Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lover's Leap, July 31

Looking towards the main cliff band at the Leap.  Unfortunately, this is my only photo, and it was taken with my iPhone. :-(
Jacob and I were planning on climbing Whiskey Bill (5.7) on Fresno Dome, which is a rather unknown climb not currently published in guidebooks.  I've heard about it through the grapevine and on various websites, and the solid granite and dramatic chickenheads were enticing.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast was dicey with thunderstorms on the prowl, so we headed to Lover's Leap on Sunday to knock off some classic climbs I've wanted to do for ages.

We woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am on Saturday morning to darkness and a pile of climbing gear to shepherd into my car.  We arrived at the Leap parking lot just as all the hungover climbers were waking up and sorting gear.  This seemed like a great opportunity to jump on the classic climbs, and we booked it up to Corrugation Corner (5.7).  Jacob wasn't particularly happy with the strenuous approach, and was convinced there was an easier way to the base.  Unfortunately, there isn't, but our early morning exertion meant we were the first ones on one of the most popular climbs in California.

The climb starts out with sustained, but well protected stemming.  This was my first experience with the famously steep dikes of the Leap since my usual hangout at the more mellow Hogsback doesn't feature this formation quite as prominently.  Even when it is steep, the dikes protrude out and provide nice horizontal footholds, thus reducing those fear-inducing tenuous stances.  The first pitch ended after a nice and exposed hand traverse to a great belay ledge.  The second pitch continued up the dihedral to the famously exposed 5.7 arete.  Everyone says it is the steepest 5.7 anywhere, but I'm not sure if those individuals have climbed High Exposure at the Gunks, which is steeper and rated 5.6.  Regardless, this is an incredible pitch with tons of exposure, and runout moves on a pointy arete.  It ended with a laughter-inducing belly flop move onto a sloping ledge to belay from.  I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard while climbing.

The third pitch started with a stupid 5.7 chimney.  I hate chimneys, and luckily this one was easy since it had many holds inside it.  Regardless, I could only get 1 piece in the first 20 or so feet when I exited the chimney onto an exposed ledgy hand traverse.  I had been dangling my pack from my harness for the chimney, so I threw it back on, climbed a bit more, placed a nut, and went to grab a sling from my shoulder.  Whoops, my pack was now over the slings in what had become a topological nightmare.  My feet weren't quite so good, and I was rather runout now, so I very carefully took my pack off and reordered it with my slings.  With all the nervous clipping and careful movement, my chalk bag belt become undone and I watched it fly down past Jacob after I clipped the gear.  This was unfortunate since I've been known to chalk up often enough to warrant keeping a large laundry bottle of chalk in my car at all times.  There was no turning back, so I continued up, but the crack felt way harder than the mellow 3rd pitch described in the guidebook.  It was a steep and technical crack with very little pro and mediocre feet.  Regardless, I didn't think much of it, but later realized this was the 5.8 variation.

Jacob and I finished Corrugation, ate some lunch, then went to the base of Bear's Reach to finish our day of classic 5.7s.  Unfortunately, there was a group just starting, but given that it was still early and we'd been efficient thus far, we decided to wait it out.  The group commented that they weren't the fastest in the world, but we had no idea they'd be as slow as they were.  In fact, I don't know if I've ever seen a group as naturally slow and lazy as they were.  We waited for an hour or so and they hadn't really finished the first pitch, so we left them and the dark clouds overhead to go to Hogwild.  This ended up being a fun 5.7 pitch with runout tough face moves and sparse gear placements leading to a fun hand and finger crack.  We had a long drive back home, so we left the remaining sunlight to hit to road back to San Francisco.

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