Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Area 44 With the kid

After a successful trip to Cheakamous a couple weeks back, the desire to get back out there is strong.  The light is still with us until late, so we are off to Area 44 with the youngster in the back seat.  This promises to be exciting, as the rock on Preview is higher than anything she has climbed before.

Not everybody is properly prepared, I have my flip flops for the hike in, and the young lady neglected to bring water.  Sigh.  Brave souls that we are we make it down to the crag without incident and are quickly setting up to take down a solid 5.6.

An easy lead, it's HOT once up onto the rock that has been exposed to the sun for the whole 30+ degree day, but certainly not unpleasant.  It's a great day for climbing, and there's not a single soul here right now.  Simply marvelous.

The kid is up next and she's handling everything quite nicely.  There are a couple of smoother spots on this climb, and she has to work through it, but she makes it up after working really, really hard.  The kid is sweating like an animal.  Good job getting up all the way.  Lowering off is hard for her at the best of times, and this is a pretty awkward climb.  Added to the height, she does an admirable job on the downward journey.

The Heather takes a turn to practice her magic, and then I run the climb one more go and move the anchor over.  Time is getting short so I set up a top rope anchor so the kid can get another hit in before we lose the sun.

This one's a 5.7 or 5.8, the kid takes the 5.7 option, and makes it feel her wrath.  She moves very well, not lacking confidence, most of the time.  She makes very impressive moves, and uses her dad's long, long reach effectively to reach the spots she needs.  I'm really proud of the determination that she shows when moving up a tough climb.  I hope that attitude finds it's way to her real life.

A brief afternoon of fun is over, and we make our way back to the car in the failing daylight.  I'm pretty lucky to have a pair of ready to roll climbing partners.  This is truly a wonderful thing.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

2011-7/19/2014--R.I.P. Scoops

I'm taking a break from writing about climbing at this moment.  Feel free to skip this post, should you so desire, but I need to write it. 

Heather and I went camping for the first time in months, and after climbing up in Cheakamous a few days ago we were stoked to get back up on the rock this weekend.  It was a challenging trip, and lots of misadventure was had, but the cap was, of course, the rain.  It rained a fair lot, and we returned to our home an evening early.

Upon arriving at home, we were turning on lights and feeding the fish, when I noticed that our beloved florida blue crayfish, Scoops, was sitting motionless beside his cave, in the same place that he had been when we had shut the lights off upon leaving only a day before.

I was truly destroyed to see that our beloved pet had passed on.  Some might say he was only a simple crayfish, but anyone who knew him would know just how special he was.  He was a truly remarkable fellow, and was such an influence on our lives from the first moment that Heather decided to bring him home to be the daycare's pet.

Baby Scoops-y, shortly after coming home.
From the silly circumstances attached to his name (the pet store employees' suggestion that he would eat anything, even raisin bran, mmmm two scoops of goodness) to the first time I realized that he was the reason fish were disappearing in his little tank, he has never ceased to surprise and delight us.  Watching him grow from this precocious little guy trying to claw his way out of the bag in Heather's lap, to the monstrous specimen that he was today, well over double the expected growth of his species, you never knew what was next with him.

He ate everything, from fish (the more expensive the better) to vegetables (the only person in this house that likes cucumber) and fruit, bloodworms, or anything else in the tank, he was truly remarkable, and was so loved. 

I'll never forget the morning that I caught him chowing down on the twenty dollar algae eater that I had just bought Heather, or every time that I tried to move him to another tank.  He could climb like nobody's business, and managed, once, to escape from the brand new tank he had just been moved in to.  Nobody will ever know how long he was out, but I found him trying to climb up the door towards the knob.  I swear he knew that he wanted to get out of the apartment to see what he could eat outside.

