Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lost on Ummaguma


There we were staring at the slab. All of us quiet, grinning with a twinge of confusion, and thus far, a pretty good taste of the route. We knew we had just rocked the pendulum, swinging like excited baboons on the rotten, fixed rope.  We had climbed through and over a half-dead tree in amazement, then were drop jawed by a slammer tower

"So where do we go?"

We look intently over each others' shoulders at the tattered, moist topo. 

Paulie starts in with " Well Myles, you said you did the route... Where to?" 
"I said I went so high, then bailed... Jackson over here said he did it". Then of course Jackson is chiming in with how he only said he did it because Paulie said he had. 

Just a little bit over half-way and the truth comes pouring out... We have all been goated.

"I'm not making that move" we all say at some point. 

Yeah, we're pissed at one another. There are groans and terrible comments being thrown around with nothing but love. We do some hard heckling and reflecting upon the moment... We are roughly 700ft up, no rope, no gear, not a sip of water, no shirts and a topo with nothing left to give. 

"I'm not calling for a rescue"
"Me neither"
" I'd eat Paulie first!

Jackson, the super strong Nome of the group, begins out first. Paulie and I leaning on each other giving words of encouragement. He criss-crossed and moved quite well even with our banter. Then the Bearded Hippie a.k.a. Paulie took over. He did some terrifying plant dyno swinging/slab climbing to get across. I went Jackson's way. 

Now standing on the other side, we are shouting and grunting. We are Exhilarated! Shouts are thrown from the wall along with Real Man Monkey Calls.

Hey we're only eighteen, nineteen and twenty-one; it's cool.

We finish the route, dying of thirst. With plenty of daylight, surprisingly, we feel like we just conquered a 1500ft giant, in pretty good style. Royal Arches in Yosemite National Park just has something special about it... Doesn't it?

Ummaguma... For the last three years I have been piecing together this "Royal Arches" in the Whitney Portal. I wanted something that you can run before work or after lunch: an adventure route with a twist. High, exposed and fun. I wanted a big wall.

It means "The Wandering" in Swahili... also a pretty rad album by Pink Floyd. 

So, I did some wandering up there. I kept wandering. A whole hell of a lot of wandering. Wrong turns there, down climbs here. Perfecting it with friends on every climb became the job. Adding some kind of variation to get it one step closer to perfect. For instance, Chris Orozco and I climbed the last main corner system on the summit pyramid, where I had bowed out solo a year earlier. Another time my buddy Hugo Perez and I decided to mix in the second to last five hundred foot dihedral, making the climb epic. Then Dave Daley joined me with a piece of 6mm cord which we used to lash together reeds growing out of the crack.  We then hand over handed up the bushel to reach the hold... different, but sure wild. Amy a few days ago got to that very spot looked at the bushel and said "you got to be kidding me?"… Perfect!  

The route consists of at least five tunnel throughs, hundreds of feet of slab, lots of lie-backing, one gateway move, two massive 500 foot corners, some airy traversing and one bushel climb.There just might even be pendulum...

 Ummaguma 5.7 III,  2'500+ ft
The Wrinkled Lady, Whitney Portal
Lone Pine, Ca
Summer of 2010-2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Moonstone Video... Whipper!

   The smear, the fight, the Fall!

The video quality is a little fuzzy and long - will see what we can do, but for now you get the Idea!
( Skip to two minutes and 50 seconds for a good one )

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A solo ride up the Becky Route.

The Becky Route, Premier Buttress-
Whitney Portal, 5.8 A0 or 5.10c

No, it is not something that happens every day. Just something that must happen once in awhile and when it does... It's always unforgettable. 5 pitches of the most aesthetic climbing that I know of lead to another 400 ft 5th class scramble to the true summit. By pitch three you encounter the bolt ladder. With only two shoulder sling and two biners I slabbed-out to the ladder. I would clip the bolt, stand on the sling, then on the bolt hanger itself, reach up to the next bolt clip it, grab the sling, then squat down and grab the sling below.Repeat four or five times. Gets pretty wild transitioning to the slab moves after the ladder, but totally Awesome! Photos by Steve Wheeler.

Moon Walking in the Whitney Portal

For nearly a month I watched our little haulbag and portaledge dangle on the wall awaiting our return. Summer thunder storms had hit the massif for about three weeks straight. During that time the walls in the Portal came to life with huge waterfalls, while the creeks jumped their banks and flooded the parking lots with gravel and stones of all different sizes. We knew we would been earth bound for awhile, dreaming of the vertical world.

Finally it arrived... We packed plenty of food and began our siege. Not a Giant wall... But, a blank one and definitely big enough. Climbing past our previously finished pitches, it was incredible to see the line taking form: three back to back 5.12 pitches with one A0 section. We stared down from our high point while talking about a possible free variation for the A0 section, with a super big run and all points jump to get to one huge black knob to then only scrap up to another giant ameba. Chris and I would have it free, but the holds just kept snapping off. Regardless, it was time for launch!

The portaledge was set for comfort, my partner Chris ready for whatever was to come, so with Casey as rope manager, I set off. After clipping the three bolts we had placed prior, I headed into Virgin ground once more. Awesome features allowed the crescent of the moon to be walked, right on the lip of the giant roof system. Then it went blank... Real blank! Smearing onto non-existent holds, I began hauling the drill with my teeth and hand...I could feel the weight of the beast pulling me off the wall. I took rest and shook my arms one at a time. My left arm was slowly exploding from grasping a terrible knob. I could barely lift the drill and get it to start hammering. My eyes were fixated on the drill bit while it bounced around on the just wouldn't take! I shook out and lifted the drill, right as it started drilling my foot popped and I was in flight. I just barely clipped a dike during my fall, about to flip backwards, I found myself dangling in space under the roof. The excitement and adrenaline had me screaming and shouting. Chris dying of laughter and Casey getting it all on video. I hauled back up and asked Chris if I should go for it again. He asked "do you really want to do that again... Is it a question of ethics?" I replied with "No, send up the hooks". Then I looked at my lead line... Shot! The white tendons were saying "that was a close one!". I dug the pocket knife out of my chalkbag and loped it off, reset the knot and headed off on the hooks. I fired in the bolt, made the few stout moves and took the runout on easy terrain to the next belay. The day was coming to an end and some hot food sounded pretty good. We rappelled four pitches to our camp below the wall.

An early rise put us two pitches from the summit, with plenty of day ahead of us. Casey had left the day before, so Chris and I shoved off into the abyss. Finally we encountered the pitch; exposure, bullet-hard granite, solid 1/4" edges, and those huge black amebas everywhere. Four bolts in slightly less than two hundred feet, kept this pitch high and wild! Walking left on a ledge to the very edge of the Moon and looking down, one can't help but to yell in excitement- the wall drops off for at least 600ft straight to the ground. Then if that's not enough to get the blood pumping, the leader must rock a razor handrail for 30 plus feet, literally hanging off the crescent moon. One more final pitch of 5.9 climbing lead to a perfect summit pinnacle.

Thankfully this route has been put to rest. Out of all the lines that I have put up with my partners and friends this was, by far, the hardest to equip. From massive whippers and screamers, to ripping hooks; the air time I logged was astronomical. Chris held in there like a champ always willing to catch the wing. The Masai shoes by Tenaya performed excellent with all the dime edging and hard smears. A total of six massive pitches went almost entirely free. Yes, it's waiting for a ground-up free ascent. It's full on and a direct line bottom to top.

Moon Walker IV, 5.12 A0 6 pitches
Whitney Portal, Moon Stone
Chris Orozco and Myles Moser
Summer 2013