Friday, September 28, 2012

Day Needle- BCB on the Prow VI 5.10 A2

I smiled at one of the hikers coming off the summit of Whitney heading back on the main trail, but he didn't smile back! Myles explained that I had blood on my teeth from the split lip I had gotten after our 3 days/4 nights putting up a new route on Day Needle-or what's now known as Crook's Peak. To the hiker, we must have looked half-crazed...worn and haggered, carrying our heavy packs up to the Whitney summit in order to descend the Mountaineer's Route.

It didn't matter. I guess I had known this day would come. After moving to Lone Pine last year, my boyfriend Myles had informed me of his dream to put up a new route on Day-or as he called it, "the forgotten needle". Last season, all our energies were exhausted on a new route we put up on the portal buttress and our back country excursions were our breaks to 'just go climbing'! Anyone who has put up a hard, multi-pitch route knows that actually climbing the route is only a small part of the ordeal-hauling, tactics, scoping, protecting, etc. plays a much bigger role than the pure climbing. So, after finishing "The Never Ending Story" (which will have a trip report soon:), we were free to start our new project on Day Needle. Although we'd have preferred to start at the base with our portal ledge and get to the top, our work schedule of 4 days on/3 days off made this feat impossible. So, instead, we started slowly. After hiking up loads to the base, we chose our desired line up a right-facing open-book just to the left of the most obvious, green open-book on the center of the wall (which, upon investigation, was seamless). The 1st pitch was fun and easy, with no fixed protection necessary! The 2nd went quickly as well, traversing back right around bulbous, exposed moves on a dike which stretches all the way through the Whitney massif, and ending with a killer flake to belay on a big ledge. After sitting many hours on the cold, shady ledge while Myles began the difficult moves of the 3rd pitch, we called it a day and fixed our 300 ft. static line.

The next trip out, we hiked back up the snow and jugged our line (this time I was prepared with down jacket, hat, gloves, & long johns). I belayed Myles while he placed to button-heads and aided/freed some tricky moves to get to the base of the giant roof, all the while, watching the two parties climbing the Harding Route on Keeler in the warm, beautiful sunlight! We kept wishing for the roof section to slab out and become an easy, fun jam crack, however, as I had expected, it was steep and hard-A0. After starting up a 5.6R up and left after the roof with no bolts or pins to fix, Myles down-climbed the 5.6 and we called it a day. We only had 600 ft. of rope to fix, so we called it and went back to the portal again for work.

With permission for an extra day off, we went back out with the intention of a final push to the top. We had enough food & water for 4 days, one sleeping bag (with Myles' genius pizza design which allowed the two of us to sleep really warm using only one sleeping bag w/one sleeping pad!) and all the clothes and gear needed to get to the top. Waking up at 3am, we knew that we had to hike out, jug, haul, & climb a pitch in order to rap down to a bivy ledge we spotted. Big Day! After jugging our extremely overhung ropes to the belay at the 5th pitch, Myles led up the 5.6R again to get us to our bivy. We decided that because of the quality of the route thus far, we needed to push ourselves and go up the right facing open-book we had both been eying on the right. We knew it was going to be much more difficult, but the prettiest line should be taken. Our bivy ledge was somewhat smaller and more uncomfortable than we had hoped, but when the sun came up the next day, we started off again up the open-book which turned out to be smaller than 00tcu's. Myles fixed two pins and it went fairly smoothly. Pitch 6 turned out to be a much bigger undertaking-another hard, thin R facing open-book to a bolt ladder to a difficult snake crack. Again, Myles fixed protection as I sat freezing. But, when all was done, I got to free the beginning! The weather turned as I was climbing and all the sudden we were on the wall, getting hailed on, had no where set to sleep, and had just dropped our other other words, we were committed. Myles climbed quickly through a steep A0 crack from a mushroom-like formation on what we called the 'mini-headwall' to find our next bivy just before dark. We found a giant, loose ledge which looked much better than our previous night's accommodations. Hauling over the loose terrain proved a little difficult, and after hours of hammering and neglecting to eat or drink water, Myles had gone into shock. He curled up into a little ball and went straight to sleep. The next day we got to climb 2 pitches of easy terrain (5.4)but the exposure on the ridge was superb! I came to the base of a giant jam crack and brought Myles over. After the hard day he had before, he agreed to let me take it. 215' of #1's and .75's led to a large slabby platform. The next pitch proved much more difficult-overhung #3's. After taking a painful fall in which I straddled an extremely sharp arete on impact, I started pulling on pieces! Myles nearly freed it on TR, falling at the very end! After trying to go left and realizing that the crack system we wanted was to the right, I down-climbed to a killer belay an alcove behind a detached rock. Myles led on to the right to the base of a perfectly beautiful, but very difficult off-width. After repeatedly bumping up a #4, Myles called down that he had accidentally stepped on his cam. From there, he gunned it to the top. He called down that we were only one pitch from the top, but it was about to get dark and we still had a lot of tricky hauling to do. Luckily, Myles had reserved our camp spot when we hauled after the 10th pitch-our bags had conveniently landed on a ledge Myles had spotted from our belay. We fixed our 300 ft static and 70m lead line and rapped to our last bivy-our best night's sleep yet. Jugging up the steep wall the next morning, it occurred to me that we were about to summit. I hadn't climbed the o/w yet, so Myles jugged up and started hauling so that when the bag got stuck I could free it as I came up. The sand-bagger told me that as a lie-back, it would be an easy 5.7, so he left me with ladders, ascenders, approach shoes, 2 #3's, a #4, a rack of nuts, down jacket, gloves, and anchor to bring up on the R-side of my harness! It was not 5.7, and I couldn't do it clean with the weight and my level of exhaustion. At the end of the pitch, we made a cool move up and around a chalkstone. I took the last pitch up a catwalk and through a hole to the summit. We got on top and packed our bags to carry off. We had thought about going up a final crack instead of the catwalk, but it looked like there were many large, loose chockstones and neither of us really desired to go up it. When we go back to make it 5.11 A0, we'll probably try to finish it proper.

It's so funny how you work so hard to get to the top and then feel nothing. We cursed the giant, loose gully known as the Mountaineer's Route as we descended toward camp. Arriving just as a strong wind that moved around our tent started. The next day as we hiked down to get to work before 1pm, it started to rain-we had finished just in time:) While putting up the route, we found a fixed bong and a bolt right below the chalkstone on pitch 13. We contacted John Vawter to see if it was their route's end, but it seems to be a variation off the Becky route. We chose to use button-heads to minimize the appearance of bolts on pristine, alpine rock. Looking up now at the Whitney Massif, it has just begun to hit me that I have had the privileged of scaling all, I just can't wait to bag the other beautiful needles and spires to the left:)
 day needle on the left of keeler needleSpire summit on the right, only nine pitches books at base...we took the furthest to the leftThe giant roof, to blank slab, to one hell of an over hanging head wal...1st pitchthe whitney massif

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