In Minnesota, there are only a handful of climbs taller than one pitch; so in an effort to scale bigger and better things, Sir "I want to go back to Devils Tower" Bryan and C "I've never been there" Diamond went to Devils "Bears Lodge" Tower During spring break 2012. Yeah it was over a year ago, but you still get to read the trip report, so just keep reading and their wont be any problems.
Arriving late in the afternoon on March 9th, this tales two protagonists promptly set out to meet the mythical Frank "The Colonel" Sanders. Just before dusk, C "I'm more of a Top Rope Guy" Diamond started his fourth ever trad lead up the Bowling "this is only 5.5?" Alley. While struggling with a #7 "So This is why Bryan bought cams" Hex About halfway up the pitch C "Slower than aid" Diamond hears someone yell, "ROPE!". Before he could blink C "I'm super run out, but not really" Diamond is tangled in 40M of rope while trying to clip his last piece. Moments later, Frank "Walk in the park" Sanders is level with C "Struggeling" Diamond while rapping durance. Frank "How's it hanging" Sanders asks C "I'm not dangling" Diamond how it's going and they chat briefly about what a wonderful day it is. With confidence replenished by the short colloquy, C "I Can Do This" Diamond made short work of the rest of the pitch.
Unfortunately, The sun set faster than Sir "The follower" Bryan and C "Is this the rap station" Diamond could race back down to the base of the pitch. At the base, they were suddenly illuminated with the realization that both of them had left their head lamps in their other bags back at the lodge. Fortunately, the Minnesotans were able to borrow a headlamp for the hike back to the car. After packing up the ropes and racks, Sir "Hiking" Bryan and C "Hike On" Diamond started heading down the icy approach when the head lamp died! Somehow Sir "Crampons, we don't need no stinking crampons" Bryan and C "I should not have worn ice skates" Diamond managed to get back to the car unscathed and retreated to the warmth Devil Tower Lodge.
After a deliciously filling Dinner, out came the computers, guidebooks, and climbers tall tales. Sir "I hate Off-width" Bryan and C "I'm a hand crack type of guy" Diamond started discussing which routes to do. Frank "THE GUIDE BOOK" Sanders was an invaluable source of beta. Eventually El Cracko "A friend of mine recommended this 5.8" Diablo was decided as the best bet for a summit attempt.
Sir "Mountain Goat" Bryan and C "This is the most exposure I have ever had" Diamond headed up to the base of El Cracko via the standard third class ledges. In the small ditch of a ledge at the base of Solar, Tad, and El Cracko was an undeterminable depth of snow. Not wanting to slip on the snow over the exposed edge, C "This is sketch" Diamond set up a belay for the Class 2 terrain. Sir "The rope gun" Bryan set out leading a few feet and then around to the right above the bowl full of snow. After what seemed like eons, a fixed rope was established. While running gear back and forth through the snow, it became apparent that on the uphill side of the basin the snow was only 3" deep. While crossing Sir "This is nothing" Bryan missed a step with his right foot. His right food disappeared into bottomless snow. He caught himself with his left foot preventing the embarrassment of leaving a snow angel.
After a painfully slow approach, the two Minnesotans were finally ready to start the route; Sir "Sure handed" Bryan took the sharp end. At his third placement, Sir "Butterfinger" Bryan had A DMM offset "unhook itself" from his rack. All C "The belayer" Diamond could do is watch the stopper bounce down the rock by his feet and then over the precipice. Sir "That was my favorite stopper" Bryan led the rest of the pitch like a champ. After following, C "How did you lead this" Diamond expressed how happy he was that Sir "Trad master" Bryan had lead that pitch. At the belay, the camera came out along with food and water.
It was now time for C "Fifth trad lead" Diamond to take the sharp end. Even though Frank "Colonel" Sanders had augmented Sir "I have a large rack by Minnesota standards" Bryan and C "I can build top rope anchors with mine" Diamond's racks, it was going to be a run-out pitch for C "Run-out by my standards" Diamond. The Pitch is an excellent hand crack that thins down to fingers at the bulge and widened to fists at the top. Even though C "Run it out" Diamond tried to leave what felt like entire Minnesota Size Pitches between pro, he was down to a cam, a hex and two stoppers when he reached the anchor.
While cleaning, Sir "Scrubbing Bubbles" Bryan was glad to be cleaning the pitch rather then leading it. Upon entering the meadows, the two Minnesotans ran into a Dynamic "For the record not wearing spandex" Duo who had just climbed the Walt "One Pitch" Bailey Memorial. Not wanting to look like total gumbies, Sir "Sense of Direction" Bryan and C "I thought I read the Beta" Diamond proceeded to ask the Dynamic "Here to Save the Day" Duo where the meadows finish was. The Dynamic "They were very convincing" Duo proceeded to convince Sir "Climbing? Sound Fun!" Bryan and C "Are we there yet?" Diamond to summit via the Baily "Pigeon Poo" Direct.
At the Jump "Look Ma No Hands, or Feet" Traverse, the Fantastic "Still not wearing spandex" Four hit traffic. Frank "The Guide" Sanders' crew was Conga-lining it up The Bailey "Single Track" Direct ahead of the Dynamic "Let's take a shot from our flasks" Duo. With their pants still soiled from El Cracko "Los Pantalones Con Caca" Diablo, the Minnesotans asked to join the Conga-line on top rope and avoid the sharp end. Fully decked out wearing day packs and approach/tennis shoes, the Minnesotans were forced to avoid the chimney and commit to the face.
After attending the summit party, the fixed line and extra gear required the Minnesotans' attention before heading back to the lodge.
