Trip ReportSpace Babble rebolting photo TR - 5/26/08
Space Babble rebolting & inspection - 5/26,27, 5/30,6/1/2008
Way more than you really want to know about rebolting Space Babble!
I first became interested in Space Babble after seeing the
action photo of Ron Fawcett in Yosemite Climber:
Detailed caption from back of the book:
Ron Fawcett beginning the hard section on Space Babble (5.11) on the
North-East Face of Middle Cathedral Rock.
This hard climb takes a line between the Kor/Beck and Bircheff/Williams routes.
It involves five sustained pitches of steep face climbing which gradually get easier,
but less well protected. This first (crux) pitch takes a line up under the overlap to the
right until it is possible to break through on to the upper face by a move to the left.
A protection bolt here is followed by 15ft. of hard climbing to another bolt.
Thereafter the climb continues up the wall above for four more pitches (5.10, 5,10, 5.9, 5.9).
Kevin Worrall and Ron Kauk made the first ascent of this fine route in 1977.
Photo by Pete Livesey
Looking at the topo, clearly it was too hard and runout for me to lead.
Here is a revised/current topo, showing all the fixed pitons and based on
Randy Vogel's original topo:
Since it intersects the Kor-Beck, there is a fairly risk free
alternative to leading it - simply rappel down it and toprope the pitches.
on the Central Pillar and traversing left to the Kor-Beck. The toproping
on Space Babble was fun, except the p3 anchor was rather
sketchy, with one fixed pin sticking out a bit and the other with its eye
We also ran a bit short on time and did not have the daylight to
try the lowest pitches, which are the hardest.
In late 2006, a thread titled "Road to Space Babble?" appeared here
where several people shared their stories
of leading this route, back in the day.
The condition of the bolts was considered rather poor,
although at least one fairly recent ascent was noted.
A discussion about how to deal with the missing fixed pins
also commenced - the concept of a "pinbolt" (piton with bolt drilled
through the blade) was suggested to keep the fixed pins from falling out.
I stated my intent to replace the bolts the next spring (2007),
but for various reasons it did not get done.
As spring 2008 approached, motivation to do the job was high,
and fortunately Kevin Willoh wanted to do some rebolting,
so we chose a date right after Memorial Day Weekend.
The final preparations were complete when Greg Barnes sent me a box
of ideal belay bolt hangers (Fixe double ring hangers with the ASCA stamp)
on short notice,
and I hit up my rebolting buddy Bruce Hildenbrand
for his supply of ASCA 3/8" x 2.25" stainless Powers bolts.
Plans for climbing Saturday and Sunday that weekend were washed out
by rain, but I drove into the Valley on Sunday night through more rain and
low clouds, and was glad to find Kevin parked at the designated campsite.
Day 1 - Monday - up the Kor-Beck, with Kevin Willoh
the previous two days, but it is on the edge of a buttress and dried
of the Kor-Beck - slightly scruffy rock and a few plants.
It started to sprinkle when I was leading this pitch, so we paused
but kept going after it didn't get too serious.
ground from wherever we ended up.
we didn't have time to check it out much.
p3 was nicer climbing - clean fingerlocks and a small roof near the end.
this bolted anchor on the new route.
We had a minor epic when I tried hauling my pack, because it clipped itself
into a cam - Kevin had to climb up with a self-belay to clear the jam.
I climbed just high enough in the
middle crack system to place a rappel anchor (a nut and sling around a flake),
so we could rap into Space Babble.
However, it started raining and it looked like we were going to get wet,
so we fixed our ropes down the Kor-Beck from this high point and
rapped off without replacing any bolts on the first day.
When we rapped off, I did manage to clean an old fixed .5 Tech Friend
from an apparent dead end on p1.
Kevin investigated a knotted fixed rope, but the rock was too wet/slick
to swing left enough to access its anchor.
Day 2 - Tuesday - Space Babble rebolting, with Kevin Willoh
We started out by jugging up our fixed ropes.
I swung over to check out the fixed pro on Space Babble p7 and fix the p6 anchor,
while Kevin organized our other ropes.
traverse between us.
with the tuning fork, so I used the old knifeblades method.
Not as rusty and fragile as the bolts on Greasy But Groovy which
Roger, Ryan and I replaced last summer - I guess those saw a lot more water.
Maybe a little scary to take a factor-2 fall onto, though.
3/8" drill bit (carbide tip), still usable after many years/holes.
I'm down below, replacing the protection bolt on p6.
for face climbing.
When I finished, I jugged up the fixed line and rapped to join Kevin.
while Space Babble p6 has one bolt in the entire ~100' pitch.
pro bolts and thicker Fixe double ring hangers at belays.
It was starting to rain steadily at this point.
extract and replace it, so we just replaced its hanger.
one new bolt.
replacement of the former fixed piton belay, with permission from the FA folks.
Kevin commented that the stream of water helped lubricate the drilling!
Cold and soaked, we fixed our ropes and headed for the ground.