Shortly after his big day out we acquired another tank, just for him, as he was still eating fish at a rapid pace, and destroying any vegetation that we planted.  We learned his ways, and he learned ours.  He started 'begging' for treats from Heather, coming to the corner of the tank where they sat and standing on his tail whenever she came near.  He had amazing personality.  He lived happily in this tank, contentedly moving with us to our new home.  One morning, shortly after the move, I came out of the bedroom to get ready for work and noticed that the water noise was exceedingly loud.  I turned on the light to discover that half of the contents of his tank were on the floor!  I will never know how he redirected the flow of water from his filter to not return to the tank, but he did.  He would always try to climb out that way, but he was just too big!

We could tell he was nearing the end of his time with us, as his shedding of shells had decreased drastically in frequency, and he wasn't working nearly as hard to catch fish any longer.  Internet research revealed that he was over double his expected growth, and well past his expected life span, so we have been prepared for the worst for quite some time. 

Scoops-y was laid to rest this evening in a beautiful park near my childhood home.  A place where crayfish roam in the creekbed, as I well know from catching them as a child.  I think it is a place his spirit will be comfortable, and I look forward to seeing him again someday, one of the best-loved crayfish that ever lived.  I feel blessed for having had him in my life, but I am having a very hard time coping with this loss.

Your moms-y and dads-y will always love and miss you, Scoops-y, thanks for sharing some time with us.  You are missed and will always be remembered.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

O How I missed you, Emil.

This has been a challenging summer for climbing.  The weather has been of the chains amazing, but challenges in my life have kept me at home far more often than I would have liked.  I'm happy to be out at Cheakamous after a short day at work.

Heather, Mert, Benji and I are all heading up for a wonderful afternoon of some easy climbing.  We start out on the Foundation Wall, hitting some of the lower-graded climbs there to warm up, and then decide that something more would be nice.

Mert and Benji head up towards the Crest to hit some climbs up that way, and Heather and I, decide to enjoy the sunset from the top of Emil and the Detectives.  It's been some time since we were on this particular route, and I still don't know how I feel about it.  It's a beauty of a showpiece from the top, a million dollar view, for sure, but the trip up is only ok!

My body really isn't all in for this yet, I have been off for far too long.  The struggle isn't so much physical though, as it is mental.  I have climbed these pitches so many times, but it's hard to remember to trust the friction in this rock!  It's not that it's an unprotected climb or anything though, so it's no big deal up to the mid point.

Heather's following on, and it's great to see her up on the rock again after such a long layoff.  She's moving confidently up after me, picking up on the tough spots I got myself into and avoiding them skillfully.  As we sit at the mid point, looking up at the second pitch, which always freaks me out on the start, I wonder just why I love this so much!

The start of pitch 2 comes easy today, and I'm very happy about it.  It's such a pleasant little jaunt, I'm at the top waiting for Heather in no time at all, and before you know it she's right beside me.  What a loverly spot to sit and enjoy the failing moments of the sun.

A short afternoon of climbing in the books, it's off to Howe Sound Brewing for some refreshments before a harrowing nighttime adventure!  Good to be back!!!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Back on the Rock!

I am sure that this has been one of the driest winters in the history of ever here in Vancouver.  The local mountains are just dying for lack of snow right now.  Politicians are already starting to cast dire warnings about water shortages in the summer.  As of this day, there has been no precipitation since January 12th.  Temperatures, however, have remained just a touch higher than Vancouver typically has, so we have been 'suffering' through a beautiful January. 

An Icy Climber Transporter...
This wonderfully dry start to the year has put the thought of outdoor climbing in our heads, and after confirmation from a friend that it is indeed climbable out there, and in fact gorgeous to do so, Heather and I decide that we must try this for ourselves.  We load up the car and head out to pick up my daughter for the first climbing day of the 2014.  Scraping ice off the car on a climbing day?  Questionable...  But the temperature at 9AM is already 7 degrees Celsius, so we're really looking good.

Heather and I moved recently, into a smaller place in a nice, quiet neighborhood.  Storage was a challenge, and we got rid of lots of things and came up with good places to keep our stuff in our smaller space.  All of our climbing gear is under the stairs, so we found that quickly and easily, but the precious guidebook was another story...  We quickly discovered that we had no clue where it was...  I found our old guidebook, which is much less useful, but we couldn't find the topo for the Pillary, Squamish Select, or Skaha Rockclimbs.  Also, my notebook that I use for this blog was M.I.A.

