Dec 19, 2015

Wind Sand and Stars - Kolob Canyons Utah

”With you in Spirit” - Jeff Lowe

Paria Point Kolob Canyons

 Last year, in 2014, I had a couple of weeks climbing in Utah and Zion. After my partner on that trip left for home I still had 3 weeks of my own to explore and get a big number of climbs done. Soloing a number of great routes.
One of the most spectacular places I went to was Kolob Canyon. Placed between St George and Cedar City on Highway 15.

Climbing on the Rooster Pinnacle, Kolob Canyons

  One of the most famous routes in Kolob is the dramatically overhanging Huco route Namaste (5.12a) and Huecos Rancheros (5.12c) put up by Conrad Anker.
Those two is an epilog journey of forearm pumping sport climb. Well protected with a big number of bolts, the only issue is to have force enough to clip them "en route”…
But the climbs on the Rooster Pinnacle should not be forgotten either.

Anna Following on on of many Hueco routes in Kolob

  In my opinon this is one of the greatest Sand Stone destinations but very much in the shadow of its big brother neighbor of Zion. Which as well isn’t that well know really. I mean compared to the giant Yosemite.
Both theses places, Zion and Kolob, has its restrictions and is patrolled by rangers just as in Yosemite. The differens is the attitude. In Utah I have always felt welcome. Doesn’t matter if I´m a climber or an RV tourist. Both are treated with respect and the Rangers are most helpful. Compares to Yosemite were a climber is more like dirt compared to the RV campers which seems to have a much higher standard.

On my last visit I took an exploring day in Kolob and hiked in to the inner parts of the South Fork where Ranchero and Namaste are suited. And managed to solo both of them as well as the hard graded "Last Rites" 5.10d.
But of course my eyes fell on the magic wall of Paria Point and the Jeff Lowe route ”Wind Sand and Stars” 5.12+.
Put up by Jeff and Chatrine Destivele 1991 and then first free climbed by Jeff Lowe togeter with ”crack masters" Lisa Gnade and Steve Petro the year after.

Approach to Paria Point

  After searching as much as possible on this big test piece I just realized that the lack of info and big number of hard pitches it wasn’t something to go and solo. I had to come back with a parter on this one.
Said and done, it was on my mind for a whole full year until I again rolled in to Utah and this time with Anna by my side. With routes like Moonlight Buttres, Rostrum North Face and Perestroika Crack done together I thought we would be up to a great adventure on this one.
But, the weather wasn’t with us. The el Nino effect would have a great year 2015. And in a place like Bishop, Ca, which have something like 6 days of rain in the year, we had 3 days of rain in a week!

Almost giving up this project, suffering an other rainy day in st Gorge, Ut. And using the day to drive up to Kolob and have a look on this beautiful area together, we was getting a bit depressed of all the wet rock and snow covering it.
I took the last chance and sent a message to Jeff, asking  if this much talked about but non info route actually was that good as he once said.
After a day of waiting for an reply I got an most encouraging message back. Confirming the quality of the rock giving the route a very overall standard - Yours in Spirit!
Well, we just had to go and give it a try. Snow and cold weather en dépit.

Giving the area and route two days to clear and dry up, meanwhile we climbed the most interesting route ”The Silverback” in Zion. 
And we felt in mood to drive up to Kolob again. Wind Sand And Stars on Paria Point is south facing and the two days last sunny weather should have dried it up for us, we hoped.
And since it was our last days of climbing it was more or less the last chance.

The hour drive from Springdale up to Kolob was only divided by a regular stop at the gas station in Hurricane to get the mornings second cup of coffee. Rolling in to the parking place at south fork we found ourself in the shadow stil but the sun was strongly fighting its way up on a cloudless  sky. Everything looked fine expect that we was suffering from a strong wind. Which on the other side would help up to dry the face even more.
Racking up the gear and trying to figure out what clothes to go in…we finally was on our way up the half an hour approach. Trough ankle deep snow.
The approach, very straight forward and easy, same with finding the start of route. And soon I was, finally, getting my hands on this mythic climb. I was in a good mood with a relaxed feeling. This would be a great day!

Pitch 1
  Finding the first anchor, a two bolt bolted belay on good ledge. Anna follow the pitch easily and we are both getting warmed up finding the Kolob spirit on surprisingly clean rock. Not as it can be on seldom climbed sand stone, like very sandy. This looks fine. Next pitch and I found my self on some different options of cracks, a perfect finger crack closes totally on me 15m up and I have to reverse and instead head up a hand crack into a steam box thing to yet an other bolted belay. Below the psyching chimney pitch…time to get started.
To my positive surprise I realize that the R for this pitch is not that correct. It is actually possible to place a piece of pro here and there. And as most of the time, actually falling of out of a chimney is an effort as well. So after yet an other full body chimney work out I am able to send it quite easy. 
With this behind I am totally convinced, this will go.

