Monday, 29 April 2013

I guess I spoke too soon...

Wish I hadn't, though...

Indeed, mere hours after roasting dear April for the horrible weather inflicted upon us, a sunny Sunday morning begged for me to climb. 

The three amigos loaded up the car and set forth, spirits buoyed by the bright sunshine and warm temperature.  Despite overnight rain, I was convinced that we would be able to climb at Cheakamous, and it would make a world of difference for my general dislike of April.

The drive was pleasant, and I was encouraged by the generally dry conditions of the cliffs at roadside, studiously ignoring the puddles evident on some parts of the highway.  When we arrived at Cheackamous we discovered a fairly respectable contingent of cars in the parking lot, with lots of people climbing along the Forgotten Wall.  The decision had been made on the drive, though, that it would be a blast to try another very highly rated multipitch 5.9 called 'Master of my Domain' which is located up on the Crest.

We trekked up the road and discovered the trail up to the crag without much difficulty, and before you knew it we had arrived at our destination.  First impressions:  'Looks wet'  'Looks quite wet' 'Looks awesome'

My dear friend, Mert, is possibly facing some work permit issues, so there is a slight possibility that this could be his last expedition in the Sea to Sky corridor for some time.  He elected to lead pitch 1, 20M of 5.7.  It didn't take long for the water to become an issue.  The wonderful spot that Mert was intending to place his foot had a small lake on it.  Ewww....  Just not nice.  It took some work, but he was able to find his way above and beyond.  After that, it seemed to be smooth trucking, and soon we were all at the midpoint anchor. 

Now, we had an issue.  A rather tall issue, I must admit.  I'm pretty much 6-0 tall, and the start of the second, (5.9) pitch, was quite intimidating.  There was a solid overhang, which was much higher than anybody, to try to find a way out from under to get near to the first bolt.  It was my turn to take lead, and I was pretty determined to find a way to get it happening.

The wind was really picking up, and I was starting to feel some chill in my fingers.  Nothing muh for it but to do it, I guess.  So here I go.  Hold me close, Mert, I'm going for it.  If I come off, there's a mighty long fall past the belay down the first pitch.  How exciting...  This could really hurt, but the holds look decent up there.

The moves were awesome, not going to lie.  Exhilarating.  Energizing.  Probably breathtaking.  Painful.  Just that easy, I had a monster hold for my right, and the first bolt was right there.  Hallelujah, I'm less likely to die.  There was a gorgeous little outcropping just to the left of the bolt that was a critical component to continuing on towards the second bolt, and it did the trick as I bumped up towards the crack.

The first part of the crack was a little bit low angle, so there wasn't much insane challenge.  As I ascended further, however, the wind started to become the biggest obstacle to continued advance.  The climbing was gorgeous, lots of decent holds, and a good, tight crack when there wasn't, but the screeching wind felt that it would pull me from my perch and toss me back down the mountain.  My belayer couldn't see me, I couldn't hear him, and I was all on my own, fighting against the elements and the rock.

My worn out old shoes, on their last legs, were called upon to do a lot of big steps as I worked my way up the crack, frequently leaning in tight to the wall to try and minimize the surface area offered up to the wind.

There were no huge, dramatic moves to gain the summit, just a sustained series of reaches and steps up the face and over the top.  The wind was epic as I neared the top.  I feared that I would soon be doing an amazing impression of a kite, as I waited for the stronger gusts to subside before making any moves.  The top was a relief, as I had expended my stock of quickdraws without seeing the anchor chains, and thought I had heard something about the halfway point on the rope being shouted up at me from below.

What a view, though.  30M above the belay ledge, 50M above the crag base, It was totally worth going to war with the screaming wind to reach the summit of the second pitch.  Now to belay somebody up after me.  There was a nice spot up at the top to have a picnic or something, but not much in the way of a decent belay position.  I was in such an awkward spot up there while I waited, straining to hear somebody below yell up that they were ready to follow. 

After some time, I heard the call and took in the slack.  After a few seconds the rope went taut again, then seemed to slacken off, then back to taut.  I couldn't see a climber, due to that sketchy overhang start, so I kept tension on.  The only thing I could hear was the roar of the wind through the trees, as I tried desperately to get an update on what was happening below.

Shivering in the vicious wind, with by back spasming in pain from the horrible body position, I finally heard a request for slack, which I provided.  But how much slack do I give?  Where was my climber?  I slowly released rope until it stopped going and waited to hear more news.  This process repeated several times, and I surmised that Heather was trying to find a way to get a start up over the monster overhang. 

Some time later I was taking up rope and it kept coming. Soon I saw the top of Mert's head coming up the rock, slowly working his way up the route.  Mert doesn't have much experience climbing cracks, and has said repeatedly that he doesn't love them, but he was doing an excellent job of chasing me.  Not nearly soon enough he reached the top.  I was about ready to unhook my line and just let go to get myself out of the wind.

The rappel down was very quick, and upon reaching the ledge we packed up faster than I ever could have imagined.  A great climb under marginal conditions, just to prove that climbing in April could happen.  What a bad idea, but what a fun day.

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