Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chaka Khan Update

Dane and Ken were back at the North Rim on Friday. The drive down was fairly wet and we hiked in through a few light showers. Our plan was to work on Big Science since it stays dry in all but the stormiest conditions. Upon arriving at the Tick Farm, however, we were surprised to see the rock was mostly dry. We dropped packs at Birthday Tick and did a warmup lap each on it. The larger shelves were soggy and quite slick, but everything else was dry.

After increasing the intensity with a t.r. lap each on Witness, we headed up the trail to have a look at the conditions on Chaka Khan and Shere Khan. Though their neighbor, Tiger by the Tail, was glistening wet in the black streaks, these two were in perfect condition. We climbed up onto the ledge and Dane took the sharp end and started up Chaka Khan. The opening bulge produced a significant flash pump, but Dane worked the rest at the fourth bolt for maximum effect. Then he moved up, clipped the fifth, crux bolt, climbed back down, took another minute's shakeout, headed back up and fired the crux!

Normally, this is when you let out a victory yell, but not on Chaka Khan. After the crux, you join Shere Khan and have 60% of that route above you with the endurance clock ticking. But Dane continued to work the shakeouts and soon tagged the top anchors. The first ascent of Chaka Khan was in the bag.

Ken then tied in and, surprising himself, managed to lead up and grab the second ascent.

Chaka Khan is a hard climb to grade. The crux appears improbable and blank when you come to it cold. But when you have the beta dialed and know exactly what to expect, it feels almost moderate. For now, we're proposing the grade of 5.12a. Hopefully we can get some feedback as others get on it. Note that you can easily toprope Chaka Khan when lowering after climbing Shere Khan. The two make a great combination. Plan to clip your toprope through the bolt above Chaka Khan's crux so you can get back on the rock if you come off.