Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nimbecile Finished!!! IV, 5.11+, 11 pitches, Whitney Portal, CA

Sure, after over a year's time my jugging had gotten a little rusty, and it took me a second to put together the haul system, but big-walling is kinda like riding a have your system, and you don't forget it. 
Portal slab climbing is similar, although it had taken me a few warm-up routes to remember...that, and pulling the mythos out of retirement!

Myles and I actually found the second pitch of this route randomly a few years back- a wild, bolted traverse put up by the slab-masters Darrell Hensel and Johnny Woodward.  We loved it! But after linking "Nimbecile",as they called it, into Nimbus, we looked up and wondered why it didn't continue to the top.

Fast forward two years and lots of mileage and there we were, back in the Portal, gawking into open space.
"We'll just bring one sleeping bag so we can snuggle", my honey says trying to persuade me.   As if he needed to, I was already choosing my pitches.  Some couples go on romantic candlelit dinner dates, we big-wall!

That week we started hiking loads to the base.  It wasn't far, and really we wouldn't have needed much, but May is the beginning of the busy season in Lone Pine, and we both have to work.  No time for week long escapades...who would cook the burgers?  Sadly, we had to do this one siege-style...

We spent our first stint going up the familiar first two established pitches, the first pitch 5.6 fun on the "Portal Buttress Tower" and Nimbicile.  Sieging isn't all bad, however, I took the time to dig out the crack system after the bolted traverse and made a perfect place for a blue TCU...instead of the little nut I had used before!  Don't worry, though, we left the little rubbery tree which makes it all possible:) Myles took the next pitch up one of the Portal's many stellar, hard underclings, which goes for 115'!  We called it 5.11.  That was one. Only three pitches, but everything was awaiting us at our high point for the next go.  We spent a lot of time cleaning and fixing the entire route for rappel, with bolted anchors (thanks FIXE Hardwear)!

 Our first real go with a few days off, we were shooting for a giant bivy ledge. I went up psyched...I was about to lead up what looked like a moderate pitch and stance drill for the second time ever!  Well, as it turns out, moderate is a relative term when you are looking from below.  
I started up the pitch, plugged in some gear, and continued to well above my last good piece.  Placing a crappy yellow TCU in a desperate flake, I yelled down for the kit.  But, oh God, that old thing is heavy!  I get it up to me and lift it above my head...legs doing the sewing machine, I try to readjust over and over again.  It's no use.  I'm coming down.  
Myles had discussed his apprehension about me stance drilling this pitch, which made it even worse.  I get to the anchor and pout.  Well, lets be honest, I start to tear up like a little girl, " I want a lady-drill", I cry.  Myles was very patient, and comforted me for a few minutes before I handed over the rack.  I felt significantly better when, after getting to my high point, he showed some signs of difficulty.  Even higher, it got harder...soon it turned into bolt to bolt.  I was pretty happy that I had decided to let him take it!  3 hours later, I was on belay.  It was now my job to see if the pitch would go free.  Dumping all the excess stuff I should have put in the haulbag before it disappeared onto a piece of gear, I tried the crux.  After hanging once and evaluating the slab, I trusted the little, tiny foot I had found and freed it.  Sweet! No aid pitches yet.  Luckily he bolted it perfectly, too, so if you were to fall leading, the crux is safe.

I came up to Myles'  belay and he talked to me about his vision for the next pitch...more blots on slab.  " Let me check this out first", I say, wanting to lead my pitch without having to bolt!  I traversed down an left and found an awesome wide but not too deep chasm that swallowed me.
No big gear needed, I was actually completely inside for the first 25'.  When I popped out there was a cool dike that cut through an overhanging crack.  I called it 5.8, although, Myles says I'm a sand-bagger.

Two more cruzy pitches had us sitting, exhausted, on our giant bivy ledge...complete with fire wood!  We had neglected to buy a new hand drill before taking off, and we were running pretty low on bolts.  It was time to go down, but not til morning.  I was cashing in on my promised snuggling, firelight bivy!

A storm passed through the Sierra the next week.  Of course, there was no snow in January, and now, in the end of May we have to abandon our attempts.  Luckily, everything was tucked away in one of Myles' custom-made haulbags!

