Trip Report
Trip Report: A First Ascent Story from Kings Canyon NP
Thursday June 26, 2014 5:13pm
Link to the website version: http://theinspiredclimber.com/2014/06/26/a-first-ascent-story/

My latest adventure started off just like many others with a harmless email. The subject - a first free ascent in Kings Canyon National Park. Without giving it much thought I agreed to the proposition. Soon after I realized that throughout life I've always gravitated towards leadership roles, whether it be work or play. But this isn't true with climbing. Like many climbers I've never placed a bolt and never attempted a first ascent. I've never had to. Up to this point, I've simply followed in the footsteps of others. Over the last 6 years I've moved from one climb to the next, ticking off the classics. This logical process has guided me through my progression. But maybe there's more to this whole rock climbing thing than just recording the next big tick.

Casey approaching the base of the climb
Casey approaching the base of the climb
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

Luke belaying Casey on Pitch 1
Luke belaying Casey on Pitch 1
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

With this in mind, I strapped in to the high-energy rocket ship that is Luke Stefurak and Casey Zak. This was my first time climbing with either of them and I knew I was in for a ride within minutes of hitting the trail. We mounted our 45 lb. packs and stormed down the trail 7.5 miles to basecamp. I tried to focus on my new friends' conversation, but found myself drifting into my own thoughts. Can I keep up with these guys? Do I really have what it takes mentally to establish a first ascent? I had no idea, but maybe that's why I'm here.

Me following Casey's free variation on Pitch 1.
Me following Casey's free variation on Pitch 1.
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

Casey onsighting Pitch 2
Casey onsighting Pitch 2
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

The trail hummed by, our tents went up, and by 10am we were at the base of Bubbs Creek Wall. Armed with a vague topo from the first ascent we stared up at the glistening face trying to find the line that would take us 16+ pitches to the top. I quickly learned that this was a flawed style of thinking. With a first ascent (or first free ascent), it doesn't matter what lies ahead, only what's right in front of us. We couldn't guarantee that even the first pitch would go free. I swallowed the ocean of doubt and rode the wave of optimism provided by Luke and Casey. With some trickery and boldness Casey dispatched the first two pitches, weaving his way up the face and finding variations around the aid line. He was on a roll, but I knew it was my turn.

Casey and Luke following the beautiful crystal dike on Pitch 3
Casey and Luke following the beautiful crystal dike on Pitch 3
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

Me onsighting the moderate Pitch 6.
Me onsighting the moderate Pitch 6.
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

My mind was stuck somewhere between terrified and excited, but Casey's words of encouragement sliced through my concerns. Pulling and pinching on the orange, crystal dike I quickly slipped and fell not far from the belay. Returning back to the stance, I focused on the next move and floated through the features that had never been climbed free before. One after another I clipped the 1/4" button head bolts, praying that I wouldn't have to test another one. I yelled down below saying, "It's not that hard, 5.10b at most." This was a recurring theme for me. Faced with climbing a pitch with no consensus grade I constantly sandbagged my friends. Maybe my mind had risen to the challenge and everything was clicking. Or perhaps my mind was trying to rationalize the decision to lead, telling myself that this was no big deal. Whatever the case, I found my ability to judge the pitch difficulties near impossible and simply tried to focus on surviving each move as it came. Luke and Casey later told me they thought the pitch was 5.11a.

Following the stellar Pitch 7, which has a section of knob features re...
Following the stellar Pitch 7, which has a section of knob features reminiscent of the Needles.
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

The hours ticked by and we fell into a calm rhythm. My virgin hands took hold of the hammer and I drilled my first bolt. A strange sense of pride fell over me as I finally understood what it was like to contribute rather than just use. We bailed halfway through the seventh pitch, as the final rays of light faded across the surrounding peaks. Casey left for home early the next morning. With lead filled boots Luke and I returned to the face, gunning for the top. We gave it a great effort redpointing the first 6 pitches, but the route decided that this prize needed to be earned. The 7th and 8th pitches took time. We resorted to aid, allowing the follower to work through the moves free. The marathon 8th pitch expanded my mind, teaching me how to hook and hammer beaks. This is the kind of thing I 've only read about.

Pitch 8, which I led using aid and Luke followed onsight on toprope.
Pitch 8, which I led using aid and Luke followed onsight on toprope.
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

With a few more bolts replaced and the 9th pitch freed with little trouble, we decided to throw in the towel. Our high spirits carried us down the face and the warm glow of our headlamps lit the way back to camp. Freeze dried food never tasted so good. I've bailed off many routes, but this time it felt more satisfying. We talked of the route and our plans to return. Some day others may climb this route and that idea adds to my excitement. I want others to experience this little slice of heaven. But first we have to convince the mountain to let us pass.

