Moon Goddess Arete 5.8

 
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Temple Crag


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Temple to Thunderbolt Traverse (5.9 V?, C2C) | Finding solace in plan B
Wednesday October 17, 2012 2:08am
Dedicated to my friends and fellow Sierra aficionados Gil Weiss and Ben Horne (who said I didn’t write enough trip reports). RIP.

Opportunity knocks
It was June when I received a job offer for a remote gig at at an open source database startup. I managed to negotiate three weeks of time off between jobs and had already finished all of my projects at my current employer in anticipation of ditching. There was no question where I would be spending my month off. The High Sierra was calling me.

It was early for my alpine season and I worried that I wouldn’t get in enough training to do anything big, especially given that this time of year is notoriously stormy by Sierra standards. I had been toying with the idea of soloing the Minarets Traverse as my summer goal; word around Bishop was that it was the next big traverse worth doing after Evolution. Word was also that it was scary chossy and atypical of Sierra routes in terms of the type of climbing and route-finding.

And so it begins
I set out on an every third day climbing schedule starting with the Harding Route on Conness (10c, IV). Despite residing at ~5500 ft in Colorado I was dragging on the approach with a 70m rope in my pack. This was going to be an uphill battle.

Mike starting the 10c crux pitch of the Harding Route on Conness
Mike starting the 10c crux pitch of the Harding Route on Conness
Credit: noriko nakagawa

As usual the first pitch was wet, but I found a slightly runout start to the right that avoided most of the slime. If there’s anything that in Eldorado Canyon teaches you, it’s how to keep a cool head leading runout sketchy rock. I was glad to have Mike along to lead the offwidth pitch, grovelly enough without the 12,000 ft of elevation. I was also not disappointed when he became impatient and asked to lead the 10b pitch, which turned out also to be wet, but this time with few alternatives.

Tidying up loose ends
Three days later I set out to address some unfinished business, the E Arete of Bear Creek Spire (5.8, 22 pitches). I had attempted to solo this aesthetic line in September of 2008 with Jascha, but had hit that point in the season where I needed a mental break from soloing. The rock quality was nowhere near as good at the N or NE Arete and there were sections of verglas, which gave me yet more reasons to bail.

the enticing E Arete of Bear Creek Spire
the enticing E Arete of Bear Creek Spire
Credit: noriko nakagawa

This time I knew to avoid the crumbling chimney, which I had previously used to gain the ridge. The first portion of the climb was familiar from before (minus the verglas). I passed the first crux and our previous bail point, and headed into uncharted territory. I avoided the crumbling towers to the right and made it to the second crux a very exposed improbable “5.8” headwall (I later read that Secor calls this 5.8 A0 and that Bob Harrington hadn’t done the direct line when he soloed the route). I went to the right here and climbed up a face to the right, which I would rate in the 5.7-8 range. After this it was Sierra class 4 picket fence to the summit.

After some cragging in Pine Creek my next alpinish objective was the Tenaya, Matthes, Cathedral, Eichorn (5.7, IV), a link-up for which I was long overdue. Matthes is one of my favorite climbs. I met up with a group of three college friends half-way through Matthes who had a similar agenda and we continued on to Cathedral and Eichorn. They opted for the shuttle back to Tenaya Lake, missing what I thought was one of the best parts of the day, the descent down the drainage from Cathedral Lake.

Cameron about to top out on the SE Buttress of Cathedral Peak
Cameron about to top out on the SE Buttress of Cathedral Peak
Credit: noriko nakagawa

drainage from Cathedral Lakes
drainage from Cathedral Lakes
Credit: noriko nakagawa

I returned back to Bear Creek Spire for a solo up the N Arete (5.8, III). I was moving fast, and was starting to feel like I might be able to pull something bigger off before I had to return home.

Valley Reunion
A glutton for more wide punishment I let Nathan talk me into doing Steck-Salathé (5.10-, 14 pitches) on the Sentinel. I hadn’t been to the Valley in 10+ years and what better way to reunite? Other than the Narrows, whose polished walls kicked my ass, it went pretty well mostly thanks to Nathan’s wide skills but partly to my ability to select leads that climbed like Eldo (Wilson Overhang) or involved slab.

Nathan nearing the top of P3 (Wilson Overhang); climbs like Eldo!
Nathan nearing the top of P3 (Wilson Overhang); climbs like Eldo!
Credit: noriko nakagawa

Somehow I managed to stay awake to make the almost three hour drive back to Bishop.

Resetting expectations
Then on July 5th I learned that Michael Ybarra had died while soloing the Sawtooth Traverse, and I started to question whether I was in the right headspace for the Minarets Traverse or any traverse. As soloists we realize that the stakes are high, but for some of us the rewards are even greater, whether that be the meditative state that comes with the intense focus or freedom of movement or self-medication. It's easy to be dismissive when someone falls soloing 5.12 or half a world away, but when it happens on one of the Sierra traverses that hits home.

