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The Odyssey Grade V 5.9 C2+ a Trip Report

Started by Mungeclimber, October 11, 2017, 11:08:11 PM

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That first visit to the Donnell Vista in the early 90s was an awakening. It was a time of school, philosophy and climbing. A trip the Owens River Gorge by way Sonora Pass etched something in me. Later, I was given a proper tour of the granite on the Stanislaus. The few routes that were 'established in the guidebook' could almost be counted on one hand. Over the next few years I would make my way down canyon. Following the dirt road that hugged the side of the mountain, much like a road into Gasherbrum or some far flung mountain, I was drawn down to the reservoir. Timid at first, we eeked out adventure on impeccable rock on the Weeping Wall. Then in 2014 the urge to do a Wall in my proverbial backyard got me thinking about how to make it happen. I talked with Tim Tuomey, who I have had many an adventure with. He was into it after some coaxing and reassurance that I could get a canoe.

I had originally met Tim on Sonora Pass proper. I can't remember if we were going to climb or just planned to meet shake hands and chat about climbing over a beer like we had been doing online. Around that time internet websites were becoming easy to purchase and free hosting had become immensely popular. So I started a bare bones informational page to supplement the paperback guidebook that Hope, Brad and Jim had put together. Connecting and talking to climbers about climbing online was new and amazing. rec.climbing was in full swing and Supertopo would soon become the virtual campfire that many grew to love (and later only grudgingly sign onto). So "IRL" we met and started working on projects together. 

That evening the cold temps were creeping in so we moved to the Hippopotabus (a green Volkswagen bus with a pop top) to get out of the cold. Tim's passion for "The Pass" was pure. I saw him as a kindred spirit escaping the cluster of humanity that coagulated on North Side Drive. No rangers, no people and the climbers were all about the very same thing; new routing and not being jammed in a line fighting over who starts the Regular Route first. We jibber jabbered til late. And I think we climbed up at The Fortress the next day.

Many years later sitting here now, I'm thinking about how last season's rains washed out the road to the reservoir in multiple places. I am reminded that getting in and out of the canyon to Donnell Reservoir is an adventure in itself. It is at the courtesy of the mountain and her consort, the weather, that we obtain access. Donnell's would otherwise be a miniature Yosemite Valley if  it hadn't been flooded for irrigation and agriculture. 

However, once you are there, seeing Atlantis for the first time, your only thought must be "That would be so cool to start a route right out of the water!!!" 

No climber worth their sea salt, hasn't thought of the metaphor of sea-faring and sailing off into uncharted waters to go after their great white whale! Crossing water to reach tall granite so close to home was like having Baffin in your backyard! Only, 50 degrees warmer!  :)

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


So we prepared for battle on the high seas. PFDs, paddles, floatable throw lines, Black Label, rock gear, dry bags and a change of clothes just in case we went into the drink.

Our schooner was the "Tangerine Trip" so named by Nurse Ratchet, Brutus of Wyde and Dingus Milktoast on their ascent of "Sirens of the Stanislaus" many years earlier. We felt so proud to have Brutus's naval warhorse. Felt connected to the place. Brutus had invited me on the Sirens adventure, but being on-call for emergencies are work that week blew my chance. I regretted not being able to go for a long time. This Odyssey though, it would be redeeming of course. Hell, we had the Tangerine Trip! I drove out to Marin's annex of the Old Climber's Home to pick it up from Nurse Ratchet and drove it up to Tim's place.

We were UNSINKABLE now!!!  :)

That first weekend getting the boat down was a learning experience. I didn't want to carry the damn thing on the low road to the damn, so we used the high road 4x4 approach and got to a point where we only had to carry it down hill about 300 yards. And yes, carrying it back up would have been a problem, had it not been stolen in the interim. I mean, who the fuck steals a canoe?  Low life fuckwads, is who.

So we're not used to carrying this beast. We've both kind of off the couch. This humping loads to the water business turns into a crux of sorts for me later when I strain ligaments in my shoulder. And the TT is NOT light. It's a Coleman, meant for car campers dropping a boat from the back of the truck into a flat reservoir.

We rest and recover in the heat of Summer.

Eventually we're ready. The cool breeze off the water rejuvenates the spirits. And the task at hand of paddling into a windy canyon presents itself.

The open seas!!  It takes us no time to get into a paddling rhythm. Tim's experience on zodiacs means he's knows how to paddle. My overnight canoe trips on the flat water sections of the Colorado prepare me for a smooth adjusting feather-j stroke. Soon the real size of the Atlantis Wall is on us...

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?

Brad Young

This site doesn't get ENOUGH trip reports. Keep it coming! (Photos too!)


