It’s at times hard to remember this is still April. Most of the snow is gone, even high on the mountain already. Poplar and birch have leaves out; red maples aren’t far behind. Things are about two weeks ahead of schedule; hopefully that means we get two more weeks of nice weather during the year, maybe a long, warm autumn, eh?
And yes, blackflies are terrorizing the neighborhood. I got my first eye-fly this afternoon, it took 3 1/2 hours for it to work its way out. Ugh, there’s no doubt that these things are part of the curse. I’m pretty convinced that eradication of them wouldn’t be the worst thing for the environment. For one, I think they probably cause a fair amount of death of other, much cuter animals. I figure, if blackflies cause one deer fatality (by pestering it until it becomes too weak or sick to survive), the biomass of that one deer is equal to something like a gazillion blackflies, and which would you rather keep around? Ecologists should go for that: eliminating a secondary consumer in favor of a primary one. Bring on the BTI, I say!
Insect pests notwithstanding, there has been a lot of activity lately. People have visited the Black Arches Wall several times: a couple weeks back with Jamie & Alysia, Bruce, and Brian; one short day with Tom Rosecrans, and another day, again with Jamie & Alysia, but also local climber Neil Dunkley and his climbing partner, Mike. Deservedly, this crag has begun to pull attention away from the early season fixation with the Measles Walls. With a good trail and high-quality routes between 5.6 and 5.11, this is the place to go when the days grow warm and long.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the Measles Walls are easy to ignore. One does have to pass by them on the way to the BAW, and they become a major distraction when the real quarry lies another fifteen minutes down the trail. During yesterday’s walk-in, we had a couple good reasons to pause there: Alysia wanted to tackle Hydrophobia as her first trad lead, and Neil had never experienced the unusual characteristics and climbing method of these little cliffs. So a historic occasion took place, two leaders climbing neighboring routes on Crane Mountain at the same time.
I snapped photos as Alysia and Neil led up their respective routes, happy to enjoy the sunshine and the good company, at least until each reached the top and I could take a turn climbing. Everyone took a run on either or both routes, then we realized that daylight was wasting, packed up, and headed to the BAW.
Jamie & Alysia went ahead, I hung back with Neil and Mike to show them around, as this was their first time on the mountain. We passed the tempting boulders along the way, passed Todd’s projects wall, and came in sight of the BAW’s first section, the Isobuttress. I pointed out routes on this as we walked underneath it: Carpenter & Das, Recuperation Boulevard, Adirondack Rehab, E-Stim, all good climbs in their own right; but our main goals were farther along. Right of the Amphitheatre, Jamie & Alysia were up on the Patio; Jamie working his project while Alysia belayed patiently. Neil and Mike headed around and down to tackle Second Job, I ran around to set yet another TR on Black Arch Arête.
Neil led Second Job without a hitch, Jamie flung himself at his project with the usual dedication, while I snapped a few photos, gave advice, and helped belay. After their ascent, Neil and Mike had an appointment to make, but I managed to talk Neil into a run on Black Arch Arête before he left.
Jamie took a shot at his project; a sequency, strenuous, and technically-demanding direct start to Plumb Line. It took a long while to work out where pro could go and how it must go to be secure, where the belayer should be and how to secure him, so after much deliberation, he headed upward. It was not to be that day, he fell once at the low crux and once at the high crux, though he was able to pull the entire route clean, he has yet to link it without falls from the ground up. He is very, very close. Hopefully, he can get back out here soon and put that task to rest.
Alysia then took a spin on Black Arch Arête, climbing the entire route clean. We were in a hurry to beat sunset, so I pulled the rope after this while the two went over to climb something on the Isobuttress.
When I arrived, Jamie was just setting out to lead Carpenter & Das. This would make him the second person to lead the entire route; as no one else that I know of has done the first pitch or led through the crux roof – most have opted to go around it instead. I ran around to get in positon for photos for that event, rappeling down to stand nearby as he pulled through the difficulties.
It was getting late, and a stiff breeze did its best to remind us that this was indeed, still April, as the two reached the top and we began abseiling toward our packs and the trail homeward.
This was the first day here on Crane where I’ve spent the entire day climbing. I was tuckered out when I pulled into my driveway at 8:15pm, having been on the mountain for almost ten hours. Hopefully, we’ll all have more stamina as the day’s lengthen and we get the chance to be outside more.