Saturday, November 19th, 2005

Pinnacles Season Has Started!

Erik was acting weird. He took out his camera and snapped a few shots of the highway, the cup holders in the car, and the dashboard etc. (see  photo gallery). When I started wondering about his sanity, he let out a statement that made me almost drive into the central divide: “Today is the most important day of our relationship.” Uh, how come? “This is our first trip together to the Pinnacles!” This happened after we had been climbing together for almost three months and dating for almost three weeks. Well, I couldn’t claim he hadn’t warned me though. There had been quite a few signs of his obsession with Pinnacles, such as this, this, and this.

I guess if it had been all up to him, he would have had risen at 3am and reached the park at 6am before the first sun ray hit the ridges. But sorry, it had not been so. I could get up at 4 am for Astroman, but Pinnacles? My wrong attitude resulted in our late start in the park (if you call a 2pm start late). Erik first led the Broken Arrow on Discovery Wall and I followed. After that, we took on the offer of a group next to us, and did a TR run on Verdict. Then we went over to Ranger Bolts on the Monolith. In the dusk, he led and I followed the first half (to the first set of anchor bolts), but neither of us did it clean.

A picture he took of me following Broken Arrow was accepted into the new Pinnacles Guidebook our friend Brad Young is working on. Guess that makes a perfect documentation of the “most important day”.

Nov 13, 2005 Sunday

Erik Bratton and Jenny joined us to the Pinnacles today. While they hit the Discovery Wall, Erik and I went to the high peaks. Most people (aka normal people) don’t climb in this area. There were curious condors sitting in a short distance observing us. That gave us a feel of climbing in the wilderness except for the times when a train of boy scouts all in red T-shirts marching by below us or when the white numbers on the condors’ wings were clearly visible. Erik’s goal has been and still is do all the route at Pinnacles even if it was loose and mossy and had poison oak at the base. It sounded weird, he has friends. We did a few routes (with him leading) and finished the day with a 5.12a TR on South Finger. Bratton and Jenny came up to meet us later in the day, and we made the descent in the beautiful sunset.

Nov 19, 2005 Saturday

As I mentioned above, Erik has friends, and Rob Behren is one of them. He was psyched about introducing us to one route he put up at Pinnacles, La Petite Morte. He and friends bolted the route almost three years ago, and it hadn’t seen an ascent yet. They did walk around and put a single bolt on top. So, three of us made that climb our destination for today. The climb follows a water streak (I don’t know the name of the formation at this point). It is not a long route. Four bolts are visible from below and those are all the bolts on the climb (except for the anchor). The route first goes up into a concave and then exits above a bulge. The top bolt is below the bulge.

Rob put in effort in this route, so it really should have been his lead to claim the first free ascent (FFA). However, for whatever reason (yesterday’s food? the heat? the flu going around at work?), he was visibly not in a good shape today when we got to the base of the climb. Since Erik insisted on going around to the top to photograph the FFA, it seemed that I had no option other than tying into the rope. Up I went. Well, not exactly. I grabbed a big hold that looked more solid than El Capitan. I shifted my weight onto that hand and started making the first move with my feet. Suddenly the hold sheered in half and I peeled off the wall with that “solid” hold in my hand. Rob picked me up in the air without any trouble. I gave the hold in my hand an evil look before I tossed it away. My trust in rock has been scarred ever since.

Now, up I went, for real. I became a lot more paranoid. Ended up skipping many holds simply because I could not build up my trust in them anymore. In the meantime, Erik was scrambling up a steep face (5.? R or X) to the left in order to reach the top. I decided to wait at a not-so-comfortable stance after clipping the second bolt because it would have been disappointing after he went through all the trouble and risks just to MEET me on top. My black rock shoes were melting in the near 100 degree heat (felt that way). I could smell flesh burning in my feet. Finally, he sounded to be on top, so I started climbing again only to realize how painful my feet were. What’s the use of complaints? Third bolt, clipped. Finally, the fourth bolt was clipped. Now I was above my last bolt below a bulge, and had no idea what was above the lip. I tried to stretch my neck to check out the terrain above me. I think the sweat was blurring my vision — I couldn’t see any holds. Many thoughts went through my mind. Could I still down climb? Not really. I was below the bulge, and couldn’t look down to see where to put my feet if going down. Would I hurt myself if I fell? Possibly, as I might hit the ramp on the bottom of that concave. In a sense, going down in whatever manner seemed to be out of question. I had to go up. Arggggh!

I crimped the holds in my hands really hard, and pulled my upper body up above the bulge, but to my horror, I still couldn’t see any usable holds. I let out a shout “what should I …” and slammed my right hand above the lip. Right there and then, my fingers caught a small knob that gave me enough grip that it actually stopped my body from peeling off the wall. My second half of the shout “…go for?” was never heard. After that it were all sweet moves on a low angle slope. The transition from fear to joy in that split second is beyond my word. (Note: from what I heard, La Petite Morte means Little Death, and is also a slang word for orgasm.)

On the way out, I was fascinated by the glow of those pinnacles on the ridge line in the sunset. I was seeing THE LIGHT. Rob and Erik said I had officially became one of the Masters of Mud.

There are a ton of photos from this climb. Please visit the photo gallery.