Trip Report
Hot and Sweaty on Balls (A Tollhouse Trip Report)
Friday October 14, 2016 5:23pm
Test•i•cle. (Noun)
'/test(ā)k(ū)l/'

The whole rack.  8 draws and one small green Camalot.
The whole rack. 8 draws and one small green Camalot.
Credit: micronut
Balls
Family Jewels
Nuts
Bullocks
A long, runout 5.9 Trad Route at Tollhouse Rock

Credit: micronut

According to the guidebook, Balls 5.9R has a reputation. I remember seeing it in the old Haymond guide when I first started climbing and was always intimidated by it in the nearby route The Headwall. Who names a route "Balls" anyway. I always assumed it hinted toward a test of manhood and when I first started climbing I'm not sure mine had fully matured into a pair that were willing to go up there and run it out on the steep terrain where it lay. The route was put up back in 1976 by arguably some of the lesser-known pioneers of the early Tollhouse era, Krist Jensen, Larry Fielden, Dave Cehrs and Mike Brennan. Shamefully, in over 20 years of calling myself a Tollhouse local I had never actually ventured up onto that middle "headwall" part of the rock at all. Above the massive arch in the middle of the face lie routes with heavy reputations like Balls, Brains 5.9R, The Swallow 5.9R and The Headwall. I grew up climbing at Tollhouse rock and always had quite the respect for the longer, more run-out 5.9 routes. Over the years I have tended to stay on the more pedestrian routes. Free and Easy, Elephant Walk, Art Baker Memorial, etc.... And my experience with some of the more runout 5.7's like Falling Star, Nuts and Bolts have reminded me that if I go up on one of those routes on lead I most likely going to fall off and lose a pound of flesh.

Summitpost says...."

"This climb is a strong 5.9 in the old school tradition. It requires solid granite face climbing skills. Put up in an age when mistakes carried consequences. Enjoy!"

Balls is route (E).
Balls is route (E).
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

Well it just so happens that ol Mark Hudon rolled into town as he often does this time of year. I immediately start scheming knowing that he had just come off of Freerider (5.12d 34 pitches) on El Cap and would be the perfect rope gun for a mission up onto one of the prouder steep faces at our beloved T-House.

I immediately text Macronut....
Credit: micronut

By 6:45am we are racking and ready to get our hands on some Balls.
Sunrise. Flipping through pages looking at Balls
Sunrise. Flipping through pages looking at Balls
Credit: micronut

The approach is windy and chilly, the sky full of smoke, a nearby wildfire sets an ominous mood. We start out in puffies and shells

Credit: micronut

If you look close you can see Balls right in the middle of the face.
If you look close you can see Balls right in the middle of the face.
Credit: micronut

After about a 20 minute downhill scramble we find ourselves right underneath Balls, we are hot and sweaty from the hike but it feels good to actually rack up and get ready to lay hands on Balls for the first time.
Mark gently caresses the opening holds.
Mark gently caresses the opening holds.
Credit: micronut

The first pitch is quite stiff.
Mark stylin pitch one.  He's  definitely not going to let Balls mess w...
Mark stylin pitch one. He's definitely not going to let Balls mess with his head.
Credit: macronut
I'm doing my best not to usethe words "palm" or "palming" in this capt...
I'm doing my best not to usethe words "palm" or "palming" in this caption.
Credit: micronut
I end up slipping off somewhere between the third and fourth bolts and may or may not have grabbed a draw after the fifth bolt. The pitch is a really good pitch and I would definitely rate it "firm" 5.9.
Macronut styles it and arrives at the belay panting.
Macronut pulling hard on Balls.
Macronut pulling hard on Balls.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The second pitch is 5.7R but Macronut takes off like he's in heat. Balls definitely has him excited!
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The gear for the route is simple. Eight quick draws and one green fingy sized Camelot. At least the bolts are solid.
Credit: micronut

It feels so good to be up on Balls after reading about it for over 20 years. Tollhouse has always been such a special place. The rock is warm and the air smells of Manzanita and Bay Laurel. Peregrines dive from above, cattle moo in the distance, the entire San Joaquin Valley spreads out below. Farmland stretches for miles and beyond that the high and rugged peaks of the sierra call out begging the local Tollhouse climber to come and imbibe on the fountain of adventure that waits among her craggy ramparts.

