Trip Report
Machete Direct 5.8R A1, III

by Zay
Saturday April 14, 2018 11:35am
So, I'm bored, in the mood, and I decided to write my first trip report.

Machete Direct (5.8R A1, 6 Pitches), Pinnacles National Park. This was February of 2016...

I had been climbing for about 10 months, having started because of a first-time visit to Pinnacles. We had gone to hike, my girlfriend wanted to see bats. Staring up at all these impressive (and as I would later learn to be: chossy) rock formations, all I could think was, "Holy sh#t, you can climb these things!?"

Flash forward a few months, and I've gotten a gym membership, made a few friends, got some gear, and learned a thing or two. Then I met Liz. We were quick to connect on the stoke level, and started climbing at Pinnacles pretty regularly. Then one day, staring up at Machete Ridge, I told her how badly I wanted to climb it.

"You know which route you wanna do?"

"Yeah, I think Machete Direct would be most feasible."

Next thing you know, 'we're planning for Tuesday.'

Upper Two Thirds of Machete Ridge. Lower Third is obscured by shade. F...
Upper Two Thirds of Machete Ridge. Lower Third is obscured by shade. Fifth pitch climbs right through the "G" in Gerry. Sixth pitch follows the seam up and right along the base of Middle Tower (that sharp looking horn). Fourth pitch ascends middle-third.
Credit: Zay

Now, my climbing experience thus far was as follows: I had only ever climbed at Pinns; I could lead 5.9, and that was pushing it; I'd done the four-pitch 5.4 Costanoan twice: once guided up it by a friend, and a second time for fun with another; I had never led a trad pitch; and I had zero experience aid climbing.

So now we're about to blast off, and neither of us have aiders. Liz hands me a few slings and says, "you clip it like this and you stand in it like this. If you need to, you can do this to do this." We decide to swing leads "because that's just the best way to do this." Liz goes first.

Pano looking up base of climb. Photo Taken Later: 5.10b start is dry. ...
Pano looking up base of climb. Photo Taken Later: 5.10b start is dry. Middle Tower way above. Oak tree start just right of photo
Credit: Zay

The first pitch is pretty wild. The original start climbs a tree twenty feet before reaching out to a horizontal crack. Follow the crack left 20 feet until reaching a bolt ladder. Do three aid moves, to a mandatory 5.8 move, to the anchor. An alternate (slightly harder) start bypasses tree by climbing straight up to the bolt ladder, but that start was under a foot of running water. The tree was on a little tiny island that we were just barely able to jump over to.

After carefully watching Liz execute these strange, makeshift aid moves, I set off to follow. It was ugly. Really ugly, with psuedo one arm pullups on quickdraws and stepping on single-runners, quickdraw fifis, and a lot of resting between the three-f*#king-bolts of aid I had to surpass.

But it went, and next thing you know Liz hands me the three draws I need to tackle the second pitch: 100+ ft of sustained 5.7 climbing, three bolts. Did I mention Pinnacles is not known for solid holds?

Before long, I'm atop the second pitch. I'm happy to be alive, but I'm also stoked to report that at the time, it didn't feel like that big of a deal. Looking down 30 feet to your last bolt, and looking up to your next- only a few moves of 5.7 away- a heightened state of awareness keeps the body in check.

Shut the f*#k up brain, now is not a good time to lose it.

"Dude, nice lead."

I hand her some gear and she takes off for the third pitch: Easy 5.3 traverse on nice, loose rock with cams that don't inspire confidence. Knock-knock, holy sh#t, knock knock, that's better...

The fourth pitch is now mine. The starting moves are spectacular: pulling over a slightly overhanging bulge off a big juggy block with 200-and-some-odd feet of exposure below. F*#king heroic. The rest of the pitch is just sustained 5.7/5.8 to the anchor; funtime.

Shitty M.S. Paint Topo
Shitty M.S. Paint Topo
Credit: Zay

Fifth pitch is hell (if you don't know how to aid climb and you are using an improvised combination of slings and quickdraws in a manner that you still don't understand). Liz leads it: twelve-ish moves of A1 followed by 100 feet of bad ass stemming up a giant flare in the wall, now with four-to-five-hundred feet of glorious exposure to the mini valley below. There's a ridge of rock sticking out of the dihedral the whole way up, and it looks like it would be a plentiful source of holds. Yet it only takes one "knock knock" to hear this 100 ft fin of rock reverberate enough to tell you, "You aint touchin' that. Stem around it."

