Upper Refuse in 30 minutes, one pitch

I know people who solo Upper Refuse in less than 10 minutes, so we are not trying to break any free-solo records here. I would like to share in detail what I think is a really fun (and relatively safe) way to cruise this classic moderate route if you, and your partner, are quite comfortable at the grade (for arguments sake let’s say 5.6+). A little back-story is in order…

About 10 years ago I was sitting with my buddy Rob at the well known “Moat” watering hole after climbing somewhere. We had just finished our 2nd mugs of libation and somehow the conversation made its way to Upper Refuse. I think it was because we were talking about how full length pitches on a recent Red Rocks trip were changing our perception. I mentioned that the three pitch Upper Refuse route could be done in one 60 meter pitch. Rob balked. We told the bartender to leave the tab open, we would be right back.

Bar-stool to bar-stool we took 58 minutes.

Here’s the detailed beta on how to not only climb this route quickly, but with only 2 slings to manage rope drag! Obvious detailed spoilers ahead:

1) Drive to the top of Cathedral. Rack up at the car. My slimmed down rack after a couple hundred ascents of this moderate (in order of placement, all Black Diamond C4’s):

.4, .5, 1, 2, .3, .75

2 alpine draws.

No nuts, tri-cams, etc… cams are faster for all involved.

Slow jog down the climbers trail and take the Barber Wall approach trail to the base of the route.

Rope up.

If you take the left-then-right variations of this ramp, you can have almost no rope drag and reach the 2 pin anchor at the top of the 3rd pitch in a 60m rope stretch using only 2 extend alpine draws (and 6 pieces of judiciously placed pro).

Proceed as follows:

Stay in the corner and climb easy 5.3-5.4ish face until about 40 feet up. A perfect splitter crack on the left side of the corner takes a .4 up high, clip straight to the sewn draw.

Stay close to the corner and wander right just a bit before stemming out to a great stance with a tapering crack about level with the traditional 1st pitch anchor 20 feet right. Bomber .5, clipped direct as well.

As the flaring crack ends step right to great foot holds and up to what I think of as the 5.6 crux. Bomber #1, clipped direct as well, before making a few steps up to easier climbing and crossing over the traditional chimney section of the route.

#2 placed under the small roof before making the side pull move up and right to leave the original chimney corner variation (extend with alpine draw). Staying in the original chimney is less exposed but adds to much drag.

Reach the 2nd Belay Ledge, then .3 placed in the left side twin cracks after making one easy step up off the ledge, and clipped direct.

Move up and out right on great foot holds, place the .75 in the nice horizontal 10 feet from the top of the ramp, clipped with the other extended alpine draw, and finish the ramp. Your belayer may need to remove their belay device for you to reach the pins.

Looking down the route the rope runs very straight and there is minimal drag.

This past week I got to run up this with my friends Christa and Jason and as a party of 3 we went car-to-car in 35 minutes.

I would strongly discourage someone from trying this unless the had already climbed the route a few times to get acquainted. A good warm up would be to combine P1&P2 staying left so you have better communication with your second. It is quite possible with a “short 60″ your belayer may need to start climbing a few feet before you can reach the pins, so both climbers should be very competent at the grade. This past session I skipped the pins at the top of the ramp and continued all the way up to the fence, knowing my two partners where super solid at the grade.

This is a crazy busy route in the summer, especially on weekends. Traffic from Fun House, Three Birches & Bombardment, can bottle-neck here around noon-2pm almost every nice day of the summer. My advice? Climb it really early, or later in the day. Using the Barber Wall approach trail can make it a quick adventure (getting lost finding the Barber Wall approach trail can make it a long adventure).

For someone that is really comfortable on 5.6, it is a really stellar climb to combine the whole ramp into one pitch. Don’t hose your second though! If they have never climbed Upper Refuse slow down and let them enjoy it! Stop at the Bombardment Pin anchor, the cozy 2nd pitch ledge, the top of the ramp, and add a fun 4th pitch right to the fence to give them that feeling of “finishing” on the top of the cliff.

But… if you’ve climbed it dozens of times, and want to stretch your lungs & legs… well… have at it. I’m pretty sure you could car-to-car it in under 20 minutes (and still be on belay where it matters). That’s my next goal when I feel like doing something stupid.

