Rainy Day, time to make up a diagram for something.
Today’s offering: the Isobuttress, which is the first part of the Black Arches Wall one comes to when hiking in along the BAW path.
Its name is a combination of “Isolated Buttress” indicating that this part of the cliff is distinct and separated from the rest of the Black Arches Wall, in this case by the wet cleft that comprises the winter ice route Crystal Breeze. It is also separated from other cliffs, particularly the group of South Corner Cliffs, by a large talus field on its left, and a steep, wooded ramp above it (the Diagonal Ramp).
Reading the Diagram
Circles with “B” are belay points, circles with “T” are fixed tree anchors, those with “XX” are bolt anchors. Note there is one off-route bolt on the face above Recuperation Boulevard’s line.
1. C&D Without 5.5 G 5.4 R 140′
This route circumvents the often-wet parts of P1 of Carpenter & Das, providing access to the enjoyable, and drier, climbing above. However, it is poorly protected friction climbing without any aesthetics to make it stand out on its own.
Start: at a small slab just left of the main drainage line (the ice route Isobuttress Left).
P1 5.4 R 55′: Climb the short slab to a tree slope. Walk up this to a point beside another short slab left of a spruce tree in a notch. Cross the drainage onto the slab and climb without pro to the belay area of Carpenter & Das.
P2 5.5 G 85′: Traverse right 10′ to a break in the overhang at a left-facing corner at midheight. Climb up and move back 10′ to the vertical crack of Carpenter & Das. Climb up this, step left up onto a stance. Follow ramps up right, then back left to the crack under the triangular overhang. Climb to the overhang and traverse right around it, then step back left to join the rest of Carpenter & Das.
2. Carpenter & Das 5.8 G 135′ **
The first route established after my shoulder surgery, this is named in regards to my physical therapist and surgeon. The first pitch dances up between wet spots, often requiring a few damp handholds, but the climbing is interesting and worthwhile. The second pitch has become a Crane Mtn. classic.
Start: On a 3′ tall rock behind a tree close to the base of the cliff, right of the main drainage area by 20′.
P1 5.7 50′: Climb up to a ledge and walk left, up a small, rounded ramp to reach a crack running up right. Follow it a short way, reach up left to another crack and up farther to a vertical crack heading up the steep face right of a cleft with a spruce tree in it. Climb the crack to its end, then make a tricky face move to reach the belay ledge.
P2 5.8 G 75′: (V1) Walk left 10′ and either climb the left crack alone (5.8+) or use the large flake to its left for assistance (5.7), to reach a good stance. Continue up the vertical crack, move left at its top to gain a ramp heading back up right. Climb the face above this ramp to a sloping ledge beneath a vertical crack leading to a triangular overhang. Climb the crack to the overhang and straight through it. Step left onto the prow and climb up to a large ledge. There is a two-bolt anchor on the face just below this ledge; two rappels reach the ground.
P3 5.6 PG 10′: Best ignored, one can climb the 10′ tall face behind the ledge to reach the top, then walk down the Diagonal Ramp.
V1 5.8 R: Walk left 14′, climb a short way up a scruffy corner, then hand-traverse right to regain the vertical crack above the bulge.
3. Recuperation Boulevard 5.7 PG 130′ **
The first pitch is excellent; the second is currently uninspiring. Note, there is an off-route bolt near the second pitch line.
Start: at the left side of the slab comprising the bottom center of the cliff.
P1 5.7 PG 45′: Climb up the slab, past two bolts, to a short, shallow crack in the slab leading to a steep face. Reach right, go up and back left to gain a bed-sized niche. Climb the crack running out the left side of the niche. Step left 4′ after two challenging moves and climb up and left to an anchor in a spruce tree.
P2 5.6 PG 85′: Step left and climb up onto a ledge just right of a rectangular block. Climb a thin vertical crack to its end at a horizontal crack, then traverse right to a brushy, block-filled corner. Climb up this to its end and move right to join the line of other routes in the area, or optionally, move left along a crack to join the Carpenter & Das area. In either case, reach the anchors and either rappel or finish by climbing the 10′ face above the ledge (see Carpenter & Das description).
4. Adirondack Rehab 5.10a G 5.7 R 130′ **
The first part of this route is well worth doing. A TR anchor is easy to establish in the horizontal crack near the large outside corner above the route.
Start: near the right side of the slab at the base of the cliff, below the rightmost set of two bolts on the slab, which are below another bolt just above the overhang.
P1: Climb the slab past the first bolt (5.7), then move left to the second bolt. Climb up to the overhang to clip the next bolt, then up to the vertical crack. Climb this to the ledge, step left and climb the steep face (5.7 R) to join the top of E-Stim’s second pitch.
5. Lane Change 5.9+ PG 35′ *
There goes the name theme. This is another good TR option. There is a short, strenuous run-out for leaders, and this is definitely more difficult for short people.
Start: at a tiny ramp going up right to meet a vertical crack.
P1: Ascend the ramp to the crack, go up a step or two then move right to gain a vertical crack which becomes a square-cut “trough” higher. At the point where the crack widens, make a long stab right, then move up and back left on face holds to a good stance. Hop up and left to an oak tree.
Shorter climbers may have to stay in the trough, which makes this a solid 5.10.
