Last week ushered in yet another area to Crane Mountain’s cadre of crags. In a few days’ intensive effort, four new lines have been sent, and two more are nearing readiness for their chance to join the burgeoning list of climbing routes on the mountain.
The Diagonal Ramp Wall lies behind the Isobuttress. From Thurman Baptist Church’s parking lot, one can see it during the winter, a tilted parallelogram of rock lying above and left of the craggy outline of the Isobuttress. Once the leaves are on the trees, it is hidden from view, only a telltale hint of the angled slope it lies on remains.
It is a short cliff, around fifty feet tall at its highest, and not much more than a hundred feet of climbable rock wide. But it holds several excellent crack lines ranging between stiff 5.7 and (currently) 5.10a. It sits in the shade of a few trees that have grown large and tall under the outcrop’s protection, along a steep slope (the eponymous Diagonal Ramp) that tends to keep underbrush and small trees at a minimum. The obvious lines here have all been spoken for (all but two have been done), with the exception of a seam toward the left side that looks very difficult. Other than that, there is still potential for stout face climbing between the major crack lines.
In the “old” days, I walked by this cliff several times a year, bushwhacking from my house to the summit via the Diagonal Ramp. Back then, I liked the looks of those crack lines, but I was more interested in tall cliffs, and so confined by a strict ground-up ethic that I could not imagine climbing any of those cracks in their scruffy condition.
Things have changed.
With the addition of Muckraker, people are inching their way farther along the Long Play Wall, and not long ago, Valerie and Kevin did just that, continuing along the base of the cliff, past the dank, moss-covered summer remains of DR Drip, and up the ramp for a look at this cliff. They enthusiastically took up the task of getting things started: that Saturday, they drove up, each picked a project, then spent the entire day cleaning them.
At the end of the day, I saw the results of their work, and got enthused myself. Sunday, Lukasz Czyz and I tromped out there, top-roped the existing projects, then picked one for Lukasz and began cleaning and playing around on it.
The contagion spread: after mentioning it to Tom, we both headed out there several days that week. Scrubbing and working on each of the projects, then casting about for yet another one that Tom could tackle. Left of Kevin’s line, another crack system led up to an overhang, shooting through that obstacle and continuing all the way to the top. He began scrubbing.
By Thursday, Tom was ready to attempt his line, so after another session of last-minute cleaning, we pulled out the rope and gear. He hadn’t rehearsed it, hadn’t thought much about how to go about getting through the overhang, and ended up getting up too early, too tight on his first try. The pro is bomber, so no harm done, he finished, rapped and cleaned, then rested awhile before giving it another go. His second try was smooth as silk, giving the Diagonal Ramp Wall its first established route, Felonious Mopery, rated 5.9- G.
We were fortunate to have more stellar weather through most of the week and all through the weekend. By Saturday, the drenching rains of Tuesday were a distant memory. The cliffs were dry and the projects were nearly ready to send. Lukasz, Tom, Kevin, Ben, Robin, and I hiked out to the wall and began taking care of business. Kevin touched up his project, Lukasz did the same and began rehearsing his line. Tom climbed his route, Ben followed. Robin manned the camera for most of the day. I helped Lukasz, and began snooping a bit farther right, wire brush in hand. There seemed to be a possible line there, as well.
Kevin finished his brushup first, and so tied in for an attempt. The start of his route is tricky, a bit awkward perhaps, but the climbing settles down for a few feet before the final push up the sole vertical crack breaking a steep, pretty much holdless face. He pumped out struggling to get through this, falling several moves shy of the top-out, but after a rest, he continued up flawlessly, rappelled and cleaned the line. After a longer rest on the ground, he tried again, this time making it literally to the last move before losing his grip. An even longer rest was required after that attempt.
It was Lukasz’ turn at bat. His project was hard. He had taken a lot of time, brushing holds, rehearsing moves, studying gear placements. He couldn’t get more ready in one day than he already was.
Tying in, he made the awkward start look easy, climbed solidly up the pumpy crack above the alcove, then reached the final intricate face moves. Early on, we had top-roped this final section of 5.10b climbing, but further cleaning revealed a few better holds to the right. Lukasz stalled a bit at this point, hoping at first to push the line straight up, but eventually opted for the happier purchase to the right. Kielbasy Posse became the third established line here, and at 5.10a, the hardest. For those who want harder, there’s always that uber-direct finish.
Rested, and inspired by Lukasz’ send, Kevin strode back to his line and tied in. This time, he would climb flawlessly, reaching the top and hanging on the whole way. Norman’s Crack of Joy became the third route on the Diagonal Ramp Wall.
With all the FA furor, I couldn’t let well enough alone. That possibility to the right of Kielbasy Posse just had to get a try. I managed the feat, although with some trepidation: there are a few dicey moves protected by a 000 C3. Fortunately, better gear can be had before getting deeply involved in difficulty. Unfortunately, the line is pretty much a cakewalk after one crux move.
While I set out to lead this, Kevin’s dog, the mighty Louie, wandered into dangerous terrain: near the left end of the cliff, a ledge system leads out over a twenty foot cliff. Slipping at its brink, Louie fell the entire way. I stood aghast in the midst of the climb while Kevin inspected Louie and the rest of the gang set about preparing for a hasty exit and calling for an emergency vet. Incredibly, Louie was almost unscathed, somehow coming through the ordeal with nothing more than the subtlest favoring of one leg. How such a tiny animal can fall so far and not be seriously injured is a miracle. It’s about the equivalent of a human falling 80′ and walking away.
In any case, it made naming my line easy, once we knew he would pull through: Louie’s Leap has a better name and backstory than its moves. It is a worthwhile climb however, if you’re willing to trust that little piece of gear; a one-move wonder 5.10a, with decent, much easier climbing after the crux.
We would stay long enough to TR Val’s project (she was off in the High Peaks for the weekend), look around at other possibilities, and bask in the glow of accomplishment. A little more than one week earlier, this was a dirty, obscure, unknown chunk of rock. Now it had four shiny new routes gracing its flank.
Tom and Ben returned the next day to begin cleaning the last obvious project on the wall, so now there are two projects awaiting sends in addition to the established routes. As mentioned at the beginning, there isn’t a lot of rock here to work with, and the most obvious lines are taken, but I believe a few more worthwhile climbs can be put in here.
Thank you to Kevin, Robin, Tom, and anyone else who provided pictures or manned the camera, and to everyone who lent a hand with the hard work of preparing this crag for the day.