Trip Report
64 Years After Salathé, Finishing the First Attempted Route On Castle Rock Spire
Wednesday July 17, 2013 4:52am
I was back at the base of Castle Rock Spire again. I wasn't sure why, I’m just a mediocre climber with eyes too big for my stomach. Maybe my mom told me I can do whatever I put my mind to too many times as a kid. At least Tom the rope gun was there. It was early but already warm and dust hung around us while we organized and pulled on our gear. The massive stone walls echoed every word, clink and shuffle. They were intimidating but I was excited and confident we would finally succeed. I wasn’t there to have some hippy relationship or one-ness with this thing. Not this time, I was there to take revenge. I would claw my way to the top or tear the castle down before the sun set.
“Climbing”
“Climb on.”

-----------


Castle Rocks as seen from Moro Rock.  The Fin is one the left, Spire i...
Castle Rocks as seen from Moro Rock. The Fin is one the left, Spire in the center, and parts of the back towers can be seen in the upper right.
Credit: limpingcrab

I grew up fishing and hiking the Kaweah Rivers in the shadow of the Castle Rocks massif and have been eying the Spire as long as I can remember. On a clear day the towering walls were visible from the driveway of the house I grew up in. I didn’t learn to climb until I went to college and as soon as I returned to the Central Valley I began making plans to finally climb Castle Rocks.

People familiar with the area have probably heard of the legendary approach and curse hanging over the spire. Ticks, heat, bush whacking, poison oak, route finding, rattlesnakes, bears, four-thousand feet of elevation gain, no easy climbing route and general misery are some of the things that give Castle Rock Spire the reputation as the “most difficult summit to reach in the Sierra.” There were even stories of broken legs, giardia and diabetic ketoacidosis! Pfffff. I arrogantly figured those people just didn’t know MY mountains like I did. Probably a bunch of bay area or SoCal babies who sweat through their diapers every time the thermometer hits 90!

August of 2012 I was prepared to make the trip. Tom, a climber from the central coast, was in and wanted it perhaps even more than I did. After looking over my maps and pictures from previous hikes I decided to take the southern approach via Mineral King road to avoid the poison oak. A week before our planned climb I hiked out to look for water and stash gear. Seven miles and four and a half hours after leaving the car I had stashed a rope and rack, pumped three gallons of water and was standing on the Fin. Ha! Not so tough after all! I pounded my chest and screamed at the mountains, begging them for a challenge! Well, not exactly, but I was having a good day and pretty proud of my time.

Celebrating on top of the fin, I'm not sure what I was doing but appar...
Celebrating on top of the fin, I'm not sure what I was doing but apparently I was excited or smelled something to the left.
Credit: limpingcrab

The tree I stashed everything in with the Fin in the background.
The tree I stashed everything in with the Fin in the background.
Credit: limpingcrab

About half a mile into the return hike, as I trudged up the boulder field toward Castle Peak, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. I paused in the shade to take a breath, thinking it would pass. A couple minutes later, now in the dirt and pine needles, it happened again. Another pause. I took a step and had to weight my trekking pole, another step and I collapsed into the dirt. A few more minutes and the pain grew worse. I had broken nine bones in my life before that day, and each step hurt worse than any one of those injuries. Every step was electric and felt like a hot ice pick was shoved through the back of my knee. Clinching my jaws I fell to the ground again and pulled out my space blanket to wait for search and rescue. While lying in the dirt under a red fir watching clouds go by I noticed that the pain would subside if I didn’t move for a couple minutes. I got up, bit down and made it another 50 steps before I collapsed again. This process repeated for six of the longest miles of my life. Unknown hours later, in the dark with bloody hands, I crumpled into the car, humbled and with a new respect for the people that had successfully climbed Castle Rock Spire. My climbing season ended that day.

Castle Rocks: 1
Daniel: 0

-------------


At the base of the climb I had the usual pre-climb nausea and nerves, but a few moves into leading the first pitch my nerves relaxed, my lanky arms loosened and I remembered why I liked this stuff. Pitch one is actually the start of the regular route and is rated at 5.9+ but felt more like 5.8 at the time. On our last trip it felt harder, maybe because of the backpack. Right then, as I cleared the shadows and climbed into the warm sun, it was just plain fun. Before I knew it I made the clean finger crack traverse left onto a ledge and was ready to belay Tom up.