It probably took me well over half an hour to get up the bolt ladder. And more than once I called up to Liz, "I don't know if I can do this."

"Just keep trying!"

Finally I'm at the anchor. I thought I would never aid climb again.

And the final pitch: 40 ft of 5.8 with 3 bolts (one of which you will never find), until you reach the final section of 5.5 slab: 80 feet of climbing up along the base of "Middle Tower," who sticks out of Machete Ridge's face like Sentinel Rock. Along the base, where this slightly overhung tower protrudes from Machete, there is a crack that offers your source of protection (medium cams).

I have never placed cams on lead. I know how they work (I think). Liz and I discuss whether or not we should stick to the swinging leads policy for this one.

"Probably better if you lead this one, Liz"

Just as she starting racking up, something stupid boils up inside me.

"No. Wait. I need to do this."

Liz smiles devilishly and hands me the gear, and off I go.

Finger pointing at the line. Only upper third of climb visible. Final ...
Finger pointing at the line. Only upper third of climb visible. Final (6th) Pitch climbs the slab along the base of Middle Tower. Fifth pitch climbs the flare/dihedral leading up to base of Middle Tower.
Credit: Zay

The initial 5.8 section goes mostly-uneventfully; I missed one of the bolts, but apparently many before me have done so also. The climbing now slabs up and left to a giant right-facing dihedral (the base of Middle Tower).

Imagine climbing up a really steep slab, with a wall right next to you, on your left. The wall overhangs slightly. At the intersection of your slab and this wall, is a crack. You place your first cam in the crack, 20 feet above your last pro (a bolt). You give the cam a tug, and it rips right out of the wall in a burst of loose flakes.

Oh dear god.

You re-position is, and give it another tug. This time, you watch the lobes sink into the soft rock like a sponge. You look down to the trail, 600 feet below you. You look up at Middle Tower, looming over you while the sun blinds you from above.

Um, I guess I'll keep going...

I find a better placement about 6 feet higher. This one seems to work. I continue up the slab, hugging the dihedral and desperately looking for my next protection opportunity. I look down to see my cam some 30 feet below me, and plug in my first piece of mental pro. Five feet higher, I find a placement that seems a bit better. Cool. Next thing you know, i'm 30 feet from the summit and my eyes are darting back and forth between the summit, the crack, and the valley floor.

F*#k it, this crack sucks anyway.

I pulled over the summit, and gave my first ever howler-monkey scream before shouting 'off-belay.'

Vertical Pano looking up and down middle tower from Summit of Machete ...
Vertical Pano looking up and down middle tower from Summit of Machete Direct. Photo taken at later date (note overcast and Liz on top of Middle Tower: we didn't climb Middle Tower that day)
Credit: Zay

When Liz finally pulled over the rim 20 minutes later, she gave me that nervous smile that says, dude what were you thinking.

"We really need to work on you cam placements."

I sheepishly agree, and we head down the standard Machete Ridge Descent (a long adventure in its own, think "North Dome Gully's Tiny Sister").

When we finally hit the trail (on the other side of Machete) we find it to be under two feet of running water. The caves that stand between us and the car are blocked by a gate: "Close Due to Flooding."

The East Entrance to the Caves. Not my photo. Imagine a small river fl...
The East Entrance to the Caves. Not my photo. Imagine a small river flowing out of this thing.
Credit: Zay

Our climb and descent had bypassed the west entrance to the caves, and our only alternative was "to go the long way around."

We said f*#k it, rolled up our pants, took off our shoes, and climbed over the gate. The waterfalls crashing into the caves roared so loudly I was actually a bit intimidated. Exiting the caves requires a bit of now-sopping-wet-scrambling, and then hopping another gate. From there, we had to wade through water up to our shins for a quarter mile until we hit the trail and met up with the base of our Climb.

