From January 2013
Gertch’s Folly has been on my list of Organ “to do” climbs for a while. It is considered one of the classics but is seldomly climbed. I had once tried to figure out the approach from the west side but spent a solid three hours with Andy and three dogs, wading through gully after gully of cat claw. I couldn’t even force my way through. We never reached the rock before deciding to turn around. Probably the worst day of bushwacking in the Organs. Hard to believe this was once considered one of the easiest approaches, according to Reed Cundiff. A lot of cat claw has grown over the trail since those days.
Marta, once again, knew a better approach to Gertch. This time I would try from Aquirre Springs, on the east side of the range. She had hiked up to the saddle of Big Windy Canyon on the way to the Low Horns. From this saddle, I figured we could drop down Big Windy on the west side and make our way to Gertch. We would also be walking off to the saddle after the climb, making for a convenient location to drop our packs.
Michael Baker was my latest victim/partner for climbing in the Organs on this occasion. Enthusiastic and willing partners for Organeering are hard to come by but Michael fit the bill. We hiked up Pine Tree Trail for a little ways and then headed up a gully following Marta’s directions which included: a big log, a balloon in a tree and advice not to get out of the gully too soon or otherwise we’d be scrambling up loose ground or wading through brush. I thought this was mandatory for any approach in the Organs. We found the log, no balloon and got out of the gully too soon and slowly crawled up the loose ground, rocks and prickly vegetation to the saddle. This only took a little over an hour but felt longer. We ate, dropped packs and oogled at the Pyramid of the South Rabbit Ear.
The way down Big Windy Canyon wasn’t really hard but not that easy either. There were cairns scattered in the boulder scree but also a lot of trudging through scrub oak, apache plume and rocks. Again we bailed out of the gully, probably too soon, and hacked our way across some prickly stuff and up to the base of the climb. Two hours and forty five minutes, but still not bad.
I led the first pitch that turned out to be pretty chossy and cold (holds ice in the winter after precipitation). The bottom of this route stays in the shade for most of the day. The belay, at an small tree, was in the sun though. It starts on some chossy rock, moves into a chimney and then busts out to the left and a tree for a nice belay.
Michael took us on up and into the sun on a large, grassy belay ledge at the top of pitch two. The rock was slowly improving but still a little chossy.
Third pitch had a little bouldery start through an overhanging crack, with an old pin in it. Looked like one could also go straight up on some run out slab as well. The overhang wasn’t bad and protected well. The fourth pitch goes up a right facing corner.
The fifth pitch traversed out a slab and turned a corner with a tricky step over move and some great exposure. There are some old bolts at this belay. Fortunately, a good gear anchor can be built above them.
The sixth pitch is the “money pitch” and where the 5.9 rating comes from. It is a serious of small, clean roofs with a reachy move to a blind hold at the top. All this with great exposure.
The summit is hardly a summit from any other perspective except the one of the route. The Gertch summit is just below the northern most low horn and can actually be easily scrambled from the Big Windy Canyon saddle. At least it makes for an easy descent. Climbing doesn’t always mean taking the easiest route up!