Me starting off on the first pitch.  It looked pretty dirty but we tho...
Me starting off on the first pitch. It looked pretty dirty but we thought it was enjoyable. The crux was a mantle up out of sight.
Credit: limpingcrab
A rough overlay of the first pitch seen from the east on the Fin.  The...
A rough overlay of the first pitch seen from the east on the Fin. The regular route does not take a left, but instead goes to the top and behind the "dark tower" on the right. The original start traversed in from the left across a 4th class ledge.
Credit: limpingcrab

By the time Tom reached the belay we were in full sun and it was getting warm. The absolutely beautiful splitter crack of pitch two cut into the clean rock above. Tom wanted to free this pitch this time but was a bit worried about the heat. He unloaded the heavy pack onto my shoulders and headed up. Getting established in the crack proved to be the crux, but he still freed the pitch. Well, freed it like a Frenchman, but who’s counting?

Tom climbing the beautiful second pitch.  It goes from a seem at the s...
Tom climbing the beautiful second pitch. It goes from a seem at the start all the way to four inches at the top and it's really difficult!
Credit: limpingcrab
This shot shows Tom's tag line on the second pitch and you can see how...
This shot shows Tom's tag line on the second pitch and you can see how steep it really was.
Credit: limpingcrab

I knew I couldn’t free a pitch with a heavy pack if Tom couldn’t lead it clean so I clipped the jumars on and awkwardly ascended. I’m no aid climber and I fumbled through the cleaning process on the overhanging and traversing pitch. I passed by the crack with a tinge of guilt, it was one of the best looking splitters I’ve had the honor of seeing and I jugged right on by.

Halfway up the second pitch when the crack hit the sweet size.  Yum yu...
Halfway up the second pitch when the crack hit the sweet size. Yum yum.
Credit: limpingcrab

I reached the large blocky ledge above and was sure that this time we were headed all the way to the top. We were on schedule, it was warm with a slight breeze, and we had everything we could need. We even brought along good attitudes and psych!

The same as the earlier picture with pitch two drawn in.
The same as the earlier picture with pitch two drawn in.
Credit: limpingcrab

---------------


It was months of physical therapy and doctor visits before I finally got knee surgery. That was a pretty low point for me. I quit competitive snowboarding because I didn’t want to be crippled by the time I had kids and there I was, sitting in a recovery room with arthritis and a pregnant wife at home. Fortunately, with a brace and the use of walking poles, I was able to recover reasonably quick and was looking towards Castle Rocks yet again.

We planned a trip for May and this time we added an internet wonder boy to our team. It was to be me, Tom and Vitaliy via the legendary lower approach and guided by René Ardesch. I had eaten a big piece of humble pie on my last attempt and René knew the lower approach better than anyone so I was more than happy to learn the way from him.

The week before the trip I got a call from a biologist in Sequoia and he told me that the water was so low this year that I had to start my thesis research that weekend, no later. Crap. I sent out texts to Tom and Vitaliy because I was too ashamed to call and ruin the trip over the phone. When Tom let us know that his shoulder hurt anyway the trip fell apart and we chalked it up as another failure.

A couple weeks later Tom and a friend made a valiant attempt from the Mineral King road approach. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. My directions got them lost (read: Tom doesn’t know what west means :) so they were in trouble right from the start. When they tried to rappel down the fin to access the spire the bolts looked terrible and the rope got stuck so they had to retreat without a victory.

Castle Rocks: 2
Daniel and Tom: 0

----------------


I remembered losing my nerve and stoke on this ledge last time, but now I was excited to lead up the next pitch. Tom said he was fine with letting me take the sharp end because it was getting hot and he found a comfortable spot in the shade. The pitch was steep and I resorted to aiding right off the bat. It was slow going because I had never lead any aid, it was overhanging, and one ladder and a daisy chain were the extent of our aid gear.

