On Saturday morning we woke up early, and I bugged the guys until they got packed into the car with plenty of daylight left for climbing. The goal of the day was to drive south through the park until Mark saw a rock he wanted to climb, and then stop and climb it! Which was how we ended up at Intersection Rock for the day on Saturday morning. There are photos from the day (and the weekend) up in the gallery.
The classic climbs on this rock (the “ski tracks”) were all on the north face of the rock, and so in shadow all day and out of the question. We wandered around to the south side of the rock, where we found a nice long climb to start the day out with.
Mike’s Books (5.8 var) – Our “warm up” climb for the day was rated 5.6 in the guidebook, which pointed out that the rating was for a route which scrambled up easy slabs to the left, traversed across a tricky looking (and poorly protected) narrow sloped ledge which was only a foot below the roof above it, and then continued up the long fun-looking crack above. Mark and I both had immediate recall of our adventures on Baobob Tree, and opted for the 5.8 direct start variation to the climb.
This variation was, no doubt, hard. You had to jam in to the flaring hand crack and hang on your hands while lifting your feet into the crack at your waist and then somehow move up from there. Mark actually made the hard part look fairly easy, and then nearly took a huge whipper before getting in a second piece of pro! He caught himself as I was already 3 steps down the rock below the climb running backwards to take slack out of the system. He added a second piece and then moved up into the fun 5.6 dihedral above, and had a grand time climbing the rest of the route. Being the tradmaster he is, Mark even slung a large pointy flake for pro in the widening top section.
Mark set a belay on top of the route, to leave in the possibility of finishing the climb on a second pitch and topping out the rock. Bruce seconded the climb, and made it through the hard part with a little help from me below. He really enjoyed the nice face climbing in the dihedral above as well. I climbed and cleaned the route next, and had a hard time with the bottom, but found my way through it. I worked so hard on my way up the climb that Mark and I opted to scrub plans for a second pitch and simply rapped off the climb. Once down on the ground, we found that our ropes ran as a nice TR for the 10b to the right, so we relaxed in the sun, ate some lunch, did a little yoga and then got back to business.
Water Chute (5.10b R) – As the comments on the MP page point out, the crux for this climb is getting off the ground. Mark tried many, many different things before climbing up the thin face far to the right of the chute, and then delicately transferring his weight across a step that was probably wider than I am tall. Bruce used a little help from all of us, and then made it into the chute. He worked hard to get in, he worked hard on his way up, and he worked really hard in the second crux of the climb, a narrow section with no holds to help you wiggle into, and rock faces on either side of the chimney slick with old climbing shoe rubber. He worked hard for almost half an hour, but made no headway, and decided to come down when it looked like further scraping and bruising just wouldn’t help. Great work though, Bruce!
I hit climb with my own style, finding a double arm bar in the bottom of the chute and then slowly wiggling my way up into it (after falling many times, of course). The rest of the route was lots of fun, with chimney moves, crack jamming in a narrow crack at the back, and some really delicate and interesting stemming. I beat the middle crux with a combination of a painful (not taped any more) half of a left hand jam and seriously thin stemming moves. Mark was so excited by my new approach to the start, that he climbed the route again after I got down, doing the same double-arm bar and half humping/half wiggling his way into the bottom of the chute.
After this painfest, we all three decided we were done for the day. We packed up, and spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening driving south through the park and seeing some other sites. We took a little hike through the Split Rock area, and eventually drove back to town. To celebrate the hard work of the day, we bought a pack of hotdogs, two packages of firewood, and enough cheep mexican beer and girly drinks to keep us all happy. We then spent a wonderful evening hanging out by a warm fire, eating burnt hotdogs and gazing at the huge numbers of stars in the clear desert sky above us.