Quote from: Brad Young on October 12, 2017, 08:35:37 PM
This site doesn't get ENOUGH trip reports. Keep it coming! (Photos too!)

lol, true. Now if only there was someone else that climbed on the Pass that took pics and new how to type up a good report. Be the change you want to see! :) lol

In other news, I saw rumors of a new line being established on 108, and it wasn't either of us! lol
-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


We paddled around quite a bit looking for the right line. We had scoped many lines from a spectacular peninsula of rock opposite Atlantis Wall. We thought we knew what we wanted to get on. Several lines looked appealing. Motivation wavers. It picks up again. Two more beers. Then Tim gets fired up for the big inside corner on the left edge of Talus Island.

100ft out after duking it out with some wet slime and leaves he finds an old bolt on the side wall. What does it mean?  Was it a bail bolt? A single bolt? Was a belay? Either way, we aren't keen on following in someone else's footsteps when we've schlepped all the gear and a boat down there.

We look out right and there is another splitter crack system, but with much less wyde climbing. However, the bottom is barred by some face climbing. It looks do-able. We have time. "Let's get a face pitch started and head up that way!" It yields a few easy moves, and then it pisses on our parade with either the need for a lot more bolting on 5.11+ moves or a lot more bolting as a bolt ladder.

Meh, not in for it, we back off the one bolt. Instead we look at this sweet hunk of the wall.

Corners, ledges, and seemingly clean rock... from the ground. So we had lunch. Racked up with our "Spaniard Friends" and started to see what it would take to get up a ways and not waste the day looking a flowers.

Note "Spaniard Friends" center position on the rack. Such great pieces for walls.
-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


Fortunately or unfortunately I get pitch 1. It's mungie, so it goes to Mungie. The free climbing looks do-able and we have some wide pieces. I make progress hesitantly. The time bomb boulder above the start doesn't help. It seems held back only by the fibers of the wood remaining that had split when it originally came loose from the wall. The crux comes at a small headwall that I spend way too much time futzing with. I use the big cam to protect the move. Fortunately the move goes and I'm able to use features to stand up above it and spy the road ahead. Slight traversing right of the bush-trees gets me to a ledge, but it isn't great and I've got rope. Push it higher. 20 feet later I get gear and start to set the first bolt that we'll haul from. It's actually a good spot.

Tim comes up. By now I'm guessing this pitch may have been done before. There's no way to know. I say that because off to my right 20 feet is a piton with bail sling. Big 2 inch seat belt webbing bail sling that is bleach white dry. The piton is old C inside of a diamond so the ascent was pre 1989.  We stand on the shoulders of giants that have gone before.

We continue on not seeing any other sign of passage above us, and we don't for the rest of the trip.

Fortune favors the bold, they say. Luckily the next pitch wasn't mine. LOL

A large detached block has caught Tim's eye. We're really not sure if its attached at this point, and getting up past it does nothing to assuage our fears later. P2 starts with bush wrestle on relatively easy moves to a dirty crack. Tim went out on the thin crack, but I think another way is possible. YMMV.

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


At the base of the pitch I'm doing fine.

Tim gets into the meat of the choss and moss, eye balling the flake above that could rip. He gets into it the bottom of it, but it is a cluster of crap to clean out and insecure placements without digging mud. He fixes a high point for the day and we retreat to the comfort of the sandy beach below.

We return the next day and jug bag up.

Somewhere in there I take a digger to the shin. Was it this rock that landed in the canoe?

We were particularly glad that the rock didn't puncture a hole in the canoe, as a retreat with a hole in the canoe would have been challenging at best. We resolved not to park the canoe anywhere near the route next time.

In any case, Tim gets in the hand drilled anchors and gives me the sharp end. A messy loose short section is the first crux. Off the belay I try for a piece of iron that doesn't look worth trying, so I dig in the mud instead. I know I just need a handful of placements and I'll be on a perfect ledge. Then it will be decision time.

Getting to the ledge I can keep going up an open book straight above me. But I look left, and what I thought might have been a seam for heads turns out to be a perfect .5 to .75 camalot sized crack going directly to the Lifeguard Ledge.
I'm ecstatic thinking I have just won the lottery of the climb. But I'm limited on the size. I back clean and careful use up my remaining pieces to get the Lifeguard Ledge.

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


As I write this I realize it is fairly rote in what it presents. Some details, some hard parts, some effort expended. But there isn't anything in it like my write up of Lurking Fear

Nor is the want and desire to re-catch the ephemeral cognitive dissonance from LF in my  Zodiac TR.