Thanks for reading… oh, pictures from a great week with good friends from New Paltz!

Jason starts up Wanderlust, 5.8, Humphrey's Ledge

EMS Schools Guide Jason Hurwitz starts up Wanderlust, 5.8, Humphrey’s Ledge

Christa starts her first 5.9 lead, They Died Laughing, Cathedral Ledge

Christa starts her first 5.9 lead, They Died Laughing, Cathedral Ledge

Great rest before...

Great rest before…

A great bit of climbing...

A great bit of climbing…

Looking relaxed

Looking relaxed

Some visiting Adirondack climbers were looking for a diversion since the well known North End routes were a bit occupied so I steered them to the great over-looked gem, originally call “The Roof” but now currently called “Raise the Roof” after a more recent 2nd pitch has been added. I hope they stop by here for the pics I offered:

Raise the Roof

Raise the Roof

Reaching the roof...

Reaching the roof…

That’s it! Thanks again for reading. Been a bit humid for my skin but cool Fall air is just around the corner! Oh, wait… it’s not August yet? Well, Camelbak climbing weather continues then!

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

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AMC Teen Wild Adventure Camp and another Learn to Lead Day

Last week I got to spend 3 days with a great group of kids partaking in week long Teen Wilderness Adventure Summer Camp and finished my work week yesterday with a private Learn to Lead & Self-Rescue course with repeat client Spencer. First, some pics of these motivated kids:

T-shirt says it all!

T-shirt says it all!

Abby enjoying the classic "Chimney"

Abby enjoying the classic “Chimney”

Our group on pitch 4 of Beginner's Route

Our group on pitch 4 of Beginner’s Route

Kevin's group heading down Cormier-Magness route

Kevin’s group heading down Cormier-Magness route

Top of pitch 4 of Beginner's Route

Top of pitch 4 of Beginner’s Route

Abby on Kiddy Crack

Abby on Kiddy Crack

Yesterday I got to head back out with Spencer. I’d climbed quite a bit of ice with Spencer at Mt. Willard, Frankenstein, and Cathedral, but we hadn’t climbed any rock yet together. Spencer had started to lead climb and wanted to work on his trad skills. We had an info packed morning session at the scenic “classroom” ledge before climbing Upper Refuse, and setting up some mock leads at the North End to round out our day. Despite questionable weather forecasts it was a perfect day!

Spencer finishes up Upper Refuse

Spencer finishes up Upper Refuse

Congrats to Travis D. who won the gear giveaway contest from my last post. He’ll be the proud new owner of an excellent harness knife by Colonial Knives!

Stay tuned tomorrow for my review on the Petzl Cordex Belay Gloves!

PETZL Men's Cordex Belay Gloves

PETZL Men’s Cordex Belay Gloves

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains!

-NEAlpineStart

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Learn to Lead, Or Self Rescue? (And Gear Giveaway!)

EMS offers two courses in regards to the subject, a 3-Day Learn to Lead Course, and a 2-Day Self Rescue Course. However I most commonly provide this type of material in a one-day Private Course format. Yesterday, it was with three EMS Manchester Retail Store employees taking advantage of the excellent employee benefit of a few free lessons every year!

Today it was with a father of 2 young girls who had some experience taking them top-roping in Pawtuckaway State Park, but has yet to actually start leading. The truth is, most guide services offer this type of program, but the contents can vary from guide service to guide service, and even from guide to guide within a particular service. In this post I plan to “free flow spew” in detail how I approach this topic, and if you can stay with me to the end I’ll let you know how you can be the proud owner of a sweet new knife from Colonial Knives!

The first thing I’ll say about “Learn to Lead” curriculum as the topic is massive in scope, and for most aspiring lead climbers there is quite a bit of ground work that should be laid before tying into the “sharp end” and taking responsibility for someone else’s security. In fact there are skills that one should be moderately proficient at even if one only intends to set up top-ropes for family & friends. Without further ado I’ll start prescribing how I typically approach a day like this…

After traveling to Cathedral Ledge we drive to the top of the cliff. A short hike brings us to the scenic “Classroom”, where we review the basics of placing traditional gear in cracks.