So finally, last week, we were able to get back on the route, this time with a giant in the mix.  Harhi, aka Barrel-Chest, is a seasonal ranger here in Lone Pine.  A crusher on ice, the boy has never really learned about wall-life, and heck, we're always up for entertainment.  The three of u started up the 800' of lines at 6pm...Harhi was nervous.  It's hard as a 5'7" woman weighing a buck 20 to instruct a barrel-chested giant on the art of jugging, but we made it up just in time for dinner and a fire.  

The next morning we awoke hot, with lots to organize before starting up the next pitch.  Myles took the lead with Harhi as belay-slave, while I sorted and coiled our many ropes and got the bag ready to haul.  Just as we expected, the beautiful Yosemite-looking flake ran out, and it was time to drill.  Finding the way, Myles took a fall which jerked Harhi about 5' on the ledge...well, lesson 2 learned quickly.  Watching from afar, I mentioned to my sweetie, " how 'bout a Hook"?  Soon the next bolt was in, and he was climbing in style, taking me right into my corner.  Time to free it.  The climbing was great, and the bolting was, once again, exactly where I will want it when we come back to lead the route in a day.  Hard, definitely, but it went on TR.

I was up.  The fin we had been going for from the ground was finally in our faces.  Cracks!  Being no one had ver touched them before, they had some grit and some moss to deal with, but that's why the leader carries a nut tool!  Getting to the base of the next fin, I was faced with a dilemma...keep going to the base so Myles could go up the crack which looked good but was riddled with giant death blocks we couldn't possibly remove them without hurting something or someone, or stop early so we could hit the beautiful face to stellar arête.  I chose midway between the two.  After bringing Myles up, the two of us couldn't make a decision..."We'll let Harhi decide", I offered.  Our steady, patient friend arrived a few minutes later, much more efficient in his jummaring from the last two days.  "Do you want burly or pretty?" he asked...give her pretty Myles decided.  Yeah!  Thin, fun sport-like climbing 1'000 feet in the air to the golden granite we've come to worship on the headwall.  

Harhi again belayed as Myles went up, placing two bolts by hand and a piton to get onto the arête.  Meanwhile, I went down the fixed ropes and scrubbed the last pitch...I actually mutilated my wire brush, but it sure does look good for the next     time.  By the time I returned Myles had almost finished and it was time to climb. It was perfect!  Exactly as I had envisioned it would be.  Up the slab, giant jug, mantel to a flake, and marked by a piton...dream climbing.
The day was done.  We hauled up our bag, and headed to camp.  We knew Harhi was rapping down in the morning, so we toasted the red wine I had snuck in the bag to his help, and slept like kings and queen.

Summit day had finally arrived.  We bid farewell to Harhi and jugged our ropes to the high point.  Finally, just us and he shuttle bucket, going to the top.  

The last two pitches took a lot of route-finding.  First, I took off up a wide crack that looked good from below.  It turned out to be very wide and of kitty litter quality.  A huge bush barricaded me from the finish, so I cut right on a slab and found an awesome #1 hand crack!  The bush also made it impossible to belay and haul the bag, which would inevitably get stuck in the wide, from the same spot.  I had to constantly switch between two anchor points as Myles came up, freeing the bag every few feet...unhappy!

We peeked around to the right where I had joined into the slab- a bit of a jungle, but we knew we could do a good job cleaning and protecting it, but first we had to get to the summit.
Myles started up what appeared to be a pretty undercling, only to discover that, it too ,was crummy rock.  He traversed left to a good stance and after a considerable amount of up and down, side to side, he opted to continue up the last 100' of Mean Streak, clipping it's anchor as pro for the 5.10 slab move.  Finally, we had made it.  Our elation was short-lived, as we realized once again, "what comes up, must go down". 
Myles drilled the first bolt for rappel, and I drilled the second.  Sure, I'm a little slower, but for some reason I like swinging the hammer, especiaaly with our new FIXE drill that protects me from bashing my hand!  We rapped down to the top of my wide pitch and I lowered Myles down to try a different way though the jungle.  As soon as we realized it would go, and was a much better addition  to this awesome line, we began cleaning and pruning.  I drilled another bolt as Myles built terraces and cleaned up the rappel.  

