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?

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