Monday, March 8, 2010


Odin is an aid climb that I've wanted to lead for at least a year now. It's an exposed, sharply overhanging crack/seam in a blank, water-streaked face that runs about 140'. The stars finally seemed like they aligned yesterday: Erick agreed to sit out the long belay, I had just got myself a sweet vintage Chouinard hammer and some pins, and the weather 10 degrees and sunny.

We slogged Erick's massive aid rack and several ropes up the snowy, crumbly approach to the amphitheatre. Not an activity I recommend for a first day of the season. If you're out of shape... you're going to suffer.

By about 11:00 on was on the line but making slow progress. Odin is not A1 as the guidebook suggests. It felt pretty squarely A2+ to me. Tricky placements - Yes. Awkward placements - Check. Body-weight only placements - you betcha! Most of the route involves strenuous stepping and some top stepping on wet, overhanging ground with little in the way of face holds to help get you stabilized. A1 is crazy sandbagged. As Erick put it: "all aid is A1 until you fall". Very true.

There's a few awkward placements and traversing to get to the first anchors but most of the interesting stuff comes after the bolt ladder when the crack becomes very thin. Ball nuts, #1 knife-blades, and fixed RURPs tied off with boot laces. I probably only used 2 pieces larger than a 0.5 and I could have gotten away without them.

I was 3/4 of the way up when Erick told me that there was only an hour of daylight left and that I'd been on the line for about 6 hours. Though exhausted I sped up as best I could. Nearing the top I had only 1 more tricky section before the anchor. A horizontal traverse around a bulge and onto a slab.

Standing a rusty knifeblade I placed around a corner and got what seemed like a decent micro-cam. Weighted ok, bounced ok, and I committed to it. Took a few steps up and removed my daisy from the piton... now completely standing on the cam. As I was reaching to clip my rope in to the piton I heard the distinctive 'PING' of my cam popping and I had just enough time to think 'ahhh balls'.

I sailed over the bulge and off into outer space. I saw my pieces whizzing by and had enough time to let out a big heroic death-scream before the rope came tight. My first genuine big whipper. Looking back up, I had taken a 25-30 footer and been caught by by a lost arrow which I had just pounded in. Funnily enough I had considered a microcam in the same spot but went with the piton because I was scared that if the cam ripped... the several pieces below it would too. Good choice.

Frazzled and out of daylight, I backed off leaving an entire rack on the climb; which I now have to go back and get next weekend.

Mad props to Erick for sitting out the belay and for making a Golden Glove award-winning catch. Here's his graphic take on the whole thing:

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