The Incredible Hulk
Giant, raging monster in the High Sierras
- 11,120' mountain
- colour changing
- crack systems that increase in size as you ascend
- rock hurling
- Corner and splitter cracks
Mediocre climbing tag team
- Dr Curly and the Mazter
- harnessing the forces of friction
We took a few days to recover from the Dr Curly’s Weight Loss Programme, gorging ourselves on American-sized portions of high calorie burgers and bbqs in Lee Vining. We were joined by two gnarly old timers - Spike, founder of Nevisport, and Stu Gallagher, an intrepid ex-teacher from Co. Durham. They regaled us with tales of far-flung adventure while taking doses from a gallon bottle of medicinal whisky (purchased, along with some pipe tobacco, from the pharmacy).
A heat wave descended on America and the High Sierras beckoned, so we took on the mountain mission to conquer a couple of high altitude adversaries: The Incredible Hulk and his henchman, Dana.
Third Pillar of Dana
Monday 27th September found us ready for action and dressed in our skin-tight merino wool costumes (amazing thermal and smell-reduction properties). We trekked in a predawn light through crispy frost up to the Dana Plateau. From here we missed the recommended approach and made a scary, scrambled descent to the base of Third Pillar of Dana. The sun had now risen and we had to strip off multiple thermal layers (my cold endurance training on Half Dome had been in vain). A couple of hours of awesome climbing followed. Leaning blocks, and layback flakes led to a spectacular final pitch which topped out on steep jugs. Thanks for suggesting this one, Pickles. Dana was dispatched and we were ready to take on the big one!
The next day we headed to the fishing resort of Twin Lakes and commenced the walk-in the Hulk. We made it through the RV park and aspen woods ok, but the usual Jones skill at path-finding then took us into a pine wood and led to multiple efforts to cross a river via beaver dams.
Once across the water, we hit the cairned trail again only to lose it once more on the scree slopes. Eventually we arrived on the plateau below the hulking mass. Here we found a veritable crowd of wannabe climbing superheroes camping out. Damn! Word about the heat wave must have got out!
As the sun swung low, the orange Hulk turned a fiery red (when does it go green?) and we prepared our evening bivvy.
Early to bed and an early start meant that Team Jones were first on the route. Our plan was to attack the Hulk via The Red Dihedral. Pitch four was the crux – 30m of strenuous 10b corner crack. As Si made his way carefully up the Dihedral, the teams behind caught up and grew impatient, but once we were passed this pitch we soon regained our lead. The Joneses were the only partnership not to rest on gear on the way up!
Eight more pitches of great climbing followed, most in glorious sunshine. Then we reached the last pitch and the final challenge. Being a tunnel aficionado, I took this one on. Loose choss led into a dank chimney, which topped out through a small window in the rock. I had to perform a hip-dislocating frog-like manoeuvre to get through. Thank God I was wearing figure-hugging, Kat-style leggings. Amazingly, Si managed to squeeze his beefed-up Dr Curly torso through as well!
|I made it through, but it might be a struggle for Simon!|
|Here he comes, will he get any further?|
|He'll make it! Good job he was wearing his figure-hugging ninja suit!|
The Incredible Hulk had been defeated, but the battle was not yet won. On the descent, our glory basking lasted until we reached the pine forest and the light faded. Here, our trail-detection powers failed us. We criss-crossed the river and ended up in a swamp. As Si set a squelching course through the wetlands I called out “I don’t think this is the right way” “Neither do I” he shouted back “But at least we’ll get to where we want to be”! I stepped in to follow my partner in climb and squealed as I sank up to my knees in cold, muddy water. As my shoes filled with oozing mank, I tried not to think about leeches and water snakes. If only we had the power to teleport!