Me getting to the second overhang on the third pitch.
Me getting to the second overhang on the third pitch.
Credit: limpingcrab
Looking down at Tom while he belays from the spacious block ledge with...
Looking down at Tom while he belays from the spacious block ledge with the gully far below.
Credit: limpingcrab

Place a cam, clip the daisy, clip the rope, move the ladder, unclip daisy, step step step, repeat. The blinding sun straight above mixed with lichen and dirt to fill every pore and crease on my face. About 30 feet into the pitch the sun flared up and slipped out of sight behind our destination another 300 feet above. Ahhh, shade. When it wasn’t overhanging I freed a few moves into territory that was likely untouched by human hands. I knew I didn't deserve to be in a place that that, I'm not of the same caliber as the climbers who pioneered the other Spire routes. At the same time I was grateful for the chance and thoroughly enjoying myself! The exposure was awesome and so was the feeling of exploration and adventure on my personal vertical playground.

Yours truly trying my terrible improv aid technique
Yours truly trying my terrible improv aid technique
Credit: limpingcrab

I was getting all nostalgic and thinking about the history of the route as I searched out my next placement when I froze in place. Directly above me was a loose block. Loose as in it might fall if I farted too loud and block as in the size of a mattress. It was probably eight feet tall, three feet wide and looked to be at least a foot thick. Oh no, was this it? Were we going home unsatisfied again!? I wanted to trundle it but knew I shouldn’t. There was no place to hide, no way to climb around and I promised my wife and six week old son that I wouldn’t do anything stupid.

“Tom, put the bolt kit on the tag line.”
“Pull it off.”
“It’ll probably just kill both of us, you want to do it?”
“The bolt kit is on!”

I pulled the kit up, stepped high in my aider and placed a bolt as high and to the right as I could (deep enough to remove the hanger and pound the bolt in later). With the bolt in place I tied directly into it and Tom cleared the ledge below. Hanging just off to the side, adrenaline pumping, rope tied out of the way and Tom hiding, I gave the bottom of the block a tug. It shifted an inch.

“Bombs awaaaaaaay!!!!”

Another gentle tug and time slowed as tons of rock and debris lowered out into space. I prayed it would stay away from myself and the rope and hoped physics would work with me as I watched the comet hurdle towards the ledge, sucking dust and lichen in a vacuum trail behind it. The climb was so steep that it sailed all the way to the gully below without so much as glancing off the spire. It was the most amazing trundle either one of us had ever seen and I was still alive!

A distant before (left) and after (right) view of the block that fell.
A distant before (left) and after (right) view of the block that fell.
Credit: limpingcrab
The block before (left) and after (right) without much...
The block before (left) and after (right) without much for scale. It was big, honest.
Credit: limpingcrab

After the thunder subsided and my adrenaline wore off I realized it was time to climb again. I couldn’t. Resting my head against the cool rock I just couldn’t work up the nerve to lead again.

“Tom, I don’t know man, I don’t feel right, I’m kinda freaked out.”
“Can you go like 30 more feet to the start of the chimney?”
“Can you?”

Tom jugged up, we sorted our cluster and he took the lead. There was still a bit of debris but he made quick work of it while I hung in the most hanging belay my butt cheeks had ever experienced. It was overhanging and there was no foot ledge so my feet decided take a nap. Before too long I climbed the last 30 feet to the belay and the stoke was back. The climb above looked better than we thought from below and I didn’t have to lead it!

The first three pitches.
The first three pitches.
Credit: limpingcrab

---------------


Alright, to say Tom and I were frustrated about not getting to climb the spire because of my thesis would be an understatement. We set another date and were bound and determined to get on the rock this time. While sending emails back and forth to plan the trip Tom suggested an obvious line ascending the east face that he had seen from the fin. I did a bunch of research and found no evidence that it had ever been climbed.

As if climbing the spire wasn’t already hard enough, we decided we would beat the spire on our own terms. Plan ample time? No, we would do the first ever one day car to car ascent of the spire. Take the regular route? No way! We would do a first ascent. Carry two ropes? Not a chance, we would bring one rope and descend the fin on our own route somehow.

On June 15th we left the car at dark o’clock at night from the Paradise Ridge trailhead on Mineral King road. By then we had three approaches between us and stumbled through the night without much trouble, arriving behind the fin in the dark.