We systematically cover;

Passive Protection: Nuts, Tri-Cams, Natural Protection

Active Protection: Tri-Cams (actively placed), Cams

Then we cover anchoring strategies. Single point anchors. Dual point anchors. Tri-point anchors. Joining methods;

Magic-X “aka Sliding X”. Limiting knots. Pre-equalized. Combination anchors. The still popular pre-equalized cordelette method. The newer and sweet “Quad” method.

At this point it’s time to demonstrate a great method for extending a top-rope anchor 40 feet out over the edge to get the rope hanging perfect. Scene safety strategies are discussed. Easy ways to use your static rope with a clove-hitch, belay device, Gri-Gri, or just a friction hitch, to safe guard you near the cliff edge.

Then the “BHK“, or Big Honking Knot, is introduced as we extend our “Master Point” out over the edge and make it redundant while never having to get close to the edge. Tips & tricks of the trade here are abundant.

Now that we have a sweet TR over the 40 foot Classroom Ledge we hike down to the base to cover:

Bottom top-rope site considerations. Belayer position/anchoring strategies. Direct belay off ground anchors, the “how’s & why’s”.

At this point it is important to introduce some real life motivation as to why one should be able to “Escape the Belay“. Skills introduced and practiced:

“Muleing” off a plate style belay device to go “hands free” (Black Diamond ATC, Petzl Reverso)

Transferring the load to a ground anchor via a friction hitch & Munter-Mule.

After practice getting proficient at that I introduce “Ascending a loaded line” and “plucking” a climber off the wall via a Counter-Balance Rappel.

At this point some readers, especially some with vast amounts of climbing experience, might question why are these skills necessary? When would I need to do this?

This type of training is preparing for quite a few “worst case” scenarios. A climber on top-rope gets their <insert body part> completely stuck in a crack. You can’t lower them, and you must go up the rope in order to assist.

Perhaps more likely, especially for more experience climbers who wish to be competent “seconds” on multi-pitch traditional rock climbs… what if that experienced climber who is taking you up Moby Grape whips, catches the rope behind his leg, and knocks himself out? Can you escape the belay and ascend the loaded rope quickly to provide potentially life saving first aid? Can you get that injured climber down 4 pitches?

This type of skill self-improvement is not over the top. The annual Accidents in North American Mountaineering publication has quite a fair amount of accidents where the belayer was left feeling helpless while they could do nothing more than hold the brake strand and call 911…. then…. wait.

As climbers who choose to put themselves in a high-risk environment we owe it to our families and friends to learn basic skills to get ourselves off a cliff after an unfortunate event.

Ok, off my soap box and back to our day…

After another belay escape & leader rescue we hike back up to the anchors. A little time is spent looking at ways one can “anchor in” on a multi-pitch climb;

A girth-hitched sling, a Metolius PAS, using the climbing rope; Overhand on a bight, Figure-8, Clove Hitch.

Throughout we discuss the advantages & disadvantages of each strategy. An example of how to “thread to lower”, a great method of cleaning & lowering off of a sport climb is demonstrated.

Then we go over techniques for belaying a second; Direct off the harness. Re-directs through the anchor. Direct off the anchor; munter-hitch, BD ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso. Then the all important “How to lower a climber off an auto-locking plate device“.

By now, it is time for lunch, so we retreat to the scenic Airation Buttress for some grub and less techno-bauble chat.

For the afternoon I wanted to demonstrate some multi-pitch efficiency, but first a look a rappelling efficiency is in order. We hike down to the top of the Barber Wall. Here we discuss the inspection of rappel anchors. Systematically; tree, slingage, linkage, middle-points, rope-management “back-stacking”, etiquette in tossing ropes, pre-rigging, back-ups, all discussed, demo’d, and practiced… and down the wall we go.

At the base of the Barber Wall we review the difference between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th class climbing… “Oh, so that’s why it is a 5.8″! We then short-rope ourselves over to Upper Refuse, happy to have a rope on for the short 4th class step just before our destination climb.

Now, at 1pm, we actually start to climb. Discussion on the when & why of placing gear, the mental components, and efficiency in cleaning gear is covered. We arrive at the first belay ledge, and the first photo of the day is finally taken:

Echo Lake in the background, and Ken was eyeing Black Crack as a cool feature to climb!