As I said, our place is much smaller, and for half an hour we ripped everything apart.  It looked like our little place had been robbed, and we didn't find our book anywhere.  What a disaster!  Running behind schedule, we pile into the car and get a move on to collect our third party...  Where is that book!?  We put all of our climbing books together in a very logical place, we agree on that much, but where in the world did they go?
Scenery blocking scenery
in the sun @ Sugarloaf
First figure 8!
With limited ability to select suitable climbing areas, and a young girl coming along, we decide to head back to Murrin for our day's efforts, knowing a place where we can get some good, light top-roping in to get back into the swing of things for the year.  We arrive at Murrin and head back up to the Sugarloaf, knowing the area, and also having it featured in the old book.  Unfortunately, all of the anchors that we want to use are already in play...  I begin looking through the book for other top-rope friendly areas and discover that the 'Bog Wall' in Murrin is also accessible, and has a few lower graded climbs to try out.  Hopefully it has bolted anchors, something the old book doesn't seem to indicate...

The Bog Wall is super-easy to find, and looks like it offers some decent terrain, as well as a pair of likely paths to the top of the crag.  Heather and Daisy start unpacking their gear, and I start my way up to the top of the crag.  Once I get to the top I happily discover two pairs of bolted anchors to choose from.  Excellent. I set up our rope for a 5.8 called 'Up From the Bog' and head down to the base of the climb. 

Heather starting off a big year
Finally, after an excruciating 4 month layoff it's business time!!!  Heather is up for the first outdoor climb of 2014, and she gets off to a good start, using a lot of lateral movement to begin progressing up the crack, carefully placing her feet into the rock until she reaches a spot where the crack disappears and the face gets devilishly smooth.  The hands above appear sub-par, and there's really nothing for the feet.  After some minutes of trying to find a move to progress, she asks to lower.

Daisy's turn, she tries valiantly, but needs a little boost to get going on this climb.  How pleasant!  The bottom conquered, she starts moving smoothly upward, very confidant from all of the gym climbing that we have been doing.  She reaches the same spot as Heather, and runs out of steam quickly.  Down to earth she comes.

All right, somebody has to get this one done.  The crack looks good, it's just that one spot which is nasty.  I get through the first few moves quite quickly, arriving at the difficult part without a lot of problem, and now I can see what gave the ladies all their headaches.  The crack becomes smooth as glass here, polished by 50 years of climbing, and the feet completely disappear.  Luckily, I have a lot more reach, and am able to get my left hand up to a beauty of a hold which I use to pull my feet up to gain purchase on a solid ledge.  From there it is pretty much smooth sailing, I get to make some fun, precise moves on my way to the top.
Nearing the end!

Topped out!
There's really not a lot else that we should be trying here, so I pull down our gear and we head back up to the Sugarloaf.  There's nobody climbing here anymore, and the sun is shining brightly on the rock face, it's truly beautiful.  I set up the rope over a pair of climbs, a 5.4 and a 5.6.  Daisy quickly starts in on the 5.4, and masters it with ease. 

Heather up next, she opts to go left up the 5.6, and nimbly and capably finds herself up at the top, glorying in the sunshine in a  matter of moments.  I take my turn, tackling the 5.6, Jump Start, with ease, then I move the rope over to sit above a 5.8 and 5.4.

A boulder-y high seat!
Daisy is ready to go, and tears up the 5.4.  She's so much more confidant this year, it's really wonderful.  We lower her off and ask her to go again, and she graciously complies.  Once she's down Heather steps up to climb, and does so wonderfully.  She takes down Magnet quick as a wink, before nimbly working her way up Power Smart.  Lots of careful smears, she is obviously working on precision placement of every single foot.

Great start to the year!
I'll take my turn to try these two climbs, it's pleasant climbing, all in the sun.  Way below my level, but it's just great to be outside already.  We thought we got an early first day in last year, but this puts that to shame.

