Three days of climbing at the Leap over Memorial Day weekend – sounds like a recipe for long lines at the base, crowded belays, and total epics by all of the kids with shiny new racks for their first trip outside the gym.
Incredibly, there was NOBODY THERE all weekend – a midday scan of the East Wall Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, showed about 8 parties, TOTAL. This just continues to prove my theory about Lover’s Leap: Everybody is so convinced that it’s going to be a madhouse that everyone goes someplace else. Irony defined.
We camped at the not-so-super-secret “other” area (not the main campground is all I’ll tell you), and quickly realized why the Canadians we had met last season were so evasive when we had asked them about it – if you’re willing do go without the (foul) camp toilets and pump your own water in the stream, you are stone cold crazy to stay at the campground. That is, unless, you just have to get to Strawberry Lodge for ice cream at night, in which case I forgive you.
We kicked things off Saturday with a trip up Psychedelic Tree, supposedly the “ugly sister of The Line”. Well, I know The Line, and you, Sir, are no The Line. EAGGH! P.1 of this thing had blocks waiting to blow and I was more scared for my belayer than for myself! These things were held in with… ??? No fucking clue, that’s what. Maybe a bird crapped on them one time and sort of formed a kind of poo glue, but man, there ain’t much else keeping these things in contact with the wall. I was skeeved. The rest of “the tree” was actually enjoyable, and the topout memorable to be sure. All-in, though, not something I’m going to repeat any time soon.
Just to paint the contrast, we jogged back down and jumped on The Line. Last time Bob-san and I were on this it seemed cruiser. This time, something was different. We swapped pitches, with me taking P.1 and Bob P.2, opposite our first trip. The runout off the deck was no problem, but I found myself wondering what I was supposed to do about 100 feet up. I didn’t remember a crux around here… Whatever. With that move dispatched, we quickly ticked another ultra-classic at the Leap without waiting 1 minute for anyone. Incredible!
Day two dawned at the not-so-super-secret “other” area, and the plan was set over breakfast: Traveler’s Buttress.
I’d led p.1 of this late last season in a complete horror show, during which I left a fair amount of blood in the flaring hand crack crux. I was sketched. Good thing for me, then, that I hadn’t read the guidebook description of this pitch before I tackled it (“falls from this section have resulted in injury”). Neither of us had any desire to repeat the snap-crackle-pop pitch with poor protection, so we traversed in high on the main ledge and got our start at the notorious p.2 offwidth.
We ended up waiting for the party ahead of us (or behind, since they were coming up p.1 and we weren’t cruel enough to snake the route from them, given our lack of OW experience) in the shade, and remembered once again that it is retardedly cold on the main ledge in the shade. The route “Arctic Breeze” is aptly named…
The two girls wrapped up p.1 (with appropriate reverence for the section I had battled last season, I would add), and set off up the OW. I’d never watched anyone climb this pitch before, and while it looked challenging, they were definitely making it look possible. I would soon realize that these were special girls indeed.
I racked up for a right-side-in OW adventure, brought my Red Rocks OW toproping lessons to the fore, and set myself in to the jaws of the beast. 5 feet, 10 feet, nothing. No feet, no way to arm bar, no nothing. I was too big to get myself in to the crack, and, well, not too small for anything, really. I just felt too big. I could see some great constrictions 8 feet above me, but it may as well have been back in the bay area, for all the progress I was making through this section.
10 minutes later, I did the (not so) unthinkable: I downclimbed and turned the rack over to Bob. Bob has one distinct advantage over me – he can effectively turn the volume down on his sense of self-preservation. Appropriately deluded, Bob threw himself at the crux of the OW, and just WENT FOR IT. I tried to watch and glean some ideas about how he got through the section, but realized that he did it on determination alone. Ahhh, crap. Bob managed the rest of the offwidth in relative style, and actually managed to pull some pretty wild moves in reaching back to extend a sling, and after about 40 minutes, I was on belay.
I still couldn’t get through this section – toprope or not. I ended up using the .10b finger crack to the left of the OW to pull the moves (I love that .10b finger crack is easier than .9 OW!) and realized that while the the crux of the OW is relatively low, the crux of the pitch is keeping your forearms from blowing up during the last 80 unrelenting feet of splitter hand crack. This pitch is like Bishop’s terrace, plus a bit of difficulty, that just KEEPS GOING AND GOING. 5 stars.
