Monday, July 9, 2007

Devils Tower redux


Let me put 12 hours on the Durrance route into perspective... these estimates are based on photo timestamps.

4 AM - alarm goes off

4:30 - we're at the trailhead looking at the tower in the dark under moonlight. It was a 20 minute walk from there to the base of pitch #0.

5:30 - D at the top of pitch #0, L at its bottom. This alternate approach to the base of the Durrance climb was fun.

6:15 - D+L at the top of pitch #0

6:30 - We wait for another party (Jim and Maryellen) to climb pitch #1

7:30 - D nearing the top of pitch #1 (Leaning Tower). This crack was a bit of a challenge, but fun.

8:30 - D+L at the top of pitch #1 (Leaning Tower)

10:30 - D+L at the top of pitch #2 (Durrance Crack). This pitch was OK until the crux near the top where I fell trying to transition from the left crack to the right.

11:50 - D at the top of pitch #3 (Cussin Crack). This was a fun but short pitch.

Pitch #4 (Chimney) absolutely sucked. It would have been much much easier without gear getting in the way.

1:30 - D+L at the top of pitch #5 (Flake Crack) - short and fun pitch. We were concerned about how late it was and how little water we had left so this is as high as we made it.

J+M had already summitted (before noon maybe?) and are rapping down

This may be the start of the Bailey's Direct variation we didn't do:

The jump move we didn't do:

Three double-rope rapps to get to the ground:

2:30 - D at the bottom of the first rappel, about even with the top of the leaning tower. L still up at the top of pitch #5

3:20 - D+L at the bottom of pitch #0 after 3 rappels

4 PM - all packed up and hiking down the trail

4:30 - used the facilities, washed up, packed up the car and left.

On the first few pitches we were held up by two other parties that were ahead of us, but they were faster so eventually they got out of our way.

OK, now it's time for a little climbing-related rant.

The first party was having some troubles. The leader was a very good sport climber but new (2 weeks?) to trad and multipitch climbing. She started the first pitch in the wrong place and went up the wrong side of the leaning column. Her second had a pretty hard time with it.

As I'm leading one pitch I see their leader with an eggplant sized rock in her hand and she's saying something to me like she's going to chuck it. I shouted NO, FIND SOMEWHERE TO PUT IT, so she did. Then later her second is struggling again and kicking down rocks and not bothering to shout ROCK. Three times I heard rockfall and shouted so Laurel could dodge, but Laurel said there were other small pebbles coming her way and a water bladder was leaking down too.

As I was leading pitch 3 or 4 the girls were rappelling down. Once they were down I hear them shouting to Laurel, and she asks me if I can untie their ropes. What?? Apparently they were stuck and couldn't be pulled. I told Laurel to tell them we weren't at the rapp station yet. When I got to the top of the pitch I realized there was one more pitch before their ropes. We were ready to bail but we realized it would be easier from the top of the next pitch, and it would give us an opportunity to help out the girls, who were otherwise stuck on the rock. And it was an easier pitch.

So when I get to their ropes, I see they were rapping off two heavy-duty bolt anchors -- no rapp rings, no slings, just 2 ropes tied and threaded through bolt anchors. In general that's a bad idea, but these were 1/4" angle-iron, so maybe it's OK? At first I assumed that's why they wouldn't pull, since the knot clearly wasn't stuck on anything. But from the top I could pull their ropes just fine in either direction, so after triple checking with the girls that they had ends of both ropes tied into their anchors below, I untied the knot. I think their problem was just that they weren't pulling hard enough -- it was a 195 foot rappel, so it takes maybe 50-80 lbs to pull.

OK, enough rant. The other party was a nice couple (Jim and Maryellen) that we're going to exchange pictures with.

(Note: EXIF timestamps on our photos need to have an hour subtracted. Timestamps on J+M's photos need to have 2:20 subtracted??)


John said...

Ah, the joy's of climbing under other people. Glad you didn't get beaned.
Rapping like that is a little standard in sport climbing at places, but it does kill the bolts way quicker (when you pull the rope) than using a rap ring on the bolts that are replaceable. But, given she was going to just toss a rock does any of that really surprise you?

Did you see any large military landing pads on the other side of the mountain? :-)

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll bite. What's so bad about tossing a rock during mountain climbing? Don't be a snob, just answer the friggin' question.

Big Wall Nuts said...

you might hit someone below, maybe someone on a trail that is out of sight. in this case, the girl was 50+ feet above me, and I was 50+ feet above laurel. i wasn't convinced that rock wouldn't bounce off something and into my noggin. helmets can only do so much. who's asking please?