Great Red Book
Yujia and I travelled to Red Rock, Nevada in an effort to send Big Bad Wolf (S 5.9, 3 pitches). Unfortunately, even though we arrived super early in the morning, there were already 3 groups queued ahead of us.
Rather than spend the day waiting, we hiked back to the car, grabbed the trad gear, and decided to try All That Jazz (T 5.8, 3 pitches). Keep in mind, at this point, the most trad climbing I’ve done were some baby trad routes at Mt. Wilson, San Diego (nothing taller than a highball). We knew the route was bolted on the first pitch and had all bolted belays. The only reason I felt comfortable trying the route was because I knew there were some bolts on the wall that would catch me if my gear failed. Yujia led the first pitch, which was essentially a 5.7 sport route. I led the second pitch, which followed a flake up the wall. Recognizing that the crack formed by the flake would only fit .75’s and 1’s (I had one of each), I had to plan out extremely sparse gear placement before starting up. The plan was to climb this 110 foot, 5.8 route on 3 pieces of gear (optimistic that I could fit a #2 up high) and using the two bolts at the last 20 feet. My first placement was about 25 feet above the anchor. It was terrifying. In the end, I placed 2 pieces (the 3rd placement was supposed to be a #2 cam and it wouldn’t fit the crack). This means that the runout from my 2nd cam to the first bolt was about 40 feet, and there was a slightly exposed move using a sloped edge for a foot right before the first bolt. I think my brain shut out all fear and leaped into survival mode there.
The third pitch wasn’t too memorable. Mostly easy 5th class. Topping out was amazing, since it started to snow and you top out onto the sunny peak!
After that day 1 fiasco, we went straight to REI to pick up more cams. The next day, we planned to climb Great Red Book (T 5.8, 2 pitches). This was the most amazing climbing experience I’ve had to date. The route follows this leaning crack formed by a giant slab leaning on the face of the mountain.
The approach took 45 minutes, and I had to redo the approach since I forgot my shoes (did there-and-back in 30 minutes). The first pitch was a bit tricky, requiring some off-width climbing, finger crack technique, and hand jamming. I messed up placing protection and ended up getting the rope stuck in the crack at one point. Yujia had to self-belay herself on the first pitch using her grigri just to get the rope unstuck.
The second pitch began with a heady slab for 3 bolts, then transitioned into crack climbing again. Up top, there was this short off-width/chimney section that I thought would require some off-width techniques. Luckily there was a ledge right before, so failure meant sliding down to the ledge (which doesn’t count as a fall for free climbing in my great red book!). Yujia and I ended up using lay-back techniques to get past this section, which left our cores quite sore. I remember thinking how much respect I had for people who could pull through hundreds of feet of lay-backing on big granite, like the Endurocorner. Finally, at the top of the climb, you end up on what feels like a 40 foot 5.4 face. It was easy, but there was absolutely no way to protect it. Picture being 250 feet up in the air with your last piece of protection some 40 feet behind you. Luckily, I pulled through onto the summit, where the sun greeted me after hiding behind the giant leaning slab all day. It’s triumphs like these that make climbing so rewarding for me!