Prow C2F 5.6
Trip ReportThe Prow Off The Couch (now with video!!!)
Off the couch. That’s a term I have never believed in. I mean I know it sounds cool; ‘That route? Yeh I did that of the couch.’ I prefer to train for routes with lots of cardio, practicing systems, doing smaller climbs to work up my head game. You know stuff that actually helps. Which helps explain why I was nervous in the days leading up to Team Approaches attempt of the Prow. I did nothing…… not even sort gear (thank you Mt Goat). I literally turned up with food and water and hiked to the base.
‘Oh the Prow I did that off the couch.’
Rewind to April 2014 when Mt Goat and I set out for the South Face of Washington Column. It was his first Bigwall and my third (eight years ago I did West Face of Leaning Tower, Prodigal Sun on Angels Landing and then got spanked on Salthe and bailed after the free blast). Then all my wall gear migrated to the bottom of a storage bin.
To prepare for the South Face of WC we trained like mad men; aiding at the gym and local crags, doing P90x and reading micronut’s TR like 20 times. We were ready, we were pumped and two days after we started climbing we crawled on hands and knees onto the summit (the second day being a 22 hour straight on marathon). We still ask ourselves how 6 pitches took 22 hours I don’t have an answer for you time just kind of stood still in the star light and night thunder.
I wanted revenge on the South Face but Mt Goat wanted to do a different route. The dream of the Prow was born over texts and whiskey sometime around Christmas. Fast forward to March of this year. We had talked big training goals then did none of them, not one. The Mt Goat and I began hiking in with our over loaded haul bags and our trusty radio flyer’s wagon loaded with gear.
On the approach we stumbled into a herd of deer that would not disperse so the two of us hiked up the trail with our grey entourage clip clopping about us and occasional knocking rocks down on our heads. We finally lost them as we got to the 4th class. The route was clear and two girls were starting out on the South face putting us to shame with their fast climbing and almost none existent gear bag. We gathered our thoughts, sent a word off to the Big Man and at 1230 with Macklemore & Lewis playing away started the first pitch.
The first part looks like an amazing free pitch and it might have been if I could get my head around switching from free to aid. As it was I aided all the non-mandatory free parts. Enjoy this pitch as it is the only gimme on the whole climb. It is easy C1 up to some mellow 5.6 free moves. Then you switch over to begin the last section up onto the Prow proper. As for cam hooking the next section……eh no the gear is good in a crack to the left and if you popped a cam hook you would fall onto the ledge and off to the hospital you will go. The rest of the pitch is pretty thin mellow C1.
Mt Goat had this pitch and stepped out onto the oozing ledge to access the corner crack. He was looking slightly uncertain at the sloping footing and green muck. I was feeling invincible at this point after my C1 domination and was giving him some soothing encouragements. Like ‘Common! We don’t have all day! Just stand on that broken rivet and put in a cam you big Jessy.’ Did I say I had done no prep for this climb? That wasn’t quite true. I have been planning the next bit since we had decided to do this route. Had I spent time doing push-ups or practicing my 1000 yard stare? No but I had been to the local library and got a copy of Erasures greatest hits to help Mt Goat enjoy the thin gear and bad fall potential of the C2+ pitch. So as he sweated and huffed his way up the longest 90’ of his climbing career I played music from the 80’s and tried to forget that I had pitch three
The girls shouted up to us ‘Why did you guys bring two haul bags?’ I replied ‘It’s easier to split the load on the way down.’ Not the truth of ‘We have six pairs of gloves and 10 pounds of trail mix. We need two bags to carry all the unnecessary gear we have. If your hands get cold we’re you guys.’ Mt Goat got to the belay and I began jugging.
We had chosen to split 2 and 3 up instead of doing one mega pitch to help spread the love and reduce exhaustion. It kind of worked. Straight of the belay there is an easy roof that you can get a piece right at the edge then blind place higher up. Off you go. Nothing to report past this point but not a walk in the park either. Did I say I hated aid and free switching? At the top of this pitch you find yourself at anchor ledge eight feet to the left of the belay and an 8-10 inch ledge around a bulge to the bolts. I stood here for a bit then thought ‘F@ck it I will just walk along the ledge.’ So I began walking got to the bulge and in a fit of heavy breathing slunk back to my starting point. Then I was like ‘I’ve got nothing to prove I will just crawl along on my knees.’ But I was so disgusted with myself I stopped that after two crawling steps. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the two positions and found a hand hold low on the bulge and made the bolts. I set up our 3-1 hauling system and thought we are on target and going to make this climb after all! Then the bags got jammed at the pitch two belay. Fortunately for me Mt Goat is some sort of fancy engineer and eventually got them off the anchors and by the time the sun was set we had gotten the ledge up and were enjoying some whiskey and dinner. One pitch behind schedule but we were feeling confident that without the approach we would knock out the next 5 pitches in no time the next day.
We awoke to a beautiful morning where neither one of us really wanted to get up and begin the headwall. It was scary like big wall scary. I thought of Jane Gallwey’s solo trip report and said to myself if she can do it so can I. It’s hard for me to imagine a wall without Mt Goat to keep my spirits up and Jane was alone and succeeded. So we pack up our crap and at 9.30am up I went. Bolt ladder ‘just like the gym’ Mt Goat shouts up at me and for a while it was. Then it wasn’t, it was like real C2 100’s of feet of the ground on small gear carrying like four racks.
After a smooth haul (love my 3-1) I was enjoying using the haul bags for a belay seat while Mt Goat organized the gear. There is a funky crack to the left of the belay which leads to the bolt ladder. We proceeded upwards. I was glad that MG was leading this pitch as his reach is larger than mine and was able to gain the bolts easier. Not like the gym at all he said.
