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top out beta for Le Gourmet, Critter Crack (Seneca Rocks)


Original Post
Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 658

I did Le Gourmet at Seneca Rocks over the weekend. At the end of pitch 4, after pulling on a large loose block and finding the top out sketchy, I decided to down climb the whole pitch. Does anyone have any beta to offer for where to top out on either Le Gourmet or Critter Crack, and from where to belay? After topping out, I initially went through the parallel flakes(~ 3 ft wide gap) that runs north but didn't find a good place to stop. Did I miss a pre-slung block with rap rings at the top of Le Gourmet (as suggested by the end of this comment from Andy W.), and if so, exactly where is it?

Similarly, where do people usually belay from after topping out Critter Crack? Photos for Critter Crack such as this one suggest most people belay from the narrow ledge that is a few feet below the top out of Le Gourmet. If so, is there good gear for an anchor, and how do people descend from this point?

Thanks in advance for any tips!

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,480

At the top of Critter Crack, there is a perfect spot to stand, and build an anchor. It's a short wall. From there, you can move climber's left (north) and go to the Conn's West rap, or move climber's right (south), locate the Traffic Jam corridor and descend via the TJ rap.

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 658
Jake Jones wrote:At the top of Critter Crack, there is a perfect spot to stand, and build an anchor. It's a short wall. From there, you can move climber's left (north) and go to the Conn's West rap, or move climber's right (south), locate the Traffic Jam corridor and descend via the TJ rap.
Thanks, Jake. Regarding the first option you mentioned, after walking north through the gap in the tall flakes, I believe I saw the Conn's West rap station from a distance of 15-20 feet, but could not find an obvious path to it (lichen covered rock followed by a steep drop off). Did you mean that one should first descend to the South Peak summit trail before walking (technically on the East Face) to the Conn's West rap? If so, my question is how does one descend to the South Peak summit trail from the top of either CC or LG? Once actually on the SP summit trail, I know my way around fairly well. For the second option you mentioned, moving south to Traffic Jam, would that also involve first getting down to the South Peak summit trail? Thanks.
Andrew G · · Silver Spring, MD · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 298

Not sure about Le Gourmet, but Critter Crack is pretty obvious. Top out and build an anchor just back from the edge. From there, unrope and scramble east to the summit ledge, hang a right (south), and walk ~40 feet to traffic jam notch. Rappel from there. There's no exposure on the scramble back to the summit ledge-- it's class 3 at worst.

As I said, not totally sure about Le Gourmet, but I think it's the same idea. There may be a short down climb or rappel involved to get to the summit ledge though.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,480

Yeah, you just walk. The first time I used the Conn's West rap station I was a little sketched too, so I plugged a piece or two and had my partner belay me on the short downclimb to it. Then I belayed him down. It's not bad, but I can understand one being wary of it. Same with TJ. You just walk the flat summit south until you reach the corridor that runs from the east face to the west. If you're sketched out turning the corner getting to the tree, you can do the same thing- there's a short crack in the middle of the corridor- Traffic Jam that you can plug a piece or two into if you want to belay your partner out to the anchor, then they can belay you out once they get there. Moving around once you've topped out most of the routes there is usually not an issue. The more you go, the more comfortable you get with it.

Nathan Flaim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 0

Re: Critter crack. You've got it exactly right. After topping out CC, great ledge for building anchor. Best descent options are as described, but you first need to descend 10-15 feet to the south peak summit ledge (on the east face). Very easy and non-exposed scramble. Then take your pick of the rap stations accessed from the ledge. Can't speak to the options on Le Gourmet. I usually skip the second pitch by finishing on Front C or Prune. Don't like the idea of the sketchy and poorly protected traverse off the belay ledge.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,480

^This. The first pitch of Le Gourmet is good, but deteriorates after that. Do Front C as the second pitch, then 4th class up to the base of Critter Crack and take that to the top. That's one of the best easy routes/linkups on the west face. A lot of fun.

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 658

Thanks, everyone. I've previously down climbed unroped from the summit trail to both the Conn's West rap and the Traffic Jam rap, and had no issues finding them or with the exposure. My problem this weekend after topping out on Le Gourmet was not knowing how to actually get down onto the summit trail from the top of LG. Based on the advice above, it sounds like for whatever reason I simply missed the easy scramble down onto the summit trail from the top of LG. (The top out for CC looked very close, so I assume the same applies.) Maybe after pulling on that loose block near the top out for LG, I was too rattled to see/find the scrambling descent onto the summit trail.

I would loved to have done the often recommended FC/CC variations to P2 and P4 of LG, but my second was climbing with a injured ankle and I didn't want to push it too much. Will have to try the FC/CC variations next time, and top out too!

Andrew G · · Silver Spring, MD · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 298
Fan Z. wrote:it sounds like for whatever reason I simply missed the easy scramble down onto the summit trail from the top of LG.
This is likely. The down climb to the summit ledge probably looks a lot more obvious when you're actually on the summit ledge. The down climb from CC is less imposing.

Jake Jones wrote:The first pitch of Le Gourmet is good, but deteriorates after that. Do Front C as the second pitch, then 4th class up to the base of Critter Crack and take that to the top. That's one of the best easy routes/linkups on the west face. A lot of fun.
I'll throw in yet another endorsement for this.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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