Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Lost In The Well Of Souls

After getting rained out on Saturday, only an idiot would had back out on a Sunday that holds a similar forecast.  At least I accept what I am!

Sunday found Heather, Mert, and I (eventually) heading up to Cheakamous.  I needed to stop for some chili.  Then Heather needed a coffee.  And Mert wanted insurance, for reasons nobody can understand.  I also wanted to make some inquiries about real estate, but it turns out they weren't open.
Mert on Marion Ravenswood
After much discussion on the drive up Mert persuaded us to hit the 'Well Of Souls' for some good quick warmups.  With a name like that, how can you go wrong?  I submit that you can't. 

What a trek in.  It seemed to stretch forever, passing all the major climbing areas at Chek, until finally Heather spotted a sign on a tree guiding us the last steps of the way.  We found ourselves at the top of one of the boulders that make up the well, and since there was no obviously better way, we decided to rappel down to the base.

At this point we discovered that Heather's shoes were still in the trunk of the car.  Awesome.  Ever forgiving of her injured knee, I trekked back to acquire her shoes, figuring that I would return to find Mert mid ascent after setting up on a 5.9 called 'I Hate Snakes' to rappel.

I found a more cleverer way to access the base of the climbs, and arrived to discover that no climbing had yet been done!  Wow, this really is the slowest day ever!  The team back together, we finally got some climbing happening.

Heather on Marion Ravenswood
The base of the climb was very reachy, leading to some rather uncomfortable moves for Mert and I, and some damned impressive dynos by Heather.  After popping over left, the climbing got pretty, with the other boulder encroaching on your shoulder.  Some decent jugs gained the top of a pretty enjoyable start.

By this time two other groups had set up on the other two climbs that we intended to tackle, leaving us with a rather unfriendly 5.10d or a very interesting looking 5.10b.  We elected to take down the 10b next, and Mert was the first contestant.

A Stab in the Dark's crux was the start, no question about that.  A high first bolt and almost non-existant holds led to some pretty tricky moves.  So balancy, then such a big reach onto a powerful crimp.  Mert made it look pretty easy, and when Heather was ready to start she was already despairing.

I had tried playing with the start already, and had a sense of just how bad it was, but Heather made the first balance like it was nothing.  A couple of nimble moves later and she was ready for a monster move.  She tried it, and just couldn't exert enough squish on the rock to stick.  A few more tries with the same result, and decided to give in, for the first time in a long time.

Now it's my shot, and that start is still horrible.  There really isn't anything there for the right hand, just some weird quartz crystal that looks awesome, but is really hard on the hands.  The sad thing is, once you get your balance in that start you just have to move on, somehow, and move on I did.  Carefully moving through the small, balancy stuff to get to the more generous holds above with fingers aching.  It's great to reach some golden holds like these, you can ham it up a bit and have some fun.

That was a really fun climb, and I'm very pleased with myself.  With no other options available in the Well right now we elect to head back out and search for some big opportunities back towards the parking area.

--Editor's note:  I have since learned that the initial interpretation of the topo for this area was incorrect.  The first climb was a 5.9 called "Marion Ravenwood" the second, "A Stab in the Dark" has been re-graded as 5.10d as critical holds at the start have broken off.--

Arriving at the parking area, and already late in the day, we decide to hit up Conroy's Castle for some awesome scenery and tall climbing.  It's busy here, but we find "The Flying Classroom" available and decide that Mert should experience this big, bold climb.

Not for the faint of heart, "The Flying Classroom" is only a 5.7 and won't test your skill much, but it sure tests your gut.  The protection on this 23M beast is about as spaced out as you could make it.  I remember climbing this one last on a day that I wasn't feeling like awesome, and am looking forward to another visit to enjoy this climb.

I managed to convince Mert to take lead as I had already had the pleasure of doing it once myself, and after some cajoling he tied in and started going.  He was quickly up to the second draw, moving up easily.  Until he wasn't...  The gap between two and three is plenty far, and there really aren't any holds to work with there, Mert stalled, and realized that he was high enough that if he slipped without getting the next clip there was a good chance to deck.  Not fun.  I was starting to get nervous, watching him trying to get the last couple inches to the bolt, remembering how I felt when I was there a few weeks ago.  It's really a tough spot!  He succeeded in getting the draw on, but that was the end of the climb for him.  He insisted that I bring him back down.

I took over the lead, finishing the climb and enjoying the gorgeous view while I set up the anchor and came down to give Heather and Mert a chance to try the moves as well.  I really love that climb.

I think it's beer o'clock, and Howe Sound Brewery is just 15 minutes away.  What a great day!

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