Now the money pitch for me. I take the hammer and some copper heads just in case. I mean I've never placed one before but how hard can it be? I’m glad I didn't have to find out. I didn't bounce test the heads I came to just trusted they would stay. How a mashed up piece of copper in a shallow groove sticks I have no idea but I just went with it. Towards the end of the pitch you traverse left there is a nice bolt at the start then out into the world of copper heads you go. Then the hook move. I think I was three heads deep then placed a hook. Up, up, up, up, and onto and other copper head, a few more heads then what? There was a side hold in a corner but no gear. I looked through my hooks and nothing would sit in the sloping hold. I’m running out of excuses here I couldn't figure out how to reach the bolt. So my hand reached behind my back and drew forth the mighty stick of shame. Its light shone like a beacon as it shot upwards and clipped the bolt then it was upwards to the belay. MG takes his time jugging and I revel in the glory of one of the best pitches ever. The head wall seams to be slackening off now and I start smiling.
The strange dihedral faces MG up he goes on some strange gear and as usual calmly works out the gear puzzles off into the distance. Including some funny hooking. I get to the belay in the darkness. We set up the ledge quick style trying to not knock over the 4 gallons of water and 4 large cans of food someone has left (really! F you no one wants your crappy food pack it out). We settle down to some Jose Gonzales and sip whiskey and re hydrate our spirits. The portaledge, dubbed ‘The Mistress’, has developed a slant to the outside. I try to adjust the straps and it shudders. MG looks at me like I am some sort of pirate trying to scuttle a ship. I give up then 10 minutes later try again. MG bolds awake ‘Wow easy there.’ I settle down and both of us fall asleep.
One of the things I do before a trip is scour the ST trip report to get a feel for the climb. Not just the pictures but the stories behind it. This keeps me sane at work and helps me get a feel for the climb. All I could think about on this pitch was Evdawg’s fall onto the pitch 9 ledge. This was the hardest pitch of the climb, funny to think about in most of the TR I read no one really talks about the last few pitches. I thought this was because they were so easy. Noooooot true. We didn't start climbing till 10am after a lazy ‘we will be at the summit in an hour or two start.’ I traversed left on two bolts then worked my way up into the crack before traversing left a few feet then up a thin crack. I pulled 3 pieces (my first and last of the climb) on the beginning of the pitch. It sucked, I swore, I sweated and right at the belay I had another free move trying not to dislodge a large loose block to the right of the belay ledge. The temperatures spiked and MG got his lead on excited for the distant 5.0 gully.
He climbed and I cursed and sweated. How could it be so hot in March? I took off my sweaty three day old socks and put them around my neck oh cooling. I don’t know how MG could lead in that heat I could barely keep my eyes open. Then the shade hit me! Already what was the time? Within 10 minutes I was back in my Mt Hardwear Compressor jacket. ‘That’s me’ I heard over the radio. I lower the bags out to help avoid the bag eating flake (mostly successful, it’s easy to swing over and free them if you need to). Then enjoy the easiest jug of the route up to a killer belay ledge where MG was waiting with a big end of route smile on his face. We sit down and drink water and eat G bars. Up above us another overhanging piece of rock looms but I’m not worried. I recon 45 minutes and I’ll be at the top of the pitch. I started out with one set of cams and free climbed the start to a bolt on the roof then back cleaned the gear to the bolt and tag lined up the gear anvil. So here I was my last lead pitch of the climb and last Bigwall pitch for me for a good while as my wife if 7 ˝ months pregnant. I was going to enjoy this and top step as much as possible making Chris Mac proud. I was going to do a lot of things. Mainly what I ended up doing was placing a lot of gear and fighting like a rabid badger in this 5.9 crack. For the love of god use the crack to the right of the bolt. You could be in that one with your monical and cigarillo in hand relaxing saying ‘What fool would use that horrid wide crack to the left. Jeeves my drink needs topped off’. As for me at one point I was looking at an offset nut above a mediocre cam and said to myself ‘If in doubt run it out.’ Then placed another offset 3 inches above it then in my disgust took one of them out and kept trucking upwards. I finally reached the belay after another funky free move and took out my two way radio. I keyed the transmit button. ‘First off MG f@ck you for not getting this pitch it was a bas@ard and so are you.’ ‘Hello?’ ‘I said f@ck you..’ ‘I heard you the first time.’ I looked at the radio oops channel 4 not 5 some poor guy in Curry village getting reamed by mistake. I start hauling and its like pulling up a car. MG jugs and jugs and I heave and haul. Finally he gets to the problem the haul line had slipped in a crack and the line is twisted threw a big cam lobe. There is silence as I let him work his magic. I keep looking up. So close so close. He shouts the bags come free and we are back in business.
Pitch 12 (Top! Well sort of)
We started shouting ‘Top by sunset!’ In my head I kept seeing that cool picture Brian Friedrich put up on the summit with the failing light. To be on the safe side we donned our head lamps and MG set out on this last 70 feet to the summit. It was horrid. From the belay it looks like an easy mantle onto a flat ledge. From the climber perspective it is a horrid smooth slopping ledge traversing to a nice bolt on some granulated crap. MG moved steadily across this last pitch to the belay. As the sunset I jugged the line and fought with the haul bags every inch of the last 30 feet. I look at Mt Goat ‘where the top I ask?’ He looks about in the darkness his beam of light showing ledges and overhanging faces then shrugs ‘up there somewhere?’ Right that’s it. I take off the rack grab 3 cams and a few slings and begin romping around the 4th class choss to the top (up and right to the big pine tree then up and left to the top). What a top it was.
We had climbed the Prow off the couch. As we sat on the summit drinking a toast to our success some climbers of the summit of El cap signaled us with their head lamps and we said hello back.
Does life get much better than that?
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