Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sky Ridge

This past Friday, I had the chance to climb a classic Smith Rock climb, Sky Ridge (5.8 R) with my buddy Ryan. This route was bolted on Rappel 20 years before anyone had ever heard of "sport" climbing. We did a variation to the route, which according to Alan Watts guide book was the way the route was originally done. This variation makes the route 5.10c. The second pitch was originally aided. Going back to the history of the route, it was originally done by Dave Jensen and George Cummings in 1968. Back then, they didn't use the big bolts we use today. Instead, they had 1/4 inch bolts that they used. Some of them are still on the route. Luckily, they are right next to a much larger bolt that is meant for climbing purposes. Can anyone say sketchy? Well, you will be thinking that I am even more crazy here in a minute.

This morning, Ryan and I are hiking down the hill and we don't have a plan yet. Then Ryan mentions doing Sky Ridge. I was all for it. I knew it wasn't that hard and I am always wanting to do some multi-pitch climbing. At about this time, Ryan realized that he forgot his harness back at the car. He ran back up the hill to his car, leaving me looking at the guide book to gather information on the climb. The route normally traveled at 5.8, actually traverses a crack to the left after the first pitch. This would mean taking up gear. We didn't want to haul up gear for that, so we did the Sky Dive variation which was bolted, but harder. We then hiked up to Asterisk pass. From there, we would have to scramble up to the belay, then climb up a beautiful arete.
Asterisk Pass is the area where the yellow line starts. The yellow line represents the scramble up to the start of the climb. From this picture it doesn't look that bad. The one thing that you cannot see is that on the other side, it drops off quite a bit. As soon and we turned to head toward the belay ledge, Ryan started to feel the exposure. The comments he made were quite funny. I believe one may have involved needing a change of pants. That comment was made by him multiple times while on the climb. After the scramble I decided that I would take the first pitch. 5.8 with a runout didn't seem too bad. I grab the draws from Ryan, tie into the rope, then look up at the climb. I don't see any bolts. In the picture, we are on the first red circle. I am looking at this beautiful arete and not seeing a single bolt that is able to be used. If you look closely, there is a blue dot on the climb about 15 feet up from the belay. That blue dot represents a bolt, with out a hanger. Therefore, I cannot clip a quickdraw to it. If I had brought my stoppers, I would have been able to do a little trick where you can slide the nut down the cable, put the loop of the cable over the bolt, then slide the nut up against the bolt. This allows the bolt to be used, but as I mentioned before, we left the trad gear at our packs which are now a good thirty feet below us. We were not going to go down to get the gear.

So at this point, I realize that I am going to have to man up and just start climbing without knowing when I am going to get a bolt to protect a fall. Now some more information will make this a little sketchier than it already is. The ledge is only a few feet wide. On the side that this picture was taken has some rock that shields you from a fall to the east. On the west side though, it is open. If I were to fall before getting a bolt to clip, I would more than likely fall to the west side of the belay ledge, pulling my belayer off, unless I hit the ground before the rope caught.

I start climbing. I go up to where the hanger-less bolt is and stop to look around. I still don't see any bolts. I know they are there, but not sure where. I pause here for quite a while. I am about 20 feet up the climb now. I am sitting there deciding whether or not to keep going. I could climb back down to the belay and make Ryan lead it. Or we could just not do the climb. Instead, I keep climbing. I made sure to take it slowly. Smith Rock is known for having rock break on you while climbing, read a previous blog about me taking a fall. As I climb, I am checking every hold to make sure it will hold and also that I won't slip off of it. After what seemed forever, I finally see some bolts! It is actually a rappel anchor, but it will work just fine. The only problem is that it is still at least fifteen feet further. I tell Ryan the exciting news. He cheers. Then I tell him they are still a little ways up. He doesn't like that.

