Mike’s Mountaineer Route

Seems this time of year elicits a taste for spontaneous adventure. With any lingering projects nearly certain to be out of reach for the year, thoughts turn to more casual objectives, things that may just go at first sight. Over the years, that impulse has led to several “alpine” routes, lines snaking their way up Crane Mountain’s flank, generally along the South Corner Cliff. This year has been no different.

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The upper section of Mike’s Mountaineer Route.
Other routes shown for geographic location.
Sky High Wall is getting busy!

 Early in the season, Mike Prince dreamed of developing a line that would take climbers from the lowest open rock all the way to the highest patch on that side of the mountain. With routes already established on the “Under the Measles” and “Upper Measles” Walls, he began scouring the patches of rock between them and a large slab well up the mountainside. With help from several friends, Mike cleaned a series of slabs toward that higher one, in hopes that once there, he would find a long expanse of slab running to the height of the South Corner.

While the work led to some excellent additions to Crane’s route list, investigation uphill didn’t seem promising. Early in the summer, with Ben Brooke leading the way, Tom Lane and Mike climbed the first pitch of that upper slab and found only low-angle, dirty slab leading to wooded slopes above. Mike switched his attention to a few of the lower projects, culminating in new routes like Halitosis and Lead 101. Portions that had been cleaned and in some cases top-roped were left to fade back into the lichen-encrusted obscurity from whence they’d come.

But with wintry weather on the way, we began snooping around that upper vicinity a bit ourselves. Establishment of lines like Second Amendment offer the option to get some “real” climbing in before exploring the high South Corner stuff, something Tom and I did once, leading to two new pitches of interesting climbing on what I’ve come to call the Sky High Wall. This is the highest promontory of the South Corner Cliffs, from the distance (e.g. my front yard) appearing as a triplet of buttresses crowned with a bulging block. Tom led a short, brutal snippet, the send of which entailed several tries and several falls, including one with a piece-pop to add to the excitement. Hard 5.9, all of about 25′. Behind it, we climbed a lovely 70′ 5.7 by climbing up a shrubby, body-size pod to reach a horizontal crack, traversing left to a vertical crack, taking that to its end, then a bit of delicate friction traverse left to a fantastic finishing crack, which happens to be the top portion of McNeill-Harrison as well.

That led to another visit. Thanksgiving Day dawned sunny and warm, so I just couldn’t resist a quick run up Crane before feasting. With no plan, I let my feet lead the way, bushwhacking from the height-of-land upward and back west, perusing the slabs there. I ended up at a decent-looking slab peppered with knobs, that as I ascended I noticed was just a few yards right of Mike’s original slab line. So after finishing my line, I descended the gully between and looked things over. While it didn’t look like anything to rave about, it looked worth a trip.

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Starting out on Lead 101

So the next day, Mike came up, accompanied by Mammut of course, but also by a local gym climber, on his first day climbing outdoors. We shuffled out to the lowest wall. Mike led Lead 101, I climbed beside the crew while Darren cleaned the pitch. He took to it well, and in no time we all stood on top.

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Walking a hundred feet up and left, Mike led up Hydrophobia. Darren had to work a bit harder on this steeper, trickier pitch, but he was a quick study. After struggling with the first cam, he cleaned the rest of this pitch like he’d been doing it his whole life.

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On the next pitch, Hydrophobia

We shifted right and over to Halitosis next; quite a step up in difficulty, but Darren was up for the challenge, and with a snug rope, smeared his way up that pitch as well.

The Garthnik pitch is a short slab only perhaps fifteen or sixteen feet tall, but it is probably 5.7, with nil for gear. We climbed this, which brought us to the Belleview path. We walked it for a few yards, then cut up to a 40′ slab sporting a large overhang two thirds of the way up it. I led this pitch; since the overhang would be taller than Darren could reach, he opted to walk around. Mike cleaned, then we all did the next pitch, a nice alpine sort of affair with a chimney start, a right-facing flake layback, finishing off with some slabby friction.

200′ of woods-walking led to the big slab, where Ben Brooke had led that first exploratory expedition. Ben’s Bump pitch begins as a narrow, scruffy slab that sweeps to a headwall broken by a discontinuous cracks and flakes about 20′ left of a pine tree growing in a steep gully between it and my solo route of Thanksgiving. It turned out to be quite challenging, every bit of 5.7 and maybe a bit more. The pro was adequate, but not divine: C3s stuffed in a shallow, flaring crack.

The next pitch was easy slab. The 3 of us reached the top of this and considered our options. Ahead, wooded slopes led to a dead-end gully several hundred feet above us. My route lay on the only open rock to the right. To our left, it looked like we could hop up on the one long, easy slab I’d hoped to follow. We headed that way.

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High up on Crane, during the simul-climbing section

Simulclimbing, we rambled up easy slab for 300′ or more, winding a few times through tree screens or blowdown lying on the rock. The weather was definitely changing, and the higher we went the more the wind gave us notice of impending winter. We reached the top of our slab, and made an easy traverse of about 100′ to reach the base of Sky High. Chilly gusts bade us hurry along. We switched to belay mode for this last short hop.

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Topping out on Sky High

Soon, we were snatching a quick drink, coiling the rope, and congratulating each other on a great late-season climbing adventure!

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2 Responses to “Mike’s Mountaineer Route”

  1. benjaminadk says:

    bens bump! i like it. or bens bulge maybe. yah i remember tom following it and saying 5.7….i was like yah 5.7 but i was thinking that was kinda harderish with little gear as well. but congrats mike and jay and darren for gettin it done!

  2. admin says:

    Ben’s Bulge sounds better. We’ll call it that. And while the entire climb isn’t a hard-guy classic, it turned out to be a lotta fun for a blustery day and a young’n’s first outdoor climb.

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