Trip Report
Hulk-O-Rama 2013 - Round TWO!
Wednesday August 28, 2013 7:15pm

Usually it all starts with a picture, or a story. This time motivation comes in video form. As Adam and I rapped down the Hulk after climbing Sunspot Dihedral my eyes were drawn to the line of bolts dotting the fire colored arete. Here was the route from the video, one of the few unfamiliar routes left on the Hulk. No one I knew had tried Solar Flare, I was intrigued. It offered difficulty that I knew would overwhelm me but also it offered adventure in spades. As we descended I could tell the climbing would be in the 5.12 range and upon returning home I watched the video again, trying to etch the route into my mind.

Check out Hulk-O-Rama round one HERE!:

Rapping down Solar Flare

Somehow I am always bringing new partners to the Hulk. Getting to show off such a spectacular area is something that I really enjoy. It's nice to come and play tour guide. I have stories and memories for so many of the Hulk routes. I love sharing my passion for the place with others. For my first attempt on Solar Flare I was able to recruit Kyle from Monterrey. We would stick with our strengths and Kyle would take the harder bolted pitches, while I would lead the cruxy gear pitches.

I'm learning that my enthusiasm for climbing is not always in my best interest. Logistics and fatigue are something that should not be discounted. I've done the hike to the Hulk over a dozen times, sometimes alone, and relish the feeling of lactic acid filling my legs. But destroying one's partner by hiking too fast is not a good plan, so we enjoyed the scenery and took it easy.

I was psyched to get a †route in after the hike and wanted to link up the first few pitches of Airstream into Sunspot Dihedral. This would allow Kyle and I to find our groove and allow me to do a few new pitches. On the last trip I had not been too psyched about the anchors on Solar Flare and had hiked in a bunch of hardware to replace the tattered slings with rings and chains. A bunch of this hardware was supplied by the ASCA so a big thanks to Greg Barnes!!

Kyle near the end of P1 of Solar Flare

The climbing on the first two 5.11 pitches of Airstream is stimulating with cruxy climbing a little ways above your gear. Luckily I was full of confidence and the added challenge made for a great day of climbing. Kyle led the super long money pitch on Sunspot which he defined as one of his harder efforts, despite having redpointed many bolted 5.13's. I got to swing through and lead the crux of Sunspot, which I had followed previously with Adam. This was a great linkup with four back to back 5.11 pitches of high quality.

A sluggish start the next day put us in a bad place when afternoon storms rolled in. We had made good time up the first part of Solar Flare but had stalled on the first 5.12 pitch. Kyle did a great job leading the pitch taking a few whippers and I struggled mightily on the thin face climbing.

Kyle following the first 5.11 pitch on Solar Flare

I really hate bailing, but without a rain jacket we decided to rappel. Thunder had been booming in the distance for the last hour and we had been waiting to see if the rain would materialize. †No sooner had Kyle finished the first rappel then the large drops covered my shirt.

Luckily the rappels are fast and in no time we had scrambled down to a cave near our bivy spot. The rain lasted only and hour, and the rock easily dried for the next day. Our bodies, however, †had not recovered from the climbing and after a few pitches we hiked out for a celebratory feast at the Burger Barn. Stuffing our faces was a great way to finish off the tiring weekend.

This photo is from 2009 but I'm still wearing the same visor and still order a BBQ Bacon burger post Hulk. Same Luke, different Hulk trip.

A rematch with Solar Flare was setup and Adam was more than happy to come along for another Hulk adventure. We tried to take it a littler easier on the hike in so we would be fresh to put some work into Venturi Effect. †Adam lead the first pitch of Eye of the Storm, a better warmup compared to pitch one of Venturi and climbed the short pitch to the terrace. This set me up for the .11+ traverse on Venturi, ie †pitch 3. Spirits were high until I went to clip the fixed piton and it wiggled and almost came out. Yikes! I went back to the ledge and found a big rock to solve my problem. With a body weight 000 C3 I whacked the piton back in and sent the traverse. Now in the groove, physically but not mentally,†I struggled with the lack of holds and came off. Eventually I managed some trickery and climbed the rest of the pitch to the belay.

Hammer time on the Venturi Effect photo by Adam

The real business was next and I hang dogged my way up the "book of secrets" corner. I was able to figure out most of the thin gear and eventually got through the super thin crux. What a pitch!! The anchor had been recently upgrade, replacing a fixed nut and cam with a bomber bolt so I lowered off so Adam could give it a burn. He almost nabbed the TR send, but his foot peeled at the post-crux rest.

Without the stress of getting in the thin gear I managed to climb it on TR which helped solidify my beta for the tips crux. Not wanting to get any more tired we quickly rapped off with our 70m rope, psyched to catch some zzz's before Solar Flare.

