Trip Report
Gone Sufferin' - Rodeo Queen in a day slide show
Tuesday February 28, 2006 4:22pm
Rodeo Queen Route Line, Zion National Park
Rodeo Queen Route Line, Zion National Park
Credit: Chris McNamara
When the haulbags were almost packed, Ammon turned to me holding a piece of plywood wrapped in an ensolite pad with duct tape. Always looking like the merry pirate, he flashed a big grin. It was a look that implied we should be psyched he was bringing such a comfy belay seat.

Instead, I looked back at him and said, “We don’t really NEED that, do we?” After all, we had never done a speed wall together that would take so long that you would need a belay seat.

“Are you kidding?” he shot back, looking a little confused.

Suddenly I got it. “Whoa. Its going to be one of THOSE walls?”

“Yeah man. You have no idea the suffering you are getting into.”

Ammon left for the car and I turned to Tacy who was graciously lettinging us stay in here house and half jokingly asked. “So, know anyone else interested in climbing the Streaked Wall.”

But it was too late. I was committed. We were going to suffer. The only thing left to do was to turn bad suffering into good suffering. So we stopped at the market and bought four of the largest canned beers we could find.
Chris McNamara just before starting the approach.
Chris McNamara just before starting the approach.
Credit: Ammon McNeely

Ammon geared up with stereo, cold one, camera, and magic yellow bag. Barely visible is the portable stereo he bumped up the whole approach.

Ammon McNeely with cigi, beer, and magic yellow bag just before starti...
Ammon McNeely with cigi, beer, and magic yellow bag just before starting approach.
Credit: Chris McNamara

For me, the suffering started on the first step around 7pm. I couldn’t find the waste belt for the grade VI haul bag I was carrying. Why so much stuff on a speed ascent? Our topo didn’t have a rack for the route, so we had to bring a lot of stuff including bivy gear for the base.

The suffering for Ammon started just before we got to the bivy below Rubicon Ledge. On our drunken stumble to base, a rock came out from under him and he went carwheeling into the bush. Luckily a tree stopped his tumble. Unfortunately, that same tree lashed out at him. Ammon described the experience: “it felt like someone stabbed my ear with a chopstick.”

Ammon after taking a fall... on the approach.
Ammon after taking a fall... on the approach.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Got to the base around 11pm and took inventory of the food. It seemed like a lot. What we didn’t realize was this was to be all our food for almost 48 hours.
Our food rations for 48 hours
Our food rations for 48 hours
Credit: Chris McNamara

Cloudy skies in the morning before the climb.
Cloudy skies in the morning before the climb.
Credit: Chris McNamara

That morning we woke to cloudy skies. We had neglected to check the weather so we called our friend Heidi who had internet weather access.

“So, what is the weather report? Looks a little ominous right now.”

She reported a 20% chance or rain. The real weather wasn’t supposed to come until the following night. And added a little dig, “You guys aren’t looking for a reason to bail are you?”

I started leading at 7:50am. After two hours, (about half spent hauling our surprisingly heavy load), we got to Rubicon Ledge. We were just getting ready to keep hiking when ammon turned to me “Dude, where is my other aider.”

We looked everyone and couldn’t find it. So the only thing left to do was rappel. Ahh, more suffering. Sure enough, 190 feet below us, Ammon’s aider barely clung to the rock. It had mysteriously unclipped itself. It wasn’t the only item that would mysteriously take flight during the climb.

Next we got to schlep our gear across Rubicon Ledge. This wasn’t just your typical “move belay left” maneuver. We spent two hours bushwhacking, cactus dodging, scrambling and hauling loose 5th class.

Ammon McNeely traversing to the start of Rodeo Queen.
Ammon McNeely traversing to the start of Rodeo Queen.
Credit: Chris McNamara

We spent 10 minutes debating what crack system was actually the route. Turns out the guy who writes guidebooks for a living (me) was off by, well, a lot. Luckily we followed Ammon’s intuition. Not that I am trying to justify me missing the start of the route by 200 feet, but our topo was not exactly detailed. It had a diagonal line and 9 belay locations. Only the two ten foot free sections were rated. There was no gear list. The route wasn’t even rated. The topo just said PDW for Pretty Darn Western. I had no idea what that meant. But I would soon. Oh, would I ever.