To this day, every time I pass by the base of Machete Direct, I stop and sit for a minute, staring up at the line, at the climb that completely defined who I am as a climber.

Pano looking up base of climb. Photo Taken Later: 5.10b start is dry. ...
Pano looking up base of climb. Photo Taken Later: 5.10b start is dry. Middle Tower way above. Oak tree start just right of photo
Credit: Zay

  Trip Report Views: 2,421
Zay
About the Author
Zay is a climber from Monterey, Ca.

Comments
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Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Apr 14, 2018 - 11:40am PT
S

I

C

K
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Apr 15, 2018 - 06:57am PT
What, is everyone too wrapped up in politics to comment on nice climbing content?

Zay, how many of the multi-pitch, mixed free/aid routes on Machete have you done now?
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Apr 15, 2018 - 07:30am PT
Cool report Zay,
thanks for postin up.
Tad
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
  Apr 15, 2018 - 07:35am PT

Nice TR Zay. That was close to how my first time up MD was, sans cams. Hexes can be more secure. The feeling of "surviving" the second pitch I remember.

Geoof and I did a night ascent in the mid eighties. We had it pretty wired, but Geoff forgot his headlamp so the leader used the light and the follower used braille. The glorious full moon popped over for the last couple pitches.
kingtut

climber
Jingus Newroutaineer
  Apr 15, 2018 - 07:57am PT
YGD™.

:D
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Apr 15, 2018 - 09:16am PT
thanks for the comments guys!

mtnyoung, Ive done Machete Direct once; Son of Dawn Wall twice; and Rock Around The Clock (via Lucky13 - G.P. Headwall, and with direct Finish) once now.

If we count Old Original, ive done that Four times, with every time having done the Derringer/Bullseye start. One time starting at 9:30pm for a full moon :)

Clinker, im assuming hex options on pitch 6 were less than plentiful? lol
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 15, 2018 - 09:30am PT
Quality writing,
Good stuff Zay
Thanks
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Apr 15, 2018 - 11:58am PT
Zay, maybe put Los Banditos on your list (It's on the new routes thread). Fun and well protected. The free moves off the bolt ladder are exciting (but well protected).
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Apr 15, 2018 - 12:46pm PT
dude, ive read J-tree's TR on the second ascent probably a dozen times: talk about a good writer!

ive been looking forward to it for a while, but finding partners who are free and also willing for such an adventurr is hard! my partner for RATC had to aid through the crux of GP's headwall.

soon... :)
hammerhead

Mountain climber
Eastsound,Wa.
  Apr 15, 2018 - 01:22pm PT
I did that route in 76 and thought it was a pretty adventurous outing. A lot of the bolts were rusty 1/4''ers and the pebble holds had a way of suddenly popping loose.

We bootied a whole collection of carabiners and slings off the first pitch.
Later we found out that they were left from a fatal accident the day before where the leader fell and hung in midair over the overhang. His partner couldn't lower him for some reason and he died from aphyxiation from his swami belt riding up and constricting his diaphragm.

In those days it was uncommon to wear a harness and most people just used a swami belt either alone or with leg loops.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 15, 2018 - 01:29pm PT
Super cool. Nice write up and adventure and welcome to the TR club. Thanks for sharing the stoke. Hope to get over there someday. It's only a couple hours away from our home but with so much good climbing nearby we never get over there. Looks like a magical place.
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Apr 15, 2018 - 02:42pm PT
hammerhead, thats friggin crazy man. I know that story, though I believe the fatality happened on tombstone:
http://web.stanford.edu/~clint/pin/acc/765tomb.htm
First modern climber fatality at pinns... crazy that you are part of that history. Macbre yet fascinating.

micronut, thanks for the welcoming comments :). P guess if you're a few hours from Pinns and youve never been, you must be surrounded by granite so I don't blame you (don't let mtnyoung hear me say that!). Pinns is a very special place though; more for its character than anything else imo. There's just something "more" to it. Nothing like having a Condor fly 6 feet over your head and scaring the out of you 'cuz your only warning is the incoming "ffffffWWWWUUUUUSHHHHHHHH."
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Apr 15, 2018 - 03:08pm PT
Great stuff!