We lowly Fresno denizens can reach world-class slab climbing in under an hour and fill our cups with adventure before heading back to work with a breakfast burrito in our gut and a chalk residue on our hands.
Mark and Micronut.  "We love Balls!!!"
Mark and Micronut. "We love Balls!!!"
Credit: micronut

Here's Mark tiptoeing up to the second belay anchors.
Mark gently caresses the rock.  Tenderly moving with the touch of a ma...
Mark gently caresses the rock. Tenderly moving with the touch of a man who knows what he wants.
Credit: micronut

We make it to the third pitch and here's where things start to get hairy.
Slick stemming moves right off the belay put Macronut immediately into a compromising position. Mark straddles his belayer and Balls has its way with both of them. I have to look away. It's no fun watching your partner, a man you have known and cared for for so many years get absolutely taken advantage of. Mark grunts and groans as he moves over Adam..... And I honestly can't tell if he is wincing or smiling. Either way, it really makes me uncomfortable.
"Find a happy place. Find a happy place. Find a happy place."
"Find a happy place. Find a happy place. Find a happy place."
Credit: micronut

The third pitch does not disappoint. It heads up a sweet little arch with a small green Camalot ( The only gear on the route) then steps left to a bolt and fires up a really steep(for Tollhouse) headwall. Mark is cool as a cucumber and floats it like an 80cent bobber on a trout pond.
Mark enjoys a rare bit of crack on Balls.
Mark enjoys a rare bit of crack on Balls.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
The pitch is actually well protected (5 or 6 bolts i believe) and punches right through a steep little head wall. Super cool pitch. Definitely 5.9. Definietly rad.
Macronut wandering alone in a sea of Balls.  Pitch 3.
Macronut wandering alone in a sea of Balls. Pitch 3.
Credit: micronut
Send the gnar Brah!!!! Send iiiiiiiiiiiit!
Send the gnar Brah!!!! Send iiiiiiiiiiiit!
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The hardest part of the pitch smacks you in the face right near the end. I was breathing harder than a fat guy in a hot yoga class when I reach the anchors but what Adam did to me next is absolutely unforgivable. As he near the belay, he was gassing out and literally reached up and grabbed me by the ankle. Sure, he was scared. Sure, he was excited. But it was deliberate and uncalled for and I felt absolutely violated.
Adam groping me without consent at the crux.
Adam groping me without consent at the crux.
Credit: micronut

A threshold has been crossed in our friendship and at this point in the climb I'm not sure we can continue together. From this point on I choose to clip into Marks anchors and sit on his side of the belay ledges. I stop talking to Adam and my body language shows that as soon as we get off of Balls things are going to be different between us.
What are you looking at Adam?  Stop looking at me that way.  It makes ...
What are you looking at Adam? Stop looking at me that way. It makes me uncomfortable.
Credit: micronut

We gather at the last belay and the tension between us is tighter than a Camp 4 slack line. Balls is definitely getting to us. Fortunately we only have one more pitch of 5.7 runout slab between us and the summit and we have The Hudon to lead the way. Mark has to delicately pad about 20 feet off the belay to the first bolt then another 40 feet to the next one. It doesn't look terribly hard but it doesn't look terribly easy either. "Just step up and trust your feet!" echoes downward from above as Mark knows I might struggle with this pitch.

I'm still feeling hurt that Adam used me as a human hand hold back on the last pitch and my anger gets the best of me as I leave the belay. I find the perfect left foot hold and bear down on it with all of my weight.
Foot jam.
Foot jam.
Credit: micronut

The pitch turns out to not be a giveaway and I'm really glad we have Mark with us. I would have definitely fallen off of that thing.

