Friday, September 10, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day on the North Rim started off cold. Michael Moore, Olin Martin, Kurt Krueger and Dane Scott stood around stamping feet and blowing on fingers before heading up Snaggletooth, an odd but interesting climb on the Upper Tier. Named after an 8-foot, 1,000 lb horizontal tooth sticking out of the rock 70 feet up, it always raises the question, Do you trust it!?

Kurt Krueger on Snaggletooth

After Snaggletooth, Kurt and Olin spent most of the day on Kurt's challenging 10-ft roof crack, Give and Take. Kurt is the author of the area's two trad lines to date. He's doing his best to make sure the "youth" at least know what a hand jam looks like. The not yet geriatric Kurt managed to lead this physical and intimidating line with only a couple hangs. It will go soon for him, but Kurt has also declared it open for all others. Any crack climbers looking to get the first clean lead, have at it. There's one bolt in a blank section mid-route, and the rest is gear. The climb, with a proposed rating of 10d, ascends one pitch and finishes at Fixe rap anchors. (See last image of this blog post for a look up the start of the crack.)

Michael and Dane decided to do some labor in honor of the day. They quickly bolted and climbed a new 9-bolt line that shares anchors with Sabertooth. They dubbed the line Tiger Beat. While not quite of the same quality as the more sustained routes on the Tiger Wall, it's worth doing. It has a bouldery crux at a roof in the neighborhood of 11a. Be warned not to drift too far right at the roof to a large and loose looking block. Let's call that off route for now. Bolts 2 through 4 were closely spaced to do double duty. There is a direct variation that climbs straight up the bolts on excellent rock, avoiding Tiger Beat's larger holds just to the right of the bolts. While contrived, this variation offers challenging climbing in the 11c/d range -something definitely worth doing.

Tiger Stripe above Tick Farm
Give and Take is crack just right of rightmost snag.

There were a dozen people at the Tick Farm and maybe 7 cars at the trail head at one point, a virtual mob scene for Montana. Longtime Missoula area climbing fixture, the lithe and agile Brian Quilter, showed up with his new bride, Carlene. The couple is finally united in the same country after a long and Kafkaesque encounter with the US and Canadian immigration bureaucracies.

Ever since Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell split up in 2009, the world climbing community has speculated as to who would replace them as America's First Climbing Couple. As we watched the Quilters ticking off some of the North Rim's long, sustained and overhanging routes, we felt that here in Montana we need look no farther. As the rest of us left for the day, the happy couple was last seen enjoying the late summer sun on the Upper Tier climbing No Drama Obama. We are all glad to see Brian and Carlene finally united in Missoula.

At the end of the day, Brett Klaassen Van Oorschot and Ondi Crino did Witness the Tickness. Everyone seems to lower off this route with a wide grin, showing the lichen in their teeth. With its boulder-problem opening, and powerful but positive crux moves, this 5.11a climb is emerging as a consensus 3 to 4 star route. Olin, who pulled a key starting hold off of Snaggletooth and damaged his heel in the process, came back for a final attempt on Witness, as well. Alas, his labors with Kurt left him a little gassed, but he shall return. Both Olin and Brett have assisted Michael with bolting, Brett on Sabertooth and Olin on Ticktastic.

--Dane Scott and Michael Moore

Other sightings:

Seen Cruising the Canyon on Saturday

Friday, Sept 3rd In his first visit to the North Rim, Kyle Scharfe, back from a summer working in Glacier, joined a friend to climb the four-pitch Pie for Strength. Kyle remarked on good bolt placements, an attention-grabbing entry to the flake on Pitch 2, and the challenging crux seam on Pitch 3. Sounds like the 5.9+ fourth pitch, which doesn't see as much traffic as the other three, is starting to get cleaned up a bit. With a top-out onto the rim (and easy hike back down to the main trail if you choose), it's definitely worth doing, but climbers should still expect some crunchy lichen.

Saturday, Sept 4th Dane, Ken, Carlene, Michael, Olin and two climbers who arrived later, spent most of a fairly hot day on the Tick Farm, often wishing for a breeze that never quite filled in. Dane spent 2 hours re-crafting several bolts on QED, eliminating a couple and re-positioning two others. QED is now completely dialed, with 12 bolts and about 5 cam placements. Dane waited for good conditions for a redpoint attempt, but the hoped-for cloud cover never materialized, and by 3pm the air conditioning and cold beer at the Hamilton House drew us away.