Red Dihedral 5.10b
Trip ReportThe Tortoise, The Hare, and The Hulk - Red Dire-Hedral
This is a true story of a very unlikely day. The scenario is so preposterous that it deserves to be told in fable form.
I am the tortoise, a frumpy middle class housewife that began climbing 24 years ago. The opportunities for real adventure are seldom for tortoises or moms with teenagers, mortgages, and a job in corporate finance. Every climb provides me an adventure, a break from a mundane life, and a feeling of being truly alive. For many years, I have volunteered for and supported the Access Fund, thus I attended the 20th year celebration last fall.
The Hare earns his living from his climbing prowess and coincidentally supports the long term survival of the sport by volunteering for the Access Fund. He donated a day of climbing for the silent auction last fall.
As I cruised around the tables of interesting items at the auction, I strategically bid on items that were clearly underpriced. I never expected the phone call that announced I had the winning bid for the climb.
World class and middle class, tall and short, lanky and wide – what could two such different people possibly do? More importantly, how could two such different people have a fun day? The e-mail from The Hare was a wide open invitation to adventure. The tortoise started to dream bigger dreams. The Hare mentioned that he had not yet climbed anything on the Incredible Hulk, and the tortoise had never considered such an objective before. Five seconds after hearing the suggestion, the description in Mac’s book sold me – the best 5.10 route in the High Sierra, sustained and challenging, perfect, clean, golden granite, crack cruxes. My plane tickets were purchased that evening.
Now a sustained 1,200’ climb at altitude would be quite an adventure for a 770’ dwelling tortoise. A roadside route that meets this criteria would be a long day. Let’s up the ante by moving this prize 5 miles out and 3,400’ up a canyon to the base. Perhaps The Hare can dash off these classic climbs with long approaches without a second thought. This was going take a lot of preparation for me. The soggy Cascades conspired to limit time on the rock. At least I could walk uphill for hours to improve the odds of surviving the approach.
Lacking raw talent and youth, the tortoise had to prepare meticulously. We arrived days ahead of time to acclimatize. After reading every TR published on the web, it seemed that folks often lost time on the approach. Thus my husband and I scouted the approach several days in advance. It took promises of great fishing and a flat hike to coax my husband into the scouting trip. He fished the Robinson Creek while I slipped up the canyon to spy the objective. My GPS broke the bad news – it barely registered a few hundred feet of gain in the first 3 miles of the 5 mile hike. So the final miles of the approach would extract a toll.
We warmed up the Sierra granite with a few terrifying pitches in the Meadow and some mellow pitches in the Mammoth area. The Hare blazed in late Wednesday night for the Thursday morning climb. He picked through the enormous rack to select just a few pieces for the climb. All too soon the alarm buzzed, and the tortoise and Hare were off to the Hulk.
The Hare consulted with his version of a magic 8 ball. “Will we have a great approach?” “Yes”. We hit the trail at 6:30 AM, followed the “yellow brick road” through the campground, and stormed up to the junction. Although the cairns had been dismantled, the intersection looked familiar. We reached the river and stashed some water bottles for the descent. We scurried through the brush and talus.
The third class start allows you to ease into the climbing. We saw one party ahead of us, up on the crux pitch, as we racked up.
The Red Dihedral looked very appealing. The right wall is red, the hand crack is friendly, and the left wall is golden, not even vertical. Deceptive. The Hare slowed to a human level, pausing before the crux exit moves. The tortoise methodically followed. The left foot started to paw on that left wall. For some reason, that yellow wall seemed slicker, covered with some invisible substance. As the tortoise pulled its head into the shell, tunnel vision developed, and the right foot missed all stemming opportunities. It was wedged in the hand crack along with the hands. One unexpected release of the left foot caused a fall. Damn! I so wanted a clean ascent. The steep exit moves demanded that I stem like I was 25 instead of 55. Finally I pulled onto the belay next to The Hare. Alright!!
What to do? The brotherhood of the rope requires no secrets. “I need a drink and a quick snack, my hand was cramping a bit.” The Hare kindly allowed me a moment to consume some food. It never occurred to me to abandon the climb, even though just as many pitches lay ahead of us. I wanted to go up and experience the adventure.
The next pitch began just as badly. The claw took over the left hand, and then the right. More bleating escaped from my lips, then the Hulk allowed me to pass upwards to the ledge. I could see in The Hare’s eyes that he understood that my speediest moments were behind me. He offered me some electrolytes. I wolfed the tablet down and dissolved it in my stomach. Shattered Piller tried to shatter my dreams of the summit, but upwards we continued. The claw came and went.
In those final chimney pitches, I pulled on the chockstones in every conceivable direction to flop on top of them. Beauty and grace – Nope! As I stared up at the last difficulty, we paused to take dueling camera shots of the squeeze.
The hike out was a surreal experience. The sage smell was incredibly powerful. The trail seemed to glow under the light of the headlamps and was actually easier to follow than the hike in. It was a warm, breezy night. With my fingers lovingly latched onto my trekking poles, there was steady progress going down. When we reached the stream, I knew that the adventure was over, and the prize was claimed.
While we were out on the route, my husband added another log to the log jam to cross the creek. It made a convenient handrail. He replaced the cairn and lined the trail intersection with rocks. The last 2 ½ miles went as quickly as the morning start. Soon we reached the parking lot, and the amazing journey to The Incredible Hulk was over.
Many thanks to the generosity and patience of The Hare. I also want to thank my husband for encouraging his wife’s need to find adventure in her life.
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