Here are some pictures of the trip Mike and I took in mid-August to climb
a rock named Blackhorse Point... The plan was to meet at
Mike's around 5:00 pm on Friday, drive to a campground near the trailhead and
camp there, and hit the trail early on Saturday. We would then find a camp
site by noon time, rest, and head up and do a 4 pitch route named Archer.
Then on Sunday, we would do an 8 pitch route, come down and head out.
Needless to say, we did have to change our plans...read on for the specifics.
We drove out Friday night, and camped at a campground about 10 minutes down
the road from the "trailhead". We packed up around 7:15 on Saturday
morning and drove up to the parking area along highway 20. I think we were lucky
Willow Creek was still running by where we camped, so we had water. Further up
the slope, we would have been less fortunate. The area is very dry right now.
hike in... - The book says "...The
approach is a straightforward line almost directly from the highway to the
base of the buttress by open cross-country terrain." Yeah right, we
were constantly scraping our legs going through the brush, or dragging the
top of our packs in the limbs. The route back was better, but there is NO
trail. Both of us scraped our legs up pretty good going in and coming out.
I wore gators going in, Mike didn't. He did coming out though. As we
got in sight of our goal, Mike took this shot
of me as the brush thinned a bit.
Wine Spires... - Once
at the base of the point, we were rewarded with awesome views of the Wine
Spires, and Silver Star mountains. Mike took this shot of the Wine
Spires in the late afternoon...
approach... - The
approach should be rated 4 skulls! It has a chute with an arch at
the top, on the left in this picture... From a distance, the approach
gully looks beautiful, with an arch at the top. When we first saw it, the
sun was shining through to make it look almost gold in color. A 10 minute
boulder field got us to the base of the gully. Inside, it was filled with
loose rock, flake and scree. It seemed like breathing hard would send rock
coming down, but Mike did a great job ascending without knocking pieces my
way. The gully was about 250 feet vertical, and took about 20 minutes.
took this shot of me as we got to the arch section of the chute.
arch... - When we got
to the arch at the top of the gully, the reflections inside put it
aglow. Mike took this shot of near the exit of the chute, directly
under the arch. Note all of the loose rock - each should have a
skull and cross bones stamped on them!
first pitch... - Mike made three awesome leads, the last I should have led, but
chickened out on... After some picture taking, we got ready for our climbs. The
pitches according to the guide book are 5.7, 5.7, 5.8 and then a class 4/5
scramble to the summit. Going in, we figured I'd lead at least one of the 5.7
pitches. The first pitch started on top of the arch, but very close to
overhanging the gully - somewhat exposed right off the bat. So Mike went ahead
Upon reflection, we think he got off-route while navigating around a
bush - and ended up on a sustained 5.9 - 5.10 pitch for about 25 feet. It was
one of the best leads I've seen him do. When I got to it, I was amazed. He
placed great gear, no falls. What was more amazing was that I was able to do it
clean (with one rest)! But still, it took some oomph out of Mike.
second pitch... - The second
pitch looked short (remember, we're off route now), and looked like there was
one tricky move, so Mike went ahead and led that one also. It went much better,
but I'm sure it was sustained 5.7, with a couple 5.8 moves. I basically ran up!
I took this shot of Mike as he crests the top of the pitch.
third pitch... - We took a break, trying to figure out the route. We had three options, and
wanted to take an option that I could lead. Option one was a sustained 5.7/5.8
dihedral, that went around a roof. I thought there was a tricky traverse over to
the entrance, and it didn't look like it got us back on route. Option two was a
direct route up a face with some nubs, until it put you to an overhung crack.
