Southwest Face 5.10c

  • Currently 4.0/5

Mt. Conness

Tuolumne Meadows, California USA

Trip Report
The Psych Must Flow
Wednesday July 11, 2012 1:13am
He who controls the psych, controls the universe. The psych can let you see the future. If you immerse yourself in the psych you can navigate spacetime. I'm not sure if it turns your eyes blue. Mine are, but Jared's aren't- so this remains unsettled.

Certainly the altitude has something to do with the fact that we have commandeered and altered the prose of Frank Herbert for our own needs. We drove up from sea level the night before. It is now 11 AM last Saturday, and 4 hours after leaving our car Jared is leading the first pitch of the Harding Route on Conness. It is wet. It is hard. This is our first time out here.

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With a keen eye you can see Jared's head at the top of P1
With a keen eye you can see Jared's head at the top of P1
Credit: snowhazed
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I never met Warren Harding. When he passed in '02 I was graduating college and had never heard of him. I started trad climbing 3 years later. Today I would be addressing him many times in the first person.

Now I have an ok rock resume- I've climbed the Rostrum several times, and climbed the Crucifix this year. I've done plenty of 5.10-5.11 climbing at altitude, including Western Front on Russell, and the Hulk 9 times one of them being an onsight of Sunspot Dihedral. Nothing too special but I was unconcerned and quite ready for a long 5.10 route with a big hike. I wasn't quite ready for Warren Harding (or Galen Rowell for that matter) at 12k feet. Supertopo says "The offwidth makes this climb just a touch harder than the Incredible Hulk's Red Dihedral." That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read in a climbing guide. Red Dihedral is SO much easier in every imaginable respect.

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Looking over towards the West Ridge
Looking over towards the West Ridge
Credit: snowhazed
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By now I have seen the iconic photos and heard some of the iconic stories of Warren Harding and also Galen Rowell- many through this forum reminding us of the treasured resource that hides under the taco dog and pony show. As I find myself liebacking hard over and again to finish the crux 2nd pitch, a glimpse of Mr. Harding 53 years ago flashes in my mind's eye. The psych gives me a window.

That was unexpectedly physical yet delicate, and intimidating for 10c, but unquestionably a classic 200' pitch of free climbing. After leading through the P3 squeeze (I later discover you should stay outside at a moderate grade- oh well) I'm now charging up the perfect hands on P4 and then worming into the offwidth. I am grateful we brought the #6 as those star drives are- well- I'm sure I don't have to tell you. Tenuously stemming out left through the business I'm left staring up at 30+ feet of unprotectable larger offwidth. Really I'm pretty sure I would pull the 2 star drives beneath me in a fall, and the #6 is 8 feet below that. What ensued was an experience that I can't quite summarize- falling not an option, breathing so hard I feel like vomiting, can't go too slow for fear of fatiguing, can't go too fast because I might have a heart attack. I give Warren a new middle name. He is now Warren F#@king Harding and I am talking to him using a monosyllabic language of grunts, strained exhalations, and growlings from the deep. I make it and the psych flows down several new channels.

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Looking down the last of the P4 OW
Looking down the last of the P4 OW
Credit: snowhazed
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Jared links the next two pitches. The 10b traverse is exciting as we are both slammed into an altered state from the altitude and the sustained climbing, but Warren F. Harding doesn't care. The "5.8" chimney has a very very difficult several feet of ow/flare.

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With a keen eye- or a zoom in you can find Jared in the 5.8 flare chim...
With a keen eye- or a zoom in you can find Jared in the 5.8 flare chimney
Credit: snowhazed
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As I follow I am no longer the painter, but just the paintbrush. Hurting, tired, just pulling the moves by the skin of my teeth. But now Warren and I are friends and I can can just use his first name and little chuckle when addressing him. After 800+ feet of burly in your face rock wrestling, the climbing starts to flow with the psych. No more squeezing- just clean hands, fingers, and stemming on perfect alpine granite with amazing position in 2 long pitches to the top. A worthy reward. We summit exactly 8 hours after we started- drunk on altitude and exertion.

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This only got better...
This only got better...
Credit: snowhazed
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The light is perfection and I have to stop taking pictures as the sunset is devastatingly beautiful in all directions. We have the place to ourselves and the experience of wandering through a wonderland of colors, ridgelines, peaks, and dropoffs we have earned to keep for ourselves.

We are not special, but we are still the lucky few. Traveling over and through this route I now have a deeper first-hand visceral connection with history, and with hard individuals that paved the way for my experience. The gratitude and beauty nearly bring me to tears. Reinhard Karl said "What can this rock give you?. . . . Nothing. . . . and what will you hold in your hands on the Summit? I can tell you now: nothing. Itís all lunacy."

