Wide World of Yosemite Valley Off-Widths


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Dragon with Matches

Bamboo Grove
Jul 1, 2004 - 10:37pm PT
Slightly on the topic of wide stuff, brought to mind by mentions above of Twilight Zone. Haven't been on it, won't soon, but rather curious as to how one might fare leading this as one's first wide crack experience.

Albeit the "one" in question isn't exactly your average joe...

I had the pleasure of meeting Yuji Hirayama a while back. Polite, humble, and friendly to a fault - very approachable. What a visual shock hearing a Japanese guy speak with a perfect French accent - but don't hold that against him. Anyway I was talking with Yuji about his near- onsight of the Salathe Wall. Was curious about how much OW experience he'd had before going up there. All those World Cup comps and 5.14 limestone I see in the mags don't seem like OW training to me. "Not much," he said. "I just practiced leading on one route to see if I could make the jams." Which route? Turns out he'd only climbed Twilight Zone as his one and only intro to wide Valley granite (or - I'm not sure - maybe his intro to OW) before going up and DAMN NEAR flashing the Salathe. I think his first attempt had only one fall, or falls at only one crux, though I'm unsure of the exact details.

Well beyond my comprehension.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jul 1, 2004 - 11:07pm PT
Hey Melissa: I know what you mean--It's not a job, it's supposed to be fun.

Your post reminded me of something. So much of what we all do it seems, is based on our capacity to separate what we do from what we want to do in a way that sounds like, "yea, yea, I know, I'll do it right, just as soon as I get through this desperate part." Usually this has nothing to do with climbing--just regular life, but it applies equally well to climbing.

In some sort of in-the-now world, we should be able to focus ourselves to do the right thing in the moment. One of the sweetest things about climbing is that it is possible to do that. I have no idea why. It may be that the rewards--getting up really pretty routes--are linked directly to the ability to achieve that focus.

The best climbers I have ever seen never slipped (well almost never. As one one stated, "If I thought I was going to flail, much less fall, I'd stay in the cafeteria.)

The interesting thing is that they did not slip because they were great climbers (they were); they became great climbers because they learned not to slip.

There is no criticism here, just an observation of the direction of the cause and effect relationship: mind wins.

On the other hand, to paraphase someone, some times a bad hair day is just in the humidity.

My time zone is late. Best, Roger
Russ Walling

Social climber
Bishop is DEAD, long live JT
Jul 2, 2004 - 01:34pm PT
Anyway I was talking with Yuji about his near- onsight of the Salathe Wall. Was curious about how much OW experience he'd had before going up there. Turns out he'd only climbed Twilight Zone as his one and only intro to wide Valley granite

In all fairness, I would expect a 5.14 guy to be able to lead a lowly 10C regardless of size or configuration. Lets see... 5.14 - 15 letter grades or so = 5.10C... so even in my couch induced state, I can still probably do most 5.10's..... minus 15 lettergrades = 5.6c/d. Yep.... I'll declare it here, I can do any 5.6c just from the pure math of it all.
Ben Wah

Social climber
Jul 2, 2004 - 10:02pm PT
Hey M,

At the risk of putting words in Roger's mouth (forgive me Roger, if I speak wrongly), I think he's asking why you try OWs that are far burlier than any you've done before. He climbed in a day when the watchword was: The Leader Must Not Flail, and with good reason--their gear was often jingus and far-spaced. Hangdogging was considered less than ethical, so people made darn sure they thought they could climb something before going up it. Some (myself included, though I come from a later vintage) climbed many 5.8 and 5.9 OWs before ever attempting a 5.10 one--and found that technique is learned quicker in stuff you can do than in stuff that causes flailage. Something impossible for me will teach me less technique than something I can do--the best way to prepare for Cosmic Debris, if that were my goal, would be not to go dog Cosmic, but to climb as many easier fingercracks as I could. It is the same with slabs. You must learn to handle mind-numbing runouts on stuff you find comically easy before you jump on an R or X rated route.
Hope this helps.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jul 2, 2004 - 10:56pm PT
Ben, your description of how I climbed is correct, but I don't recommend it. What I guess I should have said more directly...

Melissa wrote: "When it gets really grim, though, everything starts thrashing around, most notabley the hands and feet. It's like a drowning reflex....It's like my body gets confused at that size..." Been there...

After reflecting on my experience and what Jardine started with hang-dogging, my direct advice to Melissa is to go back and find that place where it got really grim and do those moves so many times that your body doesn't ever become confused in that circumstance again. Honest, that is what I was trying to say the first time.

My next observation was that the art of climbing hard occurs in exactly that moment when we fall apart. If a climber masters that moment, mentally first, and then finds the right combination that makes the moves feel secure, the art is pushed to that grade.

I think that everyone's approach to this is individual and I doubt that it can be taught. But, Melissa, I notice that you are pushing yourself so hard that I am guessing that you will get it. I was just checking your methods, and feeling envious.

Best to you both, Roger

Big Wall climber
oakland, ca
Jul 3, 2004 - 12:08pm PT
Thanks, guys. I hope it's clear, although I realize that my dark humor sometimes seems more depressed than funny, that the whole point of my original post was that I thought that I got sandbagged (albeit by my own ignorant believe in someone else's comparative beta) and I thought it made for a funny story.

I probably am not so different from you guys when I'm doing my real practicing and learning...mostly climbing well within my limits, and sometimes stepping beyond to see what I can do. It happens that the person with whom I want to spend my days off is a much stronger parter...and sharing a mutually rewarding experience with him may mean that I follow and flail through some pitches to get to ones that will be at a better level for me. IMO, it's part of being a good and fair partner when he has done all the moderates ad nauseum and has been belaying me on them more than my fair share of late. Besides, sometimes it can be FUN to flail, and I often consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to do it.

