Trip ReportSecond Ascent Trip Report – Los Banditos 5.10 A1 – Machete Ridge - Pinnacles West Side
A great route that's not yet in the guidebook for the West Side of Pinnacles National Monument. The first two pitches are amazing, the last two are good for reaching the summit, but it might be a better climbing day to rap from the top of pitch two then move left and climb Rock Around the Clock. Or better yet, rap and then head over to the Balconies for Lava Falls for the perfect West Side 5.9-5.10 day.
Second Ascent Trip Report – Los Banditos – Machete Ridge - Pinnacles West Side
So with the closures looming and the valley a bit chilly for the tastes of the lovely lady Dixie, we show up at the West Side parking lot with a late 11:00am SF/LA start. Disaster is flirted with when Dixie asks if I brought my headlamp. I remembered it sitting in the tent at the campsite on the East Side and knew that we were destined to epic.
"I brought two!" Dixie held them up and smiled. I smiled back. Success was in the air.
We were here because of a phrase I'd recently begun to chant while I was solo aiding in Yosemite, Usually nighttime and dry-winter cold blanket the past utterances of such statements, "I do what other can't because I do what other's won't." An attempt to both pump myself up and humble myself. This is part of the reason I find myself at the Pinnacles and Riverside Quarry these days. Crumbly ghosts of routes that can only be seen if you turn your head just right.
"If it's so good, why hasn't anyone done the second ascent yet?"
"No one wants to aid a ladder."
"Sounds more like a litmus test to the free climbing. Gotta earn it."
"You want to lead the crux free pitch?" We are currently walking past a large collection of boulders towards the base of Machete Ridge. I notice chalk on the boulders and then notice pad people looking over problems down in the gully between the boulders.
"Can I look at the pitch first?" I look at her without responding, "Besides, shouldn't the one who passes the litmus test get the plum pitch?"
"Maybe." I make a note to tell her that I love her more often.
West Face Route
Later, as I am freaking out at the last moves of the first real pitch, I will think about this and gain a bit of comfort. A long fall upon a small Southern Belle is better when she's anchored to bolts instead of scrapping against a deteriorating wall. With Dixie now at the belay, it’s time to start the business. I tell her that I love her and set off. She calls up to me, “That’s not the kind of ‘I love you’ you say before not coming back from something is it?” As I reach up and clip the first bolt of the ladder, I hang from my daisy and twist around slowly until I’m facing her.
“If it wasn’t then this one definitely is.” I have enough time to see her smile before I twist back around, grab the ladder and pull myself up.
I returned to my ladder after a few moves. In my head, “5.9” meant handholds that could support bad feet. What I found when I went up was great feet that would have to support flat and sloping handholds. Easy climbing but my body was still in the fog of an aid ladder and the fear of Pinnacles "rock".
I am an aid climber. I am a trad climber. I am a sport climber. I am a boulderer… well, when I have to be. What I tend not to be is more than one in a single pitch. Phrases like “boulder move into crux then gain the anchor”, “Bring additional pro to protect the bolts”, or “mandatory free” make me turn the page and find a new route. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I want to turn off when I climb, not think, not be there. Get to the anchors and watch the analog gopro memory of what just did; figure out if I liked it after the climbing’s done.
This was real free climbing after 8 bolts of real bolt laddering. The fall would be perfect, mosty into space with only enough scraping to make it worth it. Even if a bolt blew, there’d be another perfect bolt just feet below it; all crux free sections should be protected by more-than-vertical bolt ladders. I took another breath, released the fifi and went for it again. A few more moves this time and I found myself liebacking a triangle of rock with my right hand in order to step my right foot up. I could see the moves: step over, stem left foot, reach through left hand for… for… I made a grunt that masked my desire to squeal in fear and downclimbed back to the ladder.
Now I was doing the thing that I hate the most, looking down at Dixie and apologizing for not doing things right the first time. Apologizing for the time she was sitting there. Apologizing for making her feel like she needed to encourage me. She smiled at me and went back and forth between telling me she believed in me and yelling at me to stop whining. Yelling that she had me if I fell and that I should just know that she was judging my manhood silently in her head the longer I sat there being afraid of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. She could be the perfect woman.
A few more false starts and I decided that I wasn’t going to find the easy way that I had envisioned in my head when I read “5.9” A phrase from sport climbing came back into my head, “You’re in a gym. You’re in a gym.” These moves were similar, just not chalked, marked, taped, and bolted on. I thought of how nonchalantly I could walk up to a 12b in the gym and lead it to the top. Then I thought about how I’ve been tired and scared on the 5.9 of The Wet Kiss on the East Side.
