Livin’ @ the BAW

My handy, cheap digital camera is broken, and the varying weather makes carrying my fancy camera a risky business. Thus, the paucity of pictures. Hopefully, the cheapy gets repaired soon! 

OK, I haven’t quite changed my address, but I’ve been spending a lot of time out there since returning from the Gunks Monday night. It looks like I’ll have dual citizenship for awhile: weekends at the Gunks, week days at the BAW.

Monday, 21st June: Gunks

After a stint guiding over last weekend, I tarried one more day down south, to meet Bruce Monroe and tackle Directissima. The weather continued hot and clear, though not as humid as Saturday had been, so when Bruce pulled in around 8:30, it was already warmer than I had hoped. Nothing like yanking tiny sidepulls in sweltering heat.

We walked down, I racked up, and hesitantly began climbing. Directissima doesn’t give you much warm-up, it starts out with a committing, greasy layback sort of thing right away. The pro is good, so long as you oppose it, but there’s no doubt backing off would be very difficult. I managed it, but with shaky legs and quavering arms; not a good omen. Somehow, though, I settled down and continued climbing, gradually becoming steadier and more focused on the task.

Once out of the tree shade, the orange-white rock was indeed hot and a bit greasy. I didn’t dawdle, but worked up and left to that lovely little niche on the arête. There, I placed two unconsoling nuts and shook out both arms. I know the script here: fresh arms (at least my scrawny ones) are required reading for the next twenty feet. Tippy-toe reach, swing up and out right. Right toe side press, high reach to a jug, pump. Left hand in left pocket, palm up, funky undercling. Clip the pin. High feet, real high feet – since shoulder surgery, I’ve lost an inch of reach – bypass the funky jug, tips on the Promised Land, pull and clutch. High feet again, boom!, the ledge. A bit of awkwardness, getting up on it, but it’s all good. I will survive.

So too, will Bruce. He cleaned the pitch with minimal difficulty, and joined me on the ledge. We continued to the High Exposure ledge, where Bruce took over the sharp end and on-sighted its Money Pitch about as smoothly as anyone ever has.

We had time for one more route before heading home. Since Bruce had never done Horseman, we walked down and put him back on the sharp end for an on-sight of that classic line. I forced him to run the entire route, directly through the overhanging corner, and it wasn’t quite as pretty as his send of High Exposure’s crux pitch, but there were no plummets or epics involved.

Tuesday June 22nd: Back to the BAW

After a good night’s rest, I refocused on the BAW task list. It’s a long one. There are projects galore, most of which are barely started and all of which are hard, 5.9 is the easiest of the lot. I made the walk out Tuesday ambivalently. It was a hard fact to face, but I was tired. Three hot, steamy days of climbing had worn me down. Arriving at the base of my shortest project, I lay me down in the shade and rested, glancing over at that nemesistic scrawl wandering up the face nearby. Stupid thing is only thirty feet long, with a shelf 25′ up. 25′ of climbing, basically; and it kicks my butt every time. Steep, committing, and trickier to protect than it looks, I’ve flailed twice in attempts to lead the silly thing.

And it’s the variation I really want. Just before reaching that end-game shelf, a horizontal crack lies right of the vertical crack, fading out three feet away from it. A long reach in the middle of the hardest move on the “standard” line gains that horizontal, and the traverse that follows is epic: fifteen feet of good hands and lousy feet dead-end just before making the outside corner. A wild 5.10 move catches that corner, a blind sideways layback pull finishes the job. The pro is great, if you can hold on. Boy, do I want this one, all forty feet of it.

I finally rose and scrambled up the opening section of Tribulations to access the top anchor. Picadilly made me change plans at the last moment; I dropped my rope down the higher, main face instead of my project. Eatin’ Tripe & Lichen It winds up the wall here, and diverging from the original route, a thin crack moves through bulging rock to its left. I decided to look it over before ruining myself on “the project”. I have glanced over it before, but never given it a real shot.

This time, I rode down, placing directionals and cleaning the worst of the mess as I did. At the bottom, my 35 meters of rappel did not quite reach the base of ET&LI. Wow, over a hundred feet to the anchors. I began TRing my way back up. First, I found the opening moves going directly up the wide crack of ET&LI aren’t bad at all, though of course they’ll need big pro (anyone have a ten inch Big Bro?), and the transition from layback to chimney is awkward, strenuous, and dicey. Diverging from ET&LI starts out easily enough, but rapidly gets steep and tiring. There’s great pro to be had along the way, so it isn’t desperate, thank God. A scary stab fully engages one on the journey away from easy ground, and imaginative moves back and forth solve several dead-end situations. There is a final unpleasant, and slightly run-out bit to get under the big roof, but the pro below is solid enough to handle any falls, and the climbing isn’t hard, just tricky friction.

