You Can’t Win Them All

Climbing on Lost Dome with Crab Eyes in the background (“I always feel like somebody’s watching me…“)

Yesterday, Blake and I took advantage of record-high temperatures and made a day trip to the Wichitas for some climbing.  The plan was do do a little hiking and knock out a few routes on Lost Dome and Echo Dome.  It didn’t work out quite as we expected…

The weather was absolutely perfect for climbing, with temps in the 60’s and no wind.  On the hike to Lost Dome, I promptly took a wrong turn and stretched a 40 minute hike to about 90 minutes.  No problem – we both like hiking.  Lost Dome contains some of the better hard (5.12+) routes in the Wichitas and a limited selection of moderates.  We did three of the latter:

  • Fuson’s Folly (5.9-):  A long pitch (if you link it to the top) with a tricky crux move.
  • Come and Get your Love (5.10a):  A short but decent bolted line.
  • Last Rites (5.9+):  Probably the most sandbagged route I’ve ever climbed.  There are two distinct cruxes on the lower half of the route.  Both are extremely difficult to onsight due to hidden holds and/or marginal protection.  The second crux is a roof with a large, juggy horn, limited feet below and no hands above.  Apparently the best way to do the move is to sling the horn for protection and mantel it.  Instead, I protected the move with a marginal cam and was unwilling to commit to the mantel so  I used a small crimper high and right to pull the move.  Doing it this way, the move felt at least 5.10c.  I’d like to go back and try the mantel, but it’s hard to believe it’s not at least 5.10a.  Even above the crux the route feels challenging and a little runout.  I found a brand new #4 Camalot (worth $80!) that someone had used to bail.

Looking down at the tunnel moves on Last Rites

Overall, the three routes we did at Lost Dome were fairly low quality.  In a world class climbing area, I don’t think any of them would receive more than 1 or 2 stars.  But, as I frequently say, “it’s the best we’ve got.”

After a quick lunch, we headed to Echo Dome, which contains a good selection of moderate sport routes.  At least that was the plan… but on the hike to Echo Dome, Blake took a bad step in a boulder field and tumbled over backward.  I heard a grunt and when I turned around all I saw were his legs sticking straight up in the air.  He had fallen into a hole between boulders.  Blake has hiked in the mountains as much as anyone I know (including doing the massive Grand Traverse in the Tetons) and has never taken a spill like that.  When he got up to assess the damage, he had a goose-egg on the head, a tweaked back, and a pretty nasty gash in his arm.

Stiches or no stiches?  Tough call.

It was clear that our day was over, so we hiked back to the car and headed back to DFW (in my case to a wife and daughter with nasty stomach bugs).  Six hours of driving for three mediocre pitches of climbing isn’t the best trade-off, but you can’t win them all…

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