Sunday, August 21st, 2005

Chouinard-Herbert on Sentinel Rock

Erik had to work this Saturday, so we made an extended day trip to Yosemite — drove out of the bay area on Saturday evening and returned on Sunday night. The trip was short but the route was long — we climbed a 15-pitch route: Chouinard-Herbert on Sentinel Rock.
I posted following report to Supertopo.

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My partner Erik and I got on the route on Sunday. Here is my report:

Approach: The hike to the base of the rock is very enjoyable on a good trail (except for the swarms of bugs escorting us). The first big ramp is long, but not bad. However, even after having done the approach, I'm still not sure about the best way to get to the base of the climb. After the obvious slabby ramp (going right and up), we continued going right through some brushes and trees following the base of the wall. I think it's almost near the end of it, there is a wide crack (#4 cam) in a right facing corner (not a huge corner). Definitely 5th class (feels like 5.8 offwidth). We roped up for it and Erik reached a ledge after a full 200' rope length where there are bolts and slings (for hauling). I guess that's the base of the climb. If you know which wide crack I'm talking about, have we gone too far on the first ramp or should we keep going before cutting back left?

The climb: All in all good, but definitely old school. Most belays have either old bolts/pins that you can back up with gear or a fairly new bolt. I led the seven easiest pitches on the route (1-4 and 13-15) and found route finding tricky in the first four pitches. As for the Afro Cuban Flakes, Erik did realize that the 5.11 variation should be down low only after he got sucked up to all the fixed pins that followed along the 5.12 variation. I aided that traverse. I have to confess that the "dead obvious and much easier holds" that Largo mentioned definitely were not that obvious to my inexperienced eye (that's why you are Largo and I'm Mei). On the other hand, when I was struggling up there aiding with draws and slings, everything else around me (above or below) that were out of reach all looked much better than what I had at hand. The easier pitches (5.10-5.11a) are quite fun but funky sometimes. We spent about 8 hours on the route (counting the approach pitch) and topped out at 4pm. Although the Afro Cuban roof didn't go fast and I spent a long time doing three of the first four pitches off route, I agree that this climb does go fairly fast considering the number of pitches on it.

Descent: I had prepared for worse. It is long, but most of the footings are solid (more solid than the descent to Third Pillar of Dana). However, it demands quite a bit downclimbing that I would not like to do in dark. I can imagine that with big packs that aid climbers haul, the descent can get much more difficult (I was doing a lot of downstepping facing out).

Be aware of loose rock! When we were sorting gear at the base of the rock, a rock fell within 15 feet of us. It sounded like a big bird diving down and only when it hit the ground stirring up dust, I realized that it was a rock. Nobody was above us that time of the day (early morning).

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