Lunar Eclipse: Trip Report


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Social climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 6, 2007 - 01:15am PT
Owlman "how many attempts do you plan"?
Me and Texas Bob got about 45 feet up Lunar E.
It was awesome! Then we moved our gear to Mesacalio. Then we bailed from that one too. And fled to the Meadows...ahhhhhhhhhhh.

But hold it...what happened on P1 of Lunar? Like, it was hard. First...30 feet of A2 (bring some sawed-offs, and finally a cam or two...), then some free moves (easy) left onto a ledge (kind of an ugly human-eating jagged ledge - good place to ponder the next few rusty heads and then some hooks?).

Took me a bit to suck it up and move up the heads to a weird steep little corner where I was totally stumped. Could see a manky head move...and also saw a shallow bat hook hole up and left...but no solid stuff for another 15-20 feet I think until I might be able to "mine" some mud and grasslets and get in some tied-offs and then finally maybe a nut or a cam. That led to a bitchen little expanding flake, then a steep corner with what looked like a bail sling...then finally some bolts. Now you're about 2/3 up the pitch. Right on! "Real A3".

I stopped at the heads below the bat hook. Hanging on heads above the ledge...with more uncertaintly ahead: To go forward mean't risking that ledge - not an ankle breaker ledge...a Monkey Eater. Nasty little pinche ledge.

We bailed for the Meadows. We licked our wounds...and miraculously found friends in Touloume. So after I soaked my head for 24hrs...We warmed up on Fairview then had a great day doing Tenaya Peak then traversing the backcountry to Cathedral, soloing that one too, then descending to OEs stashed in the creek.

We bailed east. I spent a few nights with my best friend in the Tetons shacked up near Delta Lake under the evening shadow of the Grand. Finally got home and had an amazing road trip. Huge spankings mixed with great personal progress.

What happened on Lunar? I'm still trying to figure that one out. After several days of slogging loads, typically during the heat of day (check out Werner's data), we finally poised for our attempt. I think I lasted about 15 minutes on P1 before my flag pulled. Weak. My ball sack is still hanging there on that top head...I can hear the little guys squealing, "willey, come back...don't leave us here...". Next time I'm carrying a rack up there and planning to camp out on that first pitch for a while.


Here's my new plan. Place about 13 heads at my high point all laced together...screamers and sh#t...then put some sort of retro crashpad on the ledge...maybe use that mank over on BUBS to help me if I do hit the ledge and bounce toward the ground...suck it up and hook baby...up for that munge where hidden gear must lurk.... Ding! Round two. Aight!


belgrade, mt
Jul 6, 2007 - 10:12am PT
Right on Owlman.

I'm heading to Zion in Sept let me know if you need a ride.


belgrade, mt
Jul 6, 2007 - 03:13pm PT
That sounds good. We just had a kid so I'm haveing a hard time planning anything, if I go somewhere it's usually on short notice. But my wife's friends are coming to town this weekend to help. I'll give you a call tonight if I can get out tomorrow.


Jason Kartchner 435-590-1599
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 6, 2007 - 06:20pm PT
Too bad you didn't hang in there - Lunar Eclipse is actually a nice route, and what you found on P1 is typical of the rest - NTB but DFU. My notes say that P1 is "real A3" which basically means that the climbing is a bit tricky, but if you know what you're doing and have the right gear, it will be reasonable and not desperate.

What you find on a route like Lunar Eclipse, that doesn't get climbed all that often, is either an absence of fixed heads, or else stuff so old you are afraid to trust it. Popular routes like Mescalito might also have supposed A3 pitches, but they will be completely equipped with fixed heads which you know will hold you because they held the last three parties who climbed it that month [or this week!].

You say you saw no solid stuff for 15 or 20 feet? Not true! Heads are quite solid, provided you place them yourself and don't trust the rusty ones put in years before. What you need is two things - the right gear, and the experience to place it.

An essential piece of gear you need to take along on moderate and hard aid routes, especially ones that don't get climbed very often, is a tool called a "butter knife" which is a sharpened chisel used for removing fixed heads. It's filed to a sharp point - flat on one side, and rounded on the other. Get that bastard up under those old rusty-cable heads, or deadheads, spend five minutes tapping and prying to carefully remove the blob of copper or aluminum without hurting the rock, and place your own head. Most likely your efforts will reveal to you the best head placement in the crack, since somebody else chose it already. I've placed hundreds of heads, and can tell you that not one head that I have personally placed has failed, though I've busted dozens of old ones.

As for experience, there is only one way to get that! One thing you can do to learn how to place heads is to go find some rock someplace that nobody climbs, and nobody cares about, and start placing your own heads. Look for something that approximates a stopper placement with some sort of taper, or else a deep enough slot to hold. Preshape the head against the rock so it's about the same shape as the placement, making sure that you put the cable-side of the head against the rock to both reduce the bending moment, and also to protect the cable when your whacking the head. Then get out your punch and paste the hell out of it until "it's welder, man!"

