Archive for August, 2011

SENT: Garand Arête!

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Preceded by a long bout of top-roping trials and prolific lead falls over the past two months, Tom Lane finally sent his Big Project at the Rods & Guns Walls. Conditions were prime for the attempt: that cool, breezy, dry weather we get every August that whispers autumn is not far away. It never lasts, summer’s clammy heat inevitably returns, so we had to strike quickly.

Arriving at the cliff base shortly after 9am, we rested from the hike and then Tom roped up. Despite his last attempts being almost a month old, he moved easily up the initial headwall, worked the pro along the traverse without a hitch, and stepped into the meat of the route smoothly. Stepping onto the minute foothold for a clipping stance, he snared the crux bolt, then began the rest of the dance. Left to the crimp, step high and reach the right hold, and suddenly, he was crossed up; his right hand and foot placements working against each other. “Oh Nooo!” he cried, and sailed the short drop onto the bolt.

Disappointed but undaunted, Tom rested a moment, then pulled back onto the rock and resumed climbing. This time, he worked the crux moves flawlessly, reaching the top without further incident. I followed, with hideous performance. I couldn’t imagine holding the bad sidepull; couldn’t reach the left crimp, clung to the bolt like a neophyte, desperately and awkwardly stumbled my way, with much aid, to join Tom at the top. Without much discussion, we rappelled to the base of the cliff.

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Tom on the real deal, the genuine FA, try #4.

We had plenty of time to rest and retry, so there were no worries. While he rested, I walked west to explore the cliff. My tour ran past its worthwhile extent; I saw nothing to draw us away from our main objective. I know there are cliffs farther west, but I didn’t think Tom would want that long a rest. Wandering back to the right side of the huge ceiling, I saw Tom was already roping up.

Once again, he headed up, and once again, misstepped at a crucial point. This time, he simply reached for the wrong spot, and immediately came off. Descent, and once more, a rest; while I walked east this time. There was possible stuff here. At the edge of the main wall, an enticing crack ran up the last gasp of cliff before a dirty class 5 gully clove an ugly gash between it and a long slab. I spent awhile attempting some silliness here, before Tom’s rested hulk and a wasp nest persuaded me to come down for another try at our real target.

Tom headed up a third time, diligently removing each piece, placing it on his rack, taking it off, and putting it back on the rock. He’s a stickler for detail: “A send isn’t pink.” The attempt however, resulted in much the same outcome: despite moving smoothly through the process, one misstep resulted in a fall. This time, he descended, pulling his cams, and once again we rested.

I figured we had one more chance at this puppy. A fifth try seemed unlikely: while Tom climbed well, this route demanded precision of a type we mere humans don’t usually encounter. Another failure and it would begin to look like perhaps we just didn’t have that sort of perfection.

In any case, Tom was adamant about taking that one more shot. A fourth time, he roped up, and ascended. Once more, he pulled gear, racked it, unracked it, and replaced it on the cliff. Once more, he moved into the crux section, but this time, he moved through it perfectly. No falls, no stutters. Past the worst, Tom looked a bit tired, but he held it together, placed good gear, and moved on. The upper rib of rock now hid him from view, so I spent a few terse moments wondering if he had the gas to complete the line. But soon, I heard that enchanting call: “Off Belay!”

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All smiles after the successful send.

 We wouldn’t stop there: before the day was out, we would add two more lines to the Rods and Guns Wall; Misfire, a 5.9 we thought might go at 5.7, lying on that unlikely left end, and Trajectory Crack, that fine crack on the right edge. But nothing would outshine Tom’s final, successful run up Garand Arête.