Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chip, Fingers and a Freckled Peregrine....North Ruby Wall 5.11 III

Ruby's Main "Diamond" Wall, located above Mosquito Flats up Rock Creek, holds very few routes. Galen Rowell's "East Arete Route" IV 5.10, "Central Route" IV 5.10 and "SP" Parker's "Daphne" IV 5.10a are all that adorn this spectacular white and towering wall. These three are true "Classic's" but are located on some very sketchy rock that isn't the greatest quality. The lines are phenomenal, without question. But, many that dare to climb either Galen's or "SP's" lines on the Main "Diamond" Wall, know that they are in for a seroius challenge and true adventure as far as the quality and integrity of the rock that they will encounter.

The North Wall, on the other hand, which is located to the right of the Main "Diamond" Wall, holds one very fine and Classic route, "Pteradon" III 5.11a. The rock quality and aestheticness of the potentially numerous lines, is simply incredible. Why this area is totally free of any other routes, baffled me for years. No "Local" Hardmen could answer that question. I came to the conclusion that it was a "Lost World" and that it was up to me to revitalize this incredible and beautiful area. So I began looking at several lines on either side of "SP" Parker's "Pteradon" for the past three years. Doing some thorough research to ensure that any of the lines that I chose to climb were in fact "Virgin" and that I wouldn't be infringing on anyone's work, I chose this to be the first.

My regular partner Derek Bomholt, from the "Westside", was working his tail off and couldn't get time off all spring and into early summer. Some "Local" folks that I had asked, were either too busy getting caught up with the late spring, getting married or simply thought that the area was too tough to even contemplate as the base elevation would be at an even 12,000'. I was frustrated and getting annoyed. I had began fishing for partners. Lots of folks were interested but none could get off during the week. All were tied up with the everyday routines of their lives. All of them wanted so much to particpate, but just couldn't do it. I was set in my mind that I have to get one route up this season. If I had to do it solo, so be it. Wouldn't be the first time. Finally, Derek called and released to me that he was sick of being a "Welding Pig". Busting his ass for 18-20 hours a day, seven days a week, and that he wanted a long break from civilized America. His climbing had faltered and his thinking towards it was deteriorating. We had gotten together the month prior with Kris Solem for a four day trip to do Merriam's "DNB" and "Feather's Couloir". That was a treat but wasn't satifying his love and desire for the life of climbing that he had come to cherish. He had become stagnant and was just about to sell all his gear and bag ass to Patagonia. He knew and had experienced my little "Shangri-la" over here in Crowley. He knew of my aspirations on Ruby. He knew that he would have total peace of mind and heart if he was part of the FA's that I had been planning on Ruby. He knew and he came. And, we did!
The Route
My first line, I had determined, would be the beginning of a series. Therefore, I would have to begin either left to right or visa-versa on the "Central Wall. I began to go on several "Recon's" with my wonderful wife and son. Took several pictures and looked closely at the aestheticness of the what would be the first line. I began hauling gear and ropes up to the base in preparation for Derek's arrival. Derek came over, we looked over the photo's and agreed that this was the potential first route.

The approach is a 1.2 mile walk up to Ruby Lake on the Mono Pass Trail that departs the Morgan Pass Trail around 1/4 from the main TH. Then a 1/3 mile suedo bushwack around the North Shore of the lake and then a 1/4 mile slog up 30-40 degree scree to the base of the Central Wall. The entire approach is christened with spetacular views of Mt. Morgan, BCS, Dade, Abbot and all the lakes that flourish the valley below.

Derek, myself, my lovely wife Michele (who had helped me for three days hauling up all the loads) and of course our incredibly energized son, "Bandit, were off at 0700 from the Mosquito Flats parking lot for our first day on North Ruby Wall. The first line that came into view was the fine towering beauty of "Pteradon" and it's incredible 20' roof that is located a little over half way up on P-2. As we neared the wall, the right side of many great vertical lines appeared and then, the first to the left of gulley, hits your eyes. Immediately, Derek agreed that this was the first to be climbed. We were stoked and so very grateful to be all alone at 12,000' with the Golden Eagle's, Peregrines and Hummingbirds that frolicked over and around us. No humans or any signs of civilization to burden us. Ahhhh, peace.