Once placed, get on the things and bounce-test the livin' bejeepers out of them. You'll find the #1's will hold a good bounce before you bust the cable [not pull the head], that the #2's are amazingly solid, and a properly-placed #3 is totally the bomb. This way you will have the experience and the confidence - along with your butter knife - to go climb a route like Lunar Eclipse, and do so reasonably and safely. Why should you trust someone else's mank when you can place your own good stuff?

Lunar Eclipse is a great route if you're just breaking into the harder stuff - not quite A4 even though the McTopo calls it that. Highly recommended by Dr. Piton!

Big Wall climber
Jul 6, 2007 - 06:28pm PT
Interesting. I hiked my stuff up to the base of lunar a couple weeks ago for a solo, thinking it would be pretty casual, then asked some people about it.... "uhh, some funky free climbing on the first couple, we bailed onto zodiac" and "the pitch above cats and frogs is like A4+....bat hooks in crumbling rock above the better bring your rivet kit".... so I did the zodiac with my girl instead. maybe Lunar is kind of a sandbag? The devils brow and that ledge above look so cool, maybe I'll have to go back!?!?

Thanks, good to hear about the first pitch!

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 7, 2007 - 01:08am PT
Picture of the butterknife would be nice.

Cartoons too.

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 7, 2007 - 06:35pm PT
Mr. T,

Lunar Eclipse isn't casual - it's a full-on NTB moderate with a few DFU sections. But neither is it desperate, nor a sandbag. It is slightly overrated as A4 on the McTopo - I thought it's more like A3+.

To address your comments and concerns, there sure can't be any funky free cimbing, or else I couldn't have done it! The sixth pitch [above Cats and Frogs Ledge] was straightforward A3 nailing, with a bit of expando stuff above. I don't remember any bathook holes - I have a note that near the top I had to stand on a flake to reach the final rivet, some sort of semi-free move. As I recall this pitch went through brilliantly solid hard grey rock. Maybe you were sandbagged?

P12 up to the Devil's Brow is easy, not loose as suggested. P13 through the roof gave me a bit of bother when I took a daisy-chain fall after a fixed blade driven straight up into the roof pulled on me, but I was able to finesse the expando above with cams and nuts rather than by nailing. The ledge at the top of 13 is indeed brilliant, just before you swing onto Zodiac. Once there, you'll realize just how easy Zodiac really is by comparison.

I've got pretty detailed beta on nearly all my 32 El Cap routes ... "will trade for beer" Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Here are a couple shots of the butterknife in action on the Welcome To Wyoming pitch of the Ranch. The McTopo describes this butterknifed section as A3R, which in my opinion is a rating that doesn't exist. It's full-on A3 hooks, heading and nailing with tenuous placements above a very nasty ledge fall that is guaranteed to break your leg at the very least should you blow it. On the Casual Rating System [the one I believe most makes sense] I would rate this pitch NTB+ but DFU, since I had to remove the old heads and place new ones, but maybe someone following might think it easier? So should this section be rated A3+, or A4? I don't know, but I don't think A3R exists.

What I can tell you is that having the right tool - the butterknife - and the knowledge and experience of how to remove the old heads [tricky] and place new ones [easy once you know how] turned this scary section into a reasonable exercise.

Above this opening section of the pitch, you'll find definite PDH- and DFU climbing on the headwall, with the very real potential for a rope-cutting fall. The problem is the middle bit, where you cam-traverse under this sloping A1 roof, and then suddenly bust out on improbable difficult-to-find-and-use natural hooks straight above. It doesn't matter how short or how long you sling the cams, in the event of a fall your rope will slice across what is possibly the most knife-like edge I have ever encountered on El Cap! Positively terrifying. I put three layers of duct tape across the edge, which probably wouldn't have done much good anyway. The big problem is that it's impossible to tell exactly where the rope will come across the edge!

Not only is this pitch a superb candidate for a double-rope lead, I think the Better Way would be to run the second rope as a rope solo, with a screamer-rebelay on the cams under the roof so you know precisely where your rope will run. I think Kate's idea of taping a hunk of closed-cell foam onto the edge at the cut-point is a good one. Glad I didn't fall....

Above you can see how I tapped the butterknife in under the old fixed mank to pry the stuff out. Below you can see the curved surface of the butterknife on top - the bottom side of this filed chisel is flat. The edges have been filed to be very sharp as well. Thanks to Bryan Law [Minerals] for supplying it.

Here's a closer look at the placement I cleaned, which from top too bottom contains an old busted-off RURP, a copper deadhead, and a half-cleaned aluminum deadhead. Once I removed the rest of the aluminum deadhead and popped out the copper deadhead, I was left with the original decent placement and didn't have to chisel or enhance the rock in any way. I repeated this procedure for several other placements.

