Valley of the Moon

 

Joey suggested we climb at Valley of the Moon – he managed to make it out there a week earlier in a 2WD truck.  How, I have no idea.  That is one hell of a road.  It rained lightly during the drive out, but the skies cleared as we dropped into the Imperial Valley and other than some gusty winds, it turned out to be perfect climbing weather.

Getting to the crag

We hiked down to the Patina Wall, where Joey immediately hopped onto a juggy warm-up called Tec-9 (10a).  A really fun route with features that remind me of Holcomb Valley.  I believe he had climbed this route the week previous, and he sent it without difficulty.  Ryan top-roped the route, and then we pulled the rope and I led it.  Halfway up, a gust of wind sent my hat sailing of into the void, which was interesting to watch.

Below the Patina Wall

Joey on an unidentified route

After fooling around a bit, Joey felt ready to jump on Full Auto (10d).  The route looked very doable, but there appeared to be a scarcity of holds down low.  Joey said something like, “I am fully committed to falling on this…” followed by “Just not before the 3rd bolt…”  He climbed solidly off the ground and clipped the 3rd bolt, but then got stuck at the crux.  Ryan was belaying and I was just lying in the shade, watching with a grin on my face.  With no warning, Joey popped off and fell about 8 feet, whipping hard into the wall.  It looked as if his knee made contact with a little bulge on the face, and there was a moment or two where I thought he might be hurt.  He was alright, though, and after hanging for a few minutes, he was sufficiently mad to try the move again (and stick it).

Joey at the crux of Full Auto (10d)

Ryan gave the route a shot but was shut down by the same very same crux, and then I attempted it on top-rope.  I toyed with the idea of a lead, but the mental image of Joey’s knee exploding was fresh in my mind, and the move looked pretty reachy to me.  I got up to the same spot, committed to a tiny right-hand crimper, and peeled off as I shot for the left.  Damn, it was close!  I rested a bit, and then worked out a different sequence that moved right and up, which felt easier.  The rest of the climb was pretty cruisy with nice jugs and rests.

Jason at the top of Full Auto

Jammed rope

After the Patina Wall, we scrambled over to Sundagger Wall on the other side of the gully.  We couldn’t decide what to do, and finally agreed that I would lead the slabby Crackerman (5.9) which would open up access to one of the harder face climbs up high.  I eyed the route from the ground with some suspicion – I saw a bunch of shallow dishes but few real holds.  Just getting off the ground and to the first bolt was harder than I expected for a 5.9, and I soon found myself committed to a friction route that made me want to spit at the guidebook.  There’s something about slab climbing that makes me want to evacuate my bowels.  I managed to balance and tip-toe up the face, and then I reached the crux, where the holds basically vanished.  The next dish was just out of reach; nothing but smooth face in front of me.

Ryan on Crackerman

I finally committed to the move and used my fingertips to scrape at some small crystals, while smearing with one foot and then the other.  I repeated the “trust your feet” mantra in my head and slowly stood up on my toes.  The dish was now within reach, but I had to release my left hand to grab for it.  Thankfully, there was sufficient friction to prevent my feet from skating off the face, and I made it up without a fall.

Ryan at the crux on Crackerman

I belayed Ryan up from the anchor, and then Joey followed shortly thereafter.  It was getting late by then, and we decided to call it a day.  Fun climbs on great rock, and we only saw two other people all day.

Valley of the Moon

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