My time in the Sierra was dwindling and I was feeling physically strong. I deliberated for several days over what route to do and settled on plan B, a link-up of two of my favorite routes, Moon Goddess Arete on Temple Crag and Sill to Thunderbolt. I had done separate link-ups of the Grade IV routes Temple (Sun Ribbon Arete), Galey, Sill and Sill to Thunderbolt (several times) previously but never all at once. I was pretty worked last year on the Sun Ribbon to Sill link-up and I questioned whether I could even finish the whole thing car-to-car, but I knew that I would be on familiar terrain and that if I got in over my head (mentally or physically) it would be relatively easy to escape.

On July 8th with 4.5 hours of sleep I set out from the Big Pine Creek trailhead at 2:30 am. I reached the base of Moon Goddess at first light. I am not big on alpine starts but seeing the rising sun set Dark Star aglow was breathtaking. I spent a lot of time on Moon Goddess last year and the landmarks are engrained in my memory: the super exposed first tower traverse, the Ibrium tower bypass (watch for the loose microwave sized block), the blocky gully to the giant block, and the short but committing liebacks.

first light on Temple
first light on Temple
Credit: noriko nakagawa

first tower on Moon Goddess Arete
first tower on Moon Goddess Arete
Credit: noriko nakagawa

The portion I was least familiar with, having only done it once, was Temple to Galey. Unfortunately, it is also the section with the worst rock and somewhat convoluted route-finding. More than once I have stood on the summit of Temple and talked myself out of continuing on to Galey, but not today. I feared that I would waste a lot of time route-finding, but I managed to mostly remember the route we had taken the previous year.

the choss that is Galey
the choss that is Galey
Credit: noriko nakagawa

I reached the base of the Swiss Arete around 12:30. I knew that as long as I could get to Thunderbolt and down Underhill Couloir (ideally off the moraine) before it was completely dark I would be home free. I was feeling surprisingly good (far better than last year) and after exchanging some friendly banter with Mike (who was doing T-bolt to Sill) I was able to do the Swiss Arete in under an hour.

Sill to T-bolt
Sill to T-bolt
Credit: noriko nakagawa

I cruised over easy terrain to Polemonium and down the spiraling downclimb into the U-notch.

Polemonium and beyond from Sill
Polemonium and beyond from Sill
Credit: noriko nakagawa

downclimb off of Polemonium into the U-notch
downclimb off of Polemonium into the U-notch
Credit: noriko nakagawa

I headed up the N Chimney and ran into two guys, Joel and Dave from the Bay Area. One of them said, “Aren’t you fossana from summitpost? We have your Thunderbolt to Sill beta. Hey, do you know how to get down from N Pal?” I probably should have sent them down the U-notch, but I told them they could rap down Underhill Couloir after Starlight, which resulted in me having to show them how to get there.

Joel and Dave from Oakland
Joel and Dave from Oakland
Credit: noriko nakagawa

Starlight summit block
Starlight summit block
Credit: noriko nakagawa

They were very grateful, but it killed at least an extra hour, an extra hour that I would have had to cross the heinous moraine and maybe even get down the tricky section of the Galey Camp trail. I left them partway down Starlight and headed up the Thunderbolt. That summit block definitely feels a lot different with an extra six summits under your belt, but I did it!

T-bolt summit block
T-bolt summit block
Credit: noriko nakagawa

traverse recap: Temple, Galey, Sill
traverse recap: Temple, Galey, Sill
Credit: noriko nakagawa

traverse recap part II: Sill, N Pal, Starlight from T-bolt
traverse recap part II: Sill, N Pal, Starlight from T-bolt
Credit: noriko nakagawa

Well, almost did it; the biggest mental crux for me is always downclimbing the silty, teetering bowling ball sized rock-filled death gully that is Underhill Couloir. Joel and Dave weren’t too far ahead of me and by the time they pulled their rope we were both standing on the Palisade Glacier in rapidly fading light.

Underhill Couloir, the final crux
Underhill Couloir, the final crux
Credit: noriko nakagawa

With the low snow year the crevasses on the glacier were as big as I had ever seen. I was happy to have some light for that part. As always crossing, the moraine was slow going and I knew from experience there was no way I would be able to follow the cairns from Galey Camp to Sam Mack in the dark, so I employed my usual tactic of following the sound of running water down the drainage above Sam Mack until I hit the trail. Joel and Dave were skeptical so I left them with their GPS; they ended up staying not too far behind me.

Once I hit Sam Mack Meadow I heard Miguel’s voice in my head say, “You think you are close when you hit Sam Mack, but you still have 8 miles left”. Miguel and I climbed together the first time I did T-bolt to Sill in 2007, and to this day I remember that depressing sentence. On the upside, I was on trail and I know that regardless of how tired I am once I hit trail my autopilot kicks in. I queued up some electro sets on my mp3 player and 23 hours after I had left I returned to my car, not once regretting my choice of plan B.

feeling 'fresh' on peak 3 and 4.5 hours of sleep
feeling 'fresh' on peak 3 and 4.5 hours of sleep
Credit: noriko nakagawa

The Stats
Rating: 5.9, V?

Peaks: Temple Crag (12,976 ft), Galey (13,510 ft), Sill (14,153 ft), Polemonium (14,080 ft), N Palisade(14,248 ft), Starlight (14,200 ft), Thunderbolt(14,003 ft)

Mileage: ~20 round-trip

Additional route beta/photos available on the embedded urls.

