Mother Earth - stories and photos from the first ascent


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Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2009 - 09:10pm PT
Cool, Mark.
Last summer, I barely pressed onto the mantle (after aiding past the lower bolts). But I couldn't quite get stood up. Fortunately there was some old tat sling hanging down from the next bolt. I managed to pinch just the tail between my thumb and side of my index finger, and barely pulled up on it! :-)

Oakland: what's not to love?
Feb 15, 2009 - 09:45pm PT

Killer thread. Cheers to Clint and Survival for making it happen and keeping it going!

right here, right now
Feb 16, 2009 - 12:10am PT
Oh my!
This thread is white-hot..
Saved to my hard drive & burned to CD.

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 16, 2009 - 12:49am PT
Mother Earth! I remember hearing/reading about this unique project when it was happening and feeling pangs of jealousy not to be a part of it. What a climb...what a brilliant rag-tag cast of characters...

It's great to be able to participate vicariously all these years later.


Social climber
wuz real!
Feb 16, 2009 - 01:12am PT
So once upon a time, I, like Gregor Samsa, was a traveling salesman. In my case pedaling Misty mtn threadworks, (still a good buy if you ask me) . I paid a call to Jason Campbell's dad at the mtn shop in the
valley and then had nothing to do but head home over Tioga pass. Ran in to Walt and Maysho, by the Deli. for reference, I think this was when Peter told me the story of Bridwel's client's epic on the grand that forced Chouinard equipage to become Black Diamond. More immediate to me was that Walt encouraged me ( let me know I was ready) to freesolo the reg route on fairview on the way home to Az. But the part that has to do with Mother earth was that we went to lunch, at what's now the pizza place above Degnans and had been yosemite sam's, "Mother Earth" was an entree on the menu. A 'vegetarian' (not Vegan, pretty sure there was cheese involved) choice, I had about settled on it when Peter laughed and said, "Look at that, Mother earth" with a smirk. So I had dry white toast or a turkey sub or something, and then when it was Maysho's turn to order, what does he get? A Mother Earth! Too funny!

But it was a good day, and Walt gave me the confidence to solo That rte on Fairview (in fire flyers) which gave me the rush and mellow mojo to drive back to Maricopa county in a reflective, single push. But I always wanted to climb that route on middle, after that.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Feb 16, 2009 - 05:43am PT
This project definitely fired my imagination back in the day.

I got to listen to those guys first hand talking about it when it was all fresh in their minds.

It made me want to climb the thing and yet.....
Stay far away!!
The Warbler

the edge of America
Feb 16, 2009 - 12:11pm PT

Those are some nice shots of Max on the second pitch. One of the coolest things about the route is that every pitch up to the seventh kicks up a degree or two more than the previous one. That makes the climbing generally harder, more continuous, and it gives you a nice view down the face to the ground. After all four of us had climbed it, you could see just about every chalked hand hold all the way down to the ledge atop the first pitch you took that picture from.

Back then, before the Smith Crawford was done, there were no other routes anywhere near where we were climbing, so the route felt extra adventurous. I've mentioned a factor about all the climbing on MCR before, or most north facing walls for that matter - the routes look real licheny, grungy even, from the base because you're seeing only the undersides of all the roofs and scoops on the wall. But after climbing a pitch you look down and see the true colors of the rock appear on all the upward facing texture which has been scoured by weather for eons. The foreboding lead you stepped out on, looks instead like a mosaic of bright colors and generous, clean holds. It's always a kick to watch your partner negotiate the pitch from above.

Speaking of the Smith Crawford, I bet a day that started with the first seven pitches of Mother Earth, and then continued up the Smith Crawford would be a good one. I'm sure nobody's done that. More pitches out on the open face - the corners leading to the ledge on ME are easy (after the leap) and pretty dirty.


Stoked OW climber
San Jose, CA
Feb 16, 2009 - 02:00pm PT
Thanks guys for livin' large and audaciously and giving us couch-masters more fodder!

When I first started perusing the Yosemite Climbs book and dreaming about future adventures, just seeing the picture made it rocket to the top of my list.

