Mission Gorge


I recently met a good group of beginner climbers and we’ve been getting out there most weekends.  These guys met at an REI anchor-building clinic not too long ago (Johnny, Ryan, Joey, Joel) and I met Wei at a Meetup night at Mesa Rim.  I’m not an experienced climber by any means, but I’ve got a few years of gym and top-roping under my belt, and it’s been helpful to climb with this crew and revisit the basics of anchors, rappels, etc.  There’s no substitute for a solid foundation when it comes to the basics.

I’m finally doing some easy sport and trad leads, but I’m still uncomfortable when I’m out on the sharp end.  Justin and I have been discussing a trip to Holcomb Valley next month, where he suggests I take some legit falls so that I learn to trust the rope, my belayer, and the protection.  That scares the hell out of me, but it’s probably a good idea.

I led Mission Control (5.8) in the morning, and even though I’ve been on this route a bunch of times, I wasn’t warmed up and it felt a little sketchy at the top.  I anchored myself to the top bolts and hung there for the next hour, shooting photos of everyone else.  Joey and then Joel each led it next; I believe this being their first-ever lead climbs.  Quite the experience, and documented here for posterity.  Johnny led it (he’s been on it before) and Wei opted for the top-rope.  I could tell that Ryan wanted to give it a shot, but he’s got thousands of dollars invested in a mountaineering course next month, and breaking an ankle would put a real damper on his plans.  Hey, it took me 6 years to get on my first lead, so I’m not going to question anyone’s decision-making!

I top-roped Orange Walk (5.10a) and felt pretty solid on it, so I decided to go for a lead.  In retrospect, jumping two grades above my previous best might have been foolish.  It scared the hell out of me.  Getting to the first clip felt a little exposed, but this passed uneventfully.  I worked my way up to the second clip and realized that it was just out of reach.  Oh damn.  Reaching the bolt involved a balancy, frictiony move that sent my heart racing, and  I ended up down climbing back to a decent stance once I had made the clip, so that I could rest my legs and gather myself.  At this point, I was determined to make it to the top without hanging off a bolt, but that goal would soon go up in smoke.  The route suddenly felt like an 11a.  I asked Johnny to keep me pretty tight, which in retrospect was probably a bad idea.  Fear was starting to take hold, and a foot or two of slack would have made it easier to suss out the crux moves.  It took me a long time to work out the next section, lots of hang-dogging and very short falls at bolt-level.  Johnny did a great job belaying and I finally gunned for it, my feet and right hand popping just as I shot my left onto a bomber hold.  Note to self: stick to 7’s and 8’s for the foreseeable future.  And maybe wear some diapers.

We also climbed Skyline Arete (5.8), which felt slightly more difficult than Mission Control.  The first bolt is pretty high, so I placed a nut at the overhanging start, pulled the mini-roof, and then went to place a cam in the crack above.  Wei alerted me to the fact that the nut immediately popped.  Hmm, that was a learning experience.  I had slung the nut with an extended sling, which apparently had not behaved as expected.  So, I fixed that by placing a second nut in opposition, tying them off together.  The rest of the climb passed uneventfully.

I’ve had my eye on a 4-star finger crack called The Ramp (5.7).  There always seems to be someone on it, so maybe next time.  After my Orange Walk adventure, I was ready to call it a day.  Ryan was out there shooting his Nikon, and he’s the owner of all the images you see of me.  He’s an outdoor enthusiast as well, and you can visit his personal photo page here.





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