Sedona Thanksgiving Climbing Day Number 2

Tuesday was the only day I had to climb with John.  A free route on the Eraser Head was on the agenda.  Jake and I aid climbed the first ascent of this spire a few years back.  I went back with John last Christmas and we top roped a free line.  Now it was time to go back and lead the thing.

But first someone had to get to the top again  so we could get the remaining bolts in.  I had already led it twice.  The first time with no falls.  The second time I fell a few times, probably because I was older and fatter.  Being even older and fatter still this year, I was bound to rip the whole pitch out this time around.  So I was glad when Jake volunteered.  He is very skinny, which is cheating when you’re aid climbing. He didn’t fall.

The free route goes up the wall on the left sky line in these pictures.

John and I put in some bolts. When we were done we handed the rope over to Jake for the red point. I don’t even think that he noticed that it was hard, but was nice enough to agree that it was probably 5.11-.

John managed to TR it clean. I got up to the last move before my fore-arms exploded and I fell.  Another great day in Sedona with good friends.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.

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Thanksgiving Sedona Climbing Day Number 4

My last day in Flagstaff and I still hadn’t added a new summit to the lifetime Sedona Summit list.  I wanted to hit the road in the evening, so it would have to be a short day.  I was thinking about doing some easy little spire with guaranteed success, but then Jake went and mentioned Little Middle Cathedral Spire.  The bastard.  The seed was planted.  It’s one of Sedona’s prominent obscurities.  Almost big as the Mace, right in the middle of every tourist photograph taken from Red Rock Crossing. It’s the pointiest summit in this picture. And yet no one ever climbs it. Has it even seen an ascent since the first 30 years ago? The guide book didn’t have much to say about it…

I think the word “desperate” keeps the traffic down.  So imagine our surprise when we see chalk on the spire!  I thought everyone knew that the only climb worth doing in Sedona was Rubo’s.  Maybe they thought they were on the Mace and got lost.  The chalk headed up an obvious crack system that appears to go to an unclimbable death chimney.   That can’t be the route!  So around the corner is more chalk on a scary looking slab with 2 bolts, 1 new one with a hanger and 1 old one without.  I head up that way.

I don’t clip the first bolt because there’s a good #5 cam placement and I don’t think it’s original. The second one looks original so I cinch up a nut around it to back up a kinda iffy looking #1 in a pod. There’s lots of chalk all the way up to the belay ledge, and then the chalk goes up in the wrong direction to a bail sling. Strange. I get on the ledge and see why. There’s no route here. Jake is nice enough to give me the lead again so I head up what looked like the easier way. No go. So I headed up the impossible looking way up a steep seam.

This is a pitch that has to be climbed to be believed. Spectacular and improbable.  Not even that dangerous even if you have small cams (I don’t thing the first ascensionists did).  Soon enough the pitch is over and Jake takes it to the summit where he finds no anchors. Quote of the day, “If I see Scott Baxter I’m going to punch him in the face.”. Here’s the summit belay (the 2 rocks under my butt cheeks are for extra friction):

We take some summit pictures still not quite sure how we’re getting down.

Then we down-lead our way off the 5.7 summit pitch and work our way over to the anchors. No one appears to have been here in a while.

Jake puts in another bolt because he’s chicken (just kidding Jake).

And we go down. The anchor is much nicer now.

We get down. WHEW, that was a fun day. But the ropes don’t pull. So I go back up. Crap, this jugging stuff sucks without ascenders.

I extend part of the anchor and come back down. Pulls like butter.

Another AWESOME day in Sedona.  I pick up my wife and daughter in Flagstaff and dream about that second pitch all the way to Barstow.  A good end to a good trip.

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Sedona Thanksgiving Climbing Day Number 3

I’ll skip ahead to the third climbing day for now since all of the pictures from day 2 were on John’s camera.

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and stomachs full of turkey we  got up at dawn.  This was more of a work day than a fun day.  There was still a huge block 200′ up Spaceman that might kill someone some day.  We couldn’t get it off last summer with a hammer, so it was time to bring in the crow bar.  Jake was nice enough to haul a 25 lb crow bar to the base of the route last week in preparation.

There aren’t too many pictures of this day because the climbing was hard, I was tired, and mostly because I just forgot to snap pictures.  I can’t believe I didn’t think to get a video of the rock I pried off.  I think it registered on the local Richter scale.

Here’s a picture of Spaceman that I took over the summer with the first 4 pitches of the route marked.  If you have good eyes I marked the block that we came to trunnel.

Here’s an un-climbed hunk of mud at the base of Spaceman.  Any takers?