Echo Lake in the background, and Ken was eyeing Black Crack as a cool feature to climb!

Here we look at using “fixed” protection to anchor in with. Two pitons, and a cam I placed, form a perfect “combination anchor” employing the use of both the “Magic-X” and the pre-equalized double length sling.

Belay transitions slow more climbers down than almost any other skill so we talk about what can happen to make these transitions smoother, and then I’m off on the next two pitches. The required great shot at the top of the Upper Refuse ramp:

I know I have a lot of these shots on my blog! I need to put a college together at some point!

I know I have a lot of these shots on my blog! I need to put a college together at some point!

After topping out Ken had plenty of energy to burn so we took a run up The Lookout Crack (5.9), a short but fun & technical finger crack. We had about a half-hour left to squeeze something more out of our day, and since Ken was up for a burn I decided to lower him down the last pitch of The Prow (5.10a).

Classic climbing + outlandish exposure = FUN

Classic climbing + outlandish exposure = FUN

It goes without saying we covered a tremendous amount of technical material today. It was clear within our first hour on the cliff Ken was picking up information that would help him take his daughters rock climbing in a more efficient, and possibly even safer, manner after our day together. I had the feeling at the end of the day, back at the shop, while I helped Ken pick out a few pieces here & there to flush out “his kit”, that I’d see him again. He has the desire to improve, the determination to gain confidence, and an all around easy-going nature that would see him do well in anything he strives to do. I’m looking forward to climbing with him again, whether on the rock, or this winter for a taste of ice.

Now that that recap is over lets look at potentially winning a sweet new knife to hang off the back of your harness!

BC102-2013-w670

We will keep this competition super simple! No Facebook likes needed, (though you can still like NEAlpineStart here if you want). All you need to do to get an entry for this $70 MRSP knife I reviewed here is comment below on how you “learned to lead”. If you haven’t learned to lead yet comment on why you haven’t. Or just comment. One comment = one entry. One entry per person. Comment by 11:59PM on 7/24/15. Drawing held on 7/25/15 and announced on this blog and via email.

Up next, a review on the Petzl Men’s Cordex Belay Gloves! Preview, they are pretty damn sweet (as far as belay gloves can be)!

PETZL Men's Cordex Belay Gloves

PETZL Men’s Cordex Belay Gloves

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains!

-NEAlpineStart

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AMC Adventure Camp and a Learn to Lead Course

Yesterday I went out with 10 AMC Adventure Camp kids and a couple counselors to Square Ledge. It was your typical awesome day in the mountains:

Today I got to hang with 3 Eastern Mountain Sports Store Guides from our Manchester, NH location. All three had quite a bit of previous climbing experience so the focus was on leading skills, and therefore some self-rescue skills. We started at “The Classroom” and reviewed some anchor skills before learning belay escapes & leader rescue skills. After lunch we cruised up Upper Refuse with a focus on belay transfers & efficiency. Definitely a fun day out!

Mary works on the skills needed to escape a belay

Mary works on the skills needed to escape a belay

Mary ascends the rope to

Mary ascends the rope to “rescue” Bill

The Manchester crew hangs out together

The Manchester crew hangs out together

Mary & Matt close to the top

Mary & Matt close to the top

I’m heading out again tomorrow for another lead skills course, but I’m also itching to give away another one of these awesome Colonial Knives that I reviewed a few months ago. Stay tuned for how to enter to win one in my next post!

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

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Private Rock Climbing with Kat & Hardy (and Wilderness Navigation blurb)

I was fortunate to spend the July 4th holiday with yet another awesome couple. While Hardy has dragged Kat along on some long fly fishing trips this birthday present was all about Kat and reconnecting to her passion through a private rock climbing course. Given the expected crowds on a beautiful Saturday, July 4th, I decided to reverse the flow a bit and we started the day by rappelling down Barber Wall and climbing Upper Refuse first thing in the morning.

No question, she's having a good time!

No question, she’s having a good time!

Look at that face!

Look at that face!

This couple was so cute & supportive of each other through-out, it was really awesome hanging out with them for the day!

This couple was so cute & supportive of each other through-out, it was really awesome hanging out with them for the day!