After hearing about Walt Bailey, and extensively discussing beta with Frank "KNOWS THE TOWER" Sanders, Sir "How hard can it be" Bryan and C "I would be willing to top rope it" Diamond, decided to attempt Walt "One pitch" Bailey. Upon hearing the Minnesotans plans, Brad "Unknown last name" Last-Name decided to join the party because Walt "This should be good" Bailey was his favorite Route.
Even though the beta was vigorously studied, The Three "All for Not" Climbiteers missed the approach badly! Well not too badly, they were only two climbs to the left on South East Direct. Seeing the bolts at the top of the first pitch, they decided to aid up to the bolts and rap/pendulum over to the start of Walt Bailey.
Well, none of the three had aided before, EVER! So they decided to give it a try, how hard can it be. Sir "I don't want to lead this" Pyne and C "me neither" Diamond sent Brad "The gear placing virgin" Last-name up the finger tip crack. Brad "Falling" Last-name made it about half way up the pitch before succumbing to the effects of gravity after a poorly placed stopper popped. When he was caught, Brad "Fortunatly no children around" Last-Name shouted out "IíM NO LONGER A VIRGIN!" Apparently, it was his first fall on gear. Having rattled his nerves, Brad "Lower Me" Last-name made it just shy of the first piton, half way up the first pitch before lowering off.
Determined to make it to the summit, or at least to the base of Walt Bailey, C "why me?" Diamond set off on onward and upward. Not to confident in Brad "I've never placed gear before" Last-Name's gear placements, C "feeling strong" Diamond decided to try and free climb the route. Upon arriving at the piton, C "The Big Whimp" Diamond rediscovered his preference for a top rope and switched over to aid. C "is it top stepping when it only has one loop?" Diamond was still able to finish the pitch. Seeing the state of the bolts at the top of the first pitch, C "What am I doing up here?" Diamond became concerned and set an equalized anchor to lower off. Once reunited with terra-more-horizontal, C "They are bad" Diamond turned to Sir "Pendulum" Bryan and divulged the condition of the bolts.
Sir "Pass the Bleach" Bryan cleaned the pitch and realized that C "Super Serial" Diamond was not exaggerating about the condition of the bolts. Between the missed approach and the 2+ hour short C1 pitch, the trio lost their psych and decided to bail like a party on day three of a NIAD attempt.
That night, tales of the days excursion filled the lodge followed by a discussion of the next days aspirations. The next thing Minnesotans knew, they were standing at the base of McCarthy West Face with Franks aiders and more wishes for luck than advice; after all C "Black belt" Diamond and Sir "I'm not wearing a belt" Bryan have a successful pitch of aid climbing under their harnesses, how much advice do they need? The plan was to aid the first two pitches of McCarthy West Face and set up a top rope for the famous El Matador pitch.
It was discussed where C "Belay Monkey" Diamond would belay from, but apparently no cognitive agreement was reached. As Sir "Scramble-a-lot" Bryan was getting ready to pull the first roof, he was surprised to find C "Here, Right?" Diamond was building an anchor next to him on the first ledge of the climb (A in the picture). After quite a few internal monologue expletives, an anchor that would probably be adequate was built.
Almost Confident in their anchor and aid climbing skills, Sir "Now Stay There!" Bryan set off. At point B, Bryan had exhausted the entire rack and lowered back down to the ledge. Then C "I thought we had more gear" Diamond set off aiding on the pre-placed gear cleaning what he could reach past or bust a free move around. Soon, C "Stay on target" Diamond approached the Third roof just below point C. Too afraid to bounce test, C "Stay on target" Diamond relied on blind placements from the third step of his aiders. After placing the third placement over the roof C "Stay on target" Diamond started to stow an aider and step up the ladder when POP Ö It was no longer hard for him to pull himself up the ladder, in fact it was quite easy. He realized, "that was the ledge I just climbed past!" The realization brought clarity that action was required, so C "They came from behind" Diamond yelled "FALLING!"
Sir "Are you OK?" Bryan called up asking if C "Holy Lingonberry" Diamond was ok. C "Bring me my brown pants" Diamond replied that he was bleeding and wanted to come down.
No longer a virgin, C "That was better then I expected" Diamond had taken his first fall on gear. During the fall he scraped his knuckles on the wall, but only his ego was bruised.
Sir "Third times the charm" Bryan once again took off top-rope aiding on pre-placed gear up to the stopper that held C "I'm gonna sit here for a while" Diamond's fall. With inspiring determination, Sir "The Man" Bryan reached the anchors during the third valiant push.
Because the Minnesotans are small single pitch free climbers by trade, C "Elbow grease" Diamond had Sir "Belay On" Bryan put him on belay as he aided up the gear he was cleaning. Upon reaching the anchor the Minnesotans realized just how low on water they were for such a hot and sunny Mid-March day, and we decided to bail. Even though the anchors were better than those on South East Direct, they backed up the anchor for the first rappeller.
Safely on the ground, they rehydrated, rested, and relished in the resplendent sunset that signaled the end of their trip.
The 2012 spring break trip has become the inspiration for bigger and better things as Sir "I just bought more gear" Bryan and C "I now bounce test" Diamond are deep into the training regiment from How to Big Wall Climb. Sir "So Spring Break is coming up again" Bryan and C "Let's do it" Diamond returned to Devils Tower March 2013 and have a much bigger "Big Wall" trip lined up for May/June 2013. Trip reports will be written shortly! Will C "Third person" Diamond write these trip reports in first person? Will the Minnesotans summit the Tower again? Will the Minnesotans learn to top step? Will the Minnesotans go to the dark side, of the tower not the force? Will the Minnesotans successfully climb routes they bailed on? Will SuperTopo "dot" com reach 2,000,000 posts? Will C "Is this suspenseful?" Diamond stop asking questions at the end of the trip report? Login next week - same Taco-Time, same Taco-channel...