Thursday, August 19, 2010


Saturday the temps were forecast to be fairly nice. We felt less pressure to be on the rock as early as the past two trips, so left town at a slightly more relaxed 7 a.m. Ken and Dane headed to the Upper Tier and got on Snaggletooth, then No Drama Obama. The latter with its requirements of both power and endurance makes a great warm up for QED . Gray Thompson arrived while the rope was still through the top anchors of Obama and, having barely set his pack down, suited up and hopped on the first half of the route, which is itself 10c/d. Gray dispatched quickly, styling through the lower crux on-sight.

Next came the day's focus: QED.

We had left three draws on the route: one at the crux, one at the lip of the roof, and one at the start of the upper headwall. We also have two fixed wires at the start of the gear section. But that still left cams to place and the remaining draws to hang. Dane was up in the rotation, so racked up and climbed through the opening bolt and the fixed wires to the first cam placement. This first cam is finicky. The rock bulges and you make the placement either off a sloping right hand, or a shallow left hand finger jug. The cam is a gray Metolius and must be placed just so in a short slot that's hard to see.

Dane had sussed the placement during previous top rope sessions, but on this day on lead the cam wasn't cooperating. We all know that feeling: you expect things to go quickly and easily, and they don't. And then they don't some more, and next thing you know you're pumped and have spent a lot of effort just getting the clip. Basically, your first burn on the route is done almost before you get started. Dane did manage to get the cam in securely, but lowered to the ground at that point to rest and the sharp end went to Ken.

Fortunately, the remaining gear is pretty straight-forward if you know what you're going for. After taking advantage of Dane's work to get the Metolius in,
four more cams took Ken to the the final piece, a bomber blue Alien in the back of the horizontal pod below the crux bulge. After placing this, he downclimbed to a good rest to shake out and collect for the crux. Then it was back up, past the Alien, left hand in the good slot, clip the crux bolt, bump to intermediates, right hand to the rattley crux slot, feet up, and suddenly, for the first time since projecting the route, he had pulled through the crux in one go from the ground. From there he held it together, milking every shake-out for all it was worth, and eked through the many 5.11 sections above to get the climb's first ascent.

Dane pulled the rope, tied back in and went for the double send. As usual, he climbed quickly through the crux, but there seemed to be higher gravity above, and it wasn't to be for him on this day. The route will certainly go next time.

With the ascent of the North Rim's hardest route, and having it located just right of our first line of exploration, Proof of Concept, we feel we've really come full circle in exploring the North Rim's potential. At present, there are 18 routes and 21 pitches of climbing. Grades range from 5.7 trad to this most recent, which we propose as 5.12b. For this first chapter of route development, QED serves as a real exclamation point. So much so, that we're updating the name to a recent modernist variant. With apologies to the classics of language and logic, the route is now called QED-MF!

Turning the Roof During the Send

Footnote to the Ascent

After lowering to the ground from his redpoint, Ken revealed that he'd structured his week, including training, rest, diet and mental preparation, in order to achieve a performance peak for the attempt. He then confessed he'd even given up beer during the previous few days.

"Now wait a minute," Dane said, "I didn't know we were playing by those rules."

Ken turned to Gray for support, but he too looked stunned. "That's just not right," Gray said. "We're going to have to downgrade your ascent to at least a pinkpoint."

Other Sightings

Deanna with Claudine, who recently returned from Europe, arrived mid-afternoon at the Tick Farm. We stopped on our hike out to talk for a minute as they warmed up on No Dick Tick. They had plans to climb on the Tiger Stripe, and we would have liked to stay and watch, but cold celebratory beers called from the Hamilton House in Victor, and so we left them to have the sunshine and the routes to themselves.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Birthday Tick Upgrade

One of the guidelines we set for developing routes at the North Rim is to preserve gear placements where they are obvious. With this in mind, we left one placement each on the Tick Farm's Tick Man and Birthday Tick. The Birthday Tick placement is at the start of the route, making it a long way to the first bolt with some semi-dicey climbing if you don't have the gear. This all makes perfect sense if you're a climber who throws a few cams in with your sport draws. In practice, however, we found that few are arriving at the Tick Farm armed with gear. Most come up with a rope and a clutch of quickdraws. In this sport climbing age, it's likely many climbers don't own trad gear at all.

As a result, our attempt to preserve gear on the Tick Farm now feels contrived. Out of the 8 bolted routes on the wall, there are only two gear placements in total. Climbers embarking up these routes face unnecessary runouts that are out of character with the rest of the climbing.

For these reasons, this past Thursday Dane and Ken added a bolt to the start of Birthday Tick, eliminating the need for a cam to protect the opening 15 feet. Birthday Tick is a great route with some surprisingly subtle and balancey climbing. This will allow everyone to focus on the climbing without being put off by that previously-runout opening.

Between Michael, Dane or Ken, one of us will also add a bolt to Tick Man to protect the runout between the 2nd and 3rd bolt. We had originally left that section for a 3" cam. Continue to expect the runout for now, but look for a safer experience in the near future.

On other news, Dane and Ken have begun redpoint attempts on QED. Hopefully a send (or two!) will be reported soon.