On Friday June 27, two unknown climbers acheived what is believed to be the first All-Spidey ascent of the Incredible Hulk via the Red Dihedrals route. This is their account of their historic ascent. Names have been changed to protect their superhero anonymity.
The idea for the All-Spidey ascent of the Incredible Hulk just kind of came together at the last minute, like most good ideas do. Spidey already had a spidey suit, and mine was borrowed from a friend of his who is on the Tuolumne SAR. Spidey was planning on surprising me with his suit at the base of the route, but my Spidey sense was tingling and I caught wind of it early on. When it came out that he had it with him, and Spidey had one too, the plan for an All-Spidey ascent was hatched. Spidey’s friend (we’ll call him “Pat”) graciously offered to lend me his suit, and history was made.
We hiked in that afternoon, superheroes in climber garb, with heavy packs and lots of bug repellent. Mosquitoes don’t respect you unless you’re actually wearing the spiderman suit, apparently.
Spidey also had another trick up his sleeve: a set of big, green foam rubber Hulk gloves that make menacing noises when they hit anything. This provided endless amusement, as they would say “Hulk Destroy!” every time he put his pack down to take a picture of the beautiful, serene, and peaceful landscape. They also served as a sort of critter alarm, hanging with our food strung between some trees while we camped below the Hulk. We also found that by putting them on and slamming your fists together, we could generate an even louder, stereo version of “HULK DESTROY!”.
The approach from our campsite was probably the scariest part of the climb. We had foolishly both left our trekking poles at camp, and we had to cross an icy snowfield to get to the base, wearing sticky rubber approach shoes. Sticky rubber works great on rock, but we found it to be notably inadequate on ice. I had grabbed a sharp rock to use as an ice dagger, but Spidey was barehanded. Halfway up the slope, he slipped and went for a very fast and very scary slide all the way back down to the bottom, slowing down just in time to avoid serious injury on the rocks below. He lost some skin on his fingers and a hundred feet of altitude, and all I could do was watch and pray that I would make it to the rocks on top without repeating his slide. I did, barely, and he found another way to get up, which involved chopping lots of steps up an even steeper slope with a sharp rock in each hand.
When we finally got to the base of the Red Dihedrals, there was a party there already roping up. We chatted amiably with “Mark” and “Brad”, but did not let on that we were superheroes, preferring to surprise them on the climb itself. As they were starting the second pitch, we pulled on our bright red and blue suits and racked up with a mischievous glint in our eyes. Soloing the 3rd class to the start of the first pitch we felt a sense of power and excitement, and could not help laughing at each other and the ridiculosity of two Spidermen climbing the Incredible Hulk together. If only we had brought Spidey’s Hulk gloves too…but no, that would have been too much.
As I led the first pitch, I kept waiting for Mark to look down at me, as he belayed his partner on the second pitch. He never once looked down. When I arrived at the belay and he finally turned to see Spiderman 5 feet away, the only thing he could say was "No Way! No Way! No WAY!" It was truly a priceless moment.
There is something that happens to you when you put on a costume - you really start to become the character. And when it's a Spiderman suit and you're a climber...well, there's an undeniable energy that takes hold of you and your fingers just start sticking to everything, your moves become more fluid, and your Spidey senses go crazy. It was a blast.
Of course, being superheros, we were climbing a bit faster than the mere humans in front of us - but we were in no rush, so we let them get ahead a little bit and do most of the route-finding. They also said they would take some pictures of us on the red dihedral pitch, so we thought it best to let them stay in front.
Meanwhile we enjoyed the scenery, shot webs at each other, and caught some flies for lunch. The crux pitch was amazing, sustained jamming and liebacking in a huge dihedral, with a tricky exit. But of course it was no match for our superpowers, and we walked up it like it was our own web. The rest of the route was fun and breezy, with great cracks, numerous ledges, and tremendous exposure.
Mark and Brad let us pass on the last pitch, as they had slowed down a bit and we were anxious to top out. The final pitch proved to be the most challenging, as we tried our best to tunnel through the awkward exit without snagging our lycra. Once on the summit, we struck a few Spiderman poses, snapped a few pictures, and changed back into our “climber” clothes for the descent. We didn’t save the world from imminent destruction, but we did have a great day in the mountains with our new superhero buddy, the Incredible Hulk.