We were exhausted.  We set all the rappels and dropped lines back to our bivy.  When Myles joined me on the ledge he had a huge gash over his calf...apparently, he had some trouble with a tree.  With less than half a gallon of water for eating dinner and drinking until we make it to the store the next day, we go to sleep early, eating dried oatmeal as a snack and dreaming of orange juice waterfalls...

We both had to work the next day, so we got up early and packed our haulbags.  We had to leave the ropes fixed to the bivy ledge as a matter of time, but also to come back with more chain and set the rappels.  Always more work to be done!  All in all, this route tuned out to be awesome!  The climbing is mostly hard, with really good quality that the work is done, we are fired up to go do it in day!

Nimbicile IV, 5.12 11 pitches; Whitney Portal Buttress. Lone Pine, CA
Amy Ness

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Return of the Nimbeciles


Return of the Nimbeciles 

Well... We haven't seen the summit, yet. We had a ton of work to finish elsewhere on the route for the start of day one:

Ames was busy jumaring 300 feet to organize all our wall junk, from the previous attempt. Meanwhile, I was digging mud out of a seam down on the second pitch... getting it nice and pretty. Then Amy had to haul the fat bag, while I pendulumed all over cleaning our gear under the massive third pitch 5.11 undercling. A couple scrubs here and there with the wire brush had the cling looking perfect!

There was an area in the undercling, where we had previously abandoned a cam, due to Ames being a little shorter than I. But, to be honest, it was a huge reach for me to place the TCU. So, with hammer in hand, I welded a Lost Arrow to the eye...Just in reach! Then, the fun.

 I took a double length sling, passed it through the eye and lowered myself as far as I could. Arm fully stretched, about to let go, I hear..."Myles! Should I..." I yell back "Busssy!" then let go of the sling. I went flying through space, running across the wall for thirty feet screaming at the top of my lungs... Totally wild! We finished hauling the bag and got ready for the unknown.

Suddenly, the new pitch, that we thought was going to be easy terrain, turned hard and committing. Wicked face climbing on bullet-hard, red granite turned out to be the crux. Incredibly tough stance drilling and wild moves, unlocked this pitch; to make it one of the best pitches of slab climbing we have found in the Portal. This one hundred and fifty foot pitch, took us around three to four hours to equip and came out to be about 5.11.

With the sun beginning to hide, Amy took the reins. We looked at a crystal dike that would have taken more bolts, which were becoming limited and decided against it. Instead, Amy Jo turned a corner to the west and vanished. The granite swallowed her completely, while she wiggled through an awesome 5.8 chimney, that ended up slashing the crystal dike, exposing all kinds of insane quarts under an overhang. 

Another drag of the bag, drop of a bolt, and weld of an inch-n'-half Piton put pitch 5 put to rest. With it getting darker, we were right on our mark. One more cruisy flake pitch set us at our bivy. A big, fat,sandy ledge had us resting in style. A full moon, mosquitos the size of horses, and a fire that blazed hot, made it just perfect...

The next morning we woke to a burning hot sun. We slowly packed our bags and stripped down to our underwear because of the extreme heat. Once the sun got a little higher in the sky, the temperature cooled. We jugged our fixed line to the cam anchor thirty feet above the bivouac and were disgusted with the looks of the waiting wall...grainy, crappy granite was about to ruin the line... real fast!  

So, we took the time to look around...
We studied it, analyzed it. 

And....oh boy, oh boy did we find it! 

Ames had noticed it from hundreds of feet below, amazed by it's striking beauty, and hoping we just might climb the thin, golden flake.

So, we fixed two baby angles pitons and kissed the crappy granite good bye!

We, cut hard left from our bivy site and stared excitedly at the amazing flake and slab system which would become our only entry into the massive fins we want to climb. A quick look inside the bolt bag had us realizing.... Whoops?!  We were out of hardware. The flake wouldn't be the problem, but the giant slab would be!

  A minor miss calculation that sent us back down our eight hundred feet of line....probably due to the 5.8 slab that turned to a 5.11 bolting mission!

Till next time, when the Nimeciles Return... Again!

Ames in the squiggly Wyde! 

The Bivouac, 800ft up

Finding the way?
Found the way, for pitch Seven.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ummagumma and Spandex!

Ummagumma and Spandex!