Tom heading cross-country in the night for an attempt at the spire.
Tom heading cross-country in the night for an attempt at the spire.
Credit: limpingcrab

We took a nap and finished the approach at first light. Most of the morning was spent bolting a few anchors and rapelling tree to tree down the fin to reach the gully right at the base of the spire. Tom lead the first pitch and set belay at the base of the splitter. It looked good but really hard so to save time and strength Tom aided the second pitch to the big ledge.

The rap route we took in the morning.  It can be done with one 70m rop...
The rap route we took in the morning. It can be done with one 70m rope.
Credit: limpingcrab

Once on the ledge we took off our shoes to stretch the toes and have lunch. Then the sight of a piton put a dagger through our excitement and slayed our motivation. We were tired, thirsty, and now believed that someone had already climbed the route. Tom led a little of the third pitch but the thought of the hike back to the car sent us home with our tails between our legs. 25 hours after leaving the car I threw up in the parking lot and Tom collapsed into the passenger seat of my Forester.

Castle Rocks: 3
Daniel and Tom: 0

-----------------


At the top of the third pitch we knew that only two pitches lie between us and success. More than just success on this climb, but it would make all of our work up to this point worth it. Our mid-climb doubts faded and our smiles returned as Tom made the fourth class moves off the belay and dove straight into a beautiful chimney. It looked like the kind of chimney that’s actually fun to climb, and it took good gear to boot! He worked his way up, making it look easy but getting closer to the roof that I had been worried about the whole time. He hung now and then but did most of the roof moves free with a complicated looking mixture of crossed feet and liebacks and jams and arm bars and whatnots and whositz and whizzles.

The view of the fourth pitch chimney and roof from the third belay.
The view of the fourth pitch chimney and roof from the third belay.
Credit: limpingcrab
Tom cruising chimney just below the roof.
Tom cruising chimney just below the roof.
Credit: limpingcrab
Looking down at the exposure and solid rock from the fourth belay.
Looking down at the exposure and solid rock from the fourth belay.
Credit: limpingcrab

He called down that the rope was fixed and I jugged up. How do I clean a roof traverse? I figured it out, it just took a lot of yelling and complaining and grunting, no problem. At the fourth belay I felt a wonderful sensation; a breeze coming over the top. We were so close I could almost taste it, even through the cotton-mouth metallic taste of dehydration and fear!

The first four pitches.
The first four pitches.
Credit: limpingcrab

--------------


After Tom an I returned from our 25 hour suffer fest we vowed to only return with plenty of time and only do the Regular Route instead of the East Face. 36 hours later, after doing research until my eyes bled (much of it on supertopo), we were planning our next assault on the East Face. Here’s what I learned:

1. In 1949, one year before the spire was climbed in 1950 via the Regular Route, Salathé had attempted a route 100 feet left of the Regular Route. The piton, and a bolt ladder beneath it, were 100 feet left of the regular route.

2. The bolt ladder must have been old because it was directly between two perfect crack systems.

3. Salathé was known to use home made hangers with nails just like the ones we saw.

Salathé hardware.
Salathé hardware.
Credit: Chicken Skinner
Hardware on the old bolt ladder running parallel to and 50 feet to the...
Hardware on the old bolt ladder running parallel to and 50 feet to the left of the crack on pitch two.
Credit: limpingcrab

4. Salathé had bailed one and a half pitches up in a dirty gully. The highest piton we found was one and a half pitches off the 4th class ledge next to a dirty gully.

5. The first climbers in the area approached from the Mineral King road and were looking at the steep south arête (now the Spiked Hairdoo route) and the east face as possible ways to the summit. We were on the east face.

Some people thought that Spiked Hairdoo, climbed by the late Bruce Bidner, was possibly the first route attempted by Salathé, but we were convinced that we had located the true original. The idea of completing the historic route and getting a first ascent on Castle Rock Spire was too much to resist, not to mention that we were stubborn and didn’t like bailing halfway up.

So we headed back, up the dusty trail through the familiar smell of chinquapin, pine and manzanita. We wound through the forest, down the gully and back to camp behind Castle Rocks.

Our bivvy site for every trip.  The Fin and Spire were about a half a ...
Our bivvy site for every trip. The Fin and Spire were about a half a mile away, beyond those trees. The gully below had a few small pools to filter water from.
Credit: limpingcrab

We were determined not to fail and excited to follow in the footsteps of the man himself; Inventor of the modern piton, pioneering climber, and legend of Yosemite climbing, John Salathé.

