Laughing At The Void A2+ 5.9
Trip ReportLaughing at the Hammer
Long TR with excessive beta. You have been warned.
Laughing at the Void goes clean! It is an amazing bit of clean climbing that relies on no fixed gear other than the bolts. The money of the route is the thin splitter of pitches three and four. 200 feet of thin bliss on a beautiful and clean wall of perfect golden granite.
I became interested in Laughing at the Void when I heard that it is like the Shield headwall before beaten out. I looked at Sloan's new topo of the route to find “Glory splitter! .3-1” A1 many pins.” This sort of perplexed me. Should the route be climbed with many pins as Sloan says? Should yet another potentially awesome route in the valley be pounded out? Shouldn't a different course of action at least be attempted? Ethics and judgement of Sloan and his topos aside, I was now fixated on going up to see if the route could be done hammerless. Perhaps if it could, Laughing at the Void could be spared a similar fate to The Shield. I was on a mission to try and preserve what sounded like a super classic line.
February 1-2, 2014
I recruited my good buddy and wall partner Alec Zachreson to go up with me and see what's what. The weekend weather forecast was less than ideal but we decided to go for it. Damn the weather and the hammers, full speed ahead!
Neither Alec nor I had ever been to Ribbon Falls Wall so we waited until sunrise to begin the approach on Saturday morning. The fresh snow on the trees and walls around us, coupled with the light from the sunrise, painted an amazingly beautiful picture as we walked up.
The plan was to go as far as possible that day and scope out the line. We left hammers behind, and were to forge up uncharted ground. We had to either commit to climbing six pitches to Rainbow Ledge that day, or climb three and fix to the ground with the two ropes we had.
I set out on the first two pitches and they went without too much trouble. I short fixed a bit from the first anchor, did a single haul from the ground to the second anchor, and we were there in seemingly no time. Most of the climbing on the first two pitches is good. There's a little bit of climbing in an awkward flare but it is fairly easily surpassed. The third pitch brought the beginning of the thin and steep splitter that had attracted me to the route. Alec set off on the lead and got up the bolt ladder to the base of the thin seam. Nothing would stick for him on the first move so he came down. It was my turn to head up and see if I could find something.
Aiming for a first clean ascent is similar to what I imagine a real first ascent would feel like. At the base of the thin seam it was unclear whether it would dead end on me or not. I didn't know it could be climbed clean and I had never been up there. The mindgames were intense and the headspace it brought was very cool. The seventy feet I climbed from the beginning of the seam to the anchor went down with many micronuts, a micro cam hook move, a beak hook, and a couple microcams. I would say that three marginal bodyweight placements in a row was average. The fall was pretty clean though. The A2+ pitch goes clean at what I would assume is something like C3.
With two more never before done clean pitches between us and the ledge, and with only several more hours of light, Alec and I fixed to the ground. There was to be some rain the next afternoon, but we were going to come up in the morning and hopefully get in one more pitch.
We woke up Sunday morning to find it already snowing on us. Bummer. I jugged the lines and rapped with all our gear and ropes. The adventure wasn't going any further for this weekend. We planned on going back in a couple weeks to push on. We considered part one of our saga a success though. The line is brilliant! It is splitter, thin, and raw. The rock is beautiful and of the highest quality. One of the crux pitches went down clean, and Alec and I left positive about our prospects of taking it to the top next time. We really stumbled onto something magical in the valley.
February 22-23, 2014
We approached the wall Saturday morning and I set off on the first pitch. Climbing the flare in the first and second pitches went easier this time around as I freed and french freed more of it. Alce led off for another go at the third pitch. This time he cruised it! It was great to see him proudly send what had stymied him last time around.
The fourth pitch is 150 feet of thin splitter on perfect golden granite. The first 80 feet is super fun and classic C1+ with bomber pockets for cams every few feet. Running up this part heavy on the cam hooks was awesome. From there it gets really thin and I had to rely heavily on hand placed beaks. It traverses right and then peters out just as its possible to reach left to another thin seam. Climbing through this section required six hand placed beaks in a row to a talon hook in the seam, and then up to the bolt ladder that leads to the fourth anchor. It is what I would call C3+ because of how small the placements are and how far you are from true protection. But the fall is clean. This is a great climb to push the limits of your clean climbing.
We spent the night in a portaledge at the fourth anchor. We wanted to practice hanging bivis to ready ourselves for a climb of the Shield that we have planned. It was a great night in a really beautiful part of the Valley. Ribbon Falls Wall is a stellar location.
The fifth pitch was the last one never to have gone clean before. It is an awkward and super dirty groove pitch that I had a perverse sort of fun with. Larger cams spanned the outside of the beginning of the groove and this allowed us to make quick work of the first twenty feet. From there it is necessary to get into the groove proper and dig around through the dirt for C2 placements and work up another 25 feet. The dihedral and small roof that follow are a little dirty and awkward, but fun and bomber C1 that leads to some 5.7 to the anchor.
Alec led the sixth and final pitch of the route which consists of C1 climbing up a splitter in a dihedral to some 5.7 up and right to Rainbow Ledge. The C1 at the start looks like it would be fun to free if it were cleaned up a bit. It is perhaps in the 5.10 range.
Rainbow ledge is awesome and appropriately enough, we arrived to find a double rainbow shimmering in nearby Ribbon Falls. It is a great ledge in a sweet location. From there we descended to the ground with five rappels. We went and celebrated with double burgers of glory in Mariposa.
We had done it! Laughing at the Void goes clean! And the route is a classic! The splitter thin crack of pitches three and four are the meat of the route and super memorable. I implore everyone to get out there to climb this thing. It will blow your mind. It certainly blew mine.
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