Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Moderates and Hard Projects at Black Mt.

Friday and Saturday were another couple of great days up at Black Mt. I went back up with Alex Hoffman and met up with three of his friends from Santa Barbara, Logan, Tim, and Wyatt and gave them a pretty decent two-day tour.

On Friday, I first took the group over to Born Under Punches, and then on to the Round Boulders. After showing them Bang On and the boulders beyond it on the edge of the mountain, we decided to head up the hill to the incredibly featured NRA.

Literally on the side of the mountain, as the rounded boulders are on a tier below the summit and NRA, I led the group on a West Mountain-esque scramble up a chasm of fallen boulders to find ourselves in a hidden corridor on top of a dome of granite. The wall in front of us looked like a crown on top of the mountain. I quickly ran around to find that we were hidden atop the dome adjacent to the summit block, a highly traveled part of the mountain for decades, and yet this wall of rock we were looking at was untouched, incredibly dirty, covered with little flakes of onion-skin-like choss and lichen. It was clear that if the wall had ever been seen, it had not been climbed on. The crew quickly went to work brushing the three most obvious lines, left, right, and center, and made quick work of the sends as well.

Alex standing on top of the wall while Tim readies for an ascent of "Crown Jewel" and Wyatt looks on.
I chose to brush and FA the middle line, running straight up the face via just three holds before the topout. With a sit start to an obvious edge, you then make a big move to a huge rounded bulb sticking out of a ledge before topping out with bucket huecos. Because of its prominence in the middle of the wall we started to refer to as a crown, we named it Crown Jewel and figured it to be about V2.

Tim FA'd the right line, which we named Crown of Throws, due to its one challenging move being a dyno from one sloper to another. Another "Black Mountain V2" was born.

Tim brushing the upper sloper on his FA "Crown of Throws."

Then Logan finished cleaning and sent the line on the left, which has the most moves and consistent and obvious holds. It starts low at the base of a ramp on the overhanging left arete and follows good holds to topout on perfectly sculpted jugs. Sticking with the established theme, he named it Crowning Royalty.

Logan finishing up cleaning his line "Crowning Royalty."
Logan psyched on the find. Alex Hoffman photo
Logan cleaning and sending "Crowning Royalty." Alex Hoffman photo
After the fun moderate FA-fest, we ran over to NRA, and after playing around on it for a while to warm up, I was anxious to run back down the hill to Bang On  to see if I could continue to make progress on the testpiece. To my surprise, I was able to do almost every move, pausing on the crux 2nd hold and slowing my momentum for just a moment before falling on my best efforts. Needless to say, I am psyched about this progress and will continue to try this toughie throughout the season!

So close to sticking the crux first move of "Bang On" (V12).  Alex Hoffman photo.
A long evening around the campfire gave way to a heavy sleep, during which I dreamt of projects to be sent at the far-flung reaches of the mountain.

I awoke Saturday to the faces of my friend and former coach Ryan Held and his girlfriend Kelsey standing over my tent, and was psyched to have another pair of passionate climbers to head with us to the YMCA Camp area for the day.

The roof of the giant boulder on the right is home to what I have taken to calling "The Sea Monster Project" at the YMCA Camp boulders.

San Jacinto peak, and a boulderfield on the next ridge of the mountain, yet to be explored.
I showed the crew the moderate Bambi's First Waltz, which I established last week, as well as the nice v2 on the back of the prominent central boulder (name unknown to me). Eventually, people started throwing down attempts on the newschool classic, Ghost Dog.

Ryan going for it on "Ghost Dog" (V7c/d)

Tim coming so close to the send.
Another perspective of Ryan on "Ghost Dog."
I cleaned the crumbly bottom of the Sea Monster Project for a bit before putting on my shoes and giving it a few serious efforts, only to have a good portion of the best hold in the roof explode in my hand, sending me back-first into a sea of pads. I'll try it more in the near future, and I'm seriously hoping this hold doesn't continue to erode further. The line will be really incredible if/when it goes.

Ryan convinced me to get some attempts in before dark on the other epic project up there, which lies on a near-45-degree overhang looming over an obvious lightning strike. Roland, whom I only know of through our mutual friend Anthony Tarascio, apparently rappel-cleaned this one a few weeks ago, and it looks mighty fine with some chalk on the holds. On our best efforts, Ryan and I both linked from the starting hold to a prominent rail at mid-height of the boulder. It's another incredible line, and we'll come back to it another day as well. Hopefully by then it will have been sent and have a name.
The crew beneath lightning strike project and the glimpse of the valley beyond.
Ryan Held attempting the lightning project.
Me attempting the same. Alex Hoffman photo.
Alex Hoffman photo.
In addition to these two steep projects, I ran around the area for a while mid-day and found four additional potential projects, all of which are steeper than 45-degrees and look hard! With all of these projects, plus the established Beowulf, the YMCA is starting to look to me like the most concentrated cluster of hard steep climbing at Black Mountain. With so many projects elsewhere on the mountain as well, I hope that I'm able to send some (ANY) of them this season, and maybe even make a hard FA contribution to my favorite bouldering area.

A side view of the lightning strike project to show how steep it really is.
I plan to go back to Black next weekend, so we'll see what happens then.

The closer boulder field is adjacent to the old YMCA camp. The ridge in the distance is unexplored.
Alex Hoffman photo.
Stay psyched, climb safe, and see you out there!


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