Occasional postings about Maz and Si's big adventures

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Iconic Route Bagged

The temptation proved overwhelming.... The skyline each night and each morning beckoned as we drove the short distance from the campground to the climbing in Indian Creek.  The Six-Shooter peaks stand there in the West, alone above the plateau of the desert, reminding me that there is more to climbing than one pitch cracks with bolts at top, however good they are.

So, after a few days of learning the ropes at "The Creek", it was time.  Lightening Bolt Cracks on North Six-Shooter the objective.  The first problem, the approach.  The Dark Star has fair clearance, but is not 4*4, and this mandated several miles walk in along the jeep road.  We didn't have a map, or any other further directions other than that there would (probably) be a cairn marking the start of the path up the scree to the base of the climbing.  Our luck was in, within 5 minutes of walking up the trail some jeepers stopped their pick-up and we rode in the flatbed for a couple of miles until they started driving in the wrong direction.  There's was the only vehicle we saw all day.

Amazingly there was a cairned trail up through various layers of steep sandy nastiness to the base of the climb proper, which we reached after another hour or so.

The first pitch is the supposed crux (5.11).  As has so often been the case in the desert, this proved to be misleading.  A couple of "thin hands" moves above bomber gear cleared the documented crux section within the first 10 metres of the climbing.  Sweet, I thought, as I cruised up the next section of "perfect hands".   Then came the "offwidth" (5.10).  Damn, no gear big enough and runout about 3 metres above my last decent piece.  The inevitable struggle and more bleeding and adrenalin followed.  But I made it to the first belay. 

The second pitch, again 5.10, loomed.  After cruising many routes of the same grade in the Creek it came as a shock to the system as after several aborted attempts of getting off a little ledge 10 metres up, using a "tips crack" (fingertips), I had to resort to jumping for a sloping hold within the crack system. I'm sure a six-footer wouldn't have had the same difficulties! Did I then just blast to the belay?  I wish.  A few metres up came the "fists" section.  Too big to jam, even with "cupped hands" and too small to put in a proper fist jam, I had to resort to torqued fists as I struggled through the overhang, heart pumping and hands hurting.

The last pitch, starting at the apex of a cool overhang, about 100 metres above the base, was the easiest, and most dangerous pitch.  Naturally.  All was well until the last 5 metres below the summit.  Some way above dodgy gear in increasingly sandy and loose sandstone came the infamous "squeeze" (5.9).  So there I am way above the last piece of dodgy gear wedged in this flaring bottomless sand filled chimney squirming my way towards the summit using every single muscle in my body.  I find it hard to describe how glad I was to reach the top.  Stoked comes close.

The summit was of course worth it....

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