I made my agreement with myself to try again to failure. If I was coming back down, it would be the fast way, no downclimbing. In the gym, my partners and I have “no take fill-in-the-day” days of climbing; I looked at Dixie and yelled, “No take Saturday!” She responded quickly,
I had already started to move.
Hug two pinched jugs to step my feet up, right hand up to the triangle shaped hold, lean left, right foot up, step over, stem left, reach left hand through to nothing, bring it back to hand match on the triangle hold, right hand up to a small edge, open hand turns to crimp, right hip in, step left higher, right foot out, knee bent, reach left for big juggy hold, realize it’s not a juggy hold, reverse left hand back to face to palm the flat holds out there, right hand higher and more crimping, wishing I had chalked up, stem feet a bit more, reach left for another big hold and pull myself up with a arching back like I was doing the salutations to the sun. I’m on the ledge and staring at an orange biner on the redirect bolt, clipping my rope and moving to the anchor to the right.
Dixie is silent and waiting for my usual whoop. I instead lean against the wall with my hands flat and feel my legs shake.
The last time I was scared this way was across the gulley on the Balconies. I had tried to keep climbing above Lava Falls and had been turned back by an army of suicide bolts and holds fighting the opposite of trench warfare. The Pinnacles has a way of bringing out this part of myself. Soon Dixie is on belay and knocking rocks out of the wall as she comes up the bolt ladder.
“This is bullsh#t.” She sounds like me when I have fun.
I look up at the next pitch and wonder how to convince Dixie that we should rap back to the ground and climb something less stressful. I did not know what to do about my feelings about the pitch I had just completed. I couldn’t stop smiling because the quality of movement to get to the anchors was something I seldom found outdoors on routes below 5.11... and yet, at the same time, I felt like I had just climbed two separate pitches in one. A video game with a level of all jump and kick followed by a boss that was all duck and punch. What is a route supposed to be, continuous or good? And was good climbing that was easily distracted still good? My heartbeat worked as a timekeeper, and by the time Dixie reached the belay, my leg had long since stopped shaking and I had reclimbed the sequence to the anchors at least 10 more times.
I offer Dixie the next pitch at the belay. She looks at me rather than the climbing above her. “This is your pitch” I nod and grab my quickdraws off of her and make the moves into the chute. What followed was consistently fun, technical, and solid. I was moving over the rock like water and never thought about the fact that I was on an early route with rock I should hold with more suspect.
This pitch was like moving through time and was over much faster than I wanted it to be. More than once I would yell down to Dixie “This pitch is amazing!” and “You’re going to love these moves.” Her eye rolling echoed off of the Flumes formation across the gulley.
The next pitch was Dixie’s and she set off with a determination that I study in the mirror at home so that I can try to exude it when others are watching. Easy 5.7 munge hiking I had described to her. Once she was out of reach, the cascading flow of leaves and dust rolling down the groove made me question the ease of the pitch.
“ROCK!” I hear the familiar helicopter whomp whomp of rocks coming from above me. This one has a deeper tone than I’ve been hearing. I have moments of inaction before my mind stops converting metric to standard and instead converts pitch to size. I flatten myself to the wall as a rock that was once the size of a grapefruit bounces to the right of me, shattering into smaller golf balls and continuing its crashing helicopter imitation towards the ground. Dixie yells again and I get comfortable as more rocks tumble past, these smaller and hitting me as dust by the time they reach me. I think of Ash Wednesday. Dixie yells again, “Did you say something?”
“I’m at the bolts!”
Once I begin to climb, I feel like a scuba diver. The rock is alive with pancaked fungus and blackened flakes that look like leaves. Orange piecrust that looks no different from the epoxy spilling out in a halo of security around all of the bolts. I am at odds as to whether the ease of flicking the orange mold off the rock affects my faith in glue reinforcement.
I am instituting a new style of climbing: windshield wipers of rubber with my feet. Every step slides back and forth to clear the step. Still they crinkle like the unwrapping of a present as I step on the holds. My hands are tentative with each new hold that flexes and cracks in my hand. I can no longer see the meadow below me and now must worry about who might be below us. I am in a minefield that’s more like a mine garden. I wish for a leaf blower.