P-1: I took the first lead into the unknown world. The rock was a tad bit flakey but very doable. A 5.9ish slab that was well protected by a splitter trough, gave way to the beginning of the series of left facing dihedrals with their corner 1"-4" perfect cracks. A series of small 2'x 2' ledges greeted me and were a welcome rest. The first two corner sections went at 5.10a for 30' and then 5.10c. 40'. I came onto a fab 3'x 3' level ledge 110' above Derek and decided this was a grand place to bring him up as the two corner systems above me were looking at some stiff laybacking at 10.d or even 11.a. I hate cracks! I am a slab/face dude and have always disdained any cracks that entailed laybacking or any other "free" climbing technique known to man in order to ascend them. Derek on the other hand, he is a laybacking crack master! He loves cracks and ascends them like a lizard. Up he came and as he climbed with confidence he began exuberantly sharing his growing joy at the quality of the rock and the route as it progressed. As he joined me on the ledge, he was breathing hard and mentioned that he could feel the altitude. I looked at him and said that "we could go down and leave this great line for someone else". He smiled and mumbled something to the effect that I could go have sex with myself? He peered around the the corner of the block that we stood on and looked at what appeared would definitely be the beginning of the crux sections of what so far was a great line. He called out what gear he wanted and that if anything else would be required more than what he had, he would haul it up on the "Tag line" which we had incorporated for just that reason.

P-2: So off he went. Stemming across the dihedral, placing small TCU's in the small but perfect 1/2"-1" inside crack. He had a smile on his face, the likes I had never seen before. He stemmed and laybacked for thirty or so feet and came onto the first of sloping ledges. He hollered down to me if I thought that this would be a better location for the stance/anchor as the ensuing upper section would definitely go at 11.a and looked to be the crux. I said sure. So he set up the a temp stance and I climbed up to his locale. We agreed before hand that we would hand drill two nice 3/8" x 2 3/4" SS Wedge Bolts and utilize Metolius Rap Hangers for all the Belay/Rap Anchors and nothing more. That we would make it go "Trad" the entire line. So as I approached his hanging stance, I noted what appeared to be a perfect location to drill the two anchors. The day was progressing and the altitude was taking a toll on Derek. The sun was passing over the Diamond Wall and the chill began to settle in. We agreed that I would drill the first anchor today and return early in the morning to continue the second pitch and finish the route. BAM BAM BAM... took ten minutes to drill the hole. Pounded in the "Wedgy" and Hanger and tightened it down. AHHHHH! I am batting 1000 as far as my placements go. I pride myself in my hand drilling over the years and have never used a mechanical device for any of my over 300+ anchors that I have placed. Derek agreed that it was so nice to have a fat hanger, the likes that only Metolius offers. We fixed the lead line and rapped to the deck where Michele and Bandit had been so very patient all day taking pics of this historic effort in Derek's and I partnership. We slogged on down the trail to our vehicle and drove the terrible 20 minutes or so down to Tom's Place where we "Burger'd" up and then drove the awful 10 minutes down Crowley Lake Dr. to my home where warm shower's and cozy beds awaited us.

P-2(Upper Section) 3AM came quickly. I live here at 7200' and am doing stuff at altitude on a regular basis so I considered myself in good shape for the daily routines that I knew would be required for the following ten days or so of FAing at 12,000'. Derek on the other hand, he was not acclimated and I knew that he would be slower. I knocked on his door and heard a mumble, "oookaaay". I got the coffee going and got some banana's and juice down me. Derek awoke, stumbled into the LV'n room and downed his two cups of Joe and two burned bagels. Michele mossey'd into the LV'n room and offered her good mornings and mentioned that she would stay behind today as she wanted to do some housework. We were off at 5:00 and up the road we went and started the vertical march on the trail at 5:30. We arrived at the base of the route at 7:15 or so and started jugging up to the stance. I was thinking of a name for this line and had originaly mentioned yesterday eve to Derek, that something along the lines of "Chips and Fingers" sounded appropriate. We had agreed. But as the third day on the route would turn out, that would change. We agreed that we would work on cleaning the route of debris so as to make it a delight for the ensuing party's to enjoy. So that is what we did. We arrived at yesterday's high point anchor, I drilled and placed the second "Wedgy" and Met Hanger. Derek racked up and took off. He took his time on what was indeed the crux pitch. As it turned out, it needed to be "Deep" cleaned of flakes on the walls and of rocks in the 2" to 5" crack. Derek took his time placing gear and cleaning. He took five hours to do so on this 70' section. He surmounted the upper slight bulge and let out a yelp that notified me that he was impressed and so very happy. He yelled down to me that this was in fact one of the best "Laybacking" corner's he had ever done in the High Sierra. He knew that it was good and could become a Classic. As I jugged up the fixed lead line to do some follow up cleaning of any debris that he may have missed, I agreed with his assessment. WOW! This was an awesome section and definitely would go at 10d or 11a. The final determination would be made when we "Red Pointed" the entire route tomorrow. I joined Derek at his stance to find two old "Rap" chocks and slings that were at least 20 years old. I figured that they had to be Dick Levesee's Rap anchor's from his Free Ascent of SP's "Pteradon in 87'. So, Derek and I decided that the second anchors would be placed here as the direct "Rap" would go all of the 60m's to our right as Leversee had done. I drilled and we rapped to return tomorrow, early, to "Red Point" the lower two pitches and finish what we figured would be an easy 5.9 upper section to the top. Were we ever in for a surprise!

