On Friday the 21st of October as I was waiting for the world to end (google Harold camping if you don't know what I'm talking about), I got a text from my friend Bennett wondering if we wanted to join him, his wife and his baby to do some climbing at J-Tree the next day. I told him that I'd love to as long as both myself and J-Tree were still around the next day. We made plans to meet at his house at 9:00 AM to head out.
Amazingly enough, we woke up in our apartment which was still on the earth Saturday morning and got ready to head out to J-Tree. We did pretty good and ended up getting to Bennett's house at about 10 after nine even with getting the 2 kids ready for the day. We decided to go to a remote area of the park called the Towers of Uncertainty which is off of the Geology Tour Road.
We arrived at the park and located the parking area for the Towers of Uncertainty, but we found that when they grade the geology tour road, it looks like they just push all of the loose sand into a 2 foot tall pile blocking the pullout. We tried to back into the pullout so that we could get off the road, but there was no way that our low clearance 2 wheel drive cars were going to make it, so we ended up just parking on the road.
We hiked the long .3 miles out to the climbing and found some really good looking cracks. We tried to determine where we were by using the map in the book, but it was completely confusing as it showed the trail going north and south when the trail actually goes east and west. Luckily there was a couple who had just finished one of the cracks we were looking at who was able to tell us that the formation we were at was called "Crow's Nest".
We started by climbing Trench Connection which was a really fun 5.5 face climb that used the crack for protection. I lead it onsight, and the most difficult part of the climb was placing pro due to the irregular nature of the crack. Hexes would have worked perfectly but I had left mine at home. After I lead it I rapped off and cleaned the gear so that Bennett could lead it as well. He also had no problem and we set up a TR for the girls to climb. Amy and Gwen both TR'd it and we moved on to try something else.
I had been eyeing a face between two of the main cracks that looked fun, seemed to have some thin cracks that could be used for pro, and wasn't in the book, so I decided to give it a go. I started up it and found it to be a jug haul for the first 20 feet or so, but then it hit the steeper section with the thin cracks. I got a good nut in at the start of the thin cracks and started to climb above it but I was having a hard time finding anything for pro. About 8 feet above the nut I placed a 0 TCU in a horizontal pocket that didn't look like it would even hold body weight, but it was all I could find since the thin cracks I had seen from the ground had no constrictions and were to small for any of my cams. I finally decided to just run it out above that horrible looking TCU and just ran it out to the top from there. I thought it felt about 5.8 but looking at mountain project once we got home it looks like it is a 5.7 called "Caws and Effect", the nerves of thinking I had no decent pro probably made it feel harder to me. I set up an anchor so that the others could TR the route, and as I lowered off, I decided to check the TCU that I was so worried about to see how it would have done. Surprisingly, I was able to do some pretty intense bounce testing on a dyneema sling and was unable to get it to budge, I guess it might have held a fall after all!
Bennett leading the first part of Yeah Baby
As I was leading Caws and Effect, Bennett had lead another face between two of the main cracks that followed some discontinuous cracks for the first 2/3 of the wall, then joined one of the main cracks for the rest of the route. It looks like the route was a linkup of "Yeah Baby" for the first 2/3 to "No Strings Attached" for the last 1/3 of the wall. Bennett is a fairly new trad climber so he wanted me to check out his gear for him. I also wanted to lead the route so we pulled the rope and I lead it while checking his gear but not using it so that I could place my own and still get the redpoint.
Bennett Joining No Strings Attached
Amy about to join No Strings Attached
The girls wanted to lead something, but they didn't want to place gear, so as I lowered off I checked all the gear and made sure that it was bomber, then both Gwen and Amy lead the route on the preplaced gear each getting the pinkpoint.
Amy Starting up Yeah Baby
Amy with the 2 pieces of stuck gear
Bennett, Gwen and Amy each took turns TRing Caws and Effect, and it was getting a little late, so we decided to call it a day. The only problem was that Amy had been unable to clean 2 pieces of gear on the upper section of No Strings Attached, and we still had Anchors on top of two of the routes. I wanted to lead No Strings Attached, but everyone else was done climbing so I decided to basically free solo No Strings Attached to clean the two pieces of pro, then clean the two anchors and walk off. I say basically free solo because I did have Bennett belay me, and I did place pro next to the two pieces of pro that Amy couldn't clean so that I wouldn't have to worry about slipping and falling to my death as I tried to clean the stuck gear, but after I removed the stuck gear, I also removed the pro that I placed next to it so that the route would be cleaned when I reached the top. This worked out well, and neither of the "stuck" pieces were very hard to clean at all, so we packed up and headed home after a fun day of climbing in J-Tree.