The big BD Pecker which you see below the head placement is bomber - I had to hook up to it, whack it in, clip it to a bunch of slings, reverse the moves to downclimb to the ledge, then bounce-test the livin' bejeepers out of it. After being satisfied it would hold, I was able to return and complete the job. But scary stuff for sure!

Thanks to Kate and indirectly to Handsome Mike, who put her onto these big peckers, which are superior to knifeblades in so many placements. We used these things almost exclusively on the Ranch instead of KB's, and you'll read more about it on our upcoming trip report.

Big Wall climber
Yosemite area
Jul 7, 2007 - 08:20pm PT
That thanx should go directly to Handsome Mike, who has turned many a woman on to the benefits of big peckers. I'm glad to hear that Pete isn't ashamed to admit he likes 'em, too.

Its important to note that they are only rated between 2 and 4 kn, not sure why. Maybe its the wire? Either way, don't forget to use screamers/scream aids, depending on the situation. And if you can have a bomber LA or a pecker, the LA may well be stronger pro.

Pete! Sup, bro? I have the awesome CDs from Tom and would love to make copies for you if you didn't get a set of your own. Lemme know. I'd love to get copies of your pics/video, too. I got you a present that I didn't get to give you b4 you headed out of town...remind me when you get back. You'll love it!

Jonny D

Social climber
Lost Angelez, Kalifornia
Jul 8, 2007 - 08:06pm PT
I had a bail on Lunar Eclipse as well a few years ago. Here is how it went: My buddy and I had plans to do ZM but found another party already fixed on it. One of the climbers in the party, going by the name of “Smitty” suggested we get on Lost In America instead and race them to the top, “we can party on top together, it’ll be fun” he said with dilated eyes and a black teeth grin.

After checking the topo and realizing we were short on pins (and balls among other things) we decided Lunar would be more appropriate. We had heard the route was a step up from Zodiac but easier than ZM, sounded good. I volunteered for the first lead and was soon hanging on the start of B.U.B.S which shares the initial 30 ft of the route. After traversing on hooks and free moves I headed up a thin crack that turned quickly into a head seam.
I previously only had placed a couple of heads, years ago, on an ascent of Electric Ladyland and had assumed that most of them would be fixed on this one. I ended up placing fifteen of them, at a snail pace, and completed the lead in what felt like an eternity (propably 7 hours or so). I was pretty gripped at the thought of decking on the ledge at the start of the seam, or even worst decking of the ground, and took a long time with each placement to ensure that wouldn’t happen.

While in the middle of the pitch, things got really strange next door on ZM for Smitty. It seems that while body hauling their pigs to the second anchor, he got detached from his jugs and was hanging solely by his legs on a loop of rope, like a trapeze artist 60 feet above the deck without a net. The following hours were a nerve racking waiting game to see if he would get rescued before his strengh ran out and weather of not we would witness someone die next to us, all this while I was re-learning how to place heads on what seems like a scary lead. A rescue was called by someone on Zodiac with a cell phone and Smitty was saved by a accurately shot pistol arrow with a cable attached to it and plucked by an helicopter at the base of the wall.
The next day, my buddy led the short second pitch and I started leading the third. This was in the first days of May and the wall was dripping with long streaks of water around us, not a good choice in retrospect for this early in the season. After a few feet of free climbing, I ran into some undercling flared cracks that looked like they would take aliens and large heads, if they were dry. I tried to place an offset alien but it kept on ripping on the test, probably because it was soaking wet in the very flaring crack. I couldn’t imagine that heads would stick any better in these conditions and I didn’t feel like risking a fall on the belay ledge (a nice one on top of pitch 2), so I told my partner I was going to bail. We had been hammered by water drips for a day and a half by now and it didn’t seen like things were getting any drier up high, so continuing would have been a wet experience. Also, I remember been a bit shaken by what had happened the day before on ZM.

On the walk down the base of the wall that evening, we ran into Cameron Tague who was on his way to solo Lost In America. He had a quite, soothing confidence about him and it was nice to talk to him for a few minutes. He was carrying everything he would need for his week on the wall in his giant overfilled haulbag. A giant man with a giant haulbag.

We ended up doing the West face of El Cap as a consolation prize. Our planned one day ascent would have been uneventful had we checked the weather forecast before hand. A couple of pitched below Thanksgiving Ledge, it started to rain lightly. By time we got to the ledge, it was raining pretty hard and we decided to wait a bit and see if it would clear up. It didn’t and the walls around us turned into waterfalls, including our 5.7 exit cracks. Luckly there is a perfect little cave on Thanksgiving Ledge and we spend a somewhat dry night there. In the morning we finished the route in full canyoneering style, without the appropriate waterproof gear! The drenched East ledge descent was epic as well, I was more scarred there than on any walls I had been on before (or since).

Back at the car we had to change a flat tire, still in this miserable cold rain. Up on the wall, the cloud ceiling was just above Cameron’s bright red and blue ledge, on the bay of pigs bivy of L.I.A. He looked lonely and cozy up there all by himself in this nasty storm.
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