I beg to differ.

  Trip Report Views: 5,241
About the Author
snowhazed is a trad climber from Oaksterdam, CA.

Double D

  Jul 11, 2012 - 01:26am PT
Awesome TR and proud climb.

East Bay, CA
  Jul 11, 2012 - 01:42am PT
Great TR, well earned.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 11, 2012 - 02:43am PT
Congrats on Harding's route! A true challenge I bet!

  Jul 11, 2012 - 03:18am PT
Great trip report. Good photos too. Thanks. It is a wonderful mountain. I've been on top by a couple of the other routes. Wendy and I circled Mt. Conness on a six day backpack a few years back. There is amazing country back there.

Trad climber
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:11am PT
Great writing, and proud send! Thanks!

Trad climber
the Magic City
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:16am PT
Great writing! I was also "surprised" by the difficulty of both the 10c pitch and the OW. I agree, definitely not in the same league as Red Dihedral and maybe more physical that PosiVibes even?
Also- that view from the upper reaches of the route is one of the best in the Meadows IMO. Nice photo!


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:20am PT
Nice TR! Did the route 3/4 years ago and thouroughly enjoyed it.

right here, right now
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:54am PT
A nice clean write up!
Thanks for the tell.

You may know, the original Harding route and the original Rowell/Vandiver free route makes a long 5.11- hand traverse out right underneath the 10C second pitch.

Now THAT pitch is a gasser at altitude.
Scott Grafton and I had intended to do what is now the standard second pitch (then a recently established direct variation, 1980), but I couldn't quite see my way into it, so just stayed with the traverse. 'Had to hang a couple times too; involuntarily slumping onto the gear ... whoopsie.

I don't remember the OW being so out of line, but altitude is funny that way sometimes (and I was in a big hurry as the next sentence will attest).
We had to retreat in storm just after finishing the upper traverse: doing the approach early morning still puts you at the base fairly late as you guys found out!

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:51am PT
Great writeup hazey.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:58am PT
Man, that's a long ways to go for a climb! I'm glad such climbs exist
for your ilk*. And now that you've done such a stellar job of explaining
it I won't have to go do it. Muchas gracias!

*that would be the special ilk ;-)
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jul 11, 2012 - 11:14am PT

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 11, 2012 - 12:24pm PT
Nice Work! That's one of my favorites. Long day car to car!

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Jul 11, 2012 - 12:34pm PT
Way to go, fantastic!

I really hope this TR inspires my friend, Marc S, who really digs ctc in the hs to give me a call, it's time to get back out there.

Meet up with Nutjob, too. How cool would that be! :)

The Wastelands
  Jul 11, 2012 - 12:36pm PT
Warren Fuking Harding

Batso would have laughed at that!

nice report, you are a talented writer

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jul 11, 2012 - 12:47pm PT
bonus points for Herbert usage

Social climber
CHC, en zed
  Jul 11, 2012 - 12:48pm PT

Thanks for sharing with us.

  Jul 11, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
A worthy addition to our "treasured resource." You and Jared ARE perpetual psych.

Cheers on another big, burly send. I look forward to sharing a rope again with you soon.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 11, 2012 - 01:50pm PT
Stellar job and TR, way to slay your dragons!!!!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jul 11, 2012 - 01:53pm PT
Worming is the psych! The psych is the worming!

Really great trip report, and conjuring up wonderful memories of flailing on it with Footloose a few years ago. I'm glad to know I've done the "crux" part already, look forward to actually getting to the proper rock wrestling part in the future. Cardio is the over-dominant key for a car-to-car effort on this one

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 11, 2012 - 02:16pm PT
Stellar. One of the finest trip reports to ever come through the taco. Thanks so much for the thought, the effort and the time to post this.

"we are both slammed into an altered state from the altitude and the sustained climbing, but Warren F. Harding doesn't care"
pure Supertopo gold, man. I wish I had thought of that line.

Keep sending, keep writing and sharing the psyche.
What's your first name by the way?

See you out there,

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 11, 2012 - 02:18pm PT
Great TR of a significant climb. I really savored everything you wrote, and every photo you posted.

Thank you very much.


Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Jul 11, 2012 - 02:29pm PT
flow is multi-directional,
the thrust-forward mode of psyche makes for pretty tales, such as yours.

the violent retraction mode of psyche is not so tale worthy,
as in my case, currently,

can i borrow two money.

Big Wall climber
Newbury Park
  Jul 11, 2012 - 03:06pm PT
Great climb/TR!