There were no belay bolts for the fist pitch. So the belay was Ammon’s first piece: a knifeblade that shifted so much on the bounce test that he placed another one above it. I was too busy appreciating the last ledge we would see for the next 22 hours to be too worried about him blowing the piece and taking us on the 800 foot tumble to the ground. As I learned from Ammon, often on hard aid, being a little scared is fine. Being too scared is debilitating. So sometime you just have to trick you mind and say “F*#k it, I don’t really care if I take the whip.”

Ammon McNeely on the first piece of the first pitch of Rodeo Queen. Wh...
Ammon McNeely on the first piece of the first pitch of Rodeo Queen. Which was also our anchor.
Credit: Chris McNamara
Photo of ammon on the first belay

Ammon McNeely at the top of the first pitch of Rodeo Queen.
Ammon McNeely at the top of the first pitch of Rodeo Queen.
Credit: Chris McNamara

The first pitch was mostly nailing and the route stayed that way to the top. Occasionally the crack would open up and take some cams. But for the most part it was just beaks, blades and angles with stoppers here and there.

On pitch 2, I bit into a Hooha bar which was the US military’s contribution go the energy bar market. Suddenly the rope jerked me to the right side of the belay. I looked up and Ammon was 30 feet below his last piece, a bolt. The feature he was hooking had crumbled while he was standing on it.

“Nice one, bro” I said “how far did you sail?”

“I don’t know, I guess 50?” he replied

“Did you start to hear the air?”

“yep”

“then you went at least 50. After 50, you start to hear the air rush by.”

I used to be terrified when my partners fell. But with Ammon, it was expected that he take at least one big whipper per route. I think that’s the reason he is probably the fasted aid climber out there. He just goes for it. He explained later how he manages fear “Yeah, sometimes you just gotta trick yourself by almost wanting to take the whipper. Then your not as scared and you can move fast.”

The streaked wall makes the right side of el cap look low angle. The bottom pitches are especially overhanging. Check the bags on the second pitch:

The haul bags hanging way out in space on the second pitch of Rodeo Qu...
The haul bags hanging way out in space on the second pitch of Rodeo Queen. This route is steep!
Credit: Chris McNamara

The third pitch looked vertical from below. In realitiy, it was overhanging the whole way. It just relatively less steep than the first two pitches.

Ammon McNeely on the third pitch of Rodeo Queen, Streaked Wall, Zion N...
Ammon McNeely on the third pitch of Rodeo Queen, Streaked Wall, Zion National Park
Credit: Chris McNamara

At the fourth pitch, I took over right as it got dark. The night shift began.

Ammon turned to me “when was the last time you led hard aid on sandstone?”

“Seven years ago,” I replied

“Oh boy. You are in for a good time!”

I prefer climbing hard aid at night. The only thing worse than standing on a crappy aid placement, is seeing the last five crappy placements below you. Ignorance can be bliss when aid climbing. And when you can only see for 5-10 feet above and below, you are quite ignorant of monster whip potential.

I didn’t find this out till later, but this was the only named pitch on the route: “Good Friday the Thirteenth.” The pitch started out fine. Sinker blades and beaks led to relatively secure sawed angles. Then things started to get tricky. I came up to giant scars in sandy soft rock. Spent a long time messing around with stacking sawed angles behind blades. Occasionally I could get stacked beaks, which felt relatively secure. Once I was through this section, I clipped a bolt and saw another bolt above. “15 feet to the belay” I called down.

What I thought was the belay was just a stud with tape wrapped around it. I looked down at “ammon, uhh never mind.”

“Yeah dude, he yelled up, you are only like 70 feet out so far.” My heart sank.

Next I had to top-step and hand place and angle in a drilled holes. All over the route, instead of drilling bolts, there were often just holes. You could sometimes put an angle in them, but it was usually better just to hook. The angles were so loose in the holes, hooks felt more secure. Next came more giant blown out scars in sandy rock. I fell into a psychological tail spin.

