Trip Report
Grand Illusion, the old fashioned way

by Mic
Tuesday February 9, 2010 1:32am
For those that just want the beta:

conditions at Sugarloaf are still a bit damp.

There's basically no snow, except on the north side on the descent.

That flarey bit at the top of Captain Fingers is not 3".

Doing a retro-ascent can add something different to the usual Sugarloaf experience.

And for those that want the full story:

The 30% chance of rain on Sunday seemed like the best forecast I had seen in a while, so Binh and I decided to put it to use. We were aiming to get some practice aiding, so we shouldered a massive load of gear (including a thermos of coffee) and trudged up the hill. Our objective was Grand Illusion, the old fashioned way. Well, except it wasn't called Grand Illusion in the old days, and we were going to take a detour up Captain Fingers, but same difference. The first surprise was that the big, dark crack at the top of Captain Fingers is not 3" like I was expecting. It's a tiny crack in the back of a flare. Standing in aiders with a biner full of micro-nuts and it didn't matter, but on the hot end in free mode and I would be a bit freeked. I am truly impressed by those working or doing that pitch.

Here's Binh cleaning up my mess:
cleaning Captain Fingers
cleaning Captain Fingers
Credit: Mic

We hauled the bag up to the ledge. Unnecessary I know, but we need the practice. Had a nice lunch, hot coffee included and then moved over to the base of that amazing dihedral that I've been looking up at for the last few years. When I saw the picture of Hidetaka doing Grand Illusion, it looked like a steep stemming dihedral. And then in person you realize it isn't steep, it's really really steep. Well, my pictures probably won't do it justice either. What an amazing pitch. It was full on dripping, so if you are thinking about trying it, you should wait awhile. We were in aid mode so it didn't really matter.

aiding up Grand Illusion
aiding up Grand Illusion
Credit: Mic

As Binh neared the lip, the clouds dropped and made for a really surreal environment. At one point we thought we heard a tugboat horn.

Credit: Mic

I cleaned, as gracefully as I could and dragged the bad up the last 20 feet to the top. Ending on top with the clouds so thick we couldn't see the ground, added the perfect climax to a non-standard trip to Sugarloaf.

Credit: Mic

  Trip Report Views: 3,528
About the Author
Mic is a climber from Davis, CA.

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Andrew F

Trad climber
Sunnyvale, CA
  Feb 9, 2010 - 01:48am PT
Cool idea. Sounds like a great way to get some climbing in with damp conditions. What was the aid like? C2-ish? Looks like it's pretty thin there for awhile.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 9, 2010 - 01:51am PT
Fish haul bag sighting!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, ca
  Feb 9, 2010 - 02:10am PT

  Feb 9, 2010 - 11:26am PT
Adventure !
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Feb 9, 2010 - 11:43am PT
Max and I went out there one day to work on free climbing it. It got hot so we aided the rope up close to the lip and then did giant swings on the rope out from the start.

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Feb 9, 2010 - 12:22pm PT
Nice! PRetty steep there huh?

FISH BAG!!! It just wouldn't be right if pescado wasn't on board.

Keep up the practice, by the time you scare yourself on a few more thin routes, you will have all that you need.


Boulder, CO
Author's Reply  Feb 9, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
Wait a minute. Is that Andrew F., like the Andrew I've known since elementary school? It's probably like C1. Almost all the pieces were bomber, lead-fall capable. Strenuous though, due to the overhang.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Feb 9, 2010 - 01:33pm PT
Good stuff!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Feb 9, 2010 - 07:07pm PT

Trad climber
northern CA
  Feb 21, 2010 - 09:34pm PT
Great TR! (Was this a warmup for Skull Queen?) I've got minuscule experience with aid climbing but this is one route I'd like to try someday ('cause there's NO WAY I'll ever climb it free!!).

I was up there a ~month ago and watched someone working the last moves on a free lead. If you look up high you can see him near the top of Grand Illusion:

Credit: Trad Muenter

Here's a closeup of the topout sequence.

Topping out on Grand Illusion
Topping out on Grand Illusion
Credit: Trad Muenter

Boulder climber
santa cruz, CA
  Feb 21, 2010 - 11:59pm PT
whoa that is rad. good report

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Feb 22, 2010 - 12:21am PT
practice for skull queen eh?

  Jul 14, 2010 - 11:38pm PT

Boulder climber
  Jul 17, 2010 - 03:34am PT
Nice photo Trad .

Boulder climber
  Jul 25, 2014 - 11:37pm PT
Mark Force

Trad climber
Ashland, Oregon
  Jul 26, 2014 - 08:33am PT
What a cool TR! It's good fun to aid ungodly hard stuff or, like you, on bad weather days. Good practice and good times and no harm done when done clean. Might do GI sometime your way; sure won't ever be doing it free! Thanks the post and reminding us it's all about having fun.
Jebus H Bomz

Old West Crackramento
  Jul 26, 2014 - 08:38am PT
Way COOL! except you should have free climbed it and placed your gear on lead.
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