Wednesday, May 8, 2013

US Trip 2013 - Take 8; Castle Crags - Round 1

During our short visit in Ashland were we stayed together with Scott Balcom for couple days we made a plan to go explore and establish new highlines in Castle Crags. He recommended to us using words like; epic, beautiful, unexplored, forgotten or remote. Just two of these coming out of Scott's mouth was enough to get our immediate attention. Even though the schedule of our trip was already pretty tight we were stoked to re-organize our schedule for this exciting adventure. I was a bit afraid it might be a bit too ambitious because as we learn establishing new stuff is always way more work then repeating existing spots but it is also way more exciting, rewarding and besides we are pretty experienced and good in it already. It was decided then, we were going to storm the Castle!

Our second day in Castle Crags. In search of new possible lines. Psyched in front of the Castle Dome!! (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Jordan and I went to Castle Crags after our visit in Humboldt. We had lots of problems finding bolts and bolting equipment. It seemed like there is no store in Northern California which carried them at the time. We were getting really frustrated but then finished ordering glue-in bolts from Fixe online and buying 8 expansion bolts from a really nice guy we met at the "Humboldt Highline/Longline Festival". We thought the problem is solved until ... ;)

We finished leaving on Monday (29th of April) and after stoping to get even more supplies we arrived on the campsite which happened to be really expensive ($25 per day!). We spent there one night and at the morning drove to Vista Point from were we thought we could start our hike to the Crags. Unfortunately the info we had was wrong and you can not leave there your car overnight. Damn it! This part of our trip started to be more and more 'cowboy style'. We drove to Mt. Shasta to the local outdoor store planning on getting more info about good spot to park and start hiking and buying a climbing guidebook. The owner of the shop happened to be really nice guy and provided us with some info although the climbing guidebook is out of print (new one is in preparation process right now). We finished with little info about the whole area which was pretty much just a confusing hand-sketch of the trail system and few black & white photocopies of the biggest walls in the area.

Pretty much whole info we had for our trip to Castle Crags

Well, the good place to park and start your hike is Soda Creek exit of the I-5 highway and that was where we finished. After eating breakfast and packing most of the stuff (not including highlining gear) we were able to realize how heavy our backpacks were and that was just the first load. I definitely didn't feel excited about that hike.

The gear we carried up and down way to much for almost a week (that doesn't include food and water) (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We finished hiking up in 2 hours finding our selfs confused and dodging around in order to find a right path. Jordan found an awesome and well hidden spot five minutes away from our water source (Indian Creek) which turned out to be amazing, first-class bivy. We also worked on it during next days so now it has a nice fire-pit, 4 seats, 'gear-tree' and nice flat tent spot. After quick snack and setting up our camp we went up with just drilling equipment and few cams and a rope for a scouting mission. We checked pretty much whole lower ridge where we found and bolted our first spot. It turned out to be really cool and we scrambled, hiked and climb 4-5th class terrain for the whole day. The ascent on the far sight of the potential highline spot turned out to be pretty scatchy. It doesn't look like but climbing slabby and mossy terrain in hiking shoes with 100m drop on one side was kind of challenging experience. We placed 5 bolts in total (3 on tensioning side, 2 on the spire side + 2 existing climbing bolts for back-up) and started our hike down to the campsite.

It's nice to hike with a light backpack (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Almost at our first highline spot (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We couldn't stop staring at the Mt. Hubris aka The Ogre Summit and the wall next to it. The notch between this too was calling for the most obvious and epic highline in the whole area. We decided to climb up to the top of The Ogre next day following region's classic 'Cosmic Wall' (8 pitches, 5.6R).

Fixing to leave after bolting first highline in Castle Crags ever! Feels good ... The target for our next day is just in a background (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Route-scheme (
Chilling next to our "rager-fire" (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Next day at the morning we went up to our climb. We definitely didn't find the path and did some EPIC bushwhacking. I was lucky enough to have long pant on but Jordan's legs were fucked when we got to the place were out route starts. The climb was really fun but the day was brutally windy. It was windy to the point when it's hard to enjoy yourself but we did anyways ;) ... We couldn't hear each other on the belays and I was cursing my self for not bringing my new walkie-talkies. We finished the route in about two hours, linking it by climbing in total 5 pitches. The view from the top was definitely rewarding. Behind our spot way in the outback is even more spots. On one ridge there is probably around 8-10 rock spires alone. This place is just amazing! We were out of words. Another good news was the spot between the peak we just climbed and another wall was definitely 'highlineable' and way epic. After grueling rappel in a wind which kept the ropes horizontal making them get stuck on every each rock tooth and descend to the campsite we could rest for couple hours.

Psyched on top of The Ogre, and behind us spires, spires, spires ...

