Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Grand Wall

The Grand Wall is a legendary rock climb, probably considered the best, and certainly the most famous, in Squamish.

The rating at 5.11a while difficult is accessible by gumbies like myself making it a classic that is doable by more than just the few elite.

A sorry try at a Pano of the whole Chief. The White X through darkish rock with a tree just to the right in the lower middle of main wall is a good indicator for locating our route

And again but just of the Grand Wall route. you can see the X and tree more clearly here.

A good overview of the meat of the route, Split Pillar starts at the tree, the guy in the picture is at the top of Split Pillar. The Sword takes the obvious right facing brilliant line above, and Perrys is the wide layback high above.

We had assembled the perfect gumbie team.

-Dominic, (myself) a middlin' 10 leader with some decent crack skills
-Andrew, tradster and leader of scary/traversing face pitches
-Simone, hardcore sport climber and multi-pitch newbie

We also assembled the massive rack required for us to hang-dog our way up

The Grand Wall is a pretty popular route, let me rephrase that. On a massive sheet of granite a half mile wide, crisscrossed with hundreds of routes, at any given time more than half of the parties will be on the Grand Wall.

So we wake up early, really really early.

Leaving camp at 4:30 in the morning.

We get to the base of the flake ledges after some trouble in the talus, and make our way up the flake escape ledges. This allows us to bypass the 2 pitch (often wet, and always hard) start called Apron Strings 10b. It is a pretty tiny ledge to navigate so early, but before long we are at the base of the first pitch.

P1 + P2 while moderate, Merci Me 5.8 is rather runout, and thus falls to our runout master Andrew to lead. We followed the first pitch of Merci Me, and about halfway up the second pitch you do a scary 5,9 traverse right to a hanging belay under a roof and the first belay. This is usually done as two pitches but we linked them into one with like 5 meters of simul-climbing.

Simone at the top of P2

Me starting up the same pitch

I dont know whether it was the early start, the type of climbing, or what but my head was not into the day, and this seriously compromised my climbing ability all day. Even on this first pitch at a scary step across to the belay i was feeling it.

P3 is a 10b traverse to get to the base of the Split Pillar. Again falling to Andrew who styled it nicely. I got through it but again gripped, I do not like traverses!

P4 is known as the Split Pillar. It is perhaps the best pitch of granite crack climbing in the world. 120 feet long, goes from finger laybacks, to perfect hands to fists to a squeeze chimney all on the side of this completely detached pillar. I dont layback very well, but manage to get through and up into the perfect cruiser hands. I took once in the wide hands but then fired on up through the squeeze chimney to the sweet belay at the top of the pillar.

Starting up the layback on Split Pillar

Into the meat of the hand jams.

Finishing up

Looking down at another party coming up the Split Pillar

P5 The Sword of Damocles may be just as famous as the Split Pillar pitch, albeit at the 11a grade rather than 10b. I dont lead anywhere near 11a and yet being the "crack specialist" it was my duty to get up there and send. My head still wasnt in the game either, and i spent maybe 10 minutes not really looking at anyone trying to convince myself that this was actually a good idea. Certainly not from a danger standpoint could i talk my out of this, there was perfect protection everywhere, but could i hang in there and place it? The first bits of wide crack go easily, and I am quickly below the first crux, thin tips laybacking up and over a bulge.

Hangdogging is a funny climbing word. There are lots of strange climbing words, and they could really mean anything. Its all pretty arbitrary. So you might get something like well-styled, and hang-dog ascent mixed up rather easily if you are unfamiliar with the vernacular.

Unfortunately I do know better, and though I got up the Sword, and in fact all pitches this day, it was rather ugly. Pulling on pieces, aiding on top-rope etc.etc.

Looking up at the first crux on the Sword, thin tips jams over the bulge.

Entering the enduro upper crux

Me on the same spot but from the campsite, courtesy of Jo with my big lens.

Finally here is a movie of me moving into the upper layback.

In any case, the bolt ladder above the Sword leads to a spectacular hanging belay with 600 feet of rock spilling below your feet, a spectacular place no matter who you are.

Andrew coming up the Sword. You can see parties at the top of the Pillar and just about the get to the base of the Pillar.

Time to break out Simone from our bag of tricks. Though rated about the same as the Sword, Perrys is way physical and if you stop you are toast.

Simone does not disappoint and styles the crux. Taken from afar.

The amazing chimney rest at the end of the pitch

I wont even show pictures of me doing this pitch. Even on toprope i end up aiding and groveling and cursing myself, however a half hour later i am at the belay, which at this point is all that matters.

P7 takes us from the Flats, a large ledge system, over and up via much wetness. Andrew with his usual soft spoken-manner is up quickly and puts us on belay. I find out when i get there however that at the 10b crux the vital hold is sopping wet. Nothing like pasting your feet on nothing and the one ok handhold you have being wet. But ends up being not too bad. I sure wouldnt have wanted to do that on lead... Thanks Andrew!

P8 is the last pitch and tackles the Sail Flake a 10c undercling out around a massive flake pasted to the wall. My lead again. I get through this with not quite grace but at least better than I had been doing the last few pitches.

Climbing the Sail Flake

Up to Belly-Good and tie into the anchors. Phew! over! Think again. Belly-good at times is nothing more than a horizontal crack splitting a vertical wall, not your average ledge. We end up belaying 4 more pitches over to the forest and can finally un-rope.

The first (of many) sketchy bits on Bell-Good

And Simones reaction to it...

Gummy Treats when we finally reach the forest.

This has definitely been a learning experience for me. On one hand it is the hardest and bigger wall I have ever done, especially in the free climbing realm. But i didnt really free climb very much and mentally struggled through much of the climb. I feel way better about nearly all the other climbs I have done here, and yet if climbers has resumes it would be on the top of mine.

Something that if I ever can increase my ability I would like to do again to see if i could do it in a better style.

Strange though that the exposure, though massive, didnt really phase my head, it clearly was subconsciously affecting my climbing. I have done as hard of things near the ground and been fine. Something I will have to work on I guess.

The Nose anyone?

1 comment:

Alan Blakeman said...

Thanks for that from near Sheffield, England (home of Stanage Edge).

Just getting excited at the thought of a trip soon to Toullomne Meadows - might learn how to spell it first?