Kat remembers how she used to coil rope

Kat remembers how she used to coil rope

After topping out to a very crowded vista we enjoyed a bit of lunch over on Airation Buttress. For the afternoon we headed over to Whitehorse Ledge. It was the first time I’ve seen the rockfall from this past Spring near the Dike Route, quite impressive!

Recent rockfall below the Dike Route

Recent rockfall below the Dike Route

Kat wanted to work on some gear placement skills so we set up shop on Beezlebub Corner. We did a couple of laps on that, one where Kat did a “mock” lead”.

Hardy liked climbs with big hand holds... if you got guns might as well use them!

Hardy liked climbs with big hand holds… if you got guns might as well use them!

Kat was also looking for a burn before wrapping up the day so I dropped a top-rope on the 5.10a test piece, Seventh Seal. With a tight belay and a few rests both made it up the route, a great ending to a full day!

Kat dancing up to Seventh Seal... having a past in competitive ballet definitely helps your climbing!

Kat dancing up to Seventh Seal… having a past in competitive ballet definitely helps your climbing!

The connection these two share was quite apparent through-out the day. Between “atta-boy’s” and “go get it’s” they had just the right amount of loving encouragement without living inside a Hallmark card. It was a real pleasure to climb with them both and if I’m right about Hardy, and I think I am, I’ll be seeing them both this upcoming winter for a spot of ice climbing. and maybe a Mount Washington climb!

Today also concluded another Wilderness Navigation Course. Emily & Al joined me for the day while we covered the in’s & out’s of survival navigation, map skills, compasses, and bushwhacking. A bushwhack up Hurricane Mountain and some compass work out on Black Cap… It was a good day to tramp about in the woods!

Our circuit

Our circuit

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

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Private Rock Climbing with Ty & Maria

Yesterday I had the pleasure of introducing Floridians Ty & Maria to rock climbing in New Hampshire. This adventurous couple had a great sense of humor and positive energy through-out our day. We climbed 4 pitches on Whitehorse, rappelled the Barber Wall, and finished up Upper Refuse in the afternoon.

Walking up to Whitehorse Ledge

Walking up to Whitehorse Ledge

A low flying military C-130?

A low flying military C-130?

Looking down Pitch 2 of Beginners Route

Looking down Pitch 2 of Beginners Route

Looking down Pitch 4

Looking down Pitch 4

During our descent

During our descent

Our scenic lunch spot with Whitehorse Lunch in the background

Our scenic lunch spot with Whitehorse Ledge in the background

Rappelling the Barber Wall

Rappelling the Barber Wall

Pitch 2 of Upper Refuse

Pitch 2 of Upper Refuse

Looking down pitch 3 of Upper Refuse

Looking down pitch 3 of Upper Refuse

It seemed to be quite a memorable day for both and I’ll remember their cheerfulness even as I introduced them to a hanging belay on a crowded Upper Refuse. Hope to see you both up here again sometime!

I also just finished two days with YMCA Camp Frost Valley and will have pics from that posted soon! Heading back out tomorrow for another 2 person private rock climbing lesson and the weather for the 4th of July looks awesome!

Happy 4th of July everyone! See you in the mountains!

-NEAlpineStart

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Less-Traveled Classic Moderates on Cathedral Ledge

When you think of Cathedral Ledge moderate rock climbs what comes to mind?

You’re probably thinking of Fun House, Upper Refuse, Toe Crack, and Thin Air. Mountain Project agrees as they are the “only” classics sub 5.8. They are great routes, with long and rich history, and sometimes long lines. There are some less traveled moderates that, for a solid 5.7 leader, can provide some of the best situations & climbing anywhere on the cliff… and they never have a line!

Today Tom and I took a tour of them…

Pitch 2 of Diagonal (160 feet of the best 5.4 in New England)

Pitch 2 of Diagonal. Just keep breathing.

Pitch 2 of Diagonal. Just keep breathing.

“Easy, but wildly exposed”- the new Handren Guidebook. I’ll challenge anyone to show me a pitch of 5.4 climbing in New England with this kind of exposure. The 160 foot dike provides good holds while the expanse of the Mordor Wall dropping off below makes it important to keep reminding yourself this is only 5.4. While it may be worthy of an “R” rating a slip any where along the pitch should result in a clean, though spectacular, fall. There are 2 pins that can lessen the run out toward the top of the pitch but they can be hard to spot. Tom didn’t see either of them and sent it anyways.

