This was our home for over 5 days… Bellies full of trout, we constantly stared at the looming tower above. After climbing the The Wolf’s Head, our attention turned to this 11,884 foot center piece of The Cirque. The Pingora formation is flanked by impeccable granite on all sides with a number of classic lines that inspire. Mike and I had never climbed anything nearly this big before but our previous ascent gave us nothing but confidence.
The difference between night…
Gearing up for battle just after sunrise.
We stood in silence on the lake of glass…cuttroat darting beneath our feet… looking up and studying the route one last time.
Leaving the ground, we decided to be as fast and efficient as possible. Each of us leading 200+ foot pitches… always running it out to save gear. Even with a rope, there was still plenty of no-fall zones with 50-60 foot whipper potential.
For hours we flowed up the mountain in a smooth rhythm, numb to the increasing exposure and completely occupied with the joy of movement on these cracks and corners. Follow up, grab the rack, lead through… repeat. The was no verbal communication with the distance and wind… a tug on the ropes meant you were on belay.
Eventually we ended up on this lounge style lunch ledge at the 2/3 point.
On my lead, I started up for another extra long pitch when I found myself at a crossroads. To my left was a steep off-width that kicked back to vertical before disappearing over a small roof. I didn’t have enough big gear so I kept traversing right, taking another look around the corner.
After passing up some hard looking thin hands, I found this beautiful dihedral… it reminded me of Pentapitch back home so I went for it despite the lack of belay ledges for 200 feet. This was my hardest lead yet as a climber and it was 1500 feet off the ground. A mix of running it out and difficult route finding, stemming from crack to crack, adjusting to my dwindling rack.
“On a wall this big, where speed is necessary, you still find moments that demand absolute concentration. The decision to modulate between different modes of climbing – swift and slow – must be made in an instant. I told myself to stay calm, to focus on this one crux, to forget for now the immensity of this entire mountain” – Katsutaka Yokoyama
“A wealth of potential knowledge exists within the unknown. Up there, we are forced to test our creativity, adaptability, and psychological stamina – to learn more about ourselves through our reactions. The question ‘What now?’ heightens our attentiveness to every detail… to refine our connection with the mountain.” – Blake Herrington
Above… the ultra classic K Cracks.
Summit! Our fear of the unknown disappeared on top… so did the dark clouds so we kicked it for a good hour… Lots of high fives.
Now for the descent… a sequential series of slung boulders and flakes
Walking backwards off a huge cliff never loses it’s spice.
Basking in the glory of a great day in the hills.
Next up… The Shark’s Nose.