I had p.3, the arete traverse. Since I am apparently forgetting what a full rope length pitch is like, I set up shop to belay (retarded hanging belay…grr.) at the parallel horizontal crack near the two pins. Oh well – I really wasn’t feeling deprived by not leading the 5.5 dikes to the top.
Final analysis: P.1 – scary but “interesting P.2 – Ultra-classic P.3 (to pins) very cool, especially if you do the step across to the pins – incredible exposure – P.4/5 yawn.
A NA 50 classics climb? Hard to vote it in that group, for me.
Fairly sated for the day, we decided to have lunch and regroup. Still almost nobody around , and a midday nap sounded pretty good. After a rest, we were drawn by the moderate climbing and booty potential of a moderate classic: Bear’s Reach. I hadn’t done this climb at all last season, and had pretty much forgottten the layout. After climbing it again I’m not sure why it’s a classic – yeah, the reach is cool, but other than that it’s not much better than everything else around it – and no booty at 6pm on a holiday weekend. What? Are the gumbys all at home?
Sunday we decided to have at a climb new for both of us: It’s better with bacon, on the Hogsback section. It was meant to be a fun, runout, 5.8 face climb, and it lived up to it’s billing. WE would have roasted th 4 pitches in about 1:20 had we not been behind a group of a guide + 2 girls. The group was rapping from the top of p.3, uneventfully, at least for the guide and the first girl. As I approached her, she screamed that something had broken. Puuurfect. The guide ended up ascending the ropes with a prussik (sweatfest) to determine (as I had suggested to her, calmly) that she had been victim of “massive ‘biner shift). I can remember how disconcerting it was the first few times you find yourself hanging a few hundred feet above terra firma, realizing that your only tether to where you are is a few pieces of nylon and bits of aluminum. Once the guide (double duty as bartender in the Strawberry Lodge) had talked her off the proverbial ledge, they did a double rap past me. The girl managed to lose control over an overhang and send both of them crashing in to me – me who is at a stance, on lead! Fortunately I had a decent jam in and withstood this girl’s assassination attempt, but we’d lost at least an hour, all things considered.
The climb itself? Worthwhile, fun, thin climbing, with enough protection that anyone who climbs the grade in Tolumne should find it fun. Just don’t get behind two new climbers and their guide.
We decided to finish the weekend with a known, fun, quantity: Haystack. I can not say enough good things about this climb. This is my favorite 5.8 anywhere. The variety of moves, quality of rock, and that roof come together to be such a fun 3/4 pitches. The downside is that I have been stuck behind some USELESS climbers literally every single time I’ve been on it, most notably standing at the p.3 belay one BAKING summer afternoon for 2 HOURS (photo). People, get your shit together! This time, sadly, was more of the same.
We had spied a group on pitch two from our top-out on the Hogsback, but figured that they’d be long gone by the time we ate a leisurely lunch and made the approach (off Hogsback and up to the East Wall). We were wrong. After a casual race to the base with another group (Nick Nolte lookalike contest WINNER, hands down), I set off up p.1. Wow – awesome, casual climbing, just like I remembered it. Too bad I am retarded and don’t know what a full rope-length pitch is like any more. I stopped TWICE, thinking I was at the belay ledge – both times short. I finally figured it out and brought Bob up. Bob dispatched the roof with style and ease, and I was up and through his belay soon enough.
Or rather, at his belay soon enough. The same dikes of infamy, the same place I baked that summer afternoon last season, I found myself AGAIN. The group we had seen on p.2 had made one pitch of progress in 90 minutes. Awesome. Chalk up another clusterfuck. Even this couldn’t drag my weekend down, though the dude at the belay with dogcrap breath was sure trying.
But with enough time left in the day to drink beer, sort gear, and take a nap in the river before we headed home, life still seemed fairly fine, and it was. I’ve rarely had so much low-commitment fun on a three day climbing trip. This was made all the better by the fact that there were about 20 people sharing the entire Leap all weekend – incredible bonus. Hey guys, stay home all season – the Leap is never worth the crowds.
PS Jimboy’s tacos is the worst food I have ever paid for in my life. Seriously. Ever. And if you think that I am not able to see you flicking me off to you coworker because I stepped on the floor that you are mopping DURING BUSINESS HOURS, then I suppose we’ve solved the riddle of why you are working at Jimboy’s tacos, and I am not.