You really captured the passion, commitment, and irrational exuberance of starting out, which many of us can relate to :)
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
  Apr 15, 2018 - 03:23pm PT
Clinker, im assuming hex options on pitch 6 were less than plentiful? lol

More so on pitch 5. You place a hex and tell yourself, if this holds I won't die. The pitch 5 anchor needed some serious work.

Looking forward to more of your Pinns trip reports.
martygarrison

Trad climber
Washington DC
  Apr 15, 2018 - 05:40pm PT
Boy brings back memories. I too climbed this probably in my first year of climbing. I ended up climbing it many times over the years. Seems like the first pitch went free if I remember correctly. It's a nice adventure kind of like the Hand.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 15, 2018 - 08:08pm PT
Glad you're alive!

And well done!

TFPU!
Flip Flop

climber
Earth Planet, Universe
  Apr 15, 2018 - 08:40pm PT
Nice tale. Spicy
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Apr 15, 2018 - 08:54pm PT
It really is a beautiful weird place. Barely a climbing area. What Munge ^ said.

Has anyone (Steve?) scanned Higgens 1980 Ascent "Anti-climbing at Pinnacles" . It's right up there with the best of climbing writing, imesho.

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Apr 15, 2018 - 09:55pm PT
Outstanding!

Zay,

You get my vote for TacoTown rookie of the year:
For a total of three forum posts and one TR, you are coming out swinging for the bleachers!

Highlights:
It was ugly. Really ugly, with psuedo one arm pullups on quickdraws and stepping on single-runners, quickdraw fifis, and a lot of resting between the three-f*#king-bolts of aid I had to surpass.

Shut the f*#k up brain, now is not a good time to lose it.

Finally I'm at the anchor. I thought I would never aid climb again.

I have never placed cams on lead. I know how they work (I think).

You place your first cam in the crack, 20 feet above your last pro (a bolt). You give the cam a tug, and it rips right out of the wall in a burst of loose flakes.

When Liz finally pulled over the rim 20 minutes later, she gave me that nervous smile that says, dude what were you thinking.

To this day, every time I pass by the base of Machete Direct, I stop and sit for a minute, staring up at the line, at the climb that completely defined who I am as a climber.
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
suspendedhappynation
  Apr 16, 2018 - 12:28am PT
Good for you.

Climbed that route with Phil Birdcheff and Allan Bard back in 1973! I'm pretty sure Phil freed a bunch of it.

Awesome place!

TC
L

climber
Just livin' the dream
  Apr 16, 2018 - 01:57pm PT
Excellent TR and photos!

Gutsy climbing for a newbie, too.

Keep the TRs coming!
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Apr 16, 2018 - 08:01pm PT
Great read Zay. Thanks for posting!
socialclimber

climber
CA
  Apr 16, 2018 - 08:08pm PT
I totally know who this is... but we'll keep that identity secret.

Charles

Brad, would you consider knocking Los Banditos to 5.9?
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Apr 16, 2018 - 09:18pm PT

Brad, would you consider knocking Los Banditos to 5.9?

Sure. We've debated 5.9 or 5.10a since the day we finished it. Would you read the description again and make sure you think 5.9?
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Apr 16, 2018 - 10:46pm PT
Darwin, I found the link.
http://www.tomhiggins.net/index.php/climb-histories/11-anti-climbing-at-pinnacles

Tarbuster et al, thanks again for the encouragement!

Hi Charles.
socialclimber

climber
CA
  Apr 17, 2018 - 02:54pm PT
Read the description?? You told me I had the third ascent with Brandon Adams ;-)...

Free parts were all easier than Lava Falls...

Charles

Hi Zay.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 17, 2018 - 03:07pm PT
Is Lava Falls 5.9?

What other climbs are that long and that steep with those sized holds (as a way to compare it)?
ionlyski

Trad climber
Polebridge, Montana
  Apr 17, 2018 - 03:18pm PT
Fantastic!

I loved this:
Um, I guess I'll keep going........
socialclimber

climber
CA
  Apr 17, 2018 - 03:57pm PT
Absolutely. One of the best 5.9's I.M.N-S-H.O. And Los Banditos was a great line to climb, one of the better new routes in the park, still felt like 5.9...

