Steck Salathe/Narrows. Would 9 or 12 inch giant cam help?


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Trad climber
The Great North these days......
Sep 30, 2009 - 09:51am PT
Dingus, I led the pitch with Stu back in the day. I remember it was bombay at the start, but not much else. good to hear Stu is getting out again. Mark sorry I was slow to catch on.

Social climber
Sep 30, 2009 - 10:49am PT
The narrows isn't an issue at all as far as pro, #4 getting in and you can't fall out. The pitch below the narrows is more of a problem to protect...we had a 4.5 camalot that I used there. You can get a finger sized piece in a foot or two below that, so if you're strong on right-side-in flaring squeeze, you could easily get by with a single #4 and nothing bigger. I think that was the only place we used the 4.5, but we used the 4 in several places.

Here's what it looks like, dudemanbro in pic has just finished the crux.

My $0.02: Read up on the descent descriptions people have written on the Taco, I did and it helped out alot (especially descending in the dark, which is a good possibility on this route), take plenty of water and a lighter.

North Carolina
Sep 30, 2009 - 11:03am PT
No way do you need that big of a cam on SS. I took a #5 WC and would have been fine with less. As seen in the photos, plug that baby at the bottom of the Narrows, get up in that thing, game over...laugh your way to the belay ledge.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Why'djya leave the ketchup on the table?
Sep 30, 2009 - 12:31pm PT
Yo Elcap...

That was my scariest lead on the climb. I got like 3 points of pro in the chimney. Nearly yellered my self. I forgot about that. It was called 5.8 then.... broken pins, blah blah blah


Oakland: what's not to love?
Oct 7, 2009 - 02:37pm PT

Soon enough it'll be just another great story, mimed in the firelight.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Oct 7, 2009 - 03:28pm PT
"I want to mention though that I climb predominantly in Gunks (read roofs/overhangs) and even 5.8-5.9 chimney/squeez/OW is a challenge." If it makes you feel any better, I've climbed in the Valley for over 40 years and "5.9 chimney" still scares me more than "5.11 face."

I agree with those who think the flare below the Narrows is the scariest pitch on the route. Burly and not all-that-great pro.

Incidentally, a friend of mine did the SS last weekend, and did the outside variation rather than the Narrows. He said the protection for the initial moves is the same as that for the Narrows. He also said there were a couple of original Salathe bolts with dubious hangers, but overall the protection is fine. I wouldn't know because I've never tried to go that way.


Trad climber
The 7th Pin Scar on Serentiy Crack
Oct 7, 2009 - 04:59pm PT
A 9-12 inch would let you do the outside stem variation! Go for it!

(Don't bring a #9 for the Narrows - will get in the way.)

Oct 7, 2009 - 05:17pm PT
No need for that huge cam outside. Old #4 C4 to bolts, maybe 15' runout on 5.9d. The crux is max ten feet from the cam. Stack an approach shoe with your largest cam if you want more options.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Oct 7, 2009 - 11:01pm PT
Mike is right about the outside var. We were fine with just a #4 Friend. But it's only one move of 5.9c+ at the lip, then 5.9b later on. Pitch before is no terror either, it really is only 5.8b (burly). Just go climb. It's a solid old style route, if difficulty of individual bits is a concern, you're probably toast. Great route, great setting, long descent though. Don't lug a lot of excess or big gear, it's so much work already that the extra weight is a bad idea.

Oct 7, 2009 - 11:09pm PT
I've actually heard that the best protection to take is technique.

An Oil Field
Oct 7, 2009 - 11:23pm PT
I wouldn't want that big sucker battering my knee for just one move that is really pretty easy.

The big deal on a route like this is speed. Keep your changeovers quick and your gear organized. I would also put your gear on an old school over the shoulder gear sling. They are super for chimneys and offwidths. You will figure it out.

Speed will get you home before dark. I am like Donini on this..don't take too much crap because it will slow you down. Speed is about organization and changeovers at the belays. Always keep someone climbing. Can't stress that one enough.

Other than that, the route is a ton of fun, especially the upper part.

Trad climber
San Leandro, Ca
Oct 7, 2009 - 11:35pm PT
Base104, from an oil field... Hmm... Hearndon?
I remember the Narrows as being the place I ran out of gas. Very claustrophobic unless you are a skinny sport climber, which I am not. Don't wear a helmet- it won't fit. Don't wear anything at all, especially big cams... You can't really rate these things- the chimney below goes at 5.8 or 10b. The higher rating sells more guidebooks...
The Warbler

the edge of America
Oct 7, 2009 - 11:43pm PT
The route seemed casual in 1972 with a rack of caveman hexes and wedges. The Narrows seems to have a big rep, but I don't know why, yer all wedged in there an sh#t, you'd have to try to fall.

Route finding up there, and making good time so as not to epic is more challenging than any of the "cruxes".

Bail the big ball and chain cam, check the forecast, and get an early start.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Oct 7, 2009 - 11:50pm PT
I've done it twice, BITD. I don't remember there being any protection at all (this is precam) in the Narrows. I guess there could have been a fixed bong up there I've conveniently forgotten, but I'm sure we didn't place any.

At the time I did it, I too was a Gunks climber with little offwidth ability (as Peter Haan, who tried to teach me some, can testify). The thing is totally secure, but a little hard to move up in. It isn't at all like some of the base of El Cap testpieces; its ripply and you can effectively palm your way up. It isn't the crux; there's a short, shallow bottle-shaped crack lower down that is harder (but also well-protected at the time with a fixed pin).

The one thing I'd mention about the Narrows (as told to me by Dick Williams, another Gunks climber who climbed the SS in the sixties), is to turn your head so you are looking out at the sky rather into the darkness, because it may be too narrow to turn your head for a few feet, and your disposition (as well as your glasses if you are like Dick and me) will be a lot less cloudy if you are looking out into fresh air.

Trad climber
The 7th Pin Scar on Serentiy Crack
Oct 8, 2009 - 03:07pm PT
Whoever just said this above is a genius!!!

Stack an approach shoe with your largest cam if you want more options.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 8, 2009 - 03:29pm PT
If you need to take a 9" or 12" you aren't ready
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Oct 8, 2009 - 04:12pm PT
I remember finding an almost perfect replica of the Narrows just to the west of Swan Slab. However, I have since gone back to find it and failed. The dimensions match almost perfectly. Once one's knees are up, however, it is over; the upper chimney is capped.

Oct 8, 2009 - 04:37pm PT
Absolutely, dc. I didn't take approach shoes up either time, just watched my partner do it. I think he was trying to offload bulk and weight more than pro the thing better. (Hey, Scott R.!) I was probably as serious with that reco as I was doing DNB as a warmup. But yea, they'll both "work"...

What wildone said. Technique and hauling ass is your friend.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 8, 2009 - 06:18pm PT
Wear acopa scramblers and you don't need climbing shoes.

Mountain climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 13, 2009 - 07:42pm PT
Thanks for replies. I left my overgrown cams in the tent. Took 4 and 5 camalot. U probably can do without 5 but I did not feel sorry I took it. Route was great. Lead all pitches but took over 10 hours.
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