P-3: Again we awoke at 3AM and were off a tad bit earlier. We arrived at the base at 7AM to another beautiful cloudless crisp morning. Derek was PUMPED! He asked if he could do the "Red Point" on the first two P's and I of course said yes. So he racked up what he already knew what would be required for the first Pitch and off he went. His climbing was flawless and precise. Suddenly a Peregrine appeared overhead. I yelled up to Derek to enjoy the flight of this beauty. It then swooped down towards him, and circled right over his head twice, very slowly fluttering it's very atypical dark colored wings. He yelled down that it was "Freckled" and that he had never seen a dark colored freckled Peregine before. I quickly summised that this was a "Blessing" and that it would become part of the endeavor of the this amazing route. Thus, "Chips, Fingers and a Freckled Peregrine". The peregrine stayed with us for the rest the morning as Derek effortlessly stemmed and laybacked both pitches. I jugged up to the second stance so as to save time.

As I arrived at the stance, I figured that since Derek was stoked and so very happy, that I would offer that he finish the route. I did just that and he looked at me like a kid that was just given the biggest "Gum Ball" in the candy shop. "You Sure?", he asked. I looked at him and said,"You deserve it big guy!" So off he went. We were leary at what was 25' or so above us as what appeared to be a very loose 10' wide block that might end our ascent. As Derek neared it, he was very concerned. He went left of it, tapped it as he crawled onto it, and felt for any looseness. "AHHHHHHHH!" It was solid! He then looked up at the upper corner and informed me that it may be tougher than what we first thought. And as he progressed, it became reality, as it was more vertical than we first thought. The crack had ingested some big loose rocks and it required very delicate and consistent vertical stemming,so as not to drop any of the killer 12" diameter rocks onto my stance, for 50 or so feet with 1-5" Pro and at the very top, Derek had to then tunnel through a 5 foot alcove and then layback out to the final mantel onto the top ledge! "YEEEEEHAAAAA!!!" Derek was done and had finished this amazing line. I jugged up, cleaning and chucking the killer rocks and the loose chips and flakes that adourned the adjacent walls. I got to Derek's stance and we shook hands. We figured that the last pitch was a solid 10.c. Project done and a line worth claiming, aesthetically climbed. I drilled the last two "Summit" Rap/Belay anchor's and we descended with pride. We took some pics and shook hands again.

It was truly a great clean effort that we hoped others will follow and enjoy as much as we did!

Gear/Rack Req
-60m Lead Line & a 60m Tag for two 60m rappels
-1 Set of Stoppers
-1 ea #1-3 Lowe Balls
-1 Set of #1-4 Met TCU's
-1ea of #1, 1.5 and #2 WC Flexi-Friends
-Doubles on .5-4.5 BD Cams
-8 Draws
-10 24' "Stinger" Slings w/ 2 biners ea

Most importanly, lots of enthusiasm and joy!

BEWARE: This is an Alpine "Trad" environment that starts at 12,000'.
Acclimization for the task at hand is highly recommended!
"Chips, Fingers and a Freckled Peregrine" III 5.11a
Derek Bomholt & The Chief, 23 August 2006