Sunset in Kings canyon
Sunset in Kings canyon
Credit: Aaron Cassebeer

-Aaron Cassebeer

  Trip Report Views: 3,838
Aaron Cassebeer
About the Author
Aaron Cassebeer is a climber from Mojave, CA.

Comments
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jun 26, 2014 - 05:23pm PT
YAAAY, TR, KINGS CANYON!!!
limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Jun 26, 2014 - 06:27pm PT
Holy moly cannoli that rock looks good!

Is that "What's Up Bubb" you're working on? That looks like the Beckey Route to the right...

Either way, great job and keep going, we want more!!!
ground_up

Trad climber
mt. hood /baja
  Jun 26, 2014 - 05:39pm PT
Thank You for that ! Awesome
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jun 26, 2014 - 05:48pm PT
Nice effort!!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 26, 2014 - 07:36pm PT
Looks like nice rock.
A related thread with photos and topo from the FA of What's Up Bub in 2000:
http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/34356/Bubbs-Creek-Wall
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jun 26, 2014 - 07:09pm PT
Wow, that's looks like it was fantastic! Nice rock!! Nice route!!!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jun 26, 2014 - 08:43pm PT
Excellent effort, and gorgeous rock. Thanks for a TR off the beaten path (at least of the beaten TR path).

John
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Jun 26, 2014 - 08:47pm PT
Beautiful climb!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 26, 2014 - 08:48pm PT
Kings deserves much love
jstn

Trad climber
monrovia, ca
  Jun 26, 2014 - 09:04pm PT
Nice time!
rincon

climber
Coarsegold
  Jun 26, 2014 - 10:28pm PT
Wow, brings back memories!

Good luck on the FFA you guys. Nice effort so far!

"The marathon 8th pitch expanded my mind" ...I thought it was pretty epic too! So cool to know someone else has been there and done that. What did it go free at?
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jun 27, 2014 - 04:35am PT
Way to step off the shore and shove out into deep water. Proud line and attempt. Thanks for sharing!


Scott
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Jun 27, 2014 - 05:50am PT
Good stuff.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 27, 2014 - 07:21am PT
Beautiful rock boyz!!!!!
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Jun 27, 2014 - 08:01am PT
Nice!
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jun 27, 2014 - 08:07am PT
Thanks.
Aaron Cassebeer

climber
Mojave, CA
Author's Reply  Jun 27, 2014 - 08:50am PT
limpingcrab - Yes, "What's Up Bubb" is the route. Sorry I missed writing this in the story!

Rincon - Luke toproped the pitch onsight so he can better answer your question. Based on watching him climb it and how much effort he put in I would say somewhere between 5.11b & 5.11d. There are a lot of good face features on that pitch, just not the best protection. I was hoping there would be a great crack in the corner, but nope. :)

The route does need some more work to replace some of the 1/4" bolts with better free climbing protection. The goal is to finish it soon and have a good free climbing topo for others. It really is a varied and quality route so far (through P9). And so far it goes at an easier grade than Samurai Warrior.

Thanks for the psyche!
-Aaron

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jun 27, 2014 - 09:13am PT
That is so funny! After Luke told me about how cool Samurai Warrior was, I looked at other topos from Bubs Creek Wall and wondered if Whats up Bob could be free climbed! Was gonna suggest it to Luke, but he got on it prior to me even mentioning it!
I think him and I have some energy field connection, not just the internet lol.

How many more pitches do you have to do to top out the wall? As I understand you guys did 8 so far and Luke TRonsighted the crux pitch? Rincon should let you add bolts or fixed pins (?) to make the thing leadable :) Or you might have to find another variation around it. I think there will be many more people who would enjoy it as a free climb vs an aid route. In any case, good luck!!! Exciting shit! Hope to read the continuation about your attempt at the First FREE Ascent.
Would be cool to have some harder free climbs put up on the West side. Some cool rock out there.

Texplorer

Trad climber
Sacramento
  Jun 27, 2014 - 09:57am PT
Always cool to see another first ascentionist born. Congrats on your first FA. Can't wait to hear the part II of this story.
Rudbud

Gym climber
Marathon, FL
  Jun 27, 2014 - 11:09am PT
This is what its all about, it looks top notch. Finish it up and let us know what its all about so we can all get out there and give it a go too. If you need any help let me know, I would love to help.
I like your style!
Impaler

Social climber
San Francisco
  Jun 27, 2014 - 11:18am PT
This is awesome! Great to hear that it worked out so far! I hope it turns into another stellar route!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 27, 2014 - 01:59pm PT
Excellent TR. TFPU
pc

climber
  Jun 27, 2014 - 02:12pm PT
Man that looks like a great climb. TFPU.
pc
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Jun 27, 2014 - 02:18pm PT
Luke is a class act, nothing but respect for his FFA efforts anywhere the big walls reside.

Great tr, kings is sick.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Jun 27, 2014 - 02:34pm PT
Nice, Good TR thanks for posting.

