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Star Action was my first first ascent (FFA?). See the comments for my version of the story. It's since become very popular--an easier version of Coexistence just to the left. Dick Williams' recent guides call it 10b. Todd Swain calls it 10+. I have no idea, but it's easier than Coex, and likely harder than 10bs in most climbing areas.
P1: Climb the face and up a thin crack at 5.7 or 5.8, with not much gear, to a horizontal. Protect the second, then traverse left and up to the right edge of the ledge. Most parties will belay here.
P2: Follow a thin crack past a few short, thin horizontal cracks to a ceiling. On the FA, we placed a pin in one of the horizontals and one at the ceiling - I don't know if they are still there. In his latest Trapps Guide (aka the “Gray Dick”), Dick Williams has the crux nailed: "“Work/dyno up to a jug (physical crux), then move left into the corner (mental crux) ..."
The move over the ceiling was always at the limit of my finger strength for doing it statically. But the move left into the corner was always the crux for me - you have to extend left from the jug, with not much for your feet, to a layback. Transitioning into the layback is spooky. Once you're there, it's easy. There's another way, though. From the jug, if you're strong enough, you can reach straight up to a positive hold and then just step up to stand on the jug.
Above the ceiling, move up and right to a bolt anchor (obviously not there on the FA; in those days, we would traverse left to the Coex pin anchors to bail after P2 of Star Action).
P3: Rarely done; continue up the right-facing corner to a large roof. Roll over the roof at a break, a la beached whale, at 5.9. Todd Swain's guide says this roof had been done previously.
P4: There is apparently an easy pitch leading to the top. In those days, Dick Williams wouldn't put a climb in the guide if it didn't go all the way to the top; hence many routes included less-than-aesthetic upper or bottom pitches just to ensure getting in the next guidebook.
The McCarthy Wall ("Mac Wall") is bounded on the left by the huge right-facing corner of Three Pines. It’s bounded on the right by the smaller right-facing corner of Overhanging Layback. Midway on the Mac Wall is a short-left facing corner starting 15' off the ground that leads to a ledge that extends to the right. Men at Arms and Try Again start up this corner. Coex starts just to the right. Star Action starts to the right of the right edge of the ledge.
The Mac Wall access trail is about a 6-min. walk from the Uberfall, and a 2-min. walk from where the East Trapps Connector Trial meets the carriage road.
Trad, bolt anchors above the crux pitch. Standard rack with mostly small cams and nuts.
|By Ivan Rezucha|
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 6, 2006
My version of the story:
Way back when, there was the "A Team": John Stannard, John Bragg, Steve Wunsch, Henry Barber, and anyone climbing with them. We were the "B Team". There were other B teams ... The A Team would occasionally try to do "the Mac Wall in a day". Back then this consisted of Something Interesting, 5.7 (and maybe Something Boring, 9x to the left); Higher Stannard, 5.8; Birdie Party, 5.10; MF, 5.9; Men at Arms, 5.9; Try Again, 5.10; Coexistence, 5.10; and Tough Shift (5.9 in those days, I think). That was way beyond us B Team-ers, but one weekend we decided to go for "the Mac Wall in a weekend". The vaguely defined rules required going to the GT ledge for each of the climbs, and maybe to the top for Something Interesting, which has a challenging last pitch. We were rapping from the GT ledge after doing Try Again or Coex. As we dropped over the crux ceiling band, one of us said, jokingly, "There's a bucket at the lip - it has to go!" That was often the case in the Gunks.
The following week, midweek, I came back with my brother Paul and we gave it a go. As I placed a pin in one of the horizontals below the crux roof, Paul questioned whether it was OK to place a pin. We were in the middle of an all-nut renaissance in the Gunks at the time. I reassured him and pressed on to the ceiling, where I placed another pin. That was our high point that day. The following weekend I went back with Dick Saum, one of my regular partners at the time, with whom I climbed The Nose on El Cap the same or following year. We were working out the crux ceiling when our other regular partner and story teller, Bob Richardson, arrived on the scene and asked whether he could join us. We said, sure, but there was one problem - we had cleaned the gear on P1 leading to the ledge about 30' up. No problem. Bob starting up P1 and was in the middle of the face, laybacking off a flake, when his eyes started bugging out. The flake peeled off and Bob took a maximum swing, nearly hitting the ground but instead hitting the tree directly below the belay at peak velocity. Battered but not beaten, Bob started up again, this time making it to the belay. Bob continued up to the crux and eventually completed those moves with his usual moaning and prayers. Immediately above the crux, Bob was totally gripped trying to get in gear, and tied off a 1/2" dead stick, which disappeared an ascent or two later.
The name "Star Action" came from a pinball machine in a bar just down the hill from Rock and Snow. A young Rich Romano, too young to legally drink, would come bouncing in and play the pinball machine energetically. He would then bounce out like a pinball. That was an interesting bar. You could buy six packs at a reasonable price from a glass case and drink them there. Much cheaper, more filling. Does anyone remember that bar?
Postscript: I heard second-hand that when John Stannard heard about this route, he said "I wish someone [other than him] could do a first ascent some day without placing pins." I was pretty upset by that. He was a god, with his many first ascents. I was a mere mortal struggling to do my first first ascent, and I felt he was trying to take that partially away from me.
|By J. Nickel|
Jun 2, 2006
As of 5/26/06 there is one piton remaining on the route. It is on the face under the crux in a horizontal. It looks ok and is easily backed up with a #1 TCU. The crux protects well with a yellow Alien or equivalent. Bring gear to a #2 Camalot.
I led the route in one pitch and had no problems with rope drag. A great route! Three stars.
From: SL UT
Sep 6, 2010
That is a great story Ivan... and a great route! It sounds like you guys were really pushing your limits when you put this up- nice work...thanks for sharing!