Trip Report
Calaveras Dome 5.9 Trio - Bros Trip Year 3
Monday October 29, 2012 2:00am
September means time for the annual brothers climbing trip! This year time was a bit tight. I had just returned from another trip and Geoff was at the bottom of the hospital food chain without a lot of vacation, having started his residency in June. So in order to make the most of our 3-day weekend we decided to escape the crowds in the Valley (location of the two previous bros climbing trips) and explore Calaveras Dome.

I first heard of Calaveras several years ago from a guy I met while climbing at Phantom Spires. He raved about the size and quality of the granite, peaceful camping along the Mokelumne River and lack of people. But it was Fred Beckey's book that really hooked me. I gave my wife a copy of it for Valentine's Day (yup, I'm smooth as sandpaper) and was promptly accused of self-gifting. Oh well, I guess that means we're even for the Learn-to-Speak Spanish CDs she gave me for my birthday the other year (I already spoke Spanish).

In his book Fred profiles Sands of Time, an incredible 5.9+ line up the prominent hour glass feature in the center of Calaveras Dome. It had a bit of everything - hands, fingers, offwidth, squeeze, thin face - and I couldn't wait to get on it!

Calaveras Dome - Sands of Time (5.9+) goes up the hour glass f...
Calaveras Dome - Sands of Time (5.9+) goes up the hour glass feature in the center of the dome.
Credit: timmaly

We arrived on Saturday and decided to warm up on Old Smokey, a 9-pitch 5.9 on the far right side of Cal Dome.

Old Smokey (5.9) starts in the flake/dihedral behind me, then ...
Old Smokey (5.9) starts in the flake/dihedral behind me, then crosses a thin face to a left-angling roof system.
Credit: timmaly
Geoff working up the flare on P2 of Old Smokey.
Geoff working up the flare on P2 of Old Smokey.
Credit: timmaly
Piecing together the thin face on P3 of Old Smokey.
Piecing together the thin face on P3 of Old Smokey.
Credit: timmaly
Traversing on P5
Traversing on P5
Credit: timmaly

The first four pitches were stellar! Unfortunately, the quality of the climb deteriorated rapidly at this point and I don't think the pitches above get much traffic. I was basically wiping the grit/gunk off my shoes with each step...which added some spice to the climb!

Old Smokey or Old Mungy?  Yikes!  Dirty traversing on P5.
Old Smokey or Old Mungy? Yikes! Dirty traversing on P5.
Credit: timmaly

Through the roof system, up a very dirty chimney and a bushy gully (definitely adventure climbing territory!), we reached the big dead tree at the top of the route.

Top of Old Smokey (9 pitches)
Top of Old Smokey (9 pitches)
Credit: timmaly

Feeling warmed up and acclimated to the climbing at Cal Dome, we set our sights on Sands of Time for the next day. In our excitement we completely missed the approach trail and ended up bushwacking our way up a gully to the base of the wall, trying desperately to avoid the poison oak that guarded the cliff. We found the start and eagerly jumped on it.

Geoff leading the P1 offwidth on Sands of Time
Geoff leading the P1 offwidth on Sands of Time
Credit: timmaly

Pitch 1 got the blood pumping for sure! It was strenuous climbing with an awkward offwidth section leading to some great jams and stemming. Geoff did a terrific job leading and I was sweating profusely when I reached the belay. P2 was my lead and it didn't let up...

P2: Great jamming up the corner then the route traverses right to the ...
P2: Great jamming up the corner then the route traverses right to the chimney and up through a roof to the tree.
Credit: timmaly

The roof had an undercling and a crack to the left, both of which were caked in moss! My jams held however and it went easier than I expected. A wasp nest somewhere on the ramp leading up to the tree provided another interesting obstacle but I was soon in the clear. After that, Geoff led a short P3, traversing right and around a big block crossing the neck of the hour glass. And then it was back to me. There was a gnarly looking 5.7 squeeze or (supposedly) a 5.9 crack further out on the face. Beckey recommends the crack, so I traversed right onto the face...and made a big mistake.

