Updated: May 7
Similar to last year on Kingpin, my summer season in Montana reached a crescendo with one final project in Clarky; Virtual Reality. I set my sights on Virtual after firing another one of Whit's testpieces, Directissimo, earlier in the summer. These climbs were, to me, the quintessential hard man free routes of the box. The link up was even featured on the only video produced about this area:
I was able to drop ropes on the climb over a few different trips, finally leading every pitch and leaving fixed lines on my third day. I came back the next weekend, armed with a tight time frame and way too many good friends. My buddy Ian had just finished his own sending spree and opted to put in some belay time with me. After all, he was there the first day I checked out the climb...
Quinn traxioning up the fixed lines
On the first day of redpoint attempts, I fell twice at the end of the crux 50 meter pitch on a difficult boulder problem. Honestly, it was soul crushing. I couldn't get my strength back up and fell on an earlier crux the next two attempts. Per usual, we bailed. That night, coach Ian capped my beer intake and made me drink tea while all the guys crushed cans beside the fire.
The next day was my last chance to try and send the climb. I was exhausted from throwing myself at this for the last few days, but somehow felt like I had a chance. Ian had sussed out the beta for the first slab pitch and styled it on lead. Fortunately, I top roped it without falling as well. I gave my first attempt on the crux and was climbing like shit. The overall exhaustion and pressure was chipping away and on this burn, I felt it. I fell lower than ever and came back down the belay, trying not to think too much about it. Once again, Ian waited patiently while I rested on the ledge. Soon I was charging back up the pitch thinking to myself "this is it, this is your last chance". I squeaked through the crux enduro layback feeling much weaker than the previous day. Above, I reached a nice stem and rested for at least five minutes, only to look down and see Jonah at the belay as well. As I entered the final moves, I could hear Jonah and Ian cheering me on. Somehow my shoes stuck this time and the moves felt easy.
Ian approaching in the twilight
Ian let me lead the next two long pitches and soon we were at the end of the difficulties. We then simul climbed up our friend's new variation to the top, making two second ascents in one climb! It was a dream realized to send this route, although I didn't do it in perfect style. Admittedly, it was unsightly to leave fixed lines up even if it were only for a week. I also sent this "trad" climb with two fixed wires and a fixed TCU. I guess I'll have to come back and do it right, linking into Directissimo for the King Line...
Sorry for the lack of photos to accompany this. I'll attribute it to Ian's shaming me into not bring a cell phone on the send to save weight. For now though, I am psyched to end my Montana rock climbing season on that note, putting me one step closer to a bigger goal this fall in Yosemite. Before I left, however, my sister visited town and I showed her around, including the infamous tower BBQ.
After motoring back to California, I quickly spiraled into a week of wedding festivities for two of my best friends, Justin and Cindy. Between the bachelor party(ies), the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and the cleanup, I had my alcohol quota for the year. Time well spent with great people.
Posing with the groom on the day of
Before I knew it, I was on a plane back to Montana to chase a new person in my life, Anju. I scrapped my two weeks of climbing in the Sierra for some wonderfully care free days in Bozeman with her.
Anju running it out on Pineapple Thunderpussy
Nearing the top of Ross Peak on a very cold day...
A little over a week later, I caught a ride back to Yosemite with Ryan. We cragged a a few days in Tahoe and on the East Side, eventually getting sucked into the black hole of Yosemite Valley where we met up with a big crew. Camp 4 was the most unregulated I've ever seen (thanks Trump?) and we locked down site 3 with at least 8 guys from Brozeman.
Arrival in the valley
On the first few days, I got my feet under me with a lap up Stoner's Highway with Jonah and another up Freeblast with Ian and Jonah. Feeling good about slabs, we got on the Steck-Salathe two days later to touch up on the wide skills.
Fritz flew in the next evening and we made last minute plans to jump on Freestone. This route surprised us with amazing views, cerebral climbing, and burly wide up top. Fortunately some folks in front of us brought the correct rack, which I gladly loaned during the crux pitch.
Fritz coming up P3 of Freestone
We rested a day and then made plans to go try Mama, an obscure route by Leaning Tower. On the way over, Higher Cathedral was well lit by the sun and the view detoured our plans... Soon we were racking up at the base of Crucifix. This route was all time, each pitch better than the last. Topping out Higher Cathedral with an old friend was the cherry on top.
Leading the 3rd pitch of Crucifix, photo by Shino
Another flattering summit selfie
The next day we "rested" with a mini lap up Astroboy to the top of the Enduro corner. We Drank some beer and watched our friends climb the Harding slot, bringing back vivid memories from a few years ago.
Pondering life after Yosemite
Sam arrived that evening with FreeRider on his mind and plans were made. Soon enough, gear was cached and we were committed...