Friday, September 18, 2009
The Thin Red Line V 5.12c: 2nd Free Ascent
Drew & I after the successful ascent!
The air hangs still against the sheet of orange granite I cling to, only aggressive breaths and encouragements from below to question the silence. Above me hangs a hold less corner, its narrow stature forcing a balancey dance. I think only "trust your feet" before engaging the feature.
Quick reactions and creative thinking inch me upwards. I don't know exactly what I'm doing but it's working. Finally, perched on top of an oatmealy flake, leaning left precariously, my fingers find a good hold. The feet patter across the face and I mantel into the belay. When Drew follows cleanly we find ourselves in an amusing position. 600 feet up our afternoon free recon of Liberty Bell's Thin Red Line has turned into an unexpected sendathon. Until we fall our destiny is clear. For now, the sun goes down and we go up.
Swinging through the gymnastic roof of pitch six in the last moments of light I feel my arms tire. Opening my hips, my center of gravity finds its place above a high right foot, a wild perch that allows me to salvage the strength I have left and finish the pitch. Below me, a light in the darkness approaches. Up with Drew comes the chilly air of night. Adjusting headlamps and munching on snacks gives us a chance to rest. We can hardly believe we've climbed all free so far. With the 5.12 cruxes below us, I shift my focus to the dark 5.11+ leads ahead.
A few hundred feet pass quietly and efficiantly. Of course, I find my sting in the tail, a thin, difficult 5.11d lead past small gear, heads, and bomber pins. My headlamp glow jumps between the tiny features I use. At my limit, I put all trust in my aching feet. Staying adhered I clip the belay at around mid night and bring Drew up. One more ropelength seperates us from moderate ground. I pray it's easy, the strain of the night shift weighing heavy. Thankfully, the pitch is one of a few 5.10's on the route and before long I'm at M&M ledge. We are tired, but happy, psyched to have freed the route. The cold open bivy seems a small price to pay.
Of course the night is long and we shiver hard, but with the rising sun our spirits soar. The easier climbing to the summit is a splendid replacement for coffee, the views better than cream and sugar combined.
Wobbly, tired legs carry us down the descent. Climbers just beginning their days look at our crazy hair and bloodshot eyes and ask us where we've been. We mumble about an open bivy after an unexpected free ascent, but it doesn't make sense. The ride has been too wild to nail it down just yet. When we arrive back at the car, the east face of Liberty Bell towering above, I feel thankful for our adventure. The controlled precision of a difficult free ascent with alpine spices made for a most satisfying combo.