Every time I thought I was through a hard section, another one showed up. This was the steepest and most sustained tricky aid I had delt with. Everything was blown out. I prayed that every once in while I could get just a 10-15 foot section of cams. But it didn’t happen. I began to crack. I wanted to lower back to the anchor and have Ammon finish the pitch. I know it was pathetic, but I didn’t care. Fortunately Ammon was having none of it. We probably didn’t have enough rope to lower back to the belay… and there wasn’t any good gear to lower off.

“Dude, I think you will feel a lot better if you finish the pitch.”

He sent up some food and water. Somehow I ended the mental melt down and was able to finish the pitch. When ammon got to the belay, I slumped in the belay seat with my legs buried into our haulbag to keep warm. I didn’t care that I was such a sorry sight. At least I wasn’t leading anymore. “Don’t worry, bro,” he assured me ”as far as melt-downs go, it wasn’t that bad.”

Pretty Darn Western had kicked my ass. And it stayed just as Western for Ammon’s pitches. The rock was just as sandy and blown out. But somehow Ammon just charged through and stayed psyched. Maybe it was because he had the stereo going the whole time playing everything from Manu Chao to Dre. Dreto folk music. Halfway up Pitch 5, however, I heard the psyche leave his voice.

“We are in trouble. We are definitely in trouble. Send me your hammer!”

Ammon had reached down to grab his hammer only to find the screw that went into the shaft had come out. His hammer silently fell 1000 feet to the ground. it wasn’t the end of the world, but it meant that we couldn’t short fix anymore, which is the key to moving fast on these climbs. With only one hammer, ammon would have to send it back to me on the haul line and then wait for me to clean the pitch without being able to continue the lead. On a nailing route, where it takes a long time to clean pitches, this meant our speed ascent was about to slow way down.

After the next pitch, around 4am, we forgot to get the hammer back to me. The pitch traversed and was overhanging. Once the bag was gone, there was no way to swing the hammer back to me. Was I going to have to leave all 15-20 pins that Ammon had placed?

Fortunately, the rock was so bad, I was able to wiggle out the first two pins with my hands. Then I had an idea: I took my bottom ascender and started beating the pins with it. Sure enough, the rock and placements were so bad, I was able to clean almost every pin on the pitch using my ascender as a hammer. Other pins just popped out when I weighted the rope. How far would Ammon have fallen on this pitch had he blown a piece? I don’t know. When you can clean almost every piece with your hands or an ascender, its hard to imagine what would have stopped his fall.

Using an (old model) Petzl Ascension ascender to clean pitons ...
Using an (old model) Petzl Ascension ascender to clean pitons after losing a hammer on Rodeo Queen.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Finally, darkness turned to light.

Sunrise on Rodeo Queen.
Sunrise on Rodeo Queen.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Around 7am, the wall started to light up.



Ten minutes later, the wall was on fire.

Ammon McNeely on the crux pitch at sunrise on Rodeo Queen. I promise t...
Ammon McNeely on the crux pitch at sunrise on Rodeo Queen. I promise there was no Photoshop used on this photo.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Ammon’s last aid pitch was on of the scariest. 7 placements popped when I weighted the rope to clean it. Bad rock, self-cleaning placement.

I took back over the lead around 8am. The climbing went like this: 20 feet of bat hooks in soft rock, bolt, 20 feet of bat hooks in soft rock, bolt.” But after all those blown out pin scars on my earlier lead, the bat hooks felt secure.

