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[TR] Sherpa Balanced Rock - West Ridge 06/15/2019


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Trip: Sherpa Balanced Rock - West Ridge

Trip Date: 06/15/2019

Trip Report:

***WARNING: This Trip Report contains mega beta spray for free climbing Sherpa Balanced Rock (and will take all the fun out of figuring it out for yourself)***

FA: Dave Mahre and Gene and Bill Prater, 1955 (shoulder stand + 5.7)

FFA: Jens Klubberud & Scott Gg, 2006 (5.10c) 

The epic debate over whether the traditional summit of Sherpa Peak or the Sherpa Balanced Rock is the "true summit" remains legendary.  I can tell you that it is true that whether you sit on the "summit" or the balanced rock, your head is surely higher than the other.  They are within feet of each other in height.  Having stood on both, I still can't tell you which is higher.  Someone needs to go out there and shine two laser levels between the high points to find not only the true summit but measure the difference in height (you'd only need a 3ft roll of measuring tape).  Still, climbing the Sherpa Balanced Rock is an adventurous and worthy goal since it is just so dang fun!  

Note: whenever I use the word "summit" in this TR, I am referring to the traditional summit (not the Balanced Rock).

Fred Beckey's infamous "shoulder stand" beta seemed way too spicy for my blood.  The base would lean at a 45 degree angle over a 5ft deep chasm on a shaky pile of human-made rocks from which the leader would climb on their arched partner and mantle onto a narrow ledge.  The free variation is WAY more fun!  (However, I'll give it credit that the shoulder stand pictures are probably way more entertaining).  First free'd in 2006, it still sees very few ascents each year.  

From the summit, we made a short rappel down to the scrambly ledges on the south side which leads to the base of the Sherpa Balanced Rock.  There may also be a scramble route on the East side of the summit block to avoid having to rappel.  We left a 60m fixed line from the rappel anchor to the base of the Balanced Rock.  If you want to descend via the West Ridge, you'll need to go back up to the summit and reverse the West Ridge route from there (which is what we did).  This meant that we jugged back up our fixed line to get back to the summit on our descent.


Picture above is looking up the West Ridge route.



Two pictures above are looking back (from base of Balanced Rock) at the fixed line and rappel from the summit.


View of the Balanced Rock from the summit.  We made a belay anchor at the base which came straight out from under the lower rock.  You can see the human-made pile of rocks on the ledge (we belayed from here).  If you do the Beckey handstand method, you stand on that pile of rocks and lean wayyyyy over (over the scary gap).  The leader then mantles on to the ledge.  A fall would be really bad.


Once at the pile of rocks, scramble down (climbers) left (South side) to start the free variation.


We opted to do a rope toss over the southern horn, since a lead fall would be an ankle-buster at best.  From the pile of rocks, toss the rope over and pull it into the wall.  I found some beta that said you can place a #1 under the first overhang.  I didn't see a good place for a #1 myself, but a  #5 or #6 just under the overhang would be perfect if I were to free it ground-up.  This is a committing move, but it's trivial with the top rope throw. 5.10c seemed accurate (an easy bouldering move). 

Grab a right hand hidden undercling/sidepull in the overhang (shown above) and extend left to grab a left hand 3 finger pocket (amazing!) just above the overhang (shown above).


Find a critical, little edge for your left foot out and above the roof (shown above).  Then, step up with your left foot (committing) and find a high right hand incut crimp (bomber!).


Bring your right foot up to the sloping edge (shown above), and reach your left hand for bad crimps and slopes.


Match your right foot with your right hand on the bomber incut edge and reach for great jams between the blocks.  Mantle up to the ledge.  

You can then clip the old bolt (which is at head height).  I placed a #1 in the crack at my feet between the two blocks in order to back-up the bolt if it failed.


The upper block (shown above) is "5.7" if you can reach the jug.  The wall overhangs slightly and there is a huge jug if you are 5-10 or taller.  I'm 5-7, so the free climbing required tricky crimps to make my way up to the jug.  Once at the jug, you have a good right foot and you're home free.  I found the upper block MUCH harder than the lower block (for a shorter fellow).  You can, of course, pull on the bolt and easily reach the jug no matter how tall you are (easy).


For the top anchor, you can sling the top horn (shown above).  The existing anchor is an old bolt and a bomber nut with new tat, which we only used for the final rappel. 


Jugging back up the fixed line to the summit.



Gear Notes:
#5 or 6 to free it ground-up (or do a rope toss). #1 to protect between the blocks (backup to bolt). Cordalette to sling the summit horn.

Approach Notes:
Scramble down (southward) from the summit. If you climb the East Ridge, you pass the Balanced Rock on the way to the summit.
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