Cruxing on pitch 3 of Solar Burn
Cruxing on pitch 3 of Solar Burn
Credit: Adam Sheer

My lack of success on pitch five of Solar Flare with Kyle made me curious to try the right start, dubbed Solar Burn or Sun Burn. I had a good idea of where it went, based on the Secor guide and soon enough Adam and I had climbed the familiar first two pitches of Airstream. Solar Burn is about the same difficulty but swaps a 5.12b bolted pitch for a short 5.12 thin finger splitter (shown above). †While cracks are usually my forte this pitch took me a good while to figure out.

After you have executed the sequential 5.12 crux you romp up 100 feet of varied hands to finger crack to a gear belay on a nice ledge. Adam cruised the strenuous pitch and I kept on the sharp end for another pitch of splitter fun, with a long unprotected traverse. This put us below the a bolted traverse that would take us back to Solar Flare.

So far our friends Steven and Vlad had been working up the regular Solar Flare start and we had been hollering support and beta across the face. My mental map put us a pitch ahead of them but I was soon to be proven wrong.

Psyched to have finished P5 of Solar Burn Photo by Vlad

Adam did an amazing job onsighting a very techincal 5.11+ traverse and when I†pull around the corner I saw the traffic jam. I had misplaced the belay where Solar Flare and Solar Burn converge and now it was a cluster. With all four of us at the same belay the party ascent began. We were happy to leach psyche from Vlad and Steven since the difficulty was able to skyrocket.

Adam on the first 5.12+ of Solar Flare photo by Vlad

Adam charged off falling, cursing and fighting his way up the next two 5.12+ pitches. The pitches may lack in holds and rests, but make up the difference †in difficulty and position. Doing such cryptic moves so high on the Hulk was both inspiring and mind numbing. These were some of the hardest pitches Adam or I had tried on a multi-pitch and our repetitive failures showed as much.†Fortunately glory came from below as Vlad flashed the 5.12c crux and Steven followed it clean. The chalk and beta shouted from above was making a difference and despite our failure we were inspiring success.

The sunspot arete is continuously difficulty with a vicious crux down low. Steven, on his first visit to the Hulk, flashes the pitch showing his depth in hard climbing. It is an inspiration to watch as I try to lead the final 5.12 pitch to the end of the route. I've moved outside my own success and am so excited for Vlad, who takes a single fall on †the route having onsighted or flashed three of the 5.12 pitches. Steven almost makes it look too easy flashing one of the hardest routes on the Hulk and managing a no falls weekend. With all the anchors updated the rappel down is easy.

Steven flashing the crux arete on Solar Flare. Photo by Vlad the Impaler

On Sunday I barely want to get out of my sleeping bag. I've been on more hard pitches than I can handle and the thought of leading something is beyond me. I cook up a plan and Adam agrees that some power laybacking is a good idea. We warm-up on the first pitch of Positive Vibrations and I cut off all the tat on the Power Ranger anchor, one of the few I had left to fix. I go first and manage to hang at only at one section, my forearms terminally pumped. †Adam skilfully sends the pitch "TRONsight" and I give it a second go, finally able to piece it together. I had delusions of doing more but Adam agrees we should hike out while we are ahead.

Solar Flare & Solar Burn Topo

Another pair of great trips and I'm full to the brim with Hulk climbing. Getting shut down is a huge motivator and I will need to step up my game before getting back on Solar Flare. †Huge props to Steven and Vlad who kept up the psyche and climbed Tradewinds the following day. Such a great display of climbing makes me push for that next level of fitness!


  Trip Report Views: 2,672
About the Author
Luke is a trad climber and occasional runner from Sunnyvale, CA.

Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report

  Aug 28, 2013 - 07:39pm PT
Nice Luke, great TR filled with psyche & awesome photos! Thanks for the inspiration dude!

That arÍte looks incredible! Everything there looks incredible actually! Am I really not going to the Sierra this fall?? :-(

Where's that Squamish TR at?!?

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Aug 28, 2013 - 07:49pm PT

always looking for that next level

Social climber
San Francisco
  Aug 28, 2013 - 07:53pm PT
Luke, thanks again for the stoke and all the betas! I can't wait to get out there again and get on SF again. Nice report as usual!

Sunnyvale, CA
  Aug 28, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
Thanks for the psyche Luke!

Trad climber
under the sea
  Aug 28, 2013 - 08:48pm PT
so good want it now

Trad climber
Reno, NV
  Aug 28, 2013 - 08:49pm PT
You guys are killing it!!!

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Aug 28, 2013 - 09:13pm PT

beneath the valley of ultravegans
  Aug 28, 2013 - 09:22pm PT
Kick a$$, sea bass!

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Aug 28, 2013 - 09:31pm PT
Totally awesome.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Aug 28, 2013 - 10:03pm PT
You must have a record for number of routes climbed on that rock. Or at least close to it. Nice report and photos.

Ever had this burger from Jolly Cone?

Mushroom burger
Mushroom burger
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Aug 29, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
V, That burger looks prime.

Ryan, the Squamish TR is written but I've gotten stalled with the pictures. Will be on and then Supertopo shortly. Maybe I can finish it off tonight.

Stoke is high!!
Johnny K.

  Aug 29, 2013 - 12:42pm PT
Luke, you are one bad ass dude. Awesome climbing,thanks for sharing.

