Friday, January 21, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

October of 2009 produced three new routes and two unclimbed pinnacles in the Menagerie.  I got lucky and got to team up with one of my hero's Tom Bauman for the first ascent of The Snake in the Outback area of the Menagerie. Tom is hardcore, he's been doing first ascents in the Menagerie since 1964. He is one of the best ground up choss climbers ever, so this was a privilege to get him out of climbing retirement for a first ascent of an unclimbed pillar that probably had not been seen by a human in twenty years. Tom's memory was a little foggy and he is still not sure if it was the spire he thought he had seen years before, either way it was good enough for me, but out there still, the real Snake may exist. Up next was the first ascent of The Zebra, the last unclimbed spire in the Keith Creek drainage.  Comparable to The Beast in difficulty, I managed to take a thirty foot fall onto a #1 pecker.  Brian's perfect belay kept me from hitting the deck. With adrenaline surging I yarded back up to the pecker and free climbed up to where the sling I was in the process of placing was still hanging off the horn, I hurriedly clipped in hoisted myself up a full body length higher than I'd been before and quickly drilled the most terrifying bolt ever.  With the bolt clipped the danger was eliminated and the summit was reached easily the next day. That climb still lingers sweet. Brian and I also established a minor new route on Boulder Dome, but like many times in the past Tom thinks he may have climbed parts of it during a first ascent thirty years prior. With trails getting cleaned up any many bolts being replaced, The Menagerie is sure to become the next Smith Rock in a few years.

The Snake.

The Zebra

On top of The Zebra.

Jeff Thomas climbs the first pitch of "Dream Boat Annie" on Royal Arch. September 2010

Jeff Thomas climbs the first pitch of "Dream Boat Annie" on Royal Arch. September 2010

The Bridge. Photo: Greg Orton

Mai Hyman, Will Nazarian & Tyler Adams on top of the South Rabbit Ear. Photo: Greg Orton

Morgul Vale

Here is a topo of the Morgul Vale. The second to last bolt on the 6th pitch was moved about 15' to the right, making the route easier to follow and the rope drag not so bad.

Morgal Vale.

Wolf Rock 2010

Wolf Rock stands as the largest monolith in Oregon. So why no one did what we did this year before really blows my mind? During the past year we where able to add about 18 pitches to the South East face of Wolf Rock. With a low snow pack we got things going in early March, kicking it off Chris Fralick and I went up to attempt to finish the third pitch of the Coriolis Effect/Mystery Route and encountered too rotten of rock for a ground up attempt that day. On the ground with the whole lead bolting kit in hand I decided to start up the three bolt abandoned project left of Get Up Stand Up, this went extremely well and resulted in T.R. a three start 10a, with the ease of this route it set the tone for bigger and better things to come. Later in April we bumped into Wayne Arrington, the master of Wolf Rock whom established Coligula, Gigantor, Barad-Dur and Pooh Corner at Wolf back in 70's.  Wayne told us we should go up on Gigantor and add some more bolts and make it climbable. In its current condition it was surely a death route, not attracting any repeats other than Wayne him self. Now I normally wouldn't be too into fully retro bolting old routes but with the blessing of the first ascensionist, being his idea it seemed like a must do. Not even knowing and still not knowing where the actual route went made it basically a first ascent in its own right. So we created the eight pitch 5.9 Morgul Vale aka Gigantor V2.0. The final push to the summit was the last climbable day at Wolf Rock this season, the next day the snow and rains began thus putting a close to the most productive season in Wolf Rocks history.

Routes completed in 2010:
T.R. - 5.10a - one pitch - FA: Tyler Adams & Chris Fralick
Steppen Wolf - 5.7 - two pitches - FA:  Tyler Adams & Chris Fralick
The Underdog - 5.10d - one pitch - FA: Chris Fralick & Tyler Adams
Frog & Chimp -  5.8 - two pitches - FA: Tyler Adams & Bill Amos
Cerberus - 5.10c/d - one pitch - FA: Chris Fralick & Tyler Adams
The Cross Roads variation - one pitch - FA:  Tyler Adams & Jack Maylunas
Morgul Vale - 5.9+ - eight pitches - FA: Chris Fralick & Tyler Adams
Ian's Route - 5.10a - two pitches - FA: Ian Roth & Tyler Adams

Also John Rich, Randy Rimby, Dave Trepp, Peter Fralick, Brian Gilbert, Jake Hector, Jake Ringold and Kirk Winkler all helped out in some way or another.