Why don’t people do it more often? Well two reasons really. For one getting to the 1st anchor is a bit of a PITA. The easiest way is to climb the first pitch of Standard Route then cross over the chimney and scramble up right to the big beautiful block with the bolted anchor. It’s only 5.6, but the step down to Toe Crack is a bit weird for both the leader and the second.

Pitch one of Standard Route, use long slings, then cross the Chimney and head for this big block!

Pitch one of Standard Route, use long slings, then cross the Chimney and head for this big block!

More importantly I think it is because both old and new guidebooks call it 5.9+ R with Poison Ivy. That’s Pitch 3! We are not doing Pitch 3. We are now rapping down the Mordor Wall. A clean 120 foot rappel brings you to the Free Finale anchor (hanging station, just under an overlap), then a 160 foot rappel that ends free-hanging brings you to the ground.

Rap 120 feet to Free Final anchor

Rap 120 feet to Free Finale anchor (I actually skipped the Free Finale anchor went to the Mordor Wall anchor, it would be more comfortable to stop at the Free Finale anchor instead)

160 feet to the deck

160 feet to the deck

After wrapping our ropes up we headed up hill to the base of another spicy but do-able moderate…

No Man’s Land (5.6R, 160 feet of face climbing goodness)

Yes, this is another “R” rated route. As Mountain Project says you should be very comfortable on 5.6 before attempting this route. That said it isn’t “that” bad. And I’m kinda-a-wuss. If on-sighting it just be sure you are solid at the grade and it is an awesome route. If you don’t want gear spoilers skip the italics:

Scramble up to the first ledge, move right so that the small tree behind you is technically your first “piece”, no need to clip it. Step right off the ledge to get on the dike. Climb 20 feet up on good holds. A green Alien or equivalent will give a marginal placement in a crack to the right. Might as well extend that draw, as this will be the biggest bend in the route. Deep breath then up and left and you’ll come to an awesome natural thread. This is the first real good gear, and to paraphrase the poster on Mountain Project “gives you that I won’t hit the ground feeling”. It’s at least 45 feet up, so it’s kind of equivalent to soloing the first pitch of Thin Air, if you know what I mean. A great horizontal comes up, BD #2, then it gets a bit necky again. A couple more small Aliens/cams can help, but there will be better gear closer to the top.

Looking down as Tom cleans the pitch

Looking down as Tom cleans the pitch

Looking down the pitch as Tom cleans

Looking down the pitch

Since this ends at the Still in Saigon anchor we grabbed the second pitch of the Saigons, rapped, then hammered out the 1st pitch. Both are awesome pitches of 5.8, but this post is about sub 5.8, so moving on to the next great classic sub 5.8 route I’ll turn your attention to…

Pitch 1 of Recompense (150 feet of 5.7 cracks, corners, great holds, and another clean rap)

Corners and Cracks, Corners and Cracks, Corners and Cracks Oh My!

Corners and Cracks, Corners and Cracks, Corners and Cracks Oh My!

This route is known as an ultra classic three pitch 5.9, but the long first pitch is a worthwhile climb in its own right. A couple of the 5.7 moves feel a bit exposed but the gear is quite solid through-out, with just the management of rope drag being an issue for some. The “perfect small ledge” that the pitch ends on is one of the nicest spots to take in the view on the cliff IMO, and you finish with another steep rappel back to your packs.

When compared to places like the Gunks & Precipice we don’t seem to have a lot of moderate classic climbing on Cathedral. But a second look will more than double the amount of quality moderate climbing that can be enjoyed here. Once 5.8 & 5.9 are comfortable Cathedral really opens up, and there are some classics that haven’t been recognized as classics yet (Raising The Roof/The Liger). And fun link-ups, like Toe Crack into Thin Air, Black Lung into Final Gesture… great combos if you are really comfortable at the grade.

Any other more obscure but quality moderates (under 5.9) you enjoy on Cathedral? Don’t worry, I doubt they will get too crowded. 

Posted in Rock Climbing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments