Friday, August 5, 2011

GITM Direct

Mark enjoys the beautiful approach
Our laughter swirled into a cloudy breeze. "Guerrilas in the Mist, part two," I joked, sliding around Ingalls Lake on late seaon snow. Although none of us had actually checked the weather forecast (it's the Stuart Range!), we were suprised by the chilly temps and whipping fog.

Flawless stone on Pitch 1

My "part two" joke focused on a climb I had completed a few years earlier with Blake Herrington and Sol Wertkin. Our original ascent of GITM still remains one of my most memorable Stuart Range climbs. The misty weather that day erased the horizontal world, leaving us in the clouds on a spacey classic. We fought to the summit that day in a rimey storm that left us stranded for the night high on the mountain, alone with the wind, the moon, and the intense cold. To have such unique weather again on the same wall was funny and cool.
Sol finishes "the monkey traverse"
Mark Westman, Sol, and myself salivated at the base of the wall, gawking at starts to potential new routes. We almost chose a zig zagging green camelot crack in perfect rock, but caught ourselves before the rack came out. "We came to check out the headwall above 'Guerrilas'," I said. "Let's get 'er done".

Mark and I enjoy one of the range's best pitches (p4, 5.10a)

I joyfully reclimbed the intial three pitches of the original line to start us off. The first pitch splitter slices flawless stone, the second crosses a startling stretch of hangning corners, and the third makes a wild break through an improbable overhang. I handed the rack to Sol at the belay and he stretched the ropes up an unreal stretch of stemming on the purest of granite. Then it got exciting.

Sol broke left where we had once gone right. He proudly freed a new 5.10 dihedral while cleaning the crack for placements and jams. Even though the pitch had some lichen and moss, the stone hidden underneath was of the highest quality. Mark and I cleaned it more as we followed. Sol fired a rad stemming and face pitch that cut Mark loose across a slanting finger crack and into a varied 5.10 crack system that we followed to the top of the West Face Wall of Mt. Stuart.

A not so early start and a mean wind convinced us of what none would say. We kicked the sand around our feet after arriving at the West Ridge of Stuart, staring up, then down. Up then down. When one tops out the West Face Wall they must descend a trail, find the West Ridge (5.4) and climb almost its entire length to the summit. We chose to descend back to Ingalls Lake and IPA's at Sol's rig rather than tagging the top. We were happy with our climb of the wall, but undeniably know that the summit is the real finish to any climb.

Mark high on the route
In the future I see many incredible lines on this wall. I imagine most people will walk down the West Ridge to their car after an acsent as the West Face Wall is almost a seperate tower on the mountain. Taller than CBR and the steep swath of DOE, mantling the top of this amazing wall is a satisfying endeavour.

Establishing first ascents is my favorite aspect of the vertical game. The suprise of connecting features and the go for it nature of ground up climbing provides a good buzz. A true blessing is when you establish a classic for the ages. GITM Direct is surely one of those lines.

Pitch Breakdown:

Pitch 1: 5.11a splitter, one of the best on the route

Pitch 2: 5.9 hanging corners

Pitch 3: 5.10b "the monkey traverse"

Pitch 4: 5.10a stemming (one of the best pitches in the range!!!)

Pitch 5: 5.10b jamming up a beautiful dihedral

Pitch 6: 5.10d stemming leads to 5.9 face climbing

Pitch 7: 5.10b traversing finger crack

Pitch 8: 5.10b varied cracks

Pitch 9: 5.7 cracks lead to the top
*note: this route is a grade V if completed to the summit...go get it!

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