Fireplace Bluff


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 31, 2009 - 07:49pm PT
I felt bad to have let the cat out of the bag, as it were, on an area that Eric Gabel, aka ablegabel was developing, Fireplace Bluff.

In 2004 and 2005, in the spring, I went on two trips up there with Eric which put in 3 routes, all told. Eric had been up there earlier with other partners, and put in more lines. I'll get an accounting of the lines from Eric soon and overlay them on this picture of the Bluff:

The three routes we put in were along natural lines between the right side of the prominent arching roof and the large pine tree up on the face. We put 4 bolts in, essentially two belay/rappel stations, and left a sling with a ring around a horn as the only sign we had passed.

While we were up there, we did see Sean Jones' three routes, the two parallel cracks which diagonal up and left to a point under the arching roof, and then along the left side of the corner of the arching roof. These routes predated our development, and we didn't have a good idea of where they went, if anywhere, after the roof.

Eric had put up a route with his partner Walt on the buttress just to the left of the arching roof.

We never did find any sign of the Shipley/Middendorf route. Eric also learned in a conversation with Don Reid that Rick Accomazzo and others may have been active up there too.

Eric adopted an approach to developing the cliff with minimal impact because we knew others had been there before, but we didn't have any other information about their routes. Obviously, we wanted to respect the FA passage of those earlier climbers, and not bolt over established routes, in particular, we were looking for natural lines... this is the equivalent of "catch and release," we went and enjoyed the routes, but we didn't alter the cliff in anyway as to detract from others enjoying it in the same state we found it in....

Here is a shot of the face with the arching roof up above and the steepening wall above that, but with many natural lines

the first line that Eric and I did together we called Natural, which it was:

The next climb was called "A-Line," here is Eric fishing in some tiny gear, and lots of it in a seam... we're heading for that blocky corner above his back

Eric ran it out on this pitch, easy, but committing, and as he pulled on a crystal way far out there he called back "Watch me!, it isn't going to matter but watch me!"

which is a demonstration of our desire to leave the rock be... the moves weren't difficult, but the lead is "X" rated, and pretty much virginal...

And the celebration on top of that block, it's Memorial Day of that year... and we're enjoying great climbing in a remote location with everyone about 2000 feet below us...

Here is Eric at the start of "B-Line" this pitch caused my first bad right-shoulder injury (just a bit above him) in a body-weight holding chicken-wing... good stuff!

and out on the upper pitch slabs

It is a wonderful crag, just a bit far to walk, but it rewards anyone who is willing to get out there.

If you go, please respect the rock and the routes and know that someone else has passed there before you, most likely, and if you don't see where, say a silent thanks that they left it like it was for you, and honor that thanks by doing the same...

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 31, 2009 - 10:39pm PT
another composite of the Fireplace Bluff

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
May 31, 2009 - 10:45pm PT
Very Cool, Ed...

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
May 31, 2009 - 11:11pm PT
Sean Jones

Jun 1, 2009 - 12:01am PT
Cool shots and story Ed. What a killer cliff. It's so nice to climb on such featured rock in the valley. No nasty polish up there ! And yes, well worth the walk. If you're just willing to walk a bit....the vallet still has soooooooo much potential !!!!!


Trad climber
Jun 1, 2009 - 12:25am PT
Ed, that climbing looks good. So many places, so little time!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 1, 2009 - 01:29am PT
where abouts is this?

don't see it in Roper or Reid

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 1, 2009 - 01:41am PT
Reid - page 414?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 1, 2009 - 03:07am PT
rough photo overlay, missing many details - better version in progress [updated for Skyline]
Fireplace Bluffs (2.5 hour approach, hot in summer)

675. Skyline 5.9 *
676. new project 5.10b?, 3p, 1: 1x 5.10 mantel to Skyline 2x belay, 2: 2x to gear belay, 3: 4x p traverse, rap 200' to MS belay
677. Lady Luck 5.9
678. Looking for Mercy 5.8
679. Mercy Street 5.7
680. A-Line 5.9 R/X ***
681. Natural 5.8 R, maybe where Fireside Chat went
682. Hot Wheels 5.10a?, 5p, crosses Bit of OK p1 to R, p2 4x, p3 6x?, p4 short p5 5.9 overhang then 1x, p6 easy
683. Bit of 'OK' 5.8 R
684. B-Line 5.9 R
685. Groove Tube 5.9
686. new route 5.10d, 4p, 1: 5.6 face to crack, 2: 5.10d thin lb 4x p, 3: 5x p
687. Garden State 5.8?, L-diagonal crack
688. new knobby route 5.8?, 3p, on R side, no bolts
689. Fireside Chat, F, on Fireplace Bluffs, details forgotten, E

