By Jim Herson
Isaac Newton in creating the mathematical discipline of calculus noted that by continuously halfing the distance to a goal you never actually achieve it. Isaac must have been working the Salathe. But at least Isaac salvaged something somewhat useful out of his flail fest. I've yet to see any good come of mine!
Continuing my streak of outstanding partners Chad Nichols and I headed back to the big stone last weekend. Arrived Sat afternoon and jugged food and water up the fixed lines. As expected we found my groupie Hans camped at the base. Despite repeatedly making it clear that he would just have to wait his turn among my backlog of eager Salathe partners Hans's enthusiasm has never waned. Undeterred he returned the next morning and pestered us all the way up the Freeblast. At Mammoth it became clear that stalking was not advancing his cause and he headed off onto the route 'Flight of the Albatross' to sulk while I tried to dispatch with my own albatross known as the Salathe.
Chad, like Derek on the previous attempt, was totally psyched to do whatever to help me work through my Salathe issues. Their selfish offer to jug with the pack somehow reeked of Annie's behind the scenes manipulations. No one, not even me, wants to put the Salathe to rest more than Annie, an incurable romantic who still harbors fantasies about having a normal family cragging relationship. Since we were pressed for time to hit P19 before the sun Chad jugged most of the pitches although obviously he had to sample the true prize pitches like the Half Dollar, Hollow Flake, the Ear, the bottom of P19, P23, Sous la Toit, some of the Headwall, and the exit pitches. Both Chad and Derek's enthusiastic awe of these gems brought back fond memories of my own youthful exuberance the first 100 times I climbed them.
Unfortunately we got bogged down once again with a heavy pack. Further delays occurred when I tried to link P15 & P16 with a 70M rope and came up 15' short for the 100th time? I was sure it would reach this time? Next go for sure! Anyway we arrived at the base of P19 an hour after the sun. Fortunately temps were just cool enough that, after what must have been the longest lead ever for this pitch, the crux of the Free Salathe was finally redpointed in its entirety! Call it 13c, 2.9 stars -- minus 1/10th artistic impression for requiring Hal's less than modern gear. We continued to the Spire where we finally dumped the pack and then I soiled an otherwise outstanding day when I slimed off the Teflon Corner. Being desperately spread-eagle at the time I took a lovely sliding face plant down the corner. I lowered, back cleaned the gear, and we then rapped to the Spire for a killer bivy. The next morning I was again rejected on the TC, back cleaned, pulled the rope, blamed the shoes, and then fired it. Continued cleanly to the base of the Headwall just soaking up the unseasonably cool conditions.
The Headwall, after redpointing the 30 approach pitches, seemed somewhat more daunting than usual. Fortunately I stuck the opening moves which has always been my downfall. I was having a grand old time until about half way up when I couldn't help but notice -- having actually climbed the crux the previous day -- a noticeable lack of "Power to Waste!" I tried to recover by milking every rest for what was definitely the longest lead of any pitch, at any crag, by any climber.
Melting from the anchor clipping hold was a profound disappointment unequaled since my earliest botched attempts at dating as a hopeless pre-adolescent. I gave the 2nd headwall a half hearted attempt briefly testing my new expensive cams -- which I ran out and bought after zippering this pitch two weeks ago -- before sending the rest of the pitch. Had I not blown the 1st headwall I'm fairly certain there would have been no gear testing on the 2nd. The baffling part isn't that I now have to re-climb 2999' to tidy up the last 1' but rather that it could have taken this long for bouldering to be the rage?
As my investment track record clearly demonstrations knowing when to bail is an unparalleled weakness of mine. However, being essentially eyeball to eyebolt and a clip away from my dream only to have it slip away might have been the final blow. For now I need to hang it up. With time the bitter disappointment will hopefully give way to the manic obsession sending me storming back to the Captain in a fury. But for the immediate future, or at least until my gobies heal, your mailboxes will be safe from these weekly diatribes.
