Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Ascents at Woodfords

After living in Reno for over a year I heard of a place simply known as "Woodfords." Marissa and Laine Christman first introduced me to this unique climbing area over the last year.

Woodfords Main Climbing Area
A few crude online topos exist but many routes are still not recorded in any guide. The climbing is on a series of granite towers and ridges that form a series of couloirs. The routes tend to be stout and require climbers to be accomplished at the climbing grade in general. Though primarily a cragging area (most routes are less than 2 pitches), the alpine feel and the 1/2 hour uphill approach in loose sand make outings not for the faint of heart.

On a couple of cold days this November Laine and I began to explore what we believe is previously untouched rock. The first day we explored a couloir on the eastern side of the formation.

Laine and his new Tacoma.  Our first ascent can be seen in the background.

After slogging up the sandy slope on game trails we spotted several potential new climbs. Ultimately we decided to try to climb a section of rock that appeared to be about 200 feet of good looking granite. I asked Laine if he wanted the lead but he stated that I had spotted this particular line. As I roped up the excitement of climbing previously untouched rock filled my head. Although I have now climbed many first ascents all over the west there is still that tingling in your fingertips and a tinge of fear in the back of your head. More than once I have found that things up there don't always go as they look from down here.

The Route

The line that we had decided on would climb a chimney section then I would have to traverse on what appeared to be knobs on a face to another crack system that we hoped would take us to the top. Would the rock be solid or like potato chips glued to the face? Would the cracks be full of death flakes that could cut my rope or injure Laine on the ground? Forgetting the thoughts of doubt I headed up with a full accoutrement of gear.

Preparing for takeoff

Heading up the chimney at first was not as easy as it looks but soon I was at the knobs where I was to traverse. They looked big enough but I was still not comfortable with the rock quality here and knowing that if one broke I was going to take an exciting ride. Luckily they looked quite solid. The move proved fun and exhilarating and I had made it across to the crack.

Traversing on face features

I jettisoned a few loose flakes from the hand size crack and then continued up interesting cracks. Above a large pillar made up the left side of the crack. I decided to climb this pillar which had nice face features but also had a hallow sound to it. It ended at a yellowish band of rock with some large blocks. I gently made my way through these hoping not to pull one loose that could sever the rope or pummel down on Laine below. As I continued up I moved through the crux of the climb, a short offwidth section (a crack bigger than hands but not big enough to wedge your body inside). The rock quality was superb here and mercifully the rock provided a key foothold to make the moves easier. This led to further hand size cracks above and soon I was on top of the feature.

I was climbing on a 70 meter rope but still didn't have much rope to spare. I am guessing the route to be about 200 feet tall. Laine followed the route with no problem although he felt the pillar was a scary feature. After high fives on top we explored the next couloir over. Like two school boys viewing their first porn magazine we were giddy with excitement for what we saw before us. At least 2 more great climbs probably never done before!

I wanted to take a closer look and scrambled up the easy terrain to get a closer look.

Exploring new climbs

Overcome with excitement I dove into a fun and secure chimney sans rope. Squirming my way up I reached a constriction in the chimney.

Entering the Chimney
Deep in "Don't blow it" land

I paused. . . . not really wanting to downclimb this section I committed to coming out of the chimney. A few insecure moves and I latched a nice jug of a hold. Mantling up I continued up the crack and into an alcove. Two apparent exits to the route appeared. I chose a steeper but more solid looking exit to the left that led to a tight squeeze through a slot. Probably not the kind of thing my mom wants me doing but this was a fun side endeavor for the day.

Laine and I vowed to return to climb this route from a more obvious start and several other appealing climbs.

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