Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Slab hunt

Coming into the winter feeling my strongest ever on overhangs, I feel like I never really put that strength to use before it started to fade away.  At least it's been a good slab year.

Three weekends ago I got a chance to get on one that I've been wanting to climb for a long time.  Tucked in a back corridor at Bushwhack, I originally envisioned it as a short toprope when I came across it three years ago. Nothing really came of it back then.

                                                                                      Photo: Nate Hathaway
In the last year I kept finding myself thinking about it and wondering if there were holds at the top.  By that point, every other line on the face had been done over pads, and I wanted to do this one too.  I probably would have tried it sooner, but a rocky pit on the right side of the landing and a leaning tree right down the middle made me walk away every time.  Finally on my trip out with Jsun and Rachel, I dropped a rope and found out that there was enough on the upper face to make it possible.  I even decided to avoid the left diagonal seam that I had originally tried using, staying entirely between the tree and the perched boulder above.  The landing was terrifying and the hardest climbing was at the top, but it was all there.

Wanting to get back and finish it up before the weather got too warm, and knowing that weekends weren't a possibility for a few weeks, I accepted Katelyn's offer of a Friday afternoon spot.  True, I had originally said I wouldn't even touch the slab without John Brunson below to catch me, but I figured if Katelyn had already managed to find ninja beta through so many people's projects, she probably had some sort of tiny person spotting sorcery as well.

While I was brushing off the holds, Katelyn rigged the Pro Spotter pad up to the tree, so at least any broken bones wouldn't be under a layer of nasty abrasions.

After a few runs on toprope to convince myself it was a good idea, I cleared my head and went for it.

Happy with not breaking myself, I put my harness back on and dropped the rope so Katelyn could give it a try. She couldn't reach the high mono crystal that I used at the top, so she settled for a worse one just above waist level, and rocked her foot up high to crank to the good sidepull for the finish.

So what now?  Last week when I realized how weak I had gotten on the system board, I was ready to throw myself fully back into overhang training once I had knocked this thing out.  Now I'm not so sure.  I can get overhang strong again any time I want, but right now I think it's time for a slab hunt.  I think I've finished off all of the hardest ones in MD so far, but I can't help feeling that there are even thinner ones we just haven't seen yet, and I can already think of a few in neighboring states that I'd love to take a shot at.

And speaking of big plans, check out Katelyn's fundraising page for her upcoming expedition to the Wind River Range in support of the at-risk teens served by the Big City Mountaineers.

Here's a bit of video from Friday's climb.

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