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The bolted arete of Excommunication.
This is the spectacular bolted route on the North Face of The Priest. It climbs unique calcite features similar to those on Holier Than Thou on The Nuns.
Greg Child apparently bolted this route in September, 2002. He established the route "ground-up"—which I think is a bit misleading, because he basically made a bolt ladder out of it. True, it was ground up, but it was not free, nor was it bold. There are several holes in the rock with missing bolts, so apparently he (or maybe someone else) decided to take bolts out after the fact.
Mr. Child apparently worked on freeing it for a long time. A magazine article in Rock and Ice from early '03, which has pictures of the route but makes no mention of the route in the article, describes the line as a "project." Rumor has it that Mr. Child hiked up there 64 times(!!) to work on it...that sounds a little unbelievable to me. The summit register mentions the first (aid) ascent, but the register doesn't record when it was freed.
The April 2005 issue of Rock and Ice lists the route as a "new route" in the Moab area, rating the 5 pitches as 12b, 12a, 13a, 11c, and 10c, but calling the overall route "13b". It also claims the route was thus-far unrepeated, despite attempts from two "strong teams." I wonder who those teams are. Rumor has it, Eric Decaria checked it out, but decided not to work the route because he didn't like all the glue on it.
Here's what I thought:
In April '05, Clay Cahoon and I made an ascent, which we guess is the 2nd, but who knows? It took us 3 total days of effort. On the final day we each freed every pitch starting from the ground, and we both redpointed the crux pitch.
P1: 5.12b (9 bolts, 90 feet) First of all, I would say that this pitch (and the next one) is all of 12b. It's not like the easy 12's at Indian Creek; I would say it's on a par with Sacred Ground on Castleton Tower, which is pretty stout.
The pitch climbs the bolted arete, using actual arete moves. The arete keeps your attention due to its sharp nature, and the fact that it seems like it is always windy right there. A couple hard, thin moves get things started, then it eases a bit above a horizontal crack.
The crux comes higher with a hard clip and balance-y arete moves. There are 9 bolts, a drilled angle, and no glue on this pitch.
P2: 5.12a (6 bolts, gear, 70 feet) This pitch is a bit easier, but a lot scarier. Your rope actually has to cross the arete on this pitch, so the thought of falling is terrifying. You're still climbing on the arete, but now things are starting to get exposed.
The first bolt is on the left side of the arete, then all the rest are on the right, even though you mostly climb on the left side. About 40 feet up, the holds on the arete peter out, but fortunately, a dihedral crack appears on the right. The crux involves getting from the arete into the crack. I broke a hold on this section, but another good hold appeared underneath it, so the pitch still goes.
Once in the crack, some sharp calcite jams lead to the fat ledge at the base of the crux pitch. There are five or six bolts on this pitch, and you'll want a small cam (0.2 camalot), but you can get by with one 0.5.
P3: 5.13a (9 bolts, 90 feet) This is the money pitch. Fortunately this pitch climbs up the center of the face on calcite, so it's not quite as scary or windy.
A few easy arete moves past two bolts get you firmly established on the face. The climbing is very reminscent of just-past-vertical limestone, such as that found at the VRG. The climbing gets increasingly harder until a series of crux deadpoints, or tenuous reaches near the 6th bolt.
After a good rest at a horizontal crack (lots of glue that seems unnecessary), a couple more very hard moves with heart-break potential stand between you and the next cush ledge (about 9 bolts...90 feet).
P4: 5.11c (4 bolts, 40 feet) This short pitch contains an interesting combination of wingate and calcite features before the holds dead end at a less-than-vertical slab which forms the crux.
Clay and I both climbed this differently, and we had different opinions on the accuracy of the grade. If you made it this far, it should be no problemo. Belay on the shoulder of The Priest.
P5: 5.10+ R (2 bolts, gear .75-2, 40 feet) The summit pitch. It would be possible to link 4 and 5, but the rope drag could be really scary.
Start up a nice crack that is formed by a car-sized flake leaning against the wall. When you gain the top of the flake, you get to stem up a rotten corner. Thankfully, Mr. Child left two bolts here to reduce the pucker factor. The rock is bad, and you're smearing on it...yeehaw.
All in all, both Clay and I thought this was an outstanding route. It is entirely unique. The climbing consisted of good movement, spectacular position, and mostly excellent rock. To top it off, all of the pitches have great ledges which make it more enjoyable to work the route. I have no doubt this route will get harder with time as key holds snap off and calcite footholds get even more polished.
As for the glue...I don't feel that this route is "manufactured" because it's not like key holds have been glued on where none existed before. In many cases the glue is there to reinforce large features that offer good rests. These holds are not critical to allowing the route to be free climbed; if the glued holds did break off the route would still go, it just might be more pumpy.
This may cause you to wonder, well why glue these holds at all? Good question. Perhaps he thought it was a matter of safety, as many of these rocks are large enough to kill someone if they did peel.
All in all, I highly recommend this route, and I tip my hat to Mr. Child...well done!
About 12 QDs, Camalots (1 each) 0.2, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2.
|Comments on Excommunication
|By Josh Janes|
May 10, 2005
Also, this route can be rapped with a single cord.
Oct 19, 2009
Absolutely amazing route, one of the best I've ever done. A few notes to the excellent description. It's really cold up there. All day shade and a constant wind, even when it was sunny and 78 degrees. Second, there are a lot of bolts, but you can't cheat through it. Virtually none of the crux moves can be pulled past, so be prepared to lead it all. The crux pitch is devious and hard to figure out, but fair at the grade in my opinion. The first two pitches are more stiff at the grades. The second pitch is very scary, as the arete is sharp due to the calcite covering. I don't know if different bolt placements are possible, but it is worth considering by a qualified person. Overall, committing, intimidating, and brilliant climbing.