I do hope some enjoyment will be provided.
"Want to do a new route on Fairview?" I asked Mr. Erik Fantasy, who had never done a first ascent and is genuinely cautious in his approach to climbing.
He was apprehensive at first and I couldn't blame him. I was just looking for someone I liked to go up with me, whether for the long run or not. I simply wanted to get started.
I had been eyeing the North side of Fairview for years. When on routes such as A Farewell to Kings or Inverted Staircase, my eyes always gazed that way from belays. The face seemed so inviting, with sweeps of grey rock crossed with roofs and sometimes covered in hard green lichen
When putting up Separation Anxiety, we detailed that face up and down on the initial pitches. A few years ago, while doing Captain Fairview and Lyme Line Direct, I was sold on a route to the left of Burning Down the House and right of Always Arches, which I thought would go.
*BDtH, by the way, is a route I have said I would do. I hope to do it, but don't know if I ever will. I'm sure I opened my big mouth on ST with my keyboard and at some point wrote that I most certainly would do it ... blah blah. Should have bit my tongue, errrr ugh ... smashed the fingers. Maybe I'll do it. Maybe *
Mr. Fantasy asked a series of calculated questions to see whether he would be getting himself into trouble. I casually explained, "You have to climb and then drill when you're too scared to climb more." Showing him the idea of my intended line, with pictures and stories of treasure, he softened to the suggestion and became quite interested. YEAH!
The first day, we walked over to the base of the route and gazed up at the impressive North Face; I pointed out the line to Mr. Fantasy, noting obvious features the route would follow, its many roofs and the striped granite shield near the top.
In reflection, Mr. Fantasy recalls, "I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into and the 900 feet or so of granite looming before us definitely did not instill confidence. Bob, however, with his casual approach to climbing, did, and so we began."
What ensued over the next couple weeks were very good times indeed.
This was the first time I climbed with a radio. I"m usually not down, but this guy IS music and it makes him tick. I fell into it and listened to tons of country/bluegrass and other songs I'd never heard before -- Warren Zevon seemed to be a staple of the shuffle. He had this little i-pod box thing with speakers. Not too loud at all and it sounded great! Good stuff, though I must say that a music source is still not my first choice when thinking about what equipment is needed for a first ascent. I'm sure plenty of people don't want to hear music while high up on some multi-pitch adventure that might be the climax of their climbing life. We would have turned it off if there had been anyone else nearby. There wasn't and no one ever showed up, so ... WE ROCKED OUT!
I dashed up the initial slab, about 80 feet left of Burning Down the House and reached a left facing flake with pro that led up to an overlapping arch. The top of the arch became slabby and technical. I put the first bolt in quickly after leaving the flakes natural pro. As I was drilling the first bolt, Mr. Fantasy -- for whatever reason -- was giving a rather tight belay and suddenly I felt tension on the line. "Don't pull on me!" I shouted down, fearing I would be pulled from my tentative stance. I managed to get the first bolt of the route in without further incident. This, then, led to the underside of a huge arch. Great gear, some moves down and over right to a belay stance and the first pitch was done. Great rock with mostly moderate climbing to warm up on. Nice!
Mr. Fantasy pushed out on the second pitch, heading out with a hammer, a drill and some hardware for the first time in his life. I told him I felt the route would go straight through this roof. He attempted this maneuver, quickly becoming convinced that it was not the way! He traversed over right with an undercling, plugging gear along the way, looking for weakness in the rock, a natural passageway.
Mr. Fantasy recalls, "I remember thinking, Holy Sh#t, what have I signed up for? I was standing at the spot where I knew the rock was easiest, wanting to give up and hand the lead back to Bob, but knew this was why I was here. I cautiously attempted the move several times, not sure I wanted to commit to the mantle, growing closer and closer to calling it quits. Finally, I committed and was suddenly in what I felt was a desperate situation."
His first utterance was some expletive regarding the situation at hand. I can't quite recall. I explained what we previously had talked about. Getting ready to put a bolt in and such. Mr. Fantasy stood there a little longer, touching gear on his harness, adjusting his feet, knocking his helmet into the wall, desperately clinging to the rock, saying, "I can't do this!" in a voice lathered in fear.
I explained to him that he had a few choices:
-- Reverse the moves and downclimb, if possible, thus further risking injury;
-- Climb to the next place you think you can drill a bolt, thus further risking injury;
-- Drill a bolt, thus further risking injury, until that bit gets in (which, if I were him and in his predicament, I would think to be the best option).
I told him to relax and try to breathe. The stance wasn't as bad as it seemed and, yes, he could do it!
He sighed and got busy and busy and busy and even busier. Dropping the hammer and drill repeatedly to grab hold of the rock again in an effort to regain a sense of security. Busy guy, that Mr. Fantasy up there on that lead. As I fiddled with gear at the belay, I returned the favor of a too tight belay and heard Erik, shout down, "Don't pull on me!" but, hey, turn about is fair play.