Freak Show trip report was different. 3 M's working against the weather in a place no other Big Waller's go to.  So why bother writing up a trip report? It begs the question. And David Harris just tonight posted up a thought provoking piece that truly speaks to what I'm thinking this week writing this up...

In it, he advises that the function of "all worthwhile climbing writing is, in one way or another, to share the magic."


QuoteThe mountains and the rock walls will still be there, and people who cannot find what they need in the cities and towns and climbing competitions of mass society will continue to turn to those mountains and rocks for fulfillment. They will continue to push themselves out to the edge because it is only out on the edge that they will find the magic they so desperately need to find.

Like Lurking Fear the magic was to experience El Cap. And it turns out, to be forever changed by it.
And as for Zodiac, the magic was the challenge and in coming back to that space, or at least trying to.

But Freak Show was a turn, a directional shift. A push away. A move to get further afield. It was an attempt to get away from the new institutional climbing that is Yosemite Valley. It was a way to get out closer to the edge.

This Trip, this report, is the cap stone to that effort to get out to that Edge, and also come back and share the magic.

This magic, this magic of climbing out over the water, seems so tangible. It seems so tangible because it is not so common. It makes it closer to the edge. No cell phone coverage. 4x4 drive in. Paddling over class 2 whitewater ON A LAKE!

Yeah, this is the stuff...
-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


thx!  That reminds me I need to finish this report.
-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?



Life off the deck was good. Weather wasn't blistering hot, but warm. At night the temps were a model of perfection for sleeping. The ledge was perched high. We wanted a spot where the ledge would be against vertical wall. Rocking on low angle in a porta ledge sucks. These will give you a bit of an idea how it was on our final push at the Life Guard ledge now that you've seen the "Beach" below.

I think we had fixed to this point and this day was just about getting gear up and ready and the next day we would push. In any event, the pitch above Life Guard would prove to be the psychological crux for us. A couple of placements in your ladders exposes you to an 'awkward as fuck' flared section to a downward facing flare that is just out of reach.

Tim had this pitch now and it proved to be more than a little challenging. So much can go into a single piece, a single crack, a single pitch. Often the depth of one's soul must be searched. I don't mean searched in a superficial 'a life unexamined' blah blah blah, but in that sense in which we put ourselves into a fiery crucible of unknown depth and width. Perhaps it isn't hot enough to burn if you touch it, but from the outside looking in, expectation sets upon you. What if?

Filth of lichen came pouring down. Scratching, making eyes water. Slipping left, then back right. Stopping.

The Deep Soul wide climbing, overcome only through an offwidth technique applied at oblique angles. A cam finally placed above in he downward flare section relieved Tim of his internal moral compass that says "i must finish my pitch". I made a devil's bargain with Tim given the crap he just went through. 'If you get us through this section I'll get us the remainder.' The roof looked thin, but gear-able.  I thought for sure this wide awkward aid, to free, and back to aid transition was going to be it.

I didn't know yet.

Tim set some more pieces to midway anchor and I went up. More lichen fell as I moved under the lip of the flake/roof. Thin gear. Seemed solid at first. Bigger pieces. Ahhhh.


The cam flexed. Did I imagine it? No, it moved. It expanded. Expando! Not my favorite thing in the world. I hammered on the flake now that I could see beyond it hanging from the last small cam. It rung. It rung like a Japanese Funeral bell; deep and resonate. Foreboding in my mind. I looked around more. There was another crack on the left side of the flake. Was this thing actually attached by more than just the top of it?! There was no way to know for sure.

Another cam placed. I leaned way out and stood up higher in the ladders. Jammed a semi blind #2 and psyched myself up to get on it, hoping the flake didn't bend out away from the wall taking us with it. There was nothing more to be done. It was the only placement. If the flake was going, it would kill us both. There would be no two ways about it. My voice got louder. "YEAH, this is the way we do this. FUCK YEAH!" My volume belying my fear based upon an unknown.

And when nothing happened? Relief. It looked like C1 above me now that I could see the crack of the flake and get a better sense that it was attached by at least 6 or more feet of rock at the top. Movement was quicker now. Death, or what I thought may have been potential for it, was now in the rear view mirror. Though above another loose block was found. I avoided by going slightly left with some cams and two bolts. It all seemed to take forever.

At the anchor I felt we might have a chance now.

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?

Brad Young


All the while that Tim and I were toiling. Holo had his own adventure running into rattle snakes, getting stung by wasps and still managing to get some telephoto pics of us on the Japanese Funeral bell pitch...

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?


the next pitch, free climbing was again found.

-If granite is the language of climbers, why do I read and write volcanic?