With Brad pulling plastic in France for the last year, and his return stateside, I decided it was time for the two of us to head out to Jtree and get some good mileage in on the sharp rock. We headed out Tuesday morning and arrived around 11 to an empty park. Seriously empty. There were 2 cars at Intersection Rock and none of the classics around Hidden Valley had climbers on them. Amazing.
I’ve been pushing Brad to do his first trad lead for a while now, and he decided this was the day to do it. We hoofed it over to The Bong (5.4), and after a little reassurance and instruction from me, he hopped on. He sewed the thing up big time, placing maybe 10 pieces of pro, and apart from the first trad lead jitters that everyone experiences, did very well. I seconded and cleaned his pro, which was mostly well placed except for 2 tipped out cams and one placed in a flaring pocket. Grats on your first lead Brad! We rapped off and headed over to Mike’s Books (5.6) on Intersection Rock.
Arriving at the base of Mike’s Books, I looked at the direct start which goes a 5.8 and decided it looked fun. After a few false starts, I got up the short sequence which felt quite burly for the grade. The first move is a painful one off of a pinky fingerlock in order to gain a high back step. After gaining the high feet, you get good hand jams to the top, although it’s no gimme. After this short start, I started the route proper and had no trouble gaining the first belay. Brad struggled at the 5.8 variation, almost sending on a couple tries before deciding to do the spicy 5.6 traverse that starts the standard route. His first time back at Josh in some time, he struggled up the route grunting and breathing, but never weighted the rope. Pitch 2 went down much like pitch 1, with no serious problems, although it did feel more sustained than what we had just climbed. Near the top of the route before it turns slab, I built a small 2 piece anchor as I figured it would be my last pro before the usually runout slab climbing at Josh. I climbed up another 5 feet before spying a shiny new bolt in the middle of the face, amazed that it was there. I clipped it and continued to the top, belaying up Brad who had an easier time with this pitch than the one before it. We took a couple pics and rapped off, heading next to The Flue (5.8).
I hopped on The Flue, finding the lower crux to be placing good gear before pulling the actual climbing crux. The route eases off a bit before turning into a very awkward and strenuous topout in a right slanting offwidth crack. Brad walked up the lower portion of the route, finding a hidden undercling that I neglected to use, before huffing and puffing his way up the last 5 feet while I jokingly prodded him at the belay. =)
Next up was Pinched Rib (5.10a). This route is a former nemesis of mine. One hot summer I hopped on it and pitched off 3 times at the crux before backing off in the sweltering heat. I tried to find an elegant sequence through the crux this time, but still couldn’t find one. I burled through the crux pulling hard on a terrible crimp, barely using my feet, to gain the relief jug just above. After building a 2 piece gear anchor at the top, I belayed up Brad who fell at the crux a couple times before finally working through it with a seriously tight belay by me.
We scrambled over to the rap anchors atop The Flue, rather than risk the somewhat shady looking downclimb, and decided to call it a day. A fun trip, good weather, and no crowds. I love Jtree.