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learning traditional lead climbing at Moore’s Wall

Wailing Wall at Moore's Wall

This past Saturday (the 1st), I avoided all the bad Internet jokes/pranks by going climbing with Dylan B. at Moore’s Wall. Dylan is an experienced trad leader who has been kind enough to spend time doing easier routes with me so that I can learn.

We started the day with Dylan leading “Raise Hell (5.8)” despite the wetness we could see on parts of the route. This route starts over a boulder with a big (approximately 15 foot) drop right away. Some people place a cam at the foot rail right after stepping off the boulder and then backtrack to clean it after placing something in the crack that is two moves beyond it. Dylan chose to save his energy and did not do this. When I followed, I was surprised how unsettling those opening moves were, but honestly I was relieved to be moving given the cold from the shade and the breeze. I’ll claim that I followed it cleanly, with the notable exception of spending a few minutes sitting in my harness to try to clean a (shiny, new-looking) fixed nut at the first crux.

We next tackled “Wailing Wall (5.6)” with me leading. I lost my head about 25 feet beyond what the guidebook calls a belay ledge, though most parties ascend in one pitch. I had trended further right than Dylan and others who had given me encouragement at the start had suggested, and I had placed more gear than I had expected from our light rack. I got to a nook/ledge where I could sit and think, but where none of the rock looked solid enough and/or the correct width/angle to place any of the gear I wanted to leave (given the distance to the top-out and the fairly consistent width of the rails). I was a good 10 feet above my last piece of protection with my heart racing, so I alternated between breathing exercises and searching again for a reasonable placement in my nook. When I broke a flake while doing the latter, my mind went in unreasonable directions that took long enough to reel back from that Dylan yelled to ask what was up. I yelled that I was setting an anchor and would pull him up because I couldn’t proceed. I finally managed to place two solid pieces and one iffy one, and then belayed Dylan up to the ledge, whereupon he exclaimed his surprise that I was well above the ledge, and wondered aloud how we’d get out of the pickle I’d created. Some shenanigans of passing a bight of rope back and forth with gear ensued so that he could build an anchor without me sacrificing mine, but also so that he could pass up gear to me in order for me to feel confident finishing the route. We eventually managed exactly that, and I set off again, this time with a belayer who could see me and yell encouragement, which apparently was all I needed to finish cleanly. I learned that my brain requires I either be absurdly confident of the gear beta on the route, or that I over-rack for the route. Perhaps as I develop my skills in placing gear that will be less of an issue, but I’d like to come back with doubles of all the cams in the .75 to 2 range (BD) rather than doubles on the small end and singles .75 and up. Next time I’ll be both safe and quick, and there will be no shenanigans.

Having taken quite a long time to get through what should have been one pitch, we ate lunch and hiked to find the other pair we’d driven up with. We met up with them at “My Wife’s Pajamas (5.6),” where we lazily watched another party (both novices) and avoided racking up again. As they rappelled, I finally decided I was willing and able to lead it, so I racked up and discovered an alternate start that, while highball, left me a much cleaner rope line than the last time I did the route. I got the redpoint, but the last two cams I placed walked badly. I had skipped extending them because I was feeling pumped and was confident I could finish if I did the last section quickly. Next time I need to find a better stance to shake out after the large flake (nearest thing to a crux on this route) so that I can place solid pieces all the way through. The upside of waiting for the novices was that Dylan got a free nut. They had spent some considerable time trying to clean it and given up, saying explicitly that we could keep it if we could clean it. Dylan reported that cleaning it was not at all difficult. Note to self: keep climbing with Dylan!

Unlike the last visit, this time we continued through the woods above “My Wife’s Pajamas” to the base of the Meat Puppet crag. Neither of us had ever climbed there. After some traipsing back and forth on the trail with the guidebook, Dylan excitedly racked up for “Beelzebubba (5.6)” and I gratefully belayed from the shade. The climb follows a long arête, with the climber’s left being increasingly more slab and the climber’s right being increasingly vertical as the climb progresses. Given the position of the start and our light rack, this meant Dylan ran out something like the last 45 feet on the more confidence-inspiring left side, but once he’d built an anchor, the rope came down a nice clean, straight line for that last 45 feet… on the right. I was somewhat terrified for that final stretch, though I had no real reason to be. There were jugs absolutely everywhere, but they were also covered with lichen that made it obvious Dylan had not come this way, and the last 20 feet or so seemed dead vertical, though that might have been fatigue. Regardless, the views were spectacular, and I want to come back for another go at the route.

A climber sets a directional while descending
We spent a good long while adventuring through woods and gullies trying to get back to our packs from Beelzebubba. After several scrapes with thorns (me) and a bruised knee (him), we managed that and watched the other pair finishing a route back in The Amphitheater. While resting and snacking, I snapped the photo at the top of this post, marveling at the magic the golden hour works on the wall. It was a good day.

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