The face wasn't completely vertical, but the overhang looked sketchy for placing
gear. Option three was a beautiful finger crack, that actually looked like it
was on route. I wanted to do it, but I needed to traverse around a corner for an
exposed entrance (the hazard being a pendulum). Again, that entrance spooked me,
and Mike had to pick up the slack, and do the lead - it's after 4:00 now. He
made the entrance, and got into the meat of the finger crack, but now he's
really tired. He placed some bomber aliens, and was inching up. While trying to
place a bigger piece, he fell! I caught him after only a couple feet, he had
great gear (thankfully), and wasn't hurt. The piece he was trying to set
cascaded to the bottom of the gully. A very scary moment! This was his first
fall on lead since Norway, and the first time I've had to catch a lead. If the
gear had zippered, it would have been about a 20 foot fall, with a possible
pendulum of around 8 feet! Working on adrenalin alone (I think), he made his way
to the rap station above. I had a problem cleaning one of his pieces - I worked
on it for around 10 minutes (to no avail), but other than that, I was up pretty
from my perspective, it was a dream layback crack! Also, the entrance turned out
to be nothing. I've got to get over making a lead entrance over exposure -
that's my wall right now. Although it was late, I still enjoyed myself
immensely, evident by the shot Mike took to the right...
down... - From where we stopped, it
took 2 very airy repels to get down, the second a dead
rope... It's after 5:00 pm now, so we
decide to bail on the last pitches. I repel down first, and work on the stuck
piece. After another 5 minutes, I get it free. At the second rappel station,
there is only room for one person at a time. It is basically a 8 inch tree
coming out of the wall! There was only one piece of webbing (as it was on the
first one), so we donate another piece. The catch is, your not on-repel (under
tension), until a foot under the tree. Plus the wind was in a constant updraft,
any time you moved, needles and sand blew up into our faces. After a bit of
consternation, I got off the station, and made the trip down. It was dead rope
along the wall, and must have looked spectacular from a ways off! Mike was much
better getting off the station, and we both were back on the arch very happy, but
emotionally drained. After over 5 hours in our rock
shoes (yeah what toes!), we got back into our boots for the decent. Can you say
down the chute... -
Descending the approach chute, it was almost lethal... Knowing the risk of
the chute, we stayed real tight going down. It was nearly impossible to keep
from kicking stuff loose. We managed to find the gear Mike dropped from his fall
about half way down. While he was putting it away, and right after he took this
shot, I heard a noise. Then once
more. Without seeing it, I turned and yelled "Rock!", and put my back
to the gully and hunched. A split second later, I caught sight of the rock in
the corner of my eye. About the size of a Frisbee and flat, 1 to 2 inches thick, spinning madly,
and it was traveling fast - I only heard two bounces, so I'm
sure it flaked off from above. It missed me by several feet, but glanced off
Mike's right wrist and hand. Make no mistake - this was a killer rock that would
have broken a limb on a direct hit, or worse if it hit the chest or head.
Aesthetics of the climbing aside, this gully is rated 4 SKULLS! I can't imagine
what it would be like with multiple teams. After that, we hauled ass out staying
to the sides, keeping a constant ear open for more trouble.
We left camp at around 11:15 am, got in 3 pitches of what should have been 5
pitches, got back to camp after 7:00 pm... It was long day, but the views of
Silver Star and the Wine Spires were stunning. The actual climbs (at least for
me following) were great. You must be aware of flake, and test holds, but
overall, if you could keep your shoes out of the pine needles on various ledges,
the rock was pretty grippy. It's jammer and layback heaven! We were going to do
an 8 pitch route on Sunday, but Mike's hand was hurting, the 7th pitch was a 5.8
(we believe the guide book under-rated some of the pitches), and we figured we'd
return another day.
out... - Prior to heading out, Mike got
up to catch some excellent
sunrise shots sillohoutted by the Wine Spires. We left camp around 9:15 Sunday morning, and got back to the
car around 10:45...Where we happened on a stranded
motorist, but that's another
story! Mike took this picture just as the log I stepped on shifted, giving
me that uncomfortable feeling. I was stepping down to cross Early
Winters Creek...10 minutes from the car!
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