Edit: I just posted this and it looks way too long, sorry, I like pictures!!!
I rarely get to climb twice in the same week, much less luck out with two fun FA's with great partners!
If you're someone that thinks the best FA's are the ones nobody shares then please close your eyes.
If you're someone that thinks all the FA's have been taken then please open your mind, there are brazillions more waiting! Even in cramped up old CA, but you'll have to work for it!
When I get days to climb I like to make them count. In other words start and end the dark and suffer in the middle. This makes finding willing and able partners a challenge but the stars aligned this time.
Climb number A:
Formation: Silliman Point (formerly point 10,247) in Sequoia National Park
Route: West Recess, 7 pitches of 5.7 fun!
Approach: Burly but pretty. Park, walk uphill a lot, climb
Partner: Rob Brown AKA Rincon. One of only a few people I've climbed with who shares my love for SEKI.
This was yet another formation out of Tokopah Valley in Sequoia with an unknown history. It's unique in that it's not really visible from many places except for a certain spot on the road so it doesn't get much attention.
Silliman point from a ways away, this was our beta for the day.
I met Rob (rincon) in the parking lot the night before and he didn't murder me so our partnership started out well. (Edit, we met at Balchfest too)
As a way to recover from back surgery and prepare for the high sierra trail next week my dad came along to dayhike Mt. Silliman (kinda risky during recovery, right?)
We plodded along towards Silliman and before too long we were dinner for mosquitos in Silliman Meadow. Rob and I parted ways with my dad and were soon (felt like FOREVER) at the base. It was looking good and we were excited!
What the roof!? We were too tired to battle that thing and we wanted the summit so we took the obvious system over on the right.
Fun, well protected 5.7 climbing was to be had by all! Neither one of us enjoy squeeze chimneys so I "accidentally" let Rob lead that part of P2, but besides that it was great and not as bushy as these pics make it seem.
Rob snagged the fun lead prize on pitch four. It took knobs and chicken heads up the right side of the roof until we were on the summit ridge.
Pitch five started with a perfect but short corner before the last two easier pitches along the crest to the summit.
It's always weird to look down on the watchtower.
Hey dad, you up there!? It was 3:00pm and it turns out he already bagged the peak and was down at the car. Impressive for a 63 year old crippled guy! That's probably where I got all my studlyness from. Who knows, maybe my mom carries the studlyness gene too?
We were back at the car around 6-ish and it was all smiles. Showing up at the base, making it to the top and down before dark with lots of fun climbing in between is the best kind of day!
My little family and I spent a couple days in the mountains getting some quality time in (also secretly scoping out rocks).
Climb number B:
Formation: The Sphinx in Kings Canyon National Park
Route: Cotton Mouth Khafra, 10 pitches at 5.11- and not many mellow spots
Approach: Uber burly! Almost 4,000 ft of uphill
Partner: Vitaliy Musiyenko AKA Vitaliy M AKA Viagra AKA Vittles
PS, I ripped a lot of these pictures from Vitaliy, check them and more out at his bloggoliscous blog: http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/
By Friday I was ready for more and Vitaliy was on his way from the bay so we could get up dark and early. I set a personal record and made it to road's end in Kings Canyon in 1 hour and 45 minutes and pitched camp in my car next to his nissan.
We hit the trail by 4:45 am and had our sights set on the east face of The Sphinx, confident that we'd have no trouble making it as a day trip. I blocked out Rob's warning a few days earlier that The Sphinx was not in a great spot for a car to car ascent. Why not, it looks so close? (Rob, I will heed your advice in the future)
In under and hour we had our first view of the beautiful chunk of rock. It's so close! Nope.
Good morning Kings Canyon!
Good morning Charlotte Dome and Bubb's Creek Wall!
Good morning guy who walks on water at Sphinx Creek!
About five hours and lots of uphill later we were scoping out possible lines from the nearby dome. All of those cracks and corners we thought were there turned out to be closed, vegetated or nonexistent. We took our time with the monocular but nothing was obvious without needing more time or aid gear.
We settled on a line that started down out of sight in the gully and eventually climbed on or near the skyline to the true summit on the upper left. It took four pitches to get to the horizontal line down there by the shadow! One liter of water a piece should be enough right? This shouldn't take long, right?
