Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Hulk

Every aspiring alpine rock climber knows of the Hulk.  Time and time again, we open the mags to see images of Peter Croft stemming his way up the perfect granite dihedrals that the Hulk is know for.  Drawn to these aesthetic lines, we image what it is like to tiptoe our way up them.  For Kyle Neeley and I, we decided this year it was time to get a first hand look.

After 16 hours in the car, we found ourselves at Twin Lakes and the trailhead to the Hulk.  We gather the necessary permits and began the hike in.  The approach turned out to be mellow, heading up the valley to Barney Lake before turning left for a slight grunt to the upper basin.  After 2.5 hours we were at camp and the base of the Hulk.  The granite fortress stretched tall above us and all of the striking features we had seen in mags were now at our fingertips. 
The short approach gave us plenty of time to crag a little so we decided to start out with a stinger: Venturi Effect.  Kyle’s goal was to take a look at the crux pitch (3rd) and possibly give it a go.  From the moment you leave the ground, Venturi Effect is on ya.  Very delicate smearing and stemming kept forcing our best technique.  I took on the second pitch, which started out quite casual then became real.  More delicate moves with spaced out gear kept me on edge.  Eventually we were at the base of the crux pitch and looking up one of the most impressive stem corners either of us had seen.  Unfortunately it was baking in the heat and we were tired from the other two pitches.  We decided to head back to camp for shade and some dinner.

The next day we got on Sunspot.  An amazing 7-pitch climb up one of the stunning dihedrals.   It shares the start with Positive Vibrations then branches off left.  It follows an amazing finger crack up the dihedral for four long pitches.  Barely letting up at all, we stemmed and lie-backed our way up the beautiful line.  Clouds were building over the valley so rather than continue to the true summit, we stopped at the top of the difficulties and began our descent.  A single 70m line allowed us to rap another route and quickly reach the base. 

For day 3, it was time for another classic, so we decided to climb Positive Vibrations.   This time after the first two pitches, we branched out right towards a slight chimney pitch.  This route followed closely to an arĂȘte giving it great exposure.  Different from Sunspot, Positive Vibrations threw at us a variety of climbing challenges.  We worked our way up some amazing pitches: stem corners, finger cracks, and some of the best granite hand cracks I’ve ever climbed.  After 9 pitches of brilliant climbing, we reached the top with soar hands and feet.  Again, with the 70m rope we were able to rap down most of Venturi Effect and reach the base without a problem.      

Our final day turned out to be just a descent day.  Hoping to climb Red Dihedrals, we decided it best to pass when we woke to find 4 other parties gearing up for it.  It was at the bottom of our priority list and we were very please with what we had already climbed.  After a casual morning, we packed up and hit the trail.  Eventually back at the car, we mentally prepared ourselves for the grueling drive home.  We drove through the night and after another 16 hours on the road all strung out on energy drinks, I found myself back in Missoula and easing back into reality. 



 Pitch 1, Venturi Effect

 Pitch 2, Venturi Effect

 Pitch 4, Sunspot

 Pitch 5, Sunspot

 Pitch 6, Sunspot

 Pitch 7, Sunspot

 Pitch 1, Positive Vibrations

 Pitch 4, PV

 Pitch 5, PV

 Pitch 6, PV

 Final pitch, PV

Nothing like a peanut butter burrito when you are all out of water!