With Adam unemployed, we finally connected on a weekday outing. The original plan was to head up to Static Point, but this late in the season my inclination toward walking long distances diminishes. So we opted to go to Three O' Clock rock with its half hour approach.
Due to roadwork near my house, we got a late start. We finally got to the base of the route around Noon after taking a slight detour to check out the North Buttress side of the rock. It didn't take us too long to find the base of the route, but the beta said "wide crack" and the crack does not start until you are more than ten feet off the ground, so it was not immediately apparent. Since the third pitch was 5.8 and gear, it was decided that I would lead the odd pitches and Adam would lead the even pitches. That also meant that if we opted to, I could lead the fifth unprotected pitch.
There was a seep at the base next to a dirty corner. It was inevitable that one foot or the other would get wet/dirty. I chose the left foot putting it in the dirty corner while keeping my right foot dry on the rock between the corner and seep. There is no gear for the first eight feet or so before gaining the crack which made it a little more interesting than I was looking for. Once in the crack, I moved left to where it steepened. The first few moves on the steeper section was the crux of the pitch. There was a good fist jam, and then the crack widened to an off width that was difficult to jam. I placed a #4 cam and attempted an arm bar move only to slip off. It was barely a fall. I blame it partially on my ability to climb the crack, but also on the still wet/dirty left shoe I had. I eventually did a sort of lie back on the crack keeping my feet on the left side of it to get through the steep section. (one or two moves) The angle eases off after that, and I cruised up to a ledge below a finger crack. I climbed the slab using the crack for hand holds and gear. Once passed that I was at the belay.
I brought Adam up who complained about the dirt and moisture. I told him it would get better the higher he climbed. Once at the belay he we exchanged the rack and we discussed the next pitch. He headed up and placed a nut behind a flake and then started toward the slab that is the main feature of the second pitch. There are two bolts on it, and it appears quite run out. Adam's head was not into making the committing move onto the slab and continuing up the run out. So he backed off and handed me the lead.
I started up and used the gear he placed and then ran it out to the bolt. It is probably over ten feet to the bolt from that first piece of gear, but the climbing is 5.5 or under. After the bolt, the climbing gets a touch easier with knobs on the slab for feet. I was able to sling a small tree, and get a small cam into an overlap before making a committing move right to reach the second bolt. After the second bolt it is a few friction moves up the slab before gaining a flake roof. Once at the roof the climbing was really fun. I placed a piece just at the roof, and then moved right around it the surmount it. A few more pieces, combined with some friction and stemming allow you to grab a nice hold and haul yourself onto a ledge above the roof. The ledge is a horizontal crack, which I followed to the left to get to the bolted anchor. I used the crack/ledge for feet, but I'm sure it would also work for hands. Although, if I had used it for hands, I would not have been able to protect the traverse, which was about 15' long. (I had used all my big gear coming around the roof.)
Once I got to the belay I started bringing Adam up while contemplating the next pitch. The opening sequence looked hard and I was sweating it. When Adam got to the belay, we re-racked and I got prepped for the next lead. From the topo, we knew the route went up a shallow left facing corner, and would briefly cross over before gaining another shallow left facing corner. It appeared steepest in the first 12' from the belay and then appeared to ease off. So my concern was getting through an overlap about eight feet up. My moves went smoothly and while I was concerned with the climbing I found it relatively easy. But due to my concern, I placed gear often early on. (Adam counted something like seven pieces in the first 20'!) I think that shows that I was mostly comfortable in placing gear and that the climbing was not too difficult. It also shows the head space I was in when leading the pitch. After the initial overlap, the route is somewhat of a lie back or contrapressure routine.
After the first corner peters out is where I found the crux of the pitch and therefore the route. There was a nice stance above a small bush with a small left facing overlap that offered more contrapressure climbing. The move from contrapressure to on top of the slab was a difficult transition. I initially went up to make the move and couldn't figure it out. I down climbed the move or two back to a good stance and surveyed my options. I also wiped the slab where I was going to be putting my feet as it seemed a bit dirty when I initially went for the move. I went back up and made the first move with my right foot on top of the slab. I felt in melting down the hold until it stopped, and I was in a good stance to continue on a few friction moves before regaining hand holds on the other side of the slab and into the next corner. With only one cam left that would fit the crack, I had to be creative, and run it out. This was really no issue as it is usually not too wise to maintain a lie back for long periods while placing gear. I headed up the final corner which was a perfect lie back while slinging a small bush, and placing a cam and nut. At the top of the corner, I slung another bush before moving right onto the slab to the anchor.
Adam came up and said he found it to be quite strenuous. Especially toward the end. For me, that was where I felt I was getting in the groove and was almost sad that it ended.
On the fourth pitch the topo shows three bolts before reaching the belay. I could see one bolt about 25' straight up, but there was a line of two bolts heading rightward. Adam agreed to lead this one which put him out of his comfort zone. He quickly got to the second bolt, but instead of heading to the other bolt in sight, (Which neither of us, especially me, thought was on route,) he headed to a depression and climbed straight up about 20' above the last protection. He found a decent set of bolts with old rap slings on it. He set up a belay, and I followed. Shortly after the second bolt I noticed the real top anchor and headed toward it. This is when we realized that the other bolt we could see was on route and about halfway between the second bolt Adam clipped and the chains. I got to the true anchor and belayed Adam over. We looked at the fifth unprotected pitch ending at a tree and decided it was not worth it. From the chains we made three raps to the base. There was no issues rapping and we were back to our packs in no time. We relaxed a bit and checked out more of the crag before hiking out to the car.
This was a great outing. I don't know if it is because I hadn't climbed in three weeks, but I found the climbing really enjoyable. The guidebooks have this route as two stars, but I would say it is perhaps a three star route. While not particularly difficult the climbing on the first and second pitches is interesting and fun. (While surmounting the roof on the second pitch, I couldn't stop yelling down to Adam how much fun it was!) The third pitch was really nice too and for a brief while mimicked Diedre in Squamish. (Although it was facing the opposite way.) This was a nice outing, and one that can easily be combined with some other shorter routes at Three O' Clock Rock. While the air temps were warm (60°s) we were in the shade from the second pitch up, and subsequently wore poofys the rest of the route.
Route Profile: Mt. Erie's Zig Zag Route (5.7 or 5.8 II)
31 minutes ago