Wolf Rock on a wet June afternoon.
Chris Fralick on the first ascent of pitch two of Steppen Wolf. 5/23/10

Brian Gilbert on pitch one of Steppen Wolf. 5/30/10

Brian Gilbert rappelling Steppen Wolf. 5/30/10

The South East face from the base. 5/30/10

Wayne Arrington checking in. 6/5/10

Jake Ringold on rappel. 6/5/10

Jake Hector at camp, rain or shine. 6/9/10

The ladies at the base. 6/12/10

John Rich starting up the first pitch of Morgal Vale, while Cathy Power takes a nap. 6/12/10
John Rich on pitch one of The Morgal Vale. 6/12/10

Jake Ringold on belay duty while Cathy Power, Veronica Schmitz & Jake Hector look on. 6/12/10

Foliage. 6/13/10

Peter Fralick on the second ascent of The Underdog. 6/13/10

Ian Roth on the first ascent of the first pitch of Ian's Route. 6/22/10

What the hell? Tyler Adams atop pitch two during the first ascent of Ian's Route. 6/22/10

Fred Spencer following Chris Fralick up Chimp & Frog. 9/25/10

Peter Fralick belays Chris Fralick on pitch three of The Morgul Vale. 10/5/10

Unknown climbers on Barad-Dur. 10/12/10

Unknown climbers on Barad-Dur. 10/12/10

John Rich leaves his mark on pitch five of The Morgul Vale. 10/12/10

Tyler Adams takes over the bolt gun on pitch five of The Morgal Vale. 10/12/10

Chris Fralick on the first ascent of the 140' Cerebrus during final summit push of The Morgul Vale. 11/5/10

Chris Fralick and the junk show during the final push on The Mogal Vale. 11/5/10
The crew up high. 11/5/10

Tyler Adams on pitch five of The Morgal Vale. 11/5/10

Wolf Meadow or Wolf Marsh? 11/5/10

The car. 11/5/10

Chris Fralick launches into the unknown on pitch six of The Morgul Vale. 11/5/10

Chris Fralick walks off the summit after the first ascent of The Morgal Vale. 11/5/10

The masterminds at the base. 11/5/10

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Playtupus

I've spent countless hours and gallons of gas winding my way through the maze of gravel roads that criss-cross the Oregon Cascades searching for that next "classic" climb. Most of the time these searches turn up nothing. Once and a while though, I get lucky. This past summer taking the long way home from Wolf Rock I scored big (in my book) with my rediscovery of The Platypus, a spire I had seen a few years before and had forgotten about. Now most sane people would not think anything of The Platypus, a 150' tall lump of decomposing volcanic "rock" just barley poking out of the trees high on the hillside of a drainage far off the beaten path.

To me though, this was pure gold, a short five minute downhill stroll from the car brings one to base, what could be better? My initial inspection revealed the rock to be complete crap, no cracks in sight and nothing that would hold body weight. I figured fine with me, a bolt ladder will at least be safe. I recruited my buddy Brian who is always game for some Oregon choss adventure assuming I can pry him away from his girlfriend, and off we went. The start began easily with a little bit of easy free climbing to a wide five to six inch crack filled with moss and gravel, the excavating began and thus set the tone for the climb. After a few moves in this crack I reached a ledge where I traversed left to its highpoint to begin drilling my summit bolt ladder. Using four inch bolts I managed to break through the outer crap layer and reach something that let the bolts catch and snug up to my specs. After the third bolt there was a small groove starting to form, though with no visible crack. As always I've got a few peckers on my rack, so I pulled one off, whacked it into the groove thinking maybe I could penetrate this outer layer of crud, and with three fat bolts below I had nothing to loose. Oddly it sunk and seemed to bite right in, it held, and so began the adventure.
Tomahawk #1.
I tagged up the rest of the pointy things and after about six more beak placements in the back of the groove, the angle above began to ease and the dirt began to form.  I placed the last lead bolt and launched into the dirtiest string of aid placements of my life. The lower the angle the groove got, the dirtier and harder the placements got, and scarier and scarier the possible of the mandatory free climbing ahead looked. Eventually the groove was too dirty to excavate to the rock. I placed a specter into a mix of dirt and moss and possibly rock, trying my hardest not to fully weight it I was forced to free climb ten feet to a stance below the final overhang and drill a belay anchor. Out of fat bolts it was time to lower and call it a day.

The progression of placements that day:

On the second day Brian stayed and belayed from the ground after I back cleaned the entire first pitch. The groove continued through the overhang above and actually formed a three inch crack at the start but quickly pinched down to nothing again. Imagine climbing out of a butt crack. After a some really awkward cam placements and some large two inch angles, another string of beaks began. Things where going well then after eight or so beaks the groove disappeared when the summit was a just a few feet away. The rock was still vertical so free climbing was out, and I really didn't want to drill any more. There where a couple of calcium seams in the rock where I just hammer beaks into and eventually I had my hand on the summit. Still unable to make the mantle onto the summit due to the looseness of the rock, I took another beak off the rack and hammered it straight into the summit mess, equalized it with another one, and finally was able to belly flop onto the summit. Ahh shit that was rad! Quickly pulled up the drill and drilled three bolts, Brian cleaned, and that was it. We drove to Wolf to work on a different project. In my book it was another classic! Now most will disagree, but who's to say?