Chris McNamara leading one of the last pitches on Rodeo Queen.
Chris McNamara leading one of the last pitches on Rodeo Queen.
Credit: Ammon McNeely

On the topo, the last pitch looked light. But I was wrong. Oh, was I ever wrong. after 20 feet of free, I clipped a bolt and looked up at 30 feet of overhanging sugar. I could see a bolt 25 feet and no way to get there. Finally I found a 1-inch diameter bat hook hole top stepped an felt around to a big hole. After one of the worst pin stacks of my life (the pins came out when I unweighted them), I found one found the worst bolts I had ever seen. It stuck out almost 3 inches. But that wasn’t the scary part, when I got up to look at it, I could see that it was a ˝ bolt in what was in a 1 inch hole. And of course, all this sugar climbing was right above an ankle-breaking slab. When would suffering ever end!! Fortunately it ended just a few minutes later when I free climbed off the last bolt and was on top 22 hours and 18 minutes after leaving Rubicon Ledge. It was 27+ hours since we had left our bivy and would be 44 hours car to car. We were both tired but psyched the suffering had come to an end.

Or was it really suffering? Ammon and I debated this for a while. We were both only hating life for a small percentage of the climb. Otherwise it was just another fun climb full of laughing and hanging out. We eventually decided it was suffering, but it was really good suffering. The type where the next day you are already laughing at all the pain and planning another adventure with plenty of potential punishment.

Ammon McNeely and Chris McNamara on the topo of Rodeo Queen, Streaked ...
Ammon McNeely and Chris McNamara on the topo of Rodeo Queen, Streaked Wall.
Credit: Chris McNamara

You can view more photos of the climb in a quicktime slide show:

BIG - 22mb: http://www.chrismcnamara.com/movies/rodeo_queen_720.mov

LESS BIG - 8.4 mb: http://www.chrismcnamara.com/movies/rodeo_queen_320.mov

The best thing to do is right click on the link and "save target as" or "save linked file" to your desktop.

You need the latest version of quicktime to watch this. to download this free software, go here: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/


PS: for future ascents, the topo at the visitor center works fine. even though its not that detailed all you really need to know is that the first 7 pitches are all A3/A4 and the last two have some 5.8.

The Rack:
10 beaks
10 bigger beaks/tucans etc
6 blades
10 bugaboos
6 lost arrows
3 ea. baby angle
3 ea. sawed angles to 1 1/2"
2 sets offset nuts
2 sets nuts
cams: 3 ea. .4-1.5"
2 ea 1.75-4.5"
2 grappling hooks

all belay (except at Rubicon) are bomber

  Trip Report Views: 3,800
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’ sanity. He’s climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He’s the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA, and Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated adventure journal, maintains BASEjumpingmovies.com, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business.

Comments
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Kristoffer

climber
mali, africa
  Feb 28, 2006 - 04:53pm PT
Arrrr! Righteous send brathas!
pc

climber
  Feb 28, 2006 - 05:55pm PT
Nice one and nice show.
pc
Spinmaster K-Rove

Trad climber
Stuck Under the Kor Roof
  Feb 28, 2006 - 06:53pm PT
Thanks Chris that was dope! Beats my winter so far...
WBraun

climber
  Feb 28, 2006 - 08:31pm PT
Nice headwall pitches ......
maculated

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Feb 28, 2006 - 08:55pm PT
Did Ammon stuff a cactus up his ear or something?
More Air

Trad climber
S.L.C.
  Mar 1, 2006 - 01:13am PT
Thanks for the great show Chris. How did you get to Rubicon Ledge? Are the bolts holding up? How was the rack?
ikellen

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Mar 1, 2006 - 01:35am PT
Nice send Chris! Now we need an explanation for the modeling pics...
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 1, 2006 - 02:16am PT
Cool stuff


I'm sure themodellingthing was just a side gig.
WBraun

climber
  Mar 1, 2006 - 02:18am PT
No explanation needed

Non of our phucking buisness really.

They came, we saw, they left

You wondered why .......... because you never really understood yourself.
Ammon

Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
  Mar 1, 2006 - 11:48am PT


Nice, good job Chris!! Oh, wait... I was with him, huh?

Yes, I stuffed a number of cacti in my ear. It feels really good, try it some time. That's what I get for having the bright idea of a night drunkin' stumble to the base, haa haa.

There's a few different ways to get to Rubicon. The shortest way is just to the right of the two corners there is a slab with a bolt ladder to a ledge. Run-out slab climbing from there to Rubicon (three pitches total). The bolts are fine but anchors are not the best.

