Nor-Easter 2010: Saturday Climbing
Saturday morning we gathered at the dining canopy for an early start. The objective was to beat the ‘crack of noon’ club at the crag and be back for the UBC finals, so we planned for an 8am departure from the campground in the Loon Mountain parking. Coffee in hand, we left around 9… the late start may or may not have been related to the beer consumed Friday night. Spirits were high; we were all pretty anxious to get on some rock and gain some altitude.
We didn’t know exactly where we were going yet. George and Patrick had suggested checking out Cathedral Ledge. George had been there previously for ice climbing, but none of us had climbed the rock there. We figured a stop at IME in North Conway to pick up a guidebook would be the first order of the day. So we set off, a convoy of three cars bearing plates from two different States and one Province.
After reviewing the guidebook (we were looking for something easy) we decided on trying out Child’s Play. It was soaked (as in covered in running water, not just a little bit wet). We checked out a few other possible routes, admired the boulders at the base of the crag, and then headed back to the cars for plan B. After some discussion, we decided we’d head back towards Loon Mountain and try to get some climbs in on Rainbow Slabs.
Unlike Cathedral Ledge and Rumney, there is no parking at the base of Rainbow Slabs. We instead parked on the side of the highway and hiked our way in, which makes things WAY more fun, and generally less crowded.
The first part of the hike involved fording a stream. We were maybe 50 feet from the cars when Rachel’s foot slipped and she fell in. She wasn’t hurt, and with a big grin on her face we hopped from boulder to boulder across the water. After a quick scramble up the other side, we found the trail and started picking up the pace. All of us were talking about how much we were enjoying the hike, and how we were looking forward to the climb.
As we approached the base of the crag, the trail faded away and we bushwhacked the rest of the way up. The conversation turned from “can’t wait to climb” to “are we going to be able to find our way back?” and “even if today is just a hike, it’s an epic day”. We pushed on and found the base of Rainbow Slabs.
At the base of the crag, we quickly dropped our packs and geared up. Patrick and Bill jumped on The Perfect Wave [thanks for the link Katie!!], but abandoned their attempts since the route was extremely runout. The rest of us explored further to the left looking for something a little more protectable. After some debate,we agreed to try Face Dances, a 5.6 slab route with a single bolt mid-way up and a rap anchor after the first pitch. The guidebook mentioned that the route went up ‘moon scoops’… we were intrigued.
George led the route placing only 2 or 3 pieces including clipping the bolt mid-way. The rap anchor was further up than we expected… George ran out of rope and Aleya had to move about 30 feet up to keep him on belay and give him enough rope to reach the anchor. Aleya cleaned the route trailing a second rope, and rapped back down quickly so we could all have a chance to climb. George set himself to belay us all from the top – thanks for making the sacrifice and looking at that view for a couple of hours!
The route itself was an easy climb. The rock was dry and grippy, the sun was shining, and aside from a burn in my calves from 200 feet of smearing, I felt great on the way up. Roughly halfway up the texture of the rock changed. It was covered in these bizarre crescent-shaped indents, almost like a giant golf ball… Moon Scoops! The route steepened a bit, then flattened out again, and there was George, sitting on a 6″ deep ledge cut into the slab.
I tied in to the anchor, took my pack off, took a couple of pictures, and enjoyed the view. A few minutes later I was rapping back down.
Back at the bottom, James tied Rachel in for her first climb ever. I gave her a couple of lockers to anchor in at the top, and up she went. You would have had no idea that it was her first climb… no nerves, no fear, she went straight up. The only evidence of it being her first climb was the grin on her face when George finished lowering her.
AJ asked how the view was… I sarcastically replied “awful, just awful”. He climbed up and down quickly, whining that nobody loved him because Aleya didn’t ask how he was doing while he climbed (she was busy teaching Bill and I how to escape a belay) followed by James. Bill was busy free-soloing the route just to the right of us. George rapped down, we packed up and started hiking back. Bill led the way along a dry creek bed that took us straight back to the stream and our cars. All the way down we were grinning, disappointed only by the fact that we had too many people and not enough time to do the second pitch of the route. That will have to wait for next year.
Back at the Nor’Easter grounds, we found the tents, poured some “water” into our Nalgenes and sat back reflecting on the day’s adventure. Things hadn’t gone according to plan, but aside from missing out on free beer at the Black Diamond happy hour, I don’t think any of us could have been happier with the day’s adventure.