What a glorious day!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Pilgrimage to the Pillary--Part 1

Several weeks ago a fantastic new area was made known to the world.  Developed by the same fine souls who brought us Area 44, The Pillary currently boasts 37 bolted climbs, graded from 5.7 up, with several projects on the go.

It's going to be another awesome international day, bright and clear with the promise of some significant warmth later on, the team departs bright and early for Squamish.  Representing France are Cecile and Adrien, on behalf of Turkey, we have Mert, and the hometown hero, myself.  Sprits are high, we have been waiting a few weeks for this chance.

Arriving at the parking area, there are already several cars here, and I expect that they are probably all heading for the Pillary, not Area 44 today.  We start our hike in, following the well-marked Area 44 trail until we begin seeing some of the signs of the craftsmanship that I have come to expect here.  New, beautifully-made, signs marking the trail, depicting the crags, and advising of concerns for rock-fall are frequent and easy to see as we travel up the trail.

We come through the trees and see a beautiful vista before us.  We have arrived!  This looks beautiful!  The climbing areas stretch out beneath us, tall and proud, with that same beautiful view out towards the Squamish River Valley.  Again, this is an area with wonderful, tall climbs to challenge us. 

The first climb we come to, the lone climb on 'The Forlorn Horn' has a large sign, indicating that it is closed due to unstable rock...  Remembering how much rock still peels loose at Area 44 makes me very happy to have my helmet, as I expect the rock to be very similar in composition here.

The next area we come to, 'The Berlin Wall" has five climbs currently ready, graded at 5.8-5.11a, so we decide to start dropping our gear and picking our spots.  Likely warm-ups are the 5.8 and the 5.9, and I think the 5.8 sounds utterly delicious. 

The Forlorn Horn--Closed For Now
'Der Weiner Schleisser' has a very, very interesting start.  Stemming your way up a fairly featureless face using a TONNE of pressure off the opposing faces of rock, leading to a deadly sharp arête to the anchor.  Mert starts us off, heading deep into a large crack that has a lot of large, loose rocks in it.  He starts getting a bit unnerved by all the movement, and has a horribly awkward time getting the third bolt in from inside the cavern.  He manages to find a way out, only to start running into some pretty sparse space as he begins the ascent of the arête.  About halfway up and running out of holds, Mert has to descend, rattled from his experience in the crack of loose rock.

Mert In Front Of The Crack Of Doom
As I prepare to make my ascent, I'm trying to see a route that will steer clear of the direction that Mert went, and I formulate a plan of action.  I start off in an awkward sprawl, with my legs at ninety degree angles out from my body, pushing HARD.  I alternate this move up a few times to gain the minor handholds that are available, and start to get in to territory that has some more conventional foot action.  At the second bolt I find a pleasant handhold, and start to really grab it, until I notice that the rock is cracked, and likely ready to tear off the face...

I make it up through the third bolt onto the arête with an awkward balance that lets me reach my left hand around behind.  Now I'm facing the arête, and lacking much in the way of anything useful.  I can see why Mert ran out of steam here.  There area some pretty tentative holds, but sitting astride of this deadly sharp ridge, a slip here would be very... uncomfortable.  There is a bolt there, just out of reach, and getting that clip would make this next move a reasonable option...  Employing every millimetre of my height and reach, I take several swipes at the bolt before getting a draw to catch.  Getting the rope into the other end of the draw is pretty easy, and I make a very uncomfortable move up to the next decent stance. 

Still climbing up the edge of disaster, there really aren't the holds that would be expected on a 5.8, but I persevere.  A lot of searching for small spots to give me some purchase for my feet and a lot of gripping with my left on the ridge continues me to move up.  A few times I toss my left foot in behind the arête and heel hook the stone to steady myself as I advance. 