Chris is working on a trip report.

Cheers!!
maculated

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Mar 1, 2006 - 12:00pm PT
Heheheh. Well, A, if it was drunken, I'm sure it did feel good. :) Great photo essay.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 1, 2006 - 12:01pm PT
I always wanted to climb on that wall (if I'm thinking of the right one)


Once in Indian creek I ran into a friend who I had not seen in years. We drank a bottle of whiskey late into the night. He told be he was not the devil and went to bed. I wandered off to pee and became hopelessly lost. There was no moon. I layed down on the ground to look up at Cottonwood tree silhouetes against the stars for landmarks. After an hour or more I wondered if it was cold enough to die of hypothermis. When I had given up hope I found my tent. The next morning I was missing a sandal and had cactus spines embedded in my right arm and leg, some of them stayed for days.

Bob actually went climbing the next day.
KarlP

Social climber
Queensland, NorCal, Iceland
  Mar 1, 2006 - 12:02pm PT
What are those pills? I can't read the labelling, and I don't recognise them. Hence, couldn't work out whether it was significant that only one was used, or whether it was significant that they were even taken at all.

Cheers,
Karl P
Ammon

Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
  Mar 1, 2006 - 12:32pm PT

What are those pills?

Caffeine gum, not sure if there on the market yet.

Claude

climber
where I'll end up
  Mar 1, 2006 - 01:54pm PT
so good, thanks cats. beautiful wall eh?

good song too. i am guessing its by Linkin Park. one of those bands that one is sort of embarrassed to admit to having a fondness for, but i will do so, even though i don't fall within the MTV targeted demographic that the band seems to cater to.
bringmeshelter

Social climber
la la land
  Mar 1, 2006 - 02:04pm PT
Ha, I muted the music! NO RAP!!!
bringmeshelter

Social climber
la la land
  Mar 1, 2006 - 02:07pm PT
NO DOZE style... HAHAHA
up2top

climber
Phoenix, AZ
  Mar 1, 2006 - 07:55pm PT
Not on the market yet? Where'd you get 'em? Did you beat up some Mexican and steal his stash?

Nice show, boys. I don't know anything about that route, but it looks like a lot of thin stuff -- like that photo where you can see nearly all of the four lobes of the green alien, but it's still in the crack. It wouldn't have held my body weight, bro. Skinny bastards...

Ed
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 8, 2006 - 10:49am PT
you can check out a trip report of the climb here:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=162982&f=0&b=0
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Mar 8, 2006 - 11:02pm PT


I do have to appreciate the "gone suffering" was written on the back of a (formerly shiny looking) BMW!! Heh, a dusty broken down 1975 F150 would have been a little more sufferin' looking.

bringmeshelter

Social climber
la la land
  Mar 8, 2006 - 11:04pm PT
TECHNO>>>NOT RAP!!!!!!!!!
Bob Jones

Trad climber
san luis obispo
  Mar 8, 2006 - 11:26pm PT
definitive style point. labatt blue.
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Mar 9, 2006 - 12:27am PT
Yeah Bob, but it's UTAH!!! Whatever they buy there is watered down to 3.2 anyway. Strange that the only large can brand they had was LaBatt's though. That's random.

You just never know what you'll get in those minimart cooler walls in southern Utah.
bringmeshelter

Social climber
la la land
  Mar 9, 2006 - 01:03am PT
That is why when I have gone... I bring massive supply of malt liquor. I like to think of myself as being prepared... you know the boyscouts tell you to be.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 11, 2006 - 01:11am PT
yeah, i wasnt prepared for utah at all... ended up buying way too many 6 packs of newcastle for 12.50!!!! what a crime!

i wish my car was nice and shiny... but its got 210k, cracked windshield, the drivers window doesnt work and... moral of the story is i should have bought a subaru but now i am comitted and i am driving Midnight Lightning into the ground!!!

the music from linkin park. not sure what song
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Oct 17, 2011 - 12:32pm PT
Very cool TR.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Oct 17, 2011 - 05:04pm PT
Dat looked like scary stuff!! VERY GOOD JOB!
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