At the belay Dixie asks me if I noticed a specific loose rock that she had to avoid. “I left it there because it wouldn’t fit in my pocket.” When I was at that point in the climb, I had counted six different protruding rocks that were standing on a ledge, threatening to jump at any time. I had made stemming moves far above the grade of the pitch to avoid weighting them, all the while converting the distance Dixie would have been above the last bolt when making the same moves then doubling the distance, as any lead fall would require. Forty feet.
“It was like climbing through a pile of leaves.” She was smiling and looking at the next pitch. “It reminded me of when we used to rake leaves up back in North Carolina and jump into the pile. People used to leave piles in front of their house for the county to pick up and we would jump into those too.
“That sounds a bit more fun that this pitch was.” She crinkled her nose when she smiled
“But then they had to stop putting their leaves like that because the piles would be partly in the road and someone would put cinder blocks under the leaves. Then, if a car drove through the pile, they would hit the cinder blocks.” Now my nose crinkled. “I think I may have missed a bolt.”
“There’s supposed to be knobs you can sling.” I thought of the various chicken heads, attached to the rock by piecrust epoxy.
“I didn’t even think of that. I guess there were some big breadboxed sized ones that would have worked.” She had instinctively taken out a sling and was practicing girth hitching it to her fist. “The bigger the block the better, right?”
“Solid as cinder blocks.”
The last pitch goes quickly and is more fun that I felt it would be after coming through pitch three. Dixie places a red C3 into a just wide enough slot and swims up the chute. I follow into the chute via 5.5 rated moves that do not seem to take into account the disintegrating nature of the exposed but easy moves.
Once in the tube I begin to laugh out loud and giggle to myself as I hike up what amounts to a tunnel with a convertible top. This is a convertible of a pitch, the bad stuff over, all that’s left is the floating down the highway until you turn a corner and there is the belay. I see Dixie and stop for a second. Between us is a slung knob, girth hitched and barely more than a beauty mark on the face of the chute I’m climbing. “You like my slung knob?” I take out my camera and take a picture. Dixie feigns exasperation as my giggling turns to full and loud laughter. I decide that Dixie is ready for aiding routes with crap placements.
“This whole place is bullsh#t.” She still sounds like me when I'm having fun. “Why are we here instead of on granite?”
“Anyone will climb granite.”
“Smart people climb granite”
“There are lots of smart people.”
“Never thought I’d be happy to be so stupid.” She puts the rock back into the crater it came from.
I reach for her hand and we listen to the sound of falcons somewhere on the face of the ridge. She sits in silence next to me and clicks her helmet against mine as she rests her head on my shoulder.
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Route info can be found here: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/los-banditos/108388241
West Side, Machete Ridge, (West face, upper)
Los Banditos (5.10a A1)
Jim McConachie, Brad Young, Erik Bratton, Dennis Erik Strom
The natural continuation of the Bandits in Bondage pitches. Four pitches.
Approach via the first pitch of the route The West Face (route # 811). Fifty feet past the end of this pitch (to the north, The West Face traverses after its first pitch) is a small meadow. Los Banditos starts from this meadow, 100 feet right of the start of Rock Around the Clock.
Pitch one (60 feet):
start on a small pedestal of rock. Six aid bolts on an overhanging face lead up and left to a small roof which is at the bottom of a water streak. Two more aid bolts lead over the roof.
Intimidating free moves from the eighth bolt (5.9) lead to a ledge and one directional bolt.
The first pitch anchor is 5 feet to the right.
Pitch two (110 feet):
This excellent pitch continues up the obvious water chute past 10 bolts (10 includes the directional from the first pitch).
Getting into the chute is 5.9; two bulges higher in the chute are each 5.10a. The pitch finishes with 15 feet of easy slab to a stance and a two bolt belay.
Pitch 3 (195 feet):
Continue up the chute past five bolts on increasingly easy and runout climbing. The crux is after the second bolt (5.7). Large knobs can be slung for additional protection.
One hundred fifty feet up, the chute branches. Take the straight up branch (that is, don't take the branch to the left).
A two bolt anchor is obvious on a low angle slab, 30 feet below the bottom of the water chute which is descended as part of the Old Original Rappel Bypass variation (route # 836).
Pitch Four (90 feet):
Climb the deeper chute which is 30 feet left (north) of the chute which makes up the Rappel Bypass (these chutes are obvious on page 338 of the guidebook). Small cams (the only gear on the route) can be used to protect the moves into the chute (5.5); the chute then becomes class three and four (and can be further protected by slung knobs).
End on the top of Machete Ridge, at a pine which is 30 feet from the end of Old Original's third pitch.
Source(s): Brad Young, part of the first ascent party.
FA Details: Route was started in October, 2007
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