An hour-ish later, he sank it home and had to do the whole take-the-shoes-off, remember that breathing actually is something we need to do and, generally, get his over mached and frazzled brain back in order and underwear clean after he had drilled his first bolt ever on lead. That was entertaining.
This pitch then heads up some nice slab/face climbing, protected by another bolt and really good gear in horizontals, as the face goes vert to the belay ledge. Fun!
From off the ledge on top of pitch two, I went up a right-facing corner. I put a bolt in going to it and one after heading up to what I now believe to actually have been a bolt on Always Arches (recently replaced by Zander and Clint Cummins). I clipped it and climbed up and out left on very R with very abusive fall-potential terrain. This finally led to a loose flake with bad pro. Then, on to a flake with no pro, but signs of a previous blade. I didn't put a bolt in because I knew I was on something that previously had been climbed. If this had been virgin terrain, I would have put in that initial bolt of Always Arches and then two more! Tom Higgins and Bob Kamps had established that line in '67. Crazy to think they climbed that in such a style with the footwear they had back then!
I kept traversing left, by some stacked death blocks, to a right-facing corner and then cut all the way back over right to our line. This was not going to be acceptable as a pitch on our route, with the character we had intended.
I spied the black streak right of the first Always Arches bolt. The black streak ended up being vertical 5.11 edging. We put that pitch up on lead a few days after we had sent the whole route with the RRRRR old school pitch that meandered too much to be part of our route in the long run. The 5.11 section was great and it's very well protected (more about that at the end of this TR).
As time went on and the days passed, we were getting into a pretty nice routine.
Since we didn't ever fix lines and only rapped after a day's work, we had to re-climb to our high point every day. I like to do it that way on Fairview, but damn it adds up physically. I'm pretty sure we allowed a couple of rest days in our schedule.
Mr. Fantasy became much more comfortable placing bolts on lead. He had some great moments in a corner on the third pitch. We call this the "Fantasy Funland Pitch."
Solid stems and awkward stances for bolt placements. He worked all the angles and put them in as solid as can be. This pitch involves awesome stemming to a roof under-cling left. Then up and out a bulge with a leg stretch of a boulder problem. After that, head up easier terrain past a bolt to the anchors.
Once at the next anchors, we were looking up at what were to be the "Burning Arches" pitches. These turned out to be real calf-burners waiting for those legs! One can also gaze out right to the oh-so-not-so-well-protected Burning Down the House. I'm pretty sure there's no way to know what it is going to be like up there unless you rap the route, gazing at every inch. Or climb the route, gazing at every inch and foot below you while clenching teeth, butt cheeks, etc.
I have not rapped the route. :)
The fifth pitch held another notable portion which involved me putting seven bolts in on the first "Burning Arches" pitch in one go. A nice 100+-foot 5.10ish calf-burner. I was SMOKED after that effort, but it turned into a pretty darn good face pitch with only a bit of spice. Fairview PG. I have a fine memory of effort on that one.
Once we started the sixth pitch, aka the second Burning Arches pitch, it ended up taking a couple of days. This one is quite a bit harder than the first and the drilling stances way more thin. On the first day, when we were done, instead of rapping the whole route, we traversed left from the belay with a little down climbing to meet up with the original exit of Always Arches, which consisted of two rambling pitches through corners and some scrambling to meet the east flank of Fairview.
The next day, we parked by Pothole Dome and hiked up above the Razor Back to meet up with the north east ridge of Fairview. It's an easy scramble up and around to the rope up point, which was two pitches of down-climbing and traversing back to the base of the second Burning Arches pitch. Putting up this pitch hurt.
Mr. Fantasy rocked out the first two bolts, thankfully! He'd come a ways at this point and was taking some falls too. Quite the learning curve. I fell a lot, blew hooks that I really didn't end up using much, and sh#t myself regularly, but really it's well protected. It's scary for us, falling with a drill and all that sh#t.
I got so fed up with those thin stances that, after the fifth bolt, I punched it to the roof, put gear in and promptly lowered down to drill a bolt for that stretch. It was a stupid run out for our route because we weren't looking to put up another poorly protected Fairview route. We'd like folks to be up on this, but be warned that this most definitely is not a sport route, by even the longest stretch of the imagination. The next part of this pitch goes through a big roof on great gear to a bolt, then connecting horizontals with bomber pro on a vert wall for the finale. Great stuff, for sure, in my book!
Here's what Mr. Fantasy has to say about this part: "The sixth pitch, as Bob mentioned, was not quite so easy. We had the first bolt or two in and Bob had attempted to drill the next, using hook placements to no avail. He'd place a hook, weight it and -- POW -- the hook would blow. This happened numerous times! We ended up calling it a day. When we returned, Bob offered the lead to me. I was beginning to have doubts that this pitch would even go. Still. I also knew that, if Bob went up and couldn't get the bolt in, there would be no way in hell you would find me out there on the sharp end again. I took the lead and climbed to the spot of many blown hooks, found a desperate stance and began drilling, then whipping. After a couple falls, I managed to get that bolt in and relinquished the lead to Bob. What fun!"
As I said before, quite the learning curve. WAY TO GO, ERIK!
