Where's my opening shot of the Hulk on approach? I mean, how can I possibly start a Hulk TR without a picture of the dang formation?
Perhaps none of this actually transpired on the Hulk. Perhaps this is a completely different piece of ridiculously perfectly steep and splitter alpine granite with a high concentration of five star routes.
Yeah right, there is no such other mountain in the High Sierra. The Hulk stands alone.
I can always count on the Hulk for some full throttle fun. Toettch was already out there guiding his boss up the RD, and with a huge amount (read: none whatsoever) of arm twisting he got me to join them. I soloed around in Tuolumne getting my legs and then started the hike in at 4 PM last Thursday.
Hiking in alone was actually quite enjoyable. I purposely took my time on approach, savoring the landscape and keeping my heart rate reasonable. I ran into my friend Ben who was coming down after upgrading anchors for rappel on the Venturi.
Even though I thought I was going slow, I still made it to the bivy in 2:45. An hour later toettch descends to camp quite happy with the long day guiding. The only shitty part of their day was coming through the birth canal at the top, choking on the pungent aromas of human sh#t. The next day a party would confirm it by not only stepping in the sand covered mess right next to the top of the route belay, but by also READING THE SUMMIT REGISTER entry where the two Canadians boasted of their fecal fecundity. Dude. Seriously. F*#k Canada.
On to better things. Toettch and I had selected Lost in The Sun, a pretty new 5 pitch 12a put up by cultureshock that has to his knowledge not seen any traffic beyond the FA and FFA.
The first pitch starts out as a beautiful laser cut 5.10 corner that goes from hands to nothing. I am jamming and laybacking up a perfect pitch and get to a point where the layback gets more powerful and the feet get more slick. I can see the anchors about 20 feet up and a bit of the crack that leads to them. In between me and that crack is a blank face with fragile nubbins and no discernible holds. And I am already hanging out in a power layback, so I do the only thing I can, and commit to the face.
I reach over to touch the crack out left, to find that it is shallow, flared, and incipient. Bear huggning the edge of the arete and the 'crack' I fight for inches, tenuously bumping the side pulls and stepping through technical foot moves. I'm starting to feel the fear. I continue further, fighting to avoid the fall, fighting, scrapping, summoning. I finally get to a hold that would later be the key to the sequence.
This particular time touching it my hands are greasing and I haven't figured out how to properly use the hold, and then one of the foot nubbins blows up and my stomach lurches and I prepare for air.
Although not much. I recover and then a fraction of a second later my other foot nubbin rips off. About 25-30 feet later I come careening to a stop over the corner. Now that is better than coffee. The second go I climb the corner much higher, place a higher piece, then down climb back to the face hold. The moves are still tenuous, but it all feels much more in line with 11a.
Toettch is able to send with my stream of beta. He agrees that this sequence is way hard for the grade, an onsight of this pitch would be proud. (Though I have a feeling someone did it the very next day. More on that later)
Toettch styles the second pitch and I follow clean. Really interesting sequences over some unique terrain make this short pitch very very fun.
The crux pitch climbs some wonderful techy 5.11 with bolts to a very sequential, sustained and amazing corner with a 12- crux that continues into sustained 11+. The corner caps off with a cool arete sequence leading to a thought provoking face traverse. Toettch sends after 2 falls, and I follow with one hang, just barely flaming out on the last hard moves.
All that try hard has my stomach feeling funky- also possibly because we left all of our food on the ground. I am in warrior mode and launch off into what would prove to be a truly phenomenal pitch of 5.11 climbing. Jugs, shallow stemming, hard laybacking, wide stemming past a roof, and a tricky face exit add up to to a proud onsight for me. Psyched!
The fifth pitch is a juggy 5.10 romp to a beauty of a ledge. From here one might choose to continue up another pitch to join RD, or from here you can rap with a single 80. For the record, this climb is a worthy addition to the Hulk. I highly recommend more parties to get on it, with more traffic this will hold its own against other routes on the Hulk.
We cruise down to our stuff, pound some cheese and tortillas, and then start walking down along the base. We had started Lost in the Sun at 11 am, and it was now 330. As if by omen, the only shade at the base was a tiny little pocket at the start of The Polish Route. We hid there for awhile, and at some point said well, f*#k it. Let's go.
Toettch fights hard to link the first 2 pitches in an 80M stretcher of 10+ hands and fingers.
Following I can't believe how long this pitch is, and how much my hand jam muscle is cramping. The sustained climbing, lack of calories, and beating sun whoop me good, but I came here to play and the Hulk always provides.
I'm shredded as toettch passes over the gear. Last year Townsend led the OW link, and following it was a breeze. But that was following, and that was fresh. I spend the next hour on lead, at first taking my time to dance delicately on the edges and flakes, and then buried in the OW. The first section goes smoothly, and I hit the hand crack. I'm thankful for all of those creek trips as I run it out 30 feet on perfect 5.10 hands. Then the OW crux shows up. Just 40 more feet of #4 splitter, with one #4 on my belt. I fight for fatigued inches. Pulling up the rope, trapping it with my knee, so that I can slide the 4 with 220 feet of rope out. Finally I have to leave the piece behind, and after some cruxy moves I can place the last cam on my belt, a #1, and then run it out hard to the anchor. I've been in some fights before- and I will remember this one for a looooong time. After following, toeetch said, "Jeez man, this route makes me feel like I've been doing battle all day in Indian Creek." YES
On rappel we start chatting with some guys coming of Sunspot, and sure enough one of them is cultureshock. Way too much fun to meet the guy who put up Lost In The Sun, and to be able to tell him first hand and immediately how much we enjoyed his route!! A few days later, I get a message from Townsend, the guy I did Polish with last year. Regarding Lost in the Sun, "We followed your chalk marks on Saturday. Thanks." :)
Dear lord I love pulling hard, screaming loud, catching air, sending pitches, seeing friends, making new ones, and even slogging out and driving home. Thanks Hulk, see ya next time.