The Crack of Doom, Part I
It’s not often that you open up a blog and read about something that went terribly wrong. We bloggers like to think that we are writers but really we just like talking about climbing and our own accomplishments. Nothing wrong with that… but I figure if I’m going to spray about all of my awesome sending this fall then I’d better be honest and write about one of my most embarrassing, awkward and downright scary climbing days ever. You know, for the sake of karma…
In a last minute change of plans, I was only going to be in the US for twelve days during the month of July. I had been scouring the climbing forums for beta and partners for a big western road trip but that fell through for several reasons and a week in Idaho was all I was going to get. A friend from my first season at Miguel’s had seen the fierce research that I had been doing on Mountain Project and emailed me, wondering if I’d be down for a trip up the Elephants Perch in the Sawtooth Range.
OF COURSE! We can hit City of Rocks for a few days to get our shit together and then head into the mountains! Psyched!
A few weeks later, as I’m downing a mediocre bloody mary at the airport bar, Paul calls me up and delivers some bad news: the rivers are raging from snowmelt and all access to the Elephant’s Perch is out. He had called around and confirmed that all alpine areas were still at least a few weeks away from being climbable.
“No worries,” I said. “I had a feeling I was a bit too early. I’m happy climbing anywhere!”
City of Rocks is a destination itself. There are loads of crags at all aspects, offering shady climbing from 7am to 9pm. Add free camping, one awesome local grill and a lot of micro-brewed beer and you have everything a climber needs.
Paul and I had met three years ago over a game of scrabble in Miguel’s basement, but we had never climbed together. Through the random network of people that make up the climbing community and a few internet messages, we had managed to keep up with each other enough to feel comfortable right away. We immediately began discussing plans for the week and decided to crash at his place that night and get an early start the next morning.
Our first day at the City was great. Paul put me on some easy pitches so that I could “get used to the granite,” but I’m sure it was mainly to make sure that I wasn’t a moron. After a bit of a warm up, I got on “Bloody Fingers,” a slabby finger crack with a lot of technical smearing and bomber locks. I was still hesitant on the granite, but I had spent some time down at the Cochise Stronghold the year before and remembered it well.
It was that afternoon, I believe, that Paul took me over to see the “Crack of Doom” on the Morning Glory Spire. This is THE crack to do at the City, and it called to me from the very beginning.
“I’ll save it for later in the week” I said, “after I’ve gotten dialed in. I’ve never done an 11c on-sight before… not on gear anyways.”
Throughout the week we had a great time climbing at the City, getting “dialed.” I got a few solid on-sights under my belt and though I took several falls on the harder routes, I was feeling confident and psyched to get on “Crack of Doom.” On our third or fourth day Paul and I hiked out to a 12a Todd Skinner route that is sort of off the beaten path. As I stood under the 45 degree overhanging ring-lock crack I wondered if I’d ever be strong enough to on-sight something like that. It looked brutal, and I secretly thanked the good Lord that Paul was the one on the sharp end.
Even though we had been instructed to keep it low key (“Skinner’s Roof” is off limits to the public) Paul let out a few good screams as he jammed the roof and pulled the lip. He had executed the climb perfectly, and it was an inspiring sight. I was now sure that I wanted to give my crack a serious on-sight attempt. That night I fell asleep playing the opening sequence over and over in my mind; a difficult set of moves that I will never forget…