El Cajon Mountain

 

I took Steve and Nadia out for their first multi-pitch a couple of weeks ago.  We climbed Meteor (5.8+) which starts at the base of the popular Leonids and finishes on a fantastic belay ledge atop the Triton Tower.  The topo calls it a “well-bolted, 400 foot sport route” but it was closer to 350 feet, with an interesting bolt-less stretch of rock between the first and second pitches.  Well, maybe we got off route?  Wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

The approach

The approach in moderate fog

I brought along a light rack since an older topo suggests that the traverse onto the Triton Tower requires gear, and might even go at 5.10.  I neglected to mention this fact to my partners, in hopes that I was simply reading the topo wrong.  I figured we would just bail if it got too hard, and it never did.

Steve and Nadia

Nadia and Steve, with looks of enthusiasm and disgust

We tackled the climb in the same manner that I led Bright Eyes with Johnny and Wei, in 2011.  I led both pitches, and Steve followed while trailing a second rope attached to his harness.  Nadia climbed third, and other than the extra effort at the belays to manage the ropes, it went smoothly.  The first pitch was well-bolted, with two distinct cruxes that felt pretty stiff for 5.8.

View from top of pitch one

Steve below the first anchor, Nadia on the ground

The traverse onto the tower was not exactly straight-forward.  I saw a bolt immediately right of the anchor which seemed to suggest “go this way” but then nothing else for 20-30 feet.  I could see a bolted rap station out on the tower, but getting there would involve some careful footwork over loose blocks, and then up a short, smooth slab.  Easy climbing, but a slip would have resulted in a near-factor two scenario, which I absolutely wanted to avoid.  Steve was belaying me and I do have confidence in him, but he’s never caught a real lead fall, let alone something of that magnitude.  Unfortunately, there weren’t any good options for placing protection, either.  Any cracks were in rock that appeared loose and detached.  I finally decided to girth hitch the base of a bush, and then I climbed above that and placed a cam in some questionable rock.  Better, but still less that ideal since I didn’t have huge confidence in either placement.  I climbed higher still and found a good placement for my #3.  Now I felt secure, with all the rope and friction added to the system.  I downclimbed and traversed over to the bolts, clipped in, and then went back to clean all the gear I had just placed.

No doubt this could have gone much quicker, but I felt satisfied with my decision to protect the moves onto the tower.  I think it was the best decision, given the circumstances.

Traverse

Traverse onto the tower, first and second bolts are visible

The second pitch was great.  After a few exposed moves, I reached the edge of the tower and a bolt line followed the arete to the top.  Easy face climbing on big holds, with great exposure on either side.  Steve and Nadia followed, and then we began our raps back down to the base.  One of the raps involved a bit of free-hanging business, which was fun.

tower arete

Steve ascends the Triton Tower arete

rapping

Rapping off the tower, 200 feet above the ground

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