Oakland, CA
  Aug 29, 2013 - 03:23pm PT
The mental blade is looking guillotine sharp in this crew. Not sure I could thunk on a loose piton with a rock and then call it good in my mind, casting off into at-my-limit climbing with the belief that the thing would hold. Respect!

The mental resiliency is what impresses me most in this thread (apart from that arete, which, my god...)

Wonder how many redpoints Solar Flare has had? Can't be many...
Jebus H Bomz

Sacramento, CA
  Aug 29, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
It's all about the fish taco at Burger Barn! It's better and cheaper than the much ballyhooed Mobil Mart's. Also, it won't give you food poisoning. Well, unless that sour-faced dude working the register touches it!

Sweet account of some more Hulk climbing, Luke.

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Aug 29, 2013 - 03:28pm PT
Awesome look into the hulk range.

Thanks for the time to share it with us.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 29, 2013 - 03:35pm PT

Social climber
San Francisco
  Aug 29, 2013 - 05:59pm PT
le_bruce, Solar Flare was onsighted/flashed twice just that weekend (my partner Steven and Josh Wharton the next day). Not sure about the prior ascents other than the first, but in 6 years it must have gotten done by some silent crushers.

By the way, it's pretty poor judgement to fix pitons on routes like this. The 80's are over. Would it make sense to replace the pin with a bolt or does it take gear?

Another question for Luke or anyone who's done Tradewinds: 2 rusty 1/4 inchers on pitch 4 need to be replaced. There's some gear nearby, so the bolts aren't completely necessary (the pitch will go as 11a R). The question is: should they be replaced with new bolts or removed completely. I personally would vote for replacing the 1st (the gear is far) and moving the 2nd 5 feet down, so you can clip it from the tiny stance or just above it. There's good gear inches from the current bolt placement.

Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Aug 29, 2013 - 05:54pm PT

Those bolts are on my list. I already replaced once 1/4" er on pitch 1 of Tradewinds and another at the pitch 3 belay. Hardware was provided by ASCA!!

I was thinking about leaving the first one as is (since its way to the side) and replacing the top one. Funny that you felt almost the opposite.

I'll probably end up replacing both as is. ASCA does in hole replacement and I don't want to change the experience of the route.

The top once is not as necessary, but insures that you won't rip all the gear and go to the ledge if you fall. Putting it lower down would eliminate the spice of that pitch. I think more "fun" (read challenging) having to trust those RPs. At least one of them is trucker, even if it is below your feet.

While Josh may have onsighted the route, I will kindly add that it was flashed by Steven. Not to take anything away from Steven's very proud climbing, which was amazing to watch. (As was your performance!)

There were a bunch of tick marks on the crux pitch before our ascent, so someone else has been up there in the last year or so.

It is a great route for a talented face climber. Almost zero technical jamming and fully bolted crux pitch (save for some optional gear on the last pitch).

It might be worth email Peter Croft or Nettle to see if that piton on P3 of Venturi could be replaced with a bolt. The location of the piton is such that I was still confident it could hold a fall. It is in a horziontal and hammered down. You clip it and then climb below so the fall would not be too crazy.

PS thanks for removing that huge block of Venturi. This thread needs more photos:

Vlad doing some community service on Tradewinds/Venturi Effect
Vlad doing some community service on Tradewinds/Venturi Effect
Credit: Steven Roth

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Aug 29, 2013 - 05:20pm PT
Rad photo!

Luke is on it- no moving of bolts to new locations on established routes!!

Social climber
San Francisco
  Aug 29, 2013 - 05:45pm PT
I was actually thinking that those bolts aren't needed at all. The second one for sure - gear right next to it. Both RPs that I placed were bomber, too. I don't care so much about ASCA policies. I could always use my own bolt if there's consensus about moving it. It just makes no sense where it is right now. If there's no consensus, I could live with that too (-; That pitch is pretty easy anyway compared to 1st, 7th, and 8th.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Sep 2, 2013 - 06:28pm PT
Yeah- I agree that the moves there aren't really 5.11. Short folk don't get the rps in before committing though.

And not moving bolts around on established routes is more than just an asca policy....

Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Sep 12, 2013 - 04:37pm PT
Bump for another photo of a rarely climbed pitch:

The splitter third pitch of Solar Burn. Photo by Aaron Cassebeer

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Sep 12, 2013 - 05:17pm PT
If I could climb harder than .10a I'd be all over that chunk of granite. Oh how I long to be stronger some days. You boys are getting silly rad out there. Way to stay stoked.


Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
Thanks for the comment Scott! Looking forward to meeting you in November. If you can swing the time I find it is always worth it to take a trip up to the hulk. Being in the mountains makes you stronger! With a few days off you could do Red Dihedral and Beeline. Then we would get a kick ass trip report. Your writing is awesome!!

Vlad the Impaler crushing on Solar Flare
Vlad the Impaler crushing on Solar Flare
Credit: cultureshock
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 6, 2016 - 08:09am PT
Bump for climbing content
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report