Lots of really great stuff around Kings Canyon.
Laine

Trad climber
Reno, NV
  Jun 27, 2014 - 02:40pm PT
Badass, Aaron. Crushin' it!
DataMind

Social climber
  Jun 27, 2014 - 03:10pm PT
This isn't just some bullsh!t we've done in the past. This is a chronicling of our rise, to power!

[Click to View YouTube Video]

jonnyrig

climber
  Jun 27, 2014 - 03:18pm PT
ooh... very nice!
Jingy

climber
Random Nobody
  Jun 27, 2014 - 04:52pm PT
awesome TR

Thanks for the story and the pics...
The Larry

climber
  Jun 28, 2014 - 08:54am PT
Cool!
Aaron Cassebeer

climber
Mojave, CA
Author's Reply  Jun 30, 2014 - 09:08am PT
Sorry if there's any confusion about the style in which we climbed. Here's the story:

This was a FFA attempt on What's Up Bubb, 5.9 A3. I believe it also was an attempt at making the second ascent. We did receive permission from the first ascentionists to add bolts (if necessary) to turn it into a free climb.

-Aaron

Hardly Visible

Social climber
Llatikcuf WA
  Jun 30, 2014 - 09:13am PT
Looks like some nice stuff
Aaron Cassebeer

climber
Mojave, CA
Author's Reply  Dec 10, 2014 - 10:37am PT
Here's the outcome of the route, the free variation is complete!

http://mountainproject.com/v/whats-up-bubb/109475790#a_109807227

-Aaron
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Dec 10, 2014 - 11:29am PT
I did the first seven pitches before a thunderstorm chased us off. The climbing is pretty damn good. Psyched you guys got on it and found ways for P7 etc to go free. It is quite hard.
I was really impressed original FA party did the 2nd pitch on hooks (ST member Rincon or his partner? Well done!). I was pretty gripped free climbing it above the 1st or 2nd bolt. Felt a bit slippery and far from the protection bolt. Also, though 11a rating for pitch 1 was fair for an onsight, like you guys originally said.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Dec 10, 2014 - 11:51am PT
Aaron.... cool that you guys did the FFA, Rincon will be stoked to know.

thanks for the TR.

RyanD

climber
  Dec 10, 2014 - 12:11pm PT
Nice! Beautiful stone!
matty

Trad climber
under the sea
  Dec 10, 2014 - 03:54pm PT
Great Job guys!! must hvae bee really exciting and fulfilling to finally get it done!!! Congrats and I know Rincon is proud of your effort.


you should draw a topo and give a very brief/minimal pitch by pitch description on mountain project, save the beta and specifics for a separate post or comment. There are people that will want to try the climb without knowing exactly when and where it gets hard/easy or what specific moves may be. I'm all for beta but leave it up to the person to seek it out if they want it.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Dec 10, 2014 - 04:23pm PT
Matty, the mountainproject description is VERY good. It is hard to get lost with it. I followed it and thought there was no shortage of beta.
rincon

climber
Coarsegold
  Dec 11, 2014 - 05:00am PT
Congratulations you guys! I actually never thought I'd live to see the day our route got a second ascent...let alone a free ascent! Looks like the Bubbs Creek Wall has finally arrived! When Gene Mayo and I were there working on the FA in 1999, we were blown away when we met a couple of other climbers at camp, and they were there to put up a new route too. (left of Crystal Banzai) I don't think they ever finished it though. It was nice hanging out with them at camp. Gene and I climbed the first 4 or 5 pitches the summer of '99, then didn't get to go back until the next summer, and then we reled to our high point since we didn't leave ropes fixed. Then we spent 4 days on the wall with the luxury of porta-ledges and all the trimmings. I love it up there in that canyon, and hope to get back up there again to do another new route or two if i'm not too over the hill yet. And also...congratulations to Vitaliy and Luke for completing another completely new route on the wall this summer.."The Emperor" looks Badass!
limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Dec 10, 2014 - 09:49pm PT
couple of other climbers at camp, and they were there to put up a new route too. (left of Crystal Banzai) I don't think they ever finished it though.

Aha! That's where that random bolt down there came from!
matty

Trad climber
under the sea
  Dec 10, 2014 - 11:42pm PT
Vit-

Rereading my post now I realize I didn't express myself clearly. I was not saying they needed to add beta, but rather thought there was too much beta given on mountainproject and that the posted description there should be a little less detailed and then to have a separate post containing more details for those who want it. Cheers bud!
nopantsben

climber
europe
  Dec 11, 2014 - 03:02am PT
i had no idea this area existed. man it looks cool!!
thanks for the rad TR!
matty

Trad climber
under the sea
  Dec 11, 2014 - 09:21am PT
OK Ben next time you get here I'll give you another lift to the valley and we can hit it on the way ;)
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Dec 11, 2014 - 09:35am PT
BitchinradnessextremeKOR!
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