The adventure is on!

  An airy and spectacular traverse brings us to the base of the first 5.12 pitch. Which would be followed of two short and one long .12 pitch with super hard and technical climbing. Much harder than the later Rostrum and Moonlight Buttress.
Thin placements with RP´s and 2 bolts the first 5.12 goes quite well and I finally find myself on an hanging belay below something that looks more or less impossible V slot. 
-Well, that will be a later problem, first I just have to belay Anna up here.
-You really like this don’t you? When its just exposed and hairy dramatical? Anna looking a bit unhappy as she is hanging on the 2 bolts with a lot of air below.
I can not agree more, this is 100% fun! And I steam on.

Pitch 4 on Wind Sand & stars

  As many times the sand stone gets more and more fragile with altitude.  A couple of times a foot- or handhold brakes and specially some 10, 15meters above the last pro it gets a little to interesting sometimes. 
But as long as i am able to find the right way up this still steep rock face the quality keeps very good. It is just a matter of  keeping the eyes open and see the pitons in place. With on the upper parts are quite spread out.

5.12 climbing, in a delicate mood - Anna Backlund

  With a day close to the limit of getting dark we decide to make it easy and rappel the route instead of taking the chance to go around the west face. That would give us less rappelling but unknown terrain.
And with most of the anchors in place i just have to leave a few nuts after me. And the 10m of extra cord comes well in place to tie the points together. With the sun just setting we rapp the last pitch and are able to scramble down and out of the bowl just right at head torch time. 
Back down at the parking lot the only epic of the day is when some of my gear starts to fly away in the still hard blowing wind.

5.10R Upper part of Wind Sand & Stars

  It is time to get back to st Gorge and a nice motel room, celebrating the climb of the trip. And maybe of the year. One of my top five rock climbs; "Wind Sand and Stars” In spirit of Jeff Lowe.

The route
P1: ( 5.10 ) Up and left, passing some delicate moves around a corner and up an other 10m. 35m pitch
P2: ( 5.10 ) Up and left via face and cracks to a finger and hand crack below the pillar. Traverse right to a stem box. Left at bolt on a ledge to the anchor. Harder than it looks.
P3: ( 5.9 R ) Long Chimney. Some sparse pro in hand and finger size gear.
P4: ( 5.10- ) Up to .5 & .75 crack. Take a right, traverse face in front of large boulder. Gear Anchor
P5: ( 5.12) Hard stemming up to a piton. Crux is before and after piton. Hanging Belay
P6: ( 5.12 ) Out the awkward V-slot and onto the face via more hard stemming. 2 solid bolts protect the crux. Bolted anchor on ledge.

(possible to link these two pitches with a long rope)

P7: ( 5.12 ) Long pitch, lots of bolts. More hard stemming to easier and fun 5.11 face. Bolted anchor.
P8: ( 5.10 R ) From ledge climb the dirty crack system to the east to a small ledge where you can face traverse around the large arête. ( there might be a better option of using the crack system in the large corner, but I don’t think you can traverse around the arête from that point ) Once around the arête, face climb up to a bolt, then right to a crack, then back left to a piton, then up the stemming corner / face to a crack system in a right facing corner. The crack system will lead to the original anchor, a fixed nut and a piton on a slopping ledge. An other long pitch.
P9: ( 5.9 R ) Face climb up to the base of the left facing corner with large crack.
P10: ( 5.11- ) Climb the crack on the face and crack in the left facing corner above the belay linking them via face climbing. Climb the bolted face above the crack. Climb past the tree and up to an anchor. Anchor = Piton and hangerless bolt.  A stopper wire and sling bolt adds extra pro.
P11: ( 5.6 ) Climb a rail out left, then up and back right to a gear belay. 

Rappel the route or scramble up to the summit.
Left then down and back left. There is a large cairn at the start of the raps.
5 rappels off the west face of Paria Point.
At the first rappel, the next set of anchors is to the north.
At the base of Paria Point you can scramble down some 3rd and 4th class ( to the west I’m assuming )
or you can skirt the base of the cliff heading south via 3 more 60m rappels. You’ll have to fight the rope on your way down, but all the pulls are clean and there is very little loose rock.

2x50m rope
1 set of RP´s 
1 set of wires
1 set of Aliens blue - red
1 set of BD #0.75-4
10 QD´s 

//Suffer a little. Learn a lot.