The roof is another story. There isn’t a good stance under it, just a sloping, polished slab. The overhang is cut deeply here, a wide V-notch tilted steeply overhead. Wonderful cracks offer bomber gear, and you’ll want it: the next moves are hard, pumpy, and continuous. Establishing oneself above the lip is a brutal combination of sloth-like laybacking, gorilla swings, funky toe smears, and an emergency stab, flame release hand-jam. It’ll be grand. One more run-out bit of balancy climbing will lay the baby to rest. Dunno when I’ll have all it takes to manage this one.

After a(nother) sufficient rest, I dropped the rope down my standard project and began lapping it. This time, I managed two runs without falls, with only a short rest between them. Well, maybe a middling long rest… In any case, my third attempt was a dismal, stoccato bit of pumps and hangs. I turned my attention to the horizontal crack, which still needs some cleaning.

While scraping sand out of that, a crashing in the underbrush below heralded Tom’s arrival. I met Tom while gearing up at the trailhead one day, as he and his wife were finishing up their hike of the mountain. Seeing my equipment, he asked about the climbing potential on Crane. We toured the Boulderwoods and the Measles Walls that day, and shortly thereafter Tom and Maria were testing the waters of that latter crag. Tom was curious about the bigger stuff, so I had invited him out here. After a brief – well, an hour – stint wandering along the top of the cliffs, he found me, thus rescuing me from the prospect of spending one more lame TR on the project.

I had watched Tom lead the 5.8 variation of Full Moon Fever, so I knew he could lead solid 5.8. Not feeling up to an attempt on the project, I suggested a run up Recuperation Boulevard. This he did, with minimal fuss along the sketchy starting slab (ah, what fun!). Joining him at the anchor, we switched roles. I led over to link up with Carpenter & Das, reveling in a chance to pull the roof directly once more. Get it right and this goes easily, but your first time underneath is likely to be perplexing. It isn’t an obvious move. Tom spent some time working it out, but solved the riddle without falls.


Tom tackles the crack-crux (friction-crux lies below) of Recuperation Boulevard.

We lolled on the ledge for awhile, enjoying the view. I pointed out the profile of Black Arch Arête, we discussed the potential lying on the South Corner Cliffs profiling the southern skyline, and identifying some of the mountains in the distance east of us.

Back at the base, we decided to run over and climb Second Job. Tom led this as well, very smoothly, making excellent use of old-style gear as he placed several Hexcentrics along the way. Nice to see someone still using them regularly. Before reaching the Attic anchors, rain drops began spitting down, scattered at first, but gradually building. By the time I joined Tom in the Attic, it was beginning to look like we were in for a soaking. I fiddled with a piece of bootie for awhile before the gusting drizzle convinced me to give it up and head down. Tom’s old-school 50 meter rope barely made it to Second Job’s ramp start, but we got down without a hitch.


Tom leads past the crux of Second Job.

We walked out in that steady, light rain, our shoes and pants thoroughly soaked by the time we reached the trailhead. We rode down to my house, rehydrated and shot the breeze for a half hour before Tom headed homeward. Great way to spend a day!

Wednesday June 23rd: BAW and MW

The next day dawned dry enough to send me back out there, but it was too damp to tackle hard stuff. I spent an hour or so scrubbing slime off E-Stim before Val arrived. Today’s schedule was a trip up Full Recovery, probably the best tour of the Isobuttress. Currently, it starts on E-Stim, working through the crux section of that route, then traverses left all the way to the anchor above Recuperation Boulevard. Then, it traverses to link up with Carpenter & Das, just as Tom and I had done. Several 5.5/6 moves make for a sustained, fun run up this section of the BAW.

Valerie struggled on E-Stim’s strenuous moves, but worked without much effort up most of the rest of the climb. She is truly coming along well. The traverse moves around the upper overhang gave her a bit of pause, but she worked those out as well, and soon we were enjoying that same view, relaxing on the ledge before rappeling back down.

At the base, we discussed options. There isn’t much else at the BAW for a recuperating climber to tackle. Val has already done Crossway, so we decided to head out to the Measles Walls and finish the day on something there. That turned out to be Cracklosis, as most everything else was pretty wet, still. Sitting in the shade of the trees, the Measles Walls don’t dry quickly once the leaves are out. Val took a couple runs on this, and wouldn’t y’know it, Tom came walking up the trail. He wasn’t in climbing mode, was just heading out to gander at the possibilities and help with the trail some. Fantastic! We chatted for awhile before obligations forced us to pack up and head homeward.


So, today started out rainy and wet. Finally, I’m taking care of “paperwork” (this web stuff). But the sun is shining right now, and friends are callin’ to climb. Looks like another day at the BAW….

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