Jeremy e-mailed a few weeks ago saying he'd scoped out another new line in the Valley of the Gods. Hell yeah! This guy is motivated. Its a 5 hour drive for him from Albuquirky. Its only an hour for me . . .
He said he thought the thing would go free! "The pro just might be a little thin, like beaks and stuff . . . "
So, Jeremy starts free climbing, gets up about 8 feet, slams in a beak, and says, "I'm going to have to resort to aid If I'm going to get any pro in." He then proceeds to put together a string of 18 to 20 beaks in a row to start off the pitch. With the help of a couple of bolts in blank sections (i.e. in between nearly imperceptible beak placements)he eventually connected it into this awesome looking crack system that drew us to the route from the ground.
After about 6 hours, Jeremy had put in some 30+ pieces, 3/4 of which were beaks. A2+, he wants to call it. Whatever, nevermind the ground fall potential with the string of body-weight gear right off the deck . . .
It was the most impressive aid climbing performance I've ever witnessed. When we walked up to the base, I was like, "So, where do you want to start this thing?" Looking up at the first 70 feet or so of crackless choss.
Jeremy showed no signs of doubt
I did not sleep well, knowing I was on for the next day. I was really questioning my motivations. My pitch featured this crazy looking roof system with all this very loose looking rock just kinda hanging there. In the end, I think my only motivation was just to save face by not chickening out (although I could have thought up all sorts of reasons to bail on the lead, any of which would have been valid).
As it turned out my pitch came together nicely. It was "all there", as they say. Very awkward and convoluted, with wide crack climbing at the start and finish, and the crazy roof system in the middle. I had to employ some strategic back-cleaning to keep the rope running smoothly. Even placed a few beaks (Jeremey is like, "Yeah Baby!")
Let me take this opportunity to say that anyone who thinks aid climbing is not an athletic endeavor hasn't done any serious aid climbing. I mean I was busting out these wild martial arts/yoga maneuvers out of my top steps, trying to reach past these pods and shove a cam into the crumbling crack above. Very strenuous and technical movement. Plus, that special kind of endurance you need to keep it together on lead for 5, 6, 7+ hours at a time.
That was one of the best aid pitches I've ever done, spectacular!