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From: Hal Tompkins > Fortunately temps were just cool enough that, after > what must have been the longest lead ever for this pitch, the crux of > the Free Salathe was finally redpointed in its entirety! Call it 13c, > 2.9 stars -- minus 1/10th artistic impression for requiring Hal's less > than modern gear. When I described your use of a tube chock for reducing rope drag to Bill Oldfield, he pointed out that a tube chock was unnecessarily heavy. He suggested a spring-loaded toilet paper roll dispenser. Naturally you would have to beef up the springs... Hal
From: Mike Ruby Glad to see that you are still gripped with "the disease."
From: Bill Wright Jim, CONGRATULATIONS!!! What for?? For being the first to redpoint the crux 5.13c, pitch 19 of the Free Salathe. Considering the others that have tried, this is a HUGE achievment. I'm so happy for you, and disappointed that you didn't get the entire route. So very, very close. The saving grace is that there is still a chance that I can fly out in the Fall and be your partner for this! :-) Once again, a hilarious, very well written trip report. These things are so good and your accomplishments so noteworthy that they really should receive a wider audience. Thanks so much for including me in your quest. Annie, your wife, is also an incredible climber, right? What is her maiden name (or current name if not Herson). I have a calender that shows Anne Smith on a 5.12 Tuolumne crack route and can't help but think it is her. Once again, while not completing the goal, you have taken a huge step forward and are on the brink of completing it. Bill Wright
From: Derek Powell Jim- About . . . "Isaac Newton in creating the mathematical discipline of calculus noted that by continuously halfing the distance to a goal you never actually achieve it." . . .it was the greek philosopher Xeno actually. He first theorized that all motion was impossible. The example he gave was that of a tortoise and Hercules in a foot race. He noted that if you gave the turtle a head start, Hercules could never over take it because of the infinite divisibility of the distance between them. More interestingly, he said that any object could only occupy one space at one given moment--therefore at any given moment, every object is actually at rest--sort of like the frames in a film strip. I think he used the example of an arrow flying through space. The latter variation of Xeno's paradox may actually help your situation. Just think, you're actually "resting" your way to the top! Good job on P19, and the rest. Your dedication is truly inspiring. I hope you and yours are well in spite, -- talk to you soon D. p.s glad to hear about the new gear.
From: Chandlee Harrell Congrats Jim! That's a remarkable piece of climbing.
From: Clint Cummins Dear Jim, Wow, so very close to tagging the whole wall with such simple logistics! No doubt if you had a support party on Long Ledge with some food/water for an extra day, you could have had the time to bag the last bits on the Headwall as well. Where was Hans? Still dallying on Flight of the Albatross? It sounded like an epic battle on that first Headwall pitch. Congrats on the FFA of the original p19! Timing for the sun was a good idea. And congrats on getting the Teflon Corner to go again. It seems there is a tough choice on being late enough in the year so the TC is dry, but then battling the heat on the other pitches. Sincerely, Clint
From: Murphy, Greg Pathetic....you get back on that horse/albatross. Death before dishonor, and all that. And fess up, you didn't really free the entrance move to the half dollar chimney did you...
From: Chad Nicholes Excellent writing..... If you ever lose your SRI post (for not showing up anytime it's cool in the valley), you could easily freelance as a writer. Again, I REALLY ENJOYED LAST WEEKEND! Really inspiring to carry the clubs for Tiger on his record book assaults! If you keep turning people onto the Salathe I wont be bummed but would love another trip...... Chad
From: Aunt Pat Hi Jim, Is climbing always this frustrating?? Maybe I won't decide to be a climber in my next life after all. Did you really bang up your face in that peel-off? Hope all's well. I've printed out some of the shots from Smithtown that you sent. Love to you three. Pat and Ron
From: Peter Coward Dude, Total bummer on the headwall, but big congrats for P19 and 24. And an excellent trip report as always. Had a nice mellow weekend in the meadows with my brother. Did a bunch of the standard 5.9's as shakedowns for our assault on the reg on half dome next month.