Sun Spot Dihedral 5.11b

 
  • Currently 5.0/5
Search
Go

Incredible Hulk


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Sunspot Dihedral, Incredible Hulk, July 3rd 2009
Wednesday December 16, 2009 12:38am
The epitome of the Sunspot
The epitome of the Sunspot
Credit: alpinerockfiend

Like some of the other TRs, this one came about with the onset of an Arctic cold front over Bozeman, which kept me inside more than I could bear this past week. Anyway, it's my first TR, so please critique at will!

The alarm wakes us up at 4:30 AM on the morning of July 3rd, 2009. We hop out of our bags, put on the light layers we'd laid out the night before, cook a quick oatmeal breakfast, double-check our packs and drive away from our bivy at the south end of Twin Lake towards the Barney Lakes trailhead, gateway to the Incredible Hulk.
Though it's our first trip of the season to this beloved crag, we somehow navigate the confusing maze of RV park without error all the way to the trailhead, actually quite a feat in the predawn darkness. We blaze through the relatively flat first 40 minutes of trail, covering quick ground while the sun slowly lights the aspen groves and sage meadows of this wide Sierra valley. Eventually we reach the spot I remembered from last year, a large tree overlooking a meadow near Robinson Creek and just before the mouth of Little Slide Canyon. Leaving the trail at this point is always a small act of faith, as I've been buggered before attempting to cross the runoff-swollen creek in an inopportune spot. Luckily, my intuition serves me well and we cross the creek uneventfully, in more or less the same spot I used last summer.

Miranda sending the approach crux.
Miranda sending the approach crux.
Credit: alpinerockfiend

With the approach crux behind us, we climb the steep lower headwall, switchbacking through a gorgeous shady forest. Reaching the middle of beautiful Little Slide Canyon, we're treated to a gorgeous display of orange alpenglow as the spires and cliffs along the western side of the canyon gather the day's light. In these perfect, inspiring conditions, we blast through the approach and find ourselves in the sandy, alpine bivy zone beneath the talus leading to the base of the Hulk.
We pull out the rack, rope, shoes, and a light daypack with a couple of small extra layers, food and water for the route and hang our packs on a stick extending off a boulder.
Before hiking up, we run into a pretty large group of climbers who I assume will be starting up the Red Dihedral and Positive Vibrations shortly. After chatting with them, I learn they probably won't be climbing today due to getting worked on Solar Flare and Tradewinds the previous day. I sheepishly regret my assumption and ask if they had any heads-up beta for Sunspot. From one of them, we learned that topping out that route in particular somewhat sucked, and that since we'd brought a tag line, we might as well rap Solar Flare from the top of the sixth pitch. Leaving our approach shoes on the ground sounded great to us, so Miranda and I decide to rap. Armed with this new info, we set off towards the shady wall of the Hulk.

Psyched to send, not to have the picture taken.
Psyched to send, not to have the picture taken.
Credit: alpinerockfiend

We flake the rope out at the base of of the popular Positive Vibrations start, which our topo showed as the proper way to start up the Sunspot (I later learned, in the new edition of Secor's book, that Sunspot has its own independent start, but the popular PV start works really well). Having climbed Positive Vibes once before, I knew the first two guidebook pitches would link in a full 70m pitch (and the tiniest bit of simuling).What a way to start the day! 70+ meters of 5.10 crack climbing on the side of an immense flank of impeccable granite- more than enough to get any climber started on the right foot.Miranda leads the next short pitch and brings us to where Sunspot arches out leftward from PosiVibes. Pitch 3 proves the mental crux of the day (for me). Miranda had been on this route before to just beyond this point, and had this lead. When we'd talked about the route before, she'd always downplayed this lead in her characteristic badass style, revealing nothing and making it sound “not so bad”. Our Supertopo rates the pitch 5.10 “spooky”, but withheld an R rating. At the least, all of this spotty info arouses my curiousity.
The pitch starts out easily enough, classic Gram Traverse-like underclinging out a roof with great crafty footwork underneath. The gear is tiny but good, and slinging everything long, I transition into a beautiful handcrack.

