Friday, August 1, 2008 by Rebecca

Camping in Mammoth

Big eventful weekend. We left home at about 4:45 on Thursday, sat in traffic basically from 580/13 interchange all the way through Tracy. We finally got to I-5 at 6:30pm. Ick. However the rest of the drive was relatively traffic free, and I had Freakonomics on my IPod which turned out to be a great way to pass the time. We finally got to our campsite at about 11:30pm. Fortunately, Daniel's parents took our tent up with them (they went up a day before we did) and had already set it up for us, so all we had to do was put our sleeping bag in it and go to sleep.

Friday 8/1: Climbing @ Horseshoe Slabs

I will admit that I was somewhat apprehensive about our first unassisted outdoor climbing experience. But Daniel had read through the book of climbs for the area and found a place where the routes were relatively easy to access the tops of, and the climbs were mostly slab - which is what, so far, I have found I like best. Some, but not all of the routes had bolts. Other routes, you have to create an anchor from the trees and/or boulders at the top.

We chose a route that was listed as a 5.7, which did not have bolts. The original plan was for Daniel to go up and set the anchor and I would stay below (since scrambling around at the top makes me nervous) but since we had to create the anchor ourselves, and since the scramble to the top didn't look too bad, we both went up.

The rule for top-rope anchors is that they be EARNEST (Equalized, Angle, Redundant, Non-Extending, Solid, Timely)
  • Equalized means it should put an equal amount of pressure on each arm of the anchor
  • Angle means that the two widest arms of the anchor should not be greater than 120 degrees
  • Redundant means that there should be a back-up for every part of the anchor so that if something fails, you don't die.
  • Non-Extending means that if one of the two (or three) arms of the anchor were to fail, the position of rope shouldn't drop more than 5-6 inches. So that you don't put undue stress on the remaining pieces of the anchor or your rope (or the climber!)
  • Solid means that the bolts or trees or rocks you build your anchor on should be solid - no dead trees, hollow rocks, rusty or spinning bolts, etc.
  • Timely - done relatively quickly - this is the least important - but it helps to make a good acronym ;-)
There was a sturdy, live, tree right at the top of the route which was a given as an anchor option, but in order to meet the 'Redundant' requirement, we needed a second anchor option. Fortunately there was a large Solid boulder just at the base of the tree on the side opposite the wall face (ie: the tree was between the boulder and the edge).

It took us a long time, and several experiments with varying different types of gear, but we finally got an anchor we were both quite happy with - so we figure we ended up with an EARNES anchor ... everything but Timely ;-) that should get better with practice. Unfortunately we forgot to take a picture of the anchor once we were done. But here is the rock face we climbed with our rope on it:

Unfortunately - since it was only the two of us - we don't have any action shots of us climbing :-(

But we each did two climbs on this one rope - one pretty straightforward 5.7 up the right side along that crack that's visible in the picture above. It was fun, but there were no cruxes or any particularly hard spots. It was a nice way to start climbing ( and to make sure our anchor really was going to hold us!)

The second climb we did was to the left of the rope along the MUCH tinier little crack you can see just to the left of the rope - it wasn't listed in our climbing book, so we don't know the rating - but we're guessing 5.8 5.9 - at least for the part right at the beginning of the climb - where there were basically NO features on the wall - just these teeny tiny little finger holds, and some slight slight variations in the texture of the rock to use as foot holds. For me it was a bit of a scramble. The fun thing with slab climbing is that as long as you keep your butt out away from the wall, gravity does most of the work of keeping you on the wall, but as soon as I tried to lift my weight up at all in order to get to the next handhold, my feet would slip out from under me - but little by little, I inched my way up, and finally made it to a place with better hand-holds and foot holds. after that, the climb was again pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, we'd gotten kind of a late start to the day, and since it had taken so long to set the anchor - those two climbs were all we had time for. But it was definitely fun, and I feel more confident re: our anchor setting abilities, so I will look forward to more outdoor climbing.

K - Bed time - I'll post Saturday's activities tomorrow.

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