The 3 haggard climbers struggled back to the car, now separated, traumatized, and glad to have avoided a major epic. Stuck ropes, incomplete descent beta, and sustained climbing difficulties made for a long 2 days out at the Big Kangaroo. The 4th of July weekend started out with the Liberty Traverse though, so let’s check back on the 3 exhausted dudes later.
First up, Jenn and I went after our second grade 5 route together: crossing all 5 summits of the Liberty Bell group, you can make it as hard as you want. We tried to begin with the North Face of Liberty Bell. Once recovered from an off route start, we found the Remsberg variation to be quite fun. Water grooves stepping at its finest. It was cool to be up there so late in the day after the crowds were gone. We had to get over Concord(N. Face Directisimo) before dark though to keep our pride intact, then find a lovely bivy between Concord and Lexington. What a great sunset, and view from there. I am sure the traverse is fine getting it done in a day, but…..
Sunset, then sunrise..
Lexington was a chossy blur first thing in the morning, and on to the real business of NW Corner of N. Early Winter Spire. Sustained and old school climbing at its best. We had fun behind a couple of young men just getting into this sort of thing. Their stoke was refreshing. We were also next to Jenn’s friends that were having fun on the West Face route too! We did punt a bit on S. Early, taking the easy way up it for lack of energy, not to mention hunger. One of the better traverses in the state.
The second half of the 4 day weekend was to be devoted to the Skinny Start of the Kearney/Thomas route.
James, Lane, and myself aimed to do the possible 2nd ascent of the 4 (not 3) pitch variation start.
We expected typical “alpine” rock climbing, but got closer to Index type climbing(hard!), with dirtier conditions. The trad gear/anchors went in well, making the insane climbing slightly more sane. It is tough to describe how heroic each lead was in its own unique way. Right from the start, it gets after you and builds in intensity right on through the crux and beyond! There is little respite once getting on the more established K/T route. I barely got the crux pitch clean, but James fell early following and jammed his rope into the thin crack in 2 different places!!! Lane had to climb past him and aid the whole pitch to free the stuck rope and get the frustrated James moving again. Surprisingly the maneuver only cost us a cam and 1 1/2 hrs. On to the next crazy pitch and our next surprise at the top of the route: We couldn’t find a rap anchor along the whole top of the suggested rap route: Becky-Tate. It became clear that we needed a back-up plan. I took charge scouting a direct descent to the car for my partners, and then got busy retrieving our overnight gear that we left at the base of the climb on the opposite side of the mountain. The entire descent had to be done in rock shoes for my friends, but at least I got back to my approach shoes at the base of the route. For me it was difficult but passable to stay high traversing to the saddle, this tactic seems to be the best option despite adding onto an already LONG day. The 60lb pack(s) made quick work of depleting my reserves, but burgers became that much closer with each step. We avoided a full blown epic through sheer will. What a weekend!
More info in Blake’s new book, but be careful with the beta, there are more pitches than described, and didnt find the rap anchors for going down the Beckey route.