South Face 5.7
Trip ReportSouth Face on North Dome
So for some time the allure of doing South Face and Crest Jewel on North Dome had been calling.. What a cool dome in a cool spot, with a what is sure to be amazing views of the valley...
So finally this weekend we decided to do an alpine start and hike in from porcupine creek trailhead and get one or both done in a day.. we were ambitiously hoping to get both done in a day for a stellar 18 pitch day since hiking out to PC trailhead in the dark is no biggie, unlike trying to do the NDG in the dark..
Ohh and for added difficulty.. of course we are trying to pull this monster day off as a party of 3 using a pair of 8.1 PMI double ropes and simul-climbing followers... ;-)
Here is the rundown on our adventure this weekend..
- 12:30am arrive in the valley from the bay area.. rush to setup camp by headlamp.. (standard bay area weekend valley warrior routine)
- 1:00am sleep
- 3:00am wake up and fumble through slamming some coffee and breakfast trying to rub the lack of sleep out of our eyes
- 3:45am still half asleep start the standard formula 1 SUV ass hauling session up the 120 to the PC trailhead
- 4:30am arrive at PC trailhead and finish sorting gear and supplies for the grueling day ahead.. (functioning with the intellect of 4 year olds from the lack of sleep)
- 5:00am start slogging
- 6:30am arrived at the summit of North Dome.. feeling very tired already due to the lack of sleep and 5 mile slog.. we ended unintentionally taking a long time resting, eating breakfast 2.0 on the summit, and racking up for the routes...
- 7:50am error in judgement due to aforementioned 4 year old intellect from lack of sleep and sloggery..... because we were intending to do both routes, we wanted to stash our packs with resupply materials on the summit so it would be logistically simple to resupply between climbs... seems like a reasonable thought right? well unfortunately that reasonable thought led to the unreasonable decision not to slog all the way back to the saddle on north dome and to the proper decent to the start of the climbs.. but rather to head off on ramps down the side of north dome and hug the base down and around to the start of the climbs... very bad call.. massive helpings of sloggery, bushwhackery, and sketchery ensued....
- 10:15am arrive at the start of the climbs.. OMG seriously? it took us that long to get down here? so now we are running very late, and the likelihood of pulling off both routes today is quickly disappearing.. the idea behind the 3am start was to be starting the first route by no later than 7am... now we are over 3 hours behind schedule as a party of three... now also due to our silly choice of approach strategy's we are finding 3 other parties at the base of the climbs.. @#$@##$ .. so we start the standard discussion of "which route are you guys doing?" and so forth... one party was heading up CJ and the other SF... DAMN... looks like we are waiting.... we didnt care which route we did first... we were just hoping one of them would be free for us start up without waiting..... the SF party was kind enough to let us go first.... maybe we can still pull this off... we should be able to sprint up the 5.7 and then do the correct decent back to CJ latter in the day... lets do this!!
10:30am rope up and start up South Face
- P1 linked P1-2 going knot to knot on the 60m doubles.. ended up out of rope and having to belay at a rap tree (which I think is the official belay for P3)... OMC Im under attack from ANTS... its ANT HELL!! I had to continually beat the ants off the anchor / reverso with a spare quick draw while simul-belaying the followers up... then the ants wised up and switched to a ground attack from below... and completely invaded my pant legs before I knew what hit me.... followers climbed fast.. also helped that I think I maybe only put two pieces of pro in the rope length pitch.... as I climbed this easy first two pitches... I remembered reading the topo that the upper pitches were VERY polished.. and I was noticing that this first couple were already VERY polished.. so my mind was starting to try to envision what they meant for the upper pitches... ;-)
- P3 .....WOW what a COOL an improbable pitch to go at 5.7... figuring out how to conquer the transition up and over was really fun... and after a couple of ginger scouting efforts.. I figured it out and quickly dispatched the moves to get up and over.. in so doing though... I could tell one of my followers (my fiancé) was going to struggle due to being vertically challenged... for me the move to get up over definitely was no harder than 5.7, but involved a reachy, balancey, finger tip unclinngy maneuver to gain a real hold to pull over the lip with.... which I was pretty certain she would not be able to do... which would easily make her attempt to get over go much at a much harder than 5.7 grade... as I feared... she suffered trying to get over.. and peeled off a few times trying to work out a sequence which would go at her height... in peeling off a few times, she managed to properly stick a yellow master cam.. now she had finally dispatched the climbing crux of this pitch.. and the real challenge began for her... trying to liberate the yellow master cam... she worked hard at this for on the order of 30 minutes. with no luck... it was crazy windy.. and therefore we could not really communicate with her... to provide any tricks or tips on un-sticking cams... so after over a half an hour of attempting... we finally managed to tell her to leave the fallen solder on the field... and get up to us... what I have not mentioned thus far... is that at the start of the climb.. it was quite warm and sunny... so I had opted to de-shirt, and stuff my shirt in her pack... I did have an ultralight shell in the cargo pocket of my pants.. but 0 insulation... when I gained the main face of north dome after pulling over that steep corner/roof, the wind was howling at somewhere on the order of 30 - 40 mph and very COLD... I immediately put on my shell.. but by the time she surrendered to liberating the cam... I was near hypothermic... shaking involuntarily.... SUCK!!! as soon as she reached the belay.. I put on every layer in the pack.. and immediately felt better...
