Wednesday, August 21, 2013
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 granite...it 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