Then seeing the 5.11-5.12 and A4 bits popped my bubble. If anything will push me into those realms, Mother Earth would be it.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Feb 16, 2009 - 02:58pm PT
One of the things not yet mentioned about this route is the stunning exposure of the upper wall. Only an El Cap veteran can appreciate how big Middle actually is because you get to look across at it all the way up the Captain. Mother Earth's upper pitches follow the left edge of a convex headwall and once you get up there a ways it reminded me of being on the Shield, with all those lower pitches spilling down and looking like a sidewalk.

The main draw with Mother Earth is the improbability of the lower pitches ever being free climbed, and the fantastic location of the upper headwall (and the wild climbing way the hell up there). It results in a classic "mixed" wall with a touch of aid - some of it pretty hard - and a whole lot of varied free pitches.

Given the bomber bivy ledge half way up - a regular vertical campground - and the uniqueness of the climbing, it amazes me that more folk are not ticking the thing off. Hard - sure, but it was done 31 years ago, and folks have dramatically improved in that time.


Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Feb 16, 2009 - 05:39pm PT
Just reading the variety of comments from the people in the know here makes it worth keeping threads like this alive.

As in, later on down the road, you guys are dredging up other aspects that weren't discussed in your earliest posts.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Apr 8, 2009 - 01:22am PT
Gov't Mule Mother Earth


Trad climber
Vacaville Ca,
May 11, 2009 - 01:06am PT
So, my partner and I took a ride up Mother Earth this weekend. Unfortunately we did not finish the last few pitches to the big ledge as we started up the thing at the crack of 2:00, but we did get to climb all the good shizzz.

The first pitch is poorly protected mungey doo doo, but easy (ish). Second pitch, sheesh... that mantle is a tricky s.o.b. You get the sequence just right and it's a cake walk, get it wrong and it's impossible. I got it wrong, twice:(

Third pitch leads up some gritty holds past a couple death blocks perched above the belay. I touched them to inspect on the follow than they trundled. Oops, oh well, good reddens. This pitch looks improbable, but is actually pretty easy. Total needless headcase pitch. You think you're climbing into certain death, but bomber holds keep appearing just where you want them, wild!

Pitch fours got good gear, not really run out, maybe just a little. In other words, if you make it to pitch four, you'll think it to be a cruiser pitch. Wild features, pockets, square cut edges through some flaky red rock. Kinda neat. The fifth pitch was really kinda mungy. Pulled off a couple flakes, skidded around on some kitty litter etc... The traverse wasn't too bad, you can get some pro in but it could use a bolt, which apparently it had, but wasn't placed by the F.A. so no longer exists. Apparently its not needed anyway. Really, it's no drama.

Pitch six is a bad MOFO! The whole time I was thinking to myself, how the fukk did they place these bolts on lead and how did they keep from stepping on their own balls when climbing to the next stance? I mean, holy sh#t, that whole thing is barely there. Climbing above the first bolt is wild, wouldn't want to peel there. Fortunately there's a bomber crack just where you want it. Next up is a traverse into a left facing corner with a pin. I touched the pin and it fell out in my hands. Seems to be a re-occurring theme with me lately. Anyway it now resides in the back of my truck as a memento. After the dihedral it's a relentless series of wild moves, thin edges good bolts and a little faith that bring you to the anchors. Killer pitch!

Unfortunately, we did not have the time to do the crux (quite bummed)and finish the route. Looked reasonable.

Anyway, the route gets better and better the further you go up. There were alot of loose flakes/holds and grit/dirt. Actually, the whole route was pretty freakin dirty, but what do you expect from a route as neglected as this? For this reason and the fact that because of that I thought I might actually die on this thing, I give the route two solid stars. My partner thought it to be kinda mediocre and would probably only give it one, but this kinda climbing isn't his cup O tea. He much prefers climbing some obscure chossfest offwidth ??? route on some less than traveled feature like Watkins. I thought the whole thing to be pretty reasonable actually. It's comparable to Stoners Highway, accept the cruxes are harder though well protected... all of them. If you can climb stoners, you can climb Mother Earth. Then again, I didn't climb the crux pitch. Which brings me to my next point.

My climbing partner I'm sure has no interest in climbing the thing again. At least whats been done so far, but I do. I'd like to send the thing from the bottom to pitch 10, so if anyone's interested, drop me an email. I'd like to swap pitches, so don't ask if you're not willing to commit. If we get up there and you start sketching, I'm yanking your rope until you fall and we're bailing.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 11, 2009 - 02:33am PT

Cool trip report! I'm psyched that you checked it out, with the refurbished bolts. Thanks for trundling those flakes at the start of p3, too - perched right above the belay, definitely a good riddance.

