I approached Hobbit Book via "Crystal Meth" 5.8 and found this a good way to do it. The 3rd pitch of Hobbit Book was a blast. I found myself wandering around to find the easiest way and encountered just one move that linked the plates through a blank spot at 5.7 The plate hiking was thrilling. The top out and views from the top are the best I've seen in Tuolumne.
At Tenaya Lake a couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a fellow who had recently fallen 50 feet after breaking a hold near the top of that pitch. He had some ugly scabs on his hands and legs, but otherwise was in good spirits. I think he said that a slung knob had held his fall.
So a fall is not necessarily fatal, at least in one case. Maybe he can be convinced to give a first hand account: it's quite a tale.
The 3rd pitch run out: I slung a couple of the plates but I doubt they would have held if I'd fallen. I was able to shorten the distance of the run out (which SuperTopo calls 60ft and MountainProject calls 100 ft) by staying toward the right. There are places where you can move all the way to the right and place a piece in the "rarely climbed off-width" described in the SuperTopo book. Also, I'm 5'6" and didn't find it to be too reachy. Nonetheless, you'd better be very solid at the grade.
I climbed Hobbit Book back around 1987 or 88, I believe, with Dean Crum. I was never more than a 5.10 climber, and only led a handful of 5.9's in my career. Dean took the more difficult pitches on this one, but I led several, and have seldom had more fun on a climb. With a good leader, a beginning-to-moderate climber can have a blast on this one! Great memories all around.
We did the Euro Trash/Hobbit Book link up - really great moderate day in the meadows - almost as good as Cathedral. Euro Trash is a nice warm up and easily connects you to the base. P1 and P2 are fun and protect well. P3 moves out onto beautiful gold plates, and you can sling some plates for psychological pro (see photos). P4 is a fun crack with an awesome under cling traverse. The views from the top are world class - just go do it!
We missed the 2nd gully/boulder field descent, and came down the 3rd gully in the trees. I think the boulder field would have been shorter with better aesthetics, so keep looking for that granite pillar.
If 5.7 is your limit, I would recommend getting someone else to lead that pitch.
I hung slings on those plates, and they stayed on and everything, even held up a carabiner, but counting on that stuff as lead protection is the climbing equivalent of 'you can't get pregnant in a hot tub'.
Just got this beta from Larry Arthur on a direct start to Hobbit Book:
Thought you'd get a kick outa knowin' that my friend Mark Engstrom (deceased) and I put up a "direct start" pitch to The Hobbit Book (p 110) back in 1974 or 75. It starts below and right of the big corner and avoids all the hiking involved with following Charlie and Gordon's original approach. Here's the beta:
Shadow the wall below and right of Oz / Gram Traverse until goin gets steep (ocassional 3rd class chimney and boulder hopping). Rope up when you can easily work up and left on a series of ledges and back right via ramps and low angle cracks (easy 5th class). Smear past and left of an old 1/4" bolt (now not necessary with small cams) 5.8 and over an overlap tending left to a small tree on a ledge. Sling this and step left, traversing along a thin crack ledge to it's end (pro at your feet). Make face moves straight up to blocky ledge at base of Hobbit Book proper.
I reclimbed this summer before last. I really wasn't looking forward to the runout to the old rusty trusty and only spotted it when I was up and left of it some 20 ft. The Complete Hobbit or the Direct Start (as we've called it) makes a fun and easy climb a little longer and a little more fun!
The route follows a striking left-facing dihedral.
Photo: Marshall Minobe
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