Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Father Time

Old Father Time
It was sweltering in the valley and we'd just retreated from El Capitan after having a go at Secret Passage. I knew about a route called Father Time on Middle Cathedral from both James Lucas, who'd been on it, and Tobias Wolf, who'd made the third ascent. It was meant to be a great option for hot weather as it gets almost no sun. It's also relatively convenient to try since you only need to haul to half height, set up a portaledge, and spend a few days working the crux pitches which are just above. The descent is by abseiling the route.

The hard climbing involves three 13b pitches in a row; the 'boulder problem', 'the athletic 12c' and the 'index 11d'. Just in case these pitches turned out to be really tough, we decided to give ourselves a lot of time to try them. So we planned for one day to half height and then three full days on the top half of the route. The forecast on the board at camp 4 wasn't perfect, one day there was a 40% chance of showers, maybe thundery, and another a 50% chance. What does this mean, that it might rain at some point? Or, that you can expect it to rain half of the time? I still don't know.

The first half of the route was great, perfect rock, much better than Secret Passage, and some really good slab climbing. It rained a few times during the day and we hid under the fly before pushing on. Just as we arrived at the portaledge bivi it pissed it down and we scrabbled around trying to get the portaledge out. This was a shambles and Sean Warren would have been appalled, we ended up damp, lying on a damp slanting ledge under a damp fly. Thankfully it stopped and we managed to relocate our bivi to a more convenient setup on the other side of the ledge. The weather cleared, we ate Top Ramen and had a good sleep.

First day rain showers
Setting up between showers
The next day started well, we climbed some easy slabs, an awesome 5.12 and arrived at the 'boulder problem'. Pete kindly developed some very reach dependant beta on the boulder problem that meant I could flash it. After doing the boulder faster than we expected, I went for a look at the athletic 12c. I had good on-sight go on this getting to a bolt half way up the layback flake. On the way down it started to thunder and started to rain. Fixing our two ropes we got back to the portaledge very fast and just in time as the rain became very heavy. We hid under the fly on Friday afternoon and didn't emerge until Monday morning....

Not the best weekend ever, but surprisingly not that bad either. We passed the time chatting, playing a lot of cards and I read while Pete, who didn't have a book, pondered the great mysteries of life. It stopped raining a few times long enough for us to get out and stretch our legs on the sloping ledge we were next to. Because of the cold and lack of activity, we had plenty of water, but were a bit low on food. Things started to get serious when we ran out of peanut butter and so only had jam to put on out bagels.

The view!
It was a huge relief when we woke on Monday morning to clear skies and the early morning sun creeping down the Dawn Wall. This was the day we had planned to descend but it was now the only day we had to finish the route. Our fixed lines took us back to the athletic 12c. I got back on to warm up and work out some beta, hoping for a quick redpoint. I found this pitch tricky but linked the hard layback section a few times and decided to go for it. My first go was disappointing, slipping off at the same place I reached on the on-sight. We switched and Pete worked it and then, impressively, did it first redpoint. My first go seconding I also messed up my sequence and slipped off. Knowing we had a lot more climbing ahead I took a very short rest before going again and falling again. I had one more go, actually my best, but I was too tired by now to do the pitch.

Between the showers
It clears!
Moving on, we were both able to make short work of the index 11d which I think suited us both. This was a cool pitch with bouldery and technical groove climbing. A pitch later it was dark and also the rock quality took a turn for the worse. Pete led an unpleasant bouldery 5.12 with some loose boulders on it. We descended from this point as the climbing didn't seem as good, and we had planned to descend from a pitch higher in any case. We were both really pleased with the day, it had been a brilliant day of climbing.

Five days, two and a half climbing and two and a half sheltering under the portaledge fly. The climbing was excellent and using the fly in anger for the first time was exciting, especially since our options for descending were very limited by only having one 50m rope not tied to the cliff above us! It was worrying at the time, especially the night of nearly non-stop thunder and lightning when there were flashes more than once a second at some points. A great adventure in retrospect which, for better or for worse, makes us feel much more relaxed about getting back on the wall with rain forecast.

Cool 5.12 pitch
Jugging back up on Monday

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