Charles
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Apr 17, 2018 - 05:16pm PT

Read the description?? You told me I had the third ascent with Brandon Adams ;-)...

You and Brandon did do the third. I wanted you to read the description so that you could explain details of your thoughts about why it's 5.9.

But...



Free parts were all easier than Lava Falls...

This just about covers it. Using Lave Falls as a comparison is smart.

I'll make the change to Los Banditos.
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Apr 17, 2018 - 05:20pm PT
Charles,

It's changed on the site. Read it now to see if it reads smoothly?

Thanks for the input,

Brad
socialclimber

climber
CA
  Apr 17, 2018 - 07:28pm PT
Brad, looks excellent! I am humbled you take my input into consideration.

Charles
Griffin

Trad climber
Monterey, CA
  May 18, 2018 - 06:57pm PT
Sounds like a jolly good Pinns time. If you aren't covered in odd tasting mud, avian fecal matter, and Bohemia from Vallarta then your missing out.

Although, after about the 3rd time up that 5th pitch we realized that running out the last 60' or so was much preferred over dancing across crud to the less than lovely "placements". I know a guy with a broken tarsal and some titanium hardware that says that crud on Machete is a good time.

Sounds like its also worth another trip up there (circa 2016????). Don't mind me though, I'm more of a couch climber. Although the smell of a guano cave takes me back......

P.s.
That guy Charles.....what a d*ck. Miss you Charles.
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  May 19, 2018 - 09:00am PT
whats up griffin! yeah ive decided that next lap up there Im running it out. max rausche said that one of the bolts on the bolt ladder shifted outwards on him, the one with the double hanger thing. i think he climbed it about 3 months ago?... but if youre gonna he free climbing that sucker again then i guess no big!

good to hear from you
hellroaring

Trad climber
San Francisco
  May 19, 2018 - 11:19am PT
Zay, thanks for the TR of this route. My climbing partner & I are some of those "oddballs" who love climbing at Pinnacles. This particular route has been on our radar and we want to do it. Just need to brush up on non-existent aid techniques, wait for the closures to be lifted, and go at a time when the sun won't fry us on the wall. Really enjoyed your El Cap TR too...
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  May 20, 2018 - 10:57am PT
I was just reading this bit of related history & great picture.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1735122&tn=20
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  May 19, 2018 - 12:03pm PT
hellroaring,

As of February 1st to current date machete ridge is open on the North end which does mean machete direct is available to climbing. The local raptor biologist Gavin updates the climbing advisories enclosures page on the mud and crud website.

http://www.mudncrud.com/forums/index.php?topic=1635.0

As for the aid climbing You could very easily get away with stringing 3 runners together with girth hitches, And clipping them to a non locker and then put a double runner that hangs independently off that same non locker. Make 2 sets of those and I have used that many times to get up the bolt ladders on machete ridge on numerous climbs.
A lot of times I find myself going up these routes with partners who do not own actual aiders so I let them borrow mine and set up those sling ladders and they work fantastically.
Having an actual Fifi does help tremendously but I have also gotten away recently with just having a Quick Draw on my belay loop not as comfortable but it works!
Thanks a lot for reading and commenting!

Edit, Also wanted to mention that if you start really early it's very possible to climb the entire route in the shade. Son usually starts to poke upOver machete ridge Northwest face around noon.
okie

Trad climber
  May 19, 2018 - 12:30pm PT
I vaguely recall doing this sometime in the last century. The west side is definitely more adventurous than Discovery Wall. Doug Robinson told us not to climb at the Pinnacles, that the whole place was unsafe. He probably was thinking of it as it was in the 60's. Anyway, that advice turned out to be not entirely correct, obviously now.
hellroaring

Trad climber
San Francisco
  May 19, 2018 - 01:24pm PT
Zay good to know, thanks much. Won't have to wait as long as I thought I would have to!
David Knopp

Trad climber
CA
  May 19, 2018 - 02:54pm PT
hey there say Say, hellroaring and me, we met you in the parking lot that day w JC and Brad... glad ti read this, looking forward to getting on it. And hell, we have aiders, and Fifis, and somewhat know how to use em.
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