White Out

I would like to say the highlight of my weekend was the fact that I warmed up on a 5.9 sport lead, or that I lead my first 5.10a called My Bloody Valentine, or that Billy and I did a night climb, or even that I saw my first tarantula in the wild; but instead, White Out took the cake…

Entrance Area Crags
Entrance Area Crags ©Billy Shin

We got to New Jack City slightly before 11 on Saturday morning.  Luckily we were able to get, what we were pretty sure was the last campsite.  Even better, it was right next to the climbs we wanted to project.  After warming up on the Boy Scout Wall with some friends, we head back over to our camp for some lunch and to reevaluate our plan of action.

My goals for the weekend were to try harder leads and push my limits.  We started on 4 star 10a called My Bloody Valentine.  Aside from Billy clipping the rope in the first two bolts for me, I lead the rest, and even took a fall.  I was actually quite happy about the fall because I could finally let go of that fear of falling and really focus fully on climbing.  Needless to say, I summited, cleaned up, and we moved on to the route I had come to climb: White Out.

White Out is the only 10b classic in the area.  Leading a 10a is no easy feat for me, but my objective was to really push myself.  I wanted to find my failing point, and I felt a 10b lead would be about the right level to really step out of my comfort zone.  Plus the beta said it was a great route for tall people: sold!

So we moved around the corner to White Face, found our line, and geared up to climb.  Billy was going to be my rope gun and set up the quick draws for me so (1) I could watch his beta and hopefully learn a few things and (2) he could put in the quick draws for me so could baby step up leading my first 10b (keep in mind, I just lead my first 10a right before this).

When I’m over zealous, I’m really over zealous.  It didn’t take long to figure out that I would NOT be leading this route, but I would happily try it on top rope.

White Face is known for being a more technical area.  Two climbers had just finished telling us that the 5.7 on this wall was harder than an average 5.9 in the area.  I didn’t really think too much of it until I saw Billy try and tackle it.  We spent the rest of the day, minus a small break for rain, on this route.

The start was by far the worst.  Giving himself a little advantage, Billy stick clipped the rope into the first bolt.  A little phycological helper.  Foot placements were scare and perfect if you were Spiderman and could actually manage to stick your feet.  Hand holds were nonexistent; not to say there weren’t holds, but they were all made for the tips of your fingers.  This was definitely an exercise in balance, technique, and strength.  Billy and I checked a few times to make sure we didn’t accidentally start on the 11a route.

Unfortunately the start was defeating and energy sucking, to the point we cheated it to get Billy up to the first bolt.  From there the route was still technical but more forgiving.  It was more a matter of actually finding the route rather than skinning the tips of your fingers off trying to make one move multiple times.  The stick clip had to be sent up one more time, but once the correct hand holds were found, we realized, it could’ve been avoided.  Nothing wrong with extra safety measures while route finding though.

Over an hour later, Billy finally completed the route and came down for my start.  I was going to be on top rope, so I wasn’t really nervous, but more so determined.  Between belaying Billy, I had been staring down this start for the better part of an hour.  I really wanted to nail it.  Like I said, when I’m over zealous…

As you have probably already guessed, I didn’t stick it, but not for lack of trying.  By the time I finally gave up on the start, I had already got my right hand to the hold I needed to really get the climb going, but unfortunately I did not have the strength or correct body position to move higher and get my body to a stable place.  I ended up using a rock to elevated me a foot off the ground, so I had enough leverage to truly start the route.

Thankfully Billy had chalked up the route for me and walked me through it.  But my fingers and toes were so raw by the time I finally started I had trouble even holding myself between moves.  By the time I finished the sun was already going down.  But we were hooked.  Billy decided, despite the possibility of rain in the forecast, we were going to keep the rope up and attempt White Out the next day.

Our friends Jo and Connie rolled in that night and were also looking forward to trying this climb that had defeated both Billy and I.  Even though we were a little concerned with rain, we had a pretty dry night and woke up to another beautiful day.  Unfortunately I never got a chance to test my fingers or feet though; my back was tweaked, and by the time everyone was gearing up, it was clear: I was done climbing for the weekend, and probably the next week or two.

No climbing means more shooting.  Another personal goal was to get out and shoot my camera more.  So after I laid down for a bit, I grabbed my camera and headed over to the Valentine Wall to photograph their warm up climbs.  By the time they were ready to move over to White Out, I was on my back again and self medicating with wine.

From my tent, which was occasionally collapsing on me due to the wind, I could hear Billy holler.  It was a warrior cry; he completed White Out again, on lead, and I was missing the action.  So I rolled out of my tent, attempted grab my camera, which by this time my back would not let me lift, so I left my camera and hobbled as fast as I could over to White Out.  Billy was already down and Connie was getting ready to climb.  Billy still had to cheat the first moves, but he was ecstatic that the route, now that he knew the route, was much easier to complete.

I put on my nicest big girl face to try showing my support, but I really wanted to be the one on that wall.

Connie tackled it pretty smoothly on top rope with the help from Billy’s beta, although she also cheated the beginning.  And then it was Jo’s turn.

I had been waiting for this.  Although Jo appears to lack confidence in her climbing, she is also an amazingly strong climber who loves everything I hate, like crimpers.  She excels at making her climbing look graceful and thoughtful.  She leads by example and makes me strive to have better technique.  It’s almost absurd to me when she lacks faith in herself, although it is understandable for anyone who attempts inherently dangerous sports.  Especially those who have been injured, like her.

We had been discussing strategies of the first bolt while Connie was making her run.  She had it pretty dialed in what she thought would work.  After gearing up, she started the route.  On her first attempt she planted her feet, did the side pull she had been working out in her head, and made for the next few moves.  She failed, which was expected on the first try.  But what we didn’t see coming, was her succeeding on the second try.

I think this drove Billy a little crazy, since he spent 30 minutes with a crash pad trying to complete those moves after Jo cleaned the route.

Needless to say, I am not done with White Out.  And when my back is up to par, I’m going for it again.

 

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