September 17, 2006

Devil's Thumb

Yesterday Ashley and I hiked up to the base of the Devil's Thumb, only to be blown off the ridge as we were unprepared for the cool, windy weather. We stashed the climbing gear near the base of the climb, and hiked back to our house - about a 3.5 hour round trip.

Today we bundled up, brought lots of extra warm clothes, and went back up. On the way there, we saw a critter that we were sure was a cross between a chipmunk and a baby mountain lion. It seriously looked like a miniature adult mountain lion - the actual kittens are fuzzy and chubby, so we know it wasn't one of those. If anybody knows what this small, skitterish critter might be, please let me know.

After retrieving the pack from it's hiding place and scampering up some loose class 4 rock, we crested the ridge and made it to the base of the actual climb, which is only 2 pitches long. The start of the climb wasn't easy, probably the hardest trad climbing I've done. Unfortunately, this wasn't the crux of the climb. The second pitch began with a steep overhang, the true crux of this underrated climb. I made several attempts at ascending the bulge before deciding to resort to some unconventional techniques. I was able to throw a nut with some webbing attached to it up above me to the apex of the overhang, where it wedged itself in a constricting crack. A few ugly attempts at climbing the webbing later, I was standing on top of the overhang with screaming forearms. From this point, I was able to scramble the rest of the way to the summit. Ashley was able to follow me to the anticlimactic summit where we took a few quick photos in the sustained 40 mph wind before rappelling back to the ground. The video below serves as a testament to the vicious winds we encountered.

Although this climb was more difficult than any 5.9 I've ever climbed, the guide book gave it a scant 5.7. Several times I was ready to quit, but perseverance and ingenuity got us to the top. I guess you could call it aid climbing, although the throw technique is probably not a frequently practiced maneuver.


Ashley said...

I vote it was a long-tailed weasel.

Keith said...

I vote for stray cat.