Jake is racking up here for the fist pitch.  I wanted to try to lead this pitch, but knew that I didn’t have a chance at getting it clean.  If the route was going to get red-pointed today Jake would have to take all of 3 5.11 pitches.

Jake cruised the first pitch.  I managed to get to the limestone crux before I had to hang.

The 5.9+ “hands” pitch was harder than I remembered.

That brought us to the base of the crux pitch, 130′ of steep face climbing that doesn’t seem to have a single move easier than 5.10. I was already worked. Jake had some issues fiddling in a couple of key blue aliens that protected 5.11 climbing with ledge fall potential, but he held it together. He climbed over the scary block for the last time and got to the base of the crux dihedral.

This might be the most impressive lead I’ve witnessed. The crux is a double-thumb mantle off of opposing half pad crimps on either side of the dihedral. Your face is smashed up against the wall so you can’t see your feet. You blindly skate your left foot up until it sticks on the one and only foot in the area, and desperately stand up. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, it’s a very iffy move. I don’t know how Jake pulled it off first try.

I followed, hanging on every move.  When I got to the block I hauled up the crow bar and gave it a good tug.  I had to yank pretty hard, but it came out.  I dropped the crow bar, cleaned up the scar as best I could with a brush, and continued to hang on every move for the rest of the pitch.

I had been planning on taking the roof pitch, but had to hand it over to Jake.  He nearly blew it, but again managed to pull through.  I resorted to aid as it was getting late.

Finally I get to take a lead.  I managed to find a no hands rest to snap some pictures on the 5.2 space walk pitch.

I was almost too fat to get through the hole on this pitch, but I sent like a champ to keep the team red point going!

Here I am starting up the summit pitch, probably the coolest pitch on the climb.

We almost got chopped by the tourist chopper on the summit. If you look close I think this guy is about to fall out taking our picture!

Check out the moon!

The view from the top wasn’t bad.

And the view from the rap wasn’t bad either.

And so it’s done. I didn’t put half the work into that route that Jake did, but it was still quite an effort. All that work and I don’t know if it’ll even see a second ascent.

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Sedona Thanksgiving Climbing Day Number 1

Jake wanted to take some pictures of a route he did recently called Tasmanian Devil.  I had ambitions this trip of knocking off some spires toward my lifetime goal of climbing all of the technical summits in Sedona.  We compromised by doing an unclimbed chubby little 100 foot spire on the way.  It turned out to be a surprisingly fun 5.8.  We named it Aladdin’s Turban  since it’s so close to another (much nicer looking) spire called Aladdin’s Lamp. (Me and Jake climbed that one with frozen fingers on a snowy day years ago, but that’s another story.)

I was glad Manny was able to join us for the day.  It was fun climbing with old partners after so long. The last time the three of us climbed together was when we did the MAJAKOL Line (pronounced Magical). Coincidentally that climb starts from the same parking lot.

Here’s some pictures of Aladdin’s Turban.


This is Manny rapping off Aladdin’s Turban.  The ropes didn’t quite reach, but were close enough.


There were a few clouds that day, but no wind or rain…


And then it was off to the main objective of the day, Tasmanian Devil.  I was worried when Jake recommended 5 #4 Camelots, plus 1 #4.5 and 2 #3.5’s for the crux pitch, but unfortunately between me Jake and Manny we had the gear so there were no excuses.

Manny led the first pitch, a slightly overhanging 5.10 hand crack (mostly splitter 1’s and 2’s).


The belay was nice and cozy.  I didn’t want to leave, but it was getting dark so I had to get moving.



Believe it or not, there is no real off-widthing on this climb. It’s all face climbing, stemming, and lie-backing.





Here’s some shots of Manny following the wide corner.


Step by step photo-beta for the 15 feet of crux:

1. Place 4.5 Camelot while hanging off jugs with no feet

2. Cam foot in crack over head while still hanging on said jugs

3. Haul your carcass until you’re on top of your foot again, place #2 Camelot in horizontal, thus erasing your only rest hold (bad beta, but it’s what I did)

4. jam, chicken-wing, or layback the now slanting off-witdth with your right foot smearing on nothing.


5. (Optional) Hang on rope if necessary.


6. Toss body backwards into slightly-too-small slot, gasp for breath while hiding in slot.


7. Place finger sized stuff in a horizontal while denying the fact that some day you’re going to have to come out of the hole.  When you do decide to come out, grab the first jug with the right hand (not the left hand pictured below).

8. Cut feet loose.

9. Crawl over the top.

10. Wipe off the blood. Smile.

11. Bring up your partner.



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