Our buddy Richard Shore decided to stop by for a visit and a quick lap up Ummmagumma.... He just happened to bring the Red, White and Blue with him.

A twenty dollar purchase, which couldn't  be passed up! 

With the air tickling our legs, we felt as if we were moving at warp-speed. With just over 2.5 hours from the bottom to top of this  2'500 ft adventure climb... I was on time for work and Mr. Shore  and I had a perfect tasteof Ummagumma in STYLE!

Richard on the Look-out

Rocks???? Huh?



Last 500ft corner


A solute to Mr. Ben Horn

Back on time For Work!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

" Nimbeciles" on the wall!

" Nimbeciles" on the wall!

So we are back at it again! Amy and I have found ourselves stung-out, tired and beaten from new routing. For our first day back at wall life, we knocked out a whopping three pitches, for a grand total of 250 vertical feet of climbing. But,true to form, the route wanders all over making the climbing more like 500ft of actual rock crawling. Just a start so far, with plenty of  adventure to come.  Within the next few days, we will be pushing off with the bivy gear and saying sayonara to the hard ground and helllooo to the whippers... Hopefully not, but sometimes they just happen!

We won't divulge to much yet on where the route is.... Just think, Nimbecile!

Good start Henny and Woodward!

Follow us this coming week to see what happens.

Our buddy Dave Turner gave us a shout, as he flew by in his Blue Parasail.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ummagumma III-IV, 5.7 A0 or 5.9, 2'500ft..... An Adventure!!

I sent this to the American Alpine Club for submission into the American Alpine Journal.... Here is the whole write-up and route description.  Send a message if you would like a topo.

Ummagumma III-IV, 5.7 A0 or 5.9, 2'500ft
 Wrinkled Lady- Whitney Portal, Lone Pine, Ca
F.A. Myles Moser 2010- 2013

One step from the sliding glass door of the Whitney Portal Store kitchen shows it all! The looming pyramid of the south facing Wrinkled Lady, slashed with dihedral after dihedral stands at its tip of 10'900+ ft. Below it, a system of slabs, terraces, dikes, tunnels and a massive five hundred foot dihedral, make up its foundation, right off the main trail. Over a course of three years I carried rocks while climbing to stack cairns in strange places for future followers. Down soloed wrong turns,  battled foliage, built monastery steps and at times kicked over my own rock stacks. Friends would join in the effort of perfecting this adventure big wall with me. We would get lost together in the unknown. Then once the route had been finished, I often found myself racing the clock to be at work by noon (usually late), pushing the final 500ft dihedral then charging down the scree decent; showing up sweaty and torn to the restaurant kitchen, just in time. This, is to be an adventure...

The 2'500 foot "Royal Arches of the Portal" begins by romping up the polished gully to the left of the Whitney Portal Buttress, don't move too fast its about to be a long one. A quick, slick lie-back will bring you to a humongous house size chockstone. Traverse to the left, under the chock; following a catwalk past "The Lonely Lone Pine". Remember to keep an eye above for a fixed pendulum. Take an exposed undercling and shimmy out to the penji. Swing wildly to the horn! Rock some slab moves to a two foot wyde grassy ledge. Walk it to the right; where a black swirly dike turns up the slab leading to the "Three Tree Terrace". Follow cairns and steps to a broken dike climbing the vertical wall, that quickly turns to a slab. Now at the "Second Terrace", take more  monastery steps that head up and over a shrubby bump to the west. Follow the obvious  path under the chicken-head wall to the "Dead End Log". Climb the knobby arête above the log to a cave on its left. Wiggle and worm through the choked cave to a tunnel on the left side. Boulder up the arête through leaning blocks to another slot/chimney with a thin leaning flake. A giant pine then marks the "Third Terrace" (Gettin' complicated yet?), slip n' slide through the "Pine Needle Chasm" on the trees right. Take the only way out, up an arching slab, exiting through a slight overhang on climbers right. Follow the cairns left and up to the "Turquoise Chicken-heads". Jog left on the heads to another tunnel through; squeeze behind what resembles a "Wooden Power Pole"? An obvious short downclimb to the west will drop the climber at an "Earlobe Undercling" that moves left past some water pods. Gain the arête directly above, via some quick knob climbing. Once again the arête morphs into a 200 ft slab with a big wide lie-back on climbers left, which abruptly ends at a vertical wall. Span the gap on the right, making way up a wyde-span to slab; gain the ridge on climbers left and marvel at the views below. Follow the cairns to the "Fresh-air Traverse"; where wildly exposed, yet secure moves venture to the west. Finish through an incredible water groove for 100ft, ending at the "Fifth Terrace", where the first of two massive southwest facing dihedrals takes off (A giant cairn marks the base). Get creative in the corner, seeking the path of least resistance. When it begins to get steep, dive into the belly of the beast and tunnel for the light. Nearing the end of the corner, a "Bushel Grab" strung tight with cord must be made. A shattered gold dike will lead to more water pods, then over a final chockstone to small manicured terraces known as the "Terrorist Hang". Now, the south face of the Wrinkled Lady suddenly comes into view. A Short scramble to the base, will give way to an easy walk to the west (follow cairns). Pass under the center dihedral (5.8 A2) capped with steep roofs, which had Fred Becky stating "rough unglaciated rock surface and very deep cracks conspired to scrape hands and knees and to tear clothes in serious struggles with cracks" (AAJ Volume 18 pg.120). Well, this won't be the case. Keep moving left along the base to the last massive dihedral on the wall, two large cairns mark the start. Enjoy this easy system of bomber cracks, till once again you dive into the belly of the giant when the wall becomes overhung. Tunnel through, then onto a chockstone, look for the knob on left then continue upward. The final small chimney at the end of this five hundred foot corner, will give you the thrill that you have been looking for, when you look down through your legs and catch all that exposer you had been chasing!