-----------------


I eagerly took the gear from Tom and prepared for the final pitch of our adventure. We were a mere 60 feet from the summit and it looked easy. I dug my torn up hand into the crack and found purchase through the lichen. The pitch went quickly at 5.6 (Yeah Tom, not 5.5, I have more experience at the grade than you. It was hardcore 5.6 :)

Looking down from the summit at the short fifth pitch.
Looking down from the summit at the short fifth pitch.
Credit: limpingcrab

Before I knew it the gray rock I had been face to face with all day vanished, all that was left in it’s place was the late afternoon sun hovering over the San Joaquin Valley! We made it! Such a pointless feat in the grand scheme of things can feel so amazing at the time, and this was no exception. We signed the summit register (thanks Dave Daly) and noticed that we were the third group (including mooch and munge) to sign the register since it was placed in 2010. It was such a special place that so few had visited, the view was outstanding and I felt like I did my 10 year old self proud. I was finally on Castle Rock Spire.

Tom was so excited that he couldn't aim his camera.  I was so excited ...
Tom was so excited that he couldn't aim his camera. I was so excited that I ate a snickers.
Credit: limpingcrab
Obligatory summit shot.  I should learn how to smile.
Obligatory summit shot. I should learn how to smile.
Credit: limpingcrab
The views up there were amazing.  This shot was looking east over the ...
The views up there were amazing. This shot was looking east over the fin towards the Great Western Divide.
Credit: limpingcrab
The End
The End
Credit: limpingcrab
A rough topo.  This route can definitely go free if a couple of strong...
A rough topo. This route can definitely go free if a couple of strong crack climbers give it a try. We didn't have the time or energy.
Credit: limpingcrab

The End. Thanks for reading if you did, sorry it was so long. If you didn't read it I hope you enjoyed the pictures we took with our cheap cameras!
















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limpingcrab
About the Author
limpingcrab is me, nice to meet you.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jul 17, 2013 - 04:57am PT
WOO HOOOO, GET SOME!!

Dang nice work there men. This is so nice I will come back and complete the read in the morning. Night!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 09:02am PT
Great job on the climb. Good TR and photos.

I had noticed that line also, wondered why it had been overlooked after the September 1949 attempt by John Salathe' and Jim Wilson.
Apparently because it's steep! Or maybe because they called it a "rotten chimney". After all the time you invested, I'm glad I didn't try to do it. I knew it would take time to work out that upper approach.

How soon do you think Vitaliy will go up and free it? :-)

Here is a brief version of the original attempts and the first 2 ascents:

0.1 recon 1947.07 2 days Ted Knowles, DeWitt Allen, Anton (Ax) Nelson recon from FA of Amphitheater Dome, Sierra Club Bulletin 1947
0.2 attempt 1948.09 John Salathe, Jim Wilson attempted rotten chimney on SE arete, trundled loose block
0.3 attempt 1948.10 John Salathe, Jim Wilson, Phil Bettler camped at notch, but snowed the next day
0.4 attempt 1949.09 2 days Will Siri, Jim Wilson, Phil Bettler climbed halfway
1 ascent 1950.0427 2 days Will Siri, Al Steck, Phil Bettler, Bill Long, Jim Wilson First Ascent, 2 summited on day 2, 3 on day 3, Sierra Club Bulletin May 1951
2 ascent 1950.0528 15(?) days John Salathe, Anton (Ax) Nelson, David Hammack, Manford Samuelson, Richard Michael, and Charley Cranford
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:17am PT
That's the shadow of a hard man to climb.

Much respect, Valley Boy!

Great read!

Who's your motivational guru?
Mark Sensenbach

climber
CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:54am PT
Freakin awesome!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Jul 17, 2013 - 07:02am PT
Sweet! Castle Rock Spire 1, Dingus 0.

DMT
goatboy smellz

climber
लघिमा
  Jul 17, 2013 - 07:37am PT
Cool trip!
couchmaster

climber
  Jul 17, 2013 - 08:58am PT
You must have been super psycked to see the Salethe hardware! I am just reading about it. Woot! Thanks for the TR!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 17, 2013 - 09:14am PT
Well done....looks good!
MisterE

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 09:28am PT
Great story! The best things take time, and this was one of those things.

