Sept 8, 2009
With a big alpine climb on the horizon, I've been desperate to get some
crack, multipitch and alpine-ish experiences. I haven't had to deal with
the logistics of such climbing in several years so brushing up seemed
wise. Besides, this would be my first real alpine climb
and no one wants to be the bumbly on a trip.
I haven't gotten in as much 'experience climbing' as I had hoped, but I did do some firsts
like climbing at Index, Wa. Taking this step reminds me of a whole other
community of climbers out there. I mean, I always knew they were there,
but that world and mine only recently seemed to converge.
It is a different skill to
take on big walls, funky trad, muli-pitch of any kind, let alone talk
about alpine and the mountaineers. I've never been drawn to
mountaineering. I don't like being cold and wet and slogging for hours
just isn't appealing to me. That said, I've never experienced the thrill
of sunrise on the summit of Mt. Rainier, either. Considering that my
time in the Northwest is getting shorter and shorter, I decided having
some of the best alpine climbs in my back yard was reason enough to
get out there. I should sample something before leaving here
But, that story will be for later. This is a story that preceedes the
Cascade adventure. This is a limestone, sport, multi-pitch in the Las
Vegas Mountains of Mt. Charleston. The last part of my brushing up
needed to be a multi-pitch and on a day trip to The Hood, I was told of
the Imagination Wall. It had multi-pitch sport climbs on it. After some
research it appeared the classic on the wall was a 3 pitch, hard 5.11c
sport climb. With the limited information I had heard, I was psyched to
give it a go!
Now, to find a partner.
Mike and I had planned to do it on Monday morning, but just before
crashing after midnight, Mike informs me we should do a 5am start if we
are to climb at The Hood after. Yikes, 5am! Needless to say, 5am came
and went and so did my chance to climb The Imaginator.
I didn't give up there. At The Hood, I ran into a fellow climber,
Heather Robinson. She was working this burly line and wanted to come
back to The Hood the next day. After some back and forth discussion
around the potential of doing Imaginator together, she finally caved in.
We agreed to go up early, but not insanely early. The wall would be in
the shade all day so there was no need to go alpine. Plus, we'd already
be at The Hood so we could go up there after.
Ha ha, boy did we underestimate how much work we'd do on this climb!
We met up on time, went up to the wall, sorted gear and started for
the trail. Wait, where exactly is the trail?
After some searching, we re-parked down from the Mary Jane parking
closer to the main road…maybe at the first turnoff. But, we still
parked too far west so when looking East for the trail, we missed it,
again! This time, we picked what we thought was a wash and started up.
Hm, we seemed to be hiking along a ridge that took us higher and higher
with a steeper and steeper slope forming on our left side. The Wall was
obvious, but we were now forced to hike higher to try to find an easier
way down to the now obvious wash and then up again to the wall. After
some scrambling and scree descending, we made it to the trail and up to
Looking up at the wall, we had no idea where the route started. We
had been given some "tips" for how to identify it, but it was not
obvious. We walked the entire wall looking for markers and eventually
narrowing it down to two potentials right next to each other. According
to the guidebook, one of the two routes shouldn't be there, but which
one? I suggested one and went off to collect my pack and gear up. Heather
followed, but I could see she was not convinced. When we returned,
she took inventory once more and cheerefully declared the route without
a doubt. I agreed and we both began gearing up.
Back on the drive heather had suggested I take the 1st and 3rd pitch
on lead since I was 'training.' The 1st pitch is the crux pitch and the
last pitch I had heard could be scary and runout, rated R. Still, I had
been hoping for the opportunity even though I suggested we draw straws
to make it fair.
The first pitch started off like most limestone I've come to know in
that region. Then at the small pillar about 8 bolts up begins the crux. Pumpy, hard to
read, and burly. I tried the left side and decided it was too
featureless and green to really attempt. I then tried the right side
(trying not to pump out while traversing back and forth on no feet) and found it was choss. The
route seemed like it could go that way but rock fall was imminent. So,
that left me with straight up the pillar. It was blank. There would be
no feet for the first few moves and from what I could gather a bear hug
was in order so a-bear-hugging I went.