I wish I could sign up and climb it with you, but I am not climbing hard enough to be useful up there. I bet Jesse would like to go back, though. Eric Bissell, too, although I don't know if he is in town yet.

[Edit to add:] When Bob and I traversed in and rapped from (10) to fix ropes for Roger, we added a bolted rap station above (8) at a big ledge. We fixed the highest rope for Roger there. From there we rapped diagonally left about 55m to the 3rd bolt on p7, at a nice little stance. I replaced that bolt and used a double ring hanger there to fix Roger's next rope. When Roger finished up, he [edit:] considered adding a second bolt there, but he left it as is and rapped off a single bolt. So there is now an optional single bolt rap anchor at the 3rd bolt on p6, at the start of the traverse right. Incidentally, the anchor we rapped from at (10) is minimal - I replaced the first bolt on p11 and we rapped from that with a biner and tiny sling.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 11, 2009 - 12:25pm PT
"My partner thought it to be kinda mediocre and would probably only give it one."

My understanding is that you got to the start of the 7th pitch? That's where the shizat starts - a totally different climb from then on, especially interms of difficulty. You go from 10c/d to 12a. Hope you go back for the glory.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 12, 2009 - 11:21am PT
So no fixed pin maintenance then on this retrofit???
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 12, 2009 - 01:30pm PT

> So no fixed pin maintenance then on this retrofit???

I was thinking the same thing. Maybe Roger will post.

It was dark when Bob and I rapped down the joined ropes we had fixed for Roger, so we simply tried to locate the belay anchors and clip the ropes in.

There may be an overemphasis on rebolting sometimes, as Roger is really good at it, and deciding if fixed pitons are still needed is more complicated. But I agree they should be tested while rebolting, since it's an ideal opportunity. And it's still American Safe Climbing Association, although sometimes I like to say American Safe Bolting Association! :-)

Social climber
May 12, 2009 - 08:19pm PT

After Clint, Roger, (and Eric's) work last year I've been dreaming of getting back on that "Mother". My short exploratory trip up there a couple years ago was before the bolt refurbishment, and didn't inspire the confidence of nice ASCA metal anchored below. I ended up bailing (with my tail between my legs) at the 2nd pitch after a little sheath shot on my rope.

Although Chad's comment, "If we get up there and you start sketching, I'm yanking your rope until you fall and we're bailing.", makes me kinda want to wait for Grasshopper (Eric Bissell to get back before I go up there.

Eric will be back to work for the Climbing Ranger Team in early June, and I'm looking forward to having him back!

Roger Brown

Oceano, California
May 12, 2009 - 10:33pm PT
Yea, I was all ready to start adding that second bolt at that double ring hanger when I changed my mind. Its still just a single bolt. Only time ever rapped off a single bolt so took a picture of it:-) I just checked the log and nothing was said about fixed pins so they were probably just reseated, bounce tested and left there.

Trad climber
Vacaville Ca,
May 12, 2009 - 10:51pm PT

I wouldn't pull you off the route. You're bound to get sketched a time or two up there, that's the fun part.

I don't think it would matter if that pin was re-set or not. The crack it's in looks to be part of a huge expanding flake and probably flexes with the temperature. Even if it got re-set (which I wouldn't doubt if it did) would more than likely be loose again within the year. Who knows though, it's un necessary anyway. You can get in several different sized pieces both cams and nuts from a good stance there anyway.

Good to know about the rap option, the traverse pitches off the ledge look like a major drawback to the route. What's the harm in adding a few anchors so you don't have to deal with that B.S. anyway?

Anyone down for a quick little jaunt up there? I'm jonesin for that crux pitch? Jesse???

Promice I won't pull ya off.
It's a serious route, that's seriously good.
I have to go back.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2009 - 01:02am PT
Thanks for the update Roger - I edited my post to make it a single bolt with ring hanger. Sorry we left you in a position where you bent your rules and rapped from a single bolt. Maybe we can get some permission for the next person willing to add a second bolt with ring hanger at that stance (3rd bolt on p7, at start of traverse right), so it can be rapped more safely from there or above in the future?
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