Adam cruises the pitch, literally walking up it. And I hate him for it.
Credit: micronut

Dogs bark in the distance, a military chopper flies back-and-forth fighting the fire below us and to the east, A cool breeze blows through our hair and a peacefulness settles back into the relationship between old partners and friends.
Credit: micronut
We are nearing the summit and all that matters right now is that we get on top of Balls. "Get to the summit. Come back alive. Come back as friends."
It looks like we might just do all of those things today.

Credit: micronut

The last pitch is 5.2. Storm clouds swirl in the distance. Surreal plumes of evil smoke billow up from the fire below. "I got this guys....." Sometimes you just have to step up and pull your weight. I grab the rack, bravery and confidence filling my veins. Balls May have gotten between us but it will not get the best of us.
Micronut  calling on 20 years of alpine experience to get all three gu...
Micronut calling on 20 years of alpine experience to get all three guys on top of Balls.
Credit: micronut

We are a team. There is no me in TEAM. Actually there is, but you have to rearrange some letters. Whatever. I will sacrifice my own personal safety and put away the demons and do my share of leading today.

I forge onward to the summit and am soon straddling the ancient whitebark pine that symbolizes the end of all advenures that this way cometh.
Credit: micronut

Adam and Mark embrace, their manliness and musk filling the air around us. Balls has given us a handfull. But we had our way with them. Three dudes, eight draws and one green Camalot. Balls was no match for us. In the end, I'd say Balls was fantastic but next year I'm voting we go check out The Tetons.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut


Thanks for tuning in Supertopo. Stay stoked out there and check your knots.
Until next time,

Micronut,

Out.













Postscript: Any innuendo implied, percieved, understood or noted in this trip report is nothing more than a figment of the reader's immagination or inclination. This was a trip report about three men and a granite rock climb and the friendship between them. Any such innuendo or misunderstanding in the text is the sole responsibility of the reader.

Coyote scat seen on the way out while Adam ties his shoes
Coyote scat seen on the way out while Adam ties his shoes
Credit: micronut

  Trip Report Views: 2,988
micronut
About the Author
micronut is a trad climber from fresno, ca.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 14, 2016 - 05:50pm PT
how bad are the bolts?

5/16" compressions or 3/8 nickel?
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Oct 14, 2016 - 06:26pm PT
Fun route, good climbing. The bolts are fine.
Urmas

Social climber
Sierra Eastside
  Oct 14, 2016 - 07:55pm PT
I did that route with Leni Reeves last year. Really enjoyed it! The first pitch definitely held my attention. The first ascentionists were all guys I learned to climb with in the early 70's when I lived in Fresno. I looked up to those guys for routes like Balls that would have been beyond my ability back then. Where are they now I wonder?
rwedgee

Ice climber
CA
  Oct 14, 2016 - 08:03pm PT
Nice !!
7SacredPools

Trad climber
Ontario, Canada
  Oct 14, 2016 - 08:13pm PT
Hilarious TR Micronut, you really captured the feeling of Balls.
Thanks for posting :)
Garry R
kev

climber
A pile of dirt.
  Oct 14, 2016 - 08:40pm PT
I remember Wandering Taoist being pretty heady - especially P1. How'd this compare?
Nanobody

Trad climber
Fresno, CA
  Oct 14, 2016 - 08:43pm PT
Nice work boys! Being a fellow slab-o-phile I have always wanted to climb that one, but my balls have been a bit too small!
Burnin' Oil

Trad climber
CA
  Oct 14, 2016 - 10:28pm PT
Hahahaha. Well done. Reporting on Balls takes panache and you seem to be some kind of savant. Tollhouse is a great place.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 14, 2016 - 10:32pm PT
Maybe this is all made up!!!

