03 March, 2018

Crowders Welcoming Us

Today I got the chance to head over to Crowders Mountain with Mike and Andy to do some climbing. When I first started trying to set up the trip, I had two goals in mind: Sample more of the climbs at Crowders, and hopping on a 5.12 and try to figure out the moves, so I could start working it. I had only been to Crowders once, and hadn’t really been on too much and Mike and Andy had only done ropes outside once before, at Pilot. We were gifted with amazing weather! Without a cloud in the sky, it wasn’t too hot, but was warm enough when you stood in the sun. I also wanted to try to get Mike on his first lead climb, and to let Andy get more comfortable leading, and lead belaying.

The hike it was just as tedious as I remembered, but the climbing was great. We managed to hit up a good number of routes, that we’d never seen before- and I think we all walked away having felt like it was a productive day.

Razor’s Edge - 5.6/5.7 (Depends On Who You Ask)
Before he was able to psych himself out too much, we got Mike onto Razor’s Edge. He crushed his first lead climb. Although he said he was sketched out on the way up, his climbing was certainly controlled and precise. After Mike got down I hopped on the route to see how it was. Halfway up I was reminded out some of the rock at Crowders felt hollow, but was surprising strong. It was the right route to start on, and let all of us get a good warm up in. Next Andy got on the route and made quick work of it, getting his first chance to clean a route.

Mike on his first lead climb.

Desperately Seeking Juggage - 5.11b
Even though this route is only 30ft tall, it lived up to its name. I lead it first to see how it would go, and to hopefully set up a Top Rope for the other guys to give it a go. Getting to the first clip is simple and you have an amazing rest before getting into the meat of the climb. From there you are on sharp crimps for most of the route, with one amazing sidepull to rest on before the crux. I had to think to make it through the top section, but felt happy when I clipped the anchor - easily the hardest Onsight of my climbing career. Andy hopped on the route next, and managed to work it well. He struggled a little down low, getting off the amazing ledge you clip the first bolt from, but only had to hang twice - which is great for your first time pulling 5.11 moves outside. Mike was the last to climb, and despite holding onto some of those razor crimps longer than I would have personally wanted to, managed to get his first outside Flash of a 5.11 climb! He then got to clean his first route.

Derek seeking juggage.

Andy getting up close and personal with the sharp crimps near the top.

Welcome to Crowders - 5.12a (Round One)
The reason I wanted to go to Crowders was the Red Wall had a decent number of 5.12a’s for me to look at and choose from. I had heard good things about Welcome to Crowders, and thought I could see the line the best from the bottom, so I decided to tie in and give it a go. I considered taking a bail biner with me, in case I couldn’t reach the top - but decided I would just take rests at the bolts if I needed to and try to work out the sequences. The route stays fairly consistent after the first few moves while it gains 35 vertical feet while traversing a decent way, making the climb probably closer to 45 feet in length. To clip the second bolt, I had to get high up with most of my weight on a tiny left foot and a left hand sidepull that is not ideal. That clip required me to keep my core tight and really keep pressure on the left side so I wouldn’t barn door off. After that there are a couple of big moves to a large flat sidepull with more miniscule feet to work with. From what I could tell the crux sequence starts just below the second bolt to just above the third bolt. So, I felt pretty good when I clipped the third bolt. I tried to rest some by underclinging the bottom of the sidepull, which seemed to work, while I tried to figure out the next few moves. This is where I personally got stumped. My body really wanted something to heelhook, but I was struggling to find a usable hold to lock my heel onto. Eventually I moved my hands a little higher without really figuring out the foot sequence- wanting to give it an honest go- hoping to get lucky and find something. I didn’t and hand to lower my body back to the third draw and call out, “Take.” I immediately found a crimp and decided to try to heel hook it. From there I managed to cruise to the top of the route. I learned that I was probably 2-3 moves away from the victory jugs that led to the chains. 

Welcome to Crowders
Keeping the core tight while clipping the third bolt.

Trying to figure out the foot sequence for the last couple hard moves.

Holy Guacamole - 5.8
I was exhausted when I got back to the ground, so we decided to move on and find something we could all do. That led us to the slabby climb, Holy Guacamole on the Trundlesaurus Wall tucked away on a small corner, on the edge of the mountain. Easily one of the coolest places I have ever gotten to climb. All three of us managed to lead our way to the top, and both Andy and Mike got their first 5.8s on lead.

The view from the Trundlesaurus Wall.

Welcome to Crowders - 5.12a (Round Two)
The sun was hiding behind the mountain by the time we got back to the climb, so it took a little bit of time for me to warm up, but before too long I was on the wall, moving quickly through the bottom sequence now that I knew the beta. I felt strong as I pulled into the sidepull above the second bolt, and I was moving my right foot into position to clip said bolt when I felt my left foot pop off the wall. It’s weird, I had never taken a whip (large fall from above your last quick draw) while climbing outside, and had been dreading the day it finally happened. But as I fell the 10-15 feet back towards the ground the fear of decking against the ground and getting hurt never occurred to me. I remember thinking, “No!!!! I was feeling super strong there too!!!” Special shout out to Andy for catching his first whip, and managing to make it feel soft too. Back to the ground.

Welcome to Crowders - 5.12a (Round Three)
The third time I was on it, I moved with more attention placed on my feet, especially as I neared the second bolt. Probably to the point that I was overgripping to some of the crimps as I went. I managed to grab the large sidepull from underneath at full extension, but then I realized I was stuck. I’m still not sure if my feet were just slightly out of position, I hadn’t recovered enough energy after the second attempt, or if the thought of taking another whip and overgripping is what halted my progress, but I sat there unable to flip my hand around the sidepull to get it at the right angle. I ended up letting go and resting a little before climbing on, and reaching the anchors for the second time.

As we made our hike out, it was easy to feel a little disappointed to have made it so close to sending my first 5.12- and not making it. But if I really think about what my goals were as I hiked up to the crag, it is easier to remain positive. I not only got chance to hop on four new climbs today, sharing the experience with friends, but I also managed to Onsight a 5.11b (which is actually my first outside Onsight for ropes, now that I think about it), higher than my previous record of Flashing a 5.10c.I also got on a 5.12 for the first time, and not only did I manage to reach the anchors twice while hanging only once per attempt, but I managed to make it high enough to be only 2 hard moves away from Flashing a 5.12! Personally, I try not to put too much pressure on Flashes or Onsights, but knowing that I was close to doing so made me realize that having my goal for 2018 being climb a 5.12, I may have set the bar a little low. Welcome to Crowders may not go on the next attempt, or even the next trip- but I feel close to sending it. It is most certainly within my ability to do so. Now I just need try to remember my foot beta through the crux sequence, and potentially try to find a more neutral position for the second clip.

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