Trip Report
Incredible Hulk Winter Ascent - A First?
Sunday March 6, 2016 2:12pm
Jeremy Collins invited me to climb the Incredible Hulk in winter. He hadn't heard of anyone doing it. I had not either. Anyone climbed it in winter?

We climbed B Line. Not sure I would recommend this route. Red Dihedral is much more aesthetic and is easier (B line has some weird flared cracks). Took a little less than 4 hours (we used the Kong Ducks and simul climbed). More on this topic here Approach and descent, however, took FOREVER.

Chris McNamara approaching the Incredible Hulk in Winter - February.
Chris McNamara approaching the Incredible Hulk in Winter - February.
Credit: Jeremy Collins

Jeremey Collins getting ready to start B Line on the Incredible Hulk m...
Jeremey Collins getting ready to start B Line on the Incredible Hulk moments after the snow flurries stopped and the sun came out. Phew.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Jeremy Collins on Pitch 2 of B Line on the Incredible Hulk.
Jeremy Collins on Pitch 2 of B Line on the Incredible Hulk.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Jeremy Collins after the cool 5.9 stemming corner (pitch 5) an...
Jeremy Collins after the cool 5.9 stemming corner (pitch 5) and starting the not cool flared 5.9 (pitch 6?) on B Line Incredible Hulk in Winter.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Jeremy Collins leads Pitch 6 ? of B Line on the Incredible Hulk. This ...
Jeremy Collins leads Pitch 6 ? of B Line on the Incredible Hulk. This pitch is flared 5.9 with some not fun wide sections. Probably the main reason I recommend everyone climb the Red Dihedral instead.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Jeremy Collins having a pint near the summit of the Incredible Hulk. W...
Jeremy Collins having a pint near the summit of the Incredible Hulk. We casually waited here a few hours to get just the right light for this shot.
Ok, actually it’s just a water bottle and we were in a race with the sun the whole climb (the sun won).
T
Credit: Chris McNamara

Evening light as we started the descent. This photo is taken from the ...
Evening light as we started the descent. This photo is taken from the notch at the bottom of the rappel of the Incredible Hulk in winter.
Credit: Jeremy Collins

Some notes on gear from Jeremy:

A couple people have asked so-

Gear I was impressed with from our day on the Hulk:

The BLack Diamond Ultralight Camalots- we had a double rack to #3 and I barely noticed. They really are notably light and just as stable. Even if just adding the 2 and 3 to your rack for when you need doubles would be worth it.

The pack- I had seen the Patagonia nine trails trail running pack and immediately wanted to try it for climbing. The double chest straps keep it stable with one strap extending to the back avoiding any waist belt. The shoulder straps have a pocket for cell phone/camera and topo. This will be my new go to for long days that don't return to the base. It's small enough you aren't tempted to overpack. I had approach shoes, alpine Houdini, GoPro and water/snacks. I generally hate having a pack while leading. Not anymore. I rope-gunned and we simuled the route in only three re-racks. I never minded having the pack on.

The Nano air hoody stayed on the whole climb and regulated well from snowing to sunshine to after sunset. I only added two holes in the offwidth/chimneys. Worth it.

While climbing I did BD crag half finger gloves, and Torque gloves for skiing and belaying. They both worked great. I only popped the half fingers off for a short tips section then popped them back on.

My Natives never fogged up and had the added bonus of Chris saying "you look so retro cool" which is why I'm grinning in this pic after six miles of skinning to the base.

Rock Shoes- I did my trusty Astromans but Chris did Evolv Cruzers which i thought was pretty cool. He wore them with small gaiters in the snow and for all climbing. COMFY!


And notes on Gear from me:
Yeah, the Ultralight Camalots were my favorite new piece of gear. Already donated my old Camalots to the American Safe Climbing Association on ebay and am replacing them all with Ultralights.

The glove situation was the most tricky. I switched between three options, full fingered windstopper gloves when belaying, mountain bike gloves when on easy climbing, and the partial "glove" of the Patagonia R1 when things got harder.

After 20+ years climbing, I finally (finally!) nailed the layering: superlight UPF 50 hoody layer for the brief time on the approach we got blasted by sun and were warm. Then the Patagonia R1. Then a super ultralight Montbell 850 fill down jacket (no hood) and then an ultralight shell, in this case the Outdoor Research Helium. I think this combo gives about the most warmth and mobility that can be imagined because of the double hood (triple with the shell) and double layer on half the hand. Just about every major manufacturer makes a version of each of those layers.