Sure, back in the day I'd have gotten 20 feet of penalty slack and lowered in my bare feet to the snow covered ground for my 'unethical' behavior. ;-)
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jul 3, 2004 - 01:53pm PT
Oh no! Ya mean.....a troll. Arrrrrrrrrrrrg.

Big Wall climber
oakland, ca
Jul 3, 2004 - 02:32pm PT
No...not a troll! Just a story. I do appreciated the advise, though. Sometimes the best advise is the advise that I didn't know to ask for. And with that...I'm going to get out of my $#%# office and go flail in the great out of doors finally!

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 3, 2004 - 07:43pm PT
I'm envious of your strong partner Melissa. If I want to climb something hard for me, I have to lead it (or TR). It would be great to have a friend who could pull me up some hard stuff I'm not ready to lead yet.

Trad climber
Otto, NC
Jul 4, 2004 - 05:42pm PT
I recall that strong partner dragging my flailing ass up an OW pitch that was, in the topo, actually unrated, yet that I could not climb. I eventually laybacked it with lots of tension.

Remember, it doesn't have to be fun to be fun!

Jul 14, 2004 - 05:01am PT
Im with Melisa. I actually popped off the second pitch of Mental Block.Thank god Altman led it.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 14, 2004 - 10:53am PT

Just a plug for my friend and partner, Tom Kasper, who manufactures and sells [url="http://home.pacbell.net/takasper/slcd/valleygiant.html"]Valley Giant 9" and 12" cams.[/url] These superb pieces of craftsmanship were made to defeat the fearsome offwidths of Yosemite.

They come highly recommended by Dr. Piton, who has used them extensively on El Cap, though only for aid because he is old and crotchety, having entered Free Climbing Retirement some time ago.

Jul 15, 2004 - 06:12am PT
Arent there any new hard OWs?
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 15, 2004 - 11:06am PT
Interesting question, that.

There are plenty of hard face climbs - 13's, 14's everywhere - and they get climbed on a regular basis.

How hard is the hardest OW rated? 12 something? How often do those monstrosities get climbed? Are OW ratings really sandbag? People say "you need specialized technique". Well, sure. You need the same for 13 face climbs. Are OW's undergraded? [They sure seem so to me, but of course I don't have the technique]

Or are they just so horrid, that the top climbers never want to learn how to do it?

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 15, 2004 - 03:09pm PT
Well, hell, those wide pitches on Excalibur go free and at something a bit stouter than 5.12. I asked Schneider about it, and all he could recount was a story about Craig Luebben trying the line and getting spanked. Maybe that gives some impression of the toughness (your cam-jug methods looks better to me though.)
Um, there's some line called "Viva Gorditas" that Jason Smith and some others did. The slides look jingus. And there's a thing called "Cedar Eater" that, I think, is up Sentinal Creek. That new Huber/Zak book has a shot of it. Guaranteed to burn a calorie. Some locals or JayBro could probably tell where those climbs are.
If you get over to the east side, there's a pretty rad flared wide line, maybe 21 feet high that strarts with fists and digresses to full body wiggle up at the Druid Stones. Maybe 12a. Kevin Daniels ended up doing it calling it "Grovelicious", but it's also known as "Off Width Velour" (named for Billy Russel's attire) or "Inner Ear" (the outside lieback is "Van Gogh.") And in the Whitney Portal area there's a cool double overhung lieback or OW boulder that can be TR'ed. It's in the lower campground near the Meysan Lakes trailhead. And then there's a phenomenal line called (what else) "Wide World of Sports" on the Balch Camp Flake "above the road to Black Rock Reservoir." It's a 240 foot flake that detached from the main wall, split, and can be climbed. P-gucci ran a photo of it a while back, and AAJ #70 has a write up on it. Suffer little children...

Trad climber
SF Bay Area
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 15, 2004 - 03:43pm PT
that huge cam photo reminds me, i thought i once heard a story about some idiot releasing a haul bag full of that really big gear form something like 1000' up on el cap, i heard it was his partner's gear too!

anyone have the details on that one?
sounds like a pretty good ST slander story...

Ben Wah

Social climber
Jul 15, 2004 - 06:14pm PT

"Viva Gorditas" is my to-date testpiece; Jason Smith (AKA Singer, who is now at geographical antipodes to us) followed it with a hang, and Magoo (Cedar, he'll tell you his name is) flashed it for the second ascent. That was the last ascent of it that I know of. It's pretty cool. I'd like to know whether anyone else has bothered with it.
Ben Wah

Social climber
The West
Jul 15, 2004 - 10:31pm PT
"Viva Gorditas"
Hmmm, ... what are the spatial coordinates and other necesary particulars of this climb?

Trad climber
Jul 16, 2004 - 02:50am PT
How many stars would you guys give the Harding Slot?

Gym climber
City by the Bay
Jul 16, 2004 - 09:40pm PT
Mental block is "easy" for the grade compared to a lot of OW. I've been hanging up in Squamish and got on this route called Pipeline. The first free ascent was free-soloed and its supposed to be just a squeeze chimney. Only 10c right. I went for it 15' above the bolt no bros to help just balls and it started to nibble on my elbow, then bite my ankle, and finally it decided I wasn't tasty enough and spit me out 35' upside down. Makes Twilight Zone feel easy. I think all offwidths are sandbags-it's part of the fun.

Oh yeah There is a really cool 11- offwidth problem in the boulders above Camp 4 for those who are pysched. It's underneath and to the right of a big flat boulder with a tree on it. Cedar did the FA. It's rad Also in Toulumne On Phobos Deimos there is a rad corner as you approach the cliff called The Hipsters Handbook that got sent last year super fun a little dirty but good 10c and some big gear
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