FA Info

675. Skyline FA: Eric Gabel, Walter Hawkins, 4/2003
676. new project FA: Bob Steed, Clint Cummins, 5/09
677. Lady Luck FA: Eliza White, Sean Jones, 1999
678. Looking for Mercy FA: Sean Jones, Eliza White, 1999
679. Mercy Street FA: Eliza White, Sean Jones, 1999
680. A-Line FA: Eric Gabel, Ed Hartouni, 5/2003
681. Natural FA: Eric Gabel, Ed Hartouni, 5/2003
682. Hot Wheels FA: Bob Steed, Clint Cummins, Erin Takagishi, 5/08
683. Bit of 'OK' FA: Eric Gabel, Linda Jarit, 5/2004
684. B-Line FA: Eric Gabel, Ed Hartouni, 5/2003
685. Groove Tube FA: Eric Gabel, Linda Jarit, 5/2004
686. new route FA: Bob Steed, Clint Cummins, 5/09
687. Garden State FA: Bob Steed, Clint Cummins, 5/08
688. new knobby route FA: Clint Cummins, Bob Steed, 5/08
689. Fireside Chat FA: Walt Shipley, John Middendorf, 12/1985

The 2.5 hour approach will deter many. :-)
(You might want to check out Devil's Dancefloor in the summer - shorter approach and cooler).
There is poison oak in spots on the old road until you get to "Rainbow View" on top of the Last Resort cliff.
If you visit, please keep the place clean and nice.

Social climber
Jun 1, 2009 - 04:15am PT
hey there, say, all... thanks for all this neat interesting share stuff....


Hobart, Australia
Jun 1, 2009 - 08:38am PT
Checking out the terrain and route topo there, our route would have most likely have travelled through the section around where the "Natural" and "B-Line" routes are marked, as that is the type of line we would have picked. It's quite possible we didn't place any bolts, but I don't recall.

Perhaps Walt gave further information to Reid when he recorded the route?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 1, 2009 - 09:51am PT
Natural is a pretty obvious start and gets you on the crag in the tall section...
it wouldn't surprise me if that line had been done previously.

I don't know if Ricky A is around....

Also, I don't think Don Reid has any additional information.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 1, 2009 - 10:17am PT
I've always walked up to the crag from the top of the wood lot next to El Cap, so walking in from the east. The Fireplace Creek runs through late May (probably not much later than that) and the approach from the east allows you to get water just before turning off the old road to ascend to the crag base.

Trad climber
Jun 1, 2009 - 03:46pm PT
Hi Clint, how have you been? I noticed that your new line looks like it goes right over the first pitch of "Sky Line". Your overlay of Sky line is in the wrong location. Sky line is further to the right. It is supposed to be about were the start of your new line is. For clarification, I remember a crack at the start of Sky Line, heading up to a small,right arching, thin roof 20' or 30' off the ground, we under clinged to the right and over(cruxy move) and up the head wall 5.9x (I remember going by a big chicken head) and then up by the big low angle chimney to the edge of the roof were there are 2 bolts(Placed when we got caught in a snow storm). Does this sound like the start to your route? It looks like you guys put a bolt in the headwall area. If so please remove it, if it is on Walters and my route. It also looks like you added a 2 bolt belay right next to the upper pitch of "Bit of OK"? Why? It appears to be right on Linda and my route. If any of this is correct please fix it, if I am way off base, Please accept my apologies. Thanks- Eric Gabel
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 1, 2009 - 04:14pm PT

Yes, I was worried about how close our new route was to Sky Line. We will remove that bolt on the first pitch. We were trying to use the old overlay photo to figure out where your first pitch went - there is a crack system further up and left. But I thought the arching crack was the obvious place to start, so I was concerned about it.

On p2 we were trying to figure out at what level/dike Sky Line traversed left. I went up to the higher diagonal dike. There were other dikes less positive, level with the belay. Looking at your overlay, I think you went up like I did, then up and left along the easy dike. I went straight up there to a knob, and I placed a bolt to protect it. Should we remove that bolt also? It is a hard 5.10 move there where our route goes up and right, while the ledge up left is 5.2 or something, so that may be a tough call. If the bolt is removed, then the second one should go also (because it's unreachable unless someone wants to to a hard 5.10 move facing a 20' ledge fall, hours from help...), and we could use Sky Line and traverse down and right from it to intersect.

On Hot Wheels, the 2 bolt belay at end of p3 is just right of Bit of OK. Bob had bad rope drag and belayed from a single bolt there, but thought there should be 2. I think we should remove one and use the gear belay under the roof, which is only 15' higher. Another option would be to remove both and place a bolt lower, which would be further from Bit of OK. Bob originally wanted to place a bolt up and right to reach the ledge, but it's smooth 5.10+ there, and I voted to zag left onto the black rock of Bit of OK instead (placing no bolts there). It can be a strange irony to try to keep routes separate and end up placing more bolts; I tried to avoid that by joining up instead.

