The Grack, Marginal, part 2 of 2 YV TR

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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 17, 2009 - 11:07pm PT
Was back in the rather hot Valley today to do a bunch of things we didn't actually do, but did a couple of things that were kind of cool...

I'll post on part 1 of 2 once I get some film back... but part 2 of 2 was doing The Grack, Marginal 5.9 FA May, 1970 by Ken Boche, Mary Bomba and Joe McKeown which was 40 years ago.

Rob was my partner on this one, his suggestion as I had never done it, and it was actually in the shade by the time we got over to do it. The Grack, Center had its usual conga-line of ascenders, which presents a bit of a hazard to people doing Marginal.

The first pitch was soloed by Rob up to the tree. We took a light rack with a bunch of draws, a light set of small stoppers and about 4 Aliens to yellow. I quickly reached him at the tree and started out on pitch 2, which has a nice step up over a slab, the bolt just beyond. I got the #3 Alien in under the roof with a couple of draws on it, then pulled the roof and made a few moves to the bolt.

While I was under the roof a couple of ropes fly down, as I pop up to the roof the collection of Center climbers were gathered at the Marginal p2 anchor. The apologized profusely for dropping ropes on me, no problem....

This climb is "a sea of friction" as Reid mentions in his guide. I padded out to the second bolt on tiny indents, edges and friction. Then up to the third bolt that is now 2 bolts, a button head making its escape, and a solid 3/8" 5 piece. Someone has made a rap anchor out of this. I decided to stay and let the now 4 people rap down around us. Rob comes up, dodging ropes and rapellers, and hangs out with me until they party has pulled their ropes.

He takes of up to the p2 station gets a small nut in, clips the bolts at the station and launches out on p3. He clips an ancient beat upon angle, and backs that up. I can't remember if he got another piece in or not, probably not. The delicate piece of climbing on p3 is leaving the tiny right facing "corner" for the belay station, which he pulls off. He's not happy, but he's there.

I follow, get the "rack" and head up straight to another right facing "corner" with a pin in it... this is delicate climbing, then head up to a "stair case" of rippled edges to a small flake roof with a fixed pin, which I clip and backup with a tiny Alien. Then step up over the roof to some "big" rounded edges, and shot for the top.

There is not a whole lot of protection on that climb.... but it is very doable if you just don't f*#k up.

We rapped down with the single 80m rope to the top of p3, where the other rope was waiting, that plus the 80m got us to the ground, we had a small problem on the pull when the skinny rope caught behind a thin flake, but it was on the p1 area and a solo up and down got the rope...

Cool climb. Maybe guido has some memories of the FA?
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 17, 2009 - 11:46pm PT
Thanks, Ed, for the trip report. It was excellent, as usual.

Dan Smith, Art Brook and I climbed it in March of 1972 in Robbins Boots. The guidebook (Roper's 1971(Green)) said it was third class to the cedar tree, so we third-classed the first pitch, unaware that we were doing anything unusual. My notes for hardware say 1-1", 1- 3/4", 1- 1/2", 1 each of thick, medium and thin horizontals. If I remember rightly, we had a few stoppers with us as well.

My main memory was belaying Dan as he traversed to the bolt shown as the three-bolt anchor for pitch 3 in Reid's topo. We had ended our pitch two at the end of the small flake system, and there was nothing between Dan and me. Just before the bolt, he started slipping, and slowly started skidding down the rock. At this point Art (who was safely at the first belay point) yelled up "Smith, you call that a fall? I've seen aid climbers ascending faster than you're descending. Straighten up and fall right!" Whereupon, Dan did a couple of summersaults to end a 40-footer that, thankfully, still didn't put too much strain on me.

Even with pins, protection was scarce, but the falls were all slow-motion because of the low angle. I would add one caution. When we did the climb, all of our friends were afraid of it because the section from the first to the second bolt involved a fall over the roof if you slipped. We all fell back down over that roof, with nothing bruised but our egos. After we got back to Camp 4, everyone figured that if we could do it, anyone could do it. About a week later, I saw a friend of mine on crutches, and asked what happened. The reply was "I fell over that roof on Marginal that you guys said was harmless." I guess it isn't.

