Hang Time!

Saturday’s heavy sky betrayed the imminent return of March, but by sunrise the wheels of a plan were already in motion: Jamie, Tom, & I met at the Black Arches Wall to take a shot at Jamie’s long-time project, Hang Time. It wouldn’t be easy. Jamie had spent days working out the crux moves, hours sequencing the numerous 5.10 sections, and another slew of days discussing, discovering, and deciphering the finishing sequence.

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Jamie heading toward the crux moves.

Living now a long way from the BAW, Jamie can’t make frequent visits anymore, so this project had become a Sisyphusean struggle for him: drive to the trailhead, hike to the BAW, figure out moves, then leave for just long enough to forget the moves. Over time, a few things gelled permanently: Jamie has the crux moves dialed so well, he makes it look easy. But the higher he goes on the route, the less familiar he is with the terrain. With rain in the forecast for the afternoon, he wouldn’t have much time to remedy that problem.

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A hard 5.10 sequence at 3/4 height

Arriving first, I set a top-rope, which requires a long walk around the cliff and two rappels with a 70 meter rope. Jamie was waiting at the base by the time I began my first rappel; once I was down, he racked up to run a faux-lead. As Jamie tackled this task, Tom arrived, and elected to take the next run. This gave me time to grab a few more layers to ward off the day’s chill. Tom’s run took a long time: it was his first-ever time on this line, so he had to work out all of the hard sequences along the way.

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The sky might open up at any moment, so it was now or not today. I headed upward, aiding wherever expedient, while Jamie rested and racked up. Once I was established in adequte photography position, he began ascending. The cliff is very steep, so I couldn’t see him until he rounded the first overhang and began climbing toward the crux. As usual, he was fast and efficient through this section.

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I wondered how he would do on the rest of the route. There’s a 5.9+ move right after the crux, then a long series of 5.9 and 5.10 moves leading to the final overhang, above which is a long stretch of difficulty that probably rates 5.10d.

I didn’t need to worry about the difficulties leading up to the final sequence. Jamie doesn’t have them memorized, but he appears to have them mastered. While they were obviously challenging, he climbed through them without much trouble, looking focused and calm the entire way.

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That last section almost spoiled the send. Having just figured it out on his last visit, it was a far cry from dialed, and as he stepped up into it, Jamie got his hands misplaced. There was a moment of doubt when, clutching at tiny crimps, it seemed certain he would fall. But somehow, he found the strength to hang on and the ability to settle into an extreme level of awareness, moving through the section in an entirely new way without losing nerve. He got back on track, mostly, though I could see his feet were still too low to make the last move easily. Uncertain of his remaining finger strength, Jamie looked up at the final jug, focused, and launched, a short, quick dyno to the hold. All went well, and in another minute he was whooping it up as he clipped the anchors.

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The final dyno

We would go on to top-rope a couple more unfinished projects before heading homeward, but the compulsion to complete was well-satisfied. Hang Time is another stellar addition to the burgeoning flock of those here on Crane Mountain.

Hang Time 5.11b G 5.9 PG 120′
Start: At the dirty open book separating the Tripe Buttress from the Black Arch Buttress.
P1: Climb up the corner 10′. Hand traverse right 8′ to a rock column, climb up and right on this to a stance below a blocky overhang. Climb through this (be careful that pro does not put your rope across an edge) and make difficult moves up, weaving first right then left, toward a small left-facing flake with a bolt to its right on the steep face above. Climb past these (crux) to a good horizontal, move right, up and then back left, to obtain a stance in a niche beyond a left-facing corner. Climb up along this corner to its end at a small overhang, and follow a very thin crack on dubious face holds to another grand horizontal. Work up and right from there to the anchors of Black Arch Arête. A 70 meter rope is required for rappelling from this anchor.
Gear: Full set of C3s, C4s to sz.2, and stoppers. Doubles of #.4 and .5 C4s. Lots of draws, and a few full length runners. This route has seven bolts. Good rope management is critical.
FA: Jamie McNeill and Thomas Lane, 24th March, 2012

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