Pretty crazy doing your first aiding on a remote FA.

Congratulations! Erik
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jul 17, 2013 - 09:43am PT
SWEET!
Tad
10b4me

climber
  Jul 17, 2013 - 10:50am PT
What perseverance
Way to hang tough, and get it done
Deekaid

climber
  Jul 17, 2013 - 11:16am PT
cool story...nice effort
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Jul 17, 2013 - 11:36am PT
Outstanding job.

Credit: guyman

Shows your route...off to the left of Regular root, I have some shots at home looking directly into the crack, chimney system you guys climbed. Time to dig em up and post em.

Credit: guyman

Kris and I ... Kris IS really that short.

More.. More... more...
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jul 17, 2013 - 12:01pm PT
Great TR-suprised Micronut has not posted yet as he has a special software program that rings an alarm when CRS appears anywhere on the Internet.
sharperblue

Mountain climber
San Francisco, California
  Jul 17, 2013 - 12:06pm PT
FINALLY somebody climbs that sucker again! Great Job: the Few, the Proud!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 12:55pm PT
Man, you just won't take no for an answer, eh? I'd have hated to be
one of yer girlfriends. ;-)

WELL DONE!
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Author's Reply  Jul 18, 2013 - 02:09am PT
Thanks everyone!

I was hoping you would show up, Clint. Thanks for keeping track of so much history, I love that stuff!

0.2 attempt 1948.09 John Salathe, Jim Wilson attempted rotten chimney on SE arete, trundled loose block

I heard a variation of this, but it was just that their route was "100 feet left of the regular route" and people assumed it was the chimney on the southeast arete. Do you know where this info came from? I was thinking that they may have in fact climbed up what we were climbing on the east face? It just seemed to line up and I never heard if Bidner or Coomer found any signs of travel on Spiked Hairdoo.

Edit: Mooch pretty much cleared this up below.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 17, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
Guido,

I awoke last night in a cold sweat....feeling a disturbance in The Force. I could tell something grand had transpired somewhere south of me....and a little East. Then I logged on and saw this. The Spire....she calls to me in my sleep.

Daniel. Way to GET IT DUN! Super proud of you boys. Way to stick it out, stomache the fear and push upward. That's a really proud ascent and I am truly green with envy. May your summer have many summits and your case of lyme disease be a mild one. See you around.

Scott
PAUL SOUZA

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 01:35pm PT
<---- Uber Jealous!

Congrats boys! Props to digging deep and getting it done!

cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Jul 17, 2013 - 02:13pm PT
Rad! Looks like another sweet route for the to-do list.

I assume the weather is going to be hot for a while but could be nice in September/October?

Thanks for taking the time to put in nice bolted anchors setup for rapping. I know the bolting takes a lot of time but it is awesome for future ascentionists.

Question- Was the approach you used Poison Oak free? I react quite aggressively and had been avoiding CRS for that reason. I can deal with a longer hike. I'll probably shoot you a PM for more details.

Good work!!
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Author's Reply  Jul 17, 2013 - 02:32pm PT
Yup, zero poison oak on that approach. I haven't done the other approach because I hate that stuff. You could climb the route in the heat of the summer if you just start once the east face is in the shade. It's five straightforward pitches so you'd still have time I think.

Here's a rough overlay of the approach we took:
Approximate route from the Paradise Ridge Trail
Approximate route from the Paradise Ridge Trail
Credit: limpingcrab

I've been there in July, August and September and found water every time but no guarantees. PM or let me know if you have any other questions.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 04:23pm PT
Wow! Knowing the heat in the Valley (San Joaquin, not Yosemite) last weekend, I am particularly impressed. Truth is that anything on CRS impresses me, including your excellent TR. Thanks much.

John
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Jul 17, 2013 - 04:31pm PT
Daniel, thanks for the report! Awesome way to get it done! I can't imagine the motivation you had to keep going there time and time again. How hard do you think would it be to free the route? I would be psyched to try it at some point of time.