In modern shoes, it's a wonderful climb. The biggest danger is probably its poximity to the descent route. Sad to say, Ed, your experience with ropes raining down on you isn't all that rare.

John
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 18, 2009 - 03:15am PT
Now Ed, I feel obligated to post a first ascent account on "Marginal" on the Apron article Boche and I wrote a while back.


Great to see you back o ST!

cheers

Guido
wildone

climber
GHOST TOWN
May 18, 2009 - 04:02am PT
Thanks Ed. That route has been on my radar for a long time. It looks really good to me-now that I have the beta I'll have to go do it and claim an internet onsight!
Maysho

climber
Truckee, CA
May 18, 2009 - 06:48am PT
Cool Ed!

That was one of my first 5.9 leads, and I remember feeling very runout. I was in 8th grade, so 1974-5. I was psyched to pull that off then, along with Coonyard, and Goodrich. Was climbing at Indian Rock every day after school and finishing my paper route, one time freshly returned from one of these apron forays, I was all psyched and shared that with my hero and sometime bouldering coach, Chris Vandiver, who mumbled something about how I had to take all my apron pitches and divide them by 3 to get the amount of "real climbing" I had done, thus deflating my balloon of youthful pride in an instant.

I bet even with good shoes, cams for under roof placements etc. I would find those leads somewhat heads up today!

Good job for dusting off the old classics.

Peter
rhyang

climber
SJC
May 18, 2009 - 08:21am PT
Sounds like fun ! (looking forward to the pics)
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
May 18, 2009 - 08:59am PT
The Marginal is a classic Apron face! As I recall it was no place to be caught in the rain! Trying to remember the name of the climb just to its right (west)? I remember it as similar to the Marginal and with very little protection. Long lead off a tiny stopper...Pretty scary.
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
May 18, 2009 - 09:21am PT
Great story Chuck reminds me off now and then happened back in early 71 or 72 when we were spending quite amount of time on the Apron. One evening Bridwell asks us (Cochrane and Carter) what we had done that day. We reply (I forget but it was an Apron route) and he responds, "Keep climbing on the Apron and you guys are gunna grow tits".

Needless to say we were crack climbing the very next day and never looked back.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
May 18, 2009 - 11:01am PT
Yeah, Apron climbs were rarely strenuous and in that sense not particularly "manly," I suppose, but the place was seductive and complicated and could lure you very quickly a considerable and often unreturnable distance from your last piece of protection. If unsolvable, these puzzle/predicaments led to long abrasive rides rather than a clean bounce at the end of a rope. I remember distinctly the smell of my 60/40 parka smoking across the granite after one such incident.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 18, 2009 - 11:11am PT
Good stuff, Ed.
Can't wait for the pix!
nutjob

climber
Berkeley, CA
May 18, 2009 - 12:08pm PT
Hey Ed, it's a small world!

The night before you, I climbed Marginal for the first time. That "rap station" you saw was from me, because we did the Grack Center at sunset on Saturday, then did Marginal as it was getting too dark to see. I thought that was the anchor because I had climbed it as a single pitch on 60m ropes from the ground, and there were two bolts, even though I could have pulled out one of them with my fingers. I left a biner on the good bolt, and backed it up with a sling girth-hitched to the other bad bolt just in case the good bolt somehow failed (though the bad bolt would in all likelihood go too in that case).

I enjoyed that climb a lot. We even had a bear trying to steal our stuff at the base (I think it was #46! But I could only see the second digit "6" on his ear tag), and I had a little stand-off with him when I got to the ground. He reared up on a rock about 20 feet away from me and started hissing at me. I lifted up my arms, and that was enough to dominate him. I didn't need to yell or throw rocks, but I was ready for both. I also had my pack on my back and ready to run up the slabs and batman up the rap ropes if it came to that. Good times!