A ball face liar!



ps- thx Mark
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 14, 2016 - 10:36pm PT
Yeah Munge, I found that old manky bolt up on the trail. I was just taking some creative liberty with that photo in the story. The bolts are all solid. I think ASCA did a bunch of retro bolting several years back. It was nice not to have to worry about any of the hardware.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Oct 14, 2016 - 10:47pm PT
Thanks Scott, always enjoy your TR's.
TFPU
Tad
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Oct 14, 2016 - 10:57pm PT
Pretty funny stuff. It's a good thing there were no gold/blue camalots on that thing or you would have been ball cuppers.
perswig

climber
  Oct 15, 2016 - 01:56am PT
1. Good to see Mr. Hudon again. Miss his TRs.
2. The P3 shot reminded me how I, bizarrely, enjoy those leads where the work starts right off the rest/hang and half the difficulty is not kicking your partner in the shin, the groin, the head as you try not to peel - "Sorry, sorry, eh...move your arm, maybe?, lean right?, watch your head, sorry, watch me here ............. ok, first gear's in."
3. Sport climbing is neither. You know this.
4. Please don't use the word 'musk' in a TR. Please.

Dale

ETA: TFPU!
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Oct 15, 2016 - 02:30am PT
Still laughing here ,
Hehehawawhaw, there's no hauling on that one huh?
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Oct 15, 2016 - 10:52am PT
I wish I could tie my shoes without resting my butt on something
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Oct 16, 2016 - 02:41pm PT
Whether your nuts are macro or micro it still takes balls.

Well done sirs I offer you the testicular salute.
John M

climber
  Oct 16, 2016 - 04:38pm PT
Me thinks someone has been watching SNL. LOL

skip the intro.. starts at 1:05..

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/schweddy-balls-with-alec-intro/n12543

Great trip report! Thanks!

i-b-goB

Social climber
Nutty
  Oct 16, 2016 - 05:05pm PT
You guys need to check yo chocks!
Nice TR!
Climberdude

Trad climber
Clovis, CA
  Oct 16, 2016 - 05:13pm PT
Sweeeet! That route has been on my bucket list, but I would also like a rope gun like Mark. Hope to see you at the Tollhouse Face-Off. I am sure this route will be talked about.
Will_P

Trad climber
Melbourne, Victoria
  Oct 16, 2016 - 05:56pm PT
You're the only thing worth reading on this site these days, Micronut - glad you're out there getting after it again. And I hope you pursue the book idea, you've got a really engaging, amusing, and inspiring writing style, which is as rare as climbing content on Supertopo.
SeaToSky

Mountain climber
Fresno, CA
  Oct 16, 2016 - 10:44pm PT
Such great writing, Scott! Well done my friend.

"Tollhouse has always been such a special place. The rock is warm and the air smells of Manzanita and Bay Laurel. Peregrines dive from above, cattle moo in the distance, the entire San Joaquin Valley spreads out below. Farmland stretches for miles and beyond that the high and rugged peaks of the sierra call out begging the local Tollhouse climber to come and imbibe on the fountain of adventure that waits among her craggy ramparts."
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2016 - 08:48am PT
Thanks Will_P and Joe. That means a lot. It's nice to be out climbing and have a little adventure to stimulate the writing senses again. Fun route with some great guys.
Mark discussing the moves on The Teflon Corner 5.12d on Freerider
Mark discussing the moves on The Teflon Corner 5.12d on Freerider
Credit: micronut
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Oct 17, 2016 - 08:33am PT
Fun to read this; Thanks for keeping it real. ;)
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2016 - 08:44am PT
Thanks Climberdude. Its a really great route. I thought the climbing was quite tough and continuous but Mark and Adam floated up it. I hadn't been climbing much in 2016 so that probably had something to do with it. It piqued my interest in The Headwall 5.9R. Have you ever been up that?
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Oct 17, 2016 - 09:56am PT


Maybe too much?
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 17, 2016 - 11:00am PT
As usual, you've given us a superb TR whose humor helps convey the true nature of the route, climbing and climbers. Well done on one of my favorite routes at Tollhouse.

