Warrior Weekend

Big weekend here on Crane Mountain. The forecast wasn’t favorable, but we persisted and were rewarded for that obstinance with decent climbing over several days. That outcome came in spite of the added restriction of limited time for every day save one. Once more the axiom is proved: without the sense and finances to move out West, Northeastern climbers have to sieze every available chance for climbing. Doing so will no doubt yield some useless outings, but not doing so allows more opportunities to slip through our fingers.

Tom leads Peney for your Freedom

After work Friday, I negotiated heavy traffic caused by this year’s Americade, got stuck behind a feed truck that, grossly overloaded, wobbled its way down the backroads of Thurman, no doubt hoping to avoid regulatory inspection; then found a short list of phone calls that had to be answered before racing out to meet Tom at the Black Arches Wall’s far Right-End Buttress.

Reaching that point some time after 5pm, we didn’t have much left on the clock before dark. Tom had already wrapped up his gear, having worked on his project during the day, so pursuing anything hard and long wasn’t an option, either. We headed outward, uncertain what the overcast sky might do to us at any moment, but at the Pinnacle Overlook stopped and threw a rope down Keystone. This easy 5.10 is perhaps the most convenient TR on Crane: scramble up on the Pinnacle Overlook, slip a rope through the anchor, rappel and climb back up. Two people can top-rope it in ten minutes.

The climbing monk meditates before heading upward.

Moving on from there, we stopped again at the TeePee Wall, where Tom made use of the gear he had lugged out here to lead Peney for your Freedom. Another short route (35′), Peney’s throws a lot of challenging 5.8 climbing along that brief length. We were able to throw a quick TR on a neighboring route, Half Man, Half Wit, adding a quick 5.9 to our day’s exercise. That would do it for our evening: over a hundred feet of climbing, and we were back in our cars by 7:45pm.

That evening, Jamie McNeill called. We made plans for the next day, hoping the weather would hold. An hour after talking to him, it rained, hard. I sighed: at least we hadn’t planned an early start.

The by-now familiar start of Amphitheatre Crack

In the morning, I set out late and piddled around with trailwork until Jamie arrived. We headed inward, reaching the Long Play Wall close to noon. The base of Moehammed, Larry, & Curly was its usual soaking wet – well, more wet than usual – but the rest looked dry, so we jumped on it anyway. Good choice: above the initial ten feet, the climbing was dry and (as always) wonderful. Anchors at its top made quick work of returning to Earth and retrieving the rope.

By this time, it looked like we might escape a dousing, so we headed farther inward, to the Amphitheatre, where Jamie quickly dispatched the synomic crack. At 5.9, Amphitheatre Crack offers a short section of difficult climbing followed by easier, but intricate moves all the way to anchors at 70′. We used those same anchors to TR Broken Broom, another stellar line on this wall, then looked around at the other options.

Jamie, victorious at the belay of Birthday Corner

To the left, Birthday Corner remained unclimbed since its FA last September. Its start was streaming wet, but solid fixed gear offered security getting past the worst of the slop. With perhaps a bit too much enthusiastic prodding from me, Jamie chose to try it regardless of its questionably damp condition. No worries, however: Jamie climbed through the wet start, over the runout midsection, and through the immense roof admirably. Cutting loose with both feet at the crux, he held on to the key grip, regained footing, and pulled onto the outer face, then up to a handy belay ledge.

I had the honor of leading the second pitch, sixty feet that starts off promising with a bulging 5.6 move, but quickly winds down into dirty, low-angle slabs and ledges. No matter, we were happy to have finally given this route its second ascent. Jamie feels the crux is 5.10b, and having followed it with difficulty, I tend to agree.

Jamie sends Gun Show. In the background, the sharp arête of
Four Ounces to Freedom.

Jamie had never led Gun Show, so we went over to give that a go. With only 30′ of climbing in its first pitch, one might think this a quick study. But it is strenuous and technical from the ground up to its last few feet, so leaders beware: this isn’t a gimme. Onsighting that musclefest was the perfect finishing touch to the day.

Kevin’s project on the Diagonal Ramp Wall.

Sunday morning, the sun shone well enough to expect a decent day. After church, I headed out leisurely, once again doing some trailwork while I walked along. Around one o’clock, Lukasz Czyz came trotting along the trail. We made our way to the newly-attentioned Diagonal Ramp Wall, where Val and Kevin had spent the previous day in grueling labor, cleaning two projects. We quickly reviewed their work, top-roping the two lines, before casting about for something Lukasz could apply himself to. Val had requested the most obvious line be reserved awhile, so we looked farther upslope, to the right of Kevin’s crack.

Lukasz’ project

A small rock alcove led to a chockstone overhang, thence providing access to a short crack line. From there, the going was less certain; only some inquisitive brushing would reveal any chance of reaching the top of this short cliff band. Lukasz’ initial foray met with a lot of resistance: still wet from previous days’ dousings, he spent a lot of time coaxing the route’s secrets from beneath a slimy layer of crud. What he unearthed was incredible, however: a beautiful series of easy 5.10 moves directly to the top, with an easier bailout option to the right. We spent the rest of the day cleaning this line before heading out (well, Lukasz did stop to lead Oddy’s), certain that this will be a popular ticklist item someday.

Tom and I would return to this same wall Monday, reviewing these same three projects (thus the photos above; sorry Val, I didn’t get pics of your project). Thus various members of the Crane Mountain Gang managed a bunch of quality climbing despite wet conditions and gloomy forecasts. Carpe diem, Northeast climbers!

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