Underclinging under the roof. Miranda photo.
Underclinging under the roof. Miranda photo.
Credit: alpinerockfiend

Transitioning into the crack. Miranda photo.
Transitioning into the crack. Miranda photo.
Credit: alpinerockfiend

Handcrack. Miranda photo
Handcrack. Miranda photo
Credit: alpinerockfiend

Too quickly, the handcrack ends. What's left is a low angle, 90 degree corner, totally devoid of features or a crack in the back. For some reason, there's a hangerless bolt way out to my right. Totally out of slings from the wandering nature of the pitch, I slide a nut over the bolt, cinch it up, and use the double length I have for belay anchors. With this somewhat questionable pro, I carefully press on, aiming for a bolt (with a hanger this time) about 15 or 20 feet above me in the little corner. Putting my faith in friction gets me to a good stance and a bolt, which I thankfully clip with a locking carabiner and make a crazy, unrateable jump-like move to access yet another corner. A few more adrenaline fueled moves bring me to the belay anchor, grateful for two bolts easily equalized with the rope.

Miranda following the "scary" part of the corner. At least I thought i...
Miranda following the "scary" part of the corner. At least I thought it was!
Credit: alpinerockfiend

Above us, the beauty of the Sunspot that we've viewed from the ground and numerous photos unveils itself. And I'm stoked to have the previous pitch behind us! The pitch above marks the spot where Miranda and another partner had been shut down the previous summer. In fact, their bail gear was still situated in the crack about 30' up, where they'd rapped from- a testament to how even with the Hulk's increasing popularity, a megaclassic like this still can go unclimbed for almost a calendar year!
It's Miranda's lead, and she's psyched. This pitch shut her down last year. Now after a spring spent in Indian Creek and Yosemite Valley, she feels a good bit more prepared. Though the technical crux, the first 15 or 20 feet off the belay, looks thin, both gear and climbing wise. Aggravating the situation, she'd accidentally dropped a good selection of our tiniest nuts, apparently kind of crucial for the crux here.
After a bit of psyching up and some careful up-and-down climbing, she gets a decent small TCU, commits to beautiful stemming and crimping on square cut edges that pepper the corner, and reaches a good fingerlock. From here, it's a test of enduring 160' of beautiful, sustained stemming and jamming on the Sierra's finest face. Needless to say, Miranda cruises. Still one of the greatest leads I've ever seen in the mountains.

Me following the supercorner. Miranda photo.
Me following the supercorner. Miranda photo.
Credit: alpinerockfiend

High in the supercorner. Miranda photo
High in the supercorner. Miranda photo
Credit: alpinerockfiend

From here, though the technical crux of the route lies above us, we feel relieved. Both of us had been curious to see how our time in the Valley benefited us this summer, and we saw the corner pitch as the true test of how much we'd gained. We were pretty pleased with the result.
The crux above us, my lead, is a short, overhanging corner with a large dike running diagonally across it. Two bolts and some thin gear protect it. I'm pretty worked by this time, and pulling the moves are a struggle, to say the least. But it's done clean, the reward being the remaining 70' of beautiful handcrack corner, climbing through the Sunspot itself, with gorgeous orange lichen on the left wall and typical white Hulk granite on the other.
One more pitch of sustained fingerlocking and liebacking bring us to the anchor where Solar Flare and Sunspot meet, the end of climbing for us. Both of us sort of regret not topping out, but have a pretty hard time feeling anything negative after such an amazing route.

Miranda peacing out on top of Sunspot.
Miranda peacing out on top of Sunspot.
Credit: alpinerockfiend

A few double rope raps lead us to the ground again, where we recollect some of the dropped stoppers, pack up and leave the Hulk behind once again. Though I'll return a couple more times this summer, there's nothing that I find on either of the routes that can compare to the quality of climbing a spectacular route with an incredible partner, making moves at the edge of your ability pitch after pitch, and having the whole shebang run so smoothly.

  Trip Report Views: 4,455
alpinerockfiend
About the Author
alpinerockfiend is a wanker from greater Yosemite.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Ihateplastic

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
  Dec 14, 2009 - 01:59pm PT
ALPINE ROCK... GOTTA LOVE IT! That canyon and the I.H. are both so beautiful!!! Nice work!
rhyang

climber
SJC
  Dec 14, 2009 - 07:53pm PT
Looks wonderful !
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Dec 14, 2009 - 08:40pm PT

First TR on ST, and it's a homerun. Write more!

Nothing beats that feeling of going back to a climb or a pitch that had shut you down, and sending. Congrats to you and to your partner (whom most of us reading this TR would probably secretly like to marry).

