Monday, June 29, 2015 – Nutcracker

We met Gretchen and Jax at Manure Pile at 7:00AM.  Before making the short approach to the base of the climb, we helped them make their first pair of crack climbing tape gloves, in preparation for the hand jamming on the route. 
The base of the climb was mosquito city, and Dave was eager to quickly get off the ground to escape them.  The first of five pitches was the crux of the route, with a sustained, tiring, layback crack.  The air also felt hot and more humid than normal, leaving Dave sweaty and with foggy sunglasses by the time he reached the belay. 

As Alex followed, she left a few much appreciated pieces of gear in the wall for Gretchen.  Gretchen set her belay anchor a few feet below ours and Jax began to climb.  As we waited for them to finish up the pitch, Alex spied something coming up the crack system in the wall 50 feet to the left of ours.  It was some sort of mountain cat crawling and pouncing up the cracks and ledges.  Soon it was out of sight and we heard the sounds of squawking birds.  All of us(except Dave), especially Jax who was still climbing, was glad it decided to go left instead of right.  We later decided what we saw was a bobcat.

There was a cam a few feet below Gretchen’s anchor that Jax was having a difficult time cleaning, so Dave offered to retrieve it.  Alex put Dave on belay, lowered him down to the piece, and to Jax’s dismay he plucked it right out. 
Soon Dave was making his way up an easy, ramp-like pitch 2.  Sadly for Alex, his weighting of the anchor left an offset nut and a regular nut tightly wedged in the wall.  Prior to even weighting the anchor, he had said “Sorry, Alex, these nuts are going to be a pain to get out.”  Alex worked at them with a nut tool and hammered at them with a large borrowed nut from Jax until her knuckles were scraped and the nuts were out of the wall.
Despite pitch two’s ease, pitch three began with an intimidating step out onto foothold over space.  As this was also Gretchen’s pitch to lead, she gladly accepted the offer for Alex to trail her line and clip it into the gear Dave placed above the move. 
As Jax cleaned this pitch, she yelled up that she had been trying to clean a cam and it would not come out.  Fortunately for her, Alex and Gretchen realized she must not have heard them discussing the fixed piece of gear that was in the wall.  After confirming the piece of gear she was working on, she was glad to know that piece was not ours… and it was STUCK in the wall. 

With two pitches to go, on terrain that was no longer sounding appetizing to Gretchen and Jax, they opted to pull out the extra rope they had carried along (Thanks, Tom!), and top rope the remainder of the climb.
After a loooong 4th pitch that involved a hand crack roof, Gretchen and Jax were glad they made the choice follow the remaining pitches.  Pitch 5 began with the infamous “mantle move” which Dave was happy went fairly easily, followed by sustained climbing on a fractured face to the summit.  All four reached the summit with tired hands, feet, and bodies overall.  Alex’s climbing shoes were starting to show the wear and tear caused by the granite as holes began to form.

After a few summit pictures, we made our way back to the cars via some down climbing to the descent trail.  We headed over to Curry Village for celebratory drinks and ice cream.  We happened to run into Annette and Mark, who had just finished a bike ride in The Valley.  The six of us sat together, recounting our day, and solidifying plans for the next morning.

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