Vlad
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 05:03pm PT
Great work on the route and really like the write-up. That trundle sounded gnar.
SierraGoat

Trad climber
Quincy, Ca
  Jul 17, 2013 - 05:43pm PT
Nice climb fellas. Just curious, were we the last to summit in 2011? Or was there someone in between? That hanger that you took a picture of on you route is very similar if not the exact era/type to one that we pulled off the reg route (as the aluminum hole had warbled itself out). I will dig it out and send you a pic. I too had often wondered if Salathe had really chosen the now spiked hairdoo as his easiest way to the summit, particularly after rapping down that steep bastard.... Oh by the way LoNg live Brutis!
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:24pm PT
Excellent effort and great trip report.
mooch

Trad climber
Old Climbers' Home (Adopted)
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:38pm PT
I remember a conversation I had with Brutus and Allen Steck in JTree regarding Salathe's attempt. They were both certain he was intent on the line you guys did....not Spiked Hairdo. SH was done after Bruce had done the Reg Route twice. Instead of rapping back down the Reg Root, Bruce felt that SE arête of the Spire would only require 2 to 3 raps. So, after putting in the anchors and completing the rap, he saw this "rap line" as another potential line on the Spire. Later the next winter, Spike Hairdo was born. Bruce and I were going back there not only to do the Reg Root (for my benefit) but to also attempt the Salathe line and mapped it out like you two did. Glad you got to it! Brutus and Salathe are smiling from the heavens!

ag.Fox

Trad climber
Reno, NV
  Jul 17, 2013 - 07:17pm PT
Yous guys effin RAWK!!! FA on CRS is really awesome - even a massive trundle! You are in grand company. Way proud! Good on ya both for the perseverence factor.
I'm super psyched to get out there for an attempt at a free ascent, maybe not the FFA, but that don't matter to me.

Great style, both climbing and reporting.
Looking forward to the next one - more please!
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Author's Reply  Jul 17, 2013 - 08:03pm PT
How hard do you think would it be to free the route?
Hmmm... Hard to say. I think the "alternate crack" I labeled in the topo would be easier than our second pitch which might be somewhere around a hard 11 or low 12. The upper pitches had great cracks the whole way but since it's not the high sierra and nobody climbs there the lichen would make parts more difficult. We also had lots of gear that prevented us from trying much of it but Tom never went into full aid mode and freed or french freed the whole thing. I think in the 12's would be the hardest, possibly just 11s with a bit of cleaning. That probably wasn't very helpful, but at least the protection is solid the whole way so it would be pretty safe to try! Tom (Rudbud) would probably be up for it if you needed a partner.

Just curious, were we the last to summit in 2011?
Yup, the only names in the register were the guys that placed the register, your party, and us. 3 teams in four years is crazy! Here's that info incase Clint is still keeping track.
Credit: limpingcrab
Credit: limpingcrab
Credit: limpingcrab

Edit: Thanks for the info Dave! I figured you would probably know more than most about it. I wish I could have met Bruce... I've heard nothing but good things and he seemed to really experience the mountains like few do.
Radish

Trad climber
SeKi, California
  Jul 17, 2013 - 08:01pm PT
Great Job Daniel and Tom! I figured you all were up there this last weekend, luckily dodging the big thunderheads that were staged right before the weekend. Good Job on the new route AND the Rap Route! Two big accomplishments for sure! A wilderness climb, you have to still get out there with all the stuff. And, even though the helicopter is nearby its not a for sure that we could get you out if something happened. And to do a FA is really a Grand Thing! Good Job!!

What happened to the original register??
snaps10

Mountain climber
Visalia, CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
You should have told me that's what you needed gear for! I would have been way more apr to endure the heat of the garage for you.

Well done, I've always known there was a reason I liked you. Well, for more than your dashing good looks. Way to stick with it. You're an animal.
Rudbud

Gym climber
Grover Beach, CA
  Jul 19, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
Good TR Daniel, It was definitely a long time in the making to get to the top, and we ended up bagging a FA, Un freakin believable.

I couldn't believe this line was still undone and I new Daniel would be up for it.