Down we go! This turned out to be a little tricky tricky tricky (sorry, there's an echo down there). It would have been pretty trivial if we had stayed in the bottom instead of heading left too soon.
This trip was Vitaliy's idea so he took the honor of the first pitch, and it was a great one! Cracks and sketchy, but just enough, pro and nice rock.
I took pitch two and we were both surprised at how good these "approach" pitches were and that they were already coming it at solid 5.10. And then........
A decent runout below me, my last piece was a piton and there was 20+ more feet of slab ahead. And no pro. I couldn't find any EB's, I'm not 100% sure what a swami belt is but we were old skool enough to bring a hand drill! Whoever thought drilling 3/8 bolts in bullet hard granite by hand with a hardware store hammer was a good idea was an idiot (us).
Once I was done my feet and shoulders were so burned from the stance and the hammering that I placed a pretend cam and a piton behind a flake to bring Vitaliy up so I could get a break. Actually, those are my excuses but I was just looking at the slab above and being a weenie :)
Vitaliy took the next pitch through the slab and as a trade he had the option of passing one of his future leads to me. He took this pic just after his first good pro. It was a good feeling for both of us since the belay was un-bomber.
I took the easier pitch four up to a nice comfy ledge with a beautiful view! We weren't sure where to go and it was our first nice belay spot so Vitaliy took the chance and passed pitch five off to me.
I followed a ramp to the right because straight up had blank spots and hand drilling again was to be avoided at all costs. This was turning into a mountaineering expedition and we wanted the summit! I'm pretty sure this is when I ran out of water too.
Before too long I brought Vitaliy up and he traversed a bit more before heading up. By this time were were on the west side of the ridge and successfully keeping the sun bearing down our necks. The pitch was taking a while and I was trying to get comfy when I heard some mumbles.
He sounded serious, looks like there was more real climbing up there after all! A few more minutes, a tug every now and then and I was taking in the view when I heard the freakiest yell (scream) I've ever heard. It sounded like "AHAHAAAAAAAAAAEEEEAGGGAAAAAAAEEEEEEEE" and I took in two full arm length before the rope went tight! My first thought was what to write on Vitaliy's RIP thread when I heard, "I didn't think that piece was gonna hold, oh my God!"
It turns out Vitaliy was running it out a bit at the end of his pitch and had two insecure cams beneath him when his foot popped out of a dusty down-sloped crack and he went for a ride. He screamed because it was a total surprise and he thought he was gonna pull his pieces and go for the long one, and thanks to the little purple C4 he didn't!
This is where Vitaliy had to take because he was placing gear blind and got pumped, the same thing happened to me trying to clean the pitch.
"The next pitch looks scary and then we should be good." Thanks, Vitaliy, that's what I wanted to hear. I climbed up about 15 feet before I down climbed back to the belay, rather then risking a 30 foot ledge fall out in the boons I traversed right and took a series of crack and ledges up and left towards the ridge. It has some fun moves and a cool crystal pocket.
Vitaliy took the next pitch and with the sun going down and thirstiness going up we put away the cameras and gunned for the summit. Every pitch up to number nine had moves at least 5.8 or harder.
When the rope went tight on pitch 10 Vitaliy called down to simulclimb and we flew up the last 400 feet to the summit to beat the sunset.
Tummies growling, mouths parched and feet exploding we pulled onto the summit with just enough time to watch the alpenglow fade. We were miserable.
Just kidding, we were STOKED! We had doubts, confidence, highs and lows but we made it!
We stumbled back to our pack and headed straight down to the nearest water. At the first trickle we heard we pounded all we could hold. Water has never tasted so good or made me feel so nauseous from drinking it too fast.
Our thirst was quenched but Vitaliy was still famished so he ate a rubber boa on the way down. Raw, Bear Grylls style. Bear Grylls calls it Vitaliy style.
19 hours from when we left were were back at the car. 10 hours of hiking, 9 hours of climbing covering almost 2000 feet of technical terrain, drilling, falling, and thirsting. It was a butt kicker but it was also exactly what he had hoped for. Another awesome day ending with success!
I was home by 2:00am and the next morning found out that my little dude took his first whipper, right off the bed! Thanks to this guy and his wonderful mom for giving me a few days to explore.
The end, thanks for hanging in there. And yes, I wore the Balchfest shirt in honor of Micronut.