A partner and I found multi-anchor bail gear we'd left a year earlier on Hawkman's Escape. Awesome event, multiple cams including a #5 BD recovered with just a spot of rust.
adam d

climber
CA
  Dec 15, 2009 - 03:23am PT
well done, and well told...the Hulk is sweet!
alpinerockfiend

Trad climber
the Magic City
Author's Reply  Dec 15, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
Thanks guys! I appreciate the feedback.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Dec 15, 2009 - 02:07pm PT
awesome tr!
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Dec 15, 2009 - 07:20pm PT
Thanks for sharing, kick ass TR - and nice job on pulling this off in a single day, that approach is not easy in front of such a butt-kicking climb! The corner looks amazing... drool.
norm larson

climber
wilson, wyoming
  Dec 16, 2009 - 06:26pm PT
Great TR Nick. So what are you doing back in Bozeman?
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Dec 16, 2009 - 10:20pm PT
NIce TR. It sounds like an awesome day in the mountains and on rock.
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Dec 17, 2009 - 04:43am PT
Thanks for the awesome TR! That's my favorite route on the Hulk! Really surprising that it doesn't get done more considering how many strong climbers we have around. Check out "Astro-Hulk" and "Escape from Poland" next time. Two even-less-often done megaclassics that are about the same overall difficulty.
alpinerockfiend

Trad climber
the Magic City
Author's Reply  Dec 18, 2009 - 12:39pm PT
Thanks Impaler. I went up on AstroHulk later on in the summer, but I think we got kinda lost. Found myself in a right facing corner about 2 pitches off the "bivy ledge" and it got worse and worse, lichen covering both walls and the crack completely pinching off. I don't think this was the "enduro corner" pitch!! But I've seen the topo for Escape from Poland too, and it looks awesome!
Zander

climber
  Dec 20, 2009 - 05:41pm PT
Great TR! Thanks for posting.
Zander
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 13, 2010 - 03:32pm PT
Excellent adventure. Great photos and fun writing. Thanks for sharing. You two are purdy hard. Well done.
Buju

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Apr 13, 2010 - 07:07pm PT
Great work! Sunspot is pretty much at the top of my list for the alpine summer...
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  May 21, 2010 - 06:08pm PT
great work ladies.
enjoimx

Trad climber
SLO
  May 22, 2010 - 07:19pm PT
Thank you soo much. Second time reading this.
Pate

Trad climber
  May 23, 2010 - 10:27pm PT
on my to do list.

Awesome TR, nice send. And a sweet bump too.
Bschmitz

Ice climber
pdx
  May 24, 2010 - 03:27pm PT
Hey there buddy: Nice TR Nick. you coming out back to yose for the summer or stayng in the bozone? Hope all is well, cant wai to sample the alipne granite this summer, thanks for the stoke.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 29, 2010 - 02:28pm PT
Fantastic TR!
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Aug 23, 2010 - 12:54pm PT
Bump.

Pretty sure that the hanger-less bolt you mention on the "spooky" pitch is for Airstream. Don't know why it is hanger-less though...


BETA ALERT!
You can get a pretty bomber HB offset in the corner to protect the moves to the final bolt. FYI!

 Luke

alpinerockfiend

Trad climber
the Magic City
Author's Reply  Sep 1, 2010 - 11:59am PT
Thanks for all the kind words folks! Pretty excited to see this on the front page after not visiting supertopo for a while.
Karodrinker- I'm a man dude!
Luke- I wish I"d had some offsets back then. That was before I'd seen the light. I'm sure you could wiggle something offset in there. We had none. That hangerless bolt is weird though.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Feb 10, 2011 - 03:35pm PT
Great TR and wonderful pics.

Awesome climbing content bump!!!
Footloose

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Feb 10, 2011 - 06:06pm PT
Yeah, that's pretty awesome. Thanks.
Kudos to both, too, for pulling so strong.
Port

Trad climber
Norwalk, CT
  Feb 11, 2011 - 01:54pm PT
God that looks like fun
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Feb 11, 2011 - 02:37pm PT
Looks like a sweet line! Thanks for the post.
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Feb 11, 2011 - 03:03pm PT
I'm sorry I missed this the first time around. Awesome pictures and write-up, and I really want to head out there!

I hope y'all have continued your odyssey of awesome adventures and send out more reports!
D.Eubanks

Big Wall climber
  Feb 11, 2011 - 03:03pm PT
Great TR, love that clean and pristine alpine feel.


Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go
Incredible Hulk - Sun Spot Dihedral 5.11b - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route as seen from the bivy spot.
Photo: Chris McNamara
Other Routes on Incredible Hulk
Incredible Hulk - Red Dihedral 5.10b - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Red Dihedral, 5.10b
Incredible Hulk
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The route as seen from Maltby Lake.
Incredible Hulk - Positive Vibrations 5.11a - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Positive Vibrations, 5.11a
Incredible Hulk
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The route as seen from the bivy spot.
Incredible Hulk - Falling Dihedral Var. 5.10a - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Falling Dihedral Var., 5.10a
Incredible Hulk
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The route as seen from the bivy spot.