Starting P4, shortly before the point of no return...  Next time I'll ...
Starting P4, shortly before the point of no return... Next time I'll take the squeeze (behind me, climber's left)!
Credit: timmaly

If there was a 5.9 crack on the face, I didn't find it (maybe its that flake I'm holding in the picture). Anyway, I kept traversing right and up, looking for the crack and thinking the slab didn't look too bad... Soon enough I found myself about 40 feet right of the belay when the wall went blank. To make matters worse, I was at least 10 feet above my last piece of pro (which wasn't a great piece). I glanced down and left...reversing seemed pretty ugly. I looked up...and saw a massive chicken-head about 15 feet above me (salvation!) but nothing in between (f*ck!) The slab was steep and looked totally smooth, interrupted only for a brief section by a tiny vertical dike. My feet were on tenuous dimples in the wall and my calves were pumping. I kept running my fingers over the small dike, trying to find sufficient purchase and figure out how to position myself to side-pull on it without blowing off. I think I was frozen there for about 20 minutes, silently contemplating the sequence of moves to get to the chicken head. Finally I saw it come together - at least well enough to give it a go - three or four very thin moves followed by a lunge and my left hand gripped the chicken head! From there it was a straighforward line up the face and a groove to the base of an incredible finger crack - the pièce de résistance of the route.

Geoff loving the perfect 5.8 fingers on P5
Geoff loving the perfect 5.8 fingers on P5
Credit: timmaly

Finger-locks = solid type 1 fun on P5 after my earlier misadventure...
Finger-locks = solid type 1 fun on P5 after my earlier misadventure...
Credit: timmaly
Geoff stopped at a ledge half-way up the pitch and built an anchor to ...
Geoff stopped at a ledge half-way up the pitch and built an anchor to let me finish it...what a guy!
Credit: timmaly


Another pitch and we were at 12 0'clock ledge, the top of the hour glass. After pausing for lunch on the ledge, we decided that we weren't ready to descend. So we tacked on the Tibetan Towers - two pitches of fun but dirty climbing up the right side of a pair of massive flakes above the hour glass.

Geoff leading on the first Tibetan Tower, a great flake-to-lieback-to-...
Geoff leading on the first Tibetan Tower, a great flake-to-lieback-to-chimney-to-face climb to the top of the right-facing dihedral.
Credit: timmaly
Nothin' better than a dirty squeeze! (working my way up the second...
Nothin' better than a dirty squeeze! (working my way up the second tower)
Credit: timmaly


We reached the top of the towers and at this point the day was getting on and the climbing above looked less fun and more run out. And the risk of rapping down an unfamiliar line in the dark was not one that we wanted to take. So we dropped down the Silk Road (~7 or so double-rope rappels), grinning the whole way from an awesome day of climbing!

We wrapped up the trip the following day across the river at Hammer Dome. Gemini Cracks is a really fun 3-pitch 5.9 that ends with a superb finger-crack.

Hammer Dome - Gemini Cracks (5.9) starts in the white flake on...
Hammer Dome - Gemini Cracks (5.9) starts in the white flake on the far right side of the dome, just above the aqueduct.
Credit: timmaly

Geoff starting P2 on Gemini Cracks
Geoff starting P2 on Gemini Cracks
Credit: timmaly

P3 on Gemini Cracks - perfect finger-locks!
P3 on Gemini Cracks - perfect finger-locks!
Credit: timmaly


With that, it was time to go...Gemini was a solid way to wrap up the trip and I'd highly recommend it (though the start was a bit tricky to find).

We were stoked to have explored a new area and done some excellent climbs. I'd summarize climbing at Cal Dome as stellar though unpolished granite, with definite rough edges, some thin pro, quite clean down low but getting progressively dirtier and becoming adventure climbing as you ascend. And very lightly traffic-ed: we saw one other party on our first day and nobody else the rest of the weekend...unbelievable! We imagined this might have been what Yosemite was like long, long ago...

We're already plotting next year's adventure for Bros Trip 4. September can't come soon enough!





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timmaly
About the Author
timmaly is a trad climber from Menlo Park, CA.

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Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 29, 2012 - 03:14am PT
sweet
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Oct 29, 2012 - 08:32am PT
Cool Report
TFPU
Tad
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 29, 2012 - 08:40am PT
Rawsome!
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