I was really tired by the time I tried this, my feet were wide and my
arms just didn't have enough to hold the body tension in while I blindly
slapped up the sides. I made a slap up the right side but ended up short
of what I thought would be a 'better' hold. My left hand was partially
in the green stuff and partially on rock so I was squeezing pretty hard
to not slide off. I couldn't see how high the green stuff went and it
didn't matter if I would have made the next move or not because my arms
were flamed and I couldn't tension on my feet any more so I couldn't
release either hand. I was quickly off. 😦
After a short rest, I pulled right back on and made the move. There
were some pumpy/burly moves after and before the first belay station,
but nothing like that. I was able to keep climbing and complete the
first pitch without further incident.
and I wanted to reduce the amount of rope management we'd have to deal
with so we planned to carry the rope up with us rather than trail it. It
seemed like a good idea at the start but probably made this first pitch
even more burly for her.
Swapping leads for the 2nd pitch, with very little rest, Heather
marched onward. I couldn't see her because I was belaying under a nice
roof, but I could hear her from time to time. She seemed to be enjoying
the pitch. I was relieved. I had been worried she would hate me for
dragging her up this thing. Up the 2nd pitch, Heather's squeels of
delight were spot on. It was a cruiser pitch with some incredible
limestone features. Just a fun line.
Back on lead for the final pitch. Unlike my first belay perch,
Heather had a huge ledge to sprawl out on, including three bolts for her
anchor. I made a note of the ledge as I was heading up some crosley
laden grey rock to my first run out bolt. Let's put some perspective
here. The first pitch was 140' with 17 bolts, this pitch is 130' with 11
bolts. I looked for the most solid pieces of rock I could find and
breathed out every time a foothold I used didn't break off.
This pitch had some green on it and smooth, featureless rock as well.
well spaced bolts and not so clean falls, I was at peak focus. In one
section, I opted to climb above the green and to the right of the bolt
to avoid some chossy rock down and left (and to avoid setting myself up
on the featureless rock). I was even tempted to skip this bolt and head
for the next one if I could find it. That's when I realized it was the
last bolt and a long way to the chains. Hm…
I scouted out a direction and chose to leverage a sketchy looking
undercling. As I traversed my way left, over the greenery, the
undercling helped me get my feet over. I didn't yard on it or anything
and it didn't break on me so I assumed it was good. I didn't put any
more thought into it and proceeded up to make the anchors with little more effort.
Heather, on the other hand, had discovered some choss rock along her
way up and was
cleaning the route up a bit. When she arrived at the undercling, she
tried to use it and it broke off! We were both relieved that it had not
broken off when
I was on lead.
With both of us at the top, we high fived our success and began rope
management 101 as we tied two lines together and rapped our way back to
The Hood had been in the shade for a little while, now. And, we both
laughed at how long the whole Imaginator ordeal took. As we hiked out, the thought
of hiking up to The Hood only made us laugh at our ambition. We were
worked! We agreed if we had to grade the Imaginator we'd call the first pitch
a 5.12a and the last pitch definitely rated 'R' (due to the
runouts, potential for bad landings, and break potential of the rock).
The 2nd pitch was definitely the best of the 3.
While neither of us left feeling like we would ever want to get on Imaginator
again, we were both happy to have gone up and given it a go. We
suspected we'd be having an adventure of a sort and I think we got full
value out of our trip. Props to Heather for taking this on with me. I
learned a few things from her and enjoyed the girl time, especially
having the entire wall to ourselves the whole day! I couldn't have asked
for better weather, either. The temps were awesome and the rock was
grippy (cool, even). If you need a break from the Hood, this is
definitely a place to explore!