Descent: descend down the west ridge of the Wrinkled Lady to a 4th class gully down climb. Head west to the  Pinyon Pines, to a massive sand slop. Follow the slope to a large boulder drop-off, which has a fixed rope for the short down climb. Take deer paths down the Carillon drainage to main trail (Don't get sucked to close to the creek or shwacking may in ensue).

Ummagumma is the name of a Pink Floyd Album, when defined by it states that the word is "a slang term for having sex. And of course Rock and Roll was originally slang for having sex". So, if you look at it that way, the word Ummagumma could simply mean... Rock and Roll!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Live Your Dream Grant from The American Alpine Club

One step closer to the Central Tower of Torres del Paine! The American Alpine Club has award Amy and I with a $1,000 grant to make our return trip to Patagonia for the winter of 2015. We had attempted establishing the second free route on the 4'000 foot East face of the Central Tower in 2013, but a storm had beat us back, leaving us stranded 2'000 ft up for eight days out of 12. Thanks for the support American Alpine Club and Friends.

Here is the story from the Central Tower.

Going for a Wander- The East Face of the Central Tower
Torres del Paine, Patagonia
February 27- March 11, 2013

Amy Ness and Myles Moser

As I write this, snow falls onto our portaledge for the eighth straight day. The wind sounds like a locomotive as it rips over the crest and bends around the wall, relentless and bone-chilling. Snow flurries from hundreds of feet above break free from the four-thousand foot Goliath and slam upon our golden pyramid at all hours of the night. Our tiny capsule which sits, open and exposed on "The Shattered Pillar" is slowly being buried by the snow, forcing an early rise each day to begin the excavation process. In these eight days of sitting and waiting for a break in the weather, we have seen the sun for just two hours. Each rise of temperature and glow of heat, we crack the frozen zipper of our tattered, tapped and glued rainfly, shoving our heads out to check the sky, only to be disappointed. Like clock work, by late afternoon, the storm hides as the nonexistent sun shifts to the westside of the cirque, leaving us in the frigid shadow waiting for what's to come. The upper dihedrals begin to thaw with the remaining light, dropping sheets of verglas which turn to daggers as they explode, whizzing past us to the left and right, somehow missing the one spot we chose to hang. The weather from the Central Tower attacks with a vengeance as it tries to rid us from its flanks... We are caught in the worst storm of the season.

