"I do my best work under pressure"
So, it is finally here: Sunday was my last day of work, and I am now officially unemployed and homeless. By choice. I am writing this in the middle of the night in the middle of the Great American Desert, on my way from Colorado, which was such a fantastic home for the past 15 months, to beautiful Yosemite California. For the foreseeable future, probably the next 4-6 months, my car will be my home and I’ll be checking out the best the West has to offer. I would not have been able to leave so blissfully, though, if I had not been able to complete one last goal in Colorado before I left.
So, this morning (Monday morning, that is), Matt and I headed to Eldo. The proj: Hairstyles and Attitudes. The goal: a clean, boltless ascent. I had first checked out the line back in April, trying it TR solo. I loved the line and the exposure, even though I couldn’t quite do all the moves. Later that night, I saw my #6 Camalot in my gear tub, and the thought struck me: I bet that would go in to the knee lock before the crux. Once I had the idea in my head, it suddenly seemed doable, in fact, necessary. The route starts about 150’ off the deck, and it’s fairly steep, so I figured that it’d be possible to take big, clean whippers on it. So, after a few weeks off due to my injury, I went back up to the Bastille, this time with a rack. Again TR solo, I rapped down the line, finding piece after piece of bomber gear. The #6 did indeed go in below the crux, though it looked more than a little funky. It bounce tested OK, but I still wasn’t totally confident in it. The problem is that you pull the crux with your feet about 6’ above the big cam, and the next piece of gear below it is another 10’ down. So, I just decided to work on not falling.
Back to this morning. Record highs in the 90s are forecast, so we figure we’ll get an alpine start to beat the heat. We roll in around 11:30 (sleeping-in is addictive) and find some shade for our warm up. Matt onsights Jack the Ripper, pretty much soloing it. Then he spots a potential line on the arete to the right, and so we hang a TR on it and work out the moves. Good luck on that thing, Matt.
Finally, we head over the Bastille. With my fully written out gear beta list, I carefully assemble the rack (17 pieces, this route’s a sew-up!) while Matt solos up the first 2 pitches of the Bastille crack and builds our belay. I quickly join him, and with no extra time for nervousness, I start the pitch. Everything feels great, I barely notice that I’m on lead. I get up to the knee lock below the crux, spend some time getting the #6 Camalot to look good, place a totally laughable rp, and then chill-out and breathe. Once I start the crux sequence, the moves come quickly, and before I know it, my hand is on the finishing jug. Of course, the crux is over, but there’s no gear, and now I’m facing a giant whipper (even if the big cam stays in). The next few moves to gain the ledge are delicate and smear-y, but I take my time, mantel up, traverse a step to the right, and I’m at a no hands stance. (Matt later tells me that he was silently wishing I would fall, so that he could see if the gear would hold.)
While I’m doing all this, a climber is about 15’ away leading Outer Space, so we have a quick chat (nice weather, eh?, a bit hot…) while I catch my breath. Even though the hard climbing is over, there’s still one real move to pull before I get the next piece of gear, and now we’re definitely in the no fall zone. Re-compose, pull the move, and then get the piece: a bomber #9 stopper. From here, it’s more or less a romp to the top, with only one more semi hard move and decent pro.
So, I’m super psyched, as you can tell. This was not only my personal hardest ever send, but also a possible first. I don’t know of anyone who has led Hairstyles without the bolts, but who knows, Derek Hersey probably soloed it, mid-winter. Of course a route on natural gear is one thing, but to be a true trad line, it would have to see a ground-up ascent. So, all you hard-pullin, gear fiddlin, cool headed dude-bros (and bro-dettes): that’s the next challenge.