So on Saturday, the 29th Bill McC and I set out from the Crown Valley trailhead (~6800'), just up the road from Wishon Reservoir. The forecast was for flawless weather, warm and sunny. We trudged about 4 miles on good trail to Statham Meadow and had lunch.
From here the trails got harder to follow, mostly due to downed trees. We managed to miss a couple of trail junctions, but got back on track with the aid of map, compass and GPS. There were also ducks in places, but we did some amount of cross-country walking anyway. By mid-afternoon we got to the lower of the Geraldine Lakes and called it a day.
We decided not to get too early a start, and began heading up to the 9300' ridge between the lake and The Obelisk around dawn. A lot of the way was on slabs, so it was fairly easy going. About 7:30am we got our first glimpses of the north side.
We decided to check out Handle With Care (5.8), on the northwest corner of the formation. Secor mentions that approaching from the west is a major bushwhack, but we found that angling in from the northwest wasn't so bad if you look for use trails. By 9-ish we were roped up; I took the first pitch.
We swapped leads on our 60m double ropes for about three pitches. The rock was featured and positive, with lots of plates and chickenheads.
I traversed right, away from the side pinnacle and stemmed into a chimney / gully. Secor described the fourth pitch as having a beautiful hand crack, with 200' of fun climbing.. give me that :)
In places where the crack closed up or was otherwise not amenable to jamming there were lots of chickenheads and knobs for the feet, and for pro. The last half was steep and featured, really a lot of fun.
Not all the chickenheads were solid -- Bill knocked a few off :) You know what they say .. if it looks too good to be true, it probably is !
The fifth pitch put us back in the sunshine. There looked to be a couple of ways to go.
The final pitch was described as fourth class, but what a great place !
We took our silly summit pics, ate a snack, and started looking for the famed and dreaded rappel. The first rap required only a single rope.
The second rap required two ropes, and apparently a number of parties have had stuck rope epics. I went down first, then scrambled up and east a bit so I could get a shot of Bill rapping into the void.
We coiled the ropes and after a short scramble down to terra firma, descended back to Bill's pack near the start of the route. The hike back up and over the ridge to Geraldine Lake was a bit of a grunt, but not really that bad, and we got back to camp well before dark.
What to do next ? We discussed checking out Rock Solid (5.8), on the west face, not far from where we'd started Handle With Care.
Next morning we kept a similar schedule, and got there perhaps a little earlier, having wired the approach. I happened to notice this stuff near the start of the west face - wonder what the story is ..
We looked for Rock Solid, compared the line drawn in Secor with the features and other routes mentioned, and decided we didn't like (or couldn't figure out) what we saw. Fortunately, someone had just written up the SE Buttress (5.8) on mountainproject.com, so we went in search of that one instead.
The southeast side was warm and sunny -- no long underwear needed. Secor's description was pretty short -
The MP description mentioned an offwidth, some face climbing, a steep/overhanging corner, some more face climbing, and apparently a really good third pitch -
Sign me up ! I took the first pitch, and gasped my way up the offwidth, which we thought was a little harder than advertised.
I didn't like the look of the steep corner -- the rock was a bit loose in places. Fortunately, it was just a matter of turning right, and heading up an arete-like feature on more fun knobs and plates to eventually rejoin the route by stepping left.
There were a couple of options for starting the third pitch, and I headed up a right-slanting crack to more knobs, and then the headwall mentioned above.
I have to say, it lived up to the hype; steep, fun and just enough pro. I followed the black streaks basically. Bill seemed to have a good time too -
The last pitch was a romp, on the biggest chickenheads I have ever seen in my life. Some looked to be the size of toaster ovens. We packed up the rack and coiled the ropes, and again did our summit thang.
The rappel was just as thrilling as yesterday.
The walk back to camp went smoothly and no headlamps were required :)
Tuesday morning we awoke with the dawn, packed swiftly and headed out.
The trails seemed to reveal themselves a little better on the way out, though we did some x/c walking in the forest again at times. The GPS was helpful of course. We noticed some fall color -
Bill spotted this bear track -
Not far from the wilderness boundary a cowboy greeted us, beer and smoke in hand.
We got back to the trailhead before 1pm. Wishon Village was still open, ostensibly for the remainder of hunting season. It was great to be able to take a shower there, and we headed out for spicy burritos at Taqueria Maranatha in Madera on the way home.
8.1mm x 60m half ropes
cams from 0.5 to 3 inches (plus green/yellow link cams)
set of nuts
10-12 trad draws (shoulder length)
3-4 double-length slings (lots of knobs and chickenheads to sling)