Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sheltered Kids

A few years ago Jens and I were climbing at the Guillotine, a small buttress just up canyon from Careno and Purina Crags in the Lower Icicle.  After Jens dispatched the cliff’s signature route (a recommended obscurity), I threw the rope down a partially bolted project to the right, labeled in the guidebook as Sodium Penathol.  While the upper arete was tenuous and technical, the moves were reasonable.  The crux was in the steep and bouldery start. 

Shortly after returning from Oregon this spring I wandered up to the top of the Guillotine and rapped in for a solo inspection.  I felt stronger on the moves and slowly pieced together a sequence through the crux.  The next step was to borrow a power drill and make it lead-able.  This process proved to be unexpectedly difficult. 

Placing the bolts was physically pretty easy.  The drill is heavy but compared to bolting by hand it’s painless.  Mentally, however, the act was quite taxing.  Part of the problem was the crack at the start.  It accepts decent natural protection but only briefly keeps the leader from a questionable fall onto a bit of a spike.  The other obstacle to a good bolt placement was the ability to safely clip it.  Right off the spike stance the moves are sustained and bouldery.

In the end it took two trips with the bolt gun to prep the route in a way that satisfied my desire for safety while not “over-bolting.” 

Then came the challenge of an actual redpoint.  I had worked it on toprope while cleaning but it still took four tries to crank through the sharp, crimpy moves.  I tip-toed up the arete feeling pretty psyched on my first “mixed” route. 

While the name ‘Sodium Penathol’ does follow the Guillotine theme I was inspired by some sad news to change it to ‘Sheltered Kids.’  In the midst of my efforts Jens stumbled on an online obituary of our old friend Carson, who passed away in January.  Although we had lost touch in the past few years, memories of many months spent together, roaming the desert of Joshua Tree and bumbling up Big Walls in Yosemite, came flooding back.  After Climbing Carson delved deeply into writing and performing folk music, releasing an album with his group, Sheltered Kids.

Special thanks go to longtime Leavenworth climber and route developer Ben Stanton for  starting the project before I got here, guidebook author Viktor Kramer for the use of his drill and hardware and the friends that helped out with a belay or just some positive thoughts.


My summer has lacked blog posts.  I have at least one more story from a busy season and hopefully more to come from an extended winter road trip.