Hectic Last Days


Icicles drape the damp spots every day. Cracks are cold, only the faces full in the sun seem welcoming. Yet the season carries on; today was fine for a late morning stroll to the Black Arches Wall for some climbing, cleaning, and routehounding.

The deep overnight chill and overcast skies made an early start unwise. I relaxed at home until almost ten, then headed out. I had a few tasks to accomplish, one of course being to sneak a climb or two into the day. By the time I reached the Height of Land Walls, the sun was shining almost unhindered in a deep-blue sky. It would be nice enough for awhile, at least.

Continuing to the Isobuttress, I switched shoes and headed up Full Recovery. The rock was indeed warm where it faced the sun, the cracks cold, but at least all was dry. Midway along the traverse, I stopped to shoot a few pictures.


View of the South Corner Cliffs from midway along the Full Recovery traverse.

 I continued climbing, moving along to the belay ledge and slightly higher, stopping once again for photos.


 Looking at the South Corner Cliffs from the Isobuttress.

Once on top, I commenced one more bout of camera madness, this time at least on solid ground.


Telephoto look at the Long Play Wall and the cliffs above it.

 It was time to move along. One tick on the list for the day, time to tackle another one. I wandered down a tricky notch below the usual descent route without mishap, slid down the Diagonal Ramp, then picked my way to the Pinnacle Overlook block. I scooted around the lower end of this and found: a lot of scat from a large, omnivorous animal, a cave of sorts, and a possible climbing route. There are actually two potential routes, but the righthand one is either a dead end or very, very hard. The lefthand one looks feasible, and in fact I played around a little on it, and believe with good shoes and a belay I could manage it.


The Pinnacle Overlook block. Note the flap about halfway up; below this a flake system might provide access to the slab above.

 Without that belay, I opted to head back to the Height of Land Walls, though of course, I had to take a farewell shot of the Isobuttress before leaving.


The Isobuttress, with the obvious triangular overhang of Carpenter & Das.

 I paused to scrub awhile on Oddy’s Crack of Horrors and Fool in the Forest, but I didn’t take long. There was one thing I did not want to put off past today. The HoLW #1 has an appealing, if short, right-facing corner. The corner is steep and leads to an overhang formed by a gigantic detached block. I wanted to test that block and then do some cleaning, maybe even TR the line. Suffice to say, the block is sound enough, though scary, the rock is still quite dirty, and the moves are hard 5.8. It was fun, but it’ll take some doing to make it go.

I rappelled, on a whim climbed To Do, the neighboring corner, which is much easier and a bit shorter, then for some odd reason continued walking uphill, toward the Blueberry Ledge. I reached the righthand edge of its base, where I found a crack cloaked in grass knots and crud. On a further whim, I clambered up a few steps, yanking myself handholds as I went. Under all the disguise, there was some good climbing to be had. I followed my initial crack until it joined another that was heading perpendicular to it, slanting up left. I followed this to a good ledge beneath a right-slanting flap about six feet tall. I stood below its lower right corner, to my left the flap turned and diminished, running straight across a steep face; to my right it rose up into an overhanging face itself. Not far to my left, a pockmark – a tafone (pl: tafoni), as Evelyn Green has informed me, about 6″ in diameter, lay in the surface of the steep face. Above it, closer to me, a huge pockmark hid under a shield flake. I could not quite reach that latter, and the former seemed frightfully exposed to what was now a lot of air. It took awhile to work out the reach to that secretive pockmark, but once I managed it, the difficulties were not over. I could easily put my entire forearm behind that flake within the tafone, probably could have put my whole arm in there, but was worried what might be living in it. My feet were pretty solid. My right hand found a good edge, small, but positive. Problem was getting up farther. I could see more knobs just out of reach, couldn’t tell if they were slopers or not. No solid footholds higher, I would have to smear some smaller ones. Should’ve brought the shoes! After a few false starts, I figured out an optimal step up and went for it. The knobs were not so good, but adequate, I just had to bring that left foot higher, and voila, I stood, my funky dirty approach shoes squeegied on a couple knobs, my hands on equally unpleasant prospects. A quick reach left and I had one bomber hold, step up and over, back and my right foot found a solid stance. My right hand continued to slack off, but the rest of my body made up for the lost work, clinging ever so sincerely to the slot behind a large flake and those knobs below me.

I had planned on running directly up this lower-angled face, but once ensconced upon it, thought better and continued moving left to a large, welcoming crack, almost a chimney, really; in any case, secure and homey. Woohoo! There was more to come, but it was all very manageable from there onward. In short order, I stood on familiar, blueberry-carpeted ledges. Add Blueberry Tafone to the list of new routes on Crane this year! I think it’ll go at 5.6, maybe PG, not sure of that last bit. It’s close to 180′ long, and deposits climbers at the high point of Blueberry Ledge, with good potential to break through the Vulture’s Nook above as a second pitch – and onward to the top of the South Corner Cliffs eventually.

The sun was nearing the shoulder of the mountain even here by this time. I slid on my backside down to the trail, recovered my gear (shoulda brought it along!), and headed out to home, where I would discover that the next two days I would be down in the Gunks, working. The forecast for Thursday and Friday is ugly, so this may well have been the farewell tour I’ve expected. If so, it was a fine way to say good-bye. To those who are coming up this Wednesday, have fun, be safe, and scrub a little!

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