Yesterday, Lindsey and I headed to Lost Horse Canyon so I could try a new route I had been eyeing for about three years. For the entire hour and a half drive, I was obsessively replaying the sequence of moves over in my mind, nervous with anticipation.
Three years ago when I first top roped the route, I was amazed at how gymnastic-like the moves were, as well as how difficult. It blew my mind that it hadn't been climbed yet. There was good reason. Besides the route being so difficult, no one was positive the crack, being so flaring, would accept gear to safely climb. That's how it was left.
A few days ago, my buddy Travis and I decided to check it out. The climb had never left my mind and being stronger now, I wanted the first ascent. We top roped it, figuring out the sequence of moves and possible gear placements. The moves are hard and the gear is limited. We wondered, should a bolt be placed to make it safe? After some debate, we figure someone in the world was strong and bold enough to climb it with just natural gear. NO BOLTS!
This brings me back to my day with Lindsey. I knew I could lead the climb ground up, no bolts. It would be risky though. There was one questionable piece of gear. If I guessed wrong or couldn't get it, I would be risking a 15 to 20 foot fall onto a ledge, probable breaking some part of me.
I started up the climb. At the base of the crack I placed two solid cams to protect my run-out. Above me was another run-out, this time to the mystery gear. As nervous as I was, I started climbing. "Thumbs down finger-lock in the first pod, now pull through to the thumbs up finger-lock in the second pod and quickly place gear." I reached for my .5 Camelot and pushed it into the crack. To my terrifying surprise, it was the wrong piece! A portion of the cam was grabbing the rock so I clipped it anyways. When I finally looked at it, only two of the four camming lobes were engaged with the rock. Not what you would call text book placement.
The cam that saved my butt
"Now what to do?" "Should I hang on the gear because I'm scared or should I go for it?" Knowing I would be upset at myself for hanging, I went for it. I didn't have nearly the energy necessary to finish the climb so I hoped for the best. Within a few moves I was off floating through space. About 6 feet above the ledge I came to a rest. I was pleasantly surprised to see the gear held. I rested there for a few minutes then climbed through the next run-out and on to the top for what I think is the first ascent.