Friday, August 3, 2012

TR: Sawtooths Crest Traverse (the one in CA) - Part 1: Blacksmith Peak

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” -Hemingway

I'm not too familiar with bullfighting or motor racing, but this past weekend I quit playing games and participated in the sport of mountaineering as defined by the thinly controlled alcoholic Nobel prize winner.  

I had been looking forward to this weekend of climbing.  The first weekend of climbing since last September when I did N. Peak and some routes on Daff dome.  Really wasn't prepared for this, and haven't done anything like this since Steve and I did the Palisades Traverse back in 2008... I was certainly in better climbing shape back then.    

The Sawtooth Ridge, a pic by Sean Duggan

We had originally planned to hike out to Charlotte Dome, but Wed evening Nick gave me a call and persuaded me to go along with the adventure.  Nick was lamenting on the fact that he had recently made a breakthrough in his climbing where these trips weren't as anxiety ridden any more.  He didn't get knots in his stomach thinking about the epic ahead.  He would just be excited.  That's great! ... I thought... but Nick then went on to suggest the Traverse as just the thought of it made his palms clammy.  Huh?  So... you'd rather be anxious than excited?  Then Nick articulately explained himself by saying that after doing a trip where you are anxious beforehand just makes it that much more rewarding.  What a masochist...   


Found the last spot in the Twin Lakes TH parking lot... kind of a tight squeeze...


Anyway, I didn't have my eyes set on any particular climb, I just love being in the mountains, feeling the granite with my hands, and sharing the experience with a trusted partner.  So with palms sweaty, I went along with the plan.  But told Nick that he'd probably have to lead the majority of the route as I'd be quite slow since I hadn't climbed for so long.  

As our guide we had printed out "A Climber's Guide to the High Sierra, by Hervery H. Voge" from 1954!  Pretty short descriptions, but still probably had the best description of our route as Miley forgot to print out the applicable sections from the Secor guide.  
here's the illustration from that guide.

As recommended by one of Miley's mentors Bela, the founder of ASI, we decided to go from Blacksmith to Matterhorn, the reverse of Croft's described solo in his book, the Good, the Great, the Awesome (BTW, this was rated, "Awesome").  Honestly S to N, N to S, it'd be a very similar experience either way...

Here's a pic of Stevee stoked to be passed by Croft while we were climbing Cardinal Pinnacle the day before our Small Palisades Traverse.

Croft described their adventure. “I loved the whole thing except the gullies and raps. It seemed like in every gully on the Sawblade to the Three Teeth there was some dirty, frozen ‘kitty litter’ chimney or crack that wasn’t any fun. There were a few spots that you had to be real careful with teetering blocks. My favorite part about the route was being on the ridge the whole time—it felt like you never left a summit. Summiting the Doodad and traversing the Dragtooth was an excellent finale to the ridge.”


On our hike up the talus fields to the base of Blacksmith Peak, there were numerous teetering blocks.  One actually pinned my left foot and probably weighed 50 lbs.  I could have let it roll over my foot, but that would've hurt like hell, so I yelled at Nick and with his help lifted the block just enough for me to slide my foot out... phew.

Fireweed growing out of the cracks.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilobium_angustifolium

Blacksmith Peak from Glacier Lake.  Here's a cool TR with Dave Nettle of an FA on the peak.  Blacksmith is quite an impressive looking peak and I would love to go back to do the North Arete (10a) sometime.

Climbing up the snowfield up to the notch between Blacksmith Peak and Eocene Peak...

Here's the whole crest from Blacksmith Peak.  Nick and I were getting ready to start scrambling up Blacksmith Peak (Class 4) with our limited daylight.

Check out this massive landslide on aptly named "Slide Canyon"...

looking back down at Glacier Lake.

and the Cleaver with Twin Lakes behind it.

Summit of Blacksmith Peak 6 pm.

and the crest traverse begins!

After a quick rap, we decided to start roping up and simul climbing...

One of my favorite shots from the trip.  This is when I learned that traverses take a LONG time.  We were still on Blacksmith Peak 2 hours after we summitted, even when we were simil-climbing...

As the sun was setting we were doing our final rappel and downclimbing down to Glacier Col between Blacksmith Peak and the Cleaver.

After hiking down a 100 yards and collecting snow, we made dinner, melted snow, and got ready to pass out for the night.

Too bad my sleeping pad got a huge hole in it... so my sleeping pad for the night involved the 70m rope + Nick's backpack.  We also had a sheet of Tyvek which was really loud, but kept us pretty warm.

Day 2 - Part 2: The Sawblade coming soon...

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