Also highly recommend the ultralight stretchy gaiters. They look dorky, but kept my feet (mostly) dry even when kicking steps down the snow gully.

The Evolv Cruzer proved super capable on the mostly easy climbing and even on the snow. The narrow profile kicks steps well in firm snow. And sooooo much more comfortable than climbing shoes on the rock.

  Trip Report Views: 5,646
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on Earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan – an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 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 called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He is 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 the 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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Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Mar 6, 2016 - 02:29pm PT
I dunno anything bout the IH. Hey did you rap in the dark and ski out in the dark?


Jer got some time off from drawing & the fam , eh!!!!! Good on him !!!


Nice summit shot.


Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 6, 2016 - 02:30pm PT
Yep, full on rap and down climb of snow gully in dark (no headlamp). And ski in dark. Lots of dark (with headlamp).
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 6, 2016 - 02:34pm PT
Nice job Chris, thanks!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 6, 2016 - 03:25pm PT
Jeremy Collins having a pint near the summit of the Incredible Hulk. We casually waited here a few hours to get just the right light for this shot.
Ok, actually it’s just a water bottle and we were in a race with the sun the whole climb (the sun won).

LOL this is funny!

Was the summit register there? I heard a rumor that it went missing in the end of the last season...

The B line is not easy and a bit flaky. But still pretty good I thought. Climbed it in late October when it was windy as hell. Didn't enjoy the day that much. :(
Mei

Trad climber
mxi2000.net
  Mar 6, 2016 - 03:47pm PT
The Incredible Hulk is about to keel over in the first picture.

Thanks for posting the gear notes. Love these real life use experiences. Will be checking out some of the items.

You are two adventurers. Well done!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Mar 6, 2016 - 04:15pm PT
Brrr....nicely done! Doesn't look like a lot of snow for March.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
  Mar 6, 2016 - 07:31pm PT
Yeah, not much snow. Look at that fan, sheesh.

Anyways, thanks for the humor and winter-spring inspiration!!

Hope you had a moon then for that gully descent.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Mar 6, 2016 - 10:48pm PT
This looks like a very satisfying adventure!
robSJ

Ice climber
san jose
  Mar 7, 2016 - 05:12am PT
Nice work and beautiful pictures! Definitely not the first winter ascent of the hulk though ;)
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 7, 2016 - 05:20am PT
Plenty of snow. Started in patches at the parking lot and was solid about a mile in. Definitely bring skis! For the non-skiers, skiing the gully opposite the climbers descent is a popular steep descent. Some friends did it a few days before our climb. And it should be back in epic condition after this storm.
Jeremy Collins on the approach to the Incredible Hulk in Winter.
Jeremy Collins on the approach to the Incredible Hulk in Winter.
Credit: Chris McNamara
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 7, 2016 - 05:25am PT
Here is a thread with some photos of my buddy Todd O skiing the left (non climbing descent) gully in Jan 2011 - http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1388534/incredible-hulk-anyone-snowshoe-ski-climb

Credit: Chris McNamara
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
  Mar 7, 2016 - 06:08am PT
Fantastic. Thanks, Chris.

BAd
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Mar 7, 2016 - 06:18am PT
I Climbed the hulk in the winter of 1984
with Wayne Wallace via a mixed line
That left the descent gully at about
The halfway mark
We continued on to Bivy on the real
Summit and then traversed the
Western slopes to Matterhorn the
Next day.
Thanks for the report looked like a
Fun day out!
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Mar 7, 2016 - 06:25am PT
Nice work! How was the ski descent by headlamp?
Nice window of opportunity...there's probably 3+ more feet of snow there this morning.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 7, 2016 - 05:47pm PT
Headlamp skiing in fine. The conditions were not so fine: all the snow re-froze by the time we were on it.

Wow, Stewart. That sounds like an adventure.
this just in

climber
Justin Ross from North Fork
  Mar 7, 2016 - 06:03pm PT
That's badass, thanks for the report.
marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
  Mar 7, 2016 - 09:24pm PT
For a poor man's Patagonia the Hulk's got a lot going for it.

Credit: marty(r)

Keep the stoke alive for us sea-level dads!

Credit: marty(r)

JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 7, 2016 - 11:04pm PT
Nice work! Nice write up, too. Thanks, CMac.

