Friday, August 21, 2009


Lucho Rivera ponders the day ahead

For years I have made it a point to check out any climb put up by Peter Croft. I have always enjoyed his routes, so when info started filtering through the climbing world of a heavenly piece of granite high in the Sierras with a plethora of Croft lines I knew I would have to visit. If Peter spent the better part of a decade infatuated with this face, then it must be-has to be the bomb diggady. It also must be stout, because it goes without saying that Croft is the real deal.

Lucho gives it 100% on the crux of Blowhard

My good friend Lucho Rivera and I hiked up to the base of the Hulk intent on trying a line called Blowhard (IV 5.12+). It was Croft's first "modern" route on the Hulk and one Lucho assured me was beyond awesome. Lucho, a stone crushing, Free-Rider obliterating, long time valley local also told me it was hard. He had pitched off the last few moves of the crux pitch last year. Known by friends as "the Cascades slogger" rather than "the Cali rock crusher" I knew I had my work cut out for me.

"The climb's centerpiece lies on the 12+ third pitch: first-digit finger jamming while palming and heel hooking the edge of the buttress." -Peter Croft

Both Lucho and I jammed, palmed, and heel hooked up this pitch over two afternoons, each taking a burn or two a day. We both kept taking a long whipper high on the pitch, the bouldery last moves made extra tough by the 20 foot run out (well for us, I bet Peter just stands on a nipple and widdles in thin nuts). No matter how kamikaze we got with the pitch it just isn't happening. At the end of day two, I let go of the project, feeling good about the progress we made. We had both climbed clean up to 12b/c on the lower hard pitches and came heart breakingly close to sending the crux, which to me, was feeling quite like 5.13 coming from sea level the day before. When you've done your best, you've done well and I felt good. I knew we might have a chance at sending the next day, but we decided to climb an easier line to the summit, just to round out my short vacation.

Lucho following on Sunspot Dihedral (V 5.11)

My last day at the Hulk Lucho graciously handed the controls over and let me lead the entire Sunspot Dihedral. At mid 5.11 it felt cruiser compared to the demanding climbing of the last few days. I jammed, bouldered and stemmed my way through smooth, improbable corner systems that just barely connected with each other. Every single pitch was alpine bliss. We rallied the ridge to the summit where I enjoyed my first real Sierra summit. The day had been wonderful and we descended into the alpenglow, happy to have been given passage through such a wonderful stretch of climbing.

Shade in the Sunspot

Because I only had three days to climb, I viewed this trip as more of a recon than anything else. Next year I will be back first for Blowhard, then the Venturi Effect (this is the ultimate line on the wall in my eyes!). A week or two in T-meadows will help set me straight for hard climbing at 10,000 feet and I will have the time to spend under these amazingly sustained routes. I can't wait to return.

Beautiful summits with good friends...what it's all about

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