Dec 3, 2015

Monkey Fingers - Zion Utah

Monkey Fingers and the Silver Back - two Zion Classic´s

There is a couple of ”best things” regarding Zion Utah.
1, its quiet and slow with other climbers
2, the numbers of regular ”tourists” are low and quiet
3, the approaches are everything that long compared to other Big Wall areas
4, the climbing is just awesome

  The canyon holds just as many great escapades and good quality crack lines up the navajo sandstone that for every route I climb I find 2 new ones. 
One of the most obvious ones is Monkey Finger and the Silverback at Sinawava. The far end in the Canyon. 
With a 5 min approach it one of the most ”get to do” lines in the whole canyon.

Graded 5.12b it sure holds its grade. 
Monkey finger pitch is everything then easy, at lest if your fingers isn’t ”rattly” and good on finger and ringlocks. 
Even the first pitch, a 5.6 scramble is a bit of wake up as it is often cowered with sand and a bit humid. 
Not really a pith for the route in fact but it just has to be overcome. 

  It is not many places around that you can arrive around 11 a clock at the car park, walk the 5 minutes to the base of the route and with out fuss start to climb 3-star route? With out taking any considerations regarding other parties. I mean, whats the odds about that!?
But at this case it seams to be the standard.

the 5.11 roof crux at Monkey Fingers, easier then it looks

the Monkey Finger pitch it self
the second last pitch of "Monkey Fingers" passing a couple of interesting but well places bolts

Anna on top of the somewhat loose Chimney pitch on top of Monkey Fingers

  The Monkey neighbor "Silverback" an other 5.12 route just to its left is almost as just a perfect route. But even more varied as well as a little bit harder and more full on. Which might be the reason why its not climbed and frequented just at Monkey Fingers. The first pitch of the Silverback is an treblous off-with /chimney that leave you untouched. The third pitch
is a huge fight and just continue upwards...
the great Chimney pitch on the Silverback
the Dusty Cowboy pitch, 3rd pitch of the Silverback

Anna fighting gravity on "the Silverback"

  Regarding the pitches/rope lenghts there is not much to say. The climbing is solid, good pro all the way except the last or twp last pitches. The route finding is just obvious. When you are up…well your up.

The belays are in place as well as the rap anchors. 

the Silver Back (left line) Monkey Fingers (right line)

Equipment - Monkey finger
2x50m rope
2 set of cams 0.33-#4, extra 0.33-#1 useful
5-6 QD´s
The last pitch, make a short traverse out right, there is an obvious chimney installation. This pitch is a bit of adventure, great climbing for what it is but could as well stay avoided. In quality matters, but should be climbed in adventure cause.
Descent, rappel the route

Equipment - The Silverback
2x50m rope
2 set of cams 0.33-#5, extra 0.75-#3 useful
5-8 QD´s
Starts with a little sandy slope up to a less sandy chimney.
Second pitch is a 25m 5.7 over big features.
For the 3rd pitch make a 15m traverse left. From here it is often sandy, but very good climbing.
Descent, rappel the route (from the traverse ledge it is possible to continue straight down the wall to an other rap anchor.

//Je vu le peurs...a perte au pire. Il efface me pas..

Nov 26, 2015

El Capitan West Face

West Face on El Capitan. A brilliant route over 19 pitches. But suited on the far end of the wall being hit with little sun and a little more adventurous to get to. And since it do not even a spectacular name that might also be a reason that it has much less traffic than it much more famous naighbours
View over the Valley of Yosemite from the top of El Capitan

Yosemite and El Capitan must be said to be one of the most famous big walls in the world. It's dramatic face is perfect suited in Yosemite valley compared to much bigger walls like the once in Ak-Su in Kyrgistan which is way harder to approach.
A hike up to the bace of el Cap to get to routes as the Nose is an easy stroll over a couple of minutes.
Which also means that it seems a big number of people trying to ascend routes like the Nose, even if they don't have anything to do there. Meaning you can be hooked up behind a number of teams in a line of just waiting.
But there is a couple of routes which are less known and harder to get to, like the West Face on el Cap.
A brilliant route over 19 pitches. But suited on the far end of the wall being hit with little sun and a little more adventurous to get to with not even a spectacular name it sees much less traffic. The climbing is typical for the area, full on with most of everything. But always well protected, most of the time at least. You should be stabile at the grade and to finish the route in a day, including the 2hour descent back to valley, you have to be quite quick.
Anna on the approach towards West Face
Anna on the approach toward el Cap West Face