Nearing the top, I run completely out of apparent feet, but the arête starts running horizontal, so it looks like it's all on the arms.  I start moving hand-over-hand along one of the sharpest rock spines I have ever felt, taking much more weight than I am especially pleased with on my hands.  I'm not finding much for my feet, so I continue my hand-over-hand traverse.  I find a useful broken spot to jam my foot in to relieve the pressure on my hands and secure myself to the anchor chains as I arrive at the end of the climb.

What a rush!  My left hand is cut open in three spots, bleeding pleasantly on my shorts as Mert lowers me back down.  That was way tougher than a 5.8!!

Cecile and Adrian are done with 'Klettern Gehen' the 5.9, and so we swap climbs.

Adrien Belaying On Klettern Gehen
As Mert is starting this one he's already much happier with the climbing.  Much more up his alley, the start is a beauty, with some deadly sharp rock spires directly beneath the start.  Thankful for the low first couple bolts.  As he arrives at the second bolt Mert runs into an issue, and finds a terribly awkward solution.  Faced with a shortage of reasonable holds, he puts his left foot up distressingly high into a very nice pocket, and uses it as leverage to gain the finger crack above!  Wow!

Mert climbs it out and I get my shot.  I'm determined to find something better at that second bolt, because I really don't think my old bones can handle that kind of force being exerted on my hips.  Quickly there, I search for quite a while before arriving at the determination that there is only one solution to this spot.  Gross.

I toss my foot up into the pocket and shift my weight underneath my foot so I'm at least centred while I start levering my way up the wall, and soon I'm getting some better hands coming within reach.  Quite the move, that one!  The next section features a small, tight crack.  Not too much width, but decent depth, with some good edges for your feet, this section is a beauty to work, lots of tough little moves that keep me exerting a lot of force while I stand so off balance.

Moving through the crack and up onto a big outcropping, I pause and work my fingers out for a couple of minutes before launching myself up onto some easy climbing to the finish.

An awesome second route done, we compare notes about the climbs we just completed.  Everybody agrees that the 5.8 must have lost some holds already or something, because nobody sees it as a 5.8.  I must admit, however, that I quite liked it!

We are off to discover another crag, and I am going to break this trip into two posts, because somebody won't get off my back for taking too long to post!  More adventures at the Pillary to come!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Where it all began...

After Friday's nightmare on the buttress it just seems logical that there must be some kind of successful climbing expedition mounted this weekend.  With absolutely zero desire to head back up towards the Squamish music festival grounds and the traffic associated with, we decide to head for Sulley's Hangout in beautiful North Van.

It's not a beautiful day, and looks like the weather might finally cool down for a few days, which probably won't upset too many people, but makes for a  great morning climbing.  After hiking up to the little crag nestled in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park I am pleasantly surprised to discover that the crag is not too crowded, which is always a possibility up here.  I am also reminded that the only topo for this area is horribly out of date.


I'm not going to have too much to say about what was climbed this day, as I'm not sure what it was, and completely disagree with the grading of the climbs, but it was a very nice morning of climbing.  We hit it hard, climbing every route on the north wall.  There are seven climbs bolted there now, although the topo only shows three!

We started out on something really light and easy, and although the climb was over before you knew it, it was nonetheless very pleasant.  Reachy in spots, it didn't seem to concern Heather, as she proceeded to find things to use that only exist in her imagination.

The next climb, I think, was called 'Lefty', a "10a" of questionable difficulty.  The crux is certainly balancy, with not much more than a single finger-crack for stabilization, but would probably be better graded at 5.9.  It was a lot of fun, however, so I can deal with it.

As Heather was dancing her way up we were shaken by some LOUD thunderclaps that really can't have been originating too far away!  Occasional raindrops starting finding their way through the tree cover, bringing a refreshing cooling sensation.  Glorious!

It started raining lightly as we were making our way onto the slabbiest climb of the bunch, and that really complicated matters, which was kinda ok, since we were feeling like we were close to packing it in anyways.  Taking that extra day off to try to get ourselves murdered on StarChek left a fair lot of chores behind at home!

