Dealing with exposure – Iconoclast – 5.10C/5.11A – 10/4/2015

Aaron and I spent last weekend in Leavenworth, WA, seeking the last bit of sun before the usual grayness.

We spent the first day doing some casual climbing on Icicle Buttress. Aaron was the designated leader of the day. I followed him up a first fun legit 5.8 crack, then we did some dirty easy climbing to gain “Cocaine Crack”. Aaron did really well on it while I was enjoying a sunny belay. He then went up another dirty way to the top of the Buttress. We had just watched the “Masters of Stone”, which probably gave him the desire to run up (dirty) slabs.

Cocaine crack – 5.10a

The next day we woke up early to beat the crowds on Snow Creek Wall, starting hiking at dawn. It turns out it was not that crowded. Bizarre. The goal of the day was “Iconoclast”, a 5.10C multipitch route with several 5.11a variations.

Aaron lead the first 5.8 traverse pitch. This climb is scary to me because of the major swing potential. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s the easiest way up. He dealt with major drag. In retrospect, let’s take more slings!

Iconoclast pitch 1 – “Remorse” traverse

Then here goes “Psychopath”, a 5.11a sweet crack that I would love take home with me and do every morning. I love all the technical movements one has to do on this. I still hanged and fell at the crux, but the 5.10+ above is not too much trouble. This pitch is really short, but requires all my brain.

Aaron lead cleanly the next 5.10a pitch. That roof looks impressive but is “easy” to pull. The belay station up there was scary to me. We were sitting on that gigantic block that seems detached. It doesn’t feel really good. We actually stayed there longer than planned because we let the people behind us pass. They seemed to have this route dialed and the leader was really fast.

Me on top of P3, Iconoclast
Me on top of P3, Iconoclast

After a sandwich break on that scary block, I started leading the 5.10C pitch. The wind and exposure was getting at me, I was feeling a little stressed. This pitch is interesting: starts with a left facing corner, then traverse to the left with some down stepping slab moves to gain a dirty looking right facing corner / with bulges / roofs. Hard to describe. It was really boulder-y, not the type of climbing I am confident leading. I was speaking to myself out loud, working out the moves to reassure me. After all, I can do this. Moving up wasn’t that hard, but felt heady. I placed small cams up to 0.5 on this. Protection was good but it wasn’t a continuous crack you can just plug cams in above your head. Pretty proud of myself on that one for pushing through.

Aaron then tried the next pitch but bailed at the bolt. I then tried, but I honestly already had the desire to bail / rappel down at that point. Moving past the bolt looked fine, but I was really worried about the chickenhead run-out climbing after it. It didn’t seem worth it, although I could have pushed it. I guess I didn’t really care at that moment, but now I feel lame.

How can I learn to deal with run out exposed climbing? I’ve done some of it, but usually after easier pitches. I didn’t try because I knew I would be scared. Would not knowing about it be better? In my case, I think so. But it’s hard to say.

I am not sure if I am pushing too hard. I’d like to think I am not, but maybe I am. Maybe I think too much too, that’s what my friends say. I feel technically able to lead some 5.10+, but how many am I mentally able to do in a day? The exposure while climbing harder is definitely affecting me too. Will that get better by doing more of it? I like to think that I just need to get more experience. I’m also looking forward to doing longer easier multipitch routes in Red Rocks in Thanksgiving, see how that goes.

I really enjoy technical climbing, and I like the adventure of mutipitch routes. But sometimes I’m not sure I have what it takes to combine the two.

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