- P4 fun and easy pitch up a crack, then thin finger'ish seam... to a no pro traverse... to a bush whacking ledge at the beginning of the two chimney pitches.. the crux of this pitch for me was trying to reasonably manage the double ropes while belaying.... as not to completely entangle them in the manzanita... that said... for someone who's lead head is not completely screwed on, or for whom 5.8'sh climbing is there limit.. they would probably be super sketched out by this 5.5/5.6 pitch....
- P5 ..... the first chimney pitch.... hmmm not sure how to begin describing this thing... I think the topo calls the two chimneys on this pitch 5.6 and 5.7 respectively... which from a technical point of view I agree with... no move was harder than that... however the only gear you can get in this whole chimney bit is a worthless cam in a rotten flake around the end of the 5.6 chimney... mental pro only.. then you have to do the next 30 or 40 feet of 5.7 chimney with no pro at all... looking at a morbid fall potential the whole way... if you blow it in the top of the 5.7 chimney, best case is severe traumatic injury... and of course as the valley gods would have it... the hardest portion of the chimney is the last 5 feet where it squeezes in a bit.. .. being the type of dude I am... I actually really enjoyed it... and kinda laughed and said "well thats not for the faint of heart" as I pulled out of the chimney and finally got a peace of gear in.... but thinking back on it now... I think... had I climbed this route a few years ago when 5.8'sh stuff was close to my limit... i would have shat myself, and fallen out of the thing from sheer terror... the rest of this pitch was fun LB (VERY slippery!!!) to another bushwhacking ledge with really difficult rope management challenges for double ropes...
- P6 ... the second of the chimney pitches... I think this one was called 5.7 in the book.. and I agreed... its a 5.7 chimney... and you could actually get gear in it... so I thought it was actually really fun and pleasant... pretty stress free as flared chimneys go... the interesting bit was switching from right side in during the chimney'ing portion to left side in for beginning the LB... I found a cruiser way to do it, by simply continuing to chimney climb until an obvious bomber hand jam appears which can be used for the swapperooo.... was easy and completely secure way to flip ones self over... that said... to do it that way was more of a hybrid chimney and off-width technique... where by the end I was knee bar/chicken winging to get in position for the bomber hand jam... actually that whole chimney was pretty powerful for the grade.. due to being a bit on the tight side... was also very polished... but secure enough... then once you liberated yourself from the chimney using the aforementioned flippity flop... so began some of the most polished lie backing I have ever done... while I am a far cry from the most experienced valley guy out there.. I have done a fair bit of stuff... and still this was some of the very most slippery granite I have ever put the rubber to.... for any of you who have ever free climbed the first pitch of 'La Escuela' on El Cap.. the ruthless 5.11b polished lie backing test piece on incredibly polished slippery granite... this thing is WAY MORE polished and slippery than that.. WOW
- P7... the 5.8 polished lie backing crux of the route.... well I could spew for a while on how freaking slippery this thing was... instead I will refer you to the previous pitches rant about it... only thing I would add is that you really need a weed eater for this pitch... as it was VERY grass ridden..... however I would like to focus on what I was truly entertained by on this pitch.... towards the end of the pitch there is a supposed 5.5 undercling traverse to gain the belay stance... when I got to this thing I was just laughing out loud to my self about how ridiculous this was... then I just committed and did the thing... and upon finishing it... I thought... well that actually was no big deal 5.5 stuff... but it is the absolutely the most improbable looking 5.5 undercling one could imagine... super fun.... and ridiculously improbable looking...
- P8.... well this is the only pitch where I have to call "bullshit" on the topo rating... coming off the belay was no brainer and easy 5.6 stuff in broken crack systems.... then the topo calls for a bit of un protected 4th class slab to the gain the summit and somewhere to belay up to the point of being safe to un rope.... well I call bullshit on the 4th class portion of the topo... it was probably only about 30 feet or so... but if you do what is indicated by the topo... the climbing is somewhere closer to 5.7 unprotected slab... and no where near 4th class.... maybe if I had tried harder to look around for a while, I could have found some 4th class way to do it... but personally I am not bothered or slowed down by a bit of 5.7 unprotected slab, so I just went that way and it was fine... then from there it was certainly easy 3rd/4th to a reasonable place to belay and eventually un rope...
- 4:00pm on the summit again... DAMN... that took WAY longer than anticipated to complete.... between the cam liberation issue, the lack of sleep, followers having to manage trailing packs through the chimneys, howling icy winds.. etc... we took close to twice the time I expected we would to finish this thing... obviously doing Crest Jewel was going to have to wait for another day...
- Summation of my experience on South Face
Well I actually really enjoyed the climb... thought it was good fun... I had read quite a bit calling this route a sandbag... and im torn on how I feel about that... I guess the only comment I can make on that is this.... technically speaking its true to the grade... however in my opinion if you are not at least a solid 5.10 valley leader... you will NOT enjoy leading most of this route...at least not P4 and above.... these days its exceptionally rare that I have any pause on 5.8'ish climbing.. and there were quite a number of spots on this climb where I actually had to get serious like I was leading hard 5.11 stuff... that said... I led this thing on a single rack to 3"... which I also don't recommend even for solid 5.11 climbers... no matter how good you are... some bits of this climb are so slippery they could spit anyone off without warning.... generally speaking I have no issues being runout, as I consider knowing myself and my limitations the most important aspect of my safety... but being honest... on this climb, with some of the sick polished bits... I was pretty unhappy not to have brought a double rack...
all in all... awesome adventure climb!
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