Devo's Climbs

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Rock Climb: 8-Mile Buttress/February Buttress

Mike M & I went to L-worth Sat. Weather was iffy, but other than a few inconsequential sprinkes, it was fine. We arrived in the Icicle about 10am and hoofed it up to Lower 8-Mile - I'd decided Mike would enjoy a jaunt up the Tree Route (5.6). It was just as much fun as my first time and Mike enjoyed it too.

After that, I decided to take a look at Mr. Tremendous (5.10b), just off to the right. Rob W. had recommended it highly and I thought I'd give it a go if it looked interesting. The route looked fun but the start looked sketchy - few options for gear and the first bolt was 20 feet off the deck. I decided to climb as high as I felt comfortable and see if I could reach the bolt. I got up under a miniature roof whereupon the handholds thinned and the feet disappeared. I spent several minutes investigating my options but couldn't find any sequence that I trusted to surmount the roof. A decent edge was tantalizingly out of reach - I would have to trust a suspicious foot smear to reach it - a move that felt about 5.9 (the 5.10b crux move was above on the second pitch). I looked for a spot to get my first piece in and settled for a placement under a flake about three feet below me where I got in my smallest cam, a .3 Camalot. Back at the roof I found a rounded, shallow indentation just above it for my right hand. I didn't like it much and spent several more minutes vascilating between moving forward and downclimbing. I skootched a little higher to get a better look, smeared my left foot out on the face, and...

I was off.

I remember thinking, "Any time now," expecting the rope to pull tight on the cam. It didn't. I felt a little tug and then I was tumbling backwards. I felt the back of my helmet impact the rock with a loud "smack," I completed three rolls and stopped, sitting upright looking downhill. I felt ok but I sat still for a while to assess for any obvious injuries. "Why didn't Mike catch me?" I wondered. Then I remembered the tug and realized that my piece had pulled. That explained why I was so far downhill. In fact I had fallen about 20 feet past Mike at the belay - over 35 feet total from my former stance on the rock. I was damn fortunate. It'd been years since I'd fallen so far, and never to the ground. But I was ok. I got up and found Mike on the ground too - he had never let the belay fail, but he had tried to catch me with his spare hand as I whizzed on by. We debated what to do and I decided to climb back up. When I got to the flake where I'd placed the cam, I stuck my finger under it and brushed out a bunch of crumbled grainy granite crystals. It was obvious why the cam hadn't held - the rock was rotten and had failed, not the cam. I got back to the stance below the roof, looked all over for some obvious sequence that I might have missed the first time, and finally gave up and downclimbed back to the belay. I concluded this was simply a case of a poorly protected start. It seemed reasonable that a bolt should have been placed at the stance below the roof for several reasons:
  1. It was a technical crux with serious potential for a groundfall
  2. The options for natural protection up to that point were unsound
  3. The rock to the left of the roof was sound and an excellent position for a bolt
I would love to do this route, but unless there is some way to protect it that I obviously missed, I will stick-clip the first bolt before the attempt- it looks possible to reach the bolt by scrambling up some blocky stuff on the left.

Back at the car, we relaxed with PB&J sandwiches and a 1554 Brussels Style Black Ale. We talked a bit about doing another climb but didn't really decide much. As we drove out of the Icicle I thought doing another low grade climb would be worth it and allow us to end the day on a less dramatic note. I pulled over at the base of February Buttress and we climbed Groundhog's Day (5.7). The 3rd pitch had a different feel than previous attempts - it has a short but steep final headwall, all on grippy but fragile, crystaline rock, which from my experience on Mr. Tremendous I knew was worthless to protect. When I reached the final anchors I looked back down at my last solid placement 20-plus feet below and me and contemplated the potential fall that would've meant. Don't know what I could've done though. We rapped with a little adventure - the first rap didn't quite reach the rap station and we had to improvise an anchor to hang of to clip the station bolts. Neither of my 60 meter ropes span this reach - it's got to be the rap station setup. Afterwards, Mike bought me a burger and beer at the Ducks & Drakes. We had an uneventful ride home. I took a warm shower, downed four ibuprofen, applied some icy hot on my now sore, stiff muscles and went to bed.

Pictures to follow...

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