First First Free Ascent. A little over a week ago I made the first first free ascent of a climbing route in my life. I have to give part of the credit to Josh as well since he bolted it and we both cleaned it.

Josh and I had scouted out several possible lines before deciding upon a cool arete/corner feature on a slabby section of cliff line. We hiked up to the top and built a pretty burly anchor for the first rappel down to see the climb was even possible. Upon the first rappel Josh found a refrigerator sized boulder delicately perched on the edge of cliff. He barely nudge it with his foot and the boulder declared it’s desire to become part of the scree field below. With a slightly harder nudge Josh fulfilled the boulders desire and every creature in the forest must have heard the thundering boom as the refrigerator sized boulder fell a hundred feet or so to it’s desired fate. I was glad I was on top of the cliff at this point.

We attempted to climb a direct route into the cool feature we had eyed from below. However, the only hold at the beginning was a razor sharp mono pocket and no feet. The arete/corner also proved difficult but interesting and possibly a future variation. Determined to get up this wall one way or another, Josh started to find some weaknesses and small holds hidden under flakes and lichen. Before he knew it what had appeared to be a blank face was turning into a fun climb. I went up to check it out for myself. As I climbed the sun set and I found myself climbing blind with no light and all the holds covered in lichen. We would have to wait until morning.

With fresh daylight on the route we made fairly quick work finding some holds that appeared would work and not break off. Josh put in 10 bolts and we had 65-70 feet of a new rock climbing route. Upon the final decent Josh also pulled off a dinner table sized flake that we had previously been using for a hold. I don’t want to think of the situation if this had pulled off as we used it for a hold. And I wasn’t even carrying my Leatherman. After lunch, before we had to head back to Las Cruces, I had enough time to try the first free ascent. It went cleanly and the climb felt so good. We decided to name it Warm Handshake and it gets a solid eleven points on the Yosemtie decimal rock climbing grading system.

Route names. Route names are kind of silly. Not just the name itself but the whole idea of putting a name on a piece of rock, especially only 65 feet of a piece of rock or 10 feet of a piece of rock in the case of bouldering. I guess the name makes for ease of conversation when going on about all the different ways one spent hours and hours of their time groping rock. Coming up with names is also a fun camp fire past time. I imagine coming up with rock climbing route names to be about as assuming as creating roller derby names. Usually off color and always ridiculous. Maybe the route name at least sheds some light on the climb or holds an inside joke that a few can get a kick out of. In the whole scheme of things I hope route names and grades don’t detract from a fun rock climb and anyone climbing it enjoys it for what it is and not how it will improve their status in the throngs of rock groping enthusiasts. If you climb this new climb or any climb for that matter and enjoy it forthe sake of good climbing, friends and places I will shake you warmly by the hand.

Also fun, catching toads with a five year old.


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