Ideally, I would like to have time to climb the existing routes first, to figure out exactly where they go, before doing new ones. But I think the reality for Bob and I is that the very long approach is only worth it if we are doing new routes. Although Bob did the first couple of pitches of A Line (until his partner couldn't follow) and thought it was a great route. When we chose to try to find a new route near Sky Line, we knew there was a definite risk we might stray onto that route, if the old overlay photos were even slightly inaccurate (which it turned out they were). As for Hot Wheels, when Bob and Erin did the first 2 pitches, they did not have the old overlay photos, so they were just guessing where existing routes might be. When Bob and I did p3 and higher, we had the overlay photos, so we knew not to make a bolted belay where Natural crossed it. And we knew near the end of the pitch that it was getting closer to Bit of OK.

Anyway, I'm kinda bummed, because I tried not to add bolts to an existing route, but took risks and ended up doing it. Now I'll have to spend time cleaning that up.
Sean Jones

Jun 1, 2009 - 09:05pm PT
In an earlier post I said I couldn't remember the name of the crack to the roof traverse. "Lady Luck" How could i have ever forgotten that !!!! I love that name. Came from the old Journey song. Killer song. Gald someone else could remember it. Funny how info spreads as Donny Reid is the only one I ever told about it. In looking at some of the sure does look like a possible escape out the right side of the roof would let this line go the distance.

Sean Jones.

Trad climber
Jun 2, 2009 - 01:10am PT
Hey Clint. It looks like we did the same first pitch on our routes. On the lower half, I climbed were your yellow line is and Walter took a line a little to the left were the red line is since there wasn't any pro in. It was snowing pretty good when I led that pitch so we were trying to hury up. I think we climbed to the left of the chimney for a bit on those knobs then went up to the flake were the pink line is higher and over to the belay. It was 10' visibility when Walter started climbing. On the next pitch, Walter led out on the lower dyke over to the crack system marked "A" on your overlay. It had changed to pouring rain by that point and once again we didn't put much pro in cause we were trying to keep moving(it never got above 34 degrees that day). I think I took a litle higher line, hands on the upper dyke, feet on the lower. It was very slipery, but who can remember now? We finished out the next 3 pitches in rain and snow and clouds so thick, we couldn't even see each other till we were 20' away from the other. We had a great time on the route, and were laughing and smilling all the way. As for the bolt on the first pitch, I suppose it's in a good place and might make it so somebody may want to do either of the two routes again, so I think we could both spend our time on something more productive than chopping bolts(please fix the topo "Skyline 5.9")The second pitch bolts seem to be on new teritory. The belay bolts on "Bit of OK" shouldn't have been put there, especialy since you had the topo. It would be nice in the future if every body could error on the side of not putting in bolts if there is a question on weather they are on an existing line, (or just not putting in bolts at all). Climbs and the style they were done in meen a lot to me and it hurts me deeply when they get bolted over(it has happend a lot). Anyways, this is all starting to sound like a bunch of pissing on the rock. I'm going to go pack for the mountains and go climbing. No hard fealings to anybody, keep putting up those routes - Eric Gabel
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 2, 2009 - 02:52am PT

Sorry about that bolt. That's pretty cool if you are OK with leaving it. I have changed the main photo overlay and removed R/X. Is the upper line on the main photo overlay about correct? I want to go up there and repeat Skyline, A Line, and Bit of OK. They look better than the ones we are trying to add! I am getting over the poison oak from the hike there on May 15; now if I can just get my ankle to be up for it again... :-)

So I will focus the cleanup on that belay which is too close to Bit of OK. Best would be to do Bit of OK and see how close/visible it is. Hot Wheels climbs a right facing shallow corner there which faces away from Bit of OK. So if those belay bolts are removed and a new bolt is placed down and right a bit, it would not be visible from Bit of OK. Plus it gets rid of the mini pitch to the belay ledge with gear anchor below the overhang.

Bob Steed and Dan Truong got some better photos of the cliff from higher and further east (closer to Stanford Point). They should show the lower pitches better and not obscure the start of Skyline (or at least obscure it less). They should also show the right side better. So I should be able to make a larger/improved overlay and a regular topo.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Jun 2, 2009 - 11:11am PT
Wow, pretty sweet looking place. The look looks nice!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 2, 2009 - 02:30pm PT

[Lady Luck]
> Funny how info spreads as Donny Reid is the only one I ever told about it.

I think Eric probably got your route names and FA info from Don Reid. I know Eric has a few page proofs from Don's unpublished 2005 edition of Yosemite Climbs: Free Climbs. He does not redistribute them, of course. I have also seen some of your route names for Sunshine Cliff on page proofs, but I did not list those names until you mentioned them just recently, since Don has exclusive rights to that info, in my view.

I want to include public new route info in my lists, but if routes have already been reported to Don Reid, I don't really need them reported separately to me. I hope he will produce a new edition guidebook, and it will need some quantity of new routes/topos that people have not seen before, so that it will sell well and justify the very large effort required to produce it.
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