This route is worth doing, plan for a fun adventure and not an epic.
Coming in from the top is pretty mellow. No Snakes, Ticks, or Poison oak, and with only one rope and a double rack the hike in isn't that bad. Since we put in a new rap off the spire that's on the route you can leave the extra rope at home and bring extra beer. One 70m rope will get you off the spire. Its a clean rap with no worries about a stuck rope. Daniel and I both thought it would be nice to go back now with lighter packs and do the Regular route. Well at least the hike out will be easy after all the beer is drank and the food is gone. Actually the hike out will probably still suck but its worth it, trust me I cant wait to get back.

If this route see's some traffic pitches 3 and 4 could get cleaned up a little more and this route would be great.
The splitter pitch is ready to go, the upper part has some lichen, but the bottom is nice and clean. It reminds me of Butterballs with a thin technical crux to gain the .4 to .5 size crack.
I would love to go back and try to free this thing, so if anyone is up for it let me know, I could possibly be in for this weekend.

Thanks Daniel for being up for anything and giving it your all and pulling off the biggest death block these eyes have ever seen trundled. It was surreal watching a block that size fly past. I think that thing may have taken out the entire ledge I was on if it would have hit. I'm not sure I would have had the balls to pull it off.

Thanks everyone for the comments.
Tom
CRS shadow
CRS shadow
Credit: Rudbud
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Jul 18, 2013 - 01:46am PT
Fantastic history on that one! Well done.
Radish

Trad climber
SeKi, California
  Jul 18, 2013 - 06:38pm PT
I am curious if the original register is still up on top now that a new one has been in place?? It is a prime piece of climbing history and one that needs to stay up there.It has been on a few trips from the summit in its years since being placed. I know some friends found it down in the gully many years ago and replaced it on top. And then it took a trip down to Exeter for a review I believe. Then back to the top for the 'Original' one. So, I'm wondering??
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Author's Reply  Jul 18, 2013 - 07:47pm PT
There was a little red aluminum canister next to the new register, was that the original? The new register had the printout of all known previous ascents so that was cool to look over.

I tried to open the little canister but the lid was really tight and I didn't want to crush it or mess up whatever was inside so I'm not sure what it was.

I also replaced the register on the fin and took pictures of all of the pages. It was a gatorade bottle with really torn up little pieces of paper in it and much of it was illegible. Now it's just a plastic powdered gatorade can with a flip book in a zip-lock, but at least it's better than what it was.
Radish

Trad climber
SeKi, California
  Jul 18, 2013 - 08:51pm PT
Sounds like the little can they found in the gully and the container of the historical stuff! Cool that.Had no doubt the earlier parties left it alone. Since so few have been there, its good to know those who have honor the past. Thanks also for the kudo's in your report! Nice Read......
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jul 18, 2013 - 09:25pm PT
I'm really curious if that little red can is the one we placed in 1963? Is it one of the classic film cans?
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Author's Reply  Jul 19, 2013 - 02:06pm PT
Is it one of the classic film cans?

Ya, that's exactly what it was now that I think about it. Happy 50th anniversary of climbing CRS!
splitclimber

climber
Sonoma County
  Jul 19, 2013 - 02:44pm PT
way 2 go!!

seeing CRS for the first time a few weeks ago makes it even more impressive.

and thx Daniel for the SEKI beta.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 19, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
Kaboom!

Congratuf*#kinglations! Awesome to hear you had time to get out to CRS with Tom and make it happen. Wish I was there.
The Alpine

climber
  Jul 20, 2013 - 10:05am PT
The stuff of legends...
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 20, 2014 - 10:06am PT
Well done Crab and Tom! Persistence paid of in only the way a unique summit can. Enjoy!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 20, 2014 - 12:42pm PT
If this route see's some traffic

anyone else smile, just a little?
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 20, 2014 - 12:45pm PT
What an all-time TR. WELL DONE!

That is a great find of the red canister above. Nice pull

These are some (poor quality) pics of the Salathé bolts outside of the Narrows on the Steck-Sal:





Sure looks like the same hardware.

Again, BRAVO gents!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jun 20, 2014 - 01:10pm PT




the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
  Jun 20, 2014 - 02:17pm PT
Missed this before, thanks for bumping it.

The Supertopo forum doesn't get any better than this!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 20, 2014 - 02:19pm PT
Not the chopping discussion again! JEESH LOL
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