Because it was still light and we had not enough bolts we decided to hike down, re-charge our stuff, sleep in a car and get the bolts and Delta Quicklinks from the post office next day. We finished stoping to do all of this while eating delicious burgers at the local brewery in Dunsmuir and that is when ... the plan changed again. Jordan realized he had a voicemail from Fixe. It wasn't good - basically no bolts. We realized the only solution was to drive back to Davis to pick up 9 glue-in bolts from Jerry and then go back to Castle. We arrived in Davis at 2am after 4h of drive and immediately fell asleep. Well, we did sleep only 6 hours and then hang out a bit with Jerry and convinced Grant to go back with us. It wasn't to hard though. He was filming and sending with us and in some time there will be a movie coming out which will also promote one of our great sponsors HippyTree.

We were back at our parking spot late afternoon and hiked up again, this time with highline gear and more food. The time was way better too. I got up in 1h 10min and Jordan made it in 1h 35min. Lots of hiking was definitely paying off. We will be in shape for Yosemite!

Next day our first mission was bolting the big line. We decided on climbing both sides from the notch even though we had no beta of climbing routes but it looked doable.

Big spot visible from the Caste Dome area (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We had kind of a late start and manage to climb some fun terrain between 5.10a/b, bolt the highline anchors + rappel bolt on the side opposite to The Ogre in about 4 hours. Finding a good place to bolt on both sides wasn't easy task. We finished placing 4 glue-in bolts per each side (3 per main anchor + 1 for back up). Afterwards we hiked down to Castle Dome. It was already quite late and everyone seemed pretty tired but surprisingly I still had lots of energy so we went to rig the shorter line which was already bolted. The gear was already stashed there. I did brought everything there during the hike to The Ogre at the morning. Together with approach and rigging, after exactly 1h 10min Jordan was ready for the FA. He walked it like a champ OS-FM in a swami and named it "Mongol Hordes". The line finished to be 23m long and 20m high with 100m to the bottom of the high side and around 800 meters of exposure and the view on the snowy Mt. Shasta. Pretty epic ...

Jordan ready to get some (photo by Jan Gałek)

I got on the line after Jordan and send it OS-FM in an ankle leash. On the second walk I untied the leash and walked one direction free-solo. It was too late and I was a bit tired to finish the 'FM business'. Even though the line was pretty loose I felt really solid on it.

Freesoloco on the 'Mongol Hordes' - first highline in Castle Crags (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Grant send the line too, even throwing few tricks on the way back. It was getting dark, so we hiked down to our bivy getting some firewood on the way down. We felt pretty crushed but we finished waiting for Scott Balcom, who was hiking in a night. He arrived around midnight and soon after we all fell asleep.  The plan for the next day was to sesh the short line and then move it up to the bigger spot.

Grant sending (photo by Jordan Tybon)

On our last day we woke up early super motivated to rage hard. After getting to the short highline spot we were faced with harsh truth. It was super windy, the weather was dramatically changing and it didn't look like it's changing for better. Jordan took some cool pics of the spot from below. I've sent the line few times in an ankle in a crazy wind. I really wanted to complete this free solo and I knew I'm ready. The line was perfect tension, good for catching at any moment the only obstacle was super hard wind. I set on the line unleashed waiting for the wind to come down but of course it never happened so I just went for it. When I was in a middle of the line the wind just went nuts. I was standing there for a few second trying to decide if I should catch or walk and that second option won. I have to say this few seconds felt like ages. Paradoxically even though I was scared the whole experience felt pretty fun at the same time. I am pretty sure Grant and Scott didn't enjoy it as much as I did. The footage of it looks just ridiculous - that's all I can say ;) On the way back it was still windy but nothing comparing to the walk to the spire side. I cruised really fast trying to avoid the winds and that was really nice and stable walk.

photo by Jordan Tybon
photo by Jordan Tybon

Jordan and Grant send the line few times. Jordan was really bummed because I know he had the same plan to free-solo this line and the line was just perfect for it. He was really stable walking in a swami even in a wind. We de-rigged the line and went to check the conditions on the big line. We were deceiving our selfs that condition up there is good but of course after we got there it was clear it's even worse. There was no point to even rig this line at that time. Heartbroken we retrieved our ascending ropes and went down. Walking down we already made the plans for the second line. I wish we had done everything we could the first time but on the other hand I feel like it meant to happen. Now we can go back with more friends which can enjoy this line with us, we have all the beta and even a place for the third line, Jordan can get his chance to free-solo 'Mongol Hordes' and I would really like to free-solo Cosmic Wall and maybe climb something more besides highlining.

Not this time! (photo by Grant Thompson) 
Getting ready for art of suffering (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Same day we packed our campsite and hiked down with all the gear in one load which was just horrendous. My body was completely destroyed afterwards. That was definitely the heaviest haulbag I have ever carried. We went together to celebrate with a nice meal and then everyone went on their way. GrantJordan and I went back to Davis to restore some energy and Scott went back to Ashland. We are really hoping to see him again in Yosemite or Castle Crags (or both!) ...

We will be back for the round two and this time must to get some!! And now off to Yosemite Valley ...

Peace & SlackOn!

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