 The hike up to the base and the start of the route is not as bad as you might think to start with. There is an ok foot path which takes you past all the much more known routes up hill. And after passing Lurking Fear there is a little more fixed ropes and some boulders to by pass. And once at the start, behind a big boulder on a nice platform, the climbing it self seems just impossible up what lookalike a blank wall with no protection. But just take a closer look and a couple of bolts will appear higher up and when you finally start to accually climb natural places for placing pro will start to appear. And once over the first pitch the rest is much more obvious. Just be prepared that the first one looks impassible!
One of many passages on the approach
"Sending" one of the boulders on the West Face approach

"sitting back home in my sofa scanning my topos my eyes soon focused on El Cap and the West Face. We had since before of course talked about the much more famous routes as Rostrum and Astroman and already decided that those had to be on the list of routes we just should try out. But as always the planning is one thing and actually performing is something else, if not just because of the potentials of all different cases on the way that might appear to stand in the way and cause trouble.
Pitch one of the El Capitan West Face 5.11c
The First pitch on El Cap West Face/photo Alpinemadness arkiv

 And to top things to the limit this year we had the el Niño effect, with a weather that was playing hard on us. After a couple of good climbs out of the crowds up at Tuolumne we rolled down to the valley happy to be staying at "the Pines Campground". A camping that we soon found out to be one of the worst places ever that we had been staying at. Surrounded by RV's with its big smelly diesel engines and noisy people. Together with the smoke from all the Forrest and campground fires doing its best to make things insupportable.

But the weather was typical Californian, sunny and dry, so we could focus on our main goal, climbing. After packing up the packs we stored the food away in one of all the bear boxes and drove to the melonée. Parked the car and started the hike up towards El Cap. Finding the way up was as easy as we thought and soon we stood at the base of the climb. But where was it? The only thing I saw was a blank wall that looked more or less impossible to place any pro and super hard to climb. The first bit was said to be 5.5. And to me that is pretty close to walking, but this!! We saw a couple of bolts high up on the face but getting to them just looked impossible. I just lost interest and after a big bite of cussing decided to walk of it. Sending us back down to the car and changing goals for the day, climbing something totally else. But since this was Yosemite, finding a route to climb is not difficult.
But, walking of the previous route could not leave me untouched. I was furious about it and could not stop thinking of that West Face route. I must have missed something obvious!
After doing a little more investigating I talked Anna back into giving it a new and this time harder try.
Now a bit more relaxed since we had cheeked out from the Pines and had a much nicer camping spot just outside the park. To get a little more relaxed climb wise we took a tour up Rostrum North Face in between.
And a couple of days later we where back at el Cap parking lot.
El Capitan West Face 5.11c
Second pitch on West Face/Photo alpinemadness/Arkiv
 Since we now didn't have any obvious camping reservation we decided to take the climb with a bivy included close to the top of El Capitan. So after a slow breakfast we took off at mid day, using an hour up to the start of the climb and started climbing at 13:00. Now a little more prepared and ignoring the fact that it looked blank and hard. Instead I found places and hidden cracks here and there to place a cam or nut until I was below the first crux. Below an old rusty bolt, with an old style graded .11c, the adventure had begun!
Anna up on the West Face route

Pitch 8th of el Cap West Face

And pitch after pitch up the face we had a great time with most enjoyable climbing all of our own. The route finding is mostly obvious but here and there it is possible to get of route and sometimes the most spectacular cracks turned out to dead ends. A spectacular traverse up halfways gives an exposed but well protected experience. And finally as the sun is setting below sky line we climb the days last pitch up to out bivy ledge, our free home for the night.
Anna on pitch 6 of the West Face

Finally, just in time at the Terrace after a great days climbing

 A bivy night that soon turned out to be a little bit more chilly then expected and the next morning we raced towards the summit. Sending the last four pitches on exchange for a warm sun.
Over all the West Face of El Capitan is a most spectacular and solid free climb. With pitches 2, 8 and 13 as the most memorable ones. A must on the tick list!"
Sleepy dreams at the Terrace...

...and warm dreams dreaming.

50m rope, one set of cams 0.33-#3 ( extra of mid size), 1 set of nuts (off set useful), 10 QD's (a couple of extendable useful).
There are fixed belays on most of the pitches but not always obvious. As on pitch 6 and after the travers on pitch nine.
Summit of El Cap after a nice chilly night on the West Face
P1 40m 5.11c
P2 35m 5.11c
P3 40m 5.10a
P4 20m 5.5
P5 40m 5.10a
P6 25m 5.10a
P7 40m 5.11c
P8 35m 5.11c
P9 45m 5.7
P10 45m 5.10b+
P11 48m 5.10b
P12 35m 5.9
P13 35m 5.9
P14 40m 5.10d
P15 45m 5.10
P16 Traverse
P17 40m 5.7
P18 40m 5.6
P19 35m 5.5
P20 60m 5.8
P21 4th class to  summit

/One road has become many

Nov 16, 2015

Rostrum North Face - a Classy Classic Climb

Rostrum North Face - Classic Yosemite Granite Crack Climb.