Our goal was to establish the second free route on the east face of Torre Central, or as we like to say, "go for a wander". Fully equipped with battered lines, twenty days of rations, seventy pounds of water, a full El Cap rack and a portaledge hanging on hope, we stormed the Tower. We lived in our Advanced Base Camp for three days, three nights; our ledge hung four feet off the ground, 15 minutes from the wall on a small formation called the "Lunatic". By the second day we had climbed five pitches of fantastic free climbing allowing 300 meters of rope to be strung up the wall. By the third day we were committed, moving capsule-style. We established Camp One in an area which, by morning, we designated unsafe.  Moving one pitch higher under a giant roof, we created Camp Two. Staying there for two nights, we continued to fix lines to the top of the Shattered Pillar. Once again, finding great climbing with easy protection. 

Day four, we hauled to the Pillar's end and set Camp Three. The next morning (day 5) we awoke to a fire in the sky, the most impressive sunrise either of had ever seen. We were itching to rope up for what looked to be the first crux... The pitch was wild! Clean cracks to an airy, flowing traverse brought me to an extremely strong stemming operation with a classic RP finish. The bolt was dropped in and the piton was slammed, we called it 5.11. 

Amy immediately jumped in the portaledge for warmth. Her feet were frozen blocks from belaying. I guess I hadn't noticed the temperature change that occurred while climbing and swinging the hammer. Something was brewing, but we couldn't see it. Ames followed the pitch to the belay and jumped on the reins.  Ropes were stacked and she was on her way up the next killer looking section, pitch 13. That's when the ceiling dropped and the cold became quite present. The mud she was about to dig out of the seam was freezing and the snow had begun to fall. We decided it best to let the system pass. So, from sixty meters up, we headed back down to our high camp. By dark, to quote Steve Schnieder, "the Patagonia Tempest" was rocking our world. At first, the storm was a relief, as our water supply was running low. That would soon change.

Two, three, four days crept by. We would wait, we had the supplies and the excitement. By day six, we were captives of the Giant. We did the calculations and the rationing began. White-outs and blizzards all day and night were bombarding us. Several times the skies cleared and the stars were ablaze. We would tuck into our sleeping bags telling each other "Tomorrow we press on! It will be clear!" Then, as if it knew what we were thinking, it would hit us even harder. Day seven, a week. We managed to keep our heads, but the six foot by three foot portaledge was twisting our spines and the lethargicness was making us weak. It was time to make a move, we could not afford another storm higher on the wall.

With a break in the freeze I jugged to our high point to retrieve the equipment and pull our fixed line. Meanwhile, Amy shuffled items in the ledge for the pack job. Just like before, the Giant decided to keep us. For twenty hours the wind roared like we had not heard before and the flurries broke once again. We resumed our crammed positions for one more night. 

Day eight of the storm and the twelfth day on the wall, we cut open the frozen water jugs and sent the mondo ice chunks soaring. We sat waiting, with all the stuff-sacks packed, intermittently taking turns to do chores outside. By late afternoon we had our bags ready for the toss and watched as they flew to the glacier 1,500 feet below. One landed under a hanging serac, the other was safe, the portaledge... a direct shot into a crevasse. 

We did a total of six rappels to escape the tower, four of which were 300 footers. Each time, we dodged the frozen, steel cable of a rope as it came flying past. Once on the ground we recovered both haulbags and easily fished the ledge from the ice. No fixed lines were left and only pre-existing rappel anchors were maintained. Hastily crossing the terrible, crevassed glacier covered with false snow bridges, we returned to our Base Camp at Campamento Torres in the dark. We were greeted excitedly by the  Guadalaparques who had been watching the show and had become worried when the thermometer in camp dipped down to negative five degrees Celsius.

We were taught many things from this expedition- from tactics to equipment changes.  We now realize that March is a little late in the season for Torres del Paine and have come to respect the validity of the saying "Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morn, sailors take warn!" We have also learned what it is like to have a vendetta with a Giant, making us climbers walk "A Fine Line of Insanity."

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Right out of the bag the Insight rope had the flexibility of a yoga instructor and the reliability of an old friend. The bright color made the rope shine against any rock, and the huge tarp  kept it clean of grit for pitch after pitch. We had some difficulty packing the rope into the slick tight bag, but appreciated the ease of carrying and the clear window. 9.6 mm felt like a tag line and clipped like a dream; we could hardly believe it would keep us safe but trusted our lives to the Kailas name. 
We climbed in two groups of two for the day, and everyone wanted to do their big leads on the Insight rope!