Larry Fielden, one of the FA party, is a couple of years younger than me, and we were climbing when I was in high school. A couple of years later, in February of 1970, he and I made the second ascent of Beginner's Delight, Left, while Mike Brennan and Charlie Knapp were making the FA of Beginner's right. They invited us to join them on the first ascent, but we politely declined for reasons I now find hard to remember, and thus I missed my chance for Tollhouse immortality. Larry, however, went on to several excellent Tollhouse first ascents.

In those days, we did a lot of climbing on both Tollhouse and the Glacier Point Apron in Robbins boots, which meant a lot more edging than smearing, and the early 5.9's (particularly Marvin's Mantle) were mental test pieces. By the time of the FA of Balls, EB's were standard fare, and the runouts seemed more manageable, but still kept our attention.

Thanks again for an excellent TR.

John
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 17, 2016 - 11:05am PT
I remember Wandering Taoist being pretty heady - especially P1. How'd this compare?

To me, Wandering Taoist was easier on my mind than Balls. Although the first pitch has runout sections on its upper half, the main difficulties were down low. I never felt in danger of taking a dangerous fall -- although I should add, I've survived a couple of 40-foot slab slides unscathed, so I don't have quite the same dread that I would on a steeper climb or one with a substantial goundfall (or ledgefall) potential.

Balls seemed, to me, much more continuous in its difficulty, and consequently in its fall potential, but didn't feel any more dangerous. With modern footwear, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

John
BrassNuts

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Oct 17, 2016 - 03:21pm PT
Good fun, thanks for the TR. Seems like you guys could have boosted your performance even further with a few Schweddy Cheese Balls ;-)
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2016 - 12:07pm PT
John thanks for the history lesson.

Brassnuts, here you go.
Credit: micronut
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Oct 18, 2016 - 11:10am PT
Ah Micro I love these pictures - I'm a sucker for any picture of gear, especially gripped in a fist. Also a sucker for any pic looking west at a low sun. Especially if it's a fall/wintery sun.

Hit all the right spots with this one - thanks!

splitclimber

climber
Sonoma County
  Oct 18, 2016 - 02:58pm PT
another great and entertaining TR Micronut!!

but it just sounds like a lot of locker room talk to me. ;)
Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Oct 18, 2016 - 02:59pm PT
AWESOME!
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Nov 9, 2016 - 05:08pm PT
Bump for captions with my kind of humor
Flydude

Trad climber
Prather, CA
  Nov 13, 2016 - 09:04pm PT
Great One Scott!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Sep 3, 2018 - 08:18am PT
Bump as the temps begin to drop and Tollhouse climbing season starts to shape up!
BruceHildenbrand

Social climber
Mountain View/Boulder
  Sep 3, 2018 - 10:32am PT
I did Balls just after it was put up. It had these funky, homemade aluminum hangers with a carabiner hole that barely fit the carabiners of the day. And, because the aluminum was so thick, I am not sure how much of the 1/4" bolt was really in the hole.

The early Tollhouse climbers had a unique FA style. They would fix a rope down the proposed route and then during the FA they would tie into the rope to place a bolt. Does anybody know(John L?) if that was the style of the FA of Balls?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Sep 3, 2018 - 08:50pm PT
my notes show I did it three times: Dec 2000, Dec 2001 and Jan 2002...

I only have a couple of pictures from the Dec 2001 ascent:

Gary Carpenter (early in his career):
Credit: Ed Hartouni

and his son Tom, who I was climbing with before meeting Gary:
Credit: Ed Hartouni

Before the California drought, Tollhouse was a go-to spot as it was usually south of the rain line...
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  Sep 4, 2018 - 03:27am PT
Nice!
L

climber
Just livin' the dream
  Sep 4, 2018 - 04:04pm PT
How did I miss this one???

HYSTERICAL!

Thanks for bumping Balls, Micro.*





*Not to be confused with "Thanks for bumping, Micro Balls."
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