Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Spaceshot 5.7 C2 - Zion National Park

I headed to Zion National Park with Tom Kavanaugh for the Thanksgiving weekend to climb Spaceshot. My first big wall lead. A big wall is any wall that is over 1000 feet high, requires aid technique, is vertical or overhanging and requires overnight bivy(s).

Climbed the first two pitches of Organasm 5.8 C2 on Friday to warm up, and just to see if I still remembered how to aid climb. That second pitch is sick, an overhanging crack overhang to a giant 20 foot roof.

When we were on Organism we heard a very sharp loud crack/bang -- which we thought was rockfall. But actually a woman had fallen from the Angels Landing hiker trail right down the line of Prodigal Son and just around the corner out of site from us. That's the second fall from that trail since August.

We got on Spaceshot 5.7 C2, Saturday morning at dawn with no traffic and supplied for two bivys if needed. Free climbed and hauled to the ledge at the top of pitch 3 by 11:30. We hauled about 25 feet up pitch 1 and left the bag on the right side of the tower. From there it was an easy 50m haul straight up to the top of pitch 2. On pitch 3 we climbed the flared chimney straight up rather than going out right. Hauled straight up the wall just to the right of the climbing.

We ate lunch and started up the bolt ladder on pitch 4. I had to do a hook move once and get in my 5th step once to reach the bolts. The C2 section above the bolt ladder was C2 trial by fire. I did a move on a tiny HB. (I was up to my 4th step on almost every piece I placed on the entire route.) Above that I did a move on a fixed DMM yellow offset, and was in the third step when it popped sending me for about a 30 foot upside down backward whipper. Didn't hurt much and I was not really freaked out. I just got back on it. A little higher I came to a section with only flaring pockets and a minute seam. I worked for 20 minutes from my 4th step to find a solution; nuts, cams, etc. Then I got out my nut tool and started cleaning sand out of the seam and it caught on a lip, so I jammed it in there like a bird beak and did a move on it, and it felt bomber. Then I was in my third step on the nut tool and I had placed a nut above that. As I transferred my weight the piece popped and I took a 10 foot fall onto my daisy onto the nut tool. It frickin' held, although it moved a few centimeters. So I got back on it quick because I needed to get through this section. The next placement held and I pulled through. So I got to the anchor at 4:30, 3 hours on the pitch. We were a little behind schedule as we had intended to fix to the top of pitch 5 that day.

Tom jummared and cleaned and we decided to continue to the intermediate belay on pitch 5. The climbing is C1 below and C2 above that anchor. Tom put me on belay and I took off. About half way to the intermediate belay I fired up my head lamp and continued in the dark with no problems. We fixed the lines and arrived back at the pitch 3 ledge about 7:30pm feeling pretty good about our progress. We ate and basked in the glory of those giant walls in the near full moonlight.

On Sunday we got up at dawn, got it together and started jummaring about 8am. I jummared to the top of pitch 4 and did the haul. Then Tom joined me there. I jummared to the half way point of pitch 5 and went on lead. The first moves were tensioning right to a bolt, and then up to a drilled piton, then up into the C2 section.

I placed some good nuts and a bomber #2 cam in a pocket, which is good because the next piece popped on me twice. You know "crack" and the floor drops out. First I placed an HB in above the yellow cam, tested it and climbed to the fourth step in my aider. It broke the rock as I was placing the next piece and "surprise". Next I put a yellow DMM offset in the same spot and this seemed bomber too. As I got up into the fourth step it started to move so I said to Tom "I think I'm about to take another ride", and sure enough, surprise. These were just clean falls maybe twenty feet with rope stretch onto the yellow cam. Then I placed a HB turned sideways in the same spot and passed that crux. I took another fall higher up on the pitch when a black DMM offset popped on me. Those aluminum DMM offsets just don't grip very well in the sandstone. 5 falls in all on the route. I think these are good for me to teach me that the rope will catch me, but they still rattle you a bit and make you suspicious of everything.

I finished the pitch 5, and did the haul as Tom jummared and cleaned. It was now about 11:30am. It took me about 3 hours on C2 on the route including the haul, and about 2 hours on C1. I am somewhat novice at the advanced placements and a bit out of shape and hung on my daisies more than ideal. I pulled in my adjustable daisies every time to get up to the fourth step, so I had to stop and extend them each time too. I was on two Misty Mountain ladders and I wonder if Black Diamond aiders would be faster because they don't constrict the steps above when you stand in them. I think with some practice and some gear adjustments I can double my speed, which I think will bring me into more of an El Cap ability range.

The next 2 pitches to Earth Orbit Ledge were uneventful C1 with bomber placements. Pitch 6 took more .75 Camalots than anything else and pitch 7 took many yellows. I arrived at the ledge about 4pm. I did the haul from cam placements in a crack all the way on climbers left on the ledge. Right about that time, our friends Matt Pickren and his buddies from Durango showed up just off of Issac, Tricks of the Tramp 5.10+ C2, to see how we were doing. I yelled down that we were a "a ok" but would bivy up top tonight. They pulled out chairs and watched the haul.

We spent the night on Earth Orbit Ledge. Even though the ledge is slopping and uncomfortable I decided it was best to stay here rather than push to the top as it was getting dark.

The descent in the dark was out of the question although after doing it I don't think it would be hard in the dark assuming your ropes don't get stuck or something retarded like that. I was tired and mentally ready to call it a day.

We watched the sun set from our amazing perch. We ate well and drank well. We entertained ourselves by putting mouse bait next to the edge and trying to sweep the mice over. Couldn't kill a single one.

The next day we did the big air bolt ladder on pitch 8. I placed an HB to reach the second bolt. We topped out by 10am and were back on the ground in 5 raps by 12:30pm. I took a shower in the spring at the base of the rappels and that felt good.

I feel good about my preparation for the climb. I chose the climb because it had that upper ledge for a second bivy. And we were prepared for that. We made no major mistakes, and generally speaking worked together in a smart and efficient manner, although I was pretty slow on lead.

We underestimated the amount of water we needed only taking a gallon each. There was a 3/4 of a gallon at the top of pitch 3 and several quarts at the top, so we were ok in that regard too.

I'm not sure that I like aid climbing in the desert. I think I will do it again, but Zion has a sort of dark and spooky aura. And when you are on Sandstone there is always an underlying fear about your safety which I didn't feel on El Cap. I definitely look forward to more aid climbing on granite. Thanks for reading. Vids here.

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