Friday, September 29, 2006

Yam Battle days 11 and 12

The every-other day program on Yam is in effect, it's just too much of a physical battle to get up there more than every other day. The climbing, hiking, hauling, cleaning, it just all adds up into a rest day after a day on Yam.

On Wed. Kevin and I had a go at it, and managed to redpoint the second pitch, likely the hardest on the route. We then headed up to pitch five (third "hard" pitch for me), which had me pretty freaked out, I sent down a lot of big flakes but there was one on there that seemed suspect and possily rope-cutterish... With Kevin on the belay I was able to send the flake down in large pieces, amazing to watch coffee-table size rocks fall 500 feet to the scree, it just winds me up every time. We do a double-check on the trail before every rock goes down, the possibilities are horrifying (we're just doing big cleaning on week days). I managed to almost redpoint pitch five after the cleaning session, but it took a mental leap to start just dynoing and really climbing. I pitched off near the anchor, there's a heart-breaker last move on the smooth side of a dihredal, but I was super-psyched to put most of it together. It's so hard for me to go from drilling off hooks and sending down big blocks to busting out wild moves, but the climbing sort of sucks me in once I get going, the exposure becomes less relevant and the joy of the movement takes over. Until a hold breaks... Kevin did well on the fourth pitch, it's sure fun to watch other people get excited about the pitches we've worked on to clean up into decent climbing. I had another battle cleaning the sixth pitch, but figured out how to do almost all of the moves, it has the potential to be the hardest pitch on the climb to redpoint I think...

Today (Friday) Cory and I went back, it's his day five and my day six on the route this year. We opted to try rapping off the top to clean up what Raph and I had rap-bolted four years ago. That all went well and relatively quickly as the rock is generally excellent, still vertical to overhaning but with good holds when needed. We had planned to try and redpoint pitches 5-8, but it got more complicated when we discovered that a 70M rope hung totally free from the top of the sixth pitch... This climb is steep! Eventually Cory and I managed to get established down on the "lunch ledge" below pitch 4 and he had a good go on pitch 4, he'll redpoint it soon. I top-roped up behind him to warm up and then had a battle to send pitch 5, it has so much good climbing on it, three distinct cruxes--one power to get over a roof/corner, one super-tech but overhanging, and one desperate finishing "overhanging slab." From the ground it seems so unlikely that any line could go through those roofs, but with a lot of dihedral climbing and monkeying about it works! It took all I could do to finish pitch 5 off to the anchor stance on redpoint, one of those fingers uncurling on a jug battles, super fun (all anchors are at hands-free stances). Cory followed it, and then I had a go at pitch six, which slapped me around. Multiple cruxes, crazy three-dimensional moves, I think it's my favorite pitch on the climb so far. The final moves go from the wild overhangs of the roof pitches onto the 300-foot headwall at the top, which should be more reasonable, but there's a real bastard of a move to get established on the headwall, it took me some time to figure it out. It seems sort of V5ish, not so hard on the ground with a nice mat and a cold drink, but after all the earlier climbing on pitch six, well, it took all I had to sort it out on the dog. The last two pitches should go at more or less 5.11-low-end 5.12, or at least I hope they do, there is just so much intensive climbing on this route!

Tonight I'm just pounded, but looking forward to starting serious redpoint burns soon. I hope this route becomes popular and makes others laugh with the exposure and climbing as we have, the moves and crazy positions (at one point you do a big step-out onto a good hold with about 700 feet of nothing but air directly below the toes!) are unlike anything I've ever climbed, so much damn fun! The fall colors add to the scene too, when we first went up on on the route the trees in the valley were just showing hints of yellow, now the leaves are mostly on the ground with only the rare renegade tree flying brilliant colors. Fall is a glorious season, my favorite in the mountains, the blue sky, yellow leaves, it's like a perfect desert or cold beer for the mind. It's days like these I've had on Yam this season that help make life worthwhile for me, climbing is awesome, I feel damn lucky to have these days in the memory bank. Now it's time to try a bottom-to-top ascent; I'd be OK with doing it in sequence over a couple of days, but it would be cooler to send it all in a day. I've done bigger routes on perfect rock, but Yam has it's own vibe, it seems to take more to climb hard up there for me, but the rewards are so good.


