Queen of Spades FA (Mountain 106)


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beneath the valley of ultravegans
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 16, 2007 - 07:22pm PT
When not doing his captain of industry thing or playing chess,

Charles Cole managed to put up a mighty fine FA on .5 Dome. Mark Blanchard (Blinny) and Sean Plunkett did the 2nd. One line, no waiting!

Poor eyesight edit--this version is a little larger and should be easier to read.

Trad climber
Jul 16, 2007 - 07:32pm PT

Now I'd say it's about FRICKIN' time we scan the slides of Blinny and MissaP's second ascent, eh?


Wish we weren't in overdrive getting ready for our every other year guitar show!


We'll do it soon, I promise!

Maybe when said RealBlinny sees this post he'll MAKE the time to do the scanning?

Thanks for postin' up!


Gym climber
Otto, NC
Jul 18, 2007 - 11:28am PT

Topping out on Half Dome provides an infinity of delayed gratification. I felt for the guy.
Handjam Belay

Gym climber
expat from the truth
Jul 18, 2007 - 12:54pm PT
I heard of this route about 10 years ago, and quietly placed it in the mental folder of 'rad' routes to do.

This weekend I went to 1/2 dome for the first time (for reg. route) and tried to spy the line on the wall.

Kudos, sir, kudos.

Charlie was badazz, maybe still is, I don't know him?

I've climbed Space on El Cap, and that was mighty fine too.
handsome B

Gym climber
Jul 18, 2007 - 01:19pm PT
awesome! can you link to some bigger pics so we can read the text please?

Jul 19, 2007 - 02:56pm PT
Cole mentions Sherrick's Regular Route, Dorworth's Arcturus, Peterson's Tis-sa-ack & McCrackens Direct NW Face. Why no mention of RR?

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 29, 2007 - 09:36pm PT
I noticed that too. Maybe Charles didn't like Royal? How many ascents has the route had since?

84 was a big year. They finished The Real Nose. Has it had many [any?] subsequent ascents? How hard is it anyway? Slater and Barbella climbed the Ranch. And didn't Bermuda Dunes go up that year, too?

I remember that article from Mountain Mag - it was very inspiring for me. I remembered how he climbed into the chimney, then fixed the rope through the little hole and then jugged up the outside. Cool to read about Fish and Gramicci. And how about that solo belaying with the sticht plate and jumar? Sheesh.

He writes of using opposing hooks? I wonder - did he not think of using prusiks on his lead rope to hold the hooks in place under tension?

Obviously he was psyched:

"For the past 9 months, every time I ran, every time I worked out, every time I went climbing, it was for this route."

Man, that's a nasty approach. Talk about motivated! loved this bit:

"As the wall steepens the continuous A4 pitches change character from copperheading to nailing expanding flakes. Copperheads one can deal with semi-scientifically but nailing expando is bloody black magic. Scary too. Good pins become bad and bad pins drop out..."

Hear hear! What a fabulous story of determination to finish that wall! I wonder if he got any water during the thunderstorm. You-all really ought to read this story, as it is an overlooked Yosemite classic!

Now, let's see some pix from Blinny [the real one]

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Jul 30, 2007 - 02:14am PT

C. Cole at J. Tree.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Jul 30, 2007 - 02:16am PT

Again, C. Cole at J. Tree on a first Ascent up at the Cowboy Crags.

Trad climber
Jul 30, 2007 - 10:07am PT
great read.

Trad climber
Bend, Oregon
Jul 30, 2007 - 10:54am PT
This is probably redundant, but I just posted a note about the Modern Marvel TV show that features Charles (Cole) and Stealth tonight (History Channel, 8pm, "Sticky Stuff.) When I saw the post on Queen of Spades, I thought you'd be interested in what Charles is up to lately.

Hobart, Australia
Feb 16, 2008 - 03:36pm PT

la la land
Feb 16, 2008 - 05:12pm PT
That route looks really fun! How many ascents? Half Dome looks like the hangout, not all beat out and fixed. Not about this route but, how is bushido gully these days? Last time I saw it looked gripping.

Lets have a techno party at base this year. Laser light show, sick beats, half naked chicks danceing around... we may need the mules to carry them in. Can we still rent those bastards? Anyone got the hook up at the stables?

John that is cool. Don't have any guide books, nice to be able to see the topo and read the story.

Feb 16, 2008 - 05:26pm PT
When I first met Charles in the spring of 1985, he told me about the Queen of Spades adventure which was still very fresh in his mind. It included several guffaws about using the lesser known partner's names for the listed routes and how he'd duped many people who didn't know their history. His dramatic re-telling of the rainstorm torrent that nearly drowned him was totally wild.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 16, 2008 - 05:30pm PT
Mules - now there's an idea! Are you retired now Jake, or coming back sometime? Didn't you take a nasty alpine fall or something? How are you these days? Coming round this spring? And when are you soloing Native Son? {snicker} Should be a cakewalk for you these days.

la la land
Feb 16, 2008 - 05:57pm PT
We need PMs on this site... but to answer pete.