We finished up our last climb and left the birthplace of one of the most wonderful things in my life behind.  What a pleasant morning!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Eighty Five Metres Of Fail

Heather is on vacation this week, and work is slow for me, so I decide I'm not going to work on Friday to free up a golden opportunity to attack the legendary climb on the Galaxy Buttress, Star Chek.

Ringing in at 5.9, ranked in the top 100 by Squamish Select, this climb has been in my head for over a year.  A big three-pitch beast, Star Chek climbs out of the Cheakamous River gorge, up to the side of Highway 99.  It's pretty difficult to imagine a more awe-inspiring backdrop to a climb, and we can't wait to get it on the tick list.

We arrive at the area recommended for parking shortly after 9AM, and start gearing up.  There are two accesses to this climb, a 1.5km hike along the river, or a short walk to the top of the climb, followed by a rappel down into the gorge.  I'm not really interested in a big rope carry, so we're rapping down.  We select minimal gear to keep the weight down, and empty pockets of unnecessary items to prevent losing anything important into the raging river.

We find the path to the top of the climb with no effort, everything matches the photos that I remember from the book quite clearly.  We left the guidebook in the car, as there is only one climb here that we are interested in, and I'm sure it won't be that hard to find, with how popular it is.  As we descend the trail, following the fixed lines, we quickly arrive at the ledge above the river.

What a view!  The torrent below is so loud we have to speak with raised voices, bringing concern about communication while we are working the climb.  We have a short discussion to set up the communication plan, and Heather decides to be the first person down to the secondary rap station.

As she's trying to descend she has a sudden change of heart, and moves herself down to what appears to be a very friendly ramp down to the middle ledge.  As she's descending she starts to spot bolts, a great sign, as it would appear that we will get a chance to scout out the third pitch as we descend.

After joining her on the ledge below, I decide to throw myself over the second ledge first, so I can be the one to find the route to a rappel station somewhere above the river that we just can't see.

As I descend the sheer face of the Galaxy Buttress, I very quickly start to get nervous.  This pitch is supposed to be easy, ranked at a 5.8 if memory serves, and looks like anything but that as I'm descending.  The bolts are a million miles apart, and the holds, when there are any, are miniscule.

Houston, we may have a problem here...  But we're in the right place, so I must just be missing something.  I continue rappelling, very slowly now, as I feel that I should have already arrived at my destination, and am missing something big.  I can't hear anything as I close in on the river below, getting nearer by the second, and I long ago lost visual contact with Heather above.

I never knew just how lonely I could feel, and there is a tiny bit of fear poking around the fringes of my mind now.  I have the end of the rope in site, but there is no second set of bolts or chains anywhere on this face to secure myself to and await Heather.  I am absolutely in the wrong place, there is no question in my mind.  Perhaps I am rappelling down 'Apollo 13' which I know exists on the buttress, but that is not described in any guide that I have.

I stop and think.  I am not going to descend the last 3 metres of rope just to confirm that I have made a mistake, and I can't secure myself and ask Heather to belay me up to her as I try to climb whatever route I find myself on.  I'm left with only one real option, and that is to ascend 27 metres of rope with just my ATC to depend on. 

A daunting task, I begin working my way back up the rope, thanking Mert again for all his work teaching us about awesome, useful things like prussic knots, which are now literally saving my life.  As I slowly and painstakingly make my way upwards, trying whenever possible to take some pressure off with whatever holds I can find, my shoulders start to protest.  Hauling my weight up this rope is going to take everything that I have.  I notice the Rocky Mountaineer passenger train crossing the Cheakamous just downriver from my position, and wonder if anyone notices this poor climber struggling his way up the thin blue line...

An eternity later I finally arrive back at the ledge that Heather is on, and I can finally relay the information that I have to her.  This is bad.  We know we don't know where we are, and that's all.  We are on an ample ledge on the Galaxy Buttress, my right elbow is throbbing, and I can't lift my left arm much past my waist. 

