Lately the Southeast has felt more like “June-tober” than “Rock-tober,” much to the chagrin of every climber that I know. What’s up with this?!? This is supposed to be our prime time, with conditions cool and crisp…but instead we all feel like gorillas in the mist. That said, we knew that the elevation at Hidden Valley would make for cool(er) temps than the surrounding areas, and considering we’ve spent the past four weekends at the New, we figured we could use a change of pace. And it turned out to be awesome!
Our plan for Day 1 was for CragDaddy to get a little bit of revenge on Blues Brothers 12a, a route that should’ve gone for him back in August, when he got some awesome photos thanks to Bryan Miller at Fixed Line Media, but unfortunately no send. However, worthy lines are always worth coming back too, so I was happy to oblige CragDaddy, especially since I was interested in a route that shared the same starting crack – Coneheads #2 12c. I didn’t really expect 12c to go for me in just one day, so when CragDaddy also walked away empty handed after the first day, it was pretty easy for us to talk ourselves into another Round at the Saturday Night Live wall for Day 2. And guess what – we both sent! CragDaddy on his very first attempt of the day (even hanging draws!), and me on my 3rd and final attempt of the day.
This send meant a lot more to me than most – while not my first of the grade, it’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve sent 12c. And as I look back at the (small) handful of 12c ticks to my name, I think this one is on the harder end of that spectrum.
I was interested in Coneheads for a couple of reasons. First of all, thanks to Blues Brothers I knew I could do the start. Secondly, I knew a female friend of mine was working it, and I’m always more inspired to get on stuff other ladies are doing. Part of it is a girl power comraderie thing. It’s also encouraging to know that a route goes for someone that doesn’t have a 7 foot wingspan…
Anyway, Coneheads is an awesome line, and it taught me a lot about the process of redpointing. The line boasts a little bit of everything – a technical crack with a little bit of burl to it, a weird block move, some juggy overhang, some powerful, bouldery overhang, and a loooooong, exciting crux sequence to the chains on some of the funkiest crimp features I’ve ever seen. Seriously, one of the key holds was a “thumbercling” using a quartz crystal that looked just like a cigarette had been glued to the wall.
After my first burn I felt so trashed (even on toprope!) that I almost took it down. Thanks to the encouragement of my crew, I pulled the rope and gave it another go, this time on the sharp end. I have found that many times the most accurate gauge of “how close” you are on a route comes from the second go, as opposed to the first. On the first burn, advantage always goes to the rock, because the climber is more or less coming in blind. But on the second attempt, the playing field is a little more level, and you can get a better assessment of how you stack up against the rock now that you know what to expect – what the moves are like, what the falls are like, where the crux is, where the rests are, what the clipping stances are like, etc. By the end of the day, I was delighted to have this route down to a two-hang, and to be able to link the entire 10 move crux sequence after a hang.
On every subsequent burn until the send go (so attempts 2-5), I made subtle but significant changes to my beta to make it flow more efficiently. The final move of the crux became much more doable while carrying a pump with the addition of 2 intermediate holds. The bouldery, overhanging section just before the crux was made more efficient by using a different hand hold, and refining EXACTLY where my feet needed to be. I was able to find two “not good, but hopefully good enough” rest stances that allowed me to lower my heart rate a bit and get a brief shake out. And of course, taking a LOT of big whippers working the runout crux got rid of the fear factor, which allowed me to fully commit without hesitation when the time finally came.
And amazingly enough, “that time” came on the last burn of the weekend. I was feeling tired, but after attempt number 5 was a solid one hang, I knew I owed it to myself to try one more time. Even though the crux lasts pretty much until you reach the chains, the hardest move for me always seemed to be the second hand move of the sequence, bumping my left hand from a sloping crimp to a shallow, and dismally sharp, quartz rail. I had a feeling that if I could just stick that move, I’d have a good shot at a send.
On my sending burn, I focused really hard on resting the correct amount of time (rush, and you don’t get enough back, linger too long, and you start getting pumped again!), and on making my footwork absolutely perfect setting up for the move that kept spitting me off. I pasted my foot on the wall, hit the sloping crimp, looked down to hop my right foot up an inch higher…and made the bump successfully! The rest of the sequence I was on auto-pilot and before I knew it, I was clipping chains on what is probably going to end up being the highlight of my fall season!
I’d love to hear from everyone else – how’s your fall tick list coming? For those of you in the Southeast, it looks like we might FINALLY be getting the good stuff from the weatherman soon!