Friday, May 18, 2012

The Regular NW Route on Half Dome in a Day with Borden

    I haven't climbed the face of Half Dome in maybe seven years.  When I climbed it I thought it was one of my favorite climbs.  It has some incredible cracks and amazing views.  It had been so long because the summer is generally when I work the most guiding.  It is also the best Half Dome season as the route is north west facing and doesn't receive much sun and the summit sits 4,800 feet above the valley which makes it pretty cold.  The combination of the dry and warm spring made it perfect timing for us to climb the route.
    Scott Borden and I met at a casual 5 am in the morning.  Our journey up the approach slabs seemed to go quickly.  Despite it's reputation as the "death slabs" they didn't seem to bad going up.  Though our opinion of this chossy wet chasm will change that night in the dark.  We reach the base and rest and fill up our water.
  Scott my randomly assigned roommate from college eleven years ago has been a great friend ever since assigned to live with me.  Scott will be leading the first pitches, which is great as I am not a morning person and I am psyched to relax and belay.  Soon I the rope runs out and we are both climbing in unison simul-climbing.  The bottom half of the route is more like an alpine route then a big wall as it is a lot of broken ground with big loose holds.  I remember this section going quickly last time I climbed the route, but we were simul-climbing with the whole 70 meters of rope which created to much drag and wasted a large amount of energy and time.
   A goal of mine is to free climb the whole route.  I didn't check out the free climbing variations after our slightly slow climbing of the bottom half of  the route.  We still caught up to and passed one team who camped at the base and were climbing the route in a push also.  The goes free at around 5.12b which is about my trad limit so the reality is I would need to spend a large amount of time figuring out the moves. 
  Hopefully this climb lights a spark for me and I can get back up to Half Dome with more then a day to check out all of the free climbing.  The Zig Zag pitches up high are some most beautiful hard finger cracks in the Valley.  I would be great to get back up to them with time and energy to unlock the free climbing sequences. 

 Our descent down the slabs in the dark was less then ideal.  I have to wonder who strung the 400 feet of hardware store rope down the skiers right side of the gully?  They should be tarred and feathered.  We reached the valley and biked back to a warm pizza at the train wreck Norma my fiancee had prepared.      Overall it was a killer day with a great friend.  I hope it is not another seven years before I climb the route again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

La Cueva del Oso

Sunset in La Cueva del Oso
Sunset in La Cueva del Oso

I never thought I would have this problem, too many tufas to choose from. I don't know what route I want to bolt next because the wall is loaded with beautiful tufas and stalactites. My dream has finally come true. I've been waiting to find a wall near Monterrey that is loaded with tufas and stalactites. La Cuava del Oso has surpassed anything I had hoped to find. With the main cave wall overhangs 70 feet and is about 120 long, it is more then I ever dreamed of bolting. This is because I don't think there are too many locations like this in the world, at least not reached in a 30 minute hike from a road.

Joel lowering off La Gripa 12c mid-route
Joel lowering off La Gripa 12c mid-route

It all happened with perfect timing. Norma my girlfriend of three and half years and I had just returned from a trip to China and Thailand. The night we returned the newest climbing flick was playing in Monterrey. Rodrigo whom I had climbed with before in El Salto told me about this new cave that they were going to explore that weekend. They had one photo on the internet and it looked amazing. I was psyched, but the Chinese cold I had was taking a hold of me and I had a really bad fever and could barely move the night before the cave exploration. In the morning feeling slightly better Norma and I managed to meet everyone to caravan to the cave.

Norma crushing a 5.10 in La Cueva del Oso
Norma crushing a 5.10 in La Cueva del Oso

With not much of a trail and a lingering fever the hike was brutal. The last section to the cave was a full bushwhack with 40 pounds of gear and a fever. We arrived. The main cave area. I was like a kid in a candy store. It's really OK to bolt where ever I want? I picked the biggest looking stalactites and started up the Bosch. The route La Gripa is the finished product. That day I bolted the first half and put an anchor in because it was such a steep fun 11d we thought many people will be happy to be able to climb to there. The rest of the route is around 12c. The trail to the climbs has improved tremendously this month and now is a quick 30 minute hike.

Joel on Chamaco Pendejo 11d.  Photo taken by Jonathon Gibbler
Joel on Chamaco Pendejo 11d. Photo taken by Jonathon Gibbler
Credit: Jonathon Gibbler

The month of April seems to be disappearing into La Cuava del Oso. We get back from bolting and climbing take a little rest and it's back to Montemorelos where the cave is. Chalo the local store owner surely thinks we are crazy. Every night we come down from the cave to charge our batteries and drink Tecate. The locals think we are crazy for being in the cave without guns for protection from the animals, let alone if they saw the crazy bat hanging style climbing we are doing out the cave.

Dani on the first half of La Gripa 11d
Dani on the first half of La Gripa 11d

Right now there are 11 finished bolted routes from 5.10- to 5.12c. A few are still projects and haven't been climbed yet. There are many more routes to bolt and a whole other cave to bolt that has a shorter approach. The problem is too many tufas too little time. The humid climate in Montemorelos and the giant tufas definitely gives the place a Thailand like feel, but Tonsia doesn't have any routes this steep and this long! It's not too humid in the cave either, only in comparison to the surrounding areas. There are lots of trees which shade you on the hike up and the area has more of jungle feel to it then the more arid desert climbing destination of El Potrero two hours away. There is also a river to camp at along the road. The best part to me is it all faces north so you can climb all day anytime in the cave. There is the main cave area then a long steep tufa wall ending down by a camping area with another smaller cave.

Joel on La Gripa
Joel on La Gripa

I hope people come to enjoy this area in the future. There is so much potential here. Thanks to Hans, Rodrigo, and Tomas for discovering the cave, and to Chalo for letting us charge our batteries everyday. I hope our work in the cave sparks peoples stoke and they come and bolt more and more routes. I will be working full time soon guiding in Yosemite and won't be able live in the cave drilling holes. I have posted directions to the cave on my website:

The unexplored cave with a shorter but maybe more difficult approach. ...
The unexplored cave with a shorter but maybe more difficult approach. Looks like a heart eh?

Me bolting Oso Bueno
Me bolting Oso Bueno

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cuevo del Oso (The Bear Cave) A New Climbing Area Near Monterrey

 Oso Cuevo:

A New Climbing Area Near Montemorelos

We are working on a new climbing area one hour from Monterrey just outside of the town of Montemorelos.  So far there is one route in the cave with a 7 bolt 11d, and an extension with 7 more bolts that has not been climbed.
Bolting the extension of La Gripa
There are lots of other potential routes here.  Including steep juggy 5.10 routes which is something the climbing in the Monterrey area is lacking many of.  I think this will be a popular destination when it is finished as it is North facing and the hike to the crag is not too hot so you are in the shade of the forest on the way up.  The forested location also makes it a great location, and there is a beautiful river by the road to enjoy after climbing.

Beto Norma's Dad with Machete in hand
 I have gone to the cave twice now, and I am excited to get back as soon as possible.  There are so many beautiful unique looking route possibilities, it is exciting to be bolting there.
Me Norma, and Norma's Parents in the Cave
The unexplored cave that is closer but potentially harder to get to

Bolting the first half of La Gripa
Dani Climbing first half of La Gripa

How to Find the road.  The Rt hand turn off the highway has a sign for  La Boca also

The trail to the cave more or less

How to find the trail