Yesterday, I scrambled downward from the BAW’s Amphitheatre to see if there was any route potential on the Underworld Cliff. What I found there caused quite a stir:
This telephoto shot clearly shows what I found by rappelling down this overhang: a crack system running to its snout. It ends before reaching the inside corner of the giant open book below the roof, but a shelf at that point would allow a climber to rail over to the crack and ascend it.
Back in the day before the BAW path, I walked under this wall often. Its lower half is imposingly steep, vertical to overhanging, cloven by occasional dirty cracks, and guarded almost everywhere by an overhang or two. Its base is littered in a few spots with huge rockfall, refrigerator-sized blocks. Above the initial face, a steep slab makes it difficult to explore the midsection or higher. Circumventing this problem by coming down from above, I had found a place that I have probably been within thirty feet of in the past, but never seen.
Today, I returned to my rappel station and headed down once more, this time to “reverse-aid” the line.
I learned a few things doing this. First, I truly stink at aid-climbing. I took three hours getting back up. Second, the shelf has good holds, and good pro, but it is really pumpy – and scary – to do that traverse, at least from the left. And third, the crack will go!
After dangling for so long, I’m convinced the best way to tackle this project is pretty much ground-up, after a thorough scrubbing. The gear is bomber once you get out of the open book (there is no pro there, but it is barely fifth-class), and falling on lead, at least if you placed gear in a timely fashion, would involve less distance than the top-rope swing would entail. And you could rest and get back on the route close to your high point, whereas with top-roping, you would have to start all over again.
The last two days were COLD. I saw plenty of ice on the way in, heard lots of it crashing down during the day, and got very chilled after regaining the top. Had I made a predawn start, I could’ve ice climbed this morning.
March has definitely made an entrance, just in time for it to be over. Not sure what this means for April. In any case, I expect we will spend some of it dangling off a certain overhang in the Underworld.