  Trip Report Views: 2,247
noriko nakagawa
About the Author
Michelle P (aka noriko nakagawa/fossana) is a trad climber from Eldorado Springs CO. She leads a double life herding cats at an open source database company.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
mountain dog

Trad climber
over the hills and far away
  Oct 17, 2012 - 02:13am PT
Great report! I miss the mighty Sierra.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Oct 17, 2012 - 03:38am PT
What a badass summer break!! Way to go, very well written TR -i really enjoyed reading that! Awesome pics too!
QITNL

climber
  Oct 17, 2012 - 03:50am PT
Bomber. Hear you about herding cats.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Oct 17, 2012 - 09:56am PT
Whoa! thanks for bringing us along.
Loose Rocks

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Oct 17, 2012 - 10:19am PT
I loved your TR. It reminds me I have so much left for me on that side of the Sierras.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 17, 2012 - 10:52am PT
Nice. Tfpu
JerryA

Mountain climber
Sacramento,CA
  Oct 17, 2012 - 11:11am PT
Good show !
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2012 - 12:24pm PT
Thanks for the feedback! It was definitely hard to return home.
Josh Nash

Social climber
riverbank ca
  Oct 17, 2012 - 12:43pm PT
Wow way to get on it. That's a crazy summer.
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Oct 17, 2012 - 01:31pm PT
Wow, serious super-achiever! That summer encapsulates what would be my best possible vision for climbing activity over the next decade.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Oct 17, 2012 - 02:04pm PT
Nice one Michelle. I can hear Miguel's voice too...
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 17, 2012 - 03:54pm PT
Rating: 5.9, V?

For you! Would be a sure week long expedition for most : )

Really happy that you changed your plans based on your state of mind. Never good to push on when you are not feeling excited for it. Hope you continue to do so, I want you to stay healthy and happy in the mountains for a long time.
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2012 - 04:50pm PT
Again, thank you.

@ Stevee B: Hard to forget the voice of the crazy Spaniard ;)

@ Vitaliy: I greatly appreciated your support and friendship at that time and during the search for Ben and Gil. I look forward to following your many adventures.
Prod

Trad climber
  Oct 17, 2012 - 04:54pm PT
That is awesome!

Prod.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 17, 2012 - 08:20pm PT
Way to go Michelle, you are a strong climber for shure!!!!
Glad you are finding freedom up there!!!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Oct 17, 2012 - 08:34pm PT
Loco amount of stone for a little gal! Way to crush every minute of it. Thanks for the great report and keep on stylin it in the high country!

See you out there,
Scott
F10

Trad climber
Bishop
  Oct 17, 2012 - 11:02pm PT
Nice going and thanks for sharing
You do some amazing stuff

James
Aerili

climber
SLC, Utah
  Oct 18, 2012 - 07:52pm PT
Rad TR. Those summit blocks are calling my name too...not sure if the 20-miles-in-a-day is, though.
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
Author's Reply  Oct 18, 2012 - 09:03pm PT
muchas gracias. It's great to share the Sierra love.
bmacd

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Nov 21, 2012 - 11:47pm PT
Mind blowing ...

The fact that you soloed Mood Goddess as the start to a huge traverse is amazing

How many times have you climbed Temple ?
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Nov 21, 2012 - 08:12pm PT
This TR deserves many more comments!
oldtopangalizard

Social climber
ca
  Nov 22, 2012 - 09:38am PT
Wow!
And I was so stoked when I did the Sun Ribbon Arete over a three day period in 1984. Of course we drank more than we climbed.
Unbelievable, congratulations. Be careful of those loose blocks, want to read more of this.
JSpencerV

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Nov 23, 2012 - 09:54pm PT
Way to get it done. Your solos and your focus always impresses me. Ben and Gil may be gone but they are still climbing with us...
TMJesse

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
  Nov 23, 2012 - 10:20pm PT
Three weeks very well spent! Fantastic report and perfect destinations.
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
Author's Reply  Nov 29, 2012 - 06:22pm PT
Thanks again for the comments.

@bmacd: a fair amount. I have soloed Moon Goddess at least 4 times. It's one of my favorite routes on Temple, though I have yet to do Dark Star (with a rope for at least the 5.10 pitches).
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Nov 29, 2012 - 06:31pm PT
great tr, missed it first time round.

yeah, minarets t looks scary. but for some reason it's also the one i'd most like to do still.

that skyline . . .
10b4me

climber
  Mar 12, 2014 - 04:00pm PT
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Temple Crag - Moon Goddess Arete 5.8 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route as seen from Second Lake.
Photo: SP Parker
Other Routes on Temple Crag
Temple Crag - Venusian Blind 5.7 - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Venusian Blind, 5.7
Temple Crag
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The route as seen from Second Lake.
Temple Crag - Sun Ribbon Arete 5.10a - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Sun Ribbon Arete, 5.10a
Temple Crag
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The route as seen from Second Lake.
Temple Crag - Dark Star 5.10b - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Dark Star, 5.10b
Temple Crag
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The route as seen from Second Lake.