Risking it all on Sundance

July 20, 2008 at 10:25 pm

On Sunday morning we got up at 5:30a. We threw the tent in the car, stopped for a fast food breakfast, and were hiking out of the Lumpy Ridge parking lot a little more than an hour later (~6:45a). No, Mark didn’t have a helmet. Yes, we were set on climbing Mainliner (5.9).

There’s a few pictures from the day in the gallery.

We arrived at the sign at around 7:45 in the morning

Sundance Buttress is a dominating and beautiful formation on the ridge. It is the most distant formation, and the hike to the base is about 3.5 miles long. We buzzed up the trail surprisingly quickly, hitting the base of the wall by 8:30a.

For all of our earliness, for all of our work, we still arrived at the base of our climb second. We were willing to risk Mark’s head because we so desperately wanted to climb this amazing 5-star, fantastically beautiful line. And there was another pair on it already. About halfway up the first pitch. With gear in the wall every 4ft. Not only were they on the route before us, but they were moving slooooow.

Clear skies and amazing views at 8:30am

We bummed around the rock for a while, starting to consider other routes in the area. Note to self: when hiking out to a remote destination, bring gear for more than one climb. We brought mostly small gear and nuts for Mainliner, which meant many of the long, classic chimney/offwidth climbs on Sundance were just too dangerous for us that day. Most of the thin routes on the wall were harder than Mainliner. The rock was beautiful, and the 1000ft wall was covered in amazing looking lines, but we were a bit stuck.

Eventually, we knew we were wasting time, and we found ourselves at the base of The Guillotine. The hard part, or crux, is just off the ground and easily protected. Mark and I dug deep, and pulled through the 10ft loong flaring thin crack crux. The rest of the pitch went at pumpy 5.9, and our climb was supposed to ease up to the 5.7-5.8 range after this pitch.

An hour later, and the storms have blown in

When I left the ground, it was at about 10am. There were already large, dark clouds forming in a line reminiscent of a frontal boundary just to our west. Where most faces on Lumpy Ridge face south or south east, and weather is often a surprise, these climbs on Sundance face west, and you are constantly aware of what is coming your way off the continental divide. And on Sunday morning, it did not look good.

I cleaned and climbed the pitch. I took a few hangs in the crux and then one further up the climb. When I reached the belay 100ft up, there was thunder rumbling in the clouds. The idea of continuing our exposed, difficult route, for 6 more pitches, and then do a 5th class down climb, in rain and lightening just seemed idiotic. Mark lowered me down, and then set a bail anchor and rapped off himself.

Not a good day to climb on that rock

We packed up as lightening began striking the valley below us and the ridge above us. Rain began sprinkling down, so I packed up the camera and we headed home. As we hiked out, the clouds came and went. Lightening appeared and disappeared. In the end, we were lucky everything worked out the way it did. If we had made it to Mainliner first, or earlier, we would have been in a rough position when the storms blew in. As it was, we got in a pitch of hard trad climbing and 7 miles of hiking. The rock will always be there. Even next weekend…