ESPECIALLY great Dune references!

"Fear is the mind killer..."
Don Paul

Social climber
Washington DC
  Jul 11, 2012 - 03:17pm PT
The old guys were seriously good at ow's and chimneys. Really, they were 5.13 climbers without advanced techniques or gear. Drive and determination, they did have.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:28pm PT
Thank you for the kind words all

micro- I'm Robert- in some circles Roberto or Berto

tar- The hand traverse looked pretty hard- I can only imagine what 11- means on that route :)

Social climber
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:43pm PT
what an incredible day out!

... and with such great photos & prose, i hope you partner up with me for every momentous route to come. this one will certainly live larger in my memory thanks to your TR :D

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jul 11, 2012 - 10:50pm PT

(that's better than; "the best trip reporter ever". )
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Jul 11, 2012 - 11:03pm PT
Glorious TR. Frickin' glorious.

Social climber
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  Jul 11, 2012 - 11:26pm PT
Great TR on a mega-classic! I agree with your assessment completely -- way harder than the Red Dihedral. Hard to believe that such a classic alpine route could have such a manageable approach.

  Jul 12, 2012 - 04:16am PT
I am now psyched!! Thanks for sharing, one of my dream climbs. Awesome TR!

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Jul 12, 2012 - 10:44am PT
Surprisingly burly. Oh my, this is hard. Wow, I didn't think this pitch was gonna be so tough....

right here, right now
  Jul 12, 2012 - 11:15am PT
Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA

... I just saw your locale: that's too funny! A.k.a. Oakhurst? Where else ... Right.

 And, of course: hats off to Chris Vandiver for free climbing the hard pitches, primarily or exclusively on nuts I would imagine, back in the bad old days.
[And yes, those bolts on the OW would now be the among most ludicrous tat imaginable, 'prolly just need to go away, like the bolts on The Good Book]

Trad climber
Boston, MA
  Jul 12, 2012 - 11:27am PT
Great TR Rob! Looking forward to being dragged up Astroman in October.....

Trad climber
  Jul 12, 2012 - 12:16pm PT
I did this route last year and this report brings back some great memories. Felt way more difficult than the grade suggests as your report captures.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jul 13, 2012 - 09:24am PT
Way to send paintbrush!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jul 13, 2012 - 10:26am PT
What a great freekin' route, one of my faves.

'Had to hang a couple times too; involuntarily slumping onto the gear ... whoopsie.
Me too bro, me too....Although I'm not sure mine were all that "involuntary", HA!!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 13, 2012 - 10:27am PT
Great TR! of my favorite Sierra climbs.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 13, 2012 - 08:33pm PT
Thanks again- so cool to have living legends and colleagues of Batso commenting on this tr.

Thanks tar for repping Chris Vandiver- One day I will start working my way back up through the grades with just passive pro :)


right here, right now
  Jul 14, 2012 - 02:27pm PT
The psych must flow!

ha ha. You get going on working up through the grades with passive pro, and I'll work on remembering my way back up through the grades!

PS: And please don't forget to write, we love the postcards.

Trad climber
  Jul 18, 2012 - 03:57pm PT
gonzo chemist

the east coast, for now.
  Jul 18, 2012 - 04:39pm PT
Cool TR. I climbed this last August with a friend. I thought the real sleeper was the wet, loose, and poorly protected first pitch.

Funny thing...I thought the "10b" traverse was way easy, like 9-. But the 5.8 squeeze stuff after it was bizarrely difficult.

Either way, its a pretty incredible route.

thanks for posting up!

Trad climber
Seattle WA
  Jul 18, 2012 - 05:05pm PT

We are not special, but we are still the lucky few.

That's a sweet line. Write on!


Social climber
granada hills
  Jul 18, 2012 - 07:42pm PT

Thanks for the TR

That one sounds like full value.

Tahoe climber

Davis these days
  Aug 7, 2012 - 02:48pm PT
Thanks for passing the psyche on to us! great TR

Social climber
London, Paris, WV & CA
  Aug 7, 2012 - 04:42pm PT
Wonderful trip report, got my adrenaline going reading that !


Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:06pm PT
I'm shameless

  Dec 6, 2012 - 12:06am PT
BUMP! I still haven't done this thing!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGG
Sweet TR

A long way from where I started
  Dec 6, 2012 - 12:32am PT
Wow. Thanks for bumping this -- a great TR I missed on its first go-round.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Dec 6, 2012 - 10:52am PT
great TR!

Mt. Conness - Southwest Face 5.10c - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Tuolumne's proudest face.
Photo: Craig Adkins
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