Just got surgery on my ankle. Trying to get healed enough to do a few walls. Funny you mention the solo, saw that el cap route thread and was thinking, "damn I still have to solo to even count a route!". Wait till you see what I have in the works for a wall costume...

Trad climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 06:43pm PT
I did the second ascent of The Queen of Spades with Sean Plunkett in 1994, almost exactly 10 years after the first ascent. It is a really good route...... very sustained and nearly every crack is expanding! I heard that a Russian team also did it. I don't know of any other ascents.

Here are a few pictures from the route:


la la land
Feb 16, 2008 - 07:07pm PT
Sean has sick hat... and shirt... Halfdome master there!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 16, 2008 - 07:25pm PT
Great send, Mark! Did you climb up into the cave and through the rope out through the hole?

"Ankle? We don't need no steenking ankle!"

You remember what my ankle looked like a few years ago, right?

And yes, you need to join The Club. What are you going to wear? A giant cape with a "J" on it?

Trad climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 07:31pm PT
Sean went to the thrift store just before the climb. He had several killer shirts on the climb. He would wear them in layers... every few hours during the day he would take off a layer exposing a whole new big wall fashion statement !!

I think that hat is the one he lost near the top of the route... wind took it away..... he was bummed.

We were on the climb for the fourth of July... that night Sean pulled a huge American flag out of his haul. There was just enough breeze that it flew beautifully off the edge of his portaledge.

Great fun !!


Trad climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 07:36pm PT
Yes Pete, we did the "tunnel" with the rope out the hole trick. It is the only way to cross 60 feet of blank rock. It is the weirdest maneuver I have ever done on a climb!! It baffles me how Cole managed to figure it out on the first ascent.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 17, 2008 - 01:10am PT
Great thread!

Charles really relished that feature of the route. That tunnel, the opposing hooks move and the torrential downpour at the summit overlaps are what stand out in my memory. Almost every pitch was old school A4! Very cool second ascent for you and the Wide Eyed Boy, as I liked to call Sean. Whenever we were hanging out telling tall tales about hairy aid climbing his eyes would just about leap out when things got interesting. I bet he was especially dilated when he snapped off the tip of the Space Flake on Zenith while soloing the beast.

Is that third photo of the stud traverse on pitch ten?

Trad climber
Feb 17, 2008 - 09:58am PT

Yes, bolt traverse, pitch 10.

The first two photos are pitch 7.

The second to last photo is looking down on "The Pier" at the top of topo pitch 2, which is actually the top of pitch 3. There is a whole pitch missing from the topo. Pitch 2 is actually a long steep wide crack, mixed free and aid.

The "tunnel" can be seen in that photo. Just to the right of the climber standing on the ledge there is a spot where the crack behind the slab gapes open a bit. That is where you squeeze in. From there you chimney 60 feet straight up into the darkness, guided only by a spot of light that comes in through a hole in the slab. The hole is about 4" in diameter. Luckily, it is directly above The Pier so that when you feed your haul line out through the hole the end makes its way back to the belay. After chimneying back down to the ledge, it is then possible to jug up the haul line to the hole. From there a shallow corner is just within reach.



Gym climber
Otto, NC
Feb 17, 2008 - 11:22am PT
What a cool adventure! Miles of groaning flakes...

Leave the glow sticks for the roadside stuff. I wouldn't feel that great hanging out at the base of that thing one second longer than I had to, anyhow. Not exactly a party spot.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 17, 2008 - 12:48pm PT
I was scoping Charles from Mirror Lake while he was drilling that ladder on ten. I was in the habit of riding him about the quality of the drilled anchors that he left behind. In this case, he was at it again with a line of bare studs and not a hanger in sight. Rather than place nice keyholes, he was leaving them out and using tieoffs which had me grumbling away down below.
At about the midpoint on the sideways ladder it dawned on him that the tieoffs likely wouldn't hold real loads in a fall and that he needed to improve the situation the old fashioned bonehead way. He took his hammer and began bending the projecting metal upwards! He knew that it was bad news and said he could hear me howling at him in his conscience. Little did he know that that the shrill voice was already fully activated far below as I watched and cursed his laziness.
We had a good laugh about it later.

Trad climber
Feb 17, 2008 - 03:35pm PT
I think the Queen had about 100 bolt, all 1/4" button heads. All but one or two were very well placed. Hangers were not employed anywhere except on one bolt at each belay station. The other belay bolt was a bare stud. Sean and I added a 5/16 button head with a stainless hanger to nearly every station.

Overall I was very impressed with how clean Charles left the route. We found the remains of two small heads that he apparently broke while trying to remove them, and one fixed pin which he must have simply overlooked when cleaning, it was easy to remove. Otherwise the route was pristine.