As we look around we spot lots of bolt lines, but nothing that looks promising.  We discuss the possibility of climbing out via the route we came down, which looks pretty reasonable, but has a distressingly high first bolt.  Any other day and this would be the right answer.  Right now, however, I'm hurt and my confidence is shattered.  Heather volunteers to take the lead and get us out, but I just can't let her go.  I'm eyeing up a bolt line above our position that looks much more challenging, but has a first bolt I can almost reach, and I try to convince myself that this would be a good option, but no.

Here we sit on one of the best-travelled routes in the Sea to Sky corridor, and after an hour we haven't seen another living soul.  Any other day and this would be cause for celebration, but not today.  I'm starting to think crazy thoughts, and something is going to have to happen soon.  I'm pretty much married to the idea that down is the only safe direction of travel, and we concoct a plan that might make this happen.

There is an belay position about 2M below and 4M beside us which doesn't seem to have any bolts associated with it, but we agree that there appears to be another pair of chains about half way to the base of the cliff that will allow us to escape the ledge.  The sketchy part will be the 'traverse' to get over to this other line.  The potential for a major swing-fall is significant, to say the least, and Heather and I go through all the possible options thoroughly before deciding to move ahead on this hare-brained scheme.

I set up to rappel again, confident that our reasoning is sound.  There appears to be a solid ledge underneath this belay station, and it extends across most of the face towards a tree 4M below our position.  I'm going to work my way down and over to the tree and try to move across to the belay point from there.

I set out with my back to the goal, and my left side flat against the wall to provide as much friction as possible to fight gravity's desire to swing me back to oblivion.  I slowly let more rope through my ATC as I move diagonally down from our position, seeing the potential for injury increase with every inch.

I have never felt so relived as I did when I got my right foot resting underneath the trunk of this hapless sapling, Quickly rotating my body to face the wall, my left foot slid comfortably into a huge, mossy, crack underneath the overhang that I had been aiming for.  Finally some good luck, I had solid purchase for both my feet, and I used this as a great thoroughfare to move closer to the promised land. 

When I got to the end of the crack I was within striking distance of the prize.  There was decent formation to the rock here, and now I was just one move away from getting my hands on the rappel rings.  Looking over to where I started I felt a jolt through my stomach.  What a huge 'traverse' to screw up.  If I slip, this will be disaster.  Focusing on the goal, I chalked up for the first time today to prepare for my first climbing move of the day.

Left foot way out and up, right hand on a decent knot in the rock, poised and ready, I shot upward from my right foot, aiming a big dyno at the ring.  My left hand easily reached, and my right followed with a mighty death-lock that would have made the hardware cry, I clenched so tight.  I quickly secured myself in and secured the rope to my harness so Heather wouldn't have to worry about the deadly swing.

She handily made the traverse over to our new location, and we abandoned one locking carabiner on the ledge at Star Chek.  Small loss, I couldn't possibly care less.  Ready to be out of here, we set up and I rappelled down to the next station, a mere 6M above the valley floor.  Heather was beside me in moments, and we were down to the rocks in no time.

Upon arriving at the base of the buttress, we saw a fixed line proceeding down to the river, and a suggestion of a trail heading in the other direction.  In no condition to climb, we started upriver, hoping to find a clear path back to the highway, and eventually back to the car.

We passed many routes bolted to the sides of the gorge below the highway, but the temptation to stop and explore simply did not exist as we trudged upriver, our feet throbbing in our tight climbing shoes.

The path become more clear the farther we went, and soon we were back at the side of highway 99, happier than ever before to see asphalt.  Once we recovered our flip-flops and made our way back to the car we looked at the photos in the guide book again.  My heart was crushed.

We had indeed rappelled down the final pitch of Star Chek, but from there had I had likely descended Apollo 13.  The route that we traversed to and rappelled down is an unknown, and somehow we completely missed the bolts for the bottom two pitches of Star Chek, which would have been obvious if we had followed the fixed line down towards the river.

If we had taken the book with us, we probably would have successfully completed our mission and avoided near-tragedy.  We now humbly go in search of beer.  Lots of beer.  What a challenging day!