Four weeks of climbing and a little more then 200rope lengths, so far.

Pretty good specially since the sunny Californian weather has included more rain and snow then I have experienced during all my weeks and months I have had in Les Etat-Unis in total!

The rapports of flooding and lack of sun have been number one news on Fox each and every day...

Our last couple of days in Big Wall County of Yosemite we had a good number of great climbs with the nine pitch route at Rostrum North Face being the highlight.

The North Face of Rostrum is a very obvious and almost scenic pillar watching over the entrance to the valley. Maybe even a little bit obscure, if you got that look in your eyes!

If the upper approach is used it is very straight forward to get to the base of the climb. Just park the car at the end of the long stone wall west of the Wawona tunnel on highway 41. Hike down the slabs following a well marked trail. Only the last bit is a bit awkward, to some good bolted rappel anchors. 3-4 rappels, depending on how long ropes of have, brings you to the bottom of the north face. Steep a couple of meters left and your at the start of pitch one. A nice crack system with moderate climbing...until the chimney is reached that is! But a well placed hole in the rock makes it possible to do a thread before exiting the chimney up to the belay. The rest is just pure fun and great climbing. Always on good pro. The last offwidh pitch is easily passed with a couple of layback moves, just make sure that you move, leep-frogging, the "big piece cam" upwards and finally just take it out and mantle up to the top of pitch nine. If it feels doubtsome, it's possible to make a placement out right with some mid size Alien. But whatever you do don't leave the cam in the big crack. That will send it to the rest of all the lost pro at the cam graveyard deep in the crack.

Anna working on the Chimney pitch 1


"We had a windy night just outside the park entrance at hwy 140. Camp 4 was all overcrowded and after a couple of nights at the terrible campsites at "the Pines", which was full as well. We decided that we had it regarding smoke, camper vans and diesel aggregates. We fled the valley and camped outside the spectacle.

Waking up below a blue sky, but with a shooting hard wind and a freezing temp. Could this be our day for a north face climb up a hard pillar?!

Well, starting up the day with some good coffee always makes things better. Improving the outcome sort of. But this very morning it was hard just to get the stove working and keeping the windshield at place, because of the hard breezing winds. Finally we retreaded back inside to the car and had our morning sandwich nicely behind the steering wheel, with some calming country music playing. Did we had any second planes like plan B or even C?

Well, fact is, we both had our brains focused and would really like to put our worked out fingers into the famous cracks of Rostrum.


So after an hour or two we anyhow stood at the stonewall, car parked and packs packed with equipment for a great day of climbing.

Three rappels later, passing a Japanese team on the way, we stood at the base and I took off up the easy and nice warm up first pitch, a moderate 5.7. But everything suddenly changed when I realized I had to overcome a chimney to reach the belay station...thinking that this ain't possible, but instead ignoring the wind and cold temperatures I just focus, actually start thinking climbing. And thereafter it just flows. The wind calms down and so do I.

When Warren Harding went up the same route in 1962 with Glen Denny it was one of many great first descents that Harding was involved in. The Nose on El Captain the most famous one.

But the "Wall of the Early Morning Light", El Caps biggest highest rock face, and 27 days on the wall, ignoring the rangers willingness to rescue them, Harding and Dean Caldwell, from the face after a four day Californian storm, made them the hard men of the state!

I don't feel like any of the classic hard men, just fighting myself upwards on spectacular cracks, fingers, hands and offwidh, on modern pro. Long away from old wood pitons.

The finger 5.11c pitch

Happily to threw in an Alien or a BD cam here or now I jam myself upwards, in total respect of these guys like Peter Crofts and Alex Honnold who has soloed this thing unroped!

I guess we all have our crux on a climb like this. But to me the eight pitch was the hardest one, a wild steep finger to hand to layback piece of rope length had me working as hard as possible. Finally at the belay we just had to have a go on the roof, the spectacular "Alien pitch"

Famous last words, get out and do it and it will be awesome!"

Rostrum North Face - Yosemite Valley

First ascent Warren Harding/ Glen Denny 1962


60m rope or 2x50m

Cams 2set 0.5- 2" (Green Alien-#3BD) 1 #4" BD

1 set of nuts

6 QD's


//I ljuset av verkligheten får medvetandet sin utveckling