At this point, I am trying to remember the topo map in the guide book and where it had the bolts. I remember seeing the one without the hanger in there, but I could have sworn there was another bolt in there somewhere. After looking at it once we got back down, there is supposed to be another bolt in there. It is represented by the white dot. The question mark merely shows that I have no clue as to where that bolt was. I never saw it. I wish I would have. I don't even know if it exists. Anyways, I finally made it to the first bolt. The bolts are marked as a green dot. I am now where there are two bolts right next to each other, about half way up the climb. Finally I can relax and not worry about a ground fall. This is very comforting. Then I look up and there are three more bolts right there. This made me happy, I don't have to run this section out. The reason there are so many bolts right here, is because it is the crux. It wasn't too hard, but it made me think for a minute as to where to go. Finally I started my way up, and got through the crux section. Back to good hold and bolts that are spaced apart. During this next runout section, is the best part of the climb. You start to head back to the arete. All the climbing previous to this, has mostly taken place on the west side of the arete, hence the dashed red line. On the arete there was a foot wide hold/ledge. When you get to it, you are on the arete viewing the drop off on both sides of it now. You can see the entire front side of Smith and most of the back side from this spot. And the exposure is amazing. You are also ten feet or more above your last bolt. Then you climb up the arete to the belay. Luckily, the belay is situated in a crack/ block area. This makes it less exposed, and you can sit down while belaying up your partner.

After anchoring in, I belayed up Ryan. About this time, I started to get a little chilly. The weather report showed it was gonna be warm, so I wore shorts that day. Also, I was only in a t-shirt. Like the dummy I am, I left my jackets at my pack. When we were there last, I was hot from the hike up and failed to realize that I will be more exposed to wind while on the climb. Just like so many other climbs I have done, I started to get cold. Finally, Ryan shows up at the belay. He was super psyched about that pitch. One thing you need to know about Ryan is that he is in a permanent state of being psyched. This guy just loves to do stuff. During that week, he had already, biked, skied, climbed the day before, and done some running. This guy seems to never run out of energy, even when he says he is worn out. I don't believe that is possible with him.

We are now sitting where the second red circle is. Ryan isn't cold sitting there because he remembered to bring a jacket and a beanie. I almost made him give the beanie to me. Ryan now had the next pitch to lead. It is probably 5.7 until you get to the over hanging block where most people traverse to the left in the crack. Here, if you continue to go straight up, it goes up to 10c. I figured that Ryan could do this no problem. I have seen him go up 5.12, so 10c shouldn't be a problem. The only problem, was that this 10c crux is about 150 feet off the ground, possibly more, with wicked exposure. He got up to the crux, clipped the bolt, looked around, then down climbed to a rest to examine the crux some more without getting pumped. He did this quite a few times. I lost count after four.

You must realize, that I am still sitting at the belay, in my shorts and t-shirt freezing. By this point I have goose bumps and am shivering. I just want Ryan to finish the pitch so that I can start climbing, just to warm up. Then he starts to go up to the crux again. He is looking at it. Then I hear, "Take!"
I am thinking at this point, "is he serious? He is having problems with a 10c. I am about to tell him to just pull on the draw and get though this part."
Then he tells me that he found a hold. I am so excited. This means that he might get going now. And he did the crux move then made it to the top. Finally. It is my turn to start climbing. I grab the small pack with our shoes and a little bit of water in it and start climbing. I then get to that spot. It is a lot more overhung than I realized. I find the holds and make my way through the crux and get to the top. We made it, with out dying. Now, we just have to get down.

After three rappels back down the route. It is here, that I lean that the first bolt I clipped was close to 90 feet off the ground on the west side. What was I thinking? Actually, I wasn't. If I had started to think too much about what might happen, then I would have freaked out and I might still be stuck on that arete. It was at times like that, that I am glad I was able to keep a level head, while still knowing that if I were to fall, it would be serious.

After getting back to the ground, we put our shoes on, and I headed back to my pack to get my jacket. All I wanted was to warm up. Once we got some water and warmed up, we received a call from Calvin. He was heading down to climb. We met up with him then got on some amazing climbs, until we had to get going. It was a great day of climbing with some amazing guys. The only thing I regret about the day, was that I forgot to take my camera up Sky Ridge. If I had, there would be more pictures. Sorry.

And Mom, don't get freaked out. I am safe.

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