be done before April.]

Replacing the former fixed pins on the first pitch is more complicated, so I think the plan for that would be to leave a fixed rope on the first pitch and take a second day to figure that out. I'm open to whatever Kevin and Ron suggest for replacing the pins. If it was up to me, I would first look carefully at the placements to see if modern tiny cams would fit, but since Kevin and Randy have described KBs and LAs that seems unlikely. Steve G's idea of using bolted pitons is interesting. [Edit: Steve proposes manufacturing his own SS replica pitons, to be bolted into place so they don't fall out, discussion on the "Welcome to Kevin Worrall" thread at http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=252358&tn=160 ].

My choice would be the Petzl Coeur SS hangers which have a pretty small visual footprint. They could be placed in the same spots where the original fixed piton eyes were. And I would use the Powers/Rawl 3/8" x 2.25" SS "five-piece" bolts. At belay stations there would be SS rings.

I rapped down this route and toproped most of it in 1995.
http://www.stanford.edu/~clint/rep/957yjohn.txt

I remember the bolts and pins at some belays sticking far out, as Randy mentioned. We didn't die rapping from them. But I'm pretty light. I presume Kevin and Ron had to rush a bit to get up the route, hence a few too-shallow holes. Easy to fix now.

As for bolt replacement on other Middle Cathedral routes, there is a fairly good list at:

http://www.safeclimbing.org/areas/california/yosemitefree.htm
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 5, 2006 - 03:26pm PT
Kevin wrote
"Karl I've heard the "pure death" description from you before. I'm wondering exactly where you mean that death is an element on the route."

Pure death because some belays aren't even safe to rappel on. Maybe since we're talking about these days. something will happen but until the route is repaired, the road to Space Babble is road to nowhere

Peace

Karl

PS Grossman is talking about using stainless steel pin-bolts See the welcome to Kevin thread
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Dec 5, 2006 - 03:33pm PT
With all due respect to Ron and Kevin, much of the fixed gear they placed (including many of the bolts on the upper pitches) were crap. I think we did the 4th ascent, in either 76 or 77 and the gear was still essentially "new."

As far as the route being death -- well, while the falls would likely be clean (if long), we thought some of the belay anchors were so poor that if the leader did take the unlikely big whipper, the belay might not withstand the fall. Actually, as Kevin points out, most of the run-outs on the upper section is sustained 5.9 -- meaning you shouldn't fall there anyway.

With thin, shortened or otherwise modified Lost Arrow type pins, perhaps some of the pin placements might be more secure. Ultimately, pins are a short term type of "fixed" protection and absent availability of other clean gear, should (imo) be replaced with permanent fixed gear (but, hey it ain't my route).

Edited to add: Karl is right, rapping the route would necessarily involve replacing the anchors as you go, or risk taking a long ride to the deck.
Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Dec 5, 2006 - 03:39pm PT
"Maybe since we're talking about these days. something will happen"

Who better to do the job of upgrading the gear than a guy who lives in the Valley and makes his living by climbing its rocks? As you pointed out, unlike the routes on the N. Face Apron, you don't have to lead Space Babble ground up on the decomposing gear to do the replacement.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 5, 2006 - 04:55pm PT
You might have a point Mellisa, but I'm like Switzerland, neutral and don't drill and don't chop. I don't even have the gear except for an emegency 1/4 incher.

And I wouldn't bother except if I could deal with the fixed pin issue too. I like Steve's idea but it's not practicable yet, except maybe by him. Clint had a good idea too, of using piton looking hangers, but I don't know if the community is ready to buy replacing pins with bolts, and don't want my efforts chopped.

In any case, I'm just old enough and rusty enough to consider Space Babble in the league of maybe coulda, but just don't have enough fire for risking my neck on anymore.

I don't remember any fixed pro on some of those pitches. Sure, you could be solid, but a pebble from above or a butt cramp and you could ride 300 feet. (I do still solo once in awhile) If the leadouts were 5.8 maybe, but I content to just spray!

Now it's in Shaggy's league for sure. But it sounds like we might lure these codgers out from the woodwork for an adrenaline reunion. Why spoil that?

Peace

Karl
the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Dec 5, 2006 - 05:25pm PT
Cosgrove and i did this route in the spring of '84 and had a blast and got very puckered up on this route. The climbing was excellent and route finding tricky as there was no chalk to guide you like now a days...
what i do remember is a 5.9 pitch near the end (last pitch) where scott was getting a little sketchy 45' above my head with no pro, and i was ready to untie from the belay and put him on the anchors and see if we both lived or not!
Very memorable day for both of us young em's and the memories are still strong for me during my time spent in yos in the 80's.

My only concren is, if you replace the bolts i would not replace the pins with bolts as you will kill the true taste of adventure and turn it into another trade route.....
KS
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 5, 2006 - 06:15pm PT
Kurt,

Thanks for sharing the story of when you did it - pretty cool.

> My only concren is, if you replace the bolts i would not replace the pins with bolts as you will kill the true taste of adventure and turn it into another trade route.....

Clearly your concerns are shared by many. Although using the original types of pitons under the flakes on p1 means they will fall out again fairly quickly, unless someone volunteers to go and reset them every year or so, I think. Or people could rap down the route and reset/replace the pins if they intend to lead it. But unless people have access to Randy's topo showing where the pins go, this is not likely to happen.

What would be your (and Kevin's) thoughts on having at least one bolt at the belay anchor at the end of pitch 3? Those 2 pins stick pretty far out and were scary even to rap on. The pins could be left in place if some people don't want to use the bolt as part of the anchor....
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 5, 2006 - 06:44pm PT
Is this cliff, given its exposure, subject to a lot of freeze/thaw action? If so, it also suggests that cracks dropping behind flakes from above would be vulnerable, especially if widened/opened by pitons. In other words, a solution involving re-placing just the pitons may be pretty temporary. A or some of the flakes may be vulnerable to repeated mechanical prying/impacts, and the increased potential for freeze/thaw wedging. Also, not so many are familiar with hammer and piton use, or even carry them. If this is the one free climb in the Valley where hammers if not pins are obligatory, it won't be climbed often. Not sure what's the right solution. I haven't done the climb, though was intrigued enough to once hike up to its base.
James

climber
A tent in the redwoods
Dec 5, 2006 - 07:11pm PT
IF someone replaces the pins with bolts...yada yada yada. When some DOES replace anything then we can talk about it. Until then I'm saving up my karma so I can max it out on Middle sometime.
junior

Trad climber
Modesto. CA
Dec 5, 2006 - 07:34pm PT
I climbed this route in 87 with Werner and the belays were very Questionable. The first pitch I protected with small brass nuts and stoppers and I don't remember any fixed pins. I wouldn't think new fixed pins are required for this pitch, the gear seemed adequate, but new anchor bolts a necessity. The climbing was killer but I don't think it was 5.11a more like 5.11+. Terry
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 5, 2006 - 08:09pm PT
Terry,

Thanks for the beta on the adequate clean gear. That settles the debate for me. Bruce and I will replace the existing bolts.

We will also place a bolt belay (to replace the piton belay) at the end of p3, if that is OK with Kevin and Ron. The other permission needed would be for adding a second belay bolt at the end of the first pitch, and at the end of pitch five - is that OK, Kevin?
the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Dec 5, 2006 - 08:17pm PT
we also need to consider the new small gear out there that was not present on the first ascent and later ascents that may avoid some pins and make some belays better.
ks
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