I finally got the opportunity to go out for the first time since Mirabelle was born. There were multiple people coming, but in the end it was just Sabrina, Justin and myself.
On the way out we all decided on Fish Wall and the Duty Dome area as a place to be for the day. We were looking for moderate single pitch routes with the possibility of doing some multi pitch endeavours. When we arrived in the Icicle around 9am, we missed the pull out for Duty Dome and parked at Icicle Buttress and walked the short distance back down the road to the trail. It was still quite cold, although it was 50° out according to the car. In what seemed like no time, we were already at Fish Wall and figuring out what to climb.
We set our gear down by the far left route and looked around. I peeked at the book and announced that I would lead the far left route. (Sardine Routine) Justin and Sabrina poked around a bit and eventually Sabrina started belaying Justin up a bolted route, Crab Cakes 5.8+. The sun had not yet crept around the crag, and we were all quite chilly. Especially Justin who had to hold the cold rock while on lead. After his lead, Sabrina and I followed. I found the route to awkward, but I am not sure if that was the cold temps or because I was on rock for the first time in six months. The sun did finally start making an appearance when I topped out, although the last few cracks on the pitch were quite cold.
We left the anchor up, so we could top rope the next route over, Virgin Sturgeon 5.8+. This route has two stars, and Justin wanted to get a feel for it on top rope before tackling it on lead. He was the first up and had some minor difficulties near the crux when climbing it. Sabrina went next and took a more direct line at the crux which appeared easier. I followed and found the route much nicer and more enjoyable than the previous. It was a route worth doing again. I guess that is the difference between one and two star routes. Justin and Sabrina then both led the route before Sabrina pulled the anchor.
I then geared up to lead Sardine Routine. A shorter route than the previous two with a combination of bolts and gear protecting it. It was enjoyable and had thin moves on the steepest section for the crux. Justin followed and Sabrina cleaned the anchor after her climb. We then started scouting the book for our next objective.
We opted to head to the right side slabs of Duty Dome. Justin was interested in climbing Kitty Corner 5.9+. We hiked up a few minutes to get to the route where we encountered another party gearing up for Straight Street, a three star route next to Kitty Corner, at only two stars. Justin geared up and I belayed him for the route. He warned me when he left the ground that he may need to take on a piece. This happened two or three times on his way up. The last piece he took on and then started to climb above it. He was a bit above it when I saw his feet scrambling for traction. I prepared to catch his fall and he started falling, yelling it as he finally broke from the rock. In what seemed immediate, he was on his back on the rock, with his head pointing toward the bottom of the slab. We asked if he was OK, and responded affirmatively. He stood up and collected himself while hanging for a bit.
He started to climb again, but I promptly stopped him because I could not take the rope in. I told him I thought the rope was stuck, and sure enough it was. He opted to build and anchor and tie into it while Sabrina and I started a rescue. Once in his anchor, I took him off belay, and Sabrina tied the it off to a tree as an added precaution while I got ready to lead the adjacent route. Then Sabrina belayed me up Straight Street so that we could get Justin down. When I arrived at the height Justin was at we worked out a plan for me to continue to the top anchor on Kitty Corner and then have Sabrina follow me. Sabrina would clean Straight Street and then I would lower her to Justin so she could clean Kitty Corner. I continued to the top of Straight Street. Possibly due to the now lack of sun on the route and the heightened adrenaline, I did not find Straight Street too enjoyable. Also, I was expecting it to be more friction, but it was more of an edging on slabs route.
I got to the top and Sabrina followed. She stopped half way to deliver Justin his down jacket so he could stay warmer. Once at the top, I explained to her what we would do and I prepared to lower her. She cleaned the route and was soon on the ground. Justin pulled up the rope and tied into the end and then I prepared to lower him. Once he was on the ground, I set up a rappel and took out the remaining high cam that he fell on, and proceeded to extricate the rope. This took a few pulls outward and a couple of different stances. I was a bit nervous because I felt that when it popped from the crack that I would spiral out of control even though I had done a leg wrap and autoblock to backup my rappel. Once freed, I threw the rope down and continued to the ground where we all decided that we had had enough for the day.
I was really happy to be out, and I felt I climbed pretty well for my first time on real rock in months. Our mini rescue training was nice practice and it was fortunate that we had brought a second rope along. After dropping Justin off Sabrina and I discussed some other options that we did not pursue in the rescue. I told her since Justin was conscious and communicating, that I was going to do whatever made him feel most comfortable. And I think that worked out pretty well for all of us.
The Kaweah Traverse
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