Tuesday, June 3, 2008

An Idyllwild Weekend

This past week I had my off Friday and due to some technology problems on Thursday I got to leave work early and get a pseudo 4 day weekend! With finals quickly approaching I surprised Lizzy by coming to LA on Thursday and we packed up and headed out on Friday to Idyllwild.

We made good time on the 10 and the 243 but got a bit confused about where the proper campground was. There are five campgrounds within 10 miles of Idyllwild. We were looking for the cheapest, Fern Glen, but could not at the time remember the name. We took the turn for the main group of campgrounds but the scenery looked all wrong. So we kept going expecting a turn on our way to Idyllwild but to no avail. Worried that the campground would be full we turned around and headed 6 windy miles back to explore the first set of campgrounds further. After driving around for a while on steep and switch backing roads we found managed to find the $10 campground. The cost per night was quite varied and we found $20, $15, $12 and $10 per night.

After sorting the rack we set off to suicide for some afternoon crack climbing. We still had two or three hours of daylight and though we could get a few cracks in before dark. After we parked our car we couldn't find Lizzy's approach shoes. They had vanished and the approach was not well suited to flip-flops. We turned the car inside out and could not find them. We both distinctly remembered her bringing them down to the lawn and setting them down when I was packing the car. However neither of us could remember her putting them in the car or ever seeing them in the car. Possibly we had left them one of the campgrounds so we went in search of her fairly new CTC's. With no luck and much time wasted we even tried to buy a new pair that night but the store was closed. Instead of climbing we explored Idyllwild and had dinner at the Idyllwild Pizza Company, which was quite tasty.We got up early the next day, picked up a new pair of shoes at Nomad Ventures and hustled up to the northern side of Suicide rock. We passed a few parties on the steep approach and Lizzy was happy to have shoes on her feet. We started with Flower of High Rank, shown above, which was supposed to be one of the best 5.9's in Idyllwild and in the state. I decided to lead the crack in one long 200 foot pitch using the harder right crack exit above the tree. The climb had a fun and varied finger crack that split at the tree and became a 3" wide crack on the right side leading up to a roof. The bottom of the climb was balancy and fun and the tree provided a nice rest before switching to the right crack. I got the roof quickly and was stumped by what I found. The crack above was quite flaring and without a good foothold would not yield easy passage to the slab above. After much struggling and going up and down I was able to use some face feet and reach to the left crack. This gave me enough balance to get my right foot over the roof and allowed me to climb the slabby grove. Fun large flakes lead to the top and after setting up a belay I brought Lizzy up. Full value for 5.9 but not necessarily one of the best I had ever done.

Next we headed around the corner to Johnny Quest. I had been told this climb was excellent and I am a big fan of finger cracks. I was expecting it to be a bit harder at 10b but the climb fit my style perfectly and it was my favorite of the weekend. We soloed 50 feet of 5.2 to belay at the tree by the base of this short beauty. A tricky opening dihedral gave way to some jugs and then a thin finger crack. Wonderful pinscars and constrictions with good feet gave way to a ledge 20 feet higher, which is too bad since I could have kept going since the crack was so fun!

I lowered from the bolted anchor and Lizzy gave it a burn on TR. Anxious to climb some more routes we both rapped off and made our way back around the corner. Feeling good on 10b I felt ready for the route of the day, Etude, 11a. It was longer and steeper but I was feeling good on the thin finger locks of Johnny Quest. As I made my way up to the piton protected crux I was shocked to find no holds. The crack was non existent and progress could only be made by stemming and crimping up two grooves for 10 feet before another hold and anther pin appeared. Unable to see a viable sequence and scared of a potential 20 foot fall onto an old fixed pin I precariously aided through the crux. Standing on the highest pin and using a marginal nut to make a blind 2 lobe placement. I was able to clip the high pin but had lost most of my lead mojo.

The final thin hand and finger crack to the anchor was easy once I got my feet up above the high pin and I set up a TR so Lizzy could give it ago. I had confidence that her slab skills and balance would allow her to find a way up the climb. Using tricky sequence with the arĂȘte she was able to alternate pulling on the left and the right grooves to slowly stem her feet up. Despite falling off she was able to link all of the different sections and made it to the top. Excited by her success I gave it a go and eked my way up the grooves. While I failed to exhibit her grace I was able to barely make it to the top without falling. Going back I am sure it would be an exciting lead.

We did a few more easer 250 foot slab climbs using the full extent of our 70m rope and a bit of simul climbing and then retreated to the tent. Below Lizzy points to Suicide rock from her high stance on Tahquitz.

Unsure of having to return to San Diego to work on Sunday we got up late and made our way to town to check voicemail. Still sore from all of the hiking and descending from the previous day we enjoyed some Raspberry pastry bread from the local grocer. After giving up on work we made our way up to Humber Park and started the steep hike up Tahquitz. The trail seemed better than we both remembered and we made good time to Lunch Rock.Veering left we set our sights on the bulge routes home to the Vampire and Super Pooper. The base of this area is super slabby and leads up to a series of ledges. We soloed up the first 100 feet of 3rd and 4th class and then Lizzy started leading up to our ledge. Unsure of the correct way to go we made it up to a good ledge right below the start of Super Pooper. Despite the suggestion of moving the belay up another 40 feet I decided that we had enough rope and I did not want to waste the time. The 40 feet was quite easy so I only placed 2 pieces so there was minimal rope drag.

I was not quite mentally ready for the bulges and took over an hour to lead this 200 ft pitch. The first crux was quite cool and involved a transition over one roof via a set of crimps and a crazy arĂȘte to a small ledge/jug. Protecting this was tricky and after psyching my self up I was able to get through it. After standing on this ledge for a while I summed the courage again to get through the crux bulge. An awkward sized crack with no feet below it allowed passage over the last bulge. Thruching through a work able sequence my foot popped mid way but I was able to stay in my jam. In the photo above Lizzy approaches the belay after the crux pitch.

I was able to link the next two pitches but since due to improper slinging and getting a rope stuck in a crack I had horrendous rope drag for the final slab. Standing on a ledge with decent prow 10 feet below, I pulled up 10 more feet of rope and smeared my way up the final slab, pulling more rope up from good stances. The angle quickly eased and we were at the top! We ate lunch and enjoyed the views. A superb climb with tricky movement and fun jamming.

Despite getting lost on the decent we made it back to the car and returned to San Diego. We had split up on the way down so that I could get our packs from the base of the route but we both managed to go to the same wrong way and met up after I got our packs. It was nice to be out in the woods and camping for a weekend! School is over for Lizzy soon and I hope we can get out more in the months to come!


- Luke

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