Bill Mc Kirgan

Social climber
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Feb 18, 2008 - 12:44pm PT
Wow, that was an exciting story to read. Tough on the eyes, but worth it.

Where was it published?

Mark -- those 2nd ascent pics are fantasic. Please post up with more when you can.


la la land
Feb 18, 2008 - 03:16pm PT
On the second ascent you guys added that many bolts???

I would love to see more pictures Mark! As I said I'm stuck on my ass not moving around much. Probably the only reason I am back to posting! Sean has got be be a damn good expando climber! At least post some pics of his rad clothes.

Social climber
The Deli
Jun 3, 2008 - 10:20pm PT
Is Nick up there right now? What a sick looking route!

Best of luck, Monkey Man!!

Big Wall climber
Auburn, CA
Jun 4, 2008 - 12:20am PT
'The monkeys are sending' . . For sure Nicki is up there like a mofo as we speak - right on man! oohh oohh!

Santa Cruz
Jun 4, 2008 - 03:50am PT
Nicoli is up there now.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Jun 4, 2008 - 08:09am PT
Awesome! Hard on the eyes yes, must be getting old.
Bump for a cool climbing thread.
Here's my bolt and hook traverse.

x. ... .x .. . . .. .x... . . .. .. ..x..x x x. x. .x.. ..

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 2, 2009 - 09:18pm PT
Blinny 1 and 2--what happened to those photos?
bubble boy

Big Wall climber
Apr 2, 2009 - 11:27pm PT

Tacoma, Toyota
Apr 3, 2009 - 01:11am PT
my eyes! im blind!! what a story. proud send. great to hear the behind the scenes stories on some of these fabled routes. Now I wanna her about Real Nose and Central Scrutinizer!

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Apr 3, 2009 - 02:43am PT
An incredible effort and equally well told.
Was the route named for the Pushkin short story?
Must have been the reason the russkies chose to
do it.

Boulder climber
Jul 10, 2011 - 03:31pm PT
Any hope of reposting the missing photos?

Gym climber
wussing off the topout on Roadside Attraction
Jul 11, 2011 - 02:47am PT
My eyes! I can't see anything!


Trad climber
Jul 11, 2011 - 10:07am PT
About the Queen of Spades photos. . . for years Blanchard and I shared "BLINNY" (his nickname) because TheTaco couldn't handle having 2 avatars per email addy. . . then somebody hacked that account and some weird stuff happened. . . then I created eKat (dirtineye made that one up for me). . . and Blanchard and I changed webhosting for BlanchardGuitars.com and all kinds of photos (you used to have to host your own to post photos here) took the chop. . . so that's why the Queen photos are gone.

I'll see if he's into rescanning them. . .


Sorry dads.

It was a RAD route. . . he did a professional level slide show of it - complete with music - and people loved it. He used to show it a MMSA for me and my environmental ed/interp program on the INYO. It as a crack up, we'd hang his portaledge from the climbing wall at Main Lodge and do the show out there on the lawn. HUNDREDS of summer ski area visitors would come and watch it. . . pretty weird show for mainstream "Traditional Forest Visitors."



Big Wall climber
total Disarray
Nov 22, 2011 - 01:47am PT
Serious BUMP.
Half Dome is REAL. The real Deal. Beware the Queen Of Spades.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 12, 2012 - 06:39pm PT
Credit: mouse from merced
I hope this is easier to read when clicked than that earlier set. MFM
Credit: mouse from merced
Credit: mouse from merced
Credit: mouse from merced
As for the personal notes I made, I think the words are just a little climbing related, more or less, and it's a pretty little song. It's for all the soloists out there.

I was thinking of my father when I clipped this from the magazine many years ago. He's been gone one week today. He done shot the moon, just like Charley Cole all those years ago.

The Bitch is Black!

Jun 24, 2013 - 09:54pm PT

Social climber
May 5, 2014 - 11:17am PT
hey there say, ekat... wow, here i am! very nice...

say, just saw mouse's share on this, too...

and a bump from matt, here, too...

very nice!
trying to soak it all in, :)

note--reREAD this, and thought i sounded goofy:
had just saw someone share about 'queen of spades' and was hoping to learn more, so i saw the link here...

yep, i sounded kind of goofy... very sorry, folks, :)
was just having fun learning more stuff here...


oops was more than goofy... i had misread something on the other
thread... put the apology in though, as to the odd-confusion,
thankful that the
boo-boo as to my misread' was graciously-caught... oh my...

need to slow down, when i read and, and type, too...

The Good Places
Mar 8, 2016 - 03:56pm PT
until after... a vending machine dinner...and having a few guards look with disgust at my filthy being I can finally smile

this makes me smile for the BLM LEO squirming as he ran my ID after my first trip out to Bongville, sniffing the funk of fear and nonshower and DNGAFfor football or home improvement on me...

Good stuff!
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