PS--thanks for the notes, it motivates me to write these ramblings and share the joy of Yamineering.

Also, we planned to climb back to the top but didn't have time, so we left Cory's pack on top of the route... Please leave it there if you're in the area. I also tried to remove the misplaced bolt on Balrog the other day but destroyed a crowbar in the process, I'm heading back up with a hacksaw and some expoxy for the hole next go. The crowbar did a BASE jump, let me know if you find it...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Well, after the snow melted out around here Cory and I got back up on Yam for another couple of days of it. On Saturday we cleaned the fifth pitch and bolted the sixth pitch--both are crazy steep and technical, the rocks I was dropping (after checking to make sure there was nobody on the trail below!) went all the way to the scree, that's about 700 feet of free fall! Cleaning and bolting on lead were a bit sketchy as many of the blocks were directly over my head, the position and "freak factor" was really high. Sooner or later I'm going to learn to relax up there, right now it's still a bit much. Some of the blocks are so big that I'm worried the whole damn climb is going to fall off the face of Yam--not likely, but that's the sort of scenarios that start running through my mind... But the cool part was connecting into a bolt from the "low point," the spot where Raph and I had rap-bolted to about five years ago. I was fully freaked out from drilling off hooks on lead, it was mega to reach up and clip a pre-existing bolt just as it got dark. I then started to fix the rope and rap off into the dark, but was so freaked that I put in another bolt, couldn't see doing it off one bolt. One bolt can look mighty insignifcant when preparing to rap off it in the twilight WAY over the ground... Two just felt so much nicer.

Yesterday the climbing started to feel reasonable for the first time, I worked the second pitch (Big Ass Roof) and was able to put it together in big links. It's a very physical pitch, but the biggest difference is that I finally started to relax and enjoy the climbing instead of hanging on for dear life. The exposure is wild--it doesn't make much different above about 100 feet whether there's 100 or 500 feet of air below your feet, but my mind just doesn't listen to logic. I finally started to forget about the air below, handholds breaking, the rope getting cut on some edge (very blocky climbing, the rope is always over an edge) and all the other worries and just focus on the movement. Sarah, a strong local Canmore climber, came up to sample the climb, it was good to get her perspective on the moves as she has climbed a lot on Yam. Cory took some photos as well, I'm fired up to see them, get more of an open perspective on the climbing instead of, "How the hell do I reach the next hold?" I managed to redpoint the fourth pitch at around 12c, it's bouldery but with a good sequence not so bad, just gunning through moves to keep the pump at bay. I think it's the best pitch I've ever climbed on Yam, good rock and stellar position, it fired me up. I also worked the fifth pitch a bit, I was concerned it wouldn't go but managed to do all the moves including a super-thin dihedral at the just before the belay. That sequence has the potential to be a heart-breaker on the eventual redpoint--you could get through the inital overhanging thuggery, clean the loose section with small holds,then fly off if a foot blew at the every end of the pitch. The climbing is super-technical due to the three-dimensional nature of the rock--foot way over there, oppose here, dyno there, it's a bit like Rifle mixed with Malham in England with a touch of Thai-style three-dimension or something, it's different than any other limestone climbing I've done. The rock is generally OK, but rope-drag is a problem because the line seldom goes straight up, it's all over the place, like a three-dimensional maze for human rats. We hope to go back up tomorrow and work on some more cleaning, I can't manage two days in a row because the whole experience is so physical it just destroys my body--I've got some elbow tendonitis and a tweaked finger, it's a race against winter and physical injury to get this rig done. It will be eight pitches, with only one of 5.10 to start...

PS--dD just sent me this link, holy shit!