John
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Mar 8, 2016 - 11:39am PT
Judging by the pics, it doesn't compare with equally difficult routes in the alps or high mountains. Sure, it was cold, but there aren't any crevasse approaches, no overhanging seracs waiting to take you out, and I assume not too much rockfall.

Not to dis on your accomplishment, but take a look at a pic of the Dru sometime, or Nameless Tower in Pakistan.

The Sierra is a pretty forgiving environment, but other than the temps, it wasn't like alpine routes of equal difficulty.
W.L.

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Mar 8, 2016 - 11:41am PT
sweet!!!! thanks for sharing, Chris! Mo' climbin' on this site, mo' betta!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 8, 2016 - 12:05pm PT
Judging by the pics, it doesn't compare with equally difficult routes in the alps or high mountains.

Did Chris ever try to compare it to putting up a new route on K2 or something? When people go out and do sh#t, it is what it is. Not like he is about to write a book about it or making the experience sound bigger than life.
FML, I have not climbed the Dru or the Nameless tower, but based on what I know about climbing high mountains, in my honest opinion neither of those are a big fking deal, especially the Dru. Both can be done as long rock climbs with one being a big wall but doable in few days after acclimating. Not even close to big peaks with REAL objective danger.
Jeremy Ross

Gym climber
  Mar 8, 2016 - 12:23pm PT
Right on, cool report! As for the winter ascent thing...put it on facebook, otherwise it didn't happen!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Mar 8, 2016 - 12:28pm PT
WELL DONE MEN!!

BURT BRONSON WOULD BE PROUD!!!!!
Roots

Mountain climber
Tustin, CA
  Mar 8, 2016 - 12:38pm PT
Awesome!
WBraun

climber
  Mar 8, 2016 - 12:42pm PT
Chris Mac still shredding and simultaneously running an intelligent business ....
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Mar 8, 2016 - 03:00pm PT
Good stuff! Thanks for the report!

That stupid-looking 5.9 grainy groove on pitch 6 can be bypassed by staying in the big corner on the left. It's 10b stemming and the best pitch on the whole route. Red Dihedral is still much better and cleaner, though!

10b stemming corner
10b stemming corner
Credit: Impaler
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Mar 8, 2016 - 03:23pm PT
Judging by the pics, it doesn't compare with equally difficult routes in the alps or high mountains. Sure, it was cold, but there aren't any crevasse approaches, no overhanging seracs waiting to take you out, and I assume not too much rockfall.

Not to dis on your accomplishment, but take a look at a pic of the Dru sometime, or Nameless Tower in Pakistan.

The Sierra is a pretty forgiving environment, but other than the temps, it wasn't like alpine routes of equal difficulty.

Really??

Great TR, Chris. I love the Sierra in winter!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 12, 2016 - 10:46pm PT
Great beta about bypassing the 5.9 wideness with the 5.10b stemming on pitch 6... that would have made a big difference of the overall feel of the route.
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Mar 14, 2016 - 05:54pm PT
My partner and I chimneyed a bergshrund on the ridge between PV and the summit in early June. Whaddya mean its not alpine??? You see any trees up there???

My partner had been faux bitching about not having any chalk in his bag and after moving through the snow slot his chalk bag was full up with white stuff- hahaha.

Thanks for the stoke- one of my goals for this season is on that lovely chunk of rock!
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Mar 14, 2016 - 10:23pm PT
What a cool adventure! Thanks for the TR.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 21, 2016 - 11:26am PT
Unrelated, does anyone know of ascents on the formation (s) just north of the Hulk? On the same side of the valley as the Hulk, you walk by the on the approach. Not as tall or as cool (clearly) but still look sorta interesting.

I know there is a bunch of climbing on the side of the valley opposite the Hulk (obelisk, Reggae Pole, etc) but have not heard of any other climbing on The Hulk side.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 21, 2016 - 12:55pm PT
Right of the Hulk
http://www.garagegymtraining.com/2012/08/route-collecting.html
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12201009801/North-America-United-States-California-Sierra-Nevada-Mt-Walt-Northwest-Ridge

Left of the Hulk when you are facing it
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201213557/Incredulous-Bulk-West-Face-Causative-Striations



What you see FROM the Hulk
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201213239/Juggernaut-New-Routes
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Apr 1, 2016 - 09:35am PT
Thank you, Vitaliy!
Footloose

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Apr 6, 2016 - 10:20pm PT
Anyone with recent pics to share? please post.
Stoke from this CMac report strong as ever. The Hulk calls...
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