6. E-Stim 5.6 G 5.5 PG 140′ ***
One of the best routes on the Isobuttress; the unappealing offwidth is barely part of the equation.
Start: at hand crack that widens to wide offwidth before reaching the top of the steep, 30′ face.
P1 5.6 G 60′: Climb the crack to a stance, then go up, using holds on either side of the offwidth to reach a ledge above the steep section. Step left into a hand crack in the slab and follow it to a fixed anchor in a spruce tree.
P2 5.6 G 5.5 PG 80′: Traverse left to a large inside corner facing right. Go up this to just below its junction with a steep face. Traverse left along the higher of two notches leading around the corner. Follow a flake/crack up and left for a short ways, climb a short face to another crack, follow it left 6′, then up another short face section (5.5 PG) to a stance below another short face. Step right, go up and back left to the two-bolt anchor mentioned in the Carpenter & Das description.
7. Post Op 5.9 G 120′ *
The first pitch is OK, the second pitch is strenuous and tucked into a sheltered corner (so don’t bother with it if it’s cold).
Start: at the hint of a seam in the face 5′ right of E-Stim.
P1 5.7 G 60′: Make a bouldery move to gain a small ledge, then climb up the outside corner to a hand crack. Climb it to the end of the steep wall, and continue up a pair of cracks near the right edge of the slab. At their end, climb the short slab, over a large boulder, back onto the slab, and up to the fixed anchor on the spruce tree.
P2 5.9 G 60′: Continue up the twin cracks directly above the spruce tree, passing an outside corner onto a sloping rock ledge under a steep wall on its left and evergreen trees to its right. Climb the corner straight ahead to its top, then move onto the main cliff by stepping up left onto a slab. Go up onto a wooded ledge and belay.
Descent: Either scramble up the steep gully back in the woods and walk left to gain the Diagonal Ramp, or rappel off the large pine tree, down a wet, thick gully (part of the ice route Crystal Breeze) with a 70m rope to reach the bottom of the cliff on the left edge of the Amphitheatre area.
8. Full Recovery 5.6 G 140′ **
Originally climbed as a link-up between E-Stim and Carpenter & Das, this route is good enough to deserve an independent start. This change adds a challenging, well-protected crux of its own to the line. Nevertheless, I think starting out on E-Stim is still the finest way to climb this route.
Note: this route crosses every other route on the face. If others are climbing here, this line would be a rude choice to climb.
Start: At the righthand edge of the main face, at a crack just left of the rock steps.
P1 5.6 G 65′: Climb the hand crack and steps to a small ledge just below a large ledge leading into the woods right of the Isobuttress. Use a horizontal crack at head height to traverse left and up to a good ledge, crossing Post Op as you do. Follow a narrow ledge left, crossing E-Stim. Stem the Lane Change notch and step up onto the slab to its left. Climb along the slab, using the top edge for holds at first, then a good rail continuing left after the large outside corner. Where the footholds end, stem across the gap and continue left, past, then up and back right to the tree anchor of Recuperation Boulevard.
P2 5.5 G 75′: Traverse left 10′ to an easy step up to another ledge. Traverse another 10′ to the vertical crack of Carpenter & Das. Follow as for C&D Without to the top.
V1 5.6 G: The original line climbed the steep face of E-Stim, then walked left on the large ledge before stepping down to continue traversing. Starting on E-Stim is probably the finest way to begin this route, but staying on the face all the way along the traverse is certainly more interesting than taking the easy ledge.
Hints & Allegations
Most of these routes can be, and have been, linked in different ways, a few of which have become standards on their own (e.g. C&D Without, Full Recovery). It is possible to link E-Stim’s upper pitch with that of Carpenter & Das, for example, via a long horizontal crack traverse, meeting the latter route just above the triangular overhang.
If it has rained recently, much of the left hand routes will be wet on the bottom. The rock up high dries quickly, so the challenge lies in getting to that good rock. E-Stim catches most of the runoff coming down the face, so the rock to its right, including E-Stim itself, is generally dry enough to climb. Link up at will once past the dampness.
You may notice the lack of routes on the left side of the wall. This is in part because the leftmost wall is often wet, and between its base and top lies a wide, wet, and dirty slab, which is bounded on its right side by a dank, overhanging corner system (location of the ice route Isobuttress Left). It would not be surprising to see something break through this region in the future despite these detractions.
While this diagram will help with the upper section of the cliff, it isn’t terribly helpful finding the bottom of routes, since these are obscured by trees. Here’s a textual description that may help. After winding through a talus slope, the BAW path runs smack into the extreme left wall of the Isobuttress, then heads right, along the base of the cliff, past a wet spot, and up, around a bend before leveling off along the “main face”. This is where all the routes begin. There’s a small slab left of the main drainage, start of C&D Without, past the gully lies a dirty slab, on the right edge of which lies a 3′ tall rock against the cliff, start of Carpenter & Das. A tree stands directly beside the cliff, just right of this rock. There is a short length of rock face, followed by a large “apron” slab, where Recuperation Boulevard, Adirondack Rehab, and Lane Change begin. The slab grades into a steeper wall toward the right end of the face; with the unmistakeable E-Stim dominating this last area. If all else fails, find E-Stim and work your way from there.