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Routes in East Face

All Along the Watchtower T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13
Clevenger Route T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Ordinary Route T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R
Type: Trad, 400 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Mike Strassman & Alex Schmauss, 1980s
Page Views: 569 total, 6/month
Shared By: Aerili on Aug 1, 2010
Admins: Aron Quiter, Euan Cameron, AWinters, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Description

Prelim note: we think we climbed the pitches mostly correctly, but the topo and descriptions were at times hard to match up exactly with what we encountered (not to mention who knows when the last time any of this stuff was actually climbed).

Pitch 1: Climb a wide, undulating water trough next to a right-facing corner. There are sections of offwidth up higher which can be stemmed over. Belay where the trough ends at a slopey ledge beneath big, textured, parallel rails and plates. 5.6

Pitch 2: Climb straight up the steep rails. Looks cruiser but prepare to be surprised. The cracks on either side are very thin and discontinuous. This pitch is rated 5.6 in "Mammoth Area Rock Climbs", yet I found the first 30 feet to be much harder and almost completely unprotected and gritty. The leader must not fall.

At the top of the rails, the climbing eases off considerably to 5.4/5.5 chickenhead and plate hiking. Angle slightly right up toward a huge ledge with a small tree on it. I was able to place 3 pieces of pro in ~140 feet of climbing. Belay in bomber cracks on the ledge.

Pitch 3: Climb up the easy gully to the right. Look up and left until you can spot the one bolt on the face higher up. Traverse back left and up on easy ground (place no pro if possible) until you get to a small, curving, left-facing flake about 15 feet below the bolt. Above this, those 15 feet are unprotectable. Clipping the bolt requires making a harder steep move onto the face. The leader must not fall.

Continue climbing up on giant whorls and huecos, angling slightly left the whole time. Pick the line of least resistance and gun for any crack you can find as protection is extremely, extremely sparse and some moves are very heady, plus rope drag is a very big issue regardless of long slings and minimal pro opportunities (I placed 3 pieces + 1 bolt in ~160 ft). The leader must not fall. Top out on an enormous ledge. 5.8 R+

Pitch 4: Technically there should be no pitch 4, but I couldn't deal with the rope drag any longer and I thought the walk-off was from this ledge. (Not true.) There is a final short headwall to climb, most of it all face climbing with zero protection. We could not discern exactly where our route finished, but I think our anchor was too far left and the top-out was much farther right off the ledge. When viewed from below, the finish according to the topo looked to be a long section of steep, scary, solo face climbing. But basically, you have a choice of whatever scary shit you prefer to top out with. I picked the farthest left end of the headwall: here it was the shortest distance to the top with the easiest features possible. Climb unprotected 5.7 moves to easy 5.4. Go left at the top and soon you will be near the summit and can start the walk-off. Gear anchors can be had at this point.

Descent

The walk-off is almost as involved and time-consuming as the climbing itself; the first half requires some route-finding skills. Bringing a photocopy of the photo illustration for the south face of Granite Basin from the guidebook is...sorta helpful.

There is one traverse section at the start which is easy 5th class and certainly can be done unroped, but we chose to belay here due to high winds gusting (if you fell at the easy step across it would be all she wrote).

Protection

Single rack to #3. Bring a standard set of nuts (esp. small) and a selection of micro-cams are almost indispensible.

No fixed anchors.

This route is not a good novice leader route despite the rating of 5.8. The rock has many sections of gritty, exfoliating holds due to lack of traffic and makes even easier moves much dicier. Although not rated R in the guidebook, this route is very runout. The leader must have a very, very cool head. Cruxy moves are not always near protection.

Although I have led much harder trad than this, this is one of the headiest routes I have done to date. It reminded me very much of the climbing I have done at Reef of Rocks on Mount Lemmon (AZ) in terms of rock quality, style, and protection (or lack thereof).

Very much adventure climbing from start to finish.

Photos

Aerili
Los Alamos, NM
 
Aerili   Los Alamos, NM
 
Thanks for the beta, Kurt, but weirdly your distance estimates don't seem to jive with what I remember climbing. While climbing p3, I didn't reach a huge ledge for well over 100 feet, and by that point, all the truly sketchy climbing was over. In fact, you only have 20-30 feet left before you top out. Also, I remember launching into some runout moves within 40 feet or less of starting that pitch. However, after re-studying my guidebook, it looks like you describe continuing up the rightward-trending gully (which I exited left once I saw the single bolt on the face) and then descending the East Tower. Oct 31, 2011
Sounds like you were spot on.

If the 5.8R climbing is too much for the leader, it is quite easy to escape across the huge ledge partway up pitch 3. Climb about 40' up pitch 3 and belay on a higher ledge. Then walk right as far as you can and find the slung chockstone. Belay across an easy, but exposed ledge to a bolted rap anchor. A single rope rap gets you down and a short walk takes you back to the base. Sep 14, 2011