One note about bolt placement on Marginal... if you blew it before the second protection point after the roof, you would definitely slide down the slab and over that roof for another slab ride. But you'll probably be too focused climbing to think about that.
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
May 18, 2009 - 02:24pm PT
Thanks for the TR!
Prod

Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
May 18, 2009 - 03:37pm PT
Ed,

Thanks for the TR. Looking forward to part 1 with pictures.

Cheers,

Prod.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 18, 2009 - 05:41pm PT
Marginal-First Ascent May 1970

Boche was teaching in Palm Desert to avoid vacationing in Viet Nam and I was in grad school at UCLA. Fri he would drive into LA, pick me up and his girlfriend, the lovely Mary Bomba with the electric hair, and we would head to the Valley on many a weekends. I think Ken was spending 22 hours in his VW to spend 36 hours in the Valley!

The Grack was his idea but I quickly warmed to the concept as I always enjoyed climbing on the Apron. The odd thing about the climb is I have little recollection about the actual route but vivid memories of the picnic Bomba put together for us. Part way up, we stopped for an elaborate picnic lunch resplendent with fresh potato salad and cold greasy chicken. A feast indeed and we woofed it down lickity split to continue the route.

Now, cold greasy chicken fat is a hard thing to get off the fingers and since we had forgot to bring along warm water and soap we had to use the well proven and traditional technique of dragging our fingers across the granite. Chalk to us, was something you used on the blackboard and not in our vast assortment of gear. But we did have a bolt kit and a small collection of pins. Pretty much your standard Apron first ascent paraphernalia. .

I do remember being quite a ways out at times and I did take an 80ft leader fall, but to this day I still attribute that not to the difficulty or my own technique but the dam chicken fat. I think an 80ft “slide” was the perfect solution to removal of the chicken fat and maybe a little too much epidermis but I quickly regained my high point and finished the pitch.

We use to joke about the ideal Apron climbing attire being motorcycle leathers, We even
had our own Apron dialogue with such terms as Pilot Slippée and Piolet Crashée, just a little game with Yvon’s book on ice climbing.

During this era my Apron shoe of choice was the Robbins Boot. Several years prior, in a race down four flights of stairs at the UCLA Med Center, I made the serious error of jumping the last 12 stairs to guarantee success. Won the race but did major damage to my ankle. RR’s were perfect for a seriously weak and unstable ankle and I never went back to the traditional Apron shoe of the era, Kronhofers.

My theory was one of max surface area and the RR’s had any other shoe beat. And man were they comfortable. Did consider one time as a joke, a pair of ginormous clown shoes resoled in Vibram as the ultimate Apron shoe.

The name Marginal was my idea, but I have never been crazy about it. Seems pretty egocentric by todays standard and level of climbing. Perhaps we should have stayed with one of Boo’s ideas like Chicken Fat, or Lickity Split? Hey if you did the first ascent can you rename your route. Now that would be a confusing trend indeed, but certainly would stimulate Forum discussion.

Guido leading somewhere on Marginal


Boche and Guido



cheers

joe






Prod

Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
May 18, 2009 - 06:09pm PT
Now this thread is turning into a gem.

Prod.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 18, 2009 - 06:32pm PT
Did you follow this line?

TradIsGood

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
May 18, 2009 - 06:34pm PT
Just in case anyone here did not realize that Ed was ahead of his time, the evidence is in...
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 18, 2009 - 06:44pm PT
Guido,

"We even
had our own Apron dialogue with such terms as Pilot Slippée and Piolet Crashée, just a little game with Yvon’s book on ice climbing."

Gold!

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2009 - 06:48pm PT
thanks so much Joe, those pictures look like, well, they were taken yesterday!
the only difference is that the Apron appears smoother now than then...
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 18, 2009 - 07:28pm PT
The bloody nerve of the Bird, a man of his stature making statements that too much Apron climbing and your going to grow tits! I would expect that from one of the S Cal Boys, but not from a lad from the North.


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