We were lucky, as the 70m rope just reached the ground from the p3
anchor (with rope stretch), so we didn't have to pass the knot on rappel.
The rain continued into early evening, and the forecast was even worse
Kevin headed off with Victor and Allison to Tollhouse,
which looked to be drier.
I counted 10 bolts left to replace on Space Babble and realized
I would need 2 more days to finish, so I headed home.
This gave my tendons some rest while I hoped the rock
would dry out and my ropes would still be there when I returned the
Days 3 and 4 - Saturday/Sunday - Space Babble rebolting, solo
I returned the next weekend, carpooling with Jim and Wei, so I didn't
have to spend another $50 for gas to drive myself up to the Valley and back!
The weather had cleared out nicely, and with fixed ropes hopefully
in place I figured it should be straightforward to finish the rebolting.
I hiked up and was relieved to see my ropes were still there
(I've had several taken in the past when I've dropped them to the base of El Cap);
we hadn't brought materials for leaving a note with the ropes when we
left them in the rain on Tuesday afternoon.
The rebolting was fairly tedious - jumar or rappel to the next target,
pull the old bolt, enlarge/deepen the hole, install a new bolt.
It was a little more fun to find and test the fixed pitons. Most of them
were still in place and still good, with a few exceptions.
Since photos of solo rebolting are extremely boring (no climber in the frame!),
I'll stop the chronological trip report at this point and switch to a summary of what the lower pitches look like now, with the photos of the
old bolts, upgraded bolts and fixed pitons.
Space Babble - current condition of the route
Space Babble p1
None of the original fixed pins were in place
on p1, and it had been led without them;
Aliens or TCUs protect the lower section.
I noticed the "pointed flake" on Randy's topo at the move over the roof had
broken off, and I wasn't sure if that had happened recently.
but left the ferns in place, noting 1-2 blue Aliens protect after the mantle.
It was probably a baby angle straight up under the roof;
orange stain visible there.
This spot will take a good small cam now (like a green alien or #1 TCU).
flake, and hopefully above any holds useful for moving over the roof.
It may be difficult to reach for a short climber.
I think if the "pointed flake" had been missing on the FA,
they may have chosen to place a pin there.
In a recent post (after my rebolting) on the supertopo.com forum,
Scott Cosgrove explained the flake broke while he was leading it;
he plunged and nearly decked!
This was placed at a sloping stance and there is a small orange edge
which could have potentially been grabbed on the FA if something went wrong
This tuning fork is made from a longer and thinner Lost Arrow than
the standard one, which makes it easier to get started under the hanger.
I don't actually time myself when I'm drilling - too depressing! :-)
This is the one which Kevin Worrall placed from the desperate stem between
two shallow dishes on the first ascent!
Obviously, the photo does not convey any of this....
My job was much easier - I had a 60m rope fixed to the p2 belay anchor,
so I was only risking a bit of a swing to the left if my feet skidded.
farther from the 3/8" bolt which had been added in the past.
(if bolts are placed too close together, perhaps less than twice
their depth, the rock between them is more likely to fracture under a
high load, hence the new hole)
hanger shortly after)
Space Babble p2
down and left from the p2 anchor;
same type as other Space Babble bolts, but not on any topo.
I wasn't sure if it might be an original or later left finish for
p2, or an unknown route which joins Space Babble (maybe "Yabo Babble"?).
I felt the latter theory was less likely, since if it was on an
unknown route coming in from the left, it would have been placed from
a higher and easier stance just to the left.
my drill bit broke off and was embedded at the bottom of the hole for awhile).
(maybe not very well; I'm new at that).
Space Babble p3
The big hold between the pins is a bit loose.
on the right.
The new bolts were added with permission from the FA party.
They are my own bolts and hangers, since ASCA only replaces existing bolts
(we don't want to create controversy by adding bolts).
The stainless chain, quicklinks and rings are from ARI.
protected from water/rust in its deep niche.
didn't have a hammer to test/reseat the pins.
The upper pin was a 5/8" angle, driven diagonally upwards.
(fairly strong, as it turned out)
The lower pin was a Dolt version of a Lost Arrow, driven partway in.
(not too deep after 32 years and fairly weak, as it turned out)
These are somewhat rare, so I offered to return it to Kevin Worrall,
but he let me keep it as a token for the rebolting - cool!
So it goes in my collection with the homemade aluminum hanger with initials
YC from East Quarter Dome.
Oops, my true reason for rebolting is revealed -
it's all about the booty! :-)
Space Babble p4
(not very resistant to hammer blows, because it's under an expanding flake)
p4 original second fixed pin was gone, but protects well with a 2" cam and nut
Space Babble p5
hole that would take a cam.
Space Babble p6
Space Babble p7
traverse between us.
from a former fixed piton noted on Randy Vogel's detailed topo.
the tip to penetrate even 1/8".
I think a small piece of the flake chipped off in
the past. It could be replaced by a bolt if the FA party decide that is
a good idea.
(There is a good stance right here where a bolt could be placed on lead).
Recent Trip Reports
Other Routes on Middle Cathedral