From the anchor ledge, we headed left out a pitch and then did some scrambling to the northeast ridge of Fairview, over the Razor Back and down behind Marmot Dome, back to the car.
We took a day off and, then, it was time to do the route. Drum rolllllllllllllll
All went smooth as smooth could be up until the sixth pitch. The second Burning Arches pitch. Mr. Fantasy had a monumental effort on lead. He sent the tech slab and edges up through the roof and on past the horizontals that slice the upper headwall to the anchor.
What more can I say. He styled it and I'm pretty sure it's the hardest route he ever had led.
Mr. Fantasy's side: "It's great that Bob says all went smoothly for me; however, I remember it being very challenging. We had reached the Burning Arches pitches and Bob led the first BA pitch. As I followed, I was in constant fear of blowing a foot. When I reached the crux of this pitch, I couldn't remember the beta for the life of me. I stepped into the move and slipped, landing back on a tiny ledge, without weighting the rope, thanks to a slack belay from Bob. This happened a few times before I nailed the move. Thank God for tiny ledges. I really wouldn't have wanted to do it over. Finally, we'd reached the belay ledge below the sixth pitch and the culmination of our efforts lay before me. It was do or punt; I knew I didn't have the strength to climb this pitch twice, and hadn't sent cleanly when we had been here drilling bolts, so the pressure was really on. We took a few minutes' rest to gain composure and then I took off. I remember climbing to the "spot of many blown hooks" and feeling scared (I can be a pussy on lead sometimes). I had to reassure myself I could do the climbing; after all, I had been here before when there weren't bolts and been OK. I shut off the outside world and just climbed. I dialed every foot, and tentatively inched upwards. Seeing a shiny bolt within reach, I pulled up the rope, but I was too early and the clip was just out of reach. 'Oh, no,' I thought. 'No, no, no!' Then, as if by some miracle, I grew just enough and made the clip before continuing on. Above the roof, there are three mantle boulder problems and each one was a monumental achievement for me, knowing, if I blew a single move, I'd be forced to re-climb the pitch, which wasn't an option in my mind. I finally made it cleanly. This lead of mine, however, may be a record for slowest time ever to lead a single pitch of rock."
On the other hand, I (Bob) had to pay the piper. Up the pitch I went and, a ways up, I fell, then giggled, which meant, "How on earth could that happen?" I lowered, started up again and fell, again. Repeat; repeat again, without the giggle
I couldn't believe this was happening on a 5.11 pitch that I had wired. I put most of the frikken bolts in for crying out loud! What was happening? My ego cried and cried. I relaxed on the ledge and thought about why this was happening. I spied the bottoms of my shoes. The area on my right shoe which I smear with had a skin of rubber on it. Nothing. Uh huh! A combination of my head and footwear had put me in a spot. I composed myself and chucked my ego off the cliff. (Yeah, right!) Using some different parts of my shoe, I was able to squeak by.
In the end, that was a great experience for me to be challenged like that. I need that stuff. Not always, but I need it sometimes, for sure. I'm sure Mr. Fantasy didn't mind seeing me, following him, flail on that pitch after he had just styled it as one of the most difficult and best leads of his life! :0
On this day, we went right from the anchors, to join up with Lyme Line and Burning Down the House, to reach the top. These pitches were 5.8 airy traverse and a 5.7 straight to the summit, more or less.
What a day! What a week or so! Fun Fun and sore-ass bodies from stance/hand drilling.
We did it.
As I said before, we went back a couple days later and put up the direct line, adding the black streak at 5.11 edging as a better third pitch to be more direct and avoid the R and way too wandering Always Arches pitch. The route has been sent in its entirety with that pitch by a person named Thea. No falls to my knowledge. This effectively gives her the first free ascent of the direct line as a whole. THIEF!!! Just kidding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We were done. She's a damn good climber and we were handing out topos.
Mr. Fantasy learned a ton from our experience and, nowadays, I believe he likes the first ascent kind of shenanigans. Here are some words from the man himself, Erik Anderson, aka Mr. Fantasy: "This was a fantastic experience with Bob. What a pleasure to get to establish a new line on (in my opinion) one of the most iconic pieces of rock in North America. Drilling bolts on lead is definitely one of the most exciting things a person can do while rock climbing and I have to say, 'I've got the bug!' Also this is quite likely the hardest route I've ever led, but quite do-able and safe; I recommend it to anyone wanting to tick off another Fairview route without wild run-outs!"
We came up with the name "The Arsonist," while kicking around ideas as to why a house would burn down, at some random point part way up the route on the day of the FFA. (minus the direct 3rd) It just seemed to fit, being left of Burning Down the House and all. I said it first, as Erik's lips were about to form the same word; I remember us looking at each other and saying, "That's it!"
Well, thanks for reading, if you made it this far. The pics aren't that great and the writing is writing, but I thought it might be a cool thing for others to see what goes into a route.
Here is a link